Dennis Morgan and me, Paula: Myra & Ginny’s protegés. Plus partying and architecture, circa 1977.

by admin

Dennis Morgan and Paula Graves having cookies and milk on Graves patio after our houses were built.

Dennis Morgan was my first friend who was a boy. I have this on facebook with the caption, “He’s so dreamy, I think I will just close my eyes and dream…”

This picture was taken just after Bob Wendt, a Kansas City architect of German descent, finished our custom homes. By the way, Betsy Curry lived in a much bigger very neat house designed by Bob Wendt west of Roe south of 83rd St.

They were very unique contemporary ranches:

  • Post and Beam design: 4×6 posts supporting and rough-sawn cedar timber beams (5′ on center), stained black. (most houses stud framing.
  • beams exposed with natural pine tongue and groove roofdecking running 90 degrees to wood beams and spans the 5′ o.c. beams
  • 60s “ski lodge” fireplace
  • walnut stained oak wood floors
  • flat walnut veneer cabinet doors. the kitchen (north side of house) was so dark that the doors only (still flush set in walnut) were lacquered white to lighten up the room.  Lacquer, mind you, being a lost art. Here, it was 11 coats well-done by Bob Falkenberg (also German descent Falkenberg & Son contractor in KC, clients like Annenberg’s, lived in my neighborhood and daughter, Nancy, was one of my best friends at Highlands Grade School).
  • floor to ceiling glass along patio side.
  • exposed aggregate patios with wood strips and front walk entry hall

That’s enough about the architectural history of the houses here, let’s just say “they were cool, well-designed, well-crafted, well-done functionally and aesthetically.” And, our mom’s made the cookies. Ginny’s nutty nougat (aka snowballs) is still on the plate.

Jim and Myra Morgan, my neighbors.houses mirrored each other and shared a driveway.
Here is a picture from the KC Star of Dennis’s Dad, Jim Morgan, with the kids. Jim and Myra moved to KC from Alabama. Mr. Morgan at that time was an airline pilot for TWA and Myra was a southern belle and mother of three kids, Dink, Dennis and Denise (Missy). Doo, Jim Morgan’s mother, also lived with them. I’m not sure if this was from the outset or after Myra became busier  with the gallery. They both started Morgan Gallery in the 60s after Mr. Morgan had some kind of heart thing while flying and was grounded.

You can google Morgan Gallery, but Myra and Jim had the ins with the art galleries on both coasts in this era taking KC trips to NYC to Leo Castelli’s and Lillian Nassau to buy art and art nouveau. Both were highly creative with all that entails. Jim Morgan collected Arts and Crafts pottery, Roseville, etc. long before anyone else. Their social sphere was fascinating for me, for their friends were quite a bit wilder than the creative-conservatives with whom my parents socialized.

KC Star May 26, 1968. News About Women and Society. Note that Mrs. Jack O'Hara's garden is also featured, so I have included it.

They mention Taffy in the article. Taffy was a really great dog, I don’t know the breed. But I will have to find out. He was a mellow yellow hound of some sort.  Very methodically, he would trot around his two joint estates everyday, checking in and on everything. I’ve never had a dog with this kind of temperament, though it’s probably partially due to the owners.

John Buck Sculpture
The sculpture is by John Buck who was a graduate student at the K.C. Art Institute. This sculpture has had a colorful live, witnessing many a deal and an ordeal between the dramas in the Morgan and Graves families in both generations. But, most importantly, it was home base for kick the can. Dennis has the sculpture in storage and he and Dink have said that I can have it.  It needs a coat of black paint and rust-oleum mixed together. Dennis told me the recipe.
I had envisioned it on my mountaintop at the XIT Ranch. This is the high point along the Cimarron River at the Crossing to where I would run every day, sprinting the hill for reward of the river view. I am confident that the Plains Indians used this place as a burial ground it is so beautiful. I’m not sure it I would have gotten approval, but I know I could have sneaked in onto this place somewhere.

(excuse me…note to Dennis)

Dennis,

I still want this sculpture, so please don’t give it away if you have not yet already. A bit of a problem is that I may not have any land in the near future where it could be erected.  As will getting it from Dick Belger’s warehouse to the proposed site. And, since it’s a fairly permanent installation involving concrete this does need some thought for appropriate context.  I think it would look great in Santa Fe and likely no problems with the neighbors depending upon the size of the lot, but I’m not sure yet if I want to be there.  

I’d mainly be motivated in this southwest direction because you and I could have a great road trip hauling this thing to someplace west of the 98th meridian. As you can see below, we have a history of wheels and road, inherited from our parents, I guess. 

Dennis Morgan and Paula Adams on our bikes. Mine has training wheels.

a) love the picnic tablecloth fabric of my dress, white knee socks with vertical pattern up the leg, and my red Mary Janes.  Kudos Ginny Graves. My mother made me!!

b) training wheels into grade school. Dennis, aren’t they on your bike, too? it was scarring to learn to ride without these wheels with my marine corps father. he is such a patient man, but not as patient with lack of coordination and confidence. Seriously, everyone learns differently. If I had had a physics lesson first, I know I would have grasped concept of momentum sooner.  
c) Dennis, enough about me, you look great. :), like the mustard and grey combo. 
many loving thoughts,
Paula
(end of letter).

Little did I know at the time I would come to know water tanks well...

The above picture was taken getting ready for a Morgan-Graves Circle Party when we were in high school. The beer was iced and stationed in the water tanks on our joint lots.

Dennis’s Crowd vis-a-vis Paula’s Crowd

Dennis ran with a more diverse crowd than I; swimmers, baseball players, and pretty hardcore party’ers, at least in mind. That is, they smoked marijuana, maybe even tried other stuff! Since we were childhood friends, I didn’t really think that much about the fact that we didn’t hang out in the same social (partying) circles. I was cheerleader with jocks, of course.

Prairie Village Pool

We worked together at the Prairie Village Pool and lived next door to each other, so I always felt like we really shared the same friends. So many of us that lived in Prairie Village and swam at the Village Pool had parents (mothers) who insisted that at 15 we would take Red Cross and Lifeguard Training at the Pool. This is so that we would be gainfully employed at sixteen in a 45 hr. 6 day-a-week job that paid rather well (minimum wage adds up when it’s a real work week). Mostly for mothers, we were out-of-the-house.

Dennis and I really shared our friends in a sense. That is, his buddies were always and still very nice to me just as my girlfriends express fond memories of sweet, kind, interesting Dennis. One reason is because our driveway was really the hub for all kinds of Prairie Village people with these party’ing habits, even my jocky SME athlete buddies I was recently told. As usual, all going on around me and my head is in the real clouds.

Parental Control vs. Sense of Place

Back in the day, neither of our sets of parents seemed to care much about legal issues relative to our fun habits as dominates parental fears today. I’m sure philosophy for some was the same as it is for parents now. Knowing your kids were in a safe place was of primary importance; their mischief, a parent could hardly have time to monitor for the parent is usually busy with their own misbehaving. Anyway, I would pass these guys and their row of cars in our very long driveway to get to my garage. It was called “the circle” as the John Buck sculpture is on a round grass island around which the drive circulates.  “The Fort” was two lots to the east which was Peter Wilkin’s hub. Peter was the son of another neighborhood architect who attended Highlands but transferred to Pembroke-Hill. This is another story, but “the Fort” brought the private school laddies to the other side of the tracks (Mission Road).

I always felt like a totally square goofball in that d@mn cheerleading uniform and, of course, was and still am.

We were on the way to some birthday party.

I like my dress and mod gift paper, but Dennis is the star fashion icon here.

Such a cool blue plaid with the leather lacing.

And his loafers with the high tongues and white crews are classic.

Old School Preppy goes Wyoming Western.

What the Morgan-Graves were most famous for…GREAT PARTIES!

Our parents had their friends from KC Arts-Social Scene (my parents friends, dad’s clients, Morgan Gallery Clients, Contemporary Arts Society people, Alabama Folks). We invited all of our friends, but I guess it was really open to anyone as people I would meet at KU from SM South would tell me “I was at a party at your house in high school.” There were lights, tamale vendors, the ice cream truck, peanuts, beer, and Riverrock Played on a stage in the gravel rockbed in the landscaping that linked our two houses.

This is excerpts from an email from DWG giving a bit of resumé-history of some of the people pictured clarifying some of my earlier notes I took from our last phone conversation re: people. Exhausts me to get it close to right, so I’m just going to put in his red notes from his email and mine are in black. This is the best Dean and Paula combo with which I can feel comfortable. Apologize to all, I am responsible.

From: Dean Graves <dgraves@cubekc.org>

Subject: Re: id photos

Date: November 14, 2011 3:53:03 PM CST

To: Paula Adams <paulagravesadams@gmail.com>

Wm. T. Wiley, Bob Stark, World’s Greatest Artist
Sam Perkins Pres. of Bank in Olathe in photo just to the right of GG
Eileen and Byron Cohen: Panache (real estate), lived at 61st and Ward Parkway
Jan Pescanofsky and Giles Fowler CLARIFICATION : husband and wife; Giles wrote/reported for KCStar and Maybe Jan , too . Could probably google KCStar 1978July and find something. hmmmm…ignoring that last part Dean, already too many trees in forest…having inherited both parents genepools and talents, I’m not committed yet & would like to remain so. Anyone else? Please post. 
Ted Coe…Director of Nelson Gallery, after Lawrence Sickman who amassed chinese collection. [CLARIFICATION : TED CAME FROM CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART and after Nelson Gallery moved to and lived rest of his life in Santa Fe Died plus or minus two yrs. ago .  Was very much an expert in Northwest American/Canadian Indian Art .] In picture on btm. row just to right of Laddie Hurst Mann. Ted came from back East, who had gallery directorships, into contemporary scene.

Friend

You know, Dennis will always be my best first friend and a boy. We have survived our lives and our wonderful families and mostly the way we are made: two emotional, sensitive, and very shy people.

Shy that wore itself in different clothes but is the same.

Love you Dennis. Tell Nancy hi, her Morgan boys Christmas cards always earn first prize in the card sort each year. I guess we’re all still working the arts gig in one way or another, squeaking out the dollar but doing what inspires us. We have to get the kids together in their lifetimes. Or, maybe they will just cross paths…I bet they will. 

Fine women, fine food, fine construction. 5328 W. 67th St.

by admin
"Party at Graves"

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.

Back row:

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.

Present owners

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.

Scale

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.

Morgan-Graves houses

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.

The women

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

accordian agent

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

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.

Glenn Mistele

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

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.