PAOLA — For former Miami County Sheriff Dan Morgan, writing utensils were vital tools of the job — every bit as important as his badge, gun or uniform.
“He always carried a pen and pad in his pocket everywhere he went,” said Terry Grant, one of Dan’s daughters.
That’s not necessarily unusual for a job in law enforcement, but what is unusual is that Dan kept almost all of the pens he ever used.
Terry and her sister Sheri Gregory remember seeing that collection growing up, but Dan rarely talked about it. Pens and pencils would fill drawers and then were eventually transferred to bags and a large plastic tote.
Now that Dan, 89, is being cared for at Vintage Park in Paola, his collection of vintage writing utensils has been moved to the home of Bob and Sheri Gregory, and family members are beginning to realize just how much history the collection contains.
Dan served as Miami County sheriff from 1984 to 1994, but his collection began long before his tenure in law enforcement. Dan’s children, Terry, Sheri and Dan Jr., have begun sifting through the countless pens and pencils in the collection, and they’ve discovered some dating back more than 70 years.
Sheri’s favorites are two pencils featuring the 1947 Paola High School football and basketball schedules. The Paola Panthers played schools such as Highland Park, Rosedale, Bonner Springs and Olathe School for the Deaf in addition to their rival Osawatomie.
Many of the pens in the collection feature the names of local businesses past and present, including addresses and phone numbers. Exploring the collection was like taking a trip down memory lane for Dan’s children.
Terry smiled as she picked up a pen from Jim’s Service Station. The Paola business used to be owned by Jim Pemberton, who was a faithful sponsor of Dan Morgan’s dirt track race car.
“Look, the phone number is just three numbers,” Terry points out. “And there is a separate number for farmers.”
Some pens, like the one from Clemens & Green Co. at 209 N. Silver St., even feature a picture of the building.
A few of the pens that brought back memories include Melody Land Music Co. at 206 W. Peoria St., Paola Ice at 1 & Diamond streets, Carter Realty at 310 N. Hospital Drive, Shirley’s Ceramics and Crafts operated by Carl and Shirley Gregg at 302 N. Silver St., Rhea Oil Co. Service at 1006 N. Pearl St., O.R. Crellin Jeweler on the north side of the Square, Kaiser Furniture Co. on the west side of the Square, Paola Bowl, Martin & Son Dairy Products, Cliff’s Skelly Service, Jim’s Electric, Schroeder Lumber Co., Winterscheid Auto Parts, The Western Spirit and Messer Rexall Drug.
Terry and Sheri didn’t recognize some of the businesses, such as Merlin’s, which according to the pen was a restaurant that served steak and chicken.
Although most of the pens and pencils are from the Paola area, there also are some from throughout Miami County, including Crosby and Sons Towing in Osawatomie, Louisburg Healthcare and Rehab Center and Bob’s 66 Service in Spring Hill. And there’s a large tote of pens from throughout the state of Kansas and beyond from the time Dan drove a truck for a living.
The entire collection weighs about 27 pounds, Dan’s daughters said.
The family members have had fun looking through the collection, but Terry and Sheri said memories of their father will still always center on the old Miami County Sheriff’s Office building at 118 S. Pearl St.
Like many other community members, the sisters remember the days in which Dan was sheriff and he lived at the sheriff’s office with his wife, Rena. Rena was known for cooking delicious meals for both her family and the inmates at the jail.
“If you went there at 8 in the morning, you smelled sausage cooking,” Sheri said.
“And she baked a cake every day,” Terry added.
Rena passed away in 2012.
Terry said Dan was always a wonderful father, but he certainly did not give special treatment to his children when he was sheriff.
“Dad always said, ‘if you don’t embarrass me, I won’t embarrass you,’” Terry said with a laugh.
Dan’s children are currently discussing ways to share portions of their father’s pen and pencil collection with the community so others can enjoy the local history.