Gail’s Pet Badger

A Pet Badger

I’d never think to have a pet as ferocious looking as a badger. They have fearsome claws and are noted for their digging. My mom was given a baby badger back in the 1930s and she raised it and kept it as a pet.

She tells some remarkable stories about what it was like to have a pet badger. Here’s more information about the American badger and more about her pet badger.

Mom took this photo at a museum. She said it reminded her of her pet badger, Jolly.

Mom took this photo at a museum. She said it reminded her of her pet badger, Jolly.

An Unusual Pet – An American Badger

Young Gail McGhee in front, center. The shed in the background might be the wash house that the badger lived in, where he dug tunnels in the dirt floor.

Young Gail McGhee in front, center. The shed in the background might be the wash house that the badger lived in, where he dug tunnels in the dirt floor.

Baby Badger

Gail Martin describes in her book how they raised the badger as a baby. This video shows a European baby badger, but it would have looked pretty similar to this.

Great Video of a Badger 

Note that it has a harness. It also digs just like my mother described her pet badger digging in their potato patch. A collar didn’t work for the badger as it would just slip off over its head.

Ironing in the Good Old Days

This old iron would have been what Gail’s mother, Ruth McGhee, used to press the family clothes in the early 1900s. Even when electric irons came into use, she didn’t get one for a long time. They didn’t get electricity as soon as people in the towns did.

old iron

Photo by Virginia Allain

In the oil camps in the Kansas Flint Hills, they were still using oil lamps in the 1920s. The company housing for the oil workers was too far out in the hills for luxuries like electricity.

Consequently Ruth ironed her clothes with heavy irons like this. They were heated on the surface of the wood cook stove and then pressed against the clothes to remove wrinkles. You would have one getting hot, while you used the other one.

Irons Heating on Stove Greeting Card
Irons Heating on Stove 


 
You still see these around, but people tend to use them for bookends or for doorstops now. I sure wouldn’t want to iron with one.

Eventually the electric iron became available and simplified the ironing chores of housewives.

The Acrobatics Team

My mother spoke a number of times about learning acrobatics when she was in school. Their teacher Brownie Dillman taught the students. Recently I scanned some stamp-sized photos that showed this teacher and some of the students.

I’m enlarging them here for more detail. To see them even larger, click on each photo.

Gail McGhee's school friends

Gail McGhee’s school friends

It seems that the acrobatic team had the opportunity to perform at the Kansas State Fair. It lists the names of the students, but not Gail McGhee. I don’t know if at age 13, she had already moved on to another school or if some other reason kept her from attending.

The Hutchinson News (page 13, Sept. 16, 1937) wrote about the free day for school children that expected 7,000 children and teens to attend. Here’s the schedule for the entertainment in the grandstand at 10:30 am on the free day.

  • Short speeches by some school officials
  • A clown from the state fire marshal’s office
  • Rover the mathematical dog
  • A troupe of juvenile acrobats – The acrobatic team originated from the Seeley Grade School of Madison, Kansas. Members of the troupe are Dixie Jean Falk age 7, Edna Mae Laird age 7, Marilyn Ruth Dettcr (spelling?) age 7, and Dorothy Rose Laird age 12.
  • Dancers from local schools and Clyde S. Miller’s Wild West Show
  • Music by the Hutchinson High School band directed by S. Allen Watrous.
  • Also music by Turkey Creek, Wakeeney and Pawnee Rock bands.
Gail McGhee's school chums showing their acrobatic moves.

Gail McGhee’s school chums showing their acrobatic moves.

Browning Dillman, the school teacher who taught Gail and her friends to perform acrobatics.

Browning Dillman, the school teacher who taught Gail and her friends to perform acrobatics.

A Random Act of Genealogical Kindness

In Mom’s photo collection are four photos relating to her childhood friend, Dorothy Rose Laird. I wrote about their friendship in another post, so you’ve seen one of the pictures there.

It occurred to me that descendants of Dorothy or relatives would love to have these 60 year old pictures. I researched on the Ancestry site for family trees that included Dorothy Rose Laird.

When I found one, I messaged the owner of the tree asking if she would like the photos to add. She was thrilled. I emailed digital copies of the pictures and I see she has already attached them to the people on her family tree.

Here are the four pictures in case anyone else is looking for Dorothy.

Gail and her school friends standing by her daddy's new car.  Dorothy Rose Laird is in the center, Gail on the right.

Gail and her school friends standing by her daddy’s new car. Dorothy Rose Laird is in the center, Gail on the right.

I could not find details later than 1940 on Dorothy, so I don’t know who she married, where she lived and if she died.

Dorothy Rose and Edna Mae Laird - Greenwood County, Kansas.  Photo from Gail Lee Martin's collection.

Dorothy Rose and Edna Mae Laird – Greenwood County, Kansas.
Photo from Gail Lee Martin’s collection. Edna is 4 years younger than Dorothy.

Gail McGhee and Dorothy Rose Laird - 1930s at Noller School, Greenwood County, Kansas

Gail McGhee and Dorothy Rose Laird – 1930s at Noller School, Greenwood County, Kansas

This one is labeled "Grandmother Lair's house, Potwin, KS." According to Ancestry, Dorothy had a grandmother, Ella, who lived in Potwin.

This one is labeled “Grandmother Laird’s house, Potwin, KS.” According to Ancestry, Dorothy had a grandmother, Ella, who lived in Potwin.

According to that member’s family tree, the grandmother’s name was Mary Ellen “Ella” Combs and she married Thomas Laird.

The good part of sharing these photos is now they are on Ancestry so others who are searching for her will easily find them. The bad part is that Ancestry’s subscription fee keeps many from using it. For that, I’m posting them here.

It turns out that my sister, Karen, had an additional photo of Edna Mae and Dorothy Rose Laird. Here it is.

It turns out that my sister, Karen, had an additional photo of Edna Mae and Dorothy Rose Laird. Here it is.

PS – One of the activities that my mother, Gail, remembered fondly from her school days was learning acrobatics with her friend Dorothy. Click the link to read about that.

Remembering Saturdays at the Movies

One of Mom’s stories that I really enjoy was her description of going to the Princess Theater in Eureka on Saturdays in the 1930s. That was the family shopping day in town. You can read her story on the Our Echo website or in her book, My Flint Hills Childhood.

The vintage buildings in Eureka, Kansas.

The vintage buildings in Eureka, Kansas.

I would love to see a picture of the Princess Theater, both of the interior and the exterior. There’s an online spot called Topix for Eureka, so I posed the question there if anyone had a photo. Although no photo has surfaced, the query did spark some interesting memories. Here are some of the responses:

Sue Ellen of Wichita shared this memory: “My Grandfather Thomas Archibald Rector was the projectionist from 1928 to 1960 at the Princess Theater in Eureka Kansas. At one time he also managed it. He brought the Princess from the silent days of projection to the talkies and even opened the Drive In and still ran the matinees at the Princess.

My mother Arleta Jeanne Rector Grove spent a great deal of time there attending movies through her childhood too. When we were little (born 1951) my brother and I would often go with my Mother for a Saturday afternoon show and we would sit in the balcony while Grandpa ran the booth. He helped everybody get ready on movie night and he was a wonderful man. He learned the projection craft from his brother-in-law at the Emporia Theater before coming to build a home in Eureka.

My favorite movie I saw there and scared me to pieces was when Darby O’Gill and the Little People came out!!!”

“Also, about mid day after matinee time if we were in town, Grandpa would let us kids go clean up the aisles. While we were helping clean up after the matinee, he would play newsreels from WWII. I knew my father had been in WWII so it was like learning about my father as a hero since he was a part of it.”

I always loved the smell of popcorn as I walked into the Princess!
Thanks for the memories as Bob Hope would say.

Sue Ellen added more background, writing this time from Springdale, AR: “I was just thinking about the night Grandpa Rector was showing Darby O’Gill and The Little People. It was during the first week he played it-probably a Friday or Saturday night. We went down to the newspaper stand that sold penny candy (can’t remember its name- someone help me) before the show. We bought two very small brown paper bags FULL of candy like chocolate balls, Jolly ranchers all flavors, etc. The we went to the movie. I got so scared at the BANSHEE that I covered my eyes till it was passed. My mother, brother Ray, sister Lynn and I went. What fun!”

Tammy M of Shawnee, OK told her memories: “My father Michael Johnston Bought this theater in June of 1970 and sold either in 71 or 72. I am asking if anyone has pics…. Please!!! Thank You … My email.is tammy2616@hotmail.com subject this theater plz.”

Glenn Felter of Howard, KS remembered: “When I was younger I spent a lot of time going to the Princess. I really enjoyed it and it was sad when they closed it down!”

Joan Downing Barg of Coffeyville, KS tells some stories: “My brother Jim worked as an usher. Remember them? I worked at the popcorn machine when I was in highschool (1950’s) It was a fun job as I got to see all my friends coming and going to the movies. The owner/manager then was Mr and Mrs. Ailey. Mabel Brown sold tickets. After they retired the new manager was Charlie Shoemaker, I think, that was a long time ago and I may be wrong about the name. Those were the times of “Ma and Pa Kettle” and Francis, the Talking Mule” and people would be lined up from the Princess down the block to the Greenwood Hotel. There would be two showings…one at 7:00 and one at 9:00 and the theater would be packed both times. It was the only entertainment in Eureka at the time.

We live in Coffeyville, Ks. now and don’t even have a movie theater here. They are trying to restore the Midland so they can show movies at certain times. But I don’t think it will ever be as wonderful as the days of “The Princess”!!”

How to Make a Prairie Doll from Rags

Mom wrote this article for the eHow site back in 2008. “When I was a little girl growing up in the Flint Hills of Kansas, my mother spent many evenings crocheting rag rugs. I remember one winter she used some of the rag strips to make my sister and me matching rag dolls. I carried my doll everywhere I went and I slept with her hugged in my arms. Here’s how you can make this old-time doll.   Things You’ll Need: strips of cloth (tear up an old sheet) a vintage handkerchief ravelings leftover from tearing up the sheet

    1. My mother tore old sheets or other cotton fabric into long strips. We’d roll them into balls to save for making rugs or dolls. (You can get worn out sheets cheaply at yard sales)
    2. Head: Lay the strips out together, you’ll need about 30 strips to make it full enough. Then fold them over in half, tying off a head-sized shape at the fold. You can put a small ball or foam ball inside the head to give it shape if you want. Figure the length by deciding how much fabric for the head, body, and skirt. Double that length for the front and back.

      Gail Lee Martin made this prairie doll from torn strips of old sheets for her daughter, Ginger.

      Gail Lee Martin made this prairie doll for her daughter, Ginger.

  • Arms: Cut some strips the length you want the arms (arm/body/arm). The arms were just a handful of strips of material 6 or 8 inch long and tied with a ribbon at each end, then stuck in thru the neck and waist ties.
  • Body: Tie off another section at the waist to form the body of the doll. The arms go through this section. Allow the rest of the strips to hang freely as the skirt for the prairie doll.
  • Hair for the doll: There were lots of thread ravellings that we had to contend with as we tore the sheeting into strips for weaving rugs. I had the inspiration to use the ravellings for hair for the dolls. We made blonde hair from yellow sheets, and we gathered threads for red, black and brown haired dolls. Even had some grey hair for a grandma doll. I first made them for our five daughters, seven granddaughters and now making them for our great-granddaughters.
  • Mother made aprons for the dolls from some of her pretty handkerchiefs and a bonnet to keep the Kansas sun from her button eyes was fashioned from some left over dress trimmings. Now when I make the dolls for my grandchildren, I gather fancy hankies and trimming from garage sales and anything I think could be used to enhance the dolls.
  • Accessories: I showed a women’s group how to make them. Everyone had a different idea on what to make the bonnets and aprons from. Some included small baskets of flowers for their doll to carry and others made shawls and scarves instead of bonnets and aprons. All were lovely. When finished the group had fifteen prairie dolls to send to an Indian mission school for Christmas presents.
This is one of the prairie dolls made from rags that Mom made during their retirement years

This is one of the prairie dolls made from rags that Mom made during their retirement years

  • Displaying the doll: My sister, who was four years older than me, just sat her doll on our bed in front of the pillows. Cute idea but I thought it a waste of a lovely play mate and when she wasn’t looking our dolls had a fun time together. Although when mine faded and became more ragged than when she was new, Melba’s was still just as pretty as when Mother made her. The local historical museum borrowed one of my prairie rag dolls & displayed her in a tiny red chair by the Christmas tree in the lease house for their special “Christmas at the oil field lease house.” What an honor!
  • Washing the doll: Every Monday when Mother washed our clothes I would slosh my doll up and down in the warm, soapy wash water and Mother would wring the water out so I could swim her around in the rinse water colored with bluing. Then I stretched her rag arms out wide and pinned them to the wire clothes line with Mother’s snap clothes pins to dry in the blustery Kansas winds. My heart just broke when she froze to the wire one winter day. Mother saved her by placing her warm hands over the frozen spots until they quickly thawed. After that I hung my doll on a wire hanger near the heating stove in the front room in the winter. If the doll is just displayed, it won’t need washing at all, just shake off the dust every so often.


My parents grew up when the way to live was to recycle everything. Who knew when you might need it. Mother’s rag dolls were a prime example of that creed and the dolls have come a long way. This memory of Mother and the prairie dolls are a heritage worth passing down to my children and grandchildren.”  

I found online another person who makes rag dolls like this: Make a Nettie Doll with Rags. I can’t find that page anymore.

More of Mom’s crafts:

W is for Wagon Wheel Rugs

M is for Macrame Mania

Crafty Sisters

More Craft Photos

Mom’s Favorite Teacher

The memory prompt was “Who was your favorite teacher? Why?”

Mom wrote, “Brownie Dillman, my first man teacher who taught us gymnastics during recess. He was tall and slim like my Daddy and dressed casually. In the winter he wore sweater vests or long-sleeved sweaters.”

Here are some of Gail's school friends performing acrobatics at Noller School in Greenwood County, Kansas. This would have been in the 1930s.

Here are some of Gail’s school friends performing acrobatics at Noller School in Greenwood County, Kansas. This would have been in the 1930s.