A Collection Exposed

Labor Day Woes

It’s strange how an unfortunate event can sometimes cause one to ponder the more enjoyable aspects of life. Because of a recent incident, I rediscovered my coveted Frankie Laine collection.

Iowa, along with much of the Midwest, received torrential rains during the weekend before and days after Labor Day. My wife, Marlene, and I woke up Labor Day morning to discover our sump pump had failed and our entire ground-floor family and entertainment area had flooded.

A series of spaces comprise this area in our home. We have a bedroom, wet bar, theater area, furnace room, storage room, and, of course, my Frankie Laine collection room.

The rooms didn’t actually “flood,” but when the sump pump quit, every crack and crevice in the cement layer under the flooring began to seep water. Thankfully, the overflow from the pump area mainly drained into a floor drain located in the furnace room.

The seepage that occurred completely soaked carpeting in the rooms as well as the area under the hard flooring in the bar area. Our first priority (after replacing the sump pump) was to call a mitigation company. Workers from the company arrived the next evening and, very quickly, began ripping out carpeting and flooring and installing specialized drying fans and humidifiers.

That evening, I was handed a pile of boxes, which I assembled one-by-one as needed, and was instructed to empty the contents of the cabinets that held my precious Frankie Laine collection. I have five large solid-wood cabinets housing my collection. Packed full, each of these cabinets is extremely heavy and needed to be made lighter by extracting all of the inner recesses.

I was, to put it mildly, mortified. It was hot, rainy, I hadn’t yet changed out of my work clothes, and I hadn’t had dinner yet. There were about 10 strangers ripping apart our family area, and I had to remove my priceless collections and place them into boxes! And this had to be done as soon as possible, so workers could move the cabinets out and rip out the carpet in order to install dryers.

We had just moved into our dream home three years before. Until moving here, my Laine collection had been carefully stored in large trunks. I was so excited that, for the first time, I could place my beloved assemblage into beautiful hardwood cabinets. This took a rather significant amount of time to do, but I loved consigning everything into selected spaces within a room specifically designated for my Laine collection storage. Now, I was ripping everything apart and putting the portions into boxes.

The worse part of all of this was when I handed fragile individual pieces—and delicate boxes of artifacts, to big, hefty employees of the mitigation company to carry up two flights of steps to our first floor. As I handed a box of rare, breakable Laine records to one of the burly workers to carry upstairs, I said, “You may be a big guy, but if you drop this I will . . .”

I held up my fist.

As he took my box of precious material into his big claws, he said, “That’s okay, I also am a black belt in karate.”

Aargh!

Strangely, even though I was rapidly transferring bits of my assemblage into boxes, I was able to reflect on various pieces and rediscover items. I have been collecting all things Frankie Laine for over 40 years. Each item is cataloged and separated into categories. My entire Laine compilation is documented in duplicate. However, I find that over the years I forget exactly what I have. For example, more than once, I will discover an item for my Laine collection on EBAY and purchase it, only to discover later that the item was already in my compendium.

Aside from the circumstance at hand, I was rediscovering Frankie Laine career items even though it had been just three years since arranging the cabinets. It was also fun just to admire things I hadn’t seen in a while.

I sort of became lost in my own little world, while I was sifting through the Laine artifacts. Chaos was erupting around me, I was hot and sweaty, and I was heartsick and almost ready to cry while splitting apart my careful arrangement of coveted material, but somehow I was reminded of the importance of my 40-plus years of effort. I became aware, once again, of how fortunate I was to have amassed such an important collection of career items of one of the most popular singing stars the world will ever know. Thanks again, Frankie!

In the midst of calamity, I found peace.

 

 

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About the Author:

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Craig Cronbaugh, Director of the Legislative Information Office with the Legislative Services Agency at the Iowa State Capitol. As famed singer Frankie Laine’s special friend and a collector of Laine’s recordings and career memorabilia, Craig has written articles; has written, produced, directed, and hosted a distinctive radio program; and has appeared on Iowa statewide television regarding his Frankie Laine avocation. Craig has been highlighted briefly and has been given a research screen credit in the 2003 internationally distributed documentary Frankie Laine: An American Dreamer. Craig’s book, a memoir, Reaching for a Star, featuring his friendship with Laine, was published in 2005.