The 50th Anniversary

Gail McGhee and Clyde Martin married on the 3rd of June in 1945. Fifty years after that, their children held an anniversary party for friends and relatives to celebrate the occasion. Leading up to the event, Clyde repeatedly said, “I’m not going to be there.”

His daughters, knowing how much he disliked fuss and formality, worried that he would carry through on his threat. Fortunately, as the special day came, he put on his dress slacks and a nice shirt to attend. Mom wore slacks with a pink blouse accented with a scarf.

Clyde and Gail Martin with daughter Cynthia and her family.

Their daughters decorated the hall with the rag rugs that Gail and Clyde wove on a wagon wheel. Baskets of sunflowers added more color to the event. Their  daughter, Shannon, made a banner  that  was  supposed  to  say,  “Fifty years of growing together.” Instead, it said”growing tougher,” but that was solved by cutting off the last word.

Their son, Owen Martin, made a grandfather clock for them. He was a skilled cabinet maker.

Slide Show at the Anniversary Party

Press the pause button to stop the show so you can see the beautiful rugs the folks made.  

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The family groups wore matching shirts so friends and family could easily match which grandkids went with which of Gail and Clyde’s 5 daughters. Each of the six children had a photo board of their life and there were photo boards showing Gail and Clyde over the years.

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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.”

Shivaree in Kansas

My sister, Karen Kolavalli tells this story,

“I remember Mom telling about their shivaree. They were married in Neodesha, Kansas, with Mom’s parents as witnesses, and spent their wedding night with Mom’s uncle and aunt in Tyro. So the shivaree must have been when they returned to their farm home outside Madison. All the labels had been taken off their canned goods in the kitchen and that night all their friends (and relatives?) came banging pans and making a ruckus.”

I looked into the custom and see there are variations on it. Luckily, no one kidnapped Mom and took her for a ride in a wheelbarrow. You can read more about What Is a Shivaree? in the article that I compiled on Hubpages.

To frame this by what was going on in the world, the final surrender of the Germans occurred on May 8, 1945. Gail and Clyde were married less than a month after that. The surrender of Japan happened about two months after their marriage.

We don’t have any photos of their wedding.  Gail and Clyde drove to Neodesha, Kansas to be married in the office of a minister they knew, Reverend Hawkins. The minister’s wife was the witness for the ceremony.

There was an angel food cake which Gail ceremoniously cut. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t know the right way to cut such a fluffy cake and ended up squashing it. That’s a story retold many times around the family dinner table.


Angel Food Angelfood Cake Slice Strawberry Sticker
Angel Food Cake Slice Sticker by rebeccaheartsny

Karen did a little research on it,

Family history research often takes me down random pathways that don’t necessarily make much difference in the family story, but simply intrigue me. Such is the case of my interest in Reverend Sidney Hawkins, the minister who married my folks.

My parents drove from Madison, in southeast Kansas where they both lived, to Neodesha, Kansas, which is close to the Missouri border, on that spring day in 1945. Mom’s parents went along as witnesses. Reverend Hawkins had been the minister of Mom’s church in Madison when she was growing up and she wanted him to officiate at her wedding.

No photos were taken of the happy couple that day and all that exists to mark the occasion is a faded newspaper clipping announcing the nuptials and my Mom’s stories.

I never thought to question Mom when she told the story. I always enjoyed hearing about the old-time chivaree their friends had for them when they got back to Madison. Since she and Dad are both gone now, the time for questions has passed.

I never wondered about why they didn’t have a “real” wedding with invited guests and all the trimmings. I suppose I thought it had to do with it being the war years. But looking back now, I think it’s more likely because it was a quickie wedding when Mom found herself pregnant. My brother was born 8 months later. And, remember, this was the 1940s and illegitimate babies were beyond scandalous.

So, for some reason, today I was curious about what happened to Reverend Hawkins. I found him, thanks to the Find-A-Grave website, buried in Restland Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas, alongside his wife Marion (1904-1987). He was born in 1896 and died in 1979. I wish I knew more of his story.

This was taken on Clyde's folks' farm southeast of Madison. They had retired and were living up on standpipe hill in Madison while Clyde and Gail lived on the farm.

This was taken on Clyde’s folks’ farm southeast of Madison. His parents had retired and were living up on Standpipe Hill in Madison while Clyde and Gail lived on the farm.

Gail Lee McGhee and Clyde Owen Martin were married for 67 years.

Clyde and Gail – A Love Story

This short slideshow is one I created for the folks on their 65th anniversary. It’s from Smilebox and it takes a few seconds to load before it starts. You click on the arrow to move through the slides.

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You can read more about their romance on a page I made for them.

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Dad and the Gas Station

Clyde Martin and his brother Howard ran the gas station together around 1950. Here’s what Howard said about it, “The station was on the corner where the post office is now in Madison, Kansas. It was a Co-Op station, farmer-owned. We just ran it on a salary-commission base. Very little salary and not enough commission.”

This would have been the era of full-service gas stations where the attendant filled your gas tank and washed your windshield.

I seem to remember Mom telling me they delivered water with a tank truck as well. Because times were tight, they gave credit but couldn’t always collect. With young families to support, the brothers had to give up on their gas station venture.

The CO-OP station shown here is not the one in Madison, but gives you an idea of a CO-OP station from that time period.


Martha and Arlyn Schuler sent me a message when Mom died. She said, ” I kept the books for Clyde and Howard when they had the station. Probably, didn’t know what I was doing, but I enjoyed it.” She is the cousin of Howard Martin’s first wife, Marjorie.

One thing my sister, Cindy, and I both remember about the gas station is the calendar over the desk inside. It featured goofy Lawson Wood’s monkeys for each month. I was fascinated by the antics of those monkeys.

I vaguely remember the cluttered interior of the gas station where fan belts, tire gauges, and cans of oil crowded the small space. The smell of oil and gasoline lingered in the air and oily fingerprints on the paperwork and the desk made me reluctant to touch anything.

What If Mom Had Married Someone Else?

My mom and her sister, Carol, had an interesting exchange on our MyFamily site back in October 2003.

Carol Garriott – “Is that a cigarette in Clyde’s hand?!?! I’d completely forgotten Clyde used to smoke!”

Clyde Martin with daughter, Cindy. Christmas time...

Clyde Martin with daughter, Cindy. Christmas time…

Karen Kolavalli – “Yup, it’s a cigarette. Then he moved on to cigars, too. Does seem like a long time ago, though!”

Gail Martin – “The doctor says he didn’t quit soon enough, his lung don’t handle upper respiratory infections. I think he started in high school. Of course if I’d married Johnnie, a non-smoker, I would have been a widow for the last 30 years. ???”

Karen Kolavalli
– “And I’ve never smoked, but my lungs can’t handle upper respiratory infections either.”

Carol Garriott – “And then there’s the thought that if you had married Johnnie, he might be alive today!

I remember Johnnie irritated me because he wanted me to name my black kitten “Whitey.” Isn’t it funny what one remembers?

I also remember being extremely impressed with my big sister one time when two boyfriends showed up on the same day. (I think they were Clyde and Johnnie.)”

John Faylor, Gail's prom date.

John Faylor, Gail’s prom date.

My thoughts on this: Instead of the six Martin kids, we might have been the six Faylors. Maybe there wouldn’t have been six of us even. Who knows.

Gail and Clyde Martin's children in 1959. It was Easter Sunday.

Gail and Clyde Martin’s children in 1959. It was Easter Sunday.

W is for Wagon Wheel Rugs

In retirement, Mom and Dad had time to spend on craft projects. Mom went through the macrame craze earlier and before that she made balsa wood and colored twine birdcages artfully filled with silk flowers.

The two of them tried a lot of yarn crafts and scrap crafting. With the yarn, they made Santa faces with yarn beards, yarn pom-pom candy canes, and pom-pom cats.

Together they mastered a craft that almost died out, wagon wheel rugs. This involves tying strips of old sheets on an iron wagon wheel. Then you weave more strips through the tied ones. It required a lot of care to get the resulting round rug to turn out flat. The size of the wagon wheel limited the size of your rug.

Here's Gail Martin demonstrating the craft at a pioneer days.

Here’s Gail Martin demonstrating the craft at a pioneer days.

I is for In-The-News

Mom and Dad were pretty much homebodies who devoted their time to family, their garden, fishing and other hobbies. Despite fairly quiet lives, they seemed to get featured in the local papers more than you would expect.

Looking back at these yellowing clippings, one can see their dedication to excellence in whatever they tried. That, I think, made them newsworthy. Each had a way with words so anyone interviewing them left with some good quotes to sprinkle through their article.

Here are some examples.

Gail shares her mother's potato cake recipe with the newspaper.

Gail shares her mother’s potato cake recipe with the newspaper.

For easier reading, here’s a transcription of the above clipping:
“Recipes from the heart: Martin serves ‘leftover’ love

By Tina McCluer, Times Lifestyle Editor
(transcription of the El Dorado Times article of January 27, 2000)

This recipe was sent to us from Gail Martin of El Dorado. Martin contributes to an on-line recipe newsletter called “Kitchen Happenings and More” that carries a heritage recipe column and another column titled “Little Helping Hands.”

She is an avid cook, as is her husband, Clyde, and they both regularly sell products from their kitchen at the farmers’ market located at the El Dorado Meat Processing parking area.

Martin’s favorite recipe was handed down from her “frugal” mother, Ruth McGhee, who “never let a bit of food go to waste.” It is Potato Cakes.

“We use a cup or more of leftover mashed potatoes with two farm fresh eggs (when possible), 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder and a dash each of salt and pepper,” recalls Martin.

According to Martin, to get the most out of an eggshell, bring it to room temperature before cracking it.

Mix and drop potato mixture by spoonful on a greased hot iron skillet. Make sure the skillet isn’t too hot to burn the mixture but not so cool that the potatoes soak up the grease.

Reduce heat, if necessary, and fry until brown, turn over and brown the other side.

“Mother used either plain lard or bacon drippings to fry the small cakes,” suggested Martin. “Of course, the bacon dripping added to the flavor.”

Another thing Martin uses to add to the flavor is she serves the potato cakes with catsup though some prefer to eat them plain.

If one were creative in the kitchen, it is supposed that chopped green onions, bacon bits or other items might be added.

“We’ve always just cooked them plain,” said Martin. “That’s how we like them and if it ain’t broke–don’t fix it!

“Mother’s eggs were from her own New Hampshire Red hens. This breed of chickens laid eggs with brown shells and the chickens ranged on the open prairies of Greenwood County.

“If you haven’t experienced the joy of eating fresh country eggs, you are in for the treat of your life.

“In the summer time the yolks will be a brilliant orange globe and the white will stay in a small area around the yolk. There is no comparison to the store-bought eggs that have been in cold storage for who knows how long.”

Martin’s daughter, Cindy, is said to peel an extra potato or two so she will have leftovers to make Grandma’s potato cakes for her family.

Potato Cakes

leftover mashed potatoes
2 farm fresh eggs
1/4 tsp. baking powder
dash each of salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Drop by spoonfuls into hot greased skillet. Brown on both sides. Serve plain or with catsup.

Gail's memories of recycling in the 1930s were featured in this nationally distributed article.

This nationally distributed article featured Gail’s memories of 1930s recycling.

This article appeared in USA Today.