A background in invention resulted in a wonderful trip to Russia for my wife and me at the invitation of the head of a Russian Inventor’s Society.
We flew to Moscow where we were met by a most hospitable delegation. Although they spoke only Russian and we were able to understand only simple words and phrases, they were most hospitable and we were greatly impressed with the city, especially with the Hermitage, a wonderful and historic museum.
When asked about my interest in the Hermitage, I told them that I had recently patented a burglar alarm in the United States and would like to see how they protected the priceless jewels exhibited there.
Arrangements were quickly made for us to meet with the head of security, a young woman in her 30s. She immediately took us behind the scenes and explained how the numerous systems in the museum worked. Then we were taken into their “gold room,” which was filled with several hundred priceless statues and jewelry made of rose colored gold. Later my Russian friend told me that the gold displayed there was worth more than $500 million!
The security systems were quite basic, using simple curlicues of twisted wire, all external to the valuables they were protecting. I could see that I could have shorted out any case’s security simply with a pair of nippers secreted in my pocket if I had had the desire to do so. It was very surprising.
After visiting other attractions, we went back to the Hermitage. This time we were taken to a secret part, rarely, if ever, seen by the public. Peter the Great had collected strange and wonderful exhibits – two-headed babies in alcohol, models of Eskimo villages, large grizzly bears and best of all, a life-size wax replica of himself. He was almost seven feet tall and weighed 300 lbs.
He must have been a genius – judging by all the things he was expert in. For instance, he was a dentist and there were teeth he had made. He was a shipwright so there were wooden canoes and flat boats he had made; and he was a chef and there were wax replicas of meals he had presented.
Eventually we were taken to a large white marble building, the queen’s office, where 30 men were seated and one man, the mayor, was standing. My wife, my translator and I were seated opposite him.
The mayor told us they were gathered to welcome us. I stood looking at them, not knowing exactly what to say. Since we had just seen the exhibit of Peter the Great, and I knew he was their hero, I told them about how, when I was boy, my favorite uncle, who lived with us, had told me all about Peter the Great, how he was raised as a commoner and learned to do many things with his hands.
I gave them all the history I knew and when I was done they applauded. They were amazed that a person from the United States had detailed facts about the life and accomplishments of their hero from another century.
Article – Copyright 2000 Stanley I. Mason. Syndicated by ParadigmTSA