Buddy the Deaf Dog

Your dog can sit, but can it answer its own fan mail? Can it play piano and wear a stylish cap? Buddy could!

Buddy answering fan mail

Buddy answering fan mail in 1953 Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection JoCoHistory.org

“Buddy the Deaf Dog” was a touring stage act put on by Bob Parker and his famous performing dog Buddy.  Buddy and Parker made a splash in the 1950s, touring schools and stage events throughout the metro area and traveling as far as St. Louis. Buddy had total hearing impairment but, with some ingenuity and a lot of practice, the team were able to develop a series of tricks that were based on visual cues given by Parker. When asked how the two came to be, Parker claimed to have found Buddy wandering lonely on the plains of Kansas. He had a mean attitude and tried to bite Parker, but the two quickly became inseparable friends.

Bob Parker and Buddy

Bob Parker and Buddy Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection JoCoHistory.org

Buddy was particularly popular at Olathe’s Kansas School for the Deaf, where the duo performed a myriad of tricks meant to show that Buddy’s lack of hearing didn’t prevent him from excelling and learning new things. Some of Buddy’s best-loved tricks involved him writing letters, smoking a pipe, or joining Parker on the piano.

Buddy playing the piano

Buddy playing the piano Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection JoCoHistory.org

Buddy "smoking" a pipe

Buddy the Deaf Dog Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection JoCoHistory.org

The man behind the dog, Bob Parker, was born in 1899 as Parker B. Melluish in Ottawa, Kansas. Parker was a veteran of both World Wars, dropping out of high school to join the army at age 17. He fought in the Battle of the Argonne and was honorably discharged due to injury, at which time he joined the vaudeville circuit and toured the country as a song and dance man. When World War II arrived, Parker rejoined the service and took charge of theatre and entertainment for his regiment. He arranged USO shows, performed in variety programs, brought in the newest films, and was responsible for keeping up his company’s morale. He remained an active member of Olathe’s American Legion post and Veterans of Foreign Wars throughout his life. After World War II, he returned to Kansas and became a theater manager, touring with Buddy in his free time. He was a lifelong supporter of the Kansas School for the Deaf and continued his support long after he and Buddy had retired. Parker passed away in 1975 and requested that donations be sent to the school in his memory.

Bob and buddy perform

Postcard to Kansas School for the Deaf Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection JoCoHistory.org

 

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“An Ideal Home in an Ideal Location with Ideal Surroundings:” Richard Hocker’s Suburban Developments in Merriam, Kansas

By the turn of the 20th century, industrialization in Kansas City resulted in overcrowding, pollution, and disease. Looking to escape these less-than-desirable conditions, Kansas City’s upper-middle classes sought homes in new suburban developments in northeast Johnson County. The advent of the electric trolley led to “streetcar suburbs,” which made transit into downtown accessible and convenient.

One such suburban neighborhood was planned by Richard Weaver (R.W.) Hocker, who was a banker and real estate developer in Kansas City, Missouri. Envisioning early suburban development in Johnson County, the “R. W. Hocker Subdivision” was platted in 1910 for eight 5-acre lots. One of two houses originally built, the “Walker House,” was added to both the State and National Registers of Historic Places in March 2017.

3-story house with limestone porch

This image from Google Maps shows the Walker House as it appears today at 5532 Knox Street.

The Walker House is a single-family dwelling built between 1906 and 1911 (the Kansas State Historical Society estimated 1910). The home, located at 5532 Knox Street, was built as a “spec house,” short for “speculative,” essentially serving as a model for the neighborhood’s intended development. The home’s first occupant was Mrs. Azubah Denham, the wife of Rev. B.Q. Denham. Rev. Denham was a popular pastor in Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in the 1890s. Between 1904 and 1910, however, he had become infamous for adultery and indecency scandals in Buffalo and New York City. In 1911, Azubah Denham purchased the Walker House in her name only for $5,500 ($137,500 in 2015). In 1920, many working class families lived on less than $1,500 per year, so the home’s price illustrates the intended middle-class nature of Hocker Subdivision.

Architecturally, the Walker House is indicative of the Kansas City Shirtwaist Style, named for ladies fashion at the beginning of the 20th century. Shirtwaist dresses included a seam at the waist where the material often changed. The Shirtwaist influence is evident in the Walker House: a single-floor local limestone exterior, an upper floor and a half of cedar clapboard, and flared gable eaves on the eastern face and one-story porch. Inside, original woodwork, including oak and pine hardwood floors, contribute to the historic character. The Walker House originally sat on a large 5-acre lot, but today occupies just .31-acres.

Hocker Grove area of Johnson County atlas map

This excerpt from the 1922 Standard Atlas of Johnson County, Kansas, shows both of Hocker’s residential developments. The Walker House occupied Lot K, located in the upper right. (Johnson County Museum, http://www.jocohistory.org/digital/collection/atlas/id/138/rec/4)

Hocker also platted “Hocker’s Grove” in 1915. This neighborhood contained 1-acre lots for modest—but still middle-class—Craftsman bungalow homes. Just seventeen were originally constructed. Both neighborhoods were within a half-mile walk from the “Hocker Line,” an inter-urban, electric trolley that was speculated to extend from Kansas City to Lawrence and even Topeka (it reached as far as Mill Creek, to the east of Zarah, or about two miles west of I-435 today). By 1907, the trolley ran the the seven-and-a-half miles between Kansas City and Merriam. Residents could reach Union Station in 35-minutes, the intersection of 12th and Main Streets in 45-minutes, and make connections to Kansas City’s urban trolley line along Southwest Blvd.

Trolley station at Hocker Grove, 1915

The Hocker Line Trolley Station near Merriam. This image appeared in the 1915 Hocker Grove promotional booklet. (Johnson County Museum, http://www.jocohistory.org/digital/collection/jcm/id/5594/rec/25)

Hocker promoted his neighborhoods with the slogan, “The Home For You.” A promotional booklet printed in 1915 testified that buyers would find “an ideal home in an ideal location with ideal surroundings.” The booklet indicated that the “modest, artistic homes in a restricted neighborhood” were equipped with natural gas, fronted on macadamized rock roads, and were located in “natural and picturesque beauty.” Buyers could take advantage of flexible deferred payment plans, as well. The “restricted neighborhood” wording communicated to white, middle-class buyers that the area was reserved as residential for a twenty-five year span, and that no African Americans could purchase or lease the homes there for 100 years. This developer’s tool of racial segregation, often referred to as a “deed restriction,” was used throughout Kansas City and Johnson County’s suburban neighborhood developments, as well as across the nation during the 20th century suburban boom.

Hocker Grove homes located on the southeast and northeast corners of the intersection of Knox Street and Hocker Drive, 1915

These Hocker Grove homes are located on the southeast and northeast corners of the intersection of Knox Street and Hocker Drive. Both streets were called “Avenues” in 1915. Image from the 1915 Hocker Grove promotional booklet. (Johnson County Museum, http://www.jocohistory.org/digital/collection/jcm/id/5595/rec/27)

Hocker Trolley line map

An undated map of the route of the Hocker Line electric trolley. The trolley line followed the Frisco and Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad lines. (Johnson County Museum)

Both of Hocker’s neighborhood developments were located near Hocker Grove Park, a 40-acre amusement park that Hocker planned and built with O.M. Blankenship between 1907 and 1908. Located along Turkey Creek, the park was on Hocker Drive, north of Johnson Drive today. This amusement park featured roller-skating, dancing under a large pavilion with a Wurlitzer automatic band organ (the pavilion doubled as a basketball gym), and was the site of balloon ascensions, professional boxing matches, and picnics. Families rode the Hocker Line from Kansas City to enjoy picnics in the natural setting. There was also a 2,000-seat grandstand for watching baseball games, an extremely popular sport at the time. A “Trolley League” soon developed with six semi-professional baseball teams.

Picture of the Hocker Grove 'Trolley League' baseball team, 1908

The Hocker Grove “Trolley League” baseball team, c. 1908. (Johnson County Museum, 1990.025.018)

Crowds skating at the Hocker Grove skating rink, 1908-1915

A postcard image of the Hocker Grove Park skating rink, c. 1908-1915. (Johnson County Museum, http://www.jocohistory.org/digital/collection/jcm/id/11817/rec/30)

Hocker was not the only real estate entrepreneur working in the area. Increased real estate competition in and around Merriam at the time of Hocker’s developments may have limited the construction there. After all, despite the beauty and convenience of Hocker’s two neighborhoods, only 19 homes were built between them. William B. Strang’s competing interurban trolley line and his suburban developments, most notably Overland Park, were located nearby and were equally convenient, beautiful, and middle-class in nature. Hocker died in 1918, and his amusement park closed the following year. After more than a decade of financial difficulty, the Hocker Line trolley closed for good in 1934. By then the automobile had become accessible for Johnson County families.

In the century since the construction of the Walker House in the R. W. Hocker Subdivision and the smaller Craftsman homes in Hocker’s Grove, most of the empty lots have been built upon, the large lots have been subdivided, and many historic homes have been remodeled or razed. Yet it is still possible to discern the beauty of the location and, with Interstate 35 following the Hocker Line into Kansas City almost exactly, the convenience remains evident. Hocker’s suburban dreams for his neighborhoods nestled between Merriam and Shawnee have been thoroughly realized today, if not during his lifetime.

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Dr. Meneilly fights segregration

In the late 1940’s young Reverend Robert Meneilly was charged with starting a new Presbyterian church and assigned the area of Prairie Village. Real estate agreements, however, disallowed church services unless there was a church building in which to hold services. As an experiment, small Presbyterian churches donated $100,000 to start the church.

Village Presbyterian Church, Prairie Village, ca. 1955. Source: JoCoHistory.org

Village Presbyterian Church, Prairie Village, ca. 1955. Source: Johnson County Museum Collection JoCoHistory.org.

Before the Sanctuary was built, the Meneillys went door to door, so that when the first service was held on Feb 13, 1949 there were 282 new members. Today there are over 4000.

Dr. Robert Meneilly, son Robert, and wife Shirley, ca. 1955. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Dr. Robert Meneilly, son Robert, and wife Shirley, ca. 1955. Source: Johnson County Museum Collection JoCoHistory.org.

Fast-forward to the 1960’s, a time of great unrest. Rev. Meneilly – Dr. Bob known by a few – recognized the need to fight for all people’s rights. He did not accept poor treatment of minorities and stood firm in his beliefs about equal rights. Progressive in his thoughts, he wanted to unite the city with the suburbs. He spoke out in newspapers, at meetings, and from his pulpit.

Dr. Meneilly speaking at the Village Presbyterian's Men Club, ca. 1963. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Dr. Meneilly speaking at the Village Presbyterian’s Men Club, ca. 1963. Source: Johnson County Museum Collection  JoCoHistory.org.

The Kansas City Star even reprinted one of his powerful sermons on the front page. “I don’t get so much criticism from my own congregation but I get letters and crank phone calls from other people.” The County Squire also reprinted one of his sermons in their March 11 and 18, 1965 editions (see below). He received several threats, as did his children by their classmates. However, his congregation helped him through this period.

Dr. Robert Meneilly, ca. 1947. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Dr. Robert Meneilly, ca. 1947. Source: Johnson County Museum Collection JoCoHistory.org.

In 1993, along with five others, he started the Mainstream Coalition, a group that believes “people with different points of view can come together to forge good government that benefits all citizens.”

-Terri Bostic

Rev. Meneilly’s sermons in The County Squire:

Part 1: March 11, 1965 (page 3)

Part 2: March 18, 1965 (page 25)

For further research on Rev. Meneilly, see the finding aid for the collection housed by the Johnson County Museum located at the Arts and Heritage Center.

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Breyfogle to Switzer

KCPT approached Local History Librarian Katie Stramel to help research some questions from their site curiousKC. The following family history is in response to a community member’s question posed to KCPT – “what is the proper pronunciation of Switzer Road?” We may not have the answer but we can tell you a little bit of history behind the famous Johnson County road.

Overland Park was developed by a great many families and one such family were the Breyfogles. Moving from Pennsylvania, Israel Breyfogle settled in Johnson County in 1866.

Israel Breyfogle. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Israel Breyfogle. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

He was a stock breeder and farmer and married Mary Devanney. Together they had seven children and lived on the Breyfogle homestead at 7108 W 86th Street, which was built around 1890.

One of Israel’s sons, Homer, worked as a bodyguard for William Strang up until Strang’s death. He served as deputy sheriff as well and lived at 6416 W 86th Street.

Louis D. Breyfogle farm house. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Louis D. Breyfogle farm house. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Another of Breyfogle’s sons was Louis who had two sons of his own – George and Louis Breyfogle, Jr. Louis started the Overland Park State Bank in 1910 with Frank and George Hodges, William Strang, John L. Pettyjohn and five others.

Overland Park State Bank in the 1930s. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Overland Park State Bank in the 1930s. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

John (Israel’s son) wanted to partner with his nephew George, who worked in real estate development and home building, and expand George’s business. Together with George’s wife Dorothy, brother Louis, Jr. and Louis’s wife Alma, they created the Breyfogle Partnership. They purchased some of the Strang property after it went out of business and built houses on small lots after World War II. Many of the homes were sold to veterans for a $50 down payment. The group also built commercial buildings leading to the growth of downtown Overland Park.

Portrait of Louis Breyfogle, Jr. reading. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Portrait of Louis Breyfogle, Jr. reading. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

In an interview recorded in 1975, Dorothy Breyfogle described the properties the Partnership developed, including:

  • Chandler Place at 77th and east of Metcalf (prior to World War II)
  • Breyfogle Gardens from 87th and Metcalf, north to 84th, including South Lake
  • Homes Crest from west of Craig to Antioch and 81st to 84th
  • Valley View from east of Metcalf to Antioch and south to 86th
  • Glenwood from Metcalf to Santa Fe and 72nd to 75th

She and George lived at 7700 W 83rd Street.

Patio of George and Dorothy Breyfogle. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Patio of George and Dorothy Breyfogle. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

The Breyfogles had two roads named after them in the Shawnee-Overland Park area. These roads were eventually renamed Switzer. For more information on Switzer, check out curiousKC.

-Katie Stramel, Johnson County Library

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Mother Nature hits Morse

“Cyclone Kills Grandmother, Son and Grandson” the headlines cried from the Olathe Mirror of June 7, 1917. On this day tragedy struck the small town of Morse and several other Kansas and Oklahoma towns.

Tornado damage in Morse, ca 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Tornado damage in Morse, ca 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

The tornado’s path was sprawling, first dropping down in the south central Oklahoma town of Marietta, killing three. It continued on to the small area of Drake, killing five. Hardest hit was Coalgate, known for its coal mining, with a loss of eight lives. When it finally reached Kansas the tornado struck Coffeyville, killing three. McCune and Montana were next, but no lives were lost and there was no recorded activity again until it reached just outside of Morse.

People of Morse, Kansas survey the damage caused by the tornado, ca. 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

People of Morse, Kansas survey the damage caused by the tornado, ca. 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Although many miles separated these towns it is believed to be a continuation of the same storm. The tornado was described as possessing abnormal conditions even bringing snow to western Kansas, with a possible four inches at the Colorado line.

A damaged home after Morse tornado, ca. 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

A damaged home after Morse tornado, ca. 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Morse, located five miles southeast of Olathe, got its name from the superintendent of the Kansas City, Clinton and Springfield railway, which arrived in 1872. According to the History of Johnson County Kansas by Ed Blair published in 1915, Morse had a population of 61 with a general store, lumberyard, blacksmith shop, creamery, bank, and a grain elevator with a post office on the premises. The Morse Church, established in 1884 as a Methodist church is still standing after 120 years.

Morse Grain Company built in 1908. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Morse Grain Company built in 1908. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Prominent businessman J.W. Toynbee served as president of the Morse State Bank. J.W.’s older brother Miles had passed away years before but left a wife Mary and two children, Florence and Albert. Mary, Albert and Florence’s son Clarence were those lost to the tornado. Their home was in the next quarter section over from J.W.

Woman in front of State Bank of Morse. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Woman in front of State Bank of Morse. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Albert was found cradling Clarence with Mary not too far away, possibly wrenched away during the storm. Clarence had only just arrived at his grandmother’s for a visit.  His sister had just spent her time with grandma and Clarence now felt it was his turn.

The Toynbee family was a well-liked and respected family of the Morse area. “Mrs. Toynbee was one of the biggest chicken raisers in the country having fine barred rock stock.  Scores and scores were found dead on the farm and the feathers plucked cleanly from many of them, while a half dozen were wandering aimlessly about in their nude condition,” a resident stated in the Olathe Mirror. The twister took barns, chicken houses, and the garage, leaving a Ford roaster perfectly intact minus a head lamp.

Horse drawn buggies lined the perimeter of the Pleasant Valley Cemetery during the service for the tornado victims, ca. 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Horse drawn buggies lined the perimeter of the Pleasant Valley Cemetery during the service for the tornado victims, ca. 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Over 1400 people attended the funeral with 175 vehicles and 160 horse-drawn rigs. Three hearses from Olathe, Paola and Kansas City were hired for the somber occasion.

Attendees of the funeral gather near the grave site of the victims, ca. 1917. JoCoHistory.org.

Attendees of the funeral gather near the grave site of the victims, ca. 1917. JoCoHistory.org

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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Tractors from another time

Driving down a Kansas country road in the fall, you might catch sight of a huge John Deere tractor with an air-conditioned cab. It is a beautiful sight to stop and watch. They move at such a slow even pace and in such straight lines. They are getting the ground ready for the winter wheat seed.

Floyd Moon and Edwin Rice take a tractor out in the snow, ca. 1925. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Floyd Moon and Edwin Rice take a tractor out in the snow, ca. 1925. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Today’s tractor has been computerized making it quite the modern convenience! A computer in the cab can do the work without much help from a human. This has not always been the case. An elderly lady who spent her youth farming told me they felt they were “living high off the hog” when her father got a tractor umbrella. Now we have radios, cd players and even TVs. Back then though, they enjoyed the company of their thoughts and occasionally saw wild deer, badgers, raccoons or perhaps an eagle flying overhead. I was also told about a young coyote who followed slightly behind a tractor for quite a time in hopes of a mouse popping up.

Farmall tractor, ca. 1943. Hazel Sharp, Ed Miller and Perry Sharp working in the grain fields. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Farmall tractor, ca. 1943. Hazel Sharp, Ed Miller and Perry Sharp working in the grain fields. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Those that grow up in cities may find it exciting to ride along an old country road and see what it is all about, like a carnival ride. So stop and watch while one gets the ground ready to plant the winter seed and imagine what it was like before.

Boys taking apart a tractor. Photo taken from a FFA Scrapbook, ca. 1939-40. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Boys taking apart a tractor. Photo taken from a FFA Scrapbook, ca. 1939-40. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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Remembering Glenwood

Glenwood Theatre, ca. 1968. Source: JoCo Museum.

Glenwood Theatre, ca. 1968. Source: JoCo Museum.

I always felt a sense of anticipation and excitement walking through the rectangular parking lot, over the gravel-filled medians into the Glenwood movie theater. Not only was I being transported to whatever fantasy world the movie created, I was also entering a forgotten and foreign world. The Glenwood had style: It featured a fire place and an indoor fountain, like those found outside at the Plaza. A vaulted ceiling with cathedral-esque windows allowed waves of golden sunlight to fill the lobby. And best yet, the actual theater might have been the biggest single room I had ever seen. Imagine that brief moment when the green preview shot would appear as a wobbly specter as the gigantic curtains parted way to reveal the majestic screen!

Glenwood Theatre, 1966 ca. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Glenwood Theatre, 1966 ca. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

At the tender age of five in the year 1983, when we found movie times in the newspaper and had to wait in line to get tickets to a highly-anticipated blockbuster, my parents took my brother and I to see Superman III. You didn’t see a movie at the Glenwood: You experienced it. My personal list includes: Dune (1984, yes I saw Dune at the age of 6), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Mosquito Coast (1986), Raising Arizona (1987), Tim Burton’s Batman (1989, opening day), Independence Day (1996), Batman and Robin (1997, Yuck!), and Contact (1997). Basically, the formative years of my movie watching developed at the Glenwood Theater.

The Glenwood (lower left) at Glenwood Manor Motor Hotel. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

The Glenwood (lower left) at Glenwood Manor Motor Hotel. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

The last movie I saw at the Glenwood was Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in the summer of 1999. There was so much excitement and I was so eager to return to my childhood years of wonder. Sadly, not only was that movie terrible (even though I saw it four times) but the theater itself closed a year later. I couldn’t help but feel as though those two events were inextricable, as if the movie gods said, “Try as you might, those halcyon days will never return. But you’ll always have the ticket stubs.”

Learn more about the Glenwood and nation-wide cinema treasures: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/1854

-Scott Stone, Johnson County Library

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