Vintage Houses from My Mother’s Childhood

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Gail with her father, Clarence McGhee, standing by the simple house provided by Phillips Petroleum for the workers.

My mother, born in 1924, moved a number of times during her childhood. The photo above shows a rather flimsy house provided by the Phillips Oil Company for its employees in the Kansas Flint Hills.

The man in the photo is my grandfather, Clarence McGhee, and that’s my mother by his side at age 3. I’m thinking it would be called a shotgun style house. The exterior looks like board and batten.

The drawing my mother made (below) shows the interior of this 3-room house. It had an eat-in kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom which was shared by the parents and their young children.

Drawing of House

Floor plan of a house from Gail Martin’s childhood.

Photos and sketch from my mom, Gail Lee Martin’s, family archives.

The second house that she sketched above is labeled Green Camp House. It is larger with two bedrooms, an indoor bathroom, and 3 other rooms plus a porch. They would have lived in the Green Camp House in the early part of the Great Depression.


The Green Lease house (Clarence McGhee and daughters, Melba and Gail, on the sled)

Do you have pictures of homes from your childhood? Could you draw a floor plan after all these years? I suggest that you do. It makes a great memory jogger.


Moving Back to Town

Gail Lee Martin’s memories of places they lived. 

We moved back into town in the year Owen went into the Army, 1968, I think, because Clyde was working away from home and it was hard for us girls to keep the wood fire burning, the car running, and keep the pump for the well from freezing in the winter.Owen_Martin_Acting_Sgt_Advanced_Training_Combat_Engineering_Ft_

We moved to 211 North Emporia. When the owner Mrs. Dillenbeck got divorced and moved back home, we then found a house on State Street, just north of the Kentucky Fried Chicken place.

At that house, we had Larry and Cindy’s wedding in our home in 1969. When Owen came home in 1970, the house still wasn’t big enough, even with Cindy and Susan married and Ginger at the Teacher’s College in Emporia.


Cynthia Martin and Larry Ross celebrate their wedding with a cup of punch.

A note from Gail’s daughter, Ginger: You can see from this memory piece, that Gail and Clyde’s children were growing up. 1968 through the early seventies included military service (the Vietnam War era), college, and marriage. Their daughter, Shannon was the only child still at home until Owen returned from the service.

Home: A Sense of Place

This is a guest post, by my sister, Karen Kolavalli.

Karen Kolavalli, the author of this essay.

Karen Kolavalli, the author of this essay.

Whenever anyone asks “Where’s home?” I immediately picture an isolated farmhouse north of El Dorado, Kansas. I’ve been thinking about the concept of home this week as part of the coursework in an anthropology class I’m taking.

While I don’t have the writing skills of Daphne DuMaurier (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”) or Isak Dinesen (“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”), my memories of my growing-up home place are just as poignant. The house burned down a few years after we moved out. I remember as a child, a family brought their elderly mother to the house and asked if she could look around. She had grown up there herself. I’m sad that I can never be that old lady revisiting my childhood home.

My family moved to the country when I was just 6 years old and we remained there until we moved back to town when I was in junior high. Growing up free and wild in the country was, and still is, the best childhood I could imagine. My four sisters and brother and I endlessly explored the woods, the pastures, the creek, and the river, together and on our own. It was a magical time and place.

Cindy, Karen, Ginger and Susan - Quite a long time ago, when we lived in the country.

Cindy, Karen, Ginger and Susan – Quite a long time ago, when we lived in the country.

I was a big reader and I would also get lost in the make-believe world of paper dolls cut from the Penney’s and Sear’s catalogs. We played a lot of board games as a family when bitter winter cold and snow kept us inside. The downstairs of our house was kept warm with a wood-burning stove. The upstairs was not kept warm at all. We children shared beds, which helped keep us warm, although not “toasty” warm. I remember ice on the inside of the windows upstairs in our late 19th-century farm house.

So, yes, that’s “home,” even though I’ve lived in many other places. “Last night I dreamt….”

Gail’s Advice for Creating a Writing Room

Gail Lee Martin's writing area (doubled as Dad's card playing spot)

Gail Lee Martin’s writing area (doubled as Dad’s card playing spot)

When you write, you need a place for your computer, your research materials and lots of files. Here are ways to get the space needed for productive writing.

FIND SPACE: We turned a bedroom in our house into my writing room by getting rid of the guest bed. Now we lack space for guests to sleep, but that’s an infrequent inconvenience. An air mattress on the floor takes care of visitors. The computer is used every day, so using the space for that makes more sense.
Look around to see what space in your home is not being used very much. I know someone who turned their dining room into a writing room. They always ate in the breakfast room anyway. If you can’t manage a whole room, look for a corner or even a closet. A room is best.

GET A DESK: You can make one from two-drawer filing cabinets with a counter top resting on top of them. Get a decent secretarial chair or office chair with wheels on it. You’ll be spending a lot of time there.

KEEP BOOKS AND PAPERS TO HELP WITH YOUR WRITING: My writing room is filled with books for researching all kind of articles that I plan on writing; for our family history memoirs and extensive files of everything our family is interested in. I have added notebooks where I am saving written material by others in our family. My Mother’s stories she wrote in the early twenties, our daughter, Shannon’s “Martin News”; my sister, Carol’s “Living on the Bay” her monthly newsletter from Seadrift, Texas and our daughter, Cindy’s “Birdwoman programs” that need a special shelf.

Cabinet door made by Gail's son, Owen Martin.

Cabinet door made by Gail’s son, Owen Martin.

ADD SHELVING: We added bookshelves all around in my writing room. The shelves are one-of-a-kind, made by our son, Owen. He is a cabinet-maker and the ends of these book shelves are made from narrow strips of scrap cherry, birch, walnut, pine and poplar wood pieced together. They make my writing room as unique as my writing style.

ADD FILES: Besides file drawers with the desk area, you’ll be glad to have a four-drawer file. Try to get a good solid one. The really cheap ones have shorter drawers and get warped out of shape when you really load them up with files.

Me and my file cabinet
STOCK IN SUPPLIES: You’ll need the usual office supplies like paper, pens, paper clips, etc.

SHOW OFF YOUR AWARDS: Leave some wall space to feature your writing awards. Maybe frame a copy of your first payment for something you wrote or a special acceptance letter or a picture of your favorite author.

Comments from eHow readers:
kylemeko on 2/23/2010 – I like this article I will put it to good use. 🙂
Dorothy Sander on 4/17/2009 – Every time I create a writing room for myself, one of my sons moves back home! It’s a never-ending frustration. A writer needs to create a writing room and I’m going to try again!
Susanh on 2/4/2009 – Our office is my writing space and it has all the items you mentioned. Thank you for confirmation that it’s in good shape!
miasavc on 1/17/2009 – Having a space to work with all the resources you need inspires creativity. I have my little home office too & it has everything I need. Thanks for sharing this valuable & inspiring article!
Virginia Allain on 1/12/2009 – I need to reorganize my writing room space. It’s not very efficient at the moment.

(article by Gail Martin, first published online at eHow)

Gail and Clyde’s First Home Together

Mom wrote this in 1999, “When we were first married 54 years ago, Clyde was batching on the Vi Long farm. It was a quarter east and quarter south of the Martin farm in Greenwood County, Kansas. 120 acres with 1/3 of the production going to Longs.

He had the basics to set up housekeeping and with my last paycheck from Boeing, I bought 6 oak chairs to go with the round oak Martin family table.

The kitchen was on the east and we used a gasoline stove and kerosene lamps. We had a wood stove in the dining room. The front room and other bedroom were shut off during the winter months. We got our water from a cistern.

Shortly after the first of January, we moved to the Martin house. Wendall Lockhart took over the Vi Long farm and moved in.”

Gail Martin's memory sketch of the Greenwood County farmhouse where she lived when first married.

Gail Martin’s memory sketch of the Greenwood County farmhouse where she lived when first married.

The Folks’ Front Porch

The photo shows Mom and Dad smiling on the occasion of their 40th anniversary party. Surrounded by their six children,  they were happy to visit with their many friends and extended family in a party in the yard.

To the right, you see the front porch of their home where they lived the last 25 years of their lives. It was on that porch, that we visited on hot, Kansas days. Why waste time in the air-conditioning when you had shade and a porch swing.  We would gently rock forward and back creating a breeze while we chatted about how the garden was doing or what news there was of siblings.

Time passes and the big tree had to be cut down. Trellis with vigorous vines on each side of the front steps replaced the shade of the tree and gave privacy on that porch. Visiting great-grandchildren played with Barbie dolls and a large wooden dollhouse out there.

A wheelchair ramp accommodated visits from their son and gave the folks easier access while using their canes. The floor of the porch started rotting away so it was rebuilt. The chain was close to breaking on the porch swing, but the carpenter spotted the defect and replaced it before it broke and dumped anyone on the floor. Mom’s sister took a head-over-heels tumble off the side of the porch into the rambling rose-bush. Amazingly she didn’t break any bones. Another family story to add to the memory bank.

Now the house sold. A new family will enjoy that porch. We grieve that we can no longer climb those steps and sit on the porch swing with  Mom or Dad to chat and catch a summer breeze. A sad time…

40th anniversary

Gail and Clyde Martin Family