Vintage Westerns: My Dad’s Favorite Reads

Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, B.M. Bower, William McLeod Raine… do those names ring a bell? These are authors whose vintage westerns continue to have a strong appeal.

Westerns were in heavy demand at my library when the retirees flocked to the area for the warm winters. These older men grew up watching Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry weekly at the movies. Cowboys wore white hats and overcame the bad guys. From the 1920s to the 1950s youngsters imitated their favorite cowboy, wearing a vest and a cowboy hat, and gripping a six-gun in each hand.

Vintage Humor, Cowboy Singing Music to his Horse Classic Round Sticker Vintage Cowboy Singing to his Horse Round Sticker

Their movie heroes are long gone, but the western novel remains popular with this audience. The faithful readers may be seventy, eighty or ninety but as long as their eyesight holds out, they’ll read their westerns.

B.M. Bower Western books

Dad’s collection of B.M. Bower westerns.

Memory Flashback to 2007: Reading is a pastime that brings lifelong pleasure. My dad keeps a stack of his favorite westerns on a bookshelf near his comfortable chair. They are ready for re-reading at any time. In between, he goes through lots of paperback westerns. His family keeps him well-supplied with the paperbacks picked up at yard sales. Eventually, those get recycled to the used bookstore in town or donated to the library’s book sale. Then he returns to reading Zane Grey and B.M. Bower once again.

reading a vintage western

Clyde Martin, reading once again an old favorite western by William McLeod Raine.

I Loved Reading Vintage Westerns Too

Back when I was in school, I started reading the old westerns that filled the shelves in our home. Those were favorites of Dad’s. I found I liked them a lot, so started picking up additional titles at the public library that were missing from Dad’s collection. Later, I’d watch for the old hardcover classics from the 1930s and 1940s whenever I visited a flea market.

I still had a lot of those vintage westerns on my book shelves but needed to thin down my collection. Since I didn’t want to just give them to the thrift shop, I started passing them along to Dad the last few years of his life. Even if he had read them several times before, he was always glad to read one again.


I should have gotten Dad a mug like this for his coffee.

Thundering Herd 1925 movie ad Mug

Thundering Herd 1925 movie ad Mug

(This essay was previously published on Squidoo by Gail Martin’s daughter, Virginia Allain)

C Is for Cedar Chests

I remember that we always had a cedar chest. Sometimes it was in my parents’ bedroom, sometimes in the dining room, but it was always there. Although I was a little vague on its history, I knew that either Grandpa made it for my mother, Gail, or it was one that Dad made in high school shop class.

It was special to lift that lid and smell the scent of the unvarnished interior. Inside were family quilts and Mom’s treasured pineapple patterned crocheted tablecloth.


The old cedar chest made by Clyde Martin in high school.

When the grandkids started graduating from high school, my dad, Clyde Martin wanted to give each one a cedar chest. His mother made each grandchild a quilt and a rag rug when they married. The cedar chests were his way of carrying on the family tradition.

Dad and Mom scouted the yard sales in the El Dorado area to find vintage cedar chests. Sometimes the old wood was battered and scarred. He would work some magic on the distressed chests and present them to the graduate.

In one of Mom’s notebooks, I found her somewhat incomplete record of the project.

1999 Cedar Chest List (from Gail Lee Martin’s Notebook)

  • Grandchildren’s cedar chests for H.S. graduation
  • Paul 1997 small restored chest from Jenetta
  • Robin 19– 1st one put together from WalMart kit
  • Kristy 1990 or 1991 – restored but destroyed in Andover tornado
  • April 19– restored chest
  • Nicki 1998 1935 Lane cedar chest replaced lock
  • Diana 2000 1935 Lane cedar chest
  • Sam 2005
  • Chhaya
  • Karen Friend’s Univ. graduation. made by Clyde in 1940.
  • Kristy 1999 replacement for the one lost in tornado
  • Cindy
  • Susan
  • Ginger

On hand – April 1999

  • The one Daddy made for me.
  • One handmade from Butler county cedar(warped top)
  • A nice handmade @ 1940? small, on legs bought 4-17-99.
  • One with old, rounded edges, possible an older Lane, Lane key fits.
  • One extra large home-built cedar with no feet.
  • One commercially veneered, stored at Karen.

The Christmas of Our First TV

Gail Lee Martin posted this to the Our Echo website in 2011. Here it is for your Christmas reading enjoyment. If it triggers some Christmas memories for you, please share them in the comment section at the end.

The advent of the TV in our home happened the first Christmas we lived on the Greene farm three miles north of El Dorado. This was in 1960 and Clyde had a good job and working regularly so we decided to get a brand new television for a Christmas for a present for all our six kids! We keep it hid in that old garage under some junk until Christmas morning. Clyde and I went out and brought it in before the kids woke up.

We had an end table to put it on and one of us had the idea that we ought to have it turned on when the kids got up. So making sure the volume was turned real low we turned it on. Now remember it was Christmas time and colder than blue blazes outside. Clyde and I were really excited as we turned on the TV on and snap, crackle, and pop the cold tubes broke as the hot electricity hit each tube. What a bummer of a Christmas this was for the Martin family as we hadn’t bought anything else for anyone. All they had was their filled up stockings.

But the kid’s Dad came to the rescue and wrote down the numbers from each broken tube and as soon as the stores opened he went into the Graves Drugstore on the west side of north Main and was able to buy every TV tube we needed. He came back home and replaced the burned out tubes and put in the new ones and PRESTO we had television to watch for Christmas.

I know it is hard to believe this but that was the way TVs were built back then and not every store closed even on Christmas. Totally different world 50 years ago.

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?
 Does it dry up
 like a raisin in the sun?
 Maybe it just sags
 like a heavy load.

Langston Hughes wrote these lines in 1951 and I’ve been thinking of them a lot this past couple of years. I started out thinking of them in relation to the situation I was in, which I wrote a bit about in a piece on the Bubblews site: I Was a WalMart Cashier.

However, those thoughts would always lead me to my Dad and his deferred dreams. While my situation was temporary and an aggravation, my Dad’s dreams seemed to have been snuffed out, one by one, as a young man. I’m sure when he began working in the oil fields as a young husband and father, he had no idea that he would be doing that hard, physical labor his entire life.

He came of age during the depression and was of draft age when World War II came around. Since his older brother enlisted in the Air Force, Dad was given an agricultural deferment because he was needed on the farm. His older brother’s experience led him to bigger and better things after the war and he never returned to the farm and only rarely returned to Kansas to see the family.

As the war ended and Australia opened up to immigration, Dad thought about moving there. Instead, he married my Mom and by 1946 had the first of six children.


Clyde Martin with an Ayrshire calf.

As a young couple, they started a dairy operation with an Ayrshire herd, only to have that dream dashed when, after a particularly rainy season, mastitis spread through their herd. State health regulations forced them to sell the herd as butcher cattle at a loss.

For a short time, he and a younger brother operated a gas station, but it wasn’t bringing in enough income to support two young families.

That’s when Dad took his first job in the oilfields. Although by the time he retired, he had advanced to supervisory positions such as tool pusher and production manager, most of his career was spent doing the dangerous, back-breaking work of a roughneck.



Clyde Martin, just home from work and still in his oil stained clothes. Gail holding Shannon, their youngest child.  Around 1959.


Later in life, he suffered greatly from the pain of old injuries and severe hearing loss from working around the loud drilling machinery all his life.

I’m glad my Dad had a good, long retirement before he passed away at age 87. He made up for lost time in those years. He and Mom bought a small RV and some vacation property on a fishing lake, they gardened and canned and enjoyed the farmers’ market, Dad became a bread baker extraordinaire, they read lots of books and watched lots of baseball and ice skating on tv, they enjoyed their kids and grandkids, and they traveled. The dream was no longer deferred. Rest in peace, Dad.

(This tribute to Clyde Martin was first published on Bubblews by Karen Kolavalli. The site is now defunct, but it seemed appropriate to republish it here as Dad’s birthday approaches.)


Make Parmesan-Oregano Bread Crumbs

Make your own flavored bread crumbs for breading chicken, pork chops or fish. Oregano and parmesan are perfect flavors to go with those. It’s a great way to use up excess bread.

Since my husband made homemade bread several times a week for the farmer’s market, sometimes we ended up with leftover loaves. Since it doesn’t have preservatives, it won’t keep as long as store-bought bread. This recipe makes good use of it if you can’t eat it fast enough.

A vintage ad for M & M Bread (photo by Virginia Allain)

A vintage ad for M & M Bread (photo by Virginia Allain)


Things You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 loaf day old bread
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp. fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. coarse salt
  1. Remove the crust from day-old bread. We use our homemade bread that we make in the bread machine. This doesn’t work with soft, store-bought bread. You will need to allow it to dry out.
  2. Divide it into two batches. Put one batch at a time into a food processor. Pulse it until it forms fine crumbs. To do this manually, put the bread cubes in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling-pin. You will have five cups of crumbs.
  3. Stir together the fine bread crumbs with 3 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 3/4 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon of coarse salt.
Drying out store-bought bread (photo by Virginia Allain)

Drying out store-bought bread (photo by Virginia Allain)

 Tips & Warnings
  • Extra crumbs can be frozen until needed.
  • Don’t feed it to the birds.
Here's Dad (Clyde Martin) slicing his homemade bread.

Here’s Clyde Martin slicing his homemade bread.

(First published on eHow in 2008 by Gail Lee Martin)

Y is for Young Married Years

My parents married in June of 1945, the month after Germany surrendered. World War II continued for a few more months into September.

That first year, they rented a farm just around the corner from the Martins, Dad’s folks. This was southeast of Madison, Kansas. Dad’s sister Dorothy, her husband and their two children moved in with them until the Stafford’s house in town was ready.

Dad’s dream was to raise registered Aryshire dairy cattle. They borrowed money from the bank and from Mom’s father to buy their first stock.

On January 15, 1946, when the farm rent came due, the young couple moved to the Martin home place. Their first child, a son, was born on Valentine’s Day. Mom remembers being in the hospital for 10 days “which was the custom at that time.”

The winter and spring were very wet. Some of the cattle developed mastitis and the young couple took a big loss as they had to be sold for butchering.

The farm sale flyer is dated 1947, but from Gail's notes, I believe it was 1948.

The farm sale flyer is dated 1947.

It was a struggle to get through with just the garden and the chickens while getting ready for the farm sale in October. Years later, Mom wrote a story about that time called, “The Dream That Went Bust.”

In November 1947, they added a daughter to the family. With the money from the sale, they paid off the bank loan.

Gail and Clyde Martin with their first two children, Owen and Susan. (Scrapbook design from Smilebox)

Gail and Clyde Martin with their first two children, Owen and Susan. (Scrapbook design from Smilebox)

Next month, I’ll post Mom’s essay on that time, as I see it isn’t in either of her books or online anywhere.

J is for Junkyard

Tagging along with Dad to the Junkyard

I don’t know why this memory worked its way to the surface this week. Dad didn’t have much time to spend with his children. He worked long hours and often had a long drive to get to that work.

He did his own auto repairs, back in those days before so much became electronic or computerized. When the car broke down, he figured out the problem, bought a used part and put it in himself.

The used parts came from junkyards, so first he had to find a wrecked or defunct vehicle with the right parts in it. Then he removed the part and paid a fee to the junkyard owner. It was labor intensive but probably saved him a lot of money over the years.

A few times, I remember going with him to the junkyards. To a small kid, they were spooky places full of rusting and destroyed autos with the weeds growing up around them.

(previously published on Bubblews October 30, 2014)