This book from Gail Lee Martin’s bookshelf is reviewed here by her daughter, Virginia Allain.
Growing up in the Pegram family is lovingly detailed but not in a maudlin way. This is like Little House on the Prairie updated to the 1920s and 1930s. It’s a time of hardship and learning to make the most of what you have.
It’s the stories honed by many retellings as the family sat on the porch in the twilight after a hard summer day of working in the garden. The rememberings are woven together into this very personal book that also tells the story of that era.
I’ve read dozens of memoirs from this time period and this one is special. A very enjoyable read.
My sister, Karen Kolavalli, is our guest blogger for today: “A snow storm like this meant our country school would be closed when I was a kid. All six of the Martin kids would have been out playing in the snow until we were sodden and frozen. We’d come in and huddle around the wood stove to thaw out. Mom would already have hot homemade cocoa ready for us and we could look forward to potato soup with bread and homemade butter or pancakes and eggs for supper.
Today I’m content to watch the snow coming down from the warmth of my home. The TV news indicates that’s a really good idea.”
Snow in the Flint Hills of Kansas back in the 1920s. I don’t know if that is little Gail McGhee in the back seat or not.
If Mom were still here, we could ask her if she remembers the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 that raged from Kansas to Michigan. I did find a poem she wrote in 2006 inspired by the snow and ice that Kansas was having then. In 2007, icy day motivated her to revise Ice Storm and feature it with her granddaughter’s photos on the Our Echo website.
Here’s another snowy photo from the McGhee family album.
Clarence McGhee pulling daughters, Melba and Gail, on a sled. In the background is the lease house. Maybe 1926 or so.
(post by Ginger Allain) Growing up in the country, I remember a vintage wheel that served as a trellis in our yard. Mom grew clematis on it. We have few photos from that time, mostly black-and-white ones.
Wheel from an old hay rake (at Clyde and Gail Martin’s home)
In examining the photo, my sister and I decided it wasn’t a wagon wheel or a buggy wheel. It seemed too high and too slender for either of those.
An octogenarian helped us out by identifying it as the wheel of a farm implement called a hay rake.
Here’s Les Paugh’s memory of such things, “I got to thinking when I was 12-years-old we had a rake that set at an angle and windrowed the hay for the baler. I tried to find a picture of one, no luck. Also tried to find a picture of the baler I worked on.
This was in 1945 before the war ended. The baler needed one man on the tractor and two on the baler, one tying the wires and one poking the wires. The owner of the ranch couldn’t get anybody to tie the wires, my dad told him I could tie the wires. He said he would pay me six bits an hour, dad told him “you will pay him one dollar an hour, a man’s wages for a man’s work, or look for two men.” He said OK. I worked all summer. My earnings bought me a horse and saddle.”
I checked for a picture of a hay rake and finally found one in a newspaper from 1900.
The Owosso times. Owosso, Michigan, hay rake, January 19, 1900, Chronicling America « Library of Congress