"A Jake "
JAKE, we have heard the word throughout our career but where did it come from? I have
managed to narrow it down to three plausible explanations.
The most prized possession of early Americans was their beds. They were fastened together by the use of a J shaped key. This key was usually misplaced after assembly. These were the bucket brigade days, when water was scarce and difficult to transport. Fire was a common occurrence and salvage was a valuable part of firefighting. Firefighters carried this J shaped key and homeowners knew it. Citizens imperiled by fire would call for the J key. Firefighters would rush into these homes, and with their J key, disassemble and save the bed. The people were very grateful.
When the earliest fire alarm systems were placed into service, the fire department was very concerned about the possibility of false alarms. The street boxes were placed into service in high value areas, but were locked with a key. This key was in the shape of the letter J. Firewatchmen patrolled these districts and carried this key. Citizens who lived near the fire alarm box also had a J key. People who discovered flames would rush to the nearest fire alarm box and cry out for a J key. The local neighbor or the firewatchman would show up with the J key, unlock the box and turn in the alarm.
The earliest fire companies were made up of volunteers. They took great pride in their company and its quarters. The fire house was the focal point of any fire company. They were very ornate buildings and the scene of most social events and celebrations. They all contained a full bar and were the best watering hole in the city. Every member of the company had a key to the front door that led up to the bar. This key was in the shape of the letter J. Entry into the bar was restricted to members and their guests only. If you didn't have a J key you couldn't get in. Salesmen and visitors from out of town, looking for a cold drink in a warm and jovial atmosphere sought out those people with a J key. They would ask people on the street, "Do you have a J key?" This inquiry would continue until they found someone with a J key. Somewhere along the line the question," DO YOU HAVE A J KEY?" Got shortened to " are you a JAKE?"
Anyone of these may or may not be the origin of the word JAKE. The three explanations may sound far fetched to you and totally implausible. However, the next time you take your brass key out to open up a street box, hold up that key by the handle and take a look, Doesn't that key look like the letter "J".