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.

At the Lighthouse

My parents didn’t have many opportunities to visit lighthouses since they lived in the heartland. I think their first one was when they came to Ohio to settle me in my first job back in the 1970s. We went to see Lake Erie and there was a lighthouse out on a long rocky seawall.

The picture below shows them years later at a lighthouse that I think is in Texas. It must have been one of their visits to Gail’s sister CJ.

1995 Gail and Clyde at lighthouse

I’ve had more chances to see quite a few lighthouse in my years along the east coast of the U.S. and when we lived in Australia. Last year, we traveled to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island so I have a whole gallery of lighthouses to share from that trip and from years earlier to New Brunswick, Canada.

Lighthouses in the Maritime Provinces of Canada

What started me thinking of lighthouses was the Sepia Saturday prompt, a postcard of a vintage lighthouse. The one they show was in Australia. One thing that many of these have is the red and white color combination.

The Jumper Chair

My older brother, just a toddler, had a jumper chair back in 1946. We have the picture of him looking quite happy being able to bounce up-and-down and kick his feet in this device. He is outside in the yard and his eyes are fixed upon either mom or dad. It’s likely that one is trying to hold his attention while the other parent takes the picture.

Owen Martin in his jumper chair in 1946

It must be summer as he is dressed in lightweight clothing but on his feet are the sturdy baby shoes of the era. Mom had labeled the photo “1946 – Owen in his jumper chair.” Since he was born in February 1946, he would be about 6-months-old in August of that year. Does this look like a 6-month-old or would it be from the next year? In June 1947, he would be 16-months-old.

I was curious about the chair and found an advertisement for it in a 1946 newspaper.

New, Springy Teeterbabe

The modern jumper chair for any baby 3 months and up. Ideal for home, auto or anywhere, so mother can be relieved. Positively safe. Convenient foot rest and play beads.

Baby jumper chair - Teeterbabe 1946Baby jumper chair – Teeterbabe 1946 Thu, Sep 19, 1946 – Page 26 · Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

This looks identical to the chair that Owen is sitting in. Just imagine putting this in your auto today to take your toddler for a ride. “Positively safe,” the ad says, but we know better now.

I found a later advertisement for it and it touted the benefits of the child getting natural exercise and not bothered by constipation. Baby will be happy and contented and can be placed in the yard to get sunshine.

Teeterbabe jumper seatTeeterbabe jumper seat Thu, Jan 22, 1948 – 5 · The Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida) · Newspapers.com

I’m featuring my brother’s picture today as part of the Sepia Saturday blog challenge. The inspiration photo showed a man jumping at the beach. That led me to my brother in his jumper chair.

Exercising On The Beach (1935) The National Media Museum : Sepia Saturday 542, 17 October 2020