M is for Memories of the Flood of 1951

Gail’s children heard the story many times about the great flood that almost swept little Cindy away. The family rented a small house owned by Gail’s parents, Clarence and Ruth McGhee. It was just a quarter mile down the road from the McGhee home. The “little house” was home to Gail and Clyde Martin with their four young children.
Rental house - owned by Clarence McGhee in 1951

The little house that the Martins rented from the McGhees.

As you can see, the house was fairly basic and had a few cinder blocks for the front step. Take a look at the video below and then I’ll tell you the rest of the story.

Apparently, the creek turned into a river rushing across the yard towards the little house. Water surrounded them and they were cut off. Gail’s brother-in-law, Norman Harlan, arrived in a boat to rescue the family. When they opened the door, toddler Cindy stepped out. Fortunately, Norman grabbed her as she came through the door.


Cindy Martin rescued in the Great Flood of 1951.

She would have been swept away in the floodwaters. The whole family was rescued.

Cj Garriott, Gail’s younger sister, tells about the flood in the Madison area,Some memories I have of the ’51 flood–Perched as our house was on the little hill, we were high and dry as our home and barns were spared. We lost some cows–we tried to get them to the homeplace, and some did get there, but we watched as others were swept downstream.

Even though the railroad tracks were covered with water, a couple of neighbor men were able to walk it to town for supplies.

I remember squatting at the edge of the water, as it inched up our hill, watching grasshoppers getting pushed off grass stalks by the rising water. I wished I could save them.”

McGhee house in Greenwood County KS

The Clarence and Ruth McGhee home on the hill near Madison, KS.

I asked Carol about the history of the houses, and she said, “Daddy bought the 40 acres with a house that needed to be torn down. Then Daddy and Norman built the new one, I believe. I think Melba and Norman lived in it first, while they built a new house on their farm. The little house across the creek that was flooded was rented by Gail and Clyde.”

I Remember Our 1940s Homes

Gail McGhee and Clyde Martin were married by a Christian Church minister formerly of Madison, KS, named Sydney Hawkins. He had been a favorite of Gail’s in her teens. He married the two in his study in Neodesha in 1945. Gail’s parents, Ruth and Clarence McGhee, attended, then drove the newly married couple to Tyro to stay with relatives for the weekend.

Here is Gail’s account of their life together:
We started housekeeping 4 miles south of Madison, 2 miles east, 1/4 miles south on a rented farm called the Long Farm. Clyde had been batching there since his folks had retired and moved to Madison. The farm sold, so we had to move the next winter.

In January 1946, we moved into the Ren Martin homestead back west 1/2 mile. We shared the house with Dorothy (Clyde’s sister) and Orville Stafford who were living there, while they were getting their house in Madison fixed up.

Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1946, our son Owen was born at Newman Memorial Hospital in Emporia. Owen Lee is named after his parent’s middle names. Clyde Owen and Gail Lee. He was called “Butch” for most of his preschool days. A family friend, Haynes Redding, called him that and it stuck, even if great-grandmother McGhee, said it “was a dog’s name.”

Clyde farmed the home place and we had a herd of milk cows. Clyde milked them and we bought several registered Ayrshires. In the summer we teamed up with Haynes and Marion Redding to bale hay for people. I raked the hay into windrows and pile it for the men to fork into the baler. I poked the wires through the bales and Marion would twist the ends together.

When Owen started to school, the Butch nickname was left behind. He went to Madison grade school the first four years, riding the school bus.

When Owen was a year and 8 months old, we had a farm sale.
The winter and spring of 1947 were very wet and mastitis, a dairy disease, got in our herd and we had to sell them as butcher cows. It took us out of the dairy business. The Ayrshires were separate, so we were able to take them to Uncle Jesse’s in Missouri for awhile. We sold them later when they didn’t get the disease.

Clyde's herd of milking cows before the Aryshires_roxio

Clyde Martin’s milk cows – 1940s

Clyde took a job with a dairy in Wellsville, KS. After Susan was born, November 7, 1947, we moved into the small house the boss kept for his help in December 1947.
We moved to an apartment in Wichita while Clyde worked with a crew digging a pipeline. The apartment was in a basement.

By Thanksgiving 1948, we were so homesick that our friends Wayne and Dorothy Baysinger persuaded us to move into the upper story of the farmhouse they had rented. It was five miles south of Madison and was called the “half-way house.” Clyde went to work with Wayne in the oilfield and on various jobs. Our daughter, Virginia was born December 1948.

The summer of 1949, we found a small rental house several miles north of Madison until my Dad bought a three-room house and moved it to a corner of his farm northwest of Madison. With Clyde’s help, he fixed it up and we moved there before Cindy, our fourth child, was born in September 1950.

Gail Martin Susan Owen June 1948

Gail Lee Martin with her first two children, Susan and Owen. Around 1947/48.

This is a segment of a memory piece that Gail wrote for her son. The complete post is on the Our Echo site.

Snow Memories from Childhood

(Memories by Virginia Allain, previously published on List My Five)

In my case, childhood was a good many years ago, but the memories are still vivid. My memories will vary from your own experience, so I challenge you to write your own list on this topic.

    • Walking Miles to School In Deep Snow –

      Actually, for us, it was only a quarter of a mile walk to where we met the school bus. It sure seemed a lot longer, but then our legs were pretty short back then. We trekked up the hill through drifts of snow, then waited by the highway with the wind whistling around us. Those were the days when girls wore dresses to school and that Kansas wind would whip up under the gathered skirts and freeze your knees.

    • Sliding on the Frozen Creek –

      The wind blew most of the snow off the ice, so we had great fun seeing how far we could slide. We didn’t have skates and it was only a small area, but it kept us amused. I’m sure we fancied ourselves accomplished skaters like the vintage pictures in the Currier and Ives book.

  • Snowball Fights –

    Our older brother could throw more powerfully and further than any of us, so our snowball fights were pretty one-sided. Many kids remember building snow forts for their snowball fights, but I don’t remember that.

  • Bringing In Firewood –

    We lived in the country and had a wood-burning stove, so wading through the snow for an armload of wood was an unwelcome chore. We kept a stockpile on the back porch but sometimes had to go out in the snow to replenish it. Returning with the wood, we stamped our feet on the porch to remove as much snow as possible. Still, we tracked some in on the linoleum that covered the floor in the big country kitchen.

    old stove

    A drawing by Karen Martin showing the black wood stove that heated that drafty farmhouse.

  • Taking Care of Our Pet Rabbits –

    When it snowed, it was also cold enough to freeze the water crocks in the rabbit hutches. What a chore it was to drag all the frozen, heavy crockery to the house to thaw and then return them to the hutches. Then we carried the buckets of water down to fill them. After school, the job often had to be repeated.


Our rabbitry on a chill winter day. Fortunately, there was no snow on this particular day.

A Long Ago Christmas

a-long-ago-christmas-bubblewsI’m the keeper of the family photos now since my mother died. I need to add the stories to them before it is time to pass them along to the next generation.

Three of the people in this 1971 photo are already gone. Remaining are my sister, brother and me. We are all in our sixties now. Some forty years have passed since we were standing here for this Christmas picture. We were just in our twenties then and our parents were in their forties.

Little did we dream that Shannon would die before my parents. She is so young in this picture, the baby of the family.

My brother, so handsome and vital in this photo is now in a nursing home. He had a stroke and must use a wheelchair. Just thinking of how restricted his life has become due to health issues makes me sad.

My sister, in the blue sweater, has moved to another state. She’s made a new life there and enjoying exploring new territory. In this photo, she was still in college and so was I. I’m the one in navy blue. Yes, back then I had red hair.

Two of our sisters aren’t in this photo. I’m sure they were there for the family gathering.

Little did we know the paths that our lives would take. Maybe it is best that we don’t know.

(post originally published on Bubblews – by Virginia Allain)

Kids Everywhere

Back in the days of my childhood, we did our chores and then went out to play. We were expected to keep ourselves amused for hours and not be running into the house all the time. It was the 1950s, before the days of driving children around to dance classes, karate, play dates, and soccer. Parents weren’t worrying about anyone kidnapping their child back in the fifties, so we rode our bikes or played in the creek without adult supervision.

ginger childhood

Gail Martin holding Shannon. (Left to right) Susan, Ginger, Karen, Cindy, Owen Martin

Just keeping the six of us fed and clothed required a lot of effort for my mom, Gail Lee Martin. Even in the 1950s, six was a big family to raise. She did want us to have enrichment activities and at first, tried scouting.

scouting owen susan ginger gail

Gail Martin, scout leader, with her children (Ginger, Owen and Susan)

Getting us to boy scout and girl scout activities had us going in all directions, so when we moved to the country, we switched to 4-H. Then we all went to the monthly meeting together. There were a variety of projects in 4-H that fitted our lives, so we learned gardening, baking, and sewing. We raised rabbits and pigs and chickens. There were projects for photography, interior decoration, and landscaping.

She introduced us to 4-H projects that fit her interests like entomology and geology. Often, she became an expert and then a project leader for others in the club.



Little sister, Shannon Martin, with her insect display at the Butler County 4-H fair.

Maybe all our 4-H projects were that era’s version of the soccer mom. We learned a lot, but I still remember long summer days of exploring the fields and woods without deadlines or restrictions.

Shirley Temple Curls

Originally written by Virginia Allain on February 10th, 2014, the day Shirley Temple died.

I grew up in the nineteen-fifties, but even then, Shirley Temple’s movies inspired little girls. We wanted to be able to sing and dance and have curls like Shirley. We watched her movies over and over, admiring the talented child with the ever-so-cute dimples.


Shirley Temple and her curly hair. 1930s (public domain photo)

One time, my mom attempted to give me Shirley Temple curls. My hair was a bit long for the curly top look. Shirley had 50 adorable ringlets surrounding her sweet face. Mom managed some big sausage curls for me and in the photo, you see the result.

ginger childhood

Ginger Martin and the curls. 1950s

Well, that lasted just one day. Somehow it didn’t work with my t-shirt and blue jeans world. I couldn’t sing and dance either. My sister kept wanting to take tap dancing classes, but that wasn’t in the family budget.

My mother had fairly straight hair as a child, but her younger sister, Carol, had the curly look.



Curly top, Carol McGhee, hugging some kitties.


There will only be one Shirley Temple, but she was an inspiration to us all.

Today is Special and Precious

As a kid growing up in the Martin household in central Kansas, it never occurred to me that those moments were unique and precious. This quotation made me think about that:

“But if you knew you might not be able to see it again tomorrow, everything would suddenly become special and precious, wouldn’t it?” ~ Haruki Murakami

Mom was busy raising six children, managing our home and garden and livestock. Dad worked long hours to earn enough to keep a roof over our heads. Living in the country, we were allowed to wander freely in the pastures, along the creek and soak up nature. Of course, we had chores to do as well.

sisters March 59

Martin kids – Ginger, Cindy, Susan & Karen in summertime

Everyone pulled their weight. Our responsibilities included feeding and watering the rabbits, gathering eggs from the henhouse, and endless weeding of the garden under the hot Midwestern sun.

Our hens were various sizes and colors, mostly big Rhode Island Reds. At some point, we acquired a bantam rooster with a gorgeous black and gold curving tail feathers. His chest and wings were golden. He fancied himself the king of the flock, so we named him Foxy Loxy.

What else can I remember from growing up in the country?

The years have passed, and my mind struggles to recapture the feel of clover and grass under my bare feet. Watch out for the bees! I would wander the perimeter of the yard early in the morning to see if new iris were blooming. Mom had some stunning hybrids, dark blue with flecks of white in the throat and ruffled edges.


2012-04-06 fl to nh 010

The iris that Mom had was more a blue. She had gold ones too. (photo by Virginia Allain)


Our giant lilac bush perfumed the air. Nearby grew the head-high clump of pampas grass. Mom saved the tall white plumes from that, drying them under the sofa, then displaying them in a deep vase.

It’s interesting to see that as I write down a tidbit of a memory and then it opens up additional ones.  I’ll save these “special and precious” memories here.