What I Found At A Yard Sale Sent Me On A Mission
When all is said and done, do you think you could fit your entire life into three cardboard boxes? I don't mean your belongings, but your life; your hopes and dreams and ambitions? Because that is exactly what I found at a yard sale recently - a man's entire life's work in three cardboard boxes.
My sister Diane was having a yard sale along with friends and family who showcased their items along her driveway and large front yard. Shortly after I arrived, my brother-in-law Jimmy called me over to show me something.
"You're the only one I knew who might be interested in this," he said. "Otherwise we'll probably just toss it in the trash."
He directed me toward three cardboard boxes filled with original hand-typed plays. I pulled out a few to inspect; I knew they did not belong in the trash. With the help of my nephew Jack we carried the boxes to my car.
The next night the boxes were on my living room floor and I began my journey to see whose life I suddenly found in my care. The playwright's name was Thomas Oliver Crehore who, after a cursory Google search, I found out had died in July of this year at the age of eighty. One by one I pulled out the plays, the oldest being from 1959 and the newest from the mid-to-late 1990s. Some had hand-written corrections in the margins. One binder was not a play, but a loving tribute to one of his productions. It was produced in Cape Cod and the binder was filled with reviews and black-and-white pictures of the cast and crew. Tom (I felt that knew him well enough at that point to call him Tom) resided in New York City and Cape Cod, so he must have been doing something right. But what?
Upon further investigation, I found something very interesting, but not about Tom; it was about his father, Austen Crehore. During World War One after being turned down by the U.S Air Service and U.S. Naval Aviation, went to France and joined the French Air Corp. Tom should have written about his dad. Austen Crehore was part of a flying squadron known as 'The Grim Reapers'. Austen Crehore is credited with saving another pilot's life (his best friend no less) when he barrel rolled in to shoot down the German plane that was shredding his friend's tail-section with a machine gun. He then went on to win France's highest award, the Legion d'Honneur.
Unless Tom Crehore walked on the moon while juggling chainsaws, he was never going to top that.
With that said, I still had to find someone who wanted these original manuscripts. Another search found that he was a member of the Dramatists Guild, so I sent them an email and explained what I had found. Shortly thereafter, I received a reply from a Mr. Roland Tec, Director of Membership for that organization; he thanked me for the information and informed me that he would forward my query on to Mr. Crehore's estate and that they would most likely reach out to me.
Excellent, I thought, I'll just wait until they get in touch with me.
(Insert cricket sound here)
Nothing. Turns out, there was a very good reason I did not hear back from the estate. My brother-in-law Jimmy and his girlfriend Lynn bought the boxes from Tom Crehore's estate. I found out later the Tom Crehore was estranged from his only living relative, his sister. How horrible to think that she was willing to sell his life's work for a dollar-a-box; maybe there was a good reason they were estranged.
At this point, I envisioned Tom's life work would find a home in my basement, only to meet its inevitable fate when I die and this unknown playwright's life is finally tossed in the trash.
Fortunately for me (and Tom), I have very smart friends.
I told this story to my friend Tina at work, who then went online and read his obituary. At the end of the article was a note that all donations should go to the Westfield Historical Society; she suggested I get in touch with them.
"Sure, we'd love to have Tom's work with us," I was told over the phone when I spoke to the curator of the museum.
That next Saturday I placed Tom in my car and drove us to Westfield to deliver him to his final, final resting place. The curator thanked me and took me for a quick tour of the building. On the second floor, they had an exhibit dedicated to Austen Crehore which included his uniform and an assortment of medals. They would find a place for Tom's plays here.
It was nice to know that Tom finally found his way back home to his father.