Olin McConnell has a collection of collections. He has collections of books and photos, and handcrafted dancing "puppets." He has paperweights and inkwells and several dolls' heads crafted of glass. He has an oyster basket - and his wife has a collection of oyster plates.
McConnell has the original sketch of "Sailor Boy", an image created by his grandfather in the 1930's. That cartoon sketch became a trademark for one of Bivalve's oyster houses in the "Oyster Capital of the World."
McConnell knows a man who captained the Cashier, the region's "oldest working commercial boat." (That would be his brother George, who owned the ship when it was added to the county's historic register.)
He knows about two of the artists who are connected to the region, namely George Essiq - and Chillie McConnell. (That would be his grandfather!)
McConnell has a photo of the fish factory of Menhaden.
He has a tidbit that could explain the origin of the name of the shoal "Miah Maul." (He hints that it may be connected with a corruption of the name Nehemiah.)
He knows that there are some great old photos of the area hanging in the Bob Evans restaurant on South Delsea Drive in Millville.
This all may seem random, but be assured that Olin McConnell has organized his massive collection and can tell you the significance of each postcard, invoice, and artifact that is in his possession. Speaking with authority, he can provide dates and names, and pinpoint places. His mind is like a card catalog, alphabetized and organized: oysters, old bridges, fishing, ferries. He knows about the people - the captains, the craftsmen, the characters, the legends. And he can locate the clippings from newspapers, passages in his own library of books, and the covers of Field and Stream that were illustrated by his grandfather.
McConnell's collections illustrate the chapters of life along the lower reaches of the Maurice River. He has the visuals - the paintings, postcards, documents and photos. And he has things that can be held in the hand - a real touch of the past.
Olin McConnell was getting ready to transport his treasures to a new dwelling - the home where his grandfather lived. The home of a legend? Those kinds of places sometimes become museums. McConnell would be at home.