Highland Beach: Forgotten safety deposit box holds decades-old surprise

Commissioners Evalyn David and Peggy Gossett-Seidman with the documents. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Rich Pollack

It was a Highland Beach happening that had all the earmarks of a made-for-TV special.


A safety deposit box is discovered that no one currently involved with the town knew anything about and that apparently hadn’t been opened for years.


Commissioners give the town staff the green light to move forward and a date is set to have the box forced open, mystery contents revealed.


“We authorized them to open it hoping it would contain valuable Spanish gold coins or something like that,” said Commissioner Peggy Gossett-Seidman, adding that she couldn’t help thinking of Geraldo Rivera’s opening of Al Capone’s vault in 1986.


Alas, when the day came to open the box and its contents were at last revealed, what was discovered inside was indeed valuable — if only to town historians.


Tucked away were some important papers, including the original Town Charter created 75 years ago and other documents that could have historical significance.

One page from the historic documents found inside the box describes concerns about vagrants and con men at the time.


“Sadly, there was no gold,” Gossett-Seidman said.


What was inside might have continued to be a mystery had a bank representative not asked if Highland Beach wanted to keep the safety deposit box.


The answer from town officials was “What safety deposit box?”


“We were surprised when we got the call,” said Town Manager Marshall Labadie.


Even John Rand, a former commission member some 30 years ago, was surprised to learn the box existed.


“He couldn’t believe it,” Gossett-Seidman said. “He said he never heard of it.”


Former town finance director Cale Curtis said he was aware the box and a couple of other safety deposit boxes existed but didn’t know historical documents were stored inside.


During a Town Commission meeting last month, Labadie announced contents of the box, which included water revenue bonds dating to 1956. He said the town is working to find ways to make it possible for residents to view the documents.


“There was no gold bullion or anything cool like that,” he said, much like the disappointing Al Capone vault opened on TV 34 years ago.


That led to a witty comment shouted from the audience.


“Or so you say,” a smiling resident said.

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Comment by Hobart Gapp on May 16, 2020 at 10:14am

Somebody was paying the annual rent on that deposit box.  The bank will kick you out ASAP if you don’t pay.  QUESTION: Didn’t anybody in HB town hall know that $200 bucks a year was being spent on this box?   Everyone seems so surprised.  It’s all so humorous.  That’s taxpayer money.  In these difficult financial times I find it hard to comprehend that town officials care so little about our nest eggs.  That money needs to last.  I beg you not to waste it.  

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