Saturday, September 7, 2013

Morgan Family Nuggets

Once upon a time, long ago in a land called Lakewood,

there lived a family called Morgan.  

We had everything!

We had cars (including a Lincoln Continental and two Cutlass Supreme Oldsmobiles).  The Wasmers finally won the Lincoln because they had the wherewithal to keep up with spare parts. Rod Varney’s vintage Impala looked out-of-place on our driveway but Mike Blake’s Corvette Stingray (rescued and refurbished from the family junk yard) looked pretty cool. So did Greg’s Triumph MG (until he totaled it). By the way, Normile Insurance must have loved the Morgans)  

We has cameras (and all the Kodak film we ever needed) and carrousel projectors galore. The cameras were on loan from Morgan Studio and shot images in 4 by 5, 2 ¼ X 2 ¼, 35 MM, Slides, Color and B&W.  

We had Bicycles (mostly Schwinns – they were repaired and tires were checked every Spring at the Schwinn shop on Detroit Street). We also had a portable gadget bike with little wheels. (Ridiculous.) Dad bought that bike when he saw it advertised in a newspaper. When the novelty wore off he gave it to me. I hated that bike. Often, the bikes were lost and stolen but because they had Lakewood license stickers – more often than not they were recovered. My son Ben took a Yellow Schwinn with a Lakewood license dated 1982 to college. That bike was older than he was but he was happy to have it. (Until it was stolen, of course. Miami probably doesn’t routinely call the Lakewood PD to check on status of stolen property. (The bike was an antique!)

We had sporting equipment - Tennis racquets (mostly Jack Kramer Autograph models), Footballs, Rawling’s Baseball Mitts, Bats and Baseballs (for hardball or whiffle ball play). Golf clubs – a closet full of mismatched sets. We had basketballs too. The garage had an inviting hoop and net. It was a good idea to lift the garage doors though so you don’t break any more garage door windows. (As many times as I saw Dad fix a broken window panes – I never mastered the art of getting the glass cut to size and the putty just right in such a repair). We had Hockey Equipment too. (Mom and Dad were not ALL IN for Hockey like they were for Golf and Tennis…Something about ice time at 2 a.m. made them a little suspicious I think).  Touch Football games in the front yard were almost always the same deal:  Dad passes to Greg, Touchdown,  and “BANG!” Game over. Tommy Murphy wasn’t the only kid to declare that it unfair to have Mr. Morgan as QB and referee. (But he might have been the most emphatic. “It just isn’t fair!” He’s say.)

We had Musical Instruments: a trumpet, a guitar, a banjo, a drum set and a baby grand Piano. (No one in our family has any musical talent. Except Greg – But I ask you - Do drums really count as a musical instrument?) Funny – Dad has a morning wake up song that went like this: “Wesley Morgan played the organ. His father played the drum. His mother played the fiddling sticks and they all went rum tum tum.”

We had garden tools and two lawn mowers (but zero gardeners). We had plenty rakes and snow shovels too.  And a leaf sweeper. And a wheel-barrel. We even had one of those edgers you could trim where the grass meets the driveway.

We had a mountain of Tonka trucks. They came in handy if you needed to throw something up at the Buckeye tree in the front yard to get a Frisbee unstuck. (Those are sturdy, well made trucks.)  

We had cap guns and rolls and rolls of caps. (Most of which would be bashed with big rocks or carpenter hammers on 4th of July weekend. What is the fun of a “pop pop pop” when you can risk hearing loss much bigger ka-booms? This only satisfied the quest for noise until we figured out the black market for firecrackers and M-80s.

We had closets full of practical outerwear. We had boots (galoshes), rubbers, hats, scarves, mittens, gloves, coats for snow and rain. Windbreakers and sweaters (the ugly sweaters we got for Christmas - we wore on paper routes before sunrise – never to school).    

We had records. LPs of Broadway shows like Oliver, The Sound of Music, The Music Man, Judy Collins (Clouds), comedy albums like Allen Sherman’s Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda and the First Family album with Vaughn Meador and company that lampooned the Kennedy Family at the White House. Lynn had a bunch of 45’s – the Beatles, Beach Boys, The Turtles (Happy Together), Petula Clark (downtown) and Nancy Sinatra (These boots are made for walkin’).

We had a Ping Pong table in the basement which was great (if you wanted to play Rob (again) or if you, instead you just wanted someplace for you and your friends to put their six-packs of Stroh’s 3.2 beer.

We had Silver - Crazy amounts of silver goblets, tea pots, trays, bowls, flatware (forks, spoons, knives), so much so that we asked a housekeeper (Anna Benson, Annie Avery, or Estelle) to polish the stuff. The housekeeper did the laundry too for all those kids.  Estelle was the best at ironing shirts. Anna had gang green and lost a leg, Annie Avery got Cancer (she was a woman of faith). They were a part of our family and a part of our family routine. (Nobody made a better Fried Balogna Sandwich than Anna Benson.)

We had Uncles – Phil and Al on Mom’s side and John, Andrew and David on Dad’s side. Uncle David is still with us (Maybe he is the greatest of the great. Too young to be a part of WWII. He is the surviving member of our parents generation. Which, in a way is poetic, because maybe David cared the most about staying connected with all of us.)

We had great parties – Parties for weddings, parties for wakes (Grammy Lawton’s was a fitting celebration for that 100% Irish Catholic side of our family). She passed away when  I was in 5th Grade (I remember because I was hard at work on a report on the great state of Alaska as the house filled up with friends and family as a show of sympathy.) And St. Patrick’s Day was legendary (Mom and Dad loved that holiday).  Cast Parties, Parties for the Lakewood High School football team (players and coaches). And, of course, a number of parties when our parents weren’t home. (Those always with a degree of risk.)

We belonged to the Cleveland Yachting Club and had a big boat (29’ Chris Craft with a flying bridge) – Did we have as much fun at the Beverstocks? I don’t know. I do know no-one in our family learned how to sail – except maybe Sundance in the “Wee Bobbie” dingy he had for a time. Tom Bernard was more of a true sailer. None of the Morgans wanted to be on the swim team either (although we did compete occasionally for CYC).  Once, Dad swam two lengths of the pool underwater to show that he could. And in spite of belief to the contrary the official charge number #836 (with which you could sign for food – billed later to your account) was used sparingly but is probably closed now.

We had charge accounts – If you need sporting goods or a smart outfit for Lakewood High…Just put it on the Morgan account at Charlie Gieger’s. And Rosie’s Wine House was quick to respond when the bat call went out for 15106 Edgewater Drive. Morgan Studio accounts at Bonfoey’s Frame Shop. Kohler Brothers for hardware (anything from Dowl Pins which would be cut down for Bonne Bell Lipsmackers package design options to plywood and nails to make room for more production space at the studio).

In spite of it all, We were frugal in many ways.

·       The Tom Schmitt Shell account was not a frivolous one. Upon determining the need for oil an attendant might ask “Want the good stuff Mr. Morgan?” the response was “No, put the cheap stuff in.” (He was not convinced a premium oil was going to add any life or value.) 

·       The guy that sold us firewood came to the door one winter. Dad asked “How much?” The answer, “$125 a cord Mr. Morgan.” To which he responds “Fine, give me $100 worth.”

·       Family haircuts came wholesale with Dad working the buzzer. 

o  Rob even tried to cut his own hair once with a “Hair Whiz Gizmo” – a TV offer I think or maybe something mom bought at Super X. Dad tried to fix it but even he agreed when Mom said he could stay home from school if he wanted – at least until some hair grew back.

 We lived in a big house – a lot of square feet. When we were little, the living room consisted in about 30% no-fly zone. Eventually we earned permission to sit in guest area couches. That bit of history was lost on my 2 year old Lindsey (obviously because of bad parenting) when she insisted on standing on a coffee table. It was the same year (1984) when Boston College QB Doug Flutie threw a Hail Mary pass that beat the previous season’s national champions  the U of Miami. By the way Bernie Kozar was the Miami’s QB on the losing end of that game,  

Morgans have talent (lots of it). A few notable examples 

·       Sundance had the most potential. He played football at St. Ignatius until he broke his collar bone. Sundance is now studying dramatic arts.  He is a well known character in New Orleans (before and after Katrina). If you are in N.O. look him up. He can teach you to focus on the zen of recreational tennis. 

·       Lynn knows how to sell – If you think you need new eye glasses – she’ll convince you that you need two pair. Zsa Zsa has made some choices that confirm the adage “the truth is stranger than fiction.” 

·       Dan is a visual artist and a master of social media. Dan is the ultimate connector. He is as comfortable hanging out with Little Steven of Bruce Springsteen’s e-street band as he hosting an event for emerging artists at Tower Press or Gallery 22. He is Truly a blend of commercial artist and fine artist. Mom often said that you need to account for the fact that Dan is just sooooooo sensitive).

·       Greg has used his degree in Education (originally because those classes had more girls) as a strategic platform for a career in Commercial Real Estate. He is a mentor and coach for Real Estate Lives. He is President of the American Red Cross in Tampa. He has the ability to host audiences of 250 or more. (Ask him about his version of Jeopardy.) Mom used to say Greg was such a savant that he fixed the vacuum cleaner when he was just 3 years old. (I just cannot bring myself to believe that often repeated bit of information from Mom. Puhhlease.)   

·       Rob is the Morgan with the humility and credibility to manage someone else’s business. (Really the only Morgan I would describe this way.) He is the BEST.  As the youngest (in any family) you get to witness the mistakes of your older siblings. You can also avoid the traps. Somehow Rob knew his success was going to be a product of hard work. (ROBO - you are remarkable more because of your effort than your potential. I know – a bit of a backhanded compliment but I think it’s true.)
·       And Wes… Dad and Mom used to call me the philosopher. Mom identified me as “oldest of the four boys” (almost like Sundance and Lynn were part of another family experiment). I’ve worked for a dozen advertising firms, and four corporations. (But enough about me – How did you like my last movie? …I am currently reinventing myself – stay tuned.)

Our experience was not unlike most families. But with parents like James O’Connell Morgan and Mary Francis Lawton Morgan shaping the storylines you have a legacy that is something quite remarkable. 


We are an ensemble cast.

We knew that one day,

The performance would be your last.  

You were great Mom; it was your way.

On to the future, with regard for the past.

The show will go on.

Thanks Mom.

We will go on.



We are the dreamers of dreams 

And we cherish each moment as it goes by.

Life is too short but the legacy lives in the gleams

Of Sons and Daughters who wonder why

The great man passes.  

Murph was right: It isn’t fair.

The great man passes.

Bang! All of us were there.


Wesley A. Morgan 314 402-1202