Crafty Sisters

Mom’s older sister Melba created crafts galore with her husband, Norman Harlan. They sold wooden clown figures and stylish reindeer and other hand-crafted wooden pieces.

Mom and Dad made wagon wheel rugs from rags and soft crafts like kittens made of yarn pompoms. The yarn pompoms turned into beautiful Christmas wreaths and huge yarn candy canes for hanging on your front door. They didn’t have a booth at this craft fair.

Karen took these two photos in 1992 when Gail visited with her sister at the Eureka craft fair held in a big building on the fairgrounds. The Harlans had a booth with their wooden crafts.

Gail with her sister Melba Harlan

Gail with her sister Melba Harlan

Sisters share a moment at the Eureka craft fair.

Sisters share a moment at the Eureka craft fair.

Mom said of this photo, “Is that me?” She looks a bit like Bea Arthur from the Golden Girls here.

Another Street Photo

Carol Garriott – Dec 28, 1999 “It seems like I ought to know, having seen this photo before — but, who took the picture? Boyfriend? Roving reporter, spotting a beautiful girl?”

Karen Kolavalli – Dec 28, 1999 “I’m sure Mom can tell you in a more interesting way than I can since it’s her story, but I believe it was a street photographer. There’s another one of Mom and a girlfriend of hers, too, taken by a street photographer. Both are postcards. Oh, now that I think of it, the second one is actually a postcard addressed to you, February 19, 1945, Wichita, Kansas. I’ll get it scanned and uploaded soon.”

Gail Martin – Dec 29, 1999 “Well, of course, I loved this coat too! It was a chocolate-brown & cream colored plaid. Mother never said anything about my choice of clothing I bought while working at Boeing. I lived in a home with a divorced lady and her two sons. 1000 S. Patty.

Gail Lee McGhee - photo taken in Wichita KS by a street photographer in the 1940s.

Gail Lee McGhee – photo taken in Wichita KS by a street photographer in the 1940s.

In the Photo Booth

Gail McGhee in Wichita, Kansas in 1944

Gail McGhee in Wichita, Kansas in 1944

Mom’s commented on this photo,

“I had this photo taken in a little 3 for $1.00 shops that were around Wichita. They were patronized by many military guys and their girlfriends because they were developed fast while you waited.

You’ll notice I still thought I looked better without my glasses.”

She would have been 20 years old in 1944.

Photo Memories

The older girl is Gail with her little sister, Carol, and their Aunt Bertha McGhee.

The older girl is Gail with her little sister, Carol, and their Aunt Bertha McGhee.

Here’s the discussion on this photo, back in 2008:

Carol Garriott – “This has to have been taken around 1938? As I look to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 years old? Which would have made Gail 14 years old. Sis, do you have any memory of this trip, and who all went, and what occasion? Maybe Melba, all grown up at 18, took the photo.”

Gail Martin – “This was in the rose garden of Gage Park in Topeka and we were up there for something special for Aunt Bertha, maybe something to do with her church missionary schooling. I just remember how nice I looked all grownup.”

Gail – All Grown Up

Back when she was Gail McGhee, my mother worked in Wichita at the Boeing Aircraft Factory. This was during the war. She has several photos taken by street photographers during that time.

Photo taken by street photographer in Wichita, Kansas during WWII. Gail Lee McGhee in a pretty suit.

Photo taken by street photographer in Wichita, Kansas during WWII. Gail Lee McGhee in a pretty suit. October 1944

When asked about the picture, she said, “My suit was Kelly green with black baubles & inserts.   Wow I loved that suit.”
Karen asked, “Do you remember where you bought it, Mom?   There in Wichita after you moved there to work at Boeing or did you already have it?   Wish it were in color!” Her answer was, “I bought it in Wichita possibly at Innes Department store.”

Mom has a quirky smile on her face here. If you look closely, in the background of the photo, there’s a little girl in a coat and hat. Cute.

It's likely that this photo is from the same time. Unfortunately, we don't know the name of Mom's friend.

It’s likely that this photo is from the same time.

Here’s a later discussion on the photos:

Karen Kolavalli – Here’s the content from the postcard: Addressed to Miss Carol J. McGhee, Route 1, Hamilton, Kansas, dated February 19, 1945 from Wichita, Kansas. Gail thanks Carol for writing and comments on the Valentine’s party Carol had. She also asks Carol to tell her about her art class.

Gail Lee Martin – Dec 29, 1999 “How I loved that suit! The flared skirt made me feel sexy when I walked. The suit was a deep kelly green with black trim. So, Carol, tell us about the art classes when you were 11 years old. Lucile Hensley was from Madison and they lived up the hollow north of Madison near the Harlan homestead. Gail

Carol Garriott – Jun 26, 2008 “You looked sexy too! Beautiful suit and the fitted jacket showed off your figure. Gorgeous! I had a Valentine’s party? Wow. Don’t remember that. The art class, I think, was a correspondence thing I did. Later, when I was a teenager, I took another correspondence art class. I wish I still had a drawing I did of a big valley, with a homestead down in the bottom of it, and the panorama is seen from a “mountain” of tumbled boulders. I drew those big rocks painstakingly, trying to get the shadows all on the right side so it would look correct, as if the sun was shining from the upper left. Maybe it was a project for the class, to hone perspective.

My Mom – The NARC

Mom always took an interest in her neighbors, and the local police force should have hired her as an undercover narcotics agent. She spotted unusual activity in the house next door and carefully documented the comings and goings of the residents and visitors there.

They had people drop by at odd hours who often did not go inside the house. From Mom’s observation point, she noted that it seemed like a transaction of some sort. Money changed hands and the visitors departed carrying something small. She told us that they must be dealing drugs.

“Call the police,” we told her. “I can’t,” she said, “they will know it was me that called.”

Her suspicions increased when she viewed an odd happening one trash day. The neighbors put out their trash in the regulation black bag issued by the city. Soon after, an unmarked car pulled to the curb and a man grabbed the bag. He replaced it with a look-alike bag and then drove away. What the heck??

Some days later, she observed the raid by the local police. Multiple squad cars pulled up and police with drawn guns surrounded the small house. They hauled away the residents. Apparently, the trash grab had been a method of collecting evidence without the need for a search warrant.

We all felt relieved that the drug dealers were gone from the neighborhood. Mom may have felt let down that she no longer had her own CSI case to observe.

Gail and Clyde's kitchen window - perfect for observing the neighbors.

Gail and Clyde’s kitchen window – perfect for observing the neighbors.



Looking for the Silver Lining

It’s such a blessing that Mom didn’t suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease, nor did Dad. They spent the last years of their lives in their own home though they depended heavily on family to keep them supplied or to take them to the doctor.

Though pretty much home bound, they cocooned and tried to get pleasure from the resources available to them. Going out to eat or to family gatherings became too much of an ordeal to them. They preferred the quiet and comfort of their home.

There they could read, watch their favorite series or baseball games. They could snack when they were hungry, nap when they felt sleepy.

I’m following some bloggers who write about their aging parents. One is about an Alzheimer’s patient living at home with her daughter. When I see what that does to the one with the disease and to the caregiver, I feel so thankful that Mom and Dad didn’t get that.

Here’s the blog, My Sweet Peanut, which is most touchingly written.

My folks were so fortunate that in their late eighties, they could still make decisions and remember things. Yes, they were frail, but still able to reason things out for themselves.

Here's Mom (Gail Lee Martin) in the yard at her home.

Here’s Mom (Gail Lee Martin) in the yard at her home.

Mom’s Hubcap Story

“The hubcap story is a real funny one. We were going with friends to swim in the river and then have a wiener roast. My friend grabbed the package of wieners from the freezer (back in those days wieners came wrapped in butcher paper).

At the river, we had a wonderful time as our friend’s kids were the same age as ours. When it came time to fix the fire & roast the weiners, it was ground sausage instead 😦 and of course, we had wiener buns. So we washed a hubcap in the river and made long sausages and fried them. Funny but good!

Dogs in the whole county smelled our hubcap for weeks after the event.”

Here's Mom's sister, Carol, with Susan and Owen. I don't think Carol was there on the occasion of the sausage cook out.  The children are my siblings, Susan and Owen.

Here’s Mom’s sister, Carol, with Gail’s children, Susan and Owen. I don’t think Carol was there on the occasion of the sausage cookout, but I wanted a photo of a car to go with Mom’s story.

Canning Season Is Coming

Memory from Gail’s daughter, Ginger. 

During the hot months of summer, all of us worked planting the garden then watering, weeding and picking so there would be food for the winter months. We helped with snapping the beans, stripping the husk off corn and cutting off bad spots. These tedious tasks required lots of hands-on labor.

Then Mom spent long hours in the sweltering kitchen as she canned the vegetables from our garden. Canning the foods required more expertise, so she masterminded that. That pressure cooker frightened me, but she also used a water bath for some foods. After hours of work, she filled the table with rows of jars cooling off before going on the shelves. She tested the tops in case any did not seal properly.

The healthy vegetables served with our home-cooked meals represented hours of labor by the family. The rows of jars filled with green, red and yellow meant we would eat well for months to come.

Mom made pickles and sauerkraut too.

Mom made pickles and sauerkraut too.

More Teterville Memories

Scanners are a wonderful invention and my sister, Karen, is making good use of hers. She just digitized some old Teterville photos that expand our knowledge of that time in Mom’s life.

Here’s her mother, Ruth (Vining) McGhee in Teterville sometime in the 1930s.

Here’s her mother, Ruth (Vining) McGhee in Teterville sometime in the 1930s.

Here she is, little Gail McGhee, standing in the doorway with some of her older Bolte cousins.

Here she is, little Gail McGhee, standing in the doorway with some of her Bolte cousins.

The photo label says, “Ed Bolte’s home, Teterville. Back: Viola Bolte, Wanda Bolte, Gail McGhee. Front: Lillian Phelps with Jackie and Ruth Bolte with Patsy.” There were three Bolte’s with Ruth in their name, but my sister and I narrowed it down to Ruth Maxene Bolte, a sister-in-law to Wanda and Viola and Lillian.

Examine the pictures and you can see how basic the houses were in this oil boom town. My grandmother spent part of her childhood in a sod house in Woodward, Oklahoma, so at least they are an improvement over that.

You can even see the family cat. Looks like a calico cat to me. Another small detail is the pipe leading into Ed Bolte’s home in the second photo. I’m guessing they piped in gas for lighting and heat. Could be a water pipe though. What do you think?

Read more about Teterville in Home Is Where the Heart Is.