Winner of the 2019 Gail Lee Martin Book Award

The Kansas Author Club met in Wichita on October 4-6, 2019. At the annual convention, they announce the winners of various book awards and one of those is the Kansas History Book Award, named in honor of Gail Lee Martin. Many people donated at the time of her death to help sponsor this book award.

The winner for 2019 is James Kenyon’s book, Golden Rule Days. Here are the judge’s comments about the book:

“The book is a history of the 109 Kansas high schools that have closed over the years. A remarkable amount of research went into compiling this book. Just the collecting of personal stories for each school and weaving them into the history must have taken years of work.

Each school gets 2 to 6 pages so it’s a hefty book at almost 400 pages. There’s a map highlighting the county so you can quickly see where the high school was. The entry includes the mascot, school colors, the year it closed, and the location. A brief history of the locale is followed by notable graduates, memories of teachers, activities and events, athletics, and why the school closed.

There are tidbits from yearbooks, memories from former students, and other bits of information collected by the author. There is some coverage of integration/segregation, a few school songs are featured, rivalries, and tragedies. Most of the schools have a photo of the building. The index includes the school names and names of individuals.

This is a solid reference title for public libraries and makes fun browsing for students seeking memories of their school days.”

Announcement of the 2019 Martin Kansas History Book Award

(from the KAC webpage)

The photo above shows Cynthia Ross, Gail’s daughter with the author James Kenyon at the convention. He is a repeat winner as his children’s book, A Cow for College, won the prize last year.

If anyone would like to contribute to keeping the book award funded, you can send a check to

Kansas Authors Club
C/o Tracy Million Simmons
P.O. Box 333
Emporia, KS 66801

Be sure to note on the check that it is for the Gail Lee Martin, Kansas History Book Award fund.

Gail’s Books Inspire Another Memoir

Back in 2011, Gail Lee Martin emailed, “We were awakened this morning with a call from the man below. He went to Madison HS when Howard was in high school. He said that Hartsel Storrer, who manages the Madison Senior Center was his grade school teacher. Perry said his daughters bought both of my books from Blurb and then they downloaded Blurb and made a book for Perry’s birthday.

He is sending a copy to us so needed our snail mail address. He told about Ralph dive-bombing their farm and about Howard driving Ren’s new car to school one day and a bunch of classmates skipped school. They drove to Hamilton and on the way back decided to see how fast the car would go. On the downslope on the hill south of Madison, it hit 100 miles an hour. 

Now we know who bought at least two of the books from Blurb and with great results. Apparently, his books are selling fairly well in the community.”

Perry Rubart and His Book

They titled his book, Dare to Dream… Dare to Make the Dream Come True. Here’s the description of it:

Perry Rubart, born in 1931, has seen many changes in his lifetime—personally as well as in this country. In this book, Perry describes his childhood in the Flint Hills of Kansas during the Depression era, his young adulthood in the throes of the Korean War, and his experiences of small-town Ulysses, Kansas, in the changing times of the 1960s-1990s. This is a book about his poverty and affluence, pain and joy, hardships and blessings. In this story of a lifetime, we see a man who did “dare to dream and then dare to make the dream come true.”

Dare to Dream Dare to Make the Dream Come True by Perry Rubart Blurb Books

Dare to Dream Dare to Make the Dream Come True by Perry Rubart Blurb Books

Gail also included in her email, a clipping from HutchNews.com (7/30/2011) about Perry Rubart celebrating his 80th birthday. He was born in 1931 near Madison, so was about 7 years younger than Gail and Clyde.

The article included this information, “On Aug. 11, 1951, he married Dorothy Crooks in Madison. He worked in the oil fields and gas plants from 1947 to 1960. In Ulysses, he owned and operated the Mobil Bulk Dealership, Perry’s Tire & Supply, The Rusty Windmill antique store, and was part owner of The Peddler’s Inn and Southwest Kansas Bank, N.A. He is a Korean War veteran and served on various boards of directors including Sunflower, KEC, Pioneer Electric and York College.

His children and spouses are Jackie and Wendell Beall, West Fork, Arkansas, Teresa and Greg Grounds, Hooker, Oklahoma, and Debbie and Kenney Sneyd, Ulysses. He has eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

A Shelfie – My James Oliver Curwood Collection

Post by Gail’s daughter, Virginia.

A shelfie is like a selfie, but it isn’t a self-portrait of yourself. It’s a self-portrait of your bookshelf. Don’t you think you can tell a lot about someone from examining their bookshelves? I do.

Vintage books appeal to me and I’m sure I picked that up from Mom and Dad. When I find an author that I like, I hunt down all their books. The folks were like that too and Gail kept a small notebook with lists of titles they had by certain authors. When they stopped at garage sales or rummaged in a store filled with vintage items, it kept them from accidentally buying a duplicate of a title they already had.

mom's book list notebook

They had an almost complete collection of Margaret Hill McCarter and Peter B. Kyne, plus other authors.

About 40 or more years ago, I read a James Oliver Curwood book. His novels, set in the Yukon or Canadian wilderness, glorify the hardy people who were the pioneers of those regions.

They have romance and adventure and are similar in style to Zane Grey’s stories of the American West crossed with Jack London (particularly White Fang). I enjoyed them and found quite a few over the years for my collection. My dad had several on his bookshelf, so maybe that’s where I first discovered the author.

Curwood’s books topped the bestseller lists back in the 1920s and many of them were made into adventure movies. You can read more about his life on Wikipedia and see photos of him and the fancy house he built with all the money earned from his writing. He’s not well known today.

I’d say my favorite of his books is God’s Country and the Woman. It’s available on Kindle so there must still be some readership. Here’s the review that I wrote for Amazon, “This old-fashioned romance develops in the frozen northland. Scenes of sled dogs, log cabins, and high adventure remind me of Mrs. Mike, another wonderful Canadian romance. There are secrets, desperate treks across the snow-covered wilderness, and dramatic encounters.”

You can even get 22 of Curwood’s books collected into one download for Kindle for just $3.99, but that would leave a big, bare space on my bookshelves.

What’s on your bookshelf?

Do You Like Old-Fashioned Recipes?

Grandmother’s Legacy – A Collection of Butler County Recipes From the 1920’s and 30’s

If you like recipes from your grandmother’s day, then this is just the book for you. Many cooks throughout Butler County, Kansas, contributed their old family recipes for this compilation. It was published in 2001 but it’s hard to get your hands on a copy these days.

cookbooks grandmother's legacy

Cookbooks from Gail Lee Martin’s collection

It includes several of my own grandmothers’ recipes (Ruth McGhee and Cora Martin) and some of my mother’s (Gail Lee Martin).

Look for hearty fare like dumplings, old-time bread starter, and some recipes from the Great Depression era like mock chicken pie. There are sweets to try such as bread pudding with lemon sauce or make a vinegar pie. I’m certainly tempted to make the coconut orange delight cake sometime for a special occasion.

(review by Virginia Allain – originally posted on Amazon)

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.
my_flint_hills_childhood___paperback_version
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.

My Social Book – A Review

If you use Facebook, you see the ads all the time for My Social Book. I was curious, so I tried it out. My mother (Gail Lee Martin) died in 2013 and I worried that her Facebook page with all her social media history would be lost.

I ordered one with her Facebook pictures/posts/comments in it. It was a way to save the information from her Facebook page in case it ever disappears. It was only about $16, as they had a special and she was not a prolific commenter.

Here’s what her book looks like.

gail martin 2009 facebook book - my social book

My Social Book compiled for Gail Lee Martin

It slurps up the content from a Facebook profile and turns it into a nicely bound paperback book.

You can go through the preview and remove some things like trivial comments or too many of the same picture. It’s a little awkward using their tool to take out duplicate and unimportant content, but it saves some costs by keeping the book shorter.

I recently had the thought that it would be great to save some family group pages from Facebook into a My Social Book. That would preserve the photos and family history being shared there. Unfortunately, this isn’t allowed since there are privacy issues that Facebook enforces. I can understand why they have that rule but sure would have been a nice easy way to save some family history.

Fans of Gail Lee Martin’s Book

Here’s a comment by Gerald Brazil: “Gail grew up in the 30’s in the oil fields of Greenwood County and her book paints a very real picture of the time and place.
Gail’s book is not only well written, it is beautifully and professionally crafted with black and white photographs integrated with the text.

Gail’s book won the 2010 Kansas Authors Club’s Ferguson Kansas History Award.”
November 1, 2011

  • Momose

    Peggy StricklandWhat a wonderful tribute, Gail, to your family and heritage! You are an inspiration to those wondering if their life experiences could make a compelling read for others. I look forward to reading more.

    Peggy Strickland   July 24, 2010

  • kboybob

    Jerry Flynn  “I loved the preview. You are very talented. June 1, 2010

  • Here’s a comment received by Gail’s daughter via e-mail:
    “I just wanted to let you know that I just received your mother’s book.
    It’s just wonderful. I’m so impressed with her writing and what you’ve done with it.” Scott   January 21, 2010

  • “Ok, you are the BEST! Your description of Saturday at the movies prompted much reminiscing by my 92-year-old Mom and me. You guys must have been at the same theater (or they were all like that!). Thanks so much. This is a wonderful story.” (Lori Burdoo) November 23, 2009

    “I loved the story about decorating for Christmas. The glimpse of your life in those days was so interesting and wonderful. What a contrast to the commercial holiday of today. I loved your descriptions and the pictures are great (especially the ones with the Halloween memories). Great reading!” (Mandica)

    “I particularly liked reading about the prairie dolls. Very sweet and nostalgic story. Thanks for sharing this dying art with us.” (Cherst)
    “You are a wonderful writer. Thank you for sharing.” (Veryirie)

    “You are such an inspiration, I love all of the stories I’ve read so far. I checked out your book on Blurb, how fascinating!” (Cindy Sully)

    “I am always riveted to your storylines… you have a flair for drama and detail. I’m glad you’re writing your memoirs in book form, it will be a hit!” (Shirley Philbrick)

    “I love reading your stories. I never want them to end.” (J.M. Knudson)
    “The health remedies bring back some great memories of growing up. Thank you for it.” (Kimi from eHow)

From Gail’s Bookshelf – As I Remember It

Esther Imhof was born in 1914 and recounts her family’s efforts to turn virgin Kansas prairie into a productive farm. Her memories are preserved in As I Remember It.

Their hard work brings some success until the drought and dust storms of the 1930s come along. The memoir contains fascinating details of daily life of a farm family with activities like hog butchering, wheat threshing and raising chickens and eggs for a cash crop. (review by Virginia Allain)

Ray Imhof encouraged his mother, Esther, to write her memories which he compiled to make this book. Esther Imhof died in 1996. I wonder if my mother, Gail Lee Martin, met Esther or her son, Ray. Esther and Mom would have had a great time talking about the old days.

L is for Liking the Book

Radell Smith of the Yahoo Contributor Network interviewed Bobbie H. Here’s what Smith wrote:

She had been asked to take a gander at Gail Martin’s “My Flint Hills Childhood” and see if she could relate to the stories woven by an octogenarian from Kansas. The request, more an effort to help Bobbie find her own biographical voice, turned out quite a different result entirely.

I have to express my pleasure and thoughts about this little masterpiece,” Bobbie concluded when asked to share her thoughts about the life and times of Gail’s family in 1930s Kansas.

Bobbie says that as she went deeper into Gail Martin’s biographical account of what it was like to live in the Kansas prairie during the era of the Depression, she couldn’t help but “think back to my own childhood and relive many memories of my own.

While not a product of that generation, Bobbie says some activities and actions by Gail and her family resonated with her anyway.

“My Flint Hills Childhood” and the Depression Period

Gail grew up during some of the hardest times America has ever known,” Bobbie lamented, adding, “Because of ancestors who knew the most important things in life was God and family, she was instilled with great values of love of God, family, and country.”

In our current economic climate, those values would be a welcome attribute today many would conclude. But this reader wasn’t finished with her accolades for Ms. Martin, heaping more praise for the book with less than 200 pages from cover to cover.

my_flint_hills_childhood___paperback_version

Gail also learned survival techniques which have obviously served her well.

Indeed, the octogenarian is still around to tell others about them, serving previously as a webmaster for an online memory-writing website called Our Echo. The friendly and informative writing venue encourages others to do like Gail and share treasured family memories about bygone eras — or current ones, for the younger generation. (since this article came out in 2011, Gail Martin has died)

You can pick up a copy of Gail’s historical journey for yourself from Amazon or go directly to the publishing entity known as Blurb.com. There’s an author website at http://gailmartin.wordpress.com and a fan page at the Gail Lee Martin Facebook Page.

Gail’s book “My Flint Hills Childhood” won the 2010 Ferguson Kansas History Book Award and the author has enjoyed the attention of writers as esteemed as those found on USA Today, who say that “Grandma’s greener than you.” The USA Today article featured Gail’s memories of thrifty times in the 1930s.

The Other End of the String (a Book from Gail’s Bookshelf)

This book from Gail Lee Martin’s bookshelf is reviewed here by her daughter, Virginia Allain.

Growing up in the Pegram family is lovingly detailed but not in a maudlin way. This is like Little House on the Prairie updated to the 1920s and 1930s. It’s a time of hardship and learning to make the most of what you have.

It’s the stories honed by many retellings as the family sat on the porch in the twilight after a hard summer day of working in the garden. The rememberings are woven together into this very personal book that also tells the story of that era.

I’ve read dozens of memoirs from this time period and this one is special. A very enjoyable read.