Albert “Ab” Franklin is a life-long Frankford resident — born Aug. 7, 1936, right on Knox Street.
“At nights, you could walk all over town — it didn’t matter where you wanted to go — and there was no problem,” Franklin recalled.
Franklin’s love of his town is ever-present — meet him on the street and he’ll tell you a tidbit of Frankford history, and then invite you to his house, where he has an entire room dedicated to all things Frankford. If you’re really lucky, he’ll write you a check from one of his found books from the First National Bank of Frankford.
The room is filled with treasures to make a history buff envious — from pens and pocket knives bearing the names of Frankford businesses of yore, to black-and-white photos and poultry memorabilia — including feed bags from Eagle Poultry, which was once the largest poultry plant in the world.
Franklin also displays items of his own childhood — marbles he had, and items from his father’s barbershop, including the leather strop used to sharpen and polish his razors.
“There was a time when I could sit down and go street to street and tell you everybody’s name and where they lived.”
Franklin’s wife, Barbara Jean, always smiles and laughs when Ab starts talking about his collection. The two met when they were students at the John M. Clayton School and later married.
Barbara Jean lived on a farm about a mile outside of town but eventually, around the age of 12, her family moved to Thatcher Street.
“I used to love to come to town from the farm,” she said. “I just loved to walk around Frankford. It used to be that you knew everybody who lived here.”
On Tuesday, March 6, a sign was erected at the Frankford Public Library, dedicating the new library parking lot to the Franklins.
“The day they did it was her mother’s birthday,” said Ab of his wife.
“I was honored,” added Barbara Jean. “You just don’t dream of things like that happening, not in a little town like this.”
The parking lot is located where Mrs. Alvana Campbell’s house once stood, on Green Street. However, when the house went on the market, the Franklins’ son-in-law purchased the property and had the home demolished, as repairing it would have been cost-prohibitive.
The property was divided, and half was sold to the Frankford library to be used for a second parking lot.
“It was absolutely essential. We are a small library, but we are a vital part of the community,” said Library Director Rachel Wackett, noting that it was important to gain additional space to accommodate our patrons and add more handicapped parking.
The library’s board decided to go one step further and dedicate the lot to the Franklins, recognizing their contribution to the community.
“We did it because Ab and Barbara Jean are longtime residents of Green Street, and they’re good people,” said Bob Long, who served on the board for five years.
Long said the Franklins, being good people and good neighbors, would check up on “Miss Alvana,” who lived in the now-razed home, daily, as she lived just down the road from their house.
“They’ve always been really good people, taken care of their neighbors,” Long said. “They’re hard working, worked hard all of their life. They’re a good family. Being the kind of people they are, they were worthy of it.”
“He’s really been a vital supporter of the library all the way through… for decades,” added Wackett of the Franklins. “There are so many good people in this town. It’s always nice to have the dedicated support like that the Franklins have always shown to the library, and we thought it would be a fitting tribute as well.”
Like the Franklins, Wackett said the library is one of the anchors of the community. She hopes more people will take advantage of the wonderful resource in their back yard.
“Come in and see what is new, see what you can get involved in, and especially to acquire a library card — it’s free!”
Long said the dedication was also fitting, given Franklin’s affinity for Frankford history.
“His museum is kind of like a library itself. It’s free — if you want to go he’d gladly show you his stuff,” he said. “He loves Frankford.”
Franklin has, in fact, even taken his museum on the road, displaying it at various locations throughout the county.
Wackett said getting the new lot up and running was a multi-year process, from purchase to completion.
“We couldn’t have done it without our Rep. [Rich] Collins and Sen. [Gerald] Hocker. They helped us through their discretionary funding. They gave us the capital needed to advance the project.”
The Franklins said the library has been a great asset to the town and is enjoyed by their whole family — it was frequented when their girls were little and often by their only granddaughter, Hannah.
“We used to take care of Hannah when she was little, when her mom and dad would work. We used to take her down to the library — she loved to go to the library. Miss Lowenstein was there, and they had the classes in there,” said Barbara Jean. “It was a nice library then, but it’s so nice now, so much bigger and all. With the park we have and all, it’s just a nice little town.”
The two have supported the library for years in various ways — Barbara Jean once crocheted an afghan and donated it to the library for a raffle to raise money.
“I give them a little something once in a while,” added Ab.
Earlier this month, their daughter Carol Esham had taken them to breakfast and on the way home drove to the new parking lot for a surprise unveiling.
“I didn’t even notice the sign,” Barbara Jean recalled with a laugh. “They did a beautiful job with it.”
The Franklins said they are honored to have the lot dedicated to them in the town they love so dearly.
“We’re honored to have a sign like that put up with our name on it,” said Ab. “We were happy about it. I thought it was really nice.”