Remembering the Old Farm

Guest Blogger – CJ Garriott

Gail Martin’s younger sister shared these photos and family memories.

“More rummaging turned up these pictures –This is the farm where we lived when I was a teenager–approximately 1945 to 1951. As you see, I was smitten with snow from the git-go! I got my first camera as a gift somewhere in those years. Note the barn cats in front of the barn.”

A few years ago, CJ went past here on her way to put flowers in the Madison cemetery. The barn was still there.

Family Added Their Memories of the McGhee Farm

Various cousins responded with their memories of the farm. Tim H. remembered that he lived there for the first 2 or 3 years of his life till his parents bought their own farm. “Till I was about 3 I think. That would have been 1942 to 45,” he said. Bob H. commented that he remembered playing in that barn as a kid and helping put hay in it when he got big enough.

The Martin cousins added to that:

Cynthia R. wrote, “The barn was a fun place to explore. Grandpa let me keep the old, dirty, wooden, stirrups I found. I cleaned them up & used them as miniature shadow boxes in my room. We didn’t go inside the barn that often – maybe our parents warned us that it was Grandpa’s stuff.” Her younger sister, Karen K. felt sad that she didn’t remember it.

Their aunt, CJ, explained why Karen might not remember it. She said, “I remember Gail & children coming across and up the little hill behind the barn from the house across the street, which would have been before you were born in 1952. We moved to the oil lease house east of Madison the year before, so you guys could move into the farmhouse after the 1951 flood.”

More Photos of the McGhee Farm

A Tale of Two Bricks

Mom (Gail Lee Martin) wrote this story originally for the Kanhistique Magazine which published it in the August 1992 issue. She posted it later on the Our Echo website.

A Tale of Two Bricks

The next time you pick up a brick, take a second look. It might be a collector’s item. There has been a growing interest in bricks that feature pictures, slogans, lettering, patterns or dates. Many people collect bricks for their rarity and beauty. Members of the International Brick Collectors Association regard bricks as a part of the history of mankind, and each brick has a story to tell.

The story to be told by two bricks in an El Dorado, Kansas collection is about their humble beginnings in the small town of Tyro in Montgomery County, Kansas. The story begins with an incorporated town of 500 people that benefited from the discovery of gas in 1904. The Fawn Valley Oil and Gas Company struck oil and lots of natural gas just two miles northeast of town and soon had gas piped to all the residents and businesses at the cost of two cents per thousand feet.

One of the first industries to build in Tyro was the Tyro Shale Brick Company. They began building their plant the first of August 1906. They purchased all new machinery from the C. W. Raymond Co. of Dayton, Ohio. This plant was incorporated under the Laws of Kansas with the following officers, E. A. Denny, president; O.W. Buck, vice president; C. H. Pocock, secretary; and Dave Mahaffy, treasurer. The above four men and John Hooker were selected as directors, and they all listed their addresses as Tyro, Kansas.

The brick plant was leased and operated by Allison C. Darrow. By 1910 the plant was making 1,000,000 bricks a month. This company did not own a steam shovel early on, so employed about 40 men a day.

Almost eleven months after the first brick plant was built, O. W. Buck, vice president of the Tyro Shale Brick Co., started building another plant. It was named The Tyro Vetrified Brick Company. Again all new machinery was brought from Dayton, Ohio company, including a No. 2 ’Thew’ Steam Shovel. They produced vitrified or glassy bricks completely different from the other plant. By 1919 they were employing around 36 men and were making close to 1,400,000 bricks a month.

O. W. Buck became president and manager of the new plant and Joe Lenhart became vice president. E. Baur was appointed secretary and treasurer. The directors were Buck and Lenhart of Tyro and Baur of Easton, Indiana; Luther Perkins from Coffeyville, Kansas and C. D. Nesbit of Milburn, Oklahoma. Both brick plants were situated in the northeast part of the small town on the north side of the Missouri Pacific railroad tracks. One of our story’s bricks has the name BAUR on it. It was named after E. Baur from Easton, Indiana.

Vintage postcard from Gail Martin’s family archive.

Three years later Tyro had 700 residents; nearly two miles of paved sidewalks and seven two story brick buildings. The Methodist Church membership built a “beautiful brick church, and laid the cornerstone on July 4, 1909,” according to the church historian, Mattie Broughton. The accompanying picture shows it still holds it beauty 97 years later.

Tyro had many brick buildings in its heyday.

The story of the two Tyro bricks plants probably ended around 1917 when the shortage of gas fuel caused them to close their doors. The McGhee family went to the Methodist Church and Mother’s folks the Vinings went to the Christian Church and the story of the two Tyro bricks in El Dorado continues on in this family’s memories.

Honoring Mom and Dad

Karen Kolavalli is our guest blogger today:

Mom and Dad have been on my mind a lot lately.  After they passed ten years ago, I acquired most of their extensive book collection.  In the years since they’ve been gone, the books have mostly stayed in boxes as I moved around the country, but recently I’ve been working to get them ready to sell.  The bulk of their collection consists of well-read turn-of-the-century novels, with “well-read” translating to heavily used, worn, and sometimes just barely holding together!  Booksellers will often list these as being in “rough condition”.  Indeed.  😉 

As I research the books, I’ve been surprised to find that many of them are quite rare and would command very nice prices–if only they were in better condition.  I spent a number of years as an online sales volunteer for a large Friends of the Library organization.  I had been a hobby bookseller online for a long time, but I definitely upped my game with the bookselling skills I developed working with the high-volume Friends operation. 

I started teaching myself how to do minor book repairs as a volunteer.  After I “retired” from volunteering and put more energy into my online bookselling business, I got serious about doing a better job on book repairs.  With the onset of the pandemic two years ago, I’ve had even more time to devote to restoring/conserving my folks’ books. 

Marie Kennedy Joy’s book (from the collection of Gail and Clyde Martin)

One of the first of those books was actually one that my paternal grandmother, Cora Joy Martin, had given to her mother, Marie Kennedy Joy.  It was then handed down to my dad, Clyde Martin.  Before I noticed the family connection, the book was headed to the donation box because it was in such bad condition.  But when I saw the personal inscriptions, I decided to give it a second chance.  “Helen of the Old House” was written by Harold Bell Wright.  Mom and Dad had a large collection of his books; Mom was proud that one of the characters in Wright’s “The Shepherd of the Hills” was based on her mother’s cousin, Fiddlin’ Jake Vining. 

Riddle me this–exactly how many copies of “The Shepherd of the Hills” does one family need, even factoring in the family connection to one of the characters?! 

Another project. Mom and Dad were huge fans of the western author Zane Grey.

It’s amazing that the paper book jacket survived over the years. Zane Grey’s The Man of the Forest.

My Neanderthal Genes

After taking the 23andMe DNA test, I found it interesting which traits I inherited from my Neanderthal genes. It showed that I had 2% DNA from long-ago Neanderthal ancestors. As of now, I don’t know if that’s from Mom or from Dad’s side of the family tree or both sides.

Here are some of the findings:

  • You have one variant associated with having a worse sense of direction. (Great, I finally have something I can blame for all those times I got lost.)
  • You have one variant associated with being more likely to prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate. (Who knew that Neanderthals even had chocolate???)

Some Neanderthal traits that did not show up in my DNA include:

  • You have 0 variants associated with having difficulty discarding rarely-used possessions. (Well, darn, this is a problem for me, but apparently I inherited it elsewhere or learned it.)
  • You have 0 variants associated with generally not feeling angry when hungry. (I do get grouchy when I’m hungry and apparently, so do Neanderthals.)
  • You have 0 variants associated with being less likely to have a fear of heights. (Yep, I am afraid of heights.)
  • You have 0 variants associated with being more likely to have a fear of public speaking. (I’m quaking in my boots before giving a talk, but I thought everyone felt that way.)
  • You have 0 variants associated with being more likely to cry while cutting onions.
  • You have 0 variants associated with being less likely to have a chin dimple. (Dad had a chin dimple, or maybe it was a scar from an injury.)
  • You have 0 variants associated with being less likely to blush easily. (Yep, I have always blushed easily.)
  • You have 0 variants associated with eating leafy greens less frequently. (Actually, I’d rather have some dark chocolate.)

It sure would have been great to have gotten Mom and Dad to take a DNA test. Then we could have compared notes.

Yum – Cherry Mash


Remember this candy? It’s celebrating a big birthday. Chhaya K., “I need some Cherry Mash in the special centennial wrapper!”

When Chhaya posted this video about Cherry Mash, it set off a lively discussion with memories of the candy. Gail Martin loved it and apparently her daughter, Shannon, did too. 


Gail’s granddaughter, Robin Calhoun commented, “I love these!”
Karen K. “Can’t get them here in Kentucky. ☹”

Robin Calhoun, “I’ll have to look to see if we get them here.”
Karen K. “in Eureka?”
Robin Calhoun “Yea”
Lola Beshirs Hicks, “They are wonderful and hard to find. Yummmmmy!”

Karen K. – “Mom used to hide her stash of them when we were kids. We never got to have them–we had to do a 3-way share of a Snickers or Milky Way or 3 Musketeers!”

Gail’s granddaughter, Diana Platt remembered, “My mom used to eat them, but she somehow convinced us they were gross old person food, like divinity or saltwater taffy. To this day I’ve never tried one.”

Karen K. – “Can’t get my mind around the concept that divinity, saltwater taffy, and Cherry Mash are old person food! And gross?! You’ve never tried ANY of them?!”



Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

CJ and the Big Rock

It’s always great to get the back story on vintage pictures. We feel lucky if a photo has a name and a date on it, but what’s the whole story? Different people will have varied memories or tidbits to contribute when they view the picture.

This one from Gail’s younger sister, Carol, triggered this conversation:

I always loved rocks! Circa 1950, along the creek on the farm of my sister, Melba and Norman Harlan, near Madison, KS. This ledge of rock had been sticking out like a huge shelf, and came down sometime earlier when the river was racing at flood stage.

CJ Garriott
Carol Jean McGhee and the big rock.

Her nephew, Bob, remembered that he played many times on that rock. It must have seemed like a mountain to climb for a small boy. Bob’s brother Tim contributed that it was in the creek below the barn.

CJ describes herself as a tomboy at age 16. Here are more pictures of her in her teen years. It was the era of rolled-up jeans and penny loafers.

Surprise… Iris!

The guest blogger today is CJ Garriott, Gail Martin’s little sister.

“I couldn’t resist getting this shot of the rock garden Iris! All my iris got a late, slow start due to Mother Nature last month, but they are making up for it now. They have quite a story.

A few years ago, the gas company dug up my yard from street to several feet along north side of house to put in a new line and meter. In the process, they dug up a pile of delightful rocks full of holes! You know how I am about rocks. I asked if they could leave them on top and they did.

Before this, the iris stopped at the corner of the house. These apparently got relocated when the workers filled in the deep trench.

It gives me great pleasure when I look out the front door and see these amazing flowers.”

Tiny Stitches

In 1982, Gail’s daughter, Cynthia Ross wrote this poem. She posted it to the Our Echo site which is now offline (hopefully it will return soon).

Gail Lee Martin admiring a vintage crazy quilt.

Tiny Stitches 

My life is patterned
On a crazy quilt
Fabric pieces of my past

Moods pivoting around in
Yellow and red
Mixed with a somber brown

Pulling that crazy quilt
Around my shoulders
Drawing comfort from within

With my hand I will follow
The tiny stitches
Along a textured course

Some stitches are wider
Ones I did as a child
Others more even and precise

Now with age my hand trembles
Cataracts cover my eyes
Leaving me searching for the needle

I’m taking a journey 
Along a fabric trail
One stitch at a time

A small group of ladies in Andover, Kansas get together the first Tuesday of the month to make prayer quilts to be give away to those in need. After nearly 25 years together the bond of friendship we’ve made while quilting has helped each of us through the tough times in our own lives. We are doubly blessed as we visit, share private matters or health concerns, while pulling needles through fabric. Over time our lives have become woven together, friends forever. 

Building friendships while making quilts.

I saved the comments from other writers on Our Echo. Some of the writers are no longer with us.

  • What a lovely poem – excellent job. – Kathy Baker
  • So very nice, Cindy. An apt analogy of the quilting and your life. Women are so fortunate to belong to groups such as the one you mentioned. We build solid friendships in these groups, and they become our support groups when needed. We only need to remember to lean on them at the right times. You’ve been in my thoughts a lot lately. – Nancy Koop
  • My memories are drawn to the quilters I’ve know in our family. Grandma Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee; Mother, Ruth (Vining) McGhee; my sister, Melba and her mother-in-law; Clyde’s Grandma, Marie (Kennedy) Joy; Clyde’s mother, Cora Myrle (Joy) Martin; Clyde’s sisters, Vivian Stafford and Dorothy Jones. Also Vivian’s daughter, Lorna who had the quilting machine shop. You are following the footsteps of your heritage. – Virginia Allain
  • Cindy, a really meaningful poem that could apply to many of our lives. Congratulations on being able to apply yourself to poetry with all the stress going on in your life right now. I hope to see more soon. – Sabina Benjamin Thomas
  • Such a beautiful poem! Reminded me of a song called ‘Tapestry’ by Carol King. “A wondrous woven magic of bits of blue and gold ” but the beauty of quilting is you can hold it in your hand and share it with others. Thanks for sharing. – Sabina
  • Reply: Thank you for your compliment in comparing it to a song. Many poems & not just my own–I put to song. I find it important to read a poem out loud to hear the sounds, not just see the words. – Cindy Ross
  • I really enjoyed reading your poem. I like the connection to quilting and growing through life. – K.D.
  • This beautifully written poem brought back precious memories of my mother. Strange how a tiny snippet of fabric has the power to instantly take us back in time. – BJ Roan
  • Beautiful poem. I liked the “crazy quilt” analogy very much. – Karen Kolavalli
  • One of our family quilters passed away May the 25th, Vivian Ruth Stafford my husband’s older sister but we know she will soon be finding quilting friends in heaven. As ever, Gail

Butter Beans – The Fast Way

Gail’s daughter, Karen is the guest blogger today.

“As I worked to clear 4 inches of snow and 1/2 inch of ice off my car this morning, I thought about our relatively carefree childhood snow days growing up in the country.  And then went on to think about how a big snow and cold weather made things just that much harder for my parents. 

Quite likely the battery would be dead in our car, more wood would be needed for the heating stove, and Mom and Dad would be worrying about money.  Dad worked in all kinds of awful weather on drilling rigs in the oil fields of southern Kansas, but there were times when the weather was just too cold/severe to have a crew out working.  And when the rig was down, Dad didn’t get paid. 

Mom often put a big pot of beans on to cook on laundry day, but beans were also one of her go-to winter meals for her family of eight.  It didn’t cost a lot and she had a hearty meal on the table (yes, we all ate at the table back then!).  Most often we had navy beans with bread and butter or cornbread, but my very favorite, then and now, was butter beans.  

I made butter beans and ham in my Instant Pot on New Year’s Day this year.  This is a recipe that’s a pretty far cry from the basic butter bean recipe Mom used.  It’s made in the Instant Pot, so there’s no need to soak the dried beans overnight, cooking time is just 25 minutes in the Instant Pot.  It’s also made with chicken stock, onions, garlic, and a variety of spices.  Mom used the meat from ham hocks, and that’s what I used, too.  It’s delicious. “

Click here for Kelsey Apley’s Instant Pot Butter Beans recipe.

Gail and the Monkeys

The Sepia Saturday challenge photo for today featured an old-fashioned organ grinder and his monkey. I went in search of monkey photos in our family album. Remembering back to Martin family reunions, the park where these were held had a Monkey Island at Peter Pan Park in Emporia, Kansas.

There was a moat and then a high stone wall to keep the monkeys from escaping. As we played with our cousins before the bountiful potluck meal, we always trooped over to see the monkeys. On their island, there was a stone building with a tower and open windows so they could clamber in and out. It fascinated us, but we never had a photo of it. The stone building was constructed by the WPA back during the Great Depression.

WW II Museum display in Wolfboro, NH.

Next, I thought of the WWII museum that I visited. One piece that caught my eye was a cartoon from the 1940s, probably post-war, that showed Hitler as an organ grinder’s monkey. Other Allies gathered around in the scene. I wonder if Mom or Dad ever saw this cartoon, perhaps in a newspaper at the time.

Classic sock monkeys.

The next monkeys that comes to mind are the ones made from the brown and white work socks. I remember having these back in the 1950s. With Gail’s sewing skills, I’m sure it was an easy project to turn the socks into monkeys.

Gail Martin demonstrating how monkeys peel a banana.

One time while visiting my parents in Kansas during their retirement years, Mom showed me how monkeys open a banana. They pinch it at the bottom. I guess I’ve been doing it wrong all these years as I always tried to open it at the stem end.

What started me thinking of monkeys? It was this picture from Sepia Saturday. Take a look to see what the other bloggers wrote about monkeys.