O is for OKRA

Gail and Clyde Martin liked experimenting each year with a new plant in their garden. Okra was one they liked well enough to keep. The plants grew quite tall and sturdy, had lovely flowers similar to a Hibiscus or Rose of Sharon.

The edible part was a green pod, quite seedy and somewhat slimy inside. People use it in soups where that helps with the thickening. At first, Mom tried just cooking the sliced okra for a side vegetable but the texture put us off. Next, she tried it in a coating and fried in a skillet or deep-fried. It was a hit.

Today, I order it for a side vegetable in country-style restaurants where they fry it that way. Brings back memories of Mom’s home cooking. I don’t fry food at home, so we don’t have it there. My husband started making gumbo and using it for that spicy concoction. We buy the okra fresh at the farmers market or get the frozen gumbo-vegetable combination at the supermarket for convenience.

If left on the plant, the pods get quite large and eventually dry. You can save the seeds. Mom liked the seed pods to create striking accents in mixed bouquets of dried, autumn wild plants like the one below. The subtle browns, tans, and silver colors of the dried arrangement were quite pleasing.

Dried wild flower - photo by Virginia Allain

Dried wild flower – photo by Virginia Allain

N is for Ninety-Six Years Ago

My mother, Gail Lee Martin, would be 96 this year if she were still here. That got me to wondering about what was in the news 96 years ago and what were the prices back in 1924.

That year, Charlie Chaplin got married, Ronald Reagan started high school, and Jimmy Carter was born. The Olympic Games were held in Paris, France. I’m sure these events meant little to baby Gail.

baby announcement 2_edited gail mcghee

She probably wasn’t interested in the price of a loaf of bread (9 cents) or the cost of a house ($7,720). Eggs were 13 cents per dozen, but I’m sure her mother kept a flock of hens so they had their own eggs. A postage stamp cost 2 cents. Gasoline cost 11 cents a gallon.

Here’s little Gail and her mother, Ruth McGhee, in 1927.

gail and ruth McGhee 1927

Ruth McGhee with her 3-year-old daughter, Gail. Teterville, Kansas


Mock Angel Cake

1909 hoosier cabinet from newspapers.com 2

1909 Hoosier kitchen cabinet from newspapers.com

Below is another of the mystery recipes I found in my mother’s stash of papers. It’s not her handwriting so who knows where she found it. It appears to have been well used and was pasted onto vintage photo album pages.

It sounds like the sort of recipe you would mix up in a kitchen with a Hoosier cabinet like the one above. I’m guessing by “moderate oven” they mean 350 degrees. Back in those days, the cook probably tested the heat by holding her hand in the oven to judge if it was right.

Mock Angel Cake

  • 1 cup scalding hot milk
  • whites of 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (not heaping, but more than level)
  • a pinch of salt

Sift all the dry ingredients together several times. Then stir into the hot milk. Add the vanilla and stir until well mixed. Then fold in the egg whites, stiffly beaten, and bake in a moderate oven.

mock angel food cake, not gail's recipe

L is for a LESSON in Bread Making

Sometimes with emails, the intent gets lost in transmission. With a phone call or face-to-face, a misunderstanding can be corrected on the spot.

From: Gail Lee Martin
To: Ginger Allain

One of the granddaughters wanted to know if Dad would maybe show them how to make bread from scratch.

white-bread-homemade pixabay
So I started out by telling her why you can’t make bread like Clyde’s Mom did from scratch anymore because the ingredients aren’t the same anymore.  Not even sure lard isn’t a different texture. The flour is too refined and the yeast is not like the ‘starter’ that Mom kept on the back of the stove where it was always warm. Even salt is different and even some brands are different than other brands.

Clyde’s sister Helen said one time that when she tried to make homemade bread, she decided she needed her Mother’s hands to knead it properly! She also said she couldn’t even make macaroni and cheese like Mom did.

Kristy emailed back that she had meant the machine bread that Dad made, not thinking about how it was done before that. Mom said she had to laugh when she realized how at cross-purposes their messages had been.

Kristy’s grandfather made bread with his specially adjusted recipes in seven machines on their enclosed back porch. These sold well at the local farmer’s market and to customers who dropped by their home to buy freshly made bread.

K is for Kids’ Cards

I found a bundle of handmade cards from school children. Mom had saved these thank you notes dating back to 1994. The notes, decorated with colorful, childish art, thanked her for visiting their classroom and telling them stories.

kids cards to gail

The most popular story was about a snake apparently and some children even drew pictures of a snake. I knew she must have told them about chasing rabbits with her dog and getting bitten on the cheek by a rattlesnake.

cards to gail

The occasion for her visit was to promote reading and Kansas authors on Kansas Day. Here are some of the notes:

  • Dear Mrs. Martin, You’re a great speaker. One of the best speakers I’ve had. Thanks. I had fun, learned a lot, and was stunned. You’re an interesting (spelled enter resting) woman, a fabulious speaker, and such a talented changer. Sincerely, Crystal
  • I hope you can come again to 5th grade Lincoln. Sincerely, Candice T.
  • Thank you for playing the part of Margaret Hill McCarter. The magazines, the calendars and the newspapers were interesting. And the snake bite story was great! I hope you come again. It was very fun having you here. Sincerely, Jessica
  • Dear Gail, I think it is great that you write stories about your history. I also wanted to thank you for coming and sharing your stories with us. My favorite was the one about you getting bit by the snake. Thanks again! Sincerely, Laurie M.
  • Thank you for insperting (inspiring?) my writing. I hope you like my writing couse (cause) I like yours.
  • Thank you for coming to our rooms for telling us about Kansas long ago.

more cards to gail

I puzzled a little over the “such a talented changer.” Mom would dress in pioneer style to demonstrate her wagon wheel rugs and would dress up with a flowery straw hat to talk as Margaret Hill McCarter, a Kansas author that she admired. Perhaps she switched persona and made a wardrobe change by swapping out pieces of clothing during her talk. I’ll have to ask my sister if she ever saw Mom perform for the school classes.

Gail Martin Portrays Margaret Hill McCarter

Gail Lee Martin visits local schools with Margaret Hill McCarter presentation.

More Notes from the Children

  • I think you and Margaret are very good actors and very good people. I liked listening to you and Margaret. I’m sorry about hearing that you got bit by a snake.
  • You gave a good story. It was funny. I like your book collection. It must be worth some money. I like to read books, but I don’t read books that big. Oh, when it comes around, I wish you a happy 70th birthday. Sincerely, Billy C.
  • Thank you for coming to our school. We really enjoyed reading your stories. All of your stories are good. I would really like for you to come to Lincoln School again.
  • Dear Mrs. Martin, Thank you for coming to our school and telling us about the author. I also enjoyed you becoming her. That was very interesting. Not many people do that. The things you told us about were neat. Sincerely, Janna L.

She visited even the kindergarten class and the teacher had each child put their thumbprint on a card and write their name. Each thumbprint had bunny ears or rabbit ears added and a tail. This was sent to Gail after her visit and she saved it.

card to gail - thumbprint

J is for Just Shopping

The Sepia Saturday inspiration photo shows a shop and an automobile filled with a happy family. My match for that is my mother and her cousins in Teterville, Kansas, at the grocery store.  It looks to be about the same era.

There’s a vast difference between the urban shop in Europe or England and the one in rural Kansas. Let’s learn more about my mother, Gail Lee McGhee, at this time in her life.

Here’s a better view of the grocery store in Teterville. It was actually called The Moore Store. Her father worked in the oil industry and Teterville was an oil boomtown in the 1920s and early 1930s. Many of Gail’s uncles on both sides of the family (Vinings and McGhees) were there working as well.

teterville store photo from eureka museum

Photo from the Eureka Museum of the Moore’s Store in Teterville, Kansas (maybe 1950s)

Scott Store, Velva Ruth, viola, LaVerne Redlinger & cousins

Scott Store – Velva Ruth, Viola, LaVerne Redlinger & cousins

I’d thought of this photo as being in Teterville and perhaps it was the store before the Moore’s took it on. Now, I’m not actually sure of that.

My memory is that these girls are cousins of my mother. Velva Ruth and Viola Bolte (parents: Charles Edwin Bolte and Lucy Vining) were first cousins of Gail McGhee. I can’t fit LaVerne Redllinger onto the family tree and have no names for the others.

I believe the smallest girl standing in front is my mother, Gail McGhee.

gail and model a 1927, teterville
Thank you, Mom, for labeling the photo. Here’s the actual ID then. The dark-haired person sitting on the car is Gail’s mother, Ruth (Vining) McGhee. If the person in the car is a boy cousin, then it’s likely to be Velva Ruth and Viola’s brothers. So they could be Everett Henry (born 1905), Alonzo LeRoy (born 1908), or Forrest Edward (born 1912).

The 1927 refers to the year of the car, not to the year of the photo. My mother would only have been 3 years old in 1927.


I is for Insight into 1915

Gail Lee Martin kept scissors in the small cabinet next to her TV-watching chair. A basket of newspapers sat on the floor within easy reach. Every day, she would comb through several papers gleaning information she wanted to save.

I inherited her information hoarding ways but picked up this clipping being circulated online rather than physically clipping it myself. After hanging onto it for five years, now seems a good time to put it to use.  I’ll take a look at one of my ancestors in the year 1915 and see how this list applies to them.

1915 clipping 100 years ago

One hundred years ago – 1915

What were my grandparents, Ruth Vining (age 17) and Clarence McGhee (age 19), doing 105 years ago? Not yet married, they lived across the street from each other in Tyro, Kansas. Within 2 years, they would be married and Clarence would be in the U.S. Army preparing to go to France for WWI.

  • Eggs were 14 cents a dozen. I have a photo of Ruth feeding a flock of chickens. Perhaps her mother sold the eggs to neighbors or to a local grocery store. 
  • The life expectancy of men was 47 years. Ruth’s father had already died of typhoid at age 59 when she was just a toddler. Clarence’s father died in 1922 at the age of 47 in a tragic oilfield accident. Clarence, himself, lived to the age of 77.
  • The average U.S. worker made $200 to $400 a year. Clarence worked at the glass plant, but I don’t know how much he was paid. Before that, he might have contributed to the family finances by being a seasonal help for a local farmer or helping at a business in the small town. It’s likely that he at times assisted his father with deliveries. His dad had a wagon and team of horses for “hauling ice from an ice plant in Caney to the ice house of a local grocery store and also made home deliveries on a country route offered by the store.”
  • Only 6% of Americans had graduated from high school. Many who lived in the country did not have transportation for attending a high school. Ruth and Clarence lived in a town with an impressive 3-story school, so I just always blithely assumed they attended for four years of high school. The 1915 Kansas census shows both Ruth and Clarence as having 7 months of schooling
  • 18% of households had a full-time servant or domestic help. The 1915 Kansas census shows neither the McGhees or the Vinings had live-in help. I’m sure the Widow Vining could not afford help and the McGhees had plenty of children to help at home and with work.

tyro school and students

clarence mcghee 1913 school picture cropped

Clarence McGhee (3rd from right) in 1913 school photo.

We do know that Clarence’s younger brother, Austin, graduated from Tyro High School.

austin mcghee, mcghee, tyro, graduation 001

Austin McGhee’s graduation announcement

H is for Hamilton 1903 Map

Among the family history files, I found a vintage Hamilton map that mom had written some notes in the margin. X marked the location of my great-grandfather Alf Joy’s feed mill. The old map has the date 1903 penciled onto it. Henry Alfred Joy and his family moved from Baldwin City to Hamilton in 1908.

You’ll see that Gail Lee Martin noted the Joy mill was in lot 4 of Block 1 and that the Joy home was lots 5 and 6 of Block 11. So look for block 11 on the upper part of the map, then you’ll see the small X for the lots where their home was. It was on corner of First and Jackson Street. At the opposite end of the block was the M.E. Church.

Hamilton ks map, joy mill site, home

Map of Hamilton, Kansas (from Gail Lee Martin’s collection)

This sparked my curiosity. Was the house that my great-grandparents lived in still there? Since I live over 1,000 miles away, I couldn’t just drive by to check it out. So, I opened  Google Earth on my computer. Zooming in on Hamilton, Kansas, I wondered if I’d be able to spot the right street.

Fortunately, the Methodist Church was labeled on the image. I used my screenshot capability to add arrows to the church and to the location of the Joy home. Was that the original house or a newer one?

Google Earth Hamilton ks, Joy home

Google Earth view of Hamilton, Kansas (captured with Awesome Screenshot extension on Chrome)

Since I live over 1,000 miles away and now is not a good time for a road trip, I thought I wouldn’t be able to verify the house. Then I played around with Google Earth and discovered the street view. It is definitely a newer home from the last 20 years or so and not a house from 1903.

alfred, cora, harry, marie joy

Alfred, daughter Cora, son Harry, and Marie Joy. This might be their house in Hamilton, Kansas.

The feed mill was one block up and a block and half toward what is now Highway 99. On the 1903 map, it shows the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad lines where now there is the highway. Likely the railroad would have been handy for sending out shipments of local grain from the mill or bringing in shipments for sale to local farmers.

On Google Earth, the place where the mill would have been, there remains only a vacant lot.

Joy Mill - roxio

Joy Feed Mill in Hamilton, KS

Well, that kept me engaged for some time. I picked up some other trivia from the map, so I’ll share that here. It seems the town fathers named many of the streets after presidents. Besides Jackson and Lincoln, there are also streets named for Garfield and Washington. One wonders how they decided which presidents to honor. I would have selected Adams and Jefferson over Garfield and Jackson.

Other streets are named First, Second, and Third and, of course, Main Street. Fourth Street did not end up next to Third but was mysteriously located over in another section of town. Looking on Google Earth, I see there are now Fifth and Sixth Streets as well.

You can see the location of the hotel, bank, post office, school, depot, livery stable, stockyards, the Baptist and Catholic churches, and the lumber yard on the vintage map.

Names on the 1903 Map

  • Fred Ott
  • H.J. Ulrich
  • Mrs. E.E. Henry
  • P.L. Cramer
  • L.N. Peoples
  • Wm Barmgrover
  • J.H. Edwards
  • J.W. Johnson
  • Todd
  • F.C. Behmer
  • Mary Balson
  • R.K. Conwell
  • Henry Monnier
  • N.N. Piatt
  • A.R. Heath
  • Lewis Shook
  • J.J. Shook
  • James Yeating

Hamilton is in Janesville Township and was formerly called Fullerton.

Games We Played

I’m not sure if we learned these games from Mom (Gail Lee Martin) or from other kids at school. You may have played some of these in your childhood. Remember these games: Duck Duck Goose, Steal the Bacon, Drop the Handkerchief, Simon Says, and Mother, May I? There were always the old standbys of Tag and Hide and Seek to play too.

Since there were 6 children in our family and we lived in the country, we had to entertain ourselves. That was enough for some games, but others like Red Rover were better when played with a larger number.

Red Rover, Red Rover

We played Red Rover on the sloping field behind West Branch Country School. You needed a good number of kids to make two teams. Each team lined up and linked hands. One team would chant, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Jimmy (or another player from the other team) over.

Jimmy would leave his team and run as fast and forcefully as he could to burst through the other team’s line. If the runner succeeds at breaking through the line, he/she gets to choose someone from that team to add to their own team.

running boy pixabay

Each team takes a turn calling for a player to come over. Once one team has all the players, they win.

Directions for More Old-Fashioned Games

martin cousins, Karen, Lori, Bonnie, Raymond, I think

Martin cousins playing “Button Button.” Karen, Lori, Bonnie, Raymond.

While refreshing my memory on these games, I ran across a few that were new to me. I don’t remember playing Sardines, Four Square, or Capture the Flag. I found one called What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf that sounded really fun.

I’d love to hear about some games that you remember from your early days. Click on COMMENT and tell me about some.

Faultless Starch

starch adstarch ad Fri, Sep 30, 1898 – 7 · The Lyon County News and The Emporia Times (Emporia, Kansas) · Newspapers.com
I’m not even sure where I spotted this little booklet for Faultless Starch, but I couldn’t resist buying it and bring it home.  You can tell that I’m a true daughter of Gail Lee Martin who had a penchant for accumulating vintage pieces like this.

vintage box starch

I think our interest in history and in the way that people lived in earlier generations is shared by many of my sisters too. This has Kansas City on the cover, so likely I discovered it at a yard sale on one of my visits back home.

I wondered if the little booklet might have been included in a box of starch back in the early 1900s or maybe it was a premium that you sent in a box top and a dime to get. I found an 1899 advertisement in the Emporia Democrat telling that the small book was free from the merchant upon request.

Faultless Starch - 10 cents, book - free.Faultless Starch – 10 cents, book – free. Fri, Jul 28, 1899 – 2 · The Emporia Democrat (Emporia, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

It includes some advertising text and then turns to some stories to amuse the kids.

No Sticking Irons

“Housewives who use Faultless Starch are never troubled with irons sticking and burning or scorching their clothes or linens.

It is not necessary to use any preventive for sticky irons with Faultless. It is already in the starch — so is everything else that is necessary to make it a first-class starch.

Try it just once. Learn what housewives in millions of homes have learned in the last 35 years — that it is a “Faultless” Starch.”

Faultless Starch Company, Kansas City

001 - Copy (5)

The booklet includes a poem, some riddles (called conundrums), and some games.

002 - Copy (3)

004 - Copy (2)

005 - Copy (3)

006 - Copy

faultless starch booklet

The list of state flowers gives us a hint for the date of this booklet. Arizona is not listed and it became a state in 1912. I researched the company history and found this:


I’m not much for ironing and haven’t used starch for years but couldn’t resist checking to see if Faultless Starch was still around. It is, but in a spray can now! Our grandmothers would have loved that convenience.