Iris – A Favorite of Mom’s

Gail Lee Martin’s daughters all feature iris in their gardens. It’s a tribute to their mother’s love of this stately flower. For much of the summer, the plant is mostly spiked leaves, but the dramatic flowers in spring brighten any flower bed.

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Many old homesteads in Kansas have decades-old clumps of iris that come up year-after-year. The small flower heads and limited colors pale before the appearance of the hybrid iris.

Gail planted the showy hybrid iris around a tree by the driveway at the farmhouse near El Dorado where the family lived for eight years. She created a walkway of native stone to lead from the garage down to the family vegetable garden. Along those steps, she planted iris and some wild plants plus low-growing hen and chicks.

Eventually, when she and Clyde bought their small home in town where they lived through their retirement, the flower beds naturally featured handsome clumps of iris. El Dorado had an iris grower and Gail couldn’t resist bringing home new, dramatic colors of hybrid iris for their yard.

eldorado iris gardens by eva tower

El Dorado iris garden (photo by Eva Tower)

The collage of iris above are ones photographed in Cindy, Ginger, and Karen’s yards. Yes, they all love iris. The iris garden photo is by Eva Tower.

Yarn and Rag Crafts

(Article first published on Squidoo by Gail Martin about using yarn and rags for crafts)

My husband and I tackled a variety of crafts over the years. Many of these crafts linked back to our Kansas pioneer heritage. Examples of those include rag dolls and the wagon wheel rag rugs.

Until Clyde retired, I was always the crafty one, but once he had some free time, he joined in with many of the crafts. I’ll share with you photos of many our crafts and the instructions so you can try them out for yourself.rug started

This photo is my husband, Clyde Martin, working on a round rag rug using a wagon wheel metal rim for the base.

I tried all sorts of crafts over the years, from stenciling on pillowcases in the 1950s to macrame plant hangers in the 1970s. After retirement, we worked on some crafts together like the wagon wheel rugs based on a vintage craft from our Kansas pioneer background.

2008-08-17 gail and ks photos 386We made large Christmas decorations from pom-poms which looked great on a wall or door. One design was a yarn wreath and another was a giant candy cane.  We also made Santa faces with yarn, felt, and a bleach bottle base. People loved those and also the fluffy cats made from pom-poms.

Sometimes we get the supplies very cheaply at yard sales. The old sheets and skeins of yarn can be good buys. You don’t always find the exact colors you want though. Let your friends and family know what your needs are and they can rummage around in their excess stuff to share with you.

Here’s Clyde making a pom-pom cat. clyde, yarn cats 001

Making useful things out of worn out clothes or linens was a necessity back in our grandmother’s day and the “how-to” of it all was passed down from one woman to the next.

Undaunted by the Microphone

Gail Lee Martin spoke to a variety of audiences from school children, to seniors, to other writers. She prepared her talk well in advance and rehearsed it. She selected her outfit for the occasion and went to the hairdresser as the event approached.

She prepared handouts and visuals to use. Below, you’ll see her giving one of these talks. I note how composed she looks and I wonder why I didn’t inherit that sangfroid. When I give a talk, I’m a nervous wreck. Preparing for a presentation makes me quite anxious.

Gail Lee Martin

Gail Lee Martin giving a talk

Looking at these photos, I’m trying to figure out the occasion. It’s not her Margaret Hill McCarter impersonation, as she wore a costume for that. It’s not her author talk, as her books are not on display.

It might be some sort of presentation at a historical museum, possibly in Eureka. That’s the Greenwood County history that she’s holding up. She wrote some of the essays for it on the Martin and the McGhee families. The framed photo on the table shows Prairie Belle school which her husband, Clyde Martin, attended as a child.

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Gail and the Greenwood County history book

Other talks that she gave included the Rosemary Hour at the Kansas Authors Club annual convention. It honored Kansas authors who had passed away in the last year. She was the archivist for KAC for over 10 years.

Gail also gave talks about the history of aprons which was a popular presentation at senior centers and nursing homes. For a number of years, she led classes in memory writing at the Shepherd Center in Wichita.

I wish I had video recordings of some of these talks.

Someone Has to be the Family Historian

(Virginia Allain wrote this 4 years ago shortly after her mother’s death)

When the keeper of the family history dies, it puts at risk the accumulated knowledge of many generations. Who will carry on the family stories, preserve the family photographs, and track the important family dates?

Although I’ll get some help from my sisters, it seems that I’m now the designated family historian. I’m honored that they entrusted me with the room full of family history files and genealogy binders and boxes of vintage photos. Our mom, Gail Lee Martin, worked diligently over the years accumulating and sorting all the information.

my writing notebooks

Gail’s shelves above her computer. Her son, Owen, built the shelving for her.

In the years before the Internet, she visited courthouses and cemeteries, wrote lots of letters, squinted over reels of microfilm and painstakingly recorded what she found into notebooks. Thank goodness I’m a librarian and fortunately, a retired one with the time to take it on. Carrying on the family history is right up my alley.

Last year I joined a genealogy club in my community and I’ve been researching with ancestry.com for several years. My mother and I worked on two books that I self-published for her. Three more were underway. I guess you could say that I’ve been in training to assume this role.

As I packed up her papers, I began to realize the days, weeks and years of research that it represented. Thank you, Mom, for all that you did to save the family stories for future generations.

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The Martin/McGhee family history stored on shelves and in cupboards in its new home.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this, I’ve created a Martin/McGhee family blog called Then and Now. It has 58 family history stories so far that includes the Vining, Joy, Stone, Tower, and Kennedy lines as well.

This blog, Discovering Mom, was started in May 2013 and I have added 240 posts on it.

I hope to self-publish in 2017 a book about Gail Lee Martin’s 1940s years. This will include her last year of high school, the WWII years, and the first five years of marriage.

I’ve created our family tree on Ancestry so others can find the information Mom collected and what I’ve added to it. So far, it contains 4,810 people, 2,482 photos, and 230 stories.

There is still much work to do in preserving the family history and making it accessible to others.

Q is for Quilts

In the photo below, you see my mother with an antique quilt that’s been passed down in the family. The signatures stitched into the quilt include her mother, great-aunts and their neighbors from the 1930s. What a treasure!

Gail Martin and autograph quilt

Gail explains the names on the autograph quilt.

When I was a child, I remember Mom making two Sunbonnet Sue quilts with yellow squares between the designs. Those decorated the room that I shared with Susan. Those wore out years ago, but recently, I saw the one shown below and it reminded me of the pretty one Mom made.

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On my father’s side of the family, there were notable quilters, including his mom, Cora Joy Martin, and his sister Dorothy (Martin) Jones. One of our cousins even opened a quilt shop that sold fabric and held quilting classes.

When I lived in Baltimore, I was president of the large quilt guild there and organized some of their quilt shows and was the newsletter editor also. Then we lived for a few years in Australia and I was delighted to find the small town of Alice Springs had a very active quilt club.

Even more than the quilting itself, I’m passionate about old quilts. They speak to me.

Here’s a gallery of family quilts.

 

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Shannon (Martin) Hyle with a Martin family quilt. The design is called cathedral windows.

 

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Cynthia Ross with a quilt made by an aunt, Dorothy Jones.

 

vicki grandmas quilt

A quilt made by Cora Martin

 

Back to Work on Family History

I need to buckle down and delve into my mother’s genealogy notebooks. The first year after her death, I didn’t have the heart to start working on them. Over the last couple of years, I’ve dipped into them now and then, but haven’t really worked on them.

Now enough time has passed that I’m ready to move forward. My online writing on other topics has reached a plateau. That leaves me free time to transfer information from Mom’s notebooks to my tree on Ancestry.com. She worked on the family history before the proliferation of online genealogy information. Now, it’s time to make her research accessible to others through these websites, through blogs and through self-published books.

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A chart in one of Gail Lee Martin’s genealogy notebooks.

 

Mom collected this information over years of painstaking research that involved visits to courthouses, libraries, and cemeteries. She strained her eyes to read through reels and reels of microfilm ordered from the government. She wrote to distant relatives. She visited ones within driving distance. Then, she carefully documented what she learned.

I have several contacts asking for family records, so that will spur me into researching those requested topics. I also need to contact older relatives for information they may have.

I hope to assemble photos and stories from Mom’s charts and notes into blog posts on our family history site on WordPress. The name of the blog is Then and Now but mostly it is about the past. Drop by now and then to see what I’ve posted recently.

If you have a membership to Ancestry, my profile name on there is vallain159.

Make Clothespin Reindeer Ornaments

This easy craft can involve the whole family. The reindeer made from clothespins look great on your tree and make wonderful gifts for friends and neighbors. Here’s how to make them.

A clothespin reindeer made by Gail Lee Martin.

A clothespin reindeer made by Gail Lee Martin.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:

  • 3 wooden clothespins (flat peg type)
  • colored markers
  • felt (green, white,red)
  • tiny red pom-pom or bead
  • googly eyes
  • glue
  • strong thread or light yarn
Step 1

I leave the clothespins natural, but some people like to paint them brown. Glue two clothespins together to form the legs of the reindeer.

Step 2

Glue another clothespin to the legs, but it goes upward to form the reindeer’s head and antlers. Note the proportions in the picture.

Side view of the clothespin reindeer

Side view of the clothespin reindeer

Step 3

Drill a hole in the reindeer to thread through the hanger. An adult will need to do this part. The thread for hanging could also be glued between the head and body (then no hole is needed).

Step 4

Glue on the googly eyes. Glue on the red pom-pom nose (or the red bead). Cut out and glue on the felt for a holly leaf accent above the eyes.

The eyes, nose, and holly on the reindeer's face.

The eyes, nose, and holly on the reindeer’s face.

Step 5

Glue on some white felt for his tail.

The reindeer's tail and the red yarn for hanging it on the tree.

The reindeer’s tail and the red yarn for hanging it on the tree.

Tips & Warnings

  • Googly eyes and felt are available at discount stores or craft stores.
  • I’ve used red yarn for hanging the reindeer and at other times gold heavy thread. Thin wire would work also.