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Pandemic projects: Collector gets organized – South Hill’s Myron Molnau donates bulk of 3,500 books, rearranges stamps

Myron Molnau pages through one of his 140 “Robin Hood” books he has collected for his library, Jan. 25, in Spokane.  (Dan Pelle/THESPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Myron Molnau pages through one of his 140 “Robin Hood” books he has collected for his library, Jan. 25, in Spokane. (Dan Pelle/THESPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

When Myron Molnau and his wife moved to Spokane from Moscow, Idaho, in 2013, some serious downsizing occurred.

Molnau collects books and stamps. Stamps are small and don’t take up much space. Books are another story.

“I had 3,500 books and whittled them down to about 1,000,” he recalled. “I donated truckloads to the library.”

The pandemic has offered him time to organize his two rooms filled with books and completely rearrange his stamp collection.

Of course, book-sorting is not without distraction.

“I’ve spent (or wasted) time rereading many of them,” he said. “I’ve really missed going to the library.”

A reader before he started school, Molnau’s passion was fueled by family members. He earned an allowance doing chores on the family farm in Minnesota.

“I saved my allowance, and dad gave me a catalog to order books from. He’d fill out the order blank and pay the postage.”

In addition, each Christmas, he received a book from his aunt.

“I still have them,” he said.

Entire bookcases in his home are devoted to his childhood heroes; Robin Hood, Tarzan and Charlemagne.

“What captured me about Robin Hood was I liked chasing around in the woods,” recalled Molnau. “Dad wouldn’t let us have a bow and arrow, though.”

Running his fingers along the spines of beloved childhood favorites, he pauses at his collection of “Bomba, the Jungle Boy” volumes.

“It’s a 20-volume set, and I’m still missing one.”

Shelves of books about books, cookbooks (mostly about chocolate), science fiction and bibliomysteries overflow.

“Mostly I’ve been reorganizing them,” he said. “I’m still not done.”

When asked if he had a favorite author, Molnau’s jaw dropped.

“That’s like asking if I’d rather be shot or hung!”

His addiction was easily fed because of his profession.

“I was a water resources engineer and taught hydrology to engineers,” Molnau said. “We usually lived in university towns with lots of bookstores.”

Many shelves abound with nautical books due to his lifelong fascination with ships. Growing up on a farm with a nearby lake led to many hours spent making model boats and sailing them across the water.

And model boats actually led to his other collection – stamps.

“I was in graduate school, still making model boats, and my wife came home with a set of stamps from Singapore,” he recalled. “She said, ‘Here this will make less mess than model boats.’ ”

He has focused his philatelic fascination on three areas; Belgium, Canada and ships. Molnau may not be able to name his favorite author, but his favorite stamp is easy.

“The Bluenose,” he said. “It’s the name of a ship that raced other fishing boats between New England and the Maritime Provinces. Bluenose beat the U.S. every time.”

Working on his stamp collection entails a lot of writing which evolved into a new skill.

“I write short stories about the subjects I find on stamps,” said Molnau. “As a corollary to this rearranging, I’ve been learning how to write web pages, and have made several web pages for my stamps. This has been a good time to learn some new skills.”

A member of the Inland Empire Philatelic Society, he looks forward to the time when members can meet in person again.

Organizing his collections has kept his mind and hands busy during the stay-home orders.

“Engineers like things to be orderly,” he said.

When asked if he’s still collecting books and stamps, Molnau raised his eyebrows.

“I’m still breathing aren’t I?” he replied.

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