It’s sad to see a vintage farmhouse falling into ruins. This one caught my eye as we traveled across Kansas a few years ago. It’s springtime, but there is no joy, no rebirth likely to happen for this dilapidated building.
(Photos and essay by Virginia Allain – Previously published on Niume)
Most people would pass it by without giving any thought to it. To me, this house symbolizes the failure of some farm family. Too many failed crops or perhaps the death of the farmer led to the sale of the land. Another farmer now keeps that land productive but didn’t need the house.
Expanding the view shows you the outbuildings that once served a useful purpose. The metal-roofed granary still stands and a barn beyond that. Closer to the house a small building gave in to gravity and soon will be just a pile of boards and rusty nails.
The cows, the chickens, the farm tractor, and the family are all gone now. Only memories of better times remain. Once a family lived and worked here. There would have been curtains in the windows. The children probably slept on pallets in the loft of the small house. At the back is a room, perhaps added-on as the family grew.
In a few seconds, we passed this old farm and I forgot about it. When I sorted my photos, I felt again the sadness of a deserted house and farm. I wonder if any of the buildings are still standing.
Since my mother lived 88 years, I have many memories to treasure and to store away for savoring later. Her grandchildren have their own memories, but for her great-grandchildren, the memories may be skimpy.
To pass the stories down through the generations requires sharing and repetition. Often that oral tradition falls by the wayside after a generation or two. We need to preserve those memories of our mothers. Writing the stories, creating a scrapbook or publishing a family history book are ways to keep those memories alive.
Gail Lee Martin in her favorite spot for TV watching, newspaper clipping and chatting.
I’m on a crusade to encourage people to collect and store family memories. Future generations will want to know what their ancestor was like, what made them special and little anecdotes that show their personality.
Although you remember your mother, the memories fade and become fragmented over time. Write them out to preserve them. It really is important.
I’ve chosen to blog about my mother’s life and the many traits and behaviors that made her special. Most of the people who follow Discovering Mom are siblings, cousins or friends of hers. By writing about little things like her hobbies, recipes, or stories about her activities, I preserve my own memories and share them with others.
Over time, the blog has added more followers, even people who never knew my mother. Perhaps the topics I write about bring back memories of their own mother. I hope it might inspire them to do something similar. Perhaps someday I’ll gather all the blog posts into a self-published book. Then my siblings and Mom’s cousins can have a keepsake copy. That book can be passed along to future generations so Gail Lee Martin’s memory is preserved long after I am gone.
Here’s another eHow article written by Gail Martin and rescued with the Wayback Machine.
Memory Prompts for the Month of July
Writing family memories becomes more important over the years. Memories start to fade and the chance to save them grows slimmer. Here are memory triggers for the month of July. Use them to start writing down memories for your children and grandchildren to treasure.
With our nation’s birthday on the fourth, try to recall how we celebrated the 4th of July as far back as we can. We used to go swimming and have a picnic. I can even remember when we had no fireworks, can you? What were your favorite fireworks? Our children loved smoke bombs and sparklers. How about some pet stories and the noise of the fireworks?
If you recall picnics, tell about your menu and how you kept the food safe. Who attended? What were traditional picnic foods for your family? Where did you go for the picnics?
Going to the movies cooled us off on summer days. What are your memories of Western movies? Our favorites were movies with Tom Mix, Dale & Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hop-a-Long Cassidy in them. Where did you go to see the movies? Who did you go with and what did it cost to get in? Who could forget the smell of the popcorn? Describe the theater inside & out. Do you remember the first drive-in-movies? Did your theater have drawings or gifts?
I found an old Log Cabin Syrup tin that looked like the ones I played with as a kid. Do you remember what syrup you liked on pancakes as a kid? Did your mother make them from scratch or use a mix? Write some breakfast stories.
What would you do if you had as much rain as Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas has had lately? Have you experienced torrential rains or flooding? Write about your rainy ordeals? Do you remember excessively hot summers? What did you do to cool off?
Tips & Warnings
The more you write, the more memories will flow into your mind.
Try to write regularly. Every day is best, even if just a paragraph or two.
When my little sister was eight, Mom made a play kitchen for a big Christmas gift for her. The play kitchen appliances were made from large cardboard boxes. Just decorate them with paint that you have around and felt-tipped markers. There was a “stove” and a “refrigerator” plus shelves for storing the “food.”
The play food for the play kitchen started out as real food for the family. When Mom shopped for groceries, she bought small sizes of boxes and cans of regular food. She opened the cans from the bottom and washed out the interior. They looked like child-sized versions of real food sitting in the play kitchen cupboards. Nothing was wasted, as we ate the food. There were small cans of fruit juice and single-serving boxes of raisins.
I still remember how much fun my sister had playing with those cans and boxes and her cardboard appliances. The empty containers looked colorful and realistic on the shelves.
The house we lived in then had a large basement, so there was plenty of room for the kid-sized kitchen down there.
You think you’ll always remember the people in the photograph and the event. Unfortunately, once 30 or 40 years go by, the memory may not be as clear or worst-case-scenario, you might die.
If no one knows who the people in the photo are, it becomes fairly meaningless. All too often, the descendants just toss out those pictures that are unlabeled. That’s really sad to see family history dumped in the trash. I see them sometimes in antique stores, shoved into a box with a sign “INSTANT ANCESTORS.”
It always makes me sad that some family has lost those images that are part of their family history.
(a mystery photo from our family collection)
Don’t let that happen in your family. For any photos, you print out, take some time to write the names and dates on the back. Additional information is a bonus, but at least get the basics. Don’t leave your digital photos without proper titles. Be sure to change the photo name from img_004 to something more meaningful. My mother’s scanned photos have fairly detailed names which has been a big help.
Clyde Martin’s father, Ren Martin.
I’m sorting my mother’s photo collection which includes some that she inherited. She was pretty good about writing the names on the backs of them but some just say, “Ren” or “Harriet’s son.” I know Ren is my grandfather, Lorenzo Martin, but if I don’t write that out, will the next generation know that? The other name, Harriet, doesn’t ring a bell, so I need to scan that one in and see if my cousins on Facebook can help me identify it.
Gail Lee Martin wrote an article in 2009 about dealing with family mystery photos. Here it is, Using the Clues in Old Family Photos. You can save yourself and future generations a lot of trouble if you sit down now and label the ones you know.
I discovered a list of favorite things where Mom filled in her answers. If I were filling out the list for her, I’d have guessed the right answers for some:
Flower – iris
Type of food – chicken
Sport – fishing
Leisure activity – writing
Back in 2009, my mom turned up this photo of her mother during my visit to Kansas. I’d never seen it before. Wow, it’s hard to imagine my grandmother in the early 1900s on a motorcycle.
Take a look at that bike! I love what my grandmother is wearing. Her name was Ruth Vining and she lived in Tyro, Kansas. To read more about her life, check out my mother’s book, My Flint Hills Childhood: Growing Up in 1930s Kansas. It’s hard to tell is that’s smoke around the back of the motorcycle from the exhaust or just fading or damage to the old photo.
It almost looks like she is sitting on it side saddle style, as her long skirt isn’t hitched up in the front. Perhaps she is just posing for her brother Albert to take a picture.
Mom said that Albert lost his temper one day with the bike not running properly and destroyed it with a sledgehammer. You can read more about him here, Albert Vining in World War I.
This is the 1911 Eagle newspaper (Reading, PA) ad for a Flanders 4 motorcycle.
If you’d like to know more about the motorcycle, a reader clued me in that it’s a Flanders 4. With a little internet research, I found an old ad from 1911 that features it.
You can see the Flanders name on the motorcycle, below where her hands are. They made these between 1911 and 1914. The bike may have been a few years old, as Ruth Vining was born in 1897. In 1911, she would have been 14. In 1914, she would have been 17. I’m guessing she is 17 or even 18 in this picture.