Dad Loved to Fish

I remember tagging along with Dad a few times when he went fishing. To me, it was hours of boredom sitting on the river bank while bugs tried to bite me. The leaves made me itchy and the ground felt increasingly hard as I tried not to squirm which would frighten away the fish.

His fishing time was limited to times when the oil rig shut down and there was no work. Probably he hoped to catch enough fish to feed the family while there was no paycheck.

Later when he retired, he fished for fun at Sugar Valley Lakes in Eastern Kansas. Gail and Clyde became a frequent sight at the lake as they fished from the dock or went out in their boat. They caught bass, catfish, and grass carp.

Clyde Martin loved fishing

Catfish, grass carp, and bass caught by Clyde Martin

They took pride in their catch and took photos of the fish. Gail noted in a small notebook the length and weight of the catch each day.

They ended up catching so many that they couldn’t eat them all, so they held a fish fry for the small community of Prescott, Kansas. They wanted to show their appreciation to all the people who made them welcome at their getaway home there.

It was about a 3-hour drive from their home in El Dorado, so at first, it was a weekend retreat while Dad was still working. It was beyond the reach of a demanding job. Later, they spent weeks at a time there. They found it comfortably like the small towns they were familiar with growing up in the 1930s.



Karen’s Memories of Paper Dolls

Last year, I shared Gail’s little sister’s memories of paper dolls. Now, we have Gail’s daughter with her own memories

Karen Kolavalli – “The paper dolls we had most often were families cut out of catalogs. I remember we would create houses for them by placing books together–each book cover was a separate room and bigger rooms could be created with books that had the same color covers.

I loved Betsy McCall paper dolls from McCall’s magazine and thought Grandma McGhee was very unreasonable when she wouldn’t let us cut them out if she hadn’t finished the story on the other side.

And one special Christmas with all the Martin cousins, my gift was Lennon Sisters paper dolls that came in a cardboard and tin carrying container. I found quite a few for sale online. Apparently, they came out in 1960. I found some on eBay that sold for $31!

Also, I have a vintage sheet of Betsy McCall paper dolls that I have framed. I’ve heard that our generation is buying back our childhoods.

Ooh, forgot the paper dolls from the Sugar and Spike comic books! When we’d go with Mom to the grocery store, sometimes we each got to pick out one dime comic book and I always picked Sugar and Spike.”


I see there were earlier Lennon Sister paper dolls from 1957 that are just in booklets, not in a nice carrying tin.

Lennon Sisters from the Lawrence Welk Show Paper DollsLennon Sisters from the Lawrence Welk Show Paper DollsView DetailsLennon Stars From the Lawrence Welk Tv Show Paper DollLennon Stars From the Lawrence Welk Tv Show Paper DollView Details1958 JANET LENNON cut-out doll - authorized edition Paper Dolls1958 JANET LENNON cut-out doll – authorized edition Paper DollsView Details

Sugar and Spike

I didn’t remember paper dolls with Sugar and Spike that Karen mentioned, but I sure remember how fun their comic books were. Maybe we should save the topic of favorite comic books for another post, but I couldn’t resist checking Amazon for them. The vintage covers are quite pricey.

Sugar & Spike (Oct. #85/1969) (DC Comic Book, Oct #85)Sugar & Spike (Oct. #85/1969) (DC Comic Book, Oct #85)View DetailsSugar And Spike (Sugar And Spike, No.41)Sugar And Spike (Sugar And Spike, No.41)View DetailsSugar and Spike Dc Comic Books Issue 68Sugar and Spike Dc Comic Books Issue 68View DetailsSugar & Spike (1956 series) #77Sugar & Spike (1956 series) #77View DetailsSUGAR AND SPIKE COMICS #67 (NO 67)SUGAR AND SPIKE COMICS #67 (NO 67)View DetailsSugar & Spike (1956 series) #80Sugar & Spike (1956 series) #80View Details

Tell me about your memories of paper dolls.

Tangles with the Wind

Published in Capper’s Magazine, Heart of Home, 28th February 1990 by Cynthia Ross (Gail’s daughter)

Tangles with the Wind

Back in 1952, I had my first tangle with a strong Kansas wind. During a picnic out at the city lake, our family and cousins gathered in a shelter house for lunch. (In Kansas, if you don’t use a shelter house, your food will be blown right off your plate.)

As it sometimes happens, the children became wild as March hares after being fed. The adults usually just want to just talk or take a nap after a meal. I was about 2 years old at the time and had been watching older kids climb upon an arched window opening of the shelter, then jumping the short distance to the grass below.

Before long I decided to give it a try. With my short, baby fat legs, I climbed upon the ledge of the opening. All was going well until a strong northerly gust blew me right back down on the cement floor, breaking my arm in the fall.

Cindy Martin 1952

Cindy Martin, not yet 2.

I learned to respect our Kansas wind. Most of the time I count it as a friend, but I’ll always remember when we tangled some 37 years ago.

I’ve heard many pioneer women were said to have nearly gone crazy by the relentless wind…. but I find the wind rather soothing at times. I especially enjoy the changing seasons we have here in Kansas with the wind almost constant in early spring and fall.

The wind produced by a tornado is something totally different. As you probably know tornados come in all sizes, from a twisting rope to filling the whole skyline with its mass. The tornado that hit Andover Kansas was definitely a monster I hope never to hear or see the likes again in my lifetime.


Tornado photo courtesy of Pixabay

A Happy Message from Shannon

Today is the birthday of Gail and Clyde’s youngest daughter. The family was devastated when Shannon died in 2006. Below is a memory piece the was written the next year by Shannon’s sister, Ginger and posted on the Our Echo website.

“Remember Ann Landers telling people that finding a penny meant someone in heaven was thinking of you (pennies from heaven)? Perhaps we need some little gimmick to feel we still have a link to a lost loved one. That was my feeling after my sister Shannon died so suddenly last December.

Feeling really sad one day, I tried to call my sister Karen. I needed someone to cheer me up and hoped I could do the same for her. When I couldn’t reach her, I turned on my computer to check for family messages. Maybe that would distract me from my sadness.
For the first time in months, I clicked on Pandora, the online music site. Maybe music would soothe me. The first song that started playing was Tom Chapin singing “This is the Happiest Song I Know.”

Tom Chapin was a favorite performer of Shannon’s at the Walnut Valley Festival. Every year Shannon and her family worked at the festival and came to know some of the performers personally.

Tom_Chapin_portrait wikipedia

Tom Chapin portrait (used under Creative Commons/from Wikipedia)

Was it only a coincidence that one of Tom Chapin’s songs came up first? He is not mainstream radio fare. Out of the hundreds of songs that he has written, wasn’t it fortuitous that “Happiest” was the one that played at that moment when I needed an emotional boost? Coincidence, maybe. Thanks, Shannon, for trying to cheer me up.

Since that time, I’ve listened to the song over and over trying to soak up the message. It plays in my head at times, unsummoned, but tied to memories of Shannon. Shannon had a great sense of humor and planting in my head “This is the Happiest Song I Know” to intertwine with memories of her might be just the thing she would do.

You can hear a snippet of it on Amazon. Click on “sample this song” to hear a little bit of The Happiest Song I Know.

Here’s the chorus:
This is the happiest song I know,
Guaranteed to make me smile.
This is the happiest song I know,
Carried me many a mile.
This is the happiest song I know,
Guaranteed to make me grin.
This is the happiest song I know,
Open up and let it in.

Also, listen to the song, “I’m the Only Me.” It’s a wonderful one for when you’re thinking of a special person.”


Posted 07/01/2007 by Betty (BJ) Roan

I firmly believe the song was no coincidence. Those we love seem to find ways to let us know they are with us. BJ

Posted 07/01/2007 by Carol J Garriott

I too do not believe in chance or coincidence. I address that conviction often in my writings. Yes, I believe Shannon was especially close to you that day and concerned with your sadness! Now I must post my own “message from Shannon.” I think it’s on MyFamily. . . Carol

Posted 07/12/2007 by Cynthia Jo Ross

Thanks for sharing your story! Certain songs do tend to pull us closer to our loved ones. I too believe they send little messages from heaven if we’re tuned in to listen.

Posted 12/23/2008 by Gail Lee Martin

Shannon sends butterflies and ladybugs to let me know she is thinking of me.

June Memory Joggers

Getting people to write about their childhood and various times in their lives was a passion for Gail Lee Martin. When she worked with the Our Echo website, she wrote memory prompts in 2007 for each month of the year.

June 1 – June 30 – June Memories

June has more weddings than another month. Does your wedding anniversary bring back memories that should be written about? Write about all the little things that made your wedding special. Who was there or did you elope? Who made your cake? Surely you have lots of pictures to choose from.

paper flowers in a mason jar - wedding

Gail’s granddaughter, Diana made dozens of paper flowers for her wedding tables. They looked terrific in Gail’s vintage canning jars.

How do you spend the extra hours you have in the summer because of the daylight saving time. Can you remember when we didn’t have daylight saving time and just worked from dawn to dark?

Did your family take long vacation trips? Ever travel on Highway 66 and stay in motels when they were separate little cabins? Remember the Burma Shave signs? I have more postcards from my family’s trips than pictures. 


More May Memory Joggers

Earlier this month, I posted Gail Lee Martin’s tips for early May memories. Hopefully, you were inspired to write a few and are now ready for some more memory prompts. Get out your pen and start writing! May 15 – May 30.

writing-pen pixabay

Graphic from Pixabay

“In the merry month of May, there are many things to do that will jog your memory. Such as gathering edible mushrooms and green plants that spring rains have made plentiful. Do you remember your mother or grandmother going out to do this? Even here in town, I can find some of nature’s bounty to make our meals colorful and different by picking Inky Cap Mushrooms to add to soups, scrambled eggs, and even gravy. I also pick Poke, Goose Weed, and Lamb’s Quarter and cook them like spinach.

May is also Older Americans Month. This would be a good time to visit your older family members and neighbors and get them talking about what they did years ago.

Graduation time is upon us but those dreaded finals always came first. Write about your senior year as if it was a letter to your great-grandchildren. Add what was going on around the world during your final year in high school or college. Were you a class officer, in a class play, lettered in sports or music? Tell about your school’s colors and mascot. As always, add pictures if you can. Also, tell what you know about your parents or grandparents education.

Memorial Day finishes up this month. Do you look forward to it because the holiday signals time to play outdoors or for the time to remember your family and friends that are no longer with you – or both? – Gail” 

These were originally posted on the Our Echo website by Gail back in 2007.

gail samantha graduation

Gail Lee Martin with her granddaughter, Samantha on her graduation day.

Four Generations of Mothers

Researching family history becomes more meaningful when you can see the faces that go with the names and dates. For Mother’s Day, I pulled together my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother. Beyond that, I have just the names and information, but no photos.

I like seeing them all lined up like this. Looks like that high forehead and the nose came down through the generations. I must have gotten my nose and blonde hair from the Martin side, but I do have the forehead.

Here are their names and dates (left to right):

    • Gail Lee McGhee Martin 1924-2013
    • Ruth Vining McGhee 1897-1960
    • Nancy Jane Babcock Vining 1851–1924
    • Ellenor Nancy Jane Wright Babcock 1820–1882

These four women had 36 children and that doesn’t count the miscarriages or ones that died at birth. Nancy Jane remarried not long after her first husband died. In 1873 Kansas, a woman with children didn’t have the luxury of a long mourning period.

They were part of the migration westward in the U.S. as the family moved from Indiana to Illinois, then to Iowa, and finally to Kansas. Pregnancy and raising children must have been difficult in those times; feeding a large family while cooking over an open fire, washing unending diapers with water brought from a stream or well or cistern, and tending a sick child with no doctor nearby.

Many thanks to these women for persevering through hard times while caring for their children.