Mom Would Have Liked Her

Now and then, I meet someone in real life or online who has much in common with my mom, Gail Lee Martin. I find myself wishing that they could meet each other. Recently, I met one such lady, Edna Melcher. Too bad that Edna is way out west in Idaho, while I’m on the east coast in Orlando.

We could have a cozy chat about all her interesting activities. Like Mom and Dad, she makes wagon wheel rugs. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, she shared photos of her rug making and the finished projects. I’ll share her tips in another post as she is anxious to pass along the rug making techniques.

Edna’s Facebook page is sprinkled with pictures of her crafts, recipes for yummy foods like chicken and dumplings, and other nostalgic activities. She makes jelly, plum applesauce, and chocolate caramel cookies. She’s quite a gardener too, growing colorful ears of Indian corn, some rhubarb, and tomatoes.

edna melcher jams

Edna Melcher’s pretty jars of jam.

Although Edna is more my generation than Mom’s, I’m sure they would have hit it off and spent an afternoon sharing tips for making the wagon wheel rugs and swapping favorite jam recipes. Although she can’t meet Mom in person, I sent her links for this blog so she could enjoy Mom’s recipes and crafts.


Remembering the Old Wood Stove

Guest Post by Gail’s daughter, Karen.

“I remember using these to shovel out the ashes from our wood stove. They haven’t changed at all in 60 (yikes!) years. That part of heating with a wood stove was fun. You shoveled the ashes out of a little door at the bottom.

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We had a 2-story late-19th-century farmhouse. The wood stove in the living room didn’t help much with the upstairs bedrooms!

We moved there when I was 7 and lived there until we moved to town when I was in junior high. We all had electric blankets, but we only went upstairs when it was time for bed during the winter. I remember there being ice on the inside of the windows. Good times.

I remember huddling around that stove as we hastily put on our clothes in the morning. Brrr!”

That memory triggered her sister, Ginger, to add, “in the evening, we’d sit around the stove and prop our feet as close as we could to get warm. If you smelled singed leather, you were too close.”

Karen wrote, “and thanks to Mom saving papers for each of us kids, here’s a drawing I did of OUR actual stove from the Greene farm (proving early on that I wasn’t going to be an artist!) But the teacher did give me an A on it. ”

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Sister, Cindy added her memories, “I remember the year we got the little red wagon for Christmas and thinking at the time; weren’t we all a little old for such a gift, except for Shannon. That idea sounded good, and we thought, cool! we can take turns pulling her around in it.We quickly found out what the little red wagon was for…., hauling frozen rabbit water bowl and firewood up to the house. As an adult, I understand that loading it on the wagon was a lot better than carrying a stack in my arms.”

Updated 1940s Photo of Gail

Gail Lee Martin loved researching family history and she’s passed that passion on to several of her daughters, including me. She tracked her McGhee line laboriously through letters and visits to courthouses, libraries, and cemeteries in those pre-Internet times. I’ve been retracing her steps, but using online resources, to see what further can be discovered.

In doing so, I joined a Perry County history group on Facebook for Arkansas. While asking about the McGhees there and sharing some photos, I’ve met some distant cousins who shared their ancestors with me. This photo shows Florence McGhee who married William J. Marshall in 1910. Florence McGhee Marshall (2)

My thanks to Dana Mattingly Craft‎ who provided this picture. Information from the back: Florence McGhee Marshall with children: Robert Marshall (in her arms), Willie “Dane” Marshall, Doyle Marshall (retired from the navy around 1950), Kenneth Marshall (killed in service on December 16, 1941 around Honolulu, Hawaii while piloting an airplane off a carrier for the Navy).

This photo had to have been taken prior to or in 1918 as Florence and Dane died at the end of 1918 as did her one-month-old infant.

In looking at this photo of Florence, it reminded me of a 1940s photo of my mother, when she worked at Boeing. Do you see the resemblance?
gail mcghee boeing wichita edited

This sharing of information led to a connection with another connection who surprised me by colorizing Gai’s picture. I think Jenny S. Henry did a marvelous job and I greatly appreciate her skill and willingness to share her talent.

color boeing photo by Jenny

Gail and Rosie the Riveter

Mom identified with Rosie the Riveter, although she was chagrined to find herself too slight to handle the kick of the rivet gun. Despite that, Gail found other work to do at Boeing Aircraft and contribute to the war work. Here’s a memory piece that Gail Lee Martin wrote for the Our Echo site about her fondness for Rosie.

Friends by Gail Lee Martin

My Merriam Webster’s Concise Dictionary large-print edition states that a friend is ”person one likes.” But it works both ways. I treasure this person as my friend and she proved she thought of me as a friend.

At my writing group, Prairie Prose & Poetry’s monthly meeting in February 2003, I read my essay titled, My Wall of Books (one of very first that I posted on OurEchoes April 4th, 2006). One paragraph was about our collection of books and calendars of Norman Rockwell’s paintings. At another meeting, I shared what I had recently written about working for Boeing Aircraft Company during World War II.

My friend, Mary Skipworth, put two and two together and one day in July she came to our house and presented me with a t-shirt with Rockwell’s ’Rosie the Riveter’ on it. I was moved almost to tears. But settled on a great big hug.

Rockwell’s Rosie must have been the fad of the year as my daughter, Cindy, gave me a Rosie, We Can Do It, pot-holder for Mother’s Day. Not to be outdone my sister, Carol, gave me hand towels with the same logo for my birthday. No one knew what the others had done until later. Family can be great friends too.

Gail’s CarePages – January 2013

CarePages is a website that family can use to keep everyone up-to-date on a loved one who is in a care situation. After Gail Lee Martin broke a hip in November, CarePages became sort of a diary with a running commentary by family and friends. The family did a lot of texting, emails, Facebook updates, and phone calls during that time as well.
I saved the CarePages messages as a record of that stressful time.

Gail’s CarePages – January 2013

Posted Jan 4, 2013 9:40pm by Karen Kolavalli – “I’d never actually seen a Bluebird before, but the birds I saw this afternoon around an evergreen there at Regent Park Rehab were obviously just that! Three pairs of them!”
bluebird pixabay

Bluebird photo courtesy of Pixabay

Posted Jan 7, 2013 1:56pm by Cynthia Ross – “Getting to see the Bluebirds had to be a special treat! I’ll watch for them the next time I’m there to visit Mom. Mom has a south facing window in her room, maybe she’ll get to see them as well. Wouldn’t that be wonderful.”

Blood Clot

Posted Jan 8, 2013 7:15pm by Karen Kolavalli – “Mom had been complaining of sharp pain in her groin, where they went in for the heart catheterization. Yesterday Regent Park’s doctor ordered an ultrasound to be sure there wasn’t a hematoma. Susan reports that the ultrasound showed a blood clot. It will be treated with bed rest and medicine.”
Posted Jan 8, 2013 10:15pm by Carol Garriott – “No wonder she was in pain!”
Posted Jan 8, 2013 10:03pm by Sandi Edgar – “She just can’t get a break it seems! Hope the meds work….hugs!”
Posted Jan 8, 2013 8:43pm by Melba Hauser – “Thanks for the update, I really appreciate them.”
Gail Martin at rehab

Gail Lee Martin at Regent Park Rehab Center after breaking her hip, having surgery, and then a heart attack.Blood Clot

Mom back at Wesley in Surgical Intensive Care Unit

Posted Jan 14, 2013 9:46pm by Karen Kolavalli – “Mom is back at Wesley in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. She woke up this morning at Regent Park with chest pains, which didn’t improve after 2 nitroglycerin pills.

They’re not able to do a heart catheterization to see what’s going on because she’s been on blood thinners for the blood clot, so they’re having to wait 2-3 days for her blood to get thicker before they can do the procedure. In the meantime, they’re using meds to keep her stabilized. They also plan to do a sonogram of her heart.

They did an EKG when she first got to Wesley. In comparing it with the one she had at the time of her other heart attack, there are changes that seem to indicate that she’s developed more blockages.

The cardiologist thinks she did probably have a heart attack this morning.”

Posted Jan 15, 2013 11:41am by Sandi Edgar – “I am so sorry to hear she is having yet more problems. I will keep her in my prayers for a complete recovery from this new problem. Hugs!”

Gail Lee McGhee Martin (Sept. 13, 1924 – Jan. 17, 2013)

Posted Jan 18, 2013 8:22pm by Karen Kolavalli – “Mom passed away last night in Wesley ICU after another heart attack. We are planning a celebration of her life for Saturday, February 2, at 11:00 a.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 430 Eunice, El Dorado, KS. Everyone is invited to join us after the service for a meal provided by the ladies of the church. Karen”
Posted Jan 19, 2013 12:30pm by Sandi Edgar – “Karen, I don’t have the words to tell you how sorry I am. My heart goes out to you and your family. Please keep in touch and call if you need to talk. Love you.”

Use Photos to Jog Your Memory

Post by Virginia Allain: Next week, I’m teaching a series of classes on memoir writing. Here’s some of the advice I’ll give the participants:

Trigger Your Memories with Old Photos

Get out your old photos to serve as memory joggers in writing your memoir. Look at them, really look at them. Probably you’ve seen these photos dozens or even a hundred times. This time you will look beyond the surface.

The technique to extract the maximum amount of information can include making lists of things you see in a photo. Here would be my list: dark car, gravel driveway, light colored house with a porch, 4 curly-haired girls in shorts/pedal pushers.

The next step would be to use those clues to set the time. In this case, by estimating the ages of my sisters, remembering the time I got glasses, and when we lived in town, gives me the likely date.

sisters March 59

Martin kids – Ginger, Cindy, Susan & Karen in summertime

An Analysis of the Photo Shown Above

In this line-up, I see myself and three of my sisters. I’m guessing it is around 1960 before our youngest sister was born. The house must be the one on Carr Street where we lived when I was in 4th and 5th grade. We are barefooted, so it must be summer and we are probably at home. If we were visiting someone, we’d have shoes on.

I could ask a car buff about the car, as I don’t recognize it. Perhaps it belonged to a visitor and the occasion of their visit is the reason we’re getting photographed.

I can’t deduce much from our expressions. We’re looking into the sun and that’s causing us to look down or squint or close our eyes. No sunglasses back in those days.

I’m surprised by all the curly hair. Maybe Mom had tried out some home perm kits. I started wearing glasses in the 4th grade. I wonder when the two younger girls got their first glasses?

Look at those tans! That’s from lots of playing outside. I’m the pale one, probably because I spent hours reading.

This was a rental house and too small for our family of 7, soon to be 8. After that, we moved to the country, to a 4-bedroom farmhouse.

Clyde Martin family on carr street, El Dorado, KS

The Martin family. Clyde holding Karen, Gail, Owen, Cindy, Ginger, and Susan. We all look a little younger in this photo but it is the same house.

 Making Use of Your Discoveries about the Pictures

OK, I’ve deduced quite a bit from the first photo. I’ve written a sentence or two about the elements in the photo. The next step would be to rearrange those into more of a narrative describing my feelings about that time in my life.

After examining the details, tune into the feelings evoked by the picture. How happy were you at that time in life? How did the siblings get along? Tell about a typical day at that time in your life.


My sister Cindy is quite the poet. I’m not sure where she acquired the ability, maybe through hard work at writer’s workshops. Mom (Gail Lee Martin) was always quite apologetic about her poetry attempts. I don’t feel comfortable in that form of writing either.

pixabay icicles

Icicle photo courtesy of Pixabay

Here’s a poem that Cindy shared in her Christmas letter this year:


From the gutter

A long spear hangs

Cold to the touch


During the night

Icy fingers hold it

Tight against metal


With the morning sun

Iridescent prisms sparkle

Casting an enchanted glow


Warmth loosens its grip

Until it falls crashing

Scattering diamonds on the snow

(by Cynthia Ross)

I expect that with the huge freeze experience by many in the U.S. this week, that there will be many icicles forming. In New England, you may have to wait a few more days with the below zero temperatures there.