Frankford man collects the town's history

Albert Franklin has lived in Frankford for all 73 years of his life. Franklin, who is now retired from working for DuPont in Seaford, was born in a house on Knox Street in Frankford and currently lives there on Green Street, with his wife, Barbara Jean. The two attended the John M. Clayton school, where they met and fell in love, eventually getting married.

Coastal Point • Jesse Pryor: Albert Franklin proudly displays his collection of Frankford memorabilia that he has been accumulating at his home for years.Coastal Point • Jesse Pryor
Albert Franklin proudly displays his collection of Frankford memorabilia that he has been accumulating at his home for years.

Nowadays, Franklin has a room in his house that has all of his Frankford treasures on display. All the walls are covered with various pieces of memorabilia, such as calendars given out by local banks and feed companies over the years. He has tabletops covered with framed postcards showing the town. There is shelving close to the ceiling that holds milk bottles. Police and firefighter hats sit on other tables. It’s obvious a lot of care, love and time went into the display.

In one corner of the room, Franklin has items from his father’s barbershop on display. A painting of the barbershop by local artist Susan Steele is hung, along with his father’s leather strop used to sharpen and polish his razors. Against the wall leans the piece of wood kids sat on when they got a haircut. Franklin also has two folding card tables that have advertisements on the top for various local businesses, from Frankford and other local towns.

There are cases of pens, pencils, and pocketknives. He has bank bags from the various banks that have been in town over the years. A picture of Franklin’s grandfather, Joseph – Frankford’s first police officer – hangs on another wall. Franklin even put together a display of his wife’s high school letters from chorus, softball and basketball, along with her class ring and a report card.

“The cases where he keeps his pencils and pens — I worked on that for so long because when you get them in there and you close the lid, they’ll turn. I worked on that so long. And then it wouldn’t be long before he’d come home, ‘I’ve got another pencil’ or ‘pen!’

“‘Where am I going to put it in there?’” added Barbara Jean Franklin. “I told him one time, you’ve got to dust those shelves. I can’t get up there. I’ll break something. I think he was in there two or three minutes, no longer than three, and said it was all done. He loves it, though. He really loves it.”

How exactly did Franklin get into being the town’s resident historian? Barbara Jean Franklin thinks it had something to do with looking through his mother’s old scrapbook. Albert Franklin, on the other hand, thinks it’s because he lacked another hobby.

“I had a couple pieces of stuff. Dad had a couple pieces of stuff. I didn’t have a hobby really, you know, to get into. And I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to start and see if I can collect Frankford stuff. So I started going to sales and sorting through stuff. I don’t know really how to say I got into it. But once I got into it…”

For the longest time, Franklin’s collectibles were stored throughout the house; under beds, in the attic and in boxes here and there.

“After my mother died – she died in ’94 – I used that room to put all the memorabilia in. In fact, I had so much, I had it in boxes and under beds. I wanted to display it. I displayed it at Capt. Chandler’s house,” said Franklin. “Then they wanted it displayed Georgetown Historical Society, and I jumped at that. ‘We got to do it,’ she said. ‘We have to take pictures of the walls so we know where to put stuff back.”

When Franklin went to the historical society with his items, he was presented with a little problem.

“I took it up, and they had one table. And I said, ‘Man, you want me to put all this on that table?’” recalled Franklin with a laugh.

He ended up displaying his collection on many, many tables. One of his proudest moments in sharing his collection was on Nov. 15, 2003. On that particular day, as Franklin had his collection on display at the Frankford Library, his father would have been 100 years old.

Of all the countless items Franklin has – he has yet to start a catalogue, but will get around to it eventually, he says – some are more favored than others.

“Whatever my family gives me, or whatever my father left me, I put as priority. When they give me something, it stands out,” said Franklin.

Barbara Jean Franklin once collected green Depression glass but joked she had to stop buying it to make room for all of their Frankford collectibles.

There’s a book of the Town of Frankford’s meeting minutes, a ledger from a local shop – which shows how residents would trade eggs and butter and other items for various types of goods – and a 1924 grammar school report card. One of the most special pieces of Frankford history Franklin owns is the Civil War discharge papers of Thomas Wilgus, who was in the 4th Regiment Infantry, which Franklin recovered out of a box someone had dropped off at the Frankford Library.

Franklin’s collection has taken years to put together, and people will call him if them find something related to the town, bringing it to his house to give to him. He’s even made a name for himself among other town collectors.

“I got a guy in Selbyville that collects Selbyville stuff,” explained Franklin. “If he finds Frankford stuff, he’ll call me, and if I get any Selbyville stuff, I’ll let him know. A lot of people know I’m collecting, and they’ll give me stuff because they know I’m not trying to make a profit on it.”

If an item didn’t come from a local resident, chances are Franklin or one of his family members bought it from an antique store, auction house or even eBay.

“Some things are from eBay, a lot of it from sales,” he noted. “I bought that Frankford feed calendar with Betsy Ross on it, and a box of stuff, for 10 bucks. That alone costs a hundred and some. Things like that – I know I got it. I’m going to keep it.”

Franklin once went to an auction and picked up a yardstick for $120, just because it was part of Frankford history. The yardstick is proudly displayed in a wooden case, hanging on one of the walls for all to admire.

Barbara Jean Franklin has embraced her husband’s hobby and has supported him in it fully. She has even contributed to the room by crocheting some door hangings, so that Franklin can hang memorabilia on the back of the door without having to nail the items up. It is evident that she is extraordinarily proud of his work.

“He’s got the memory of the history of Frankford,” explained Barbara Jean Franklin.

The Town of Frankford has offered to eventually house Franklin’s collection as the town’s museum. But, though Franklin loves sharing it, he said he’d rather have it stay in his house, and in the family.

“Well, I like it where it’s at. You can stop by next week. If I’m home, you want to stop by. I’ve got heat and air conditioning. You’ve got to have heat, and you’ve got to have air conditioning for this kind of stuff. If you don’t, it starts mildewing,” continued Franklin. “I spend a lot of time in there. I’ve got shoeboxes full. I like it where it’s at. Not that it wouldn’t be nice. I can be home at 8 o’clock and go in there if I want. Go through papers or just sit. I don’t mind sharing it. I’m not in the market to sell this stuff for a profit. I just – I worked hard on it; she has, too; and I like where it’s at.”

It is impossible to describe how big his collection really is. And what has taken Franklin years to put together is truly priceless when it comes to the history of his beloved town.

“A lot of memories, from a boy right on up. I remember when I used to fish on down at the canal, play baseball, go anywheres. Parents would turn us lose. It was safe and we knew it… You couldn’t do that now,” said Franklin. “I would just like to say I want to be here the rest of my life. I want to be nowhere else. I want to live here until I die. And if I didn’t like it, I’d leave here.”

To contact Franklin to donate to his collection or to view it, call (302) 732-6702.