Monday, April 8, 2013

Growing up Morgan

Living in the nicest house, in a wonderful neighborhood, with a spectacular view of a Great Lake (Erie), we never knew we didn’t have Wasmer, Barth or Joel Gray/Cabaret “Money Makes the World Go Around” money. We were not on Hyannisport at the Kennedy compound, but we surely did our best to keep up appearances. Not to suggest we were trying to fool the world. We were, rather, I think the result of a combination of Dad’s business running a design studio that depended on a short list of blue chip clients and Mom’s affinity for the dramatic arts.  

It’s not easy being anybody. Que the violins. I am most grateful for the Camelot I got to experience in that time before Nixon was forced to resign. The President of the United States (before twitter shortened it to POTUS) was caught up in Watergate and became the first POTUS to resign the office on August 8, 1974.  Maybe nothing was ever the same after that. After that Greg and I began our Freshman Year at the University of Miami. Pan to the parking lot at Mahoney Residence Hall. You can hear Joe Cocker on the 8-Track player in the Cutlass Supreme. (“What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?) Later on the sound comes from Room 234: Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Queen, Leo Sayer, Rod Stewart, Elton John and Cat Stevens.
15106 Edgewater Drive was a special place to be sure. But upon closer examination that time had its quirks.
No Gardeners – Six kids with a carefully orchestrated and delineated plot of responsibility. I remember some areas of particular pride. The rose bushes in front by that wrote iron fence, for me, paid dividends in bloom. Dan was artful at keeping that side yard weed-free between the bricks Dad acquired from some dismantled high-level bridge in Cleveland. Greg was fearless with the lawn-mower in that treacherous area behind the backyard wall. Rob was great with a rake (and that leaf sweeper).

The Eight Year Plan – Rod Varney asked his friend Jim Geshke if he wanted to dump “clean  fill” from construction out back. That’s a lot of wheel barrel runs. 8 years would not be enough to stop the cliff erosion.
Kitchen Chairs – Built in refrigerators, stainless steel countertops with built in stovetops and stunning display of Revere ware pots & pans. Still, sit down for almost any weekday meal and you will hear one of the screws holding those chairs together pop out and roll to the kitchen floor.
Ann Page Cereal – ready to eat cereal, sandwich crème cookies and onion soup mix (for that famous holiday chip dip) and plenty of Bumble Bee chunk light tuna (unless Chicken of the Sea was on sale).
Hot Rod Lincoln – ("Son, ya gonna drive me to drinking if you don’t stop drivin’ that hot rod Lincoln.") I barely had my driver’s license a month when I picked up a blind date for a St. Augustine Sadie Hawkins Dance. Sally forgot to tell her dad that I went to LHS (not St. Edwards). That date almost never happened. On other nights cruising the Morgan Lincoln was something of a novelty with the posse.
Teen Pregnancy – Lynn was committed to getting out of the house as soon as she could be legally emancipated at age 18. She achieved her discrete move to Rocky Top (outside of Huntington, WV) with a miracle birth in record time in 1970. She returned for the built in baby-sitters and enough free time to finish high school. Go Rangers. Lakewood High was able to help Lynn stitch together credits accumulated at St. Augustine, Horace Mann and Andrews School for Girls (Willoughby, Ohio).    
House  Paint – Stucco is a surface that takes more paint than any painting contractor can accurately project. $800 for the whole house probably cost that crew more than that for which they bargained. Mr. Morgan probably knew it up-front. A deal is a deal.   
Fire Wood – Another deal is a deal. “Mr. Morgan, the wood is $125 a cord,” the man says. Dad’s response: “Great, give me $100 worth.” And the cellar stash is ready for the dumb waiter. The Lurch Bell doesn’t stir a domestic servant but it does conger up images of the Adams Family. “You Rang?”
CYC – Just wave at the guy at the gate as if you are supposed to be here. If you have the nerve you can sign #836 for a burger and a suicide soda (a mixture that might be Coke, Sprite and Root Beer) at the pool concession stand.
CAC – Old naked guys swimming laps at the pool and catching a steam afterwords. Mahogany walls, dusty oriental rugs, trophy cases, Racquet sports and good-old-boy clubbiness. So great to be a blue blood.
The last on the block to get color TV, but the first to get the PONG video game. Still only 3-4 channels to choose from so it will be the Wonderful World of Disney, The Movie of the week  (maybe a mini-series), The Ed Sullivan Show, The Flintstones, Sonny & Cher, Dean Martin Show or Tom Jones (What’s New Pussycat? Whoa-Whoa-Whoa-Whoa.)
The Breakfast Room – Dad’s morning ritual was NBC’s Today Show, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Frosted Flakes (with slices of banana and whole milk). In that little nook pantry was a world map showing the iron curtain. (A thing I never fully understood but later appreciated as a cold war mentality/reality. That mentality was still there when we all knew the words to Country Joe and the Fish at Woodstock…"One, Two,Three …What are we fightin’ for?…Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn…Next stop is Viet Nam…") Some days the stock pages in the PD were just bland and gray enough to invite a rough layout or a some balloon head cartoons before heading downtown to the Studio.
Verticle Parking in the Breezeway – Almost every thing else Dad designed was square but vertical parking was best in this case. The diagonal lines guided the orderly parking of bicycles so the Sealtest milkman could pass.
Show Time – St. Patrick’s Day, a cast party or later on a party for the High School football players and coaches. Depending on the occasion it could mean a call to Rosie’s wine house, the window washers and the piano tuner. The LPs playing the soundtrack from Oliver, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Man of La Mancha, Edith Piaf or Judy Collins (“I look at clouds from both sides now….It’s clouds illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all.”). The clickety click of the Kodak Carousel projectors showing vacation shots from Sandusky, Cedar Point, Key Biscayne or the Bahamas. Or maybe a carousel series featuring the St. Luke Crusader CYO lightweight football team.
Polishing Silver and folding laundry – Anna Benson and later Annie Avery. It seemed completely status quo to have a housekeeper who managed some of that drudgery. The ten dollar bill on the baby grand piano in the living room seemed fair enough compensation. Surely enough to catch the 55 Cliffton Bus back to the East Side. (Also on the piano, Look, Life, Time, Newsweek and maybe Seventeen Magazine) 
Hough Bakery – Hough was a dicey neighborhood but Hough Bakery meant birthday cake in February (2), May (1), June (2), July (1) and August (2). That’s a lot of cake. But off peak, you can count on those chocolate cupcakes in the freezer (Yum).


  1. I saw Rod Steward buying gum on the street a few weeks ago. It was surreal.

    1. Ben, I saw Rod Stewart over thirty five years ago. It was an outdoor concert at a hoarse racetrack. It was pouring rain. Rod slid his pant legs up to form swimming trunks and went slip and sliding back and forth across the stage. I have no idea why he wasn't electrocuted. Great concert! Great memory!

  2. Wes, those are all great memories. Thanks for sharing!