Make a Star Ornament from a Paper Bag

Post by Virginia Allain – This was an idea that I wanted to show Mom. I was sure she would be making these by the dozens in no time. These can go on a tree, decorate a package, or hang on the door handle.

Brown Paper Star Ornaments

Using a printable star pattern, trace two same-sized stars on a brown paper bag. Cut these out using pinking shears or craft scissors. Don’t worry, the pencil lines will be inside the star.


Glue the two stars together except for one tip. Leave an opening to put in the filling.


Pull apart a cotton ball so it’s loose and stuff it into the opening of the star. Use a pencil to distribute the stuffing the way you want. I like most of mine in the center. You could also use a bit of quilt batting or some used dryer sheets bunched up.

Cut a piece of raffia to loop at the top for hanging. Put the cut ends inside the opening of the star and glue it shut, securing the hanging loop.


Add that homespun, country-look with faux stitches around the edge. Use a black marker for these. Space them evenly.

Tie another piece of raffia into a bow and glue it to the front of the star. Glue some buttons to finish the theme.

saved red buttons

Always save buttons for future use. (photo by Virginia Allain)

Anytime you discard a piece of clothing because of wear or stains, cut off the buttons and save them. A stash of buttons comes in handy to have for clothing repairs or for a craft like this.

Vintage Christmas Candy Figures

Many years ago, maybe as much as 50 years, I remember Christmas figures with candy in them. These plastic figures included a snowman, a Santa on skis, and a red horse with wheels.
vintage plastic snowman

Rosbro plastic snowman from the 1950s. A fun collectible.

They were fun to play with and pretty sturdy. Many are still around today. Often, the pipe breaks off the snowman and the reins of the horse are gone.

I happened to find some at yard sales and flea markets, some twenty years or so ago. They brought back childhood memories of 1950s Christmas times. Now, I use them in my Christmas decorating.

christmas vintage toys

Rosbro Santa on green skis, snowman with a pipe, and red horse on green wheels.

You can find them on eBay at prices of $10 to $40 depending on condition and demand. Having the box adds to the value. My Santa no longer has the lightbulb and cord.

These seasonal figures were made by the Rosbro Plastic Inc. of Providence, Rhode Island. The company also made hard plastic figures for Easter, Halloween, and other holidays.

vintage santa skis

Rosbro Santa with original box. 

(all photos by Virginia Allain)

Other Christmas figures Rosbro made were white reindeer, a Santa on a bicycle, and Santa with reindeer and a wagon. Follow the link if you’d like to read more about collecting Rosbro hard plastic Christmas figures.

Do you remember any of these from long ago?

The Good Old Days???

Our guest blogger today is Monte Manka. He grew up in the 1930s like Gail Lee Martin did in Central Kansas. They met later in life through their writing when both were in their eighties. Monte writes poems and lots of nostalgia pieces. He just had his 91st birthday this week!
 I went to the grocery store today and got a half-gallon of milk and it started me to thinking—

In the good old days, I would get up in the morning in the early A.M. and set under the Holstein or Jersey and pull on those warm teats and get my milk. With my head buried in her flank, I could tell if she was going to kick me or not and I could get out of the way. (was not always successful though.) I loved to be hit in the head with a tail full of cockle burrs or in the winter time a tail with frozen urine on it. The feeling was the same, a bump on the head. When it was 100 degrees in the shade or 27 degrees below zero those critters had to be taken care of, come rain or shine.


An old style cream separator.

Then those calves would come along and you had to train them to drink out of the bucket–more problems–they seemed to get something wrong with them and you had to doctor them, more problems. When you finally got the milk into the house and separated, you had to wash the separator. This was another chore of mine. One part had 123 disks on it and they were numbered. The disks went in numerical order. The buckets had to be washed and by that time it was time to do it all over again. BAH TO THE GOOD OLD DAYS.


While at the grocery store I also got a loaf of bread and it started me to thinking again.
In the good old days, we took our wheat to the mill at Cedar Point and had it ground for flour, cracked wheat for breakfast food, and then took it home. Mother made bread from the new flour. The old wood stove felt good in the wintertime but was hot in the summertime.

I spent time plowing, disking, harrowing and drilling the wheat. This was always in the hottest time of the summer when you would either thrash or combine. I always missed the Rodeo at the Countryman Ranch at Cassoday. After sitting on the tractor with the heat from the tractor motor blowing in my face, and the combine engine blowing hot air on my back, I was well done by the time the day was finished. Then to the milking again.

leslie and monte manka wheat fiels south of house 1934

Monte L. Manka and his brother Leslie in the wheat field – about 1934

That wheat, that seems easy to raise is a gamble-one year it was a disease called RUST, the next it was a hail storm, the next it was too dry, the next it was too wet, the next it was the grasshoppers, that year was a plague about 1931, the corn on Teters farm east of El Dorado a couple miles, had no leaves left on the stalk after the grasshoppers visited them. I think you have better odds on the crap table in Las Vegas. One year Dad got a check from Kansas, City Grain for $2,000.00 for a carload of wheat, we took turns feeling it. Out of six years, we had one good harvest. The good old days- Yeah sure


While at the grocery store I was told to pick up some pork chops and that started me to thinking —–
We had a mean old sow. She bit my uncle on the leg and put a couple gashes in it. He did not quite make it over the fence.
Now, this sow was the ugliest thing you ever saw and I could never see what the boar saw in her. She would have the most pigs and the healthiest pigs of any of the good-looking sows. These hogs would have to be watched closely to keep them free of screwworms. More work more worry.

Once we had a bout with cholera and we lost 50 head that was ready to go to market. Needless to say, we had a big barbecue, too bad that we could not eat the meat. My uncle would give my brother and me a pig to sell if we would help him take care of them. One year we got $3.00 for our effort a few years later we got $6.00 then the market started to rise and no more free pigs. The good old days Phooey.

pig in nb


A Few Good Things about the Good Old Days

There were some things that were good like the filling station on the corner. Nufer’s gas was 18 cents a gallon but you got your tires checked, windshield washed, oil checked, a smile and a thank you. The good old days, Yeah.

When you came to town on Saturday you could take ten wrappers from ten Golden Crust bread loaves and get a free pass to the Eris and see the latest Ken Maynard western. I do not remember what the popcorn or soda was then, probably ten cents. After the matinee, we would go home and milk those stupid cows, and start another week of fun. Yeah

Ken Maynard 1926 vintage portrait card
Ken Maynard 1926 vintage portrait card

Another good thing-a handshake was as good as a signed contract, Not now it seems like the honest people are getting fewer and farther between. Out here you had better have twenty signed contracts, even then someone will break them all, and you are stuck with a lawsuit.

I always hear someone saying “Oh for the good old days.” I think back and no TV, no VCR, no microwave, no late model car. My gosh, I wouldn’t trade today for anything.

Written by Monte L. Manka

What’s Your Favorite Pie?

My sister Cindy said, “Pumpkin pie with whipped cream is one of my favorites for Thanksgiving, then cherry, apple or chocolate cream. Our dad, Clyde, enjoyed making pecan pie using the pecans he meticulous picked out of the shell. In the winter time, there was always a pan full of nuts and his picking tools next to his chair. When it came to walnuts he used his own method of cleaning the hulls off, then tossing them in the cement mixer to wash before cracking them open.”

pumpkin pie pixabay

Then my aunt, CJ, mentioned that a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie made by family friend, Tonda Alvarez might be the reason she’s feeling better today. I doubt that Tonda has found a cure for flu or colds, but strawberry rhubarb pie certainly perks up your taste buds.

tonda alvarez rhubarb pie - pic by CJ garriott

Tonda Alvarez’ wonderful strawberry rhubarb pie (photo by CJ Garriott)

My husband favors apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on top. I like that but in the fall, pumpkin pie is my first choice. How about you? What’s your favorite pie?


Stocking Up for Thanksgiving

Time to buy the turkey or ham and all the trimming for the holiday feast. I’m sure your list on the week before Thanksgiving includes cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and other traditional foods. The Publix Supermarket that I use was so busy today, there were no shopping carts in the cart area. My husband hunted around the parking lot and returned triumphantly with one.

retro-1950 shopping pixabay

Shopping for groceries in the 1950s

Much of our Thanksgiving meal was homegrown in my childhood years. We didn’t raise our own turkeys but the mashed potatoes and the green beans came from our bountiful garden. Gail Lee Martin would have shopped at the local IGA market for the cans of cranberry sauce. We always had the jellied kind that you served in slices. Now, I opt for the whole berry, but still from a can.

The pies were homemade with Gail rolling out the pie crust in the farmhouse kitchen. There would be pumpkin pie and whipped cream to go on it. Someone would assemble the 5-cup salad with the luxury of mandarin oranges, tiny marshmallows, shredded coconut, pineapple, and a sweet creamy sauce tying it all together. So the shopping list would include those.

Gail wrote about the Thanksgiving meals from her childhood. The 1930s holiday didn’t necessarily include a turkey. Read the details at We Gave Thanks Prairie Style. The description shows how times change but the family gathering was still special.  The desserts included a gooseberry pie made from berries they picked along the Cottonwood River. Sometimes pumpkin wasn’t available so a faux pumpkin pie was made with other ingredients.

Clyde and Gail Martin just finishing Thanksgiving dinner_Shanno

Thanksgiving in the 1970s – Clyde and Gail Martin.

What special dishes are you serving this Thanksgiving? I hope you don’t forget any of the special ingredients while shopping.


The Chelsea Kid – Monte Manka


Gail Lee Martin and Monte Manka first met on the Our Echo website. Gail served as the webmaster and encouraged everyone who posted there. She commented on every poem and each essay. Monte was the same generation as Gail, an octogenarian, who grew up just a few miles from where Gail lived in Kansas. Now he lives on the west coast, but through the serendipity of the Internet, they met online. Learn more about him below.

The kids at the Chelsea, Kansas school in the 1930s. 

Sharing an Octogenarian’s Poems and Memories of the Great Depression

Monte Manka grew up in Chelsea, Kansas in the 1930s. Now in his eighties, he records his memories in poems and essays for future generations to understand what it was like in those days.

This webpage is just one in a series that features Monte Manka’s poetry of the Great Depression. This octogenarian retains vivid memories of Kansas farm life and his youth. He still writes poetry and posts it on the Our Echo website. Don’t miss the other webpages with Monte Manka’s poems. They include such old-fashioned topics as pie suppers and chivarees.

(photos used with permission from Monte Manka)

The Old Homestead

a poem by Monte Manka

As I travel across the State

I had to see

The place where I was born

Out there on the prairie

The old house is still standin’

Out there in a pile of dust

The windmill still upright

Now just a tower of rust.

That lone post in the front yard

Where once hung that dinner bell

To call Dad in from the field

To eat and rest a spell

Is slightly leaning

Warped by wind and heat

To hear that bell ring one more time

Would make my life complete.

That old front porch

With that bench swing

We’d sit there in the evening

And hear the locusts sing.

I remember fields of green grass

That yielded tons of prairie hay

To feed the livestock

On a cold winter day.

Then Mother Nature

With a twist of fate

Turned on a four-year drought

Just when things were goin’ great.

A cyclone blew down the barn

Ripped shingles off the roof

Dust started blowing in

Doors and windows, not dust proof.

Nothing but drifted soil

Now and then a tuft of grass

If only those happier times

Could last and last.

Dad had a part-time job

Working for the State

We moved into town

Before it was too late.


Monte Manka’s Dust Storm Memories

“We held Chelsea School outside the schoolhouse. The air in the Schoolhouse hung heavy with the dust. We would go to the pump and wet our handkerchiefs and hold them over our nose as we read out of our Bobs Merrill Primer”. …

He continues on telling about having to dust off the paper before writing the lesson. You’ll enjoy his memories.

(Excerpt from Lost in the Front Yard by Monte L. Manka. There is more on the Our Echo website.)

Monte Manka’s Poems and Essays on the Our Echo Website – Visit the site to read all of Monte Manka’s writing

Our Echo provides a supportive community online for writers to share their family memories and other writing. It’s a great site to post your memory pieces on for your whole family to enjoy.

our echo

Monte Manka with an Oliver Hart-Parr tractor.

Monte Grew up on the Farm

Monte Manka: “Me and the Oliver Hart-Parr after it was converted to rubber–There is a tractor.

This tractor had steel wheels and was a rough riding machine. When the wheels were changed and rubber tires were put on it was a pleasure to ride down a gravel road to the field.”


Book Award Named after Gail Lee Martin

In 2010, Gail Lee Martin won the Ferguson Kansas History Book Award for her book My Flint Hills Childhood. The award, presented annually at the Kansas Authors Club convention, was discontinued in 2017. Gail was one of the last winners of the award.

The amount given to the winner, under the Ferguson Book Award, was $100.00. Gail’s daughters decided to revive the history book award using funds donated to KAC for the Gail Martin memorial fund. The new name for the award is the Gail Lee Martin Kansas History Book Award it will continue for at least 10 years. If more donations are contributed to the memorial fund, it can run longer. In previous years, the memorial fund paid for speakers for the convention.

If you’d like to check out what the contest rules were for the Ferguson Book Award, here’s the site:

It would be good to streamline the process, so if you have any suggestions, please add them in the comments on this blog.

gail book award meme pixabay