Legacy of a Modeling Agency

The recent passing of Melissa Stevens, heir to the Patricia Stevens Modeling School and Career College, has given us cause to take a look through one of the most extraordinary collections in LaBudde’s holdings: the Patricia Stevens Collection. This collection, which Melissa donated in November 2011, contains the company records, advertisements, photographs, and other ephemera. There are hundreds of items in over fifty boxes and together they offer a complete account of the history of the company.

1973 photo of Flo Stevens (bottom right) and her three daughters (clockwise from bottom left) Patricia Jr, Sheila, and Melissa.

Melissa’s mother, Florence Czarnecki Stevens became “Patricia Stevens” only after her 1946 marriage to a young Chicago entrepreneur named James Stevens. Before he met Flo, he had already named his training school, a business designed to help women navigate the postwar work world. Flo – or Mrs. Stevens as she was often addressed – grew the school into a franchised operation with 55 branches. Its headquarters were in Kansas City, on Country Club Plaza. (Longtime KC residents may recall the Stevens-sponsored annual Easter parade that ran up until 1995). A full account of the Stevens’ family and their company could occupy an entire book. Melissa Stevens took over the company after her mother’s death, and up until her own recent passing was working to revive the company. In a 2012 interview with The Pitch, she said “All I really need…is a runway, a makeup table, a mirror — and me.”

Secene from 1973 Easter Parade

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One of the items Melissa Stevens donated was a large scrapbook filled with letters of appreciation written to her mother Flo. Among the letters are many from former students and employees. Flo Stevens appears to have had a special relationship with many of her graduates and employees. One student said that Flo was “the woman who changed my life.” Another wished “I could explain how much I think of you. You have been like a big sister to me and you have my deepest respect.” Still another told Flo that “my heart had adopted you as a second mother.” Other students wrote about how the Stevens school could help them with self-esteem issues or help them conquer their fears. Some of her graduates went on to pursue careers in acting or fashion, or interior design. Reading their letters, they all give some credit to Florence Stevens for their success.

The most poignant letter in the collection is from one of Stevens’ employees. She [find her name] writes to Flo about a 14 year old girl – Marilyn – who wanted to be a model and was attending classes against her parents’ wishes. Her parents believed that any kind of modeling would “lower [Marilyn’s] morals” and corrupt her. The letter explains that Marilyn might not be destined for a modeling career, but that she at least deserved the chance to follow her dreams, even if she was still young.  

Notes from students and local womens groups

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Notes of appreciation from students and local organizations

There is, I think, a contradiction buried at the heart of the Stevens collection. On one hand, the modeling school may seem anachronistic by today’s standards. Expectations for women were undoubtedly different in the 1960s and 70s than they are now. On the other hand, based on these letters Stevens’ modeling, etiquette and career-related courses do seem to have changed young women’s lives for the better. Women in the 1960s and 70s were starting to make social gains that still haven’t been fully realized. The Stevens school embodies both of those: recognizing that even though women were still expected to behave in certain ways, there were also new opportunities opening up for them, and they would need appropriate education and training in order to succeed. In short, Stevens tried to provide both of those. Perhaps then there is more to the modeling school than meets the eye. Projecting our modern ideas backwards even a couple generations isn’t always wise. As antiquated, unhealthy, and even incorrect as instruction about posture, diet, personal care and etiquette may have been, it’s clear at least some of Stevens’ students found what they learned empowering and that they credited her with helping them improve their lives.   

 

Working with the GLAMA archives

This spring, a new exhibit is opening in Miller-Nichols library and at locations around Kansas City. Titled “Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights,” the exhibit explores Kansas City’s surprising role in the US gay rights movement of the 1960s. The exhibit opened April 19 at UMKC’s Miller Nichols Library (800 E. 51st Street) and will be on view through September 30. If you want to learn more, you’ll need to see the exhibit. However, for a special post this week I thought I would share my perspective as one of the contributing curators. I can’t speak for everyone who worked on the project, but I hope my experience gives readers a taste of what its like to work with the “stuff” of history and turn it into an exhibit panel.

Most of the time, the history that you see in an exhibit or read in a book is just the tip of a very big iceberg. Historians deal in a particular type of story – we call them “narratives.” A narrative is a vehicle for explaining how and why certain events in the human past happened the way they did. We use narratives the way Physicists use models – to explain how and why systems work. In our case, our system is the whole of past human affairs and the narrative is a model for why some of the atoms (humans) behaved the way they did. Coming up with one of these models means balancing between staying true to the historical evidence and inferring something more from the evidence that makes it part of an interpretation. Having just the facts, with no interpretation or narrative, results in the dry “history” you hated in high school. Just a narrative with no supporting evidence? That’s called fiction. Good histories mix fact and interpretation, and also answer what we call the “so what” question. This asks why is what we have to say important? What lesson can be drawn from it, or how does understanding this part of the past allow us to understand a different part better? Sometimes, particularly challenging source material makes the entire process harder.

The most salient aspect of this project for me was the challenge my source material presented. My panel is about the Gay Bar scene in Kansas City in the 50s and 60s. The most amazing source material I had was a huge set of pictures taken at a few different bars.The problem I faced was a difficulty to do either one at all. In some cases these were just pictures of people. The subject, date, and location were unknown. Pictures of people at a bar is not history. I was going to have to make some judgements about what I was looking at and why it was important. On the other hand, these were like people’s Facebook photos. Who am I to draw any sort of conclusion about what they “mean” or what the “significance” is? I wasn’t there. I don’t know them.

Picture from the GLAMA collection, similar to the ones I worked with. The people, place, and date are unknown.

I’ve never been at such a loss about how to interpret a source, in part because I felt as if any interpretation violated someones privacy. Then I realized the answer lay in the problem: the intimacy of the photos was the lesson. These photos show how important gay bars were at that time because they were a place where people could be intimate, or could take pictures together without fear of repercussions. My panel presents the photos without telling you a great deal about who those people were. But it does tell a story about why gay bars were so important. If you ask me what these photos “mean” in an historical sense, I’d say they’re evidence that bars were special places for gays and lesbians in the 1950s and 60s. You can see it in the pictures they took.   

Where the Magic Started

The lion king? A young Walt Disney sitting atop one of the lion statues in Swope park.

(Written by Helena Collins-Gravitt)

In the summer of 1923, with nothing but an idea and an unfinished project called “Alice’s Wonderland,” Walt Disney left his bankrupt studio in Kansas City and traveled to Los Angeles. Walt Disney has been a household name for decades. His studio revolutionized the world of animation. It’s possible he is the most significant person in the history of American film making. But how did the father of animation get his start? The story of Walt Disney begins in Kansas City, Missouri from 1911 to 1923. In 1920 Disney worked at Kansas City Film Ad Company, but his creative ideas clashed with that of the company’s owner. So, Disney and his co-worker Fred Harman created their own company and named it Laugh-O-Gram Studios after their first short films, “Newman’s Laugh-O-Grams”, sold to Newman Theater. This is where he came up with the idea that has been synonymous with Disney ever since: “modernized fairytales done in animation.”

The LaBudde Special Collections is home to several photographs from the early life of Walt Disney and the history of Laugh-o-Gram studios. These photos can be found in the Baron Missakian collection. Missakian was a well know photographer in Kansas City during the 1920s. He photographed many famous personalities, one of whom was Walt Disney. But why did Missakian have so many photos of Disney and the processes at Laugh-O-Gram studios? The reason behind this is that Disney’s studio and Missakian’s photography office were right across the hall from one another and they were close friends. In fact, Missakian ended up marrying Disney’s personal secretary. The set of photos includes a young photo of Disney, many photos from various projects, and even a photo of him at Kansas City Film Ad company.

The story of Disney’s first studio is a rough one, as most stories begin. After some time at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, Disney found that he did not like the cut-out animation style. He preferred classical hand drawn animation, but he could not convince the owner of the company to change styles. So, on May 22, 1923 Disney, along with co-worker Fred Harman, founded Laugh-o-Gram studios at 1127 East 31st Street in Kansas City. Here Disney started working on his animated films. His first twelve films were commissioned by the Newman Theater.

The Newman Theater, owned by Frank Newman where Disney’s early cartoons were shown. (Courtesy, Missouri Valley Special Collections)

His next big project was creating six films for Tennessee-based Pictorial Clubs. This was a big project and Disney was going to be paid eleven thousand dollars for these films when he delivered them. The six films were, “Little Red Riding Hood”, “The Four Musicians of Bremen,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Cinderella” (1922). Sadly, only months after the contract was signed and the studio began working on these films, Pictorial went bankrupt and Disney was never paid. After all the time and money spent on these films, Disney moved on to find new work because the studio was in desperate need of funds. This led to Disney taking on a project for a local dentist named Thomas B. McCrum.  From this job, the film “Tommy Tucker’s Tooth” was born, and Disney received five hundred dollars. Then instead of using that money to pay off his many debts, Disney started working on his newest idea. A live-action/animation entitled “Alice’s Wonderland”, which would star Virginia Davis, a young local actress. But this work only made the studio’s financial issues worse and after finishing the raw edits for the film the studio filed for bankruptcy in July 1923. As fast as he could Disney bought a ticket to Hollywood, armed with only his ideas and an unfinished reel of “Alice’s Wonderland”. The name is no coincidence: this was the first of a run of Disney-made “Alice” stories, a run that continues to this day. 

The other incredible thing about Laugh-O-Gram studios is that Disney is only one of the animation greats that emerged from it. Hugh Harman (brother of Fred Harman) and Rudolf Ising (a Kansas City native) were animators who worked for Laugh-O-Gram. As a duo they later founded the animation divisions of Warner Brothers and MGM. Another Laugh-O-Gram alum, Fritz Freling, is the man responsible for creating Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, and Yosemite Sam. It’s almost impossible to overstate: the Disney family tree that is Hollywood animated film making can all be traced back to Laugh-O-Gram studios. It is an incredible piece of Kansas City history, and there is a movement underway to preserve it. In 2015 the Thank You Walt Disney Foundation began renovations on the site, and put together a plan for an on-site learning experience. Until then, the photos in LaBudde Special Collections offer a window into one of the most pivotal moments the history of American film making.

Sources

“Baron Missakian Collection”, MS 24, LaBudde Special Collections, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Timothy S. Susanin, Walt Before Mickey: Disney’s Early Years, 1919-1928. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011).

House Hunting in 1896

Imagine a young couple living in Chicago or Kansas City in 1896, who wants to move to a new city. Maybe he had a new job in a different city, or maybe they were adding to their family. Whatever the reason is, they needed to buy a new house somewhere else, which means they needed to go look at houses. They did not have a car, and even if they did there were few roads. Fortunately for our fictitious home-buyers, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific railroad had a solution: a special type of ticket called a Home Seeker’s Package or Home Seeker’s Excursion. The J.E. Lynn Railroad Collection in LaBudde Special Collections has several examples of these tickets. In these unassuming tickets is a story of how railroads fueled America’s growth, one prospective home buyer at a time.

A variety of tickets to destinations such as Wichita, KS; Marion, GA, Sioux City, SD; and Salida, CO.

The so-called “golden age” of American railroads lasted from the late 1870s until the Great Depression. During this time trains carried up to 3/4 of interstate freight, and basically all of the passenger travel. Together with the great ocean liners, they were the pinnacle of early twentieth century travel. As a result, they were accessible to all kinds of people. There was greater diversity of schedules, more stops, and more variety of ticket packages than there are today. Furthermore, their pre-eminence made railroads an important part of America’s continuing growth and prosperity. Home Seeker excursions were one particular example of how railroads helped populations move across the country during this “golden age.”

When our young couple bought a home seeker excursion, they were getting a heavily discounted round trip ticket to a particular destination(s).

There was a set period of time to use the return half of the ticket. If the buyer missed their return date, the ticket was worthless. Most home seeker excursions took prospective buyers to newer areas. Texas, Oklahoma (which in 1900 wasn’t even a state yet), Nebraska, New Mexico (also not a state yet) and the Dakotas. Clearly, the US looked very different in 1900 than it does today. National priority #1 was to develop the lands that had been won from the French, Spanish, Mexicans, and Native Americans during the prior century. As the best-available means of land transportation, railroads were the best tool for accomplishing this. The home seeker’s excursion ticket reflects this. There were other ticket packages too, such as tourist or sightseeing excursions, as

A Harvest Excursion ticket to Sioux City

well as harvest excursions. However, the home seeker excursions are particularly important because they illustrate the critical role railroads played in helping fill the empty parts of America. When the transcontinental railroad was being built during the 1860s, much of the rhetoric was about tying the country together. A lot of railroad development was subsidized by federal and state governments, and it is possible that is why home seeker tickets were relatively cheap. While it is easy to be cynical about such a union of naked capitalism and nationalism, it is not clear if such a robust rail network could have existed otherwise. That rail network is what enabled much of America’s growth prior to the Depression. One way was by making it easier for people like our fictional family to migrate to new parts of the country.

 

Ride the West Wind

On May 26, 1934, a brand new train covered 1,015 miles from Denver to Chicago in 13 hours and 5 minutes, setting records for speed and time. A fine specimen of art deco styling, rendered in gleaming stainless steel, it was the first of a generation of revolutionary new streamlined trains built for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad. These trains were known as “Zephyrs,” after Zephyrus, the Greek god of the West Wind. For the next three decades, Zephyrs from Chicago and Kansas City crisscrossed the western US. Their service spanned a time of transition in American transportation; it began in the depths of the Depression and ended with the expansion of air travel and interstates during the 1960s.

John E. Lynn was a General Passenger Agent for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (CB&Q) office located in Kansas City during the era of the Zephyr trains. The J.E. Lynn collection in LaBudde Special Collections contains many of the Zephyr-related items Lynn collected during his life. This post showcases some of those items, and explains how the Zephyr trains represent one of the high water marks of American railroading during the 20th century.

Zephyrs were built by the Budd Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia, PA. They utilized a unibody design that reduced the number of components in the drive system and saved weight. Stainless steel sheetmetal as thin as 0.012 inch was formed into boxes and rectangles to create a strong skeleton that was lighter than traditional components like wooden braces or thick steel bars and plates. The roof was made of stainless steel just 0.022 inches thick, corrugated to give it rigidity. As a result, three of Budd’s “Zephyr” cars weighed the same as one contemporary Pullman coach car. The Pioneer Zephyr was powered by General Motors’ latest diesel-electric powerplant: a 660 horsepower diesel engine that drove an electric generator. GM upgraded later engines to produce about 1000 horsepower. Architect John Harbeson designed the train’s exterior to be both beautiful and functional. Stainless steel meant paint was unnecessary, and besides, who would want to hide that shine? Wind tunnel testing at MIT revealed the Zephyr had over 40% less drag compared to older designs. CB&Q hired the head of the University of Pennsylvania’s architecture department to design the ultra-modern interiors. Each compartment had heating and air conditioning – good luck finding that in a 1930s car or plane. All the innovation by Budd, GM, and CB&Q resulted in new flagship trains that were thoroughly modern in appearance and function.

From 1934 until about 1960, the Zephyrs were the way to travel in comfort, speed, safety and style. They were the 1940s equivalent of flying first class. Other railroads imitated the CB&Q’s design, but the Zephyrs in particular became cultural icons, like jetliners and cars would in later years. The film Silver Streak (1934) was inspired by the train’s inaugural speed run. The film told the story of a heroic train designer whose revolutionary design helped stop a polio epidemic at a dam construction site by bringing iron lungs from Chicago to Denver (the same route, but opposite direction of the real-life run). In 1949 Hank Williams released the song “California Zephyr” as a tribute to the train of the same name.

Several Zephyrs offered service to Kansas City. After its speed run, the first train was renamed the Pioneer Zephyr and entered regular service between Omaha and Kansas City. In 1939 The General Pershing Zephyr (the ninth one built by Budd for CB&Q) began offering service between Kansas City and St. Louis. From 1953 to 1968, two Zephyr routes ran between Chicago and Kansas City. The daytime route was known as the Kansas City Zephyr while the nighttime route was called the American Royal Zephyr. The average journey time between Kansas City and Chicago was just under nine hours, with no need to stop for dinner.

Historical hindsight shows us that Zephyrs were a finale of the golden age of American railroads. Even though ridership never regained its 1910s-1920s peak, Zephyrs were a shining technological and cultural triumph that emerged during the darkness of the Depression. They were the pinnacle of railroad engineering: faster, more comfortable, and more efficient than any train before them. They were also superior to cars and planes in key ways. Finally, they were a “halo technology” – they did not carry most of the people most of the time, but they did it faster and with more style than anything else on wheels. Zephyrs symbolized convenience, glamor, freedom, excitement, and modernity, all wrapped in brilliant stainless steel.

 

Sources

J.E. Lynn Railroad Memorabilia Collection, MS32. LaBudde Special Collections, University of Missouri, Kansas City

Harold Cobb, “The Burlington Zephyr Stainless Steel Train.” Advanced Materials and Processes, 2009: 24-28.

Steve Glischinski, “Zephyrs and Diesels.” Encyclopedia of North American Railroads, edited by William D. Middleton, George Smerk, and Roberta L. Diehl, 221-222. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.

“You get it from both sides”

Protestors on Vine St, April 9, 1968. (courtesy UMKC Digital Special Collections)

To understand the causes of the April 1968 Race Riots, the Greater Kansas City Mental Health Foundation commissioned Robert Bechtel and Charles Wilkinson to write The Social History of a Riot: Kansas City, Missouri, April 9-13, 1969. The 1968 Riot Collection includes the complete manuscript of that book, as well as many of the interviews conducted by researchers. Interviewees included witnesses, protest participants, and members of law enforcement. There are four interviews with African-American members of the Kansas City Police Department who served during the riots. While Social History focused on these officers’ perception of racism within KCPD, the interviews paint a more complex picture. The relationship between black officers and the black community was often contradictory. The officers sympathized with civil rights protestors and felt the indignity of racism, but their sympathy for violent rioters ran out quickly. They also had a complex relationship with their fellow officers and superiors. In short, these men expressed conflict between their own identities as black men, their loyalty to their department, and their duty to uphold the law.

Major Garrison and Sergeant Walter Parker were interviewed together. At the time of the interview, Parker had been a member of KCPD for 19 years. Both men complained that even when off-duty, people knew they were officers. This could be nuisance, such as friends and relatives who wanted their tickets taken care of. It could also be serious, as when Black Panther militants threatened the safety of Parker’s family. Another interviewee, Leroy Swift, was called a “house n*****” by another black man. This insult carried a specific connotation of a black man placed in a position of power as tool of white supremacy. Interestingly, Swift said the man later admitted the insult was just for show. Parker described a similar dynamic: “I realize that it’s necessary for [Black Panther activists] to stay away from the police and call the police names and not have anything to do with them in order to keep [their movement] going.” According to Swift, many black officers in KCPD at this time were “black first and policeman second.” Being “black first” meant having some sympathy for activists. Parker and Garrison were united in calling for a constructive conversation between police and activist groups. However, they were skeptical that activist groups actually wanted to have those conversations. In other words, these officers were suspicious of militant activists, yet still empathized with them based on certain shared experiences. The activists might have shared a similar mixture of emotions.

Despite the lack of productive dialogue with activists, these officers felt they had strong ties to the African American community in Kansas City, and that these ties helped them succeed at their jobs, particularly during the riots. During the riot, “Tuckie” Saunders and two other black plainclothesmen helped one group of student protestors make an orderly march and demonstration. At one point the students asked Saunders to make a speech. The group Saunders was with seems to have been separate from the more volatile crowds. Saunders had his own method for dealing with disruptive protestors: “if [Saunders] had been in charge…he would have dispersed the kids with streams of water” because “it was cool that morning and when your clothes are wet you have to go home and change.” Saunders may have believed is method more efficient and humane than the use of mace or tear gas, which police employed during the riots.

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Captain LeRoy Swift had a leadership role among officers facing the more violent protestors. At the very start of the riot, Swift and two other black officers pursued a group of black students who looted a store in plain sight of the officers. Swift speculates that the students thought the officers would look the other way because they were also black. The students were wrong. According to his account, he was later sent in to help calm things down between white police and African-American protestors. To do so he overruled some arrests made by white officers. Swift also described how some whites believed the police-enforced curfew did not apply to them.

Every officer interviewed expressed support and admiration for KCPD Chief Clarence M. Kelley. Saunders said he “was good as gold” and Swift called him “a good man” and “honest.” In contrast, Kelley’s command staff drew universal criticism from the African American officers for being racist, “biased and sneaky.” What was missing from KCPD, according to Saunders, was “black faces in high places.” Swift described a lack of sensitivity from white officers who still used the n-word with regularity. His testimony also demonstrates how black officers had to walk a fine line, and how their loyalty was always in question. If they identified too closely with the black community, they drew the suspicion of whites in the department. On the other hand, just wearing a badge was enough to alienate them from the black community.

These officers had unique insights on race relations and the responsibilities of law enforcement during this turbulent period, and they all expressed optimism that solutions could be found. It is too simplistic to characterize police and activists as natural enemies. In the case of the man who insulted LeRoy Swift, and the Black Panther activists who Sgt. Parker spoke of, their animosity towards the officers was occasionally not actually genuine. Instead, these interviews demonstrate the complex nature of the relationship between police and the communities they are asked to protect and serve.

 

Sources

Detective “Tuckie” Saunders, Interview Transcript, Box 1, Folder 35, 1968 Riot Collection, LaBudde Special Collections, UMKC.

Maj. Garrison and Sgt. Walter Parker, Interview with Jeanie Meyer, June 2, 1969, Box 1, Folder 31, 1968 Riot Collection, Labudde Special Collections, UMKC.

LeRoy Swift, Interview Notes, Box 1, Folder 35, 1968 Riot Collection, LaBudde Special Collections, UMKC.

Evie Quarles and Her Muse

KIC ImageAfter 35 years of designing greeting cards, Evie Quarles finally decided to pursue her innate yearning to become a professional photographer. In the Fall of 1997 her son Josh persuaded her to put down her paintbrush, pick up a camera and enroll in a photography class at Penn Valley Community College. What Evie would choose to photograph was not to be of the usual common nature, but rather a phenomenon ingrained into her spirit at a very early age, referred to as the Blues. Growing up in West Tennessee, she would accompany her father to joints to service Juke Boxes on weekends or in the summertime. It was in the black joints she would discover her call to the Blues. In her words, “the call would come as a whisper”, because “race’ music was not played on the radio in those days. Parents did not want their teenagers to be influenced by the Devil’s music.

A few months into her photography class she was wandering around 39th and Main iMillage Gilbertn Kansas City, looking for visual material for her final exam. She heard music coming from the open door of the Grand Emporium, a local Juke Joint. She wandered in and quickly became immersed in the music of Millage Gilbert’s Blues. When the band took a break she introduced herself to Millage and asked if she could photograph his next set. He approved her request,, and so here her new journey began.  Quarles soon contacted the proprietor Roger Naber to obtain permission to photograph local & national acts, to which he agreed. For the next seven years the Grand Emporium would become her “Muse”. GE

In May of 2013, Ms. Quarles bestowed upon the LaBudde Special Collections a generous selection of photographs from her vast collection. The black & white images create a compelling depiction of Quarles’ love and passion for the epic American art form known as the Blues.

Teresa Wilson Gipson

Secret Stash: The Anne Winter Collection

Anne Winter was co-owner of Recycled Sounds record store for 18 years. She donated a wealth of local music history to the Marr Sound Archives shortly before her passing in 2009. Photo Courtesy The Kansas City Star.

Anne Winter was co-owner of Recycled Sounds record store for 18 years. She donated a wealth of local music history to the Marr Sound Archives shortly before her passing in 2009. Photo Courtesy The Kansas City Star.

The Marr Sound Archives received a number of local rock and roll releases from the late 1980s to the early 2000s from Anne Winter, shortly before her passing in 2009.

The collection is a modest one, but the nostalgia factor is soaring as it shines a spotlight on the time period in which I was just getting into music as a teenager, when I used to browse the aisles of Anne’s record store, Recycled Sounds at 3941 Main Street in Kansas City, MO.

What stands out most, aside from a smoking batch of Forte Label 45s and some rare Man Or Astroman? EPs, are the records that were independently pressed and released either by locally centered record labels or by no label at all; otherwise known as the private press. We certainly wouldn’t have the DIY mentality of the private press as it exists today without the influence of independent record stores such as Recycled Sounds. So, in tribute to this very special relationship, I present to you some highlights from the Anne Winter collection:

– Kansas City art school punks Mudhead released their 7 inch record The Jumbo Sound of Mudhead in 1988, the very same year Recycled Sounds opened its doors. Their sound falls somewhere in between Rudimentary Peni and The Jesus Lizard, complete with growling vocals and groove-laden post-punk riffs. The cover art features work by vocalist Mott-ly (aka The Human Skeleton, aka Lee Tisdale) and one time member Archer Prewitt, later of the Coctails (also featuring Mudhead bassist Barry Phipps) and The Sea and Cake. Listen to “Eleutheromania” here:

– In 1989, Shrinking Violet Records put out a box set entitled A Limited Gourmet Box Set of the Unclean & Imperfect, which contained wax by Kill Whitey, The Sin City Disciples, Magic Nose, and Mudhead.  The first 50 copies (we have number 216/500) were made with glow in the dark ink and each disc contains a photocopied insert. The artwork and subject matter range from unclean to imperfect, as advertised. The box itself came with its fair share of wear and tear, likely due to the amount of local music history crammed into such a small container.

– Folk musician Danny Cooke released “What Goes Up Must Come Down” b/w “Inside Another Time” in 1991 on Nep Tune Records. His Brian Wilson meets Daniel Johnston songwriting and performance style is an acquired taste for some and outsider artist gold for the rest of us. After hours of casual research, I have found very little information on Nep Tune Records aside from two releases by Brent Wiebold, to whom Cooke gives special thanks on his record.

Honorable mentions from this collection include 7 inch records regional acts on independent labels: Split Lip Rayfield, Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys, Uncle Tupelo, Grither, Season to Risk, Cher (U.K.), The Sin City Disciples, Tenderloin, Cretin 66 and The Get Up Kids, among others.

A handful of LPs were also donated by Anne Winter. They are now cataloged and can be found in the MERLIN database. A spreadsheet listing all of her donated 45 RPM titles is available upon request, and, of course, donations of local and regional vinyl releases are always welcome at the archives.

Kansas City’s “New Wave Scene”

New Wave band at unidentified location, 1981

New Wave band at unidentified location, 1981

So a recent donation of issues from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s of Star Magazine, the weekly supplement to the Sunday Kansas City Star has provided the occasion for some observations:

  • magazines used to run a lot of cigarette ads
  • it’s surprising how quickly restaurants fade from memory (Brown’s Chicken, anyone?)
  • one of the sad outcomes of putting  newspapers on microfilm is that you lose the color that was originally used in the paper’s production

That being said, one of my favorites issues in the stack of 127 is the one pictured here, from April 26, 1981.  Writers Jo E. Hull and Art Brisbane (who would later become the Star‘s publisher and ultimately land a gig at the New York Times) reported on their jaunt into “a thriving underground culture in Kansas City”.  There wouldn’t have been a New Wave scene without the music, which could be purchased at Rock Therapy, 7511 Troost, “Kansas City’s principal New Wave disc parlor, offering the coveted and obscure import records from England, always keeping pace with the trends”. The writers detail visits to the two primary New Wave clubs, further north on the same street: the Downliner, located in the basement of the Plaza East tavern at 4719 Troost, and the Music Box, located further up the block at 4701.  This same block also served as headquarters for the stores where devotees could acquire their New Wave garb – Rags Fashion Originals, 4733 Troost, and Punk Funk at 4739.  Interestingly enough, as the decade progressed and New Wave music fractured into increasingly specific categories – e.g., goth – the 4700 block of Troost continued to serve as the fashion nexus for club kids.  By 1986 Archaic Smile, at 4715, was the place for clothes and accessories.  The store’s owners also were the proprietors of the nightclub of choice:  Epitaph, located on 31st just east of Main.  So, as Ollie Gates and other developers continue to refashion the neighborhood around 47th and Troost, it’s good to be reminded of the area’s link to the city’s eccentric musical past.

Patricia Stevens Collection – Evolution of the Adolescent Female

Patricia Stevens started her career as a professional model in Chicago in 1945. The late Florence Czarnecki Stevens became “Patricia Stevens” only after her 1946 marriage to a young Chicago entrepreneur named James Stevens. Before he met Flo, he had already named his training school, a business designed to help women navigate the post-war work world.

An early subscriber to Stevens’ vision was Howard Hughes. The millionaire industrialist and Trans World Airlines chairman was Jim Stevens’ first big client. Hughes hired the new company to train TWA stewardesses when the airline was still bKIC Document_Page_3ased in Kansas City. In 1948 every airline attendant hired by TWA was trained by Patricia Stevens with guaranteed placement by TWA; that division was called Stevens Air College. They even had half an airplane in their building to help in their training. The Patricia Stevens Career College & Model Agency came later. Jim’s sister, Bernadine, legally changed her name to Patricia; but Flo, the woman who everyone assumed was the real Patricia Stevens, never did. In the late 1950s the Patricia Stevens School System chose Kansas City as a home base owing to the fact that the Kansas City Market was the most difficult in the franchised chain of 55 schools to operate. The chain of modeling schools and talent agencies bearing her adopted name extended across the country

Flo’s three daughters – Patricia Jr., the eldest; Melissa, the second born; and Sheila the youngest – were groomed to be stylish, poised and popular. They weren’t just the daughters of a familiar local brand; they were walking advertisements for the family business. The oldest daughter, Patricia, was voted Miss Teenage Kansas City in 1968. The youngest, Sheila, dressed up as the Easter Bunny every spring for the Easter parade, which Flo Stevens started on the Country Club Plaza in 1960. This popular tradition continued for over three decades, until its swan song in 1995. KIC Document_Page_1

The Stevens collection shines a reflective light into the past and the antiquated mind set of what a woman’s role was to be in contemporary society. It was Patricia Stevens charge to indoctrinate young women to the importance of personal appearance and proper deportment. Informational handouts and class curriculum dictate the need to begin a regiment, beginning as a young child, establishing wardrobe colors which will best suit personality and social acceptance. Levels of training included modeling courses, fashion merchandising, charm classes and business classes. Modeling students were groomed to participate in fashion shows and other such events as well as compete in local and national beauty competitions. Debbie Bryant, Miss America 1966, was a graduate of the Patricia Stevens School. KIC Document

The Patricia Stevens Collection is a wake-up call to those who came of age in an era when women held a social status unique to those of today’s standards. It is enlightening to say the least, with elements of humor, shock and, at times, disbelief. Confidential correspondence speaks to a level of hero worship and even psychological dependence  on the Matriarch of this organization, Flo Stevens who, according to her students was either embraced or rebuked. There would be no middle ground. It is rich in content for a researcher interested in the study of women’s historical cultural issues. It is also the story of a family – the Stevens family, a single mother and her three young daughters – who lived and breathed for what they felt was a noble cause; and, for the most part, who felt their students to be part of their extended family.

Teresa Wilson Gipson, Library Information Specialist II, LaBudde Special Collections

Some Excerpts from:
Ferruzza, Charles. “Melissa Stevens – heir to the Patricia Stevens Modeling School – refuses to be forgotten.” Pitch Weekly. August 9-15, 2012.