McGhee Christmas Memories by C.J. Garriott

My mother’s sister, Carol, shared some memories today of the McGhee family Christmas Eve.

“When I was little, we always opened presents on Christmas Eve, and had pumpkin pie and chicken salad sandwiches. Sometimes my married sisters & their families came to our place for Christmas Eve, other times not. Quite often they came for Christmas dinner.

For Christmas Day, we usually had baked chicken, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and vegetables that Mother had canned. Dessert would be either cake or pie. If we had found gooseberries in the summer to can, we’d have gooseberry pie, always a special treat.

Christmas day breakfast was special too, biscuits or fruit pancakes (whatever she had canned) with homemade jelly, eggs fried or poached, a bit of ham, which we had only occasionally.

For presents I always got books, & paper & colored pencils for drawing, along with a new outfit Mother had made. She also crocheted a new outfit for my doll for every gift-giving occasion.

Daddy would take me shopping to get presents for Mother. She loved embroidered hankies, scarves to wear with her coat, sometimes a book. Mother would order books for Daddy that we picked from the catalog. I still have (and use) The American Woman’s Cook Book Mother and Daddy gave me for Christmas 1953, when I was 19.”

Carol Jean McGhee, in her teens. Her sisters, Melba and Gail were already married by this time.

Carol Jean McGhee, in her teens. Her older sisters, Melba and Gail were already married by this time.

Making Flavored Butters

In Dad’s small notebook where he kept his bread recipes, there were recipes for making flavored butters. These might hit the spot for the holidays or anytime. I’m thinking these are in Mom’s script. The bread recipes written in block letters were probably noted down by Dad.

♥Sweet Orange Butter: Mix 1/2 cup of oleo with 3 tablespoons of orange marmalade.

My recommendations: You can use butter instead of the margarine. Let the butter soften by leaving it out at room temperature for 45 minutes.

♥Applesauce Butter: 1/2 cup of oleo, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of honey, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, 2 tablespoons of applesauce.

♥Garlic Butter: 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.

♥Beer Butter: 1/2 cup oleo, 1/2 cup beer, 1/4 teaspoon salt.

butter in small crock

Serve the butter in a small crock.

♥Lemon Dill Butter: 1/2 cup butter, 2 tablespoons fresh dill chopped, 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Can be made with 1/2 teaspoon of dry dill. Probably don’t need the lemon juice in that case.

♥Garlic Sage Butter: 1/2 cup oleo, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, 2 large garlic cloves minced, 1/4 teaspoon salt. Alternate version uses 1/4 teaspoon of dried minced garlic.

People liked buying the bread at the farmer’s market and having a special spread to use with it. If there was any leftover bread from the market, the folks sometimes stopped by my sister’s workplace. The other employees loved buying fresh bread and the flavored butters to eat on their afternoon break.

Here's Dad (Clyde Martin) slicing his homemade bread.

Here’s Dad (Clyde Martin) slicing his homemade bread.

Mom and Memories of Canning

Some memories shared by Gail’s daughter, Cindy. “This photo reminds me of all the canning mom & dad did through the years. Their pickled beets were wonderful, plus the spice rings.

Another favorite was when they canned pork roast. I added it to noodles or used it in many different ways. One year I brought them a truck load of pumpkins that didn’t sell at the local church sale. That was enough for them to make pumpkin pies for 10-15 years. I loved snapping beans with mom, just for the visiting time it created.

The Butler county museum asked Gail to put up a canning booth at their special night of the "Good Old Days" So with Tonda Alverez from the farmer's market we really wowed them. Even sold quite a bit of canned stuff. I made all the signs on the computer for it.

Gail Martin and Tonda Alverez at the Butler County Museum’s Good Old Days event.

“The Butler county museum asked me to put up a canning booth at their special night of the “Good Old Days” So with Tonda Alverza from the farmer’s market we really wowed them.

Even sold quite a bit of canned stuff. I made all the signs on the computer and showed off all our old canners and other equipment. A real fun night!” Gail

Tonda (on left) and Gail with their canning display.

Tonda (on left) and Gail with their canning display.

Remembering Long Ago Christmas Times

It must have been a struggle to provide a merry Christmas for five and later six children. Here’s a line up with us showing off our presents. It looks like Owen has a new shirt, or is that a pajama top? I can’t figure out the designs on his shirt. My dress appears to be right out of the package. It’s a pretty plaid, but I don’t remember the colors in it now.

Cindy is cuddling a doll that seems to be wearing a clown costume. Is that Susan or Karen sitting in the background? She has a teddy bear, possibly a homemade one.

A number of handmade stuffed toys fill the new little red wagon.  Mom must have spent many hours sewing those toys.

Christmas at the Martin home near Madison, KS in 1954.

Christmas at the Martin home near Madison, KS in 1954.

On the left is the small Christmas tree. It’s sitting on the cedar chest that I think Mom’s dad made for her or is that the one that our dad, Clyde, made?

Missing Shannon

Eight years ago on this date, Gail and Clyde Martin lost their youngest daughter, Shannon. It was sudden, so no one had time to prepare. Almost overnight the family dynamics changed. At 82, Mom and Dad felt bewildered, grief-stricken, and shaken to the core.

Before that, they felt comforted that in their senior years, there were six children providing a safety net for them. Abruptly, they realized that life didn’t always go as planned. They couldn’t count on enjoying the company of their children and seeing their lives unfold over the years.

Shannon was the baby of the family and the first of the Martin children to die. Dad expressed it this way, “Doggone it, kids aren’t supposed to die before their parents.”

Shannon Martin Hyle created this card using Stampin' Up designs and techniques.

Shannon Martin Hyle created this card using Stampin’ Up designs and techniques.

You would think that by now the siblings might have adjusted to the loss of their youngest sister. I look at Shannon’s card with its message of peace. Just seeing that today is like a message from her. She would want us to find peace and acceptance of her passing.

I need to fix in my mind a vision of Shannon, Mom and Dad having a big group hug somewhere in that existential place that human souls go. Dad wasn’t much on religion and church-going, but I’m sure wherever Shannon and Mom are, he’s right there with them. Some call it Heaven, so wherever Heaven is to you, send your best wishes to the three of them.

Gail’s Elephant Collection

A guest post by my sister Cindy Ross: “It’s kind of a funny story about my mom’s elephant collection. I don’t know or remember who gave her the first elephant but the collection grew from there until she had quite a few in all different sizes. I’ve been told it’s good luck if the trunk of the elephant is up rather than down.

She kept the elephants in shelves that someone built into the chimney space of the old house. There were glass doors so you could see them.

One day when I asked mom about her collection, or why she picked them to collect. She laughed saying she didn’t pick them, they picked her ~ because as others saw the she had elephants, friends or family kept bringing her more. Mom wanted to share her collection and tried to see that each of the kids, grandkids and great-grands got an elephant.

Mom had the collection with her at the hospital and the rehab center. She was trying to give them to those who arrived. I didn’t get one at that time, but she told me about her intentions.

Now when I see an elephant I think of her. I feel lucky to have such fond memories.”

These elephants were gifts from Gail's daughter Karen, sent from India.

These elephants were gifts from Gail’s daughter Karen, sent from India.