Clyde and Gail – A Love Story

This short slideshow is one I created for the folks on their 65th anniversary. It’s from Smilebox and it takes a few seconds to load before it starts. You click on the arrow to move through the slides.

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You can read more about their romance on a page I made for them.

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Not My Mama’s Chicken and Dumplings

The restaurant had chicken and dumplings on the menu and it came with a biscuit. It’s been way too long since I’ve had either, so I ordered it.

They served the old-fashioned meal on a trendy rectangular plate. Chunks of chicken with a thick yellow sauce filled the plate. Where are the dumplings? Oh, wait, these flat things must be what they are calling dumplings.

To me, they looked more like thick squarish noodles. The meal was hearty and flavorful, but it wasn’t like my mother’s dumplings.

Back at home, I pulled out my vintage Searchlight Recipe Book, just like the one Mom used all those years. Mine dates back to 1946. I imagine it’s where she found her recipe.

“Select a plump chicken. Dress. Cut in pieces. Place in saucepan. Cover with boiling water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Cover. Simmer slowly until chicken is tender.”

Here's a fine rooster to make the chicken and dumplings with.

Here’s a fine rooster to make the chicken and dumplings with.

Then it gets to the part about the dumplings. Here’s what you need to make the dumplings:

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons of shortening (Mom always used Crisco)

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt


“Sift flour, measure and sift with salt and baking powder. Cut in shortening with 2 spatulas. Add milk until a thick drop batter is obtained. Drop by teaspoonfuls into boiling broth. Cover. Boil 12 minutes. Serve at once.” 

These dumplings are round, moist and fluffy on the outside and a little dry in the center. You don’t serve them on fancy rectangular plates.

PS – The biscuit at the restaurant was perfect. Mom would have approved of it.

Leave a Trail of Bread Crumbs

Someday, someone interested in family history will search for you. You’ll be long gone from this earth, and won’t be here to answer their questions.

Here are a few ways to leave a trail of bread crumbs for them to follow. Make a list of all the jobs you had over the years. Create a list of addresses and the years that you lived at each.

Keep a diary. Write letters. Write a summary of the high points of your life. Make a timeline for your life.

You probably won’t do all of these suggestions, but even one or two of these would gladden the heart of someone searching for you.

I’m fortunate that some of my ancestors kept diaries. My great-aunt Bertha McGhee saved 40 years of her letters. She did some of the other activities as well, which will be a big help when I work on self-publishing her life story.

Mom believed in this and left her own trail of bread crumbs with her writings and her diaries. She also preserved those left by others, like Bertha’s papers and Albert’s World War I diary. Because she did, I’m able to share these many memories with you here and in future family books.

Gail's uncle, Albert Vining, left this diary from World War I about his experience in France.

Gail’s uncle, Albert Vining, left this diary from World War I about his experience in France.

Remembering Saturdays at the Movies

One of Mom’s stories that I really enjoy was her description of going to the Princess Theater in Eureka on Saturdays in the 1930s. That was the family shopping day in town. You can read her story on the Our Echo website or in her book, My Flint Hills Childhood.

The vintage buildings in Eureka, Kansas.

The vintage buildings in small town – Kansas.

I would love to see a picture of the Princess Theater, both of the interior and the exterior. There’s an online spot called Topix for Eureka, so I posed the question there if anyone had a photo. Although no photo has surfaced, the query did spark some interesting memories. Here are some of the responses:

Sue Ellen of Wichita shared this memory: “My Grandfather Thomas Archibald Rector was the projectionist from 1928 to 1960 at the Princess Theater in Eureka Kansas. At one time he also managed it. He brought the Princess from the silent days of projection to the talkies and even opened the Drive In and still ran the matinees at the Princess.

My mother Arleta Jeanne Rector Grove spent a great deal of time there attending movies through her childhood too. When we were little (born 1951) my brother and I would often go with my Mother for a Saturday afternoon show and we would sit in the balcony while Grandpa ran the booth. He helped everybody get ready on movie night and he was a wonderful man. He learned the projection craft from his brother-in-law at the Emporia Theater before coming to build a home in Eureka.

My favorite movie I saw there and scared me to pieces was when Darby O’Gill and the Little People came out!!!”

“Also, about mid day after matinee time if we were in town, Grandpa would let us kids go clean up the aisles. While we were helping clean up after the matinee, he would play newsreels from WWII. I knew my father had been in WWII so it was like learning about my father as a hero since he was a part of it.”

I always loved the smell of popcorn as I walked into the Princess!
Thanks for the memories as Bob Hope would say.

Sue Ellen added more background, writing this time from Springdale, AR: “I was just thinking about the night Grandpa Rector was showing Darby O’Gill and The Little People. It was during the first week he played it-probably a Friday or Saturday night. We went down to the newspaper stand that sold penny candy (can’t remember its name- someone help me) before the show. We bought two very small brown paper bags FULL of candy like chocolate balls, Jolly ranchers all flavors, etc. The we went to the movie. I got so scared at the BANSHEE that I covered my eyes till it was passed. My mother, brother Ray, sister Lynn and I went. What fun!”

Tammy M of Shawnee, OK told her memories: “My father Michael Johnston Bought this theater in June of 1970 and sold either in 71 or 72. I am asking if anyone has pics…. Please!!! Thank You … My subject this theater plz.”

Glenn Felter of Howard, KS remembered: “When I was younger I spent a lot of time going to the Princess. I really enjoyed it and it was sad when they closed it down!”

Joan Downing Barg of Coffeyville, KS tells some stories: “My brother Jim worked as an usher. Remember them? I worked at the popcorn machine when I was in highschool (1950’s) It was a fun job as I got to see all my friends coming and going to the movies. The owner/manager then was Mr and Mrs. Ailey. Mabel Brown sold tickets. After they retired the new manager was Charlie Shoemaker, I think, that was a long time ago and I may be wrong about the name. Those were the times of “Ma and Pa Kettle” and Francis, the Talking Mule” and people would be lined up from the Princess down the block to the Greenwood Hotel. There would be two showings…one at 7:00 and one at 9:00 and the theater would be packed both times. It was the only entertainment in Eureka at the time.

We live in Coffeyville, Ks. now and don’t even have a movie theater here. They are trying to restore the Midland so they can show movies at certain times. But I don’t think it will ever be as wonderful as the days of “The Princess”!!”

I finally found a photo on Facebook of the exterior of the Princess Theater in Eureka.
(I don’t know who took the photo, so let me know if it is yours)

Mom Loved Aprons

Some people collect old-fashioned aprons. Vintage aprons like grandma used to wear…. It seems a rather humble item to collect, when other people search for rare artifacts or expensive antiques. Aprons combines nostalgia and ease of collecting to make it a growing collectible.

My mother and sister hunted for them at yard sales. Another good place to find these is at Goodwill stores and on eBay.

The photo shows my mom, Gail Lee Martin, with her apron display. She’s about to give her talk to a homemaker’s club about collecting vintage aprons.

She displayed the vintage aprons on a clothesline around the room.

She displayed the vintage aprons on a clothesline around the room.

Mom would string up a clothesline and pin her aprons on it to display them for the talk. She would read her story about her mother’s apron which really tugged at the heartstrings of her audience. Then she would get them to share their own stories.

Part of the program was an apron fashion show. She let them pick out an apron to model while told about the style or history of the one they were wearing.

The book includes her prize-winning essay on "My Mother's Apron."

The book includes her prize-winning essay on “My Mother’s Apron.”

You can preview part of My Flint Hills Childhood: Growing Up in 1930s Kansas online.

It was a big hit at senior centers, homemaker's clubs and nursing homes.

It was a big hit at senior centers, homemaker’s clubs and nursing homes.

As part of her talk, she gave tips on taking care of vintage aprons. Most old aprons are too fragile to just toss into your clothes washer and dryer. You may need to hand wash them. Regular laundry detergent is too harsh so look at the cleaners used by quilt collectors. The same techniques for handling a vintage quilt will work for old aprons.

Here’s a video showing a talk about antique aprons:

Gail Lee Martin with her award certificate for her story "My Mother's Apron"

She submitted it to the Something to Remember Me By – Legacy Project contest.

Here’s Mom with her award for the apron story.

Mom’s Writing Tools

This is a comment that Mom wrote on a blog I had. It’s dated November 7, 2008 at 6:53 pm. She was 84 years old.

“I started writing with a pencil and a big chief tablet with lines across the pages. Now I am writing on a computer and posting online. In between I advanced to writing with pen and ink, ballpoint pens, typewriters, improved typewriters, Cannon Starwriter 80 word processors, I wore out at least three, so the repair tech. said.

I began to receive requests to teach others my writing ideas. What a thrill! I also had five daughters who gladly critiqued my ramblings. Now I’m on my 4th computer with grammar, spellchecker, and a grandson who keeps my computers doing what they are supposed to do. What writer would ask for more!” Mom

Dad and the Gas Station

Clyde Martin and his brother Howard ran the gas station together around 1950. Here’s what Howard said about it, “The station was on the corner where the post office is now in Madison, Kansas. It was a Co-Op station, farmer-owned. We just ran it on a salary-commission base. Very little salary and not enough commission.”

This would have been the era of full-service gas stations where the attendant filled your gas tank and washed your windshield.

I seem to remember Mom telling me they delivered water with a tank truck as well. Because times were tight, they gave credit but couldn’t always collect. With young families to support, the brothers had to give up on their gas station venture.

The CO-OP station shown here is not the one in Madison, but gives you an idea of a CO-OP station from that time period.


Martha and Arlyn Schuler sent me a message when Mom died. She said, ” I kept the books for Clyde and Howard when they had the station. Probably, didn’t know what I was doing, but I enjoyed it.” She is the cousin of Howard Martin’s first wife, Marjorie.

One thing my sister, Cindy, and I both remember about the gas station is the calendar over the desk inside. It featured goofy Lawson Wood’s monkeys for each month. I was fascinated by the antics of those monkeys.

I vaguely remember the cluttered interior of the gas station where fan belts, tire gauges, and cans of oil crowded the small space. The smell of oil and gasoline lingered in the air and oily fingerprints on the paperwork and the desk made me reluctant to touch anything.