Friday, June 17, 2016

Thank You Liberty Aviation Museum for a Spectacular 'Hogan's Heroes'/Bob Crane Biography Author Event!

Carol Ford, author of Bob Crane: The Definitive
Biography, during her author event at
The Liberty Aviation Museum,
June 11 and 12, 2016. (Photo by Dave Bishop)
Every so often, there comes a moment in one's life when there is so much goodness, it's difficult to process it all. You have to sit back and allow the moment, embrace it, and try not to question or understand it. Such has been, from Day One, my experience with the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, Ohio. It is the latest chapter in my own journey of discovering Bob Cranea journey that continues to overwhelm, illuminate, and surprise me.

A grass roots effort, Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography has humble beginnings and was a lengthy research process. Linda Groundwater, Dee Young, and I worked into the wee hours of the morning on almost a nightly basis (all while maintaining demanding full-time jobs and families). Over time, I met and got to know many prominent people from Bob's life, and in some cases, we became like family. After twelve years of thorough research and two years of writing, our hard work paid off. The book was finally published on September 17, 2015.

One would think that with our big, ambitious goal achieved, things would settle down a bit. But not so! Marketing and promoting a book is extremely important, often exhausting, and expensive, and I have been trying to line up as many book signings and author events that I can squeeze into my schedule and can afford.

In September 2015, I was honored to present the closing session at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Bob Crane's son entrusted me with his father's Hogan cap, which I displayed during my session, allowing fans to see it up close. It's not every day you get to be the keeper of one of the most iconic props in television history, and it was, up until that point, a pinnacle moment for me, both personally and professionally.

Carol Ford, seated, holding Colonel Hogan's 50 Mission Crusher Cap,
with her friends at work, just before sending the cap back to Scott Crane.
September 21, 2015.
And then, the Liberty Aviation Museum joined the party. I had just returned home from the convention, and Hogan's cap was barely back in Los Angeles, when I received my first email from the CEO of the museum. Never, in my wildest dreams, could I have imagined what was about to happen next. They have embraced Bob Crane and our book, and have helped take our efforts in telling Bob's true story to a whole new level. They have done something truly magnificent, and in doing so, have won a big piece of my heart.

In the world of museums, the Liberty Aviation Museum, located in Port Clinton, Ohio, is quite young, barely a toddler. A small band of loyal and dedicated World War II enthusiasts interested in preserving history had a vision, and that vision—a museum—became a reality. They broke ground in 2010 and opened their doors to the public in July 2012.

You may wonder how much a museum still in its infancy could acquire and offer to share with the public. The answer is—a lot. Conceived in the mid-1980s and registered on December 7, 1991, over the course of two decades, they amassed a collection of literally thousands upon thousands of important relics. Many are in dire need of restoration when they land at Liberty Aviation, but once in their possession, volunteers and staff spend as much time and money necessary restoring them.

And as CEO Edward Patrick states, they don't just acquire these items. They "rescue" them.

Situated on a landing strip near Sandusky Airport, the museum consists of two massive hangars with showrooms filled to the brim with artifacts and military vehicles and aircraft, mostly all from World War II. A few of their shining glory items are a fully restored and flyable North American B-25J Mitchell Bomber (Georgie's Gal), a PT-728 MTB Motor Torpedo Boat (Thomcat) (currently under restoration), a fully restored and flyable Avenger (GM TBM-3E Bomber, General Motors), a fully restored and flyable model 5-AT-B Ford Tri-Motor (the Tin Goose), and much, much more. Motorcycles, Jeeps, ambulances, countless other military vehicles, and mountains of military artifacts fill their showrooms. Their vast collection also includes items dedicated to Hollywood and its connection to the military, with many screen-used artifacts and uniforms owned by actors who served in the military on display. This now includes items from the 1960s television series Hogan's Heroes.

The Hogan's Heroes collection at the Liberty Aviation Museum
in Port Clinton, Ohio. An expanded display is in the works.
On September 30, 2015, the Liberty Aviation Museum won at auction Colonel Hogan's leather flight jacket (owned and worn by Bob Crane in Hogan's Heroes, and also worn by Frank Sinatra in Von Ryan's Express), Colonel Klink's uniform (worn by Werner Klemperer), and Sergeant Schultz's overcoat (worn by John Banner). I didn't even know Liberty Aviation existed when we set up a Go Fund Me campaign and, with the help of Hogan's Heroes fans, tried to "save Hogan's jacket." Our intention was that if we raised the funds and won the jacket, we would donate it to a museum. But we failed miserably, and I watched in dispair as the auction went up, bidding started, and then closed. Heartbroken, I went to bed that night wondering who the lucky private collector was and how he or she would care for this iconic item. Imagine my surprise when the CEO of the Liberty Aviation Museum contacted me the next day to inform me that they had won the jacket. I was literally on Cloud 9!

Since then, the museum has added several other items from the series to its Hogan's Heroes collection. Among them is the rest of Colonel Hogan's uniform (shirt, tie, pants, and his iconic 50 Mission Crusher Cap), graciously donated by Robert Scott Crane, son of Bob Crane and Patricia Olson Crane (Sigrid Valdis). I am beyond thrilled and overjoyed that the Liberty Aviation Museum is the official home of the authentic Hogan's Heroes artifact and prop collection viewable by the public, and they have big plans for an expanded display to be constructed over the next year. 

The Hogan's Heroes collection at the Liberty Aviation Museum
in Port Clinton, Ohio. An expanded display is in the works.
I couldn't have planned this better if I tried. I never could have ever prdicted that in less than a year following the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, not only would Hogan's jacket be safe in a museum, but his entire uniform would be back together again—for the first time in nearly forty years. It has found its new and permanent home, where it, along with other Hogan's Heroes artifacts, will be safely preserved and enjoyed by fans. And at the same time, people will discover Bob Crane's true story. It's impossible to miss his biography sitting right in the display case with the very uniform of the man who brought Colonel Hogan to life.

I can't even begin to tell you how incredibly happy this makes my heart! These may just be inanimate objects, but they are objects that signify not only an important piece of television history, but also Bob Crane's most important contribution to the television industry and his main achievement as an actor. And ironically, the timeline of the Liberty Aviation Museum runs interestingly parallel to that of Bob Crane's biography: right at about the same time I started researching Bob in 1985 as a kid digging in my local library, those who brought the Liberty Aviation Museum to life were laying the groundwork for its inception. It took decades and elbow grease for each of our projects to build and come to fruition. As Bob himself used to say, nothing happens overnight, and with hard work, patience, a little luck, determination, and perseverance, what you want will one day be yours. It's as if our two endeavors were always meant to one day converge.

The Hogan's Heroes collection at the Liberty Aviation Museum
in Port Clinton, Ohio. An expanded display is in the works.
We have forged a strong friendship with the Liberty Aviation Museum, and on June 11 and 12, 2016, they hosted an author/book signing event for me. I was completely humbled by their gracious hospitality and kind generosity, and my author event was a tremendous success. I was onsite for the entire time the museum was open both days, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. My table was right next to the Hogan's Heroes display case, and it was also a "reunion" for me and Hogan's cap! It was an oddly strange, yet wonderful and slightly overwhelming feeling—like seeing an old friend.

Visitors to the museum and attendees of my two presentations were curious, interested, and kind, and many were touched by what I had to say. I always remember the people I meet at these events—like the woman who travelled by train from Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the little boy who loves Hogan's Heroes so much, so I let him touch Colonel Hogan's cap; the lovely lady who had already read the book and came all the way just to meet me; the gentleman who was overcome with emotion after my presentation, telling me, "Thank you for this and for all you do." The man who came back to give me a mug with a photograph of a B-17 on it. The writer who kindly authored a beautiful article about the event a couple of days later. And so many more. 

Entrance to the Liberty Aviation Museum
in Port Clinton, Ohio.
June 11 and 12, 2016.
This is exactly why we're here: to show the world that Bob Crane was not evil. He was a good, kind, talented, and imperfect human being, with a full life—one that was cut short all too soon. When I present my session, people already know the ending. Bob Crane will be murdered on June 29, 1978, no matter how many times I tell his story. But what I get to witness is the reaction. It's not unlike watching the film Titanic. You know how the story ends before the movie even starts, but at the end, it hits you. You get choked up. You have gotten to know the characters who represent real people who lost their lives that night. They aren't just names on a page or a headline in a newspaper, or their belongings just artifacts in a museum. They were human beings. They were real. They had lives. And it gets to the core of people. This is what I see time and time again when I get to tell Bob's true story: compassion for and understanding of another human being.

I journeyed to Port Clinton to hold a book signing and see artifacts from a TV show I have loved since I was a kid—to see the revered jacket that I had so wanted to save and see preserved. I was not disappointed. The Liberty Aviation Museum not only met every expectation I had. It surpassed all of them. 

Because what I left with was so much more. Over this all-too short weekend, endearing friendships were made that I know will last a lifetime. I felt as if I had known these beautiful people forever—something I haven't experienced since meeting some of Bob's closest friends in Connecticut and then earning their friendships. 

Carol Ford, author of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography
with the Hogan's Heroes display at The Liberty Aviation Museum,
June 11 and 12, 2016.
The folks at the Liberty Aviation Museum are simply amazing. In addition to giving Hogan's jacket and all of the Hogan's Heroes props all the TLC and attention they rightfully deserve, the museum CEO and his hard-working staff are kind, gracious, and generous souls dedicated to preserving history and giving back to the community. They are bright stars that light up an all-too-often dark and frightening world. They seek out the good, and they strive to do good. I cannot think of anywhere else in the world where Bob Crane's Colonel Hogan uniform would be "at home."

It is so true. Put goodness out, and goodness will comes back in ways you could never possibly imagine.

Thank you to everyone at the Liberty Aviation Museum, especially Ed, Connie, and Terry, as well as the museum's restaurant, the Tin Goose Diner. I love these people so much, and I miss them all already! I will be a frequent flyer to the museum, and plans are in the works for my return at least on an annual basis (and I'm hoping for more often than that!). I will never stop gushing love and affection for the Liberty Aviation Museum! Goodness prevails. Always.

The Liberty Aviation Museum — Simply the best museum on earth!

We are extremely grateful to the Liberty Aviation Museum CEO and staff, and honored and humbled by their kind hospitality, generosity, care, and dedication to preserving history and giving back to the community. We encourage you to discover all that the Liberty Aviation Museum has to offer. Please support them by visiting them in person, and/or by donating directly to the museum or shopping in their online gift shop.