In 2006, the Our Echo website featured Gail Lee Martin in their monthly In the Spotlight. Here’s that story.
“I learned early to cherish the written word. I am the middle daughter of Clarence & Ruth McGhee’s three girls and we were a reading family. My folks told me I was named after characters in a book like Barbara Carpenter was. My namesakes were heroine Gail Ormsby and hero Lee Purdy in The Enchanted Hill by Peter B. Kyne published in 1924 the year I was born.
I grew up living in Phillips Petroleum Company oil field camps, helping fight prairie fires and worrying about labor unions and survived a prairie rattlesnake bite as a six-year-old. I kept the rattles from that snake for years. I graduated from high school in the tiny town of Hamilton nestled among the oil fields in the Flint Hills of Kansas. During WWII, I helped build B-29 bombers at Boeing Aircraft factory in Wichita. After the war, I returned home and married my high school, farming boyfriend and we are still together after 61 years.
Many things spark my writing instincts. When I saw a 100-year-old friendship quilt in the Butler County museum, I wanted to know the story behind it. I researched everything I could find about the twelve-year-old girl who made it. Besides making each block with material from different neighbors, school teachers, schoolmates, and relatives, she documented each piece of material. Whenever I look at this one-of-a-kind quilt in the museum, I see a vision of a lonely little girl spending days, weeks, even years on her great masterpiece. Now my husband wants me to write about the twenty-five-pound grass carp I caught. It took me longer to catch than it will take me to write about it.
Many of my stories are written because of a family connection. I researched and wrote ‘Landscaping With A Hobby’ because of interest in bricks, especially Kansas bricks. My father, uncle, and grandfather worked at one of the brick factories in Tyro, Kansas in the early 1900s. Such fun exploring the backyard of a brick collector in my own hometown. I took my granddaughter, Kristy Ross along as my photographer. Her photos made my article come to life.
My teenage dream of being an airplane pilot like Amelia Earhart resulted in taking a flight over Wichita in a small airplane and my fear of heights made me realize I could never follow Amelia’s steps to fame. Instead, I researched and wrote a story about Jack Thomas, El Dorado’s World War II Flying Ace. His flying fights with the enemy scared me all over again.
I never thought about being a writer. I was always just writing something. During study hall in high school; while my children took naps in the 1940s and in waiting rooms everywhere. I have kept a daily journal of happenings around me for many years. Now here I am at the age of 81 with a writing biography that impresses my children as well as myself and earned me the Kansas Authors Club’s state writing achievement award in 1997.
During our retirement years, we went back to Clyde’s farming roots and planted gardens that got bigger each year even though our children had all married and had homes of their own. When nature let us grow too much produce to give away to our family, friends, and neighbors, we would preserve the rest for the winter months the way our mothers did. Then we found and joined a local farmer’s market to sell the rest of the surplus produce. This provided some extra money to supplement our Social Security paycheck. I soon was delving into the twenty-year history of the market. I’ll share the results of that project in a post real soon. I find time to write almost every day and learning to use the word processor on the computer makes it so much easier. But that is another story. Everyday life has given me more interesting topics than I can find time to write about.”