Heritage Recipe – Turnip Pie

I love to browse vintage newspapers and you never know what you’ll find. Here’s a heritage recipe found in the Perrysburg Journal, an Ohio newspaper.

April 15, 1915 Chronicles of America – Library of Congress collection

The Turnip Pie recipe has these instructions:

Put 2 cups of mashed cooked turnips into a basin, add 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 3 well-beaten eggs, 2 tablespoons of molasses, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 tablespoon powdered ginger, 1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon and 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt. Mix and bake in one crust like a pumpkin pie.

Now, who is brave enough to try this? Please, return and tell me if your family liked it. Maybe I’ll get up my nerve, though I’m not a very adventurous cook.

turnip pie pixabay

It sounds like something that Gail and Clyde Martin might try out. After all, they did make turnip slaw and turnip kraut to can. They liked to introduce new uses for vegetables to their customers at the weekly farmer’s market. They would even prepare samples for people to try.

They also liked to surprise people with foods. Gail made cucumber rings that fooled the taste buds and the eye into thinking they were cinnamon apple rings. Her sweet potato pie easily passed as a pumpkin pie. That makes me think that they might have found this recipe for turnip pie intriguing.

purple top turnips

Plenty of turnips for making turnip pie

Turnip photo by Virginia Allain

Country School Memories

Memories of Attending a Country School – by Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain

I attended a two-room school for three years. That sounds quaint and old-fashioned, but Kansas in the 1950s and early 1960s hadn’t yet consolidated the rural schools. West Branch School, east of El Dorado, Kansas was a square brick building with a spacious basement and on the main floor, the two classrooms.


west branch school from real estate listing.png

West Branch School – rural Butler County, Kansas


Mrs. West taught the first four grades, where my younger sisters, Cindy and Karen attended. I was in the upper grades, taught by Mrs. Mildred Waltman. While I was in 6th grade, my sister Susan was in the 7th grade, and my brother, Owen was in 8th grade, all in the same room. Mrs. Waltman taught all three grades plus the 5th graders.

Those four grades shared one good-sized room. The blackboard covered one wall with some large maps on a roller above it. Classes took turns being instructed at the sturdy table placed in front of the blackboard. The teacher divided her time four ways, switching from math to English to geography and from one grade level to another.

When it wasn’t our grade’s turn at the front of the room, we worked at our desks on assigned work. If we finished our assignment, we could always listen in on the class being taught at the table or we could choose a book to read. The bookshelves ran all across the longest wall under the windows. Being an avid reader, I’d hasten to finish my class work so I’d have time to read.

At the end of the school year reading awards were given. Gold embossed seals, each representing five books read, almost completely covered the inside of my reading certificate in its royal blue fake-velvet cover.


It’s hard to imagine the workload for a teacher handling four grades at once, but Mrs. Waltman rose to the challenge. Each grade consisted of only two to four students, so essentially she customized the curriculum and we received individualized attention.

When West Branch students graduated from 8th grade, they took the bus into El Dorado Junior High to merge in with 400 students for 9th grade. The students from the country schools took placement tests and were assigned to math and English classes based on the results. I noticed that most of us ended up in the honors level classes.

The social adjustment of going from a small school to one so large was tough. Most of the town kids had attended grade schools together and had a two-year head start on Junior High when we arrived. The cliques and friendships formed over the years were not receptive to country kids. We felt like outsiders and I never overcame that feeling all through high school.

We missed the camaraderie of our cozy classroom and the freedom of the playground. In our country school, we knew everyone and they knew us. At recess, all ages from first grade through eighth grade played softball together or jumped rope or played running games. The school ground included a vintage merry-go-round that spun at dizzying speeds when the older boys pulled it round and round. You could sit on the splintery seat and grip the handrail or if you felt daring, you could stand on the seat and hold the upright pole. Sometimes centrifugal force took hold and your feet left the seat while you clung to the pole flying through the air.

When the weather was too bad, we could play in the basement of the school. I remember the 8th graders bringing a record player and we tried to learn the latest dances. This was just a few years before the Beatles took rock music by storm.

We rode the school bus to West Branch and brought our lunches in square metal lunch boxes. At our house fixing five lunches required an assembly line in the morning as we made sandwiches and packaged up homemade cookies. The school provided the square cartons of milk to go with our lunches. I think we had to bring “milk money” to pay for it, but I don’t remember how much it was.

Thank you, Mrs. Waltman, for making my years at a country school, ones that I remember so fondly.

(this has also been posted on the Our Echo website where people can share family stories)

My Grandfather Was Kind

Cover Picture

On left, Gail’s older sister, Melba Harlan holding her daughter, Vicki. Center is Gail and Melba’s grandmother, Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee. Right is Gail Martin. In front is Gail and Melba’s father, Clarence McGhee holding Gail’s children (Owen and Susan). Melba’s two boys, Bob and Tim, are on each side. 1948

Collect your family memories. They might be in emails, Facebook comments, or notes in the mail, but someday they will be gone. We can’t hold onto every bit, but some are special.

The photo below is my grandfather, Clarence McGhee. Can you tell a person’s character from their face? What kind of person would you think he is?

Photos from our family album

I just took Grandpa’s kindness as a given and did not even think of it. Then a cousin who lived far away in Oregon said,

My one memory of Uncle Clarence was a single trip to Kansas when we visited him (in Missouri ) and I was just a child. I remember being amazed at how tall he was. . . And yet that beautiful warm kind face like my Daddy’s. . . That just seems to make a McGhee. I remember my Dad fishing in his great big pond – about the only time I went fishing until grown and going with my husband, John.

Thank you, Cousin Kerry, for getting me to focus on how special my grandfather was and how much his kindness was a major part of his character.

clarence mcghee bird pixabay graphic

My grandfather grew up in the small town of Tyro, Kansas. That was back in the early 1900s.

He worked in the glass factory there making chimneys for oil lamps. Before heading off to France in World War I, he married Ruth Vining, the sister of his best friend, Albert Vining. I created several pages about Ruth and Clarence so you can go there to read further and see more photos.

My mother also wrote about him in her book, My Flint Hills Childhood: Growing Up in 1930s Kansas. After the war, Clarence returned to Kansas and worked many years for Phillips Petroleum. Clarence and Ruth with their 3 daughters lived in company housing and had a steady income during the Great Depression. They lived in the Teterville area and around Madison in the Kansas Flint Hills.

I remember visiting them at their farm near Madison. Grandpa kept scraps of wood in a box under his workbench in the shed. We were allowed to play with those blocks of wood while he worked on a project. One thing that impressed me was a row of baby food jars attached by the lids and filled with different screws, nuts, and bolts. How handy he was.

Outside the door of the shed was a green apple tree. When ripe, the small apples were still green but not tart. My sister, Karen reminded me that beyond the green apple tree was the strawberry bed. Further on was the fence separating the property from the railroad track.

Take Time to Really See Insects

It’s summer and it’s likely that we’ll have some insect encounters over the past few months and into the fall. Your first instinct might be to reach for a flyswatter or some insect spray. I have an alternate suggestion for you.

Not all insects are out to sting or bite you. All have a role to play in our environment, so if the small critter isn’t attacking you, leave it alone.

Photo by Virginia Allain

The picture above is a dragonfly. These are fun to watch as they zoom and swoop over a prairie or around a lake. They are catching and eating mosquitoes and other small insects. Please, don’t kill them.

Photo by Virginia Allain

The caterpillar above might seem a bit bizarre, but take time to view the unique clusters sprouting from its body and the burgundy colored racing stripe down its side. Don’t pick this one up, as the spikes have an irritating effect on human skin.

Read up on the little creatures you see in your yard and you’ll have a new respect for them. The caterpillar above transforms into a small silk moth called the Io Moth. The moth is fairly nondescript until it spreads its wings. The underwings have a large black dot on them with a colorful background.

Photo by Virginia Allain

So, this is an ant hill. Probably you’ve seen these hundreds of times but never really looked at one closely. Again, this is another chance to observe nature right in your backyard. Look at the textures and shape of this ant hill. I found it fascinating.

Our mother, Gail Lee Martin, taught her children to observe and respect nature. That’s a good legacy to pass along to your children. For the future of our planet, we can’t just kill off everything that isn’t human or isn’t a pet or isn’t something that serves as food for humans. All creatures perform a role in balancing nature.

I hope you’ll take a little time this summer to observe the insects around you. Yes, some are harmful to you or to your garden, but you want to adopt a live-and-let-live philosophy for the most part. Use the flyswatter and the bug spray sparingly.

Mom Called Me Ginger

Virginia Allain profile image

Virginia Allain

 All Things Ginger

My mother, Gail Lee Martin, wanted to name me after Ginger Rogers but finally went with a more conservative name, Virginia. They had a family friend named Virginia.

Then they called me Ginger all my life anyway. It’s a fun nickname to have, but I found out it means different things to different people. When I lived in Australia, I found that Ginger was usually a nickname for a red-headed man.

When I first meet people now when they hear the name “Ginger,” they often say “I used to have a cat named Ginger.” Sometimes it’s a dog, or a horse, but it seems to be a common pet name.

Here are all the things that Ginger brings to mind. When I asked my friends, 42% said it makes them think of someone with red hair. 38% said it made them think of Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire. In the younger crowd, 19% associated it with Ginger on Gilligan’s Island television series.

Reasons to love being a GINGER

Ginger sounds perky and youthful and spicy. One lady couldn’t remember my name on our second meeting. “It’s something spicy, isn’t it? Like nutmeg.” Close, but not quite.

When I was a library director, I used my given name, Virginia, as “Ginger” just sounded more like a fan dancer than a librarian. As a writer, I use my official name also, but my friends still call me Ginger.

Ginger Is a Flower

ginger flower

Photo by Ginger Allain

Ginger Is a Popular Pet Name

Ginger is a color description for cats, meaning one with reddish-gold fur. The name is also popular as a pet name to mean energetic and peppy. On a list of popular dog names in the U.S., Ginger ranked #24. For cats, the name Ginger ranked #28 on the Australian list. People name their horses Ginger too.

There’s a Ginger Beer

It’s not alcoholic, it is more an offbeat soft drink like root beer is. Anyway, we discovered it last summer when a friend showed us how to make a Moscow Mule. It requires ginger beer, lime juice, and vodka.

You drink it in special copper cups with lots of ice.

Moscow Mule Copper Mug Low Poly Geometric Art
Moscow Mule Copper Mug Art

Even More Ginger Things

ginger tea

ginger ale

gingerbread men

gingerbread architectural details on Victorian houses

candied ginger root

ginger, the cooking spice


Inspiring Memories for Writing

Gail wrote this in an email back in September 2011.
I once took a hand full of Jacks and the ball to visit a group of elderly people like me and tossed them out on the table and started playing jacks like we did as a kid. Then asked them to write about the games they remembered resulting in some very good stories.
Childhood Jacks Postcard
Childhood Jacks Postcardby cinnamonbite
Another time I took maple seeds and threw them up in the air and as they came swirling down like miniature helicopters everyone laughed and remembered doing that too. I really like getting others to write their memories.
My one almost failure was when I asked a group of ladies to write about the doll they remembered most and one lady started to cry. We finally found out she had never ever had a doll. So I quickly talked her into writing about the doll she had wished for the most. One of the ladies had a large collection of dolls from her childhood and at our next meeting she brought one to give the other lady and yes that brought tears to all the group.
I had them put their stories into 3-ring notebooks and recommended they make copies for all their families. That was one wonderful group. If I remember right there was around 25 to 30 ladies and one man in that series of writing meetings. We each took turns reading our stories. Memory writing is so important to the writer as well as the readers. 

Gail Lee Martin, author and leader of memory writing classes

 Here are some memory prompts for you to start writing about your childhood.

A Comment on Mom’s Book

Six years ago, a friend of Gail Martin on the Our Echo website sent this comment as she was reading My Flint Hills Childhood.
“So far, Gail, I’m lost in the pleasantness of all your memories. No critical words…no terrible tragedy. Just an honest and open type of life that seems to have faded away
as the years have gone by, for the most part.
I know it is probably wrong to think more of yesteryear than today, but I wish the country held to the same traditions and standards of before. I’d gladly give up the Internet and all modern conveniences to enjoy the good times like you and I had growing up. Ahhh….”   R.S.
You can preview the book at the Blurb website.
Her note to Gail reminded me of an earlier post on this blog, Living in the Good Old Days.

A Hitch in Her Git-Along

I remember Mom using this funny, old-fashioned saying a number of times. I’ll bet it goes back to Grandma Ruth and even earlier.

Perhaps it originally referred to someone who limped or had difficulty walking. Then over the years, it came to mean someone who’s acquired an impediment to forward action. For example, when someone campaigned for mayor but received some bad publicity, you could say, “that sure put a hitch in her git-along.”

mom sayings

Things Mom would say

Slower than molasses in January – When it was cold, molasses congealed enough to be hard to pour. This phrase was used to prod a kid who was dragging their feet about completing a chore or was slow getting ready for school in the morning.

Hold your horses – Don’t be in such a big hurry. Wait a minute.

Burning a hole in your pocket – Mom said this to a kid who couldn’t wait to spend money. Maybe it was money received as a gift or it was our cash prizes from the county fair.

Don’t spend it all in the same place – This was said when someone gave you money. The intent was to stretch it. It could also be a joke, particularly when it was a very small amount of money.

A lick and a promise – This meant to do a chore in a slapdash way or to tidy up quickly. The promise part was to do a better job later.

You ain’t just a woofing – I always thought this meant “you’re serious, you aren’t just bragging or making something up.” Guess the modern phrase would be “You’re not just blowing smoke.”

Tell me about some colorful sayings that your family used. Are the ones above familiar to you?

Vintage Soda Ads

Sodas, Colas, Pop…  (memories by Gail Martin’s daughter, Virginia)

I remember sipping orange pop at the corner gas station as a kid. We could choose from grape or strawberry or chocolate pop from the big red cooler filled with icy water while Dad had the Pontiac’s gas tank filled. Ah, so cool and refreshing on a hot Kansas day.

There was a bottle opener on the side of the red cooler to pry off the metal cap. Then you took a big swig of flavored soda. The strawberry would make red streaks down your chin and on your shirt if you weren’t careful drinking it.

Vintage soda machine - Coca Cola

Old time soda cooler like you would see in a gas station. Photo by Virginia Allain

If you share my memories of vintage sodas, then you’ll enjoy these retro ads that I’ve found and photographed. You’ll see these old tin signs on the walls of restaurants along with other antique and nostalgia items.

We didn’t have pop at home, even for picnics or special occasions. We drank Koolaid or lemonade back in the 1950s and 1960s. Soda was too expensive.

kayo soda tin sign

KayO chocolate soda tin advertising sign.

Whether you call it pop or soda or cola depends on the region you grew up in, but the exact wording doesn’t matter. Some of these old advertisements have been reproduced on tin signs which people like to use to decorate their family room.

Enjoy this trip down memory lane.

hot dog tin sign

Hot dog and a Coca Cola for 15 cents – the good old days.

Photos by Virginia Allain

In the comment section, tell me your memories of drinking sodas as a kid (or did you call them pop)?


Visiting Mom’s Writing Group

Post by Gail Martin’s daughter, Virginia.

Some years ago, I accompanied my mother to her writer’s group. She attended Prairie Prose and Poetry regularly. The time that I went with her, they were meeting in the old train depot in El Dorado.
They started off the meeting going around the table with each person telling about their recent successes. After several told of articles they’d recently published in magazines and what the pay was, then it was my turn. I introduced myself and told them I’d just made $300,000 with my writing submission.
2008-08-17 gail and ks photos 417

They all looked amazed, but then I added the punch line: “I wrote a grant application for my library and it was funded for $300,000.” No, it wasn’t money in my pocket but it was money earned with my writing for the library where I was the library director. It enabled the library to get computers and lots of high-tech networking equipment that we needed.

Those years of writing grants for the library taught me the power of persuasive writing. Making my application as clear and complete as possible while tugging at the heartstrings of the grant reviewers would get funding for my library’s special projects.

It takes a sophisticated network to support a large number of public computers. My library was in a very low-income area along the border to Mexico. Many students were dependent on the public library for computer access as they could not afford the equipment or the Internet fees at home. So the demographics favored my grants being funded, but I like to think my pithy descriptions and touching vignettes carried the day.
Have you used your writing to help an organization or your workplace?