Party at the Graves.
Commentary on the Picture
Maybe this was Indian Hills but it is one of many parties where we solved our yet to be uncovered issues with food (men, mother, other) with food. I think everyone’s mouth is full in the picture. I’m sure we’ve all now resolved these issues and found our perfect size on our own. The food was actually not fine at all, lots of sugar and salt, before fruit & ranch dip with veggies.
Madelyn White, Sally Burger.
Dana Marshall, Ellen Hanes.
Liz Frost, Linda Shea, Amber Edwards, Julie Newman, Sarah Jones.
Cassie Brown, Dee Devine, Emily May, I think Leslie Lane is in there somewhere.
Commentary on the building era
See the hammock on the patio? and fireplace with the curved stone wall backdrop? In quest of environmentalist values and aesthetic, my parents bricked in the lower half of the ski lodge fireplace in the 70s. On the brick hearth they placed a Godin wood stove. It really seemed to mess up the thermostats to me. One time a bird came down the flue and flew around our house. And a squirrel.
The new occupants own Czar Bar, a music hotspot at 15th and Grand. Connie Suss, owner of Bijin Salon lives in the Morgan’s old house and Greg is a musician. I’ve heard that the new owners of my parents house do not live there, but that they use it to entertain. I’m glad to see they’re all carrying on the creative vibe and party tradition (see Morgan-Graves-Wilkin Circle). Dennis was sitting in the Village with a “Morgan” ballcap on one day. The Czar Bar owner recognized the gallery name, approached him and they met. As well, I was able to live next door to Connie and Greg Suss when Jack, my son, attended Pembroke ’06-’09.
When Jack’s friends from east of Mission Road would come to visit, there was often the assumption that the two houses were one house. They were designed and built at the same time, inter-connected by a fence and common circle drive with a John Buck Sculpture. After I attended Indian Hills and Shawnee Mission East, I realized that the houses are modest in size by some people’s standards. It made for a certain family “intimacy.” While communal spaces are important, I still believe in as much separate territory as can be accomplished, regardless of size. I had a corner in our unfinished basement where I would read.
The house was built in 1965, see 5328. Both our home and the Morgan’s were featured in Better Homes and Gardens and the KC Star. I think my parents made sure that house was in print at least twice a decade. Not that it wasn’t an interesting house, but there were at least six houses of this style in my neighborhood. They were all equally interesting. The architect was Bob Wendt who lived the next block over on 66th Terrace. Bob Wendt had many wonderful houses in Prairie Village. Betsy Curry grew up in a wonderful, large Bob Wendt house off Roe and 83 St, but only my sister Gina has seen this. The construction-related people on 66th and 67th Streets between Fonticello and Nall included the following:
Bob Wendt, Architect-Builder
Bob Falkenberg, Falkenberg Lumber, contractor
Bob Yearick, Architect
Roger Wilkin, Architect
Dean Graves, Architect
Glenn Mistele, basement expert
Jim Morgan, artist and worked with his hands, thus included.
Jim Morgan and Dean Graves, assistants to the architect
Both the Morgans and the Graves worked very closely with Bob Wendt on their houses. While in tandem, each has subtle details on the interior and exterior that set them apart. I think Jim Morgan was a pilot for TWA at the time and thus had the time and eye to expend on design when he was home.
My father’s first degree was in architectural engineering. His schooling was paid for by the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon graduation and marriage to my mother, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He first attended Officer’s Training School in Quantico, Virgina where Gina was born. Two years later, I was born at Camp LeJeune, home of “Expeditionary Forces Readiness.” It was not during wartime, but at one point he was deployed on a ship to the Phillipines for some contretemps. I’m not sure of all the timing. While I know he would have been a noble warrior and done a fine job, I remember asking him about this. He said as the ship was cruising through the Pacific, he thought, “holy smokes! I might just go over here and get shot!” The ship ended up turning around. Anyway, I don’t know the order but at some point he worked for Hallmark. He returned to KU to get his Master of Architecture. We lived at Johnny Walker apartments which I think was over in Missouri of all places. Thus, he wasn’t really in practice yet when I was five and we moved into this house. Or, he was at least smart enough not to make his first mistakes on his own house. That’s what clients are for. That’s a joke.
All of the wives of these men were equally interesting and career-minded: Modelle Wendt, Marjorie Mistele, Ginny Graves, Gwen Falkenberg, and Myra Morgan. Their vocations beyond the home at this time included the following:
television and runway model
the Nelson Art Lady and docent
all around charming southern belle and soon-to-be gallery owner
and, the quintessential best mother, Betty Wilkin. She funny and loving and encouraging. She would make incredible lunches like hamburgers and french fries. On the grill!! For lunch!! She had many other talents in preservation, travel and history. But, when you get the best mom award in this category, no one pays much attention to anything else you do.
The Hyde’s Bruce Goff House
Next to the Falkenberg’s was a house designed by Bruce Goff, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Bruce Goff became a renowned architect in his own right (see Bruce Goff in Sublette, Kansas). The Hyde’s (Mark’s dad) lived in this house. I think he was a very specialized eye surgeon. It was green, multi-sided, and had an ashtray clerestory and sunken living room. The bedrooms were around the perimeter and were entered through sliding glass doors. We had more than one family barbeque at the Hyde’s. Clyde and Marty Nichols also lived in a wonderful Bruce Goff house with spikey things out of the top over by the Nelson.
The Patterson’s pre-civil War Nall House
Another interesting house on the street is that of Anne and Craig Patterson. I always call this the Nall House. It was built before the Civil War and was across the street from my neighbors. My father did all their architectural work and I babysat for their boys. All different stories, I’ll stop here.
Bob Falkenberg lived down the street, next to the Hyde’s. He was the owner of the best German Construction Co. in Kansas City, Falkenberg Lumber. Bob’s was an incredible design. I don’t think he used an architect. Every detail and material was perfect. The plan had a hallway that angled back in segments. You encountered Nancy and Peco’s bedrooms along the way before leading to a beautiful master suite. Nancy and Pecos each had their own bathrooms.
The place and time. Falkenberg hallway.
There was an incident I’ll never forget in that hallway. Pecos (model handsome) was playing music in his room and he had a really nice stereo and headset. I was with Nancy and we heard “Give me an F….Give me a C….” He may have even been playing it for us or let us listen on the headphones, it was so traumatic I can’t remember. Within moments, Bob was in that bedroom and had Pecos thrown up against the wall, headphones ripped out of the stereo and thrown on the floor, so now it was blaring “what does that spell? FV@k! what does that spell? [repeat]! That’s all I can remember… Gina and I were 10 and 12, two girls. The late 60s for us were Mary Quant makeup bought in London, paper dress parties, and twiggy posters.
Theirs was the first house I had seen with a huge stainless steel refrigerator and all stainless steel appliances. They added a beautiful atrium Greenhouse that Mr. Falkenberg would work in on the weekends. He would grow things like exotic orchids and tropicals here, and their patio was beautifully landscaped. 20% of the cost of your home should be in landscaping and he certainly exemplified this aesthetic.
Mr. Falkenberg was very handsome and manly. On Friday nights, he and Gwen always had romantic patio cookouts with cocktails, music, and tenderloin on the grill. Maybe everyone did this in the 60s, but the modern kitchen and sophisticated simple grilling seemed way ahead of its time for Kansas. As mentioned, Gwen was the first woman to pass the bar in the state of Kansas. Her sister was Marilyn Van Derbur, the 1958 Miss America. Gwen was from a family of beautiful women with flaxen hair from Denver. Nancy has this hair. I think there was some story that Bob Falkenberg was in Denver, saw a picture of Gwen in the newspaper, and knew what he wanted. He brought Gwen to Kansas.
Bob began working with his father who started the company and took the family business into the next generation. Bob’s very long KC client list included an ambassador to England, among other things. He was a constant presence at the Walnuts. My father’s clients would always use Bob Falkenburg. He seemed to take on any project, regardless of size. That is, those that demanded the highest standards of craftsmanship, finishwork, and an honest, efficient work ethic. His longtime colleagues were old school gentlemanly finishworkers who left a room as they had entered it.
Leslie Yearick, Nancy Falkenberg, Nancy Mistele and I all ran around together at Highlands Grade School.
Nancy Mistele’s father, Glenn, was a master at basements. If your basement flooded, you called Glenn Mistele. He would solve the immediate problem and diagnose the longterm solution. I won’t go into mothers here since I’m on a construction tangent, that will be for a Highlands Grade School post.
Roger Wilkin, Peter’s dad, was an architect. I’ll say more about the Wilkin’s in Morgan-Graves-Wilkin Circle. Their house had, what are now called, great rooms that flanked an open kitchen. All of these houses had exposed beams and pitched roofs. They were open plans, but spaces were still divided into functions, inter-connected but intimate.
That’s all I have for now. As I add more information or pictures of the houses, I may break this into parts. Thank you for your patience.