Gail and the Boarding Houses of the War Years

Gail Lee Martin’s notes about the boarding houses she lived in while working at Boeing in the 1940s. These are emails between her and her daughter Karen. All the photos were taken by Karen a few years ago. The houses are still there.

Both of the emails date from July 15, 2011.

The email was in response to the photos of the house on Emporia Street that I sent her:

“I really enjoyed living in the 2nd tower room until I got the intestinal flu and the bathroom was downstairs.”

That’s when her Mother came to take care of her and immediately found the rooming house for her on Pattie Street.

Pattie Street house in Wichita where our mom lived in WWI while working at Boeing Aircraft.

Pattie Street house in Wichita where our mom lived in WWI while working at Boeing Aircraft. Photo by her daughter, Karen K.

This email is about the one on Pattie Street:

“Sure looks like the house Mrs. Dixon owned and I lived in the front downstairs bedroom, with the door opening off the front room.  There was a grocery store east across the street where I bought a package of 6 cinnamon rolls and ate them on the way to work.  The bus stopped there during the daytime and then I had to change buses to go on to Boeing.  Even the front door looks the same.  It was 1000 S. Pattie.”

You’ll remember that she often had to work after the buses had stopped running in the evening and that she walked (most?) of the way home.  I can’t imagine that she walked all the way from Boeing though.

Just checked and Boeing was 5 miles south of where she lived at 1000 S. Pattie,  South Wichita has never been safe, but maybe during the war people were more respectful of those involved in the war effort and refrained from raping the girls.

Maybe the buses just ran a limited route after hours and she didn’t have to walk the whole way.


I Love Cemeteries

I’ve always found old cemeteries fascinating. You never know what you’ll find there. Perhaps I inherited this interest from my mother. Gail Lee Martin spent many hours in graveyards while tracking down ancestors and looking for birth and death dates to add to the family tree.

Pause for a minute to scan the moss-covered stones and trace a finger over the engraved lettering.

longmeadow cemetery

I visited this cemetery in Longmeadow, Massachusetts some years ago.

Who was this person that lies beneath this gravestone? What was his life like and why did he die? Sometimes you find family groupings and can piece together the family’s story. Perhaps the father died in the war, leaving a young widow. Nearby is a stone for their child who died too young. Was it an accident, an epidemic or other misfortune?

child grave ky

A child’s grave in Frankfort, KY.

I’m always intrigued by the long-lived ones, octogenarians and even ones who lived into their nineties. It’s particularly striking when the stone is for someone who lived in the 1700s or the 1800s. In those days, the life span was much shorter, but you find some who were remarkably long-lived.

As a genealogist, I’m usually looking for specific ancestors as I wander through a cemetery. Still, I can’t resist checking out other people’s dead relatives while I’m there.

There’s something timeless and soothing about a sunny day of wending ones way among the marble markers that represent lives of those long gone. Here’s an old graveyard that I discovered in New Hampshire called the Perkins Hill Cemetery. You can read about the interesting graves I found there.

I’ve even stopped by a cemetery on a snowy day. This photo is from Ohio where I lived in the 1970s. The sky was threatening more snow and I couldn’t resist stopping to capture it with my camera. I wish I’d had a better camera back then.

ohio cemetery

A cemetery in winter near Chardon, Ohio.

Do you find graveyards scenic and interesting?


(all photos by Virginia Allain)

Coping with Reading Addiction

How to Cope with Reading Addiction

If you love to read, do you know when reading becomes more than just a pastime or hobby? Has your reading crossed the line into addiction? Here are steps to assess this and also to help you cope with your reading addiction.


Difficulty: Moderate
Step 1

Answer these questions to see if you are addicted to reading.

  1. Have you tried unsuccessfully to cut back on your reading?
  2. Are you preoccupied with thoughts of the book when you are away from it?
  3. Does reading help you escape from your problems?

These are similar to questions used in surveys by the American Psychological Association to determine internet addiction and gambling addiction.

Addicted to reading? Here’s a stack of books for you.

Step 2

Actually, being a book addict isn’t the worst thing in the world. I, personally, would like to see more “book addicts”. Wouldn’t you rather have addictive personalities turned onto reading rather than to drugs? Just imagine, if teenagers after school couldn’t wait to get a book instead of seeking out their local drug dealer.

If they were reading addicts, few people would try to change their behavior or ask them to get therapy. Reading, even in large amounts, is generally viewed as a positive activity. Everyone would admire such a wide background gained through reading.

Step 3

At what point does an addiction become a problem? When an addiction disrupts a relationship or leads people to commit illegal acts or to spend too much money, then it definitely is a social problem. Some people try to hide their addictions. They realize their behavior, whether it is excessive drinking or drug use, is not socially acceptable. Addictions are a problem if they affect your health or keep you from performing your job.

Here’s a self-test to take: Make a list of problems associated with your reading. Do you still recognize your family members when you pull yourself out of a book? Have you gone into debt buying books? Does it make you anxious when you don’t have an unread book on hand? Do you sneak out of work to visit a bookstore or library, just so you can be surrounded by books? How many book groups do you belong to? Do you resist switching to an e-reader because you crave the smell of paper as you read?

Step 4

I probably would be classified as a binge reader. Sometimes I go weeks without reading, while at other times I devour several books in a row. I might read late into the night, not able to put the book down until the very end. I know I’ll be sorry in the morning when it is hard to get out of bed. A novel is sometimes so compelling that I just can’t tear myself away. Reading a really good book creates the desire to read more.

How would you classify your reading? Can you stop if you want to? Is it just social reading so you can discuss the book with friends and the book club? Is it compulsive reading that you can’t stop doing? Do you escape into a book then have a hard time coming back to the real world? Is it hard for you to go to sleep at night if you don’t read for a while first?

Step 5

I hope therapists never label it as a psychological disorder. Libraries would become those dens of iniquity where the reading addicts get their fix. Librarians would face prison terms for providing books to addicts. Books would carry labels warning “CAUTION: this book could lead to addictive reading”.

Step 6

Maybe a ten-step program could be developed. People would attend the weekly meetings, stand up and say, “My name is ___, and I am a compulsive reader.” When they felt the urge to read, they could call another member who would help talk them out of it.

Until that time, enjoy reading as much as you want.

Tips & Warnings

  • Try setting a timer when you start to read. Force yourself to put the book down and spend an equal amount of time with the family.
  • Consider dropping subscriptions to book-of-the-month clubs. Get library cards instead at all the libraries within a 50-mile radius.
  • Addiction to books and reading can start at a very early age. Be alert for signs of it in your toddler and young children.
  • Write book reviews for Amazon or other sites. It serves as a way to keep track of your reading. Also when you reach Top 100 Reviewer status, authors will send you free books to read and review. Family and friends may accept your excessive reading as it has a purpose (beyond entertaining yourself).


Find a library near you

(Written by Virginia Allain, former library director)

A Challenge for You – Think About Yourself


I saw this writing exercise that uses a list format and couldn’t resist thinking what would I choose for each topic. I wish Mom were here so I could have her fill it out too.
Think about what answers you would put. I challenge you to give this some thought and to write about it.
Here are my answers below.

If I were… (by Virginia Allain)

A month. I’d be October. The crisp leaves crunch under my feet, the sweltering days of summer are past and pumpkins accent the porches.
A country. I’d be Ireland. Land of my ancestors, Celtic music, and everyone’s a storyteller.
A time of day. I’d be noon time. I love a leisurely lunch.
A sea animal. My choice is a dolphin. So sleek, so intelligent.
A direction. I’d be west. My ancestors traveled west to settle in Kansas.
A liquid. I’d be a margarita. So refreshing with a little salt around the rim.

A margarita, so refreshing!

A gemstone. I’d be a pearl.
A tree. I’d be a redbud. they give a burst of color in the spring.
A game. I’d be Bookworm. Delighting in creating new words.
A famous painting. I’d be Van Gogh’s Sunflower. That fits my Kansas heritage.
A flower. I’d be an iris. So regal, so welcome in spring.
A kind of weather. I’d be a gentle rain refreshing the thirsty flowers.
A musical instrument. I’d be a fiddle. So lively, so lovely, playing Irish tunes.
Violin at Bryan House in Kentucky

Violin at Bryan House in Kentucky

A piece of furniture. I’d be a comfy reading chair.
A color. I’d be aqua, like the sea in tropical islands.
A means of transportation. I’d be a cruise ship filled with happy people on vacation.
An emotion. I’d be reflective. Thinking about the past, present and the future.
A fruit. I’d be a pear.
A sound. I’d be a purr.
A vehicle. I’d be a golf cart.
A place. I’d be a library filled with books and open 24 hours a day.
A taste. I’d be vanilla
A scent. I’d be the scent of orange blossoms.
An animal. I’d be a wombat. Once I held one in Tasmania.
A random object. I’d be a book, of course.
Reading glasses and a book
A body part. I’d be hands. So useful.
A song. I’d be “Amazing Grace.”
An item of clothing. I’d be a flowing caftan, comfortable and casual.

The Challenge –

Now, it’s your turn. Write down the list and add your own answers.

Carol’s Christmas Cats

Gail Lee Martin’s sister has had some awesome cats over the years. Recently, she shared the Christmas photos that she’s taken of the cute kitties. I just had to share them as I know there are plenty of cat lovers reading this blog.

Here’s what she collected in her photo stash over the years:

Over time, many cats enjoyed napping under Carol’s holiday tree. She decorated it with ornaments she collected and even with a seashore theme when she lived in Seadrift, Texas.

It wasn’t until 2016, that one of the cats toppled the tree onto another. Don’t worry, no cats were harmed in this scenario. Here’s her description of the catastrophe: “Graycie managed to bring it down, on top of Fraidy in the recliner. The heavy part missed him, just lots of branches, so he was only startled.”

2018 Christmas Cat!

Here’s an update from Carol with a 2018 Christmas photo, “I spotted Bits sweetly posed by the Christmas music video I’d found on the TV! Just about ready for Christmas dinner with family in Andover.

Yesterday, for my contribution, I got all the cranberries, apples and nuts chopped with Lola’s delightful little chopper, stirred them together with crushed pineapple, mini marshmallows, and in the fridge to chill. This morning folded in the thawed cool whip, then back in the fridge to stay chilled. Just now, put the Krusteaz buttermilk cornbread in the oven.

Nice day out–cold but sunny and, wonder of wonders, no wind! Merry Christmas everyone!”

CJs Little Bits cat xmas

Carol’s cat kindly posed by the Christmas scene on the television.


Gail’s Story Made Her Cry

I took Mom’s book, My Flint Hills Childhood, with me to the Christmas luncheon my writing group had. After we munched happily on Quiche, little sandwiches, salad, and assorted yummy desserts, we started sharing Christmas stories from our younger days.

I opened Mom’s memoir and read Cranberries, Popcorn And Silver Stars to the group. Sitting next to me, Ophelia indicated that she had something to say. She explained that when her granddaughter asked her about early Christmases, she said she really didn’t remember them. Then, with a tear running down her cheek, she said, “but your mother’s story made me remember.”

popcorn-string pixabay

In particular, she remembered saving the string from feed sacks and rolling it into a ball to save. Then she remembered using that string to thread popcorn on for garlanding the Christmas tree. It also came back to her about her father going out to cut down a tree for their holiday.

These memories of my 82-year-old friend and fellow writer paralleled the experiences of my mother who was born in 1924. Even though one lived in Kansas and one in South Carolina, they shared similar Christmas customs back in those simpler times. It was a special moment.

Missing That Special Sister

I wrote this post on my personal blog twelve years ago. Now, it is December 8th again and still, we mourn the loss of someone who was so important to the fabric of our family.

Shannon Marie Hyle – A Special Sister

Two years ago on December 8, 2006, my youngest sister died unexpectedly at age 49.  Shannon Hyle was a special person, not just to her immediate family, but to all who knew her.  The church overflowed with bereft people on the day of her funeral.

Now it is two years later and our lives adjust to going on without Shannon.  It comforts us to think she can peer down and approve the progress we’ve made through our grief.  I’m sure she’s thrilled that her daughter, Diana, finished graduate school and is working as a librarian.  She’s equally thrilled to see her youngest, Samantha, succeeding in her second job and that she’s found a loving man to share her life with.

Here are tributes to Shannon written by various family members:

Carol Garriott –   Our Golden Girl …Remembering Shannon …Be Still and Listen

Virginia Allain –  I Am Missing You …A Poem for Shannon …A Happy Message From Shannon …

Gail Martin –  The Lady Bugs Are Back …

and from her friends:

Kevin Colebank – To Shannon Martin Hyle

Scott Lupo – Very Sad News

shannon Martin Hyle - a tribute

My album of photos of Shannon.

You can see Shannon’s own writings on the Our Echo site.  I particularly love her essays on books she loved, “Falling in Love among the Bookshelves,” “Life Without Georgette,” and “My Bookshelves.”   We found one of her writings after her death and posted it for her, Memories from Shannon.

Shannon loved using stamps to make delightful cards.  I found her cards that she posted on the SplitCoastStampers gallery online.  Use the search function and put in vcm3007 (Shannon’s username for the site).  She posted some of her paper bag scrapbooks there too.  She has 142 pages at the site with about 12 cards per page.

From Shannon Hyle's Stampin Up art

Art created by Shannon Hyle.

I created a tribute webpage for Shannon on Hubpages with more photos and memories.

If you have memories of Shannon that you’d like to share, please leave a comment or you can post them on the Our Echo website for Shannon’s friends and family to see.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.