Ark City Days

I recently found some family stories that Mom (Gail Lee Martin) published on a site called My History Is America’s History. Sadly, the site disappeared along with everyone’s stories.

“When Clyde’s oil field job in 1956 took him to Arkansas City, Kansas, we moved to a house on State Line Road. The Shelaka Indian School was across the road in Oklahoma. (note: the actual name of the school was Chilocco Indian Agricultural School and it had about 1,300 students)

The children went to a county school called IXL which was a mile north and 1/4 mile east of our house. Cindy was in first grade; Ginger, third grade; Susan, fourth grade; and Owen in the fifth grade.

The school had a great art teacher that taught clay molding. Cindy made a plaque of her hand print; Ginger made a plaque with a horse. Susan made elephant head bookends & Owen made a small lion and a circus wagon. We were proud of how nice they looked when they were fired with a glaze finish.

I babysat for money for the first time taking care of a neighbor’s son Danny. He was the same age as Karen. When Danny’s sister was born, I cared for her from 6 weeks old until we moved.

scouting owen susan ginger gail

Ginger and Susan in their Brownie uniforms and Owen in his scout uniform. Gail Martin in her den mother cap and scarf. This must be the front landing for the Ark City house. (blame the sun for the sullen looks on our faces)

I’d become a den mother for the scouts in Madison, so Owen and I were still in Cub Scouts in Ark City. Since we lived close to the Indian reservation, the pack took a trip there.



1956 – Susan, Virginia (Ginger), Owen with Karen and Cindy in front. This is the Woolaroc Museum in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Susan was invited to take part on the IXL float for the Arkalalah parade that Ark City has every Halloween. The girls were all in pale yellow fancy dresses. Just beautiful.

Owen caught scarlet fever and gave it to Ginger and Cindy. All the children had to stay home until it was past.

Just before school started the next year, we moved to El Dorado, Kansas.”

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.

Shannon’s Country Memories

This post was written by Gail’s youngest daughter, Shannon Marie Hyle. The date is meaningful, as it was about 2 weeks before Shannon’s death in early December 2006. Gail shared it on the Our Echo website in 2007. Ten years has passed since Shannon wrote this memory piece.


Shannon Marie Martin (later, Hyle)

Growing Up Garden
by Shannon (Martin) Hyle


Living in the country was wonderful time in my life. I had all the space I could ever want, a sandbox, a creek and a pond to grub in and around, and a barn for the cow. There was fresh food to pick and eat, baby rabbits and wonderful trees to dream under. I was too young to recognize any bad things that happened so the farm was a glorious island.

We rented the farmhouse and surrounding land from a local farmer. Mother must have loved it. It had a huge fenced yard that would have kept me confined without getting into trouble. There was a big sandbox for me to bury my toys in.

The biggest part of our life on the farm was taking care of the garden. It was an enormous garden and we all had to work every day to keep it in hand. Dad had a pump hooked into the creek so we could pump water from the creek instead of dragging it up bucket by bucket. We raised the produce during the summer and preserved it to use during the winter. We all knew better than to goof off instead of completing our chores. If we didn’t raise a good crop, it might be a slim winter.

From what I recall, we planted almost everything we could find. There was corn, peas, beans, potatoes, asparagus, pumpkins, squash, rhubarb, strawberries, swiss chard, watermelons, cantaloupe, beets, peppers, okra, carrots, and turnips. That seems like an awful lot, but I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. Ah, tomatoes of course.

I remember digging potatoes with Dad. At least Daddy would dig and I would follow along behind him with the bucket, gathering potatoes. Daddy usually only needed one push with the shovel to unearth the dirt crusted tubers. You had to gather the biggest ones and re-root the plant to let the rest of the potatoes grow. We all looked forward to the first fresh meal out of the garden. It was usually new peas and new potatoes in cream sauce, both vegetables very young and tender.

Mom and I would harvest asparagus; Mom slicing it cleanly at the base of the stalk and me gathering it in the bucket. Later on I got to cut them, too.

Weeding was a big thing also. My particular target was a woody-stemmed villain we called cottonweed because of its soft, furry leaves. They infested our garden, growing like, well, weeds. They were easy enough to pull when they were tiny, but by the time I would work from one side of the garden to the other, I would be tackling nasty, snarling killer weeds that were taller than me. I think I was supposed to get a penny for each weed I pulled, but I can’t remember where the money went.

There were a lot of things to be learned in the garden. I think farm kids get the jump on city kids. As a toddler, I was out in the garden, learning sorting, sizing, colors, and physical coordination. It all came in picking the biggest and leaving the smaller, shelling, cleaning and things like that. It was quite an education.

The garden was not just work though; it was also a magic playground. Filled with sunlight and shadows, it was an exhilarating place to be. Between rows of green corn, taller than me, I could run or hide. The leaves would dance over me, flickering sunlight on my face. The freshly turned, crumbly earth always smelled; umm, fantastic!

Sometimes the yellow and brown striped garden spiders would set up shop between the rows, stringing their intricate webs from stalk to stalk. Some of them were as big as my hand, my hand when it was younger anyhow. The web strands would glisten in the sun and we tried not to disturb them for they were good spiders preying on the enemies of our vegetables.

The insects seemed magic, too. There were multicolored dragonflies and damselflies that floated above the garden and brilliantly hued ladybugs that policed the plants. And I could never forget the pests; nasty grubs, cabbage worms and all sorts of beetles and bugs that swarmed over the plants.

All of this is probably the reason I garden today with my two girls; teaching them planting and weeding. Together we watch miracles unfold in the garden.


Shannon and the kittens, 1963.

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.

4th of July Memories

The boom of fireworks drew me outside. In the distance, through the trees, I glimpsed a burst of light in the sky. Two days before the 4th of July and apparently, people have money to burn.

Long ago, we celebrated the holiday in a modest way on the farm in Kansas. At the fireworks stand, we selected pinwheels, snakes, sparklers, bottle rockets, and ladyfingers. These were considered fairly safe for school-age children. They carried more lethal and more expensive fireworks like cherry bombs, but we never bought those.

We lighted a punk, and used that to set off the small firecrackers called ladyfingers. We were cautioned not to light them while holding the tiny cracker in our fingers. So we placed it on the ground and lit the short fuse with our smoldering punk, then we leaped backwards to wait for the explosion. Later, we gathered the scraps of paper left from the ladyfingers. We marveled at the Chinese characters printed on the small bits remaining.

The snake required a match to start it. The small charcoal-colored button extruded a long dark, curving ash as it burned. That was the “snake.”

Pinwheels required nailing to a post or tree. Once the fuse was lit, it whirled in a circular pattern, spitting fire. It was done in just seconds.

I gathered my memories into a poem.

Kansas 4th of July

Hand-cranked ice cream — taking forever to be ready.

Lemonade, corn on the cob, and hot, hot days.

The sputter of small firecrackers and swish of pinwheels.

Setting the dry grass on fire in our backyard.

Creating fiery circles in the dusk with a sparkler in my hand.

Dad shooting Roman candles across an open field.

I remember long ago July fourths,

The sparkler is as bright as ever.


Sparkler for the 4th of July (poem and photo by Virginia Allain)

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.