The Greenhouse Wasn’t Green, Pt. 3…. But it Housed Little Sprouts

In 1948 UKC acquired several surplus Army buildings from the Camp Crowder military base located near Neosho, Missouri.  One of those buildings became the first Student Union and the Kangaroost immediately moved out of the greenhouse and into this bigger space.

The greenhouse was not empty for long though as the university expanded to offer a new, experimental, program.  The building was quickly repainted and slightly remodeled to open as a preschool under the administration of the School of Education.  Twenty children, all four year-olds, were enrolled at the opening.

Children at Kangaroost

The ultimate aim was for the preschool to act as a kind of laboratory school for Education students majoring in Early Childhood Development or Pre-Kindergarten Teaching.   Ultimately, however, the experiment failed as child registration dropped and the center could not remain viable; it closed only two years after opening.

The greenhouse had another transformation waiting in the wings though not long after the ‘little sprouts’ left.

Children's Party

The Geenhouse Wasn’t Green, Pt. 2 ….But it Hopped….

In 1941 the chemistry and biology departments moved into a brand-new building (now Fine Arts) leaving the greenhouse without a purpose for a time .

Although the university had a cafeteria in the Liberal Arts building (Haag Hall) it was only open during serving hours and closed in between.  The Student Council therefore petitioned for the creation of a “canteen” — a place where students could grab a snack between classes, ‘hang-out’, and socialize — and in 1944 their petition was granted.

The greenhouse was converted into what was initially called the Kangaroo Kanteen and opened for business on November 6, 1944.

Interior of the Kangaroost
Interior of the Kangaroost

The Student Council quickly sponsored a contest to determine the official name of the space and the moniker of Kangaroo Kanteen lost out to “The Kangaroost”. Other suggestions had included “The Pouch”, “The Kangaroo’s Pouch”, “Decker’s Dungeon” (named for then-University President Clarence Decker), and “The Last Resort”.

The Kangaroost became the site of formal (and informal) Bridge tournaments and other card games, and student dances.  A nickelodeon was purchased for the space at the cost of $80 to facilitate the latter.  As for the Bridge games — it was not long before Bridge actually had to be banned in the Kangaroost because the Bridge players took up all the tables for marathon games!

Despite all of this the university was growing rapidly and even the greenhouse would be hard-pressed to keep up….

The Greenhouse Wasn’t Green… Pt. 1

When the University of Kansas City opened in 1933 as a privately supported institution it consisted of only three buildings — all part of the former Walter S. Dickey estate — a mansion, a maintenance and boiler building, and a greenhouse.

Greenhouse Post 1935

While most of the academic activities took place in the mansion (now Scofield Hall) the greenhouse was pressed into service as a laboratory building.  The East half became the biology lab while the West half became the chemistry lab.

Biology Class in Greenhouse

As you can imagine, the greenhouse was often very warm — not always an ideal climate for working with chemicals.  In 1981, Dr. Harold Brown, one of the first faculty members in the Chemistry Department, wrote some of his memories of those early days — including a rather explosive incident caused by the warm conditions:

I prepared some Nitrogen Triiodide.  This material decomposes explosively when dry and mechanically disturbed, as for example by touching.  I collected very small amounts of the wet material on a series of filter papers which I arranged across the front of the lecture desk.  They were well separated and I had no reason to anticipate any problems.  I left this particular demonstration until near the end of the hour.  I wrote the next days assignment on the board.  I opened the glass side windows of the greenhouse wide[,] and also the roof windows.  I then explained the chemistry involved.  I told them the story of how Irving Langmuir as a small boy put the material on the window sill so that his younger brother would be frightened when he touched the material.  I explained why the papers were well separated[.]  That I would pick them up one at a time and only very mild pops should occur.  However, I said if something should cause a louder bang class was dismissed.  To my great surprise and consternation, when I picked up the first piece of paper they all went off.  I could hear nothing, nor could most of the class.  Fortunately we had opened the windows and no damage was done at all.  I suspect that this was an illustration of the effect of the considerable heat which we sometimes experienced in the greenhouse on warm days and that the Nitrogen Triiodide was much more easily exploded then normal due to its temperature.

Chemistry Class in Greenhouse