Keeping the Old Car Running

Gail Martin wrote this advice piece for the eHow website over 10 years ago.

The car is getting old, but there’s no money in the budget to replace it. What do you do? Here’s our experience of how to keep that older car running so you don’t lose your mobility. Ours has over 200,000 miles on it now.

Mom and Dad's old car

Here’s their faithful old car that lasted for years.

Ideally, you have some mechanical aptitude and can make repairs to the car yourself. This saves a bundle over taking it to a mechanic. My husband and son both taught themselves to fix most car problems we had. This is easier to do with an older car that doesn’t have lots of computerized parts in it.

clyde-repairs

Clyde Martin kept the family cars going for many years.

If you don’t have a friend who can show you how to fix things, look for a class through adult continuing education or a local community college. Something like a “powderpuff mechanic” or a “shade tree mechanic” course.

Go to the public library and ask to see their auto repair manuals. Usually, the Mitchell manuals or Chilton manuals are in the reference section or they might have it on a computer. Copy or print out the pages that tell how to fix your car’s problem.

Get the parts for the repair at the cheapest place, usually an auto salvage yard. If they don’t have the model or part you need in a junked car, then you’ll have to go to an auto parts store.

If you are unable to fix the car yourself, find a mechanic. Try to build up a relationship with one place so there’s less chance they will try to take advantage of you. Usually, a small mechanic’s shop will charge less than an auto dealership.

Tune up the vehicle regularly, so you don’t ruin it by letting it run out of oil or something else that’s preventable.

Keep some emergency repair items in the trunk. I recommend having some cans of extra oil, a charger to jump start the engine, and an air compressor that you plug into the cigarette lighter to reinflate a flat tire. It’s also handy to have a rug to lay on if you need to get under the car and some rags to clean your hands after a fix-up.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don’t raise the car just with jacks and get under it. We knew someone who was crushed this way.
car repair pixabay vintage advertisement

Vintage car repair advertisement from Pixabay

J is for Journaling

My mom, Gail Lee Martin, kept a journal in whatever blank book came to hand over the years. She wrote in school type notebooks back when her children were little. She called them her blue books. I don’t know if the covers were blue or if she wrote about the things that made her blue. Perhaps in those spiral notebooks with lined pages, as an isolated young housewife, she could pour out her heart.

Somewhere along the way, these early journals were lost in the many household moves. Life became too busy with six children to raise, so she gave up keeping a diary for those hectic years. In retirement, she took it up again.

Now, there’s a whole shelf of these slightly battered books. The entries stop and start, sometimes with more than one year sharing a book. Often the entries are pretty ordinary with the small events that made up her day. She noted a visitor, a phone call, a baseball game watched on television, or the activities of a neighbor.

She kept the current one on the side table by her chair in the living room.

 

diary pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

 

Along with her journal, she maintained a variety of notebooks. Each featured some aspect of their life. One documented the sales made at the farmer’s market with a meticulous count of how many jars of jelly or loaves of bread were sold. Another notebook traveled with her back in the days when they drove to Prescott, Kansas on weekends. She noted short descriptions of scenery that perhaps she planned to use in her writing or to turn into a poem someday.

mom's book list notebook

The notebook above lists the books they collected. That was a small one that she could carry in her handbag for consulting when she found a book at a yard sale or shop. In another one, she kept a log of the fish they caught at Sugar Valley and photos of the catch.

For the most part, the journals and notebooks served as a mostly mundane record, mere fragments of her life. Her real writing about family history and about her childhood went into her essays. She labored over those and wrote a number of versions of the memory pieces. These eventually became her published memoir, My Flint Hills Childhood.

 

 

After Graduation in 1942

In May of 1942 I graduated (barely) from Hamilton High School in Greenwood County, Kansas. I lived with my folks in the Seeley school district where Daddy worked as an oil field pumper for Phillips Petroleum Company. By the time school started in September I was offered a job caring for three-year-old Ann Neumayer and doing light house work for her family. Her mother taught at the Seeley grade school, her dad was a pumper for the Ohio Oil company, and she had an older brother, Robert and an older sister, Peggy, who went to school with their mother.

hamilton-high-school-kansas

Hamilton High School in Kansas where Gail Lee McGhee graduated.

My job was like any babysitter of today. Ann was a darling toddler, who loved to tag-a-long doing whatever I was doing. That family ate big servings of fried potatoes every night for supper, with fried meat and gravy. I used to say after peeling that big pile of potatoes every night, “I might as well be on KP in the army.”

At the start of the next school year, Mrs. Neumayer was allowed to take Ann to school with her. So I was wondering what I was to do, then we heard about the government’’s NYA program for the young people of America. The closest school for girls was at Winfield, Kansas. My folks agreed for me to go and they took me down there. My boyfriend, Johnny Faylor, had been sent to Fort Leonardwood for training in the army. Our friend Clyde Martin was rejected when he was called up because he was a farm boy and was needed on the farm as his older brother, Ralph was already in the air force. He went to the boy’’s camp in Cherryvale and took welding classes.

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1942 postcard of Cherryvale, Kansas’ downtown.

My parents took me down to Winfield shortly after school was out in May of 1943. There they tried to teach me to be a riveter. But I was a skinny kid weighing only ninety-nine pounds so I couldn’’t hold up the big heavy rivet gun. So they tried to teach me to hold the bucking bar on the back side of the sheet metal. I couldn’’t even do that the way they wanted. I was so disappointed that I wasn’’t going to be one of the famous ‘Rosie the Riveters.’

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NYA poster  (source)

Due to politics and shortage of funding the NYA closed down July 12, 1943, just a week or two after I arrived. Most of the girls decided to take the bus to Wichita and try to get jobs in the aircraft factories. I went with them. I was lucky and got a job with Boeing helping build the B-29s in the electrical wiring department. I was thankful that Boeing was not union! After all the Phillip’s employees trouble with City Service union guys, I didn‘’t want anything to do with unions.

I found a room in a castle looking house at 1313 N. Emporia. I was on the second floor and in the north turret. The biggest problem was having to go downstairs to the basement for the communal bathroom.

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Photo by Karen Kolavalli. The rooming house that Gail Lee McGhee stayed in during WWII while working at Boeing.

My paycheck sure looked good but the money disappeared so fast. I had to pay for my room and all my meals plus bus rides to work and back. No matter where I went I had to ride the bus or walk. The winter approached and I had to buy a warm coat, mittens and a stocking cap that would pull down around my ears. I bought a few things for Christmas presents but also had to save money to buy my bus ticket to Emporia in Lyon County for the holidays. My parents and little sister, Carol drove up from our home in Greenwood County to  Emporia to pick me up. Being with my loved ones was so good that I do not remember what gifts were given to whom.

After working in the electric wiring department for several months I became unhappy when the inspectors ran a slight electrical charge to see if my work was OK. They didn’’t tell me when they were going to do it and I became scared that the charge might get stronger so I asked to be transferred to another department.

The next department was in the tool shed, where the employees checked out tools they needed to work with. I enjoyed this after learning what each tool was called and where each was stored. It was kinda like working in a library only at the end of the shift all tools had to be checked back in and I had only a short time to get them put where they belonged before I could check out.

(Aug 11, 2012 email from Gail Lee Martin to daughter, Virginia Allain)

 

Gail’s Early WWII Memories

On December the 7th, we were all shocked when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Now World War II was not just looming, it was a reality. Rationing became a way of life; my friends older brothers were inducted into the army, navy or the air force. All eighteen-year-old males had to register for the draft. Everyone was worried. My friend, Clyde Martin’s brother Ralph, who had been working at Boeing Aircraft in Wichita, enlisted in the air force.

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Scrap metal and rubber collected during WWII for the war effort. (photo taken at WWII museum in NH by Virginia Allain)

Life struggled on as we all tried to be patriotic by saving scrap metal and grease. We went on scrap hunts to find unused and abandoned metal. Sugar, meat, oil, gasoline, and rubber went on the ration list. Families were issued ration booklets to keep everybody honest.

War slogans became my classmate’s secret passwords, “If you don’t need it, DON’T BUY IT” and we interpreted that slogan to mean we did not need any more studies; we wanted to help win the war.

 

Christmas was very quiet that year. Packages of home baked goodies were mailed early to our relatives, friends, and neighbors in boot camp or overseas. No one went any place unnecessary because of the shortage of gasoline and tires. My family usually had relatives come to our home for Christmas for lots of good food, togetherness, and exchange of homemade gifts, but not the Christmas of 1941.

wwii-ration-book

The spring semester dragged on and I managed somehow to get good enough grades to let me graduate. No one knows how worried I was about passing the 12th-grade exam. However, I must have known more than my teachers and I had every thought of. As long as I was not rushed or having to recite out loud I did well. This exam was a written test; anyway, I passed and attended baccalaureate ceremony and the graduation ceremony. Back in those days, we did not wear floor-length dresses except for fancy weddings. At least in the Midwest and in a county that was made up mostly of farmers and oil workers.

(emailed to daughter, Virginia, on Saturday, August 11, 2012)

Gail Lee Martin – In the Spotlight

In 2006, the Our Echo website featured Gail Lee Martin in their monthly In the Spotlight. Here’s that story.

“I learned early to cherish the written word. I am the middle daughter of Clarence & Ruth McGhee’s three girls and we were a reading family. My folks told me I was named after characters in a book like Barbara Carpenter was. My namesakes were heroine Gail Ormsby and hero Lee Purdy in The Enchanted Hill by Peter B. Kyne published in 1924 the year I was born.

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Gail Lee Martin, writer for the Our Echo website and webmaster.

I grew up living in Phillips Petroleum Company oil field camps, helping fight prairie fires and worrying about labor unions and survived a prairie rattlesnake bite as a six-year-old. I kept the rattles from that snake for years. I graduated from high school in the tiny town of Hamilton nestled among the oil fields in the Flint Hills of Kansas. During WWII, I helped build B-29 bombers at Boeing Aircraft factory in Wichita. After the war, I returned home and married my high school, farming boyfriend and we are still together after 61 years.

Many things spark my writing instincts. When I saw a 100-year-old friendship quilt in the Butler County museum, I wanted to know the story behind it. I researched everything I could find about the twelve-year-old girl who made it. Besides making each block with material from different neighbors, school teachers, schoolmates, and relatives, she documented each piece of material. Whenever I look at this one-of-a-kind quilt in the museum, I see a vision of a lonely little girl spending days, weeks, even years on her great masterpiece. Now my husband wants me to write about the twenty-five-pound grass carp I caught. It took me longer to catch than it will take me to write about it.

Many of my stories are written because of a family connection. I researched and wrote ‘Landscaping With A Hobby’ because of interest in bricks, especially Kansas bricks. My father, uncle, and grandfather worked at one of the brick factories in Tyro, Kansas in the early 1900s. Such fun exploring the backyard of a brick collector in my own hometown. I took my granddaughter, Kristy Ross along as my photographer. Her photos made my article come to life.

My teenage dream of being an airplane pilot like Amelia Earhart resulted in taking a flight over Wichita in a small airplane and my fear of heights made me realize I could never follow Amelia’s steps to fame. Instead, I researched and wrote a story about Jack Thomas, El Dorado’s World War II Flying Ace. His flying fights with the enemy scared me all over again.

I never thought about being a writer. I was always just writing something. During study hall in high school; while my children took naps in the 1940s and in waiting rooms everywhere. I have kept a daily journal of happenings around me for many years. Now here I am at the age of 81 with a writing biography that impresses my children as well as myself and earned me the Kansas Authors Club’s state writing achievement award in 1997.

During our retirement years, we went back to Clyde’s farming roots and planted gardens that got bigger each year even though our children had all married and had homes of their own. When nature let us grow too much produce to give away to our family, friends, and neighbors, we would preserve the rest for the winter months the way our mothers did. Then we found and joined a local farmer’s market to sell the rest of the surplus produce. This provided some extra money to supplement our Social Security paycheck. I soon was delving into the twenty-year history of the market. I’ll share the results of that project in a post real soon. I find time to write almost every day and learning to use the word processor on the computer makes it so much easier. But that is another story. Everyday life has given me more interesting topics than I can find time to write about.”

Note from Mom

I looked back on an early blog post I wrote and found this comment from my mother on it.

November 7, 2008 at 6:53 pm

I started writing with a pencil and a big chief tablet with lines across the pages. Now I am writing on a computer and posting online. In between, I advanced to writing with pen and ink, ballpoint pens, typewriters, improved typewriters, and a Cannon Starwriter 80-word processor. I wore out at least three, so the repair tech said.

I began to receive requests to teach others my writing ideas. What a thrill! I also had five daughters who gladly critiqued my ramblings. Now I’m on my 4th computer with grammar, spellchecks, and a grandson who keeps my computers doing what they are supposed to do. What writer would ask for more!

Mom

Gail L. Martin

big-chief-table

The image of the Big Chief changed over the years.

Here’s my 8-year old post that she was commenting on:

My Mom keeps busy writing family memory essays. At age 84, she’s not running out of material. Her essays posted at Our Echo make for great nostalgic reading. Take a look at them and leave comments for her. She loves hearing from anyone reading her work.

gail-salina-libraryLately, she’s started recording some favorite recipes and articles on how to live thriftily. You can read her recipes, crafts and thrifty tips at the Squidoo site (username: Gail Martin).

Update August 2009: Mom’s family memories have just been published in a book, My Flint Hills Childhood: Growing Up in 1930s Kansas. You can read an excerpt on her webpage and be sure to click on the link to preview fifteen pages of the book.

Make Molasses Taffy

This old-fashioned candy recipe is one my mother-in-law, Cora Martin, made back in the 1920s. It takes two people to pull the taffy after it’s cooked. You can even make a party of it. Here’s how to make it.

Things You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • egg sized lumps of butter
  • vanilla (to taste)
  1. Mix all the ingredients, except the vanilla in a pan (molasses, sugar, vinegar, butter).
  2. Bring it to a boil on the stove top. Boil for 10 minutes. Stir frequently. She always used a wooden spoon for this.
  3. Add vanilla to taste.
  4. Remove it from the burner and allow it to cool enough to be handled.
  5. Coat your hands with butter, then pull the taffy with each person holding an end.
  6. When the taffy becomes light in color, it has been pulled enough.
  7. Twist the candy, then cut it into small pieces.
ren_martin_family__summer_1925

Cora and Ren Martin with their children in 1925.

My folks had taffy pulling parties when my older sister, Melba, was in her teens. There was so much fun and laughter as we paired up to pull that yummy stuff. Then we cut the taffy into strips to eat. The pulling and the togetherness made this a wonderful winter treat.
1938_pauline_bolte_melba_mcghee_twila_yeager_carol_and_gail_mcgheel

1938 – Pauline Bolte, Melba McGhee, Twila Yeager, Gail McGhee and little Carol McGhee.

(Article previously published online on eHow by Gail Lee Martin)