July Memories to Write about

Here’s another eHow article written by Gail Martin and rescued with the Wayback Machine.

Memory Prompts for the Month of July

Writing family memories becomes more important over the years. Memories start to fade and the chance to save them grows slimmer. Here are memory triggers for the month of July. Use them to start writing down memories for your children and grandchildren to treasure.

With our nation’s birthday on the fourth, try to recall how we celebrated the 4th of July as far back as we can. We used to go swimming and have a picnic. I can even remember when we had no fireworks, can you? What were your favorite fireworks? Our children loved smoke bombs and sparklers. How about some pet stories and the noise of the fireworks?

 

If you recall picnics, tell about your menu and how you kept the food safe. Who attended? What were traditional picnic foods for your family? Where did you go for the picnics?

 

Going to the movies cooled us off on summer days. What are your memories of roy rogersWestern movies? Our favorites were movies with Tom Mix, Dale & Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hop-a-Long Cassidy in them. Where did you go to see the movies? Who did you go with and what did it cost to get in? Who could forget the smell of the popcorn? Describe the theater inside & out. Do you remember the first drive-in-movies? Did your theater have drawings or gifts?

 

I found an old Log Cabin Syrup tin that looked like the ones I played with as a kid. Do you remember what syrup you liked on pancakes as a kid? Did your mother make them from scratch or use a mix? Write some breakfast stories.

What would you do if you had as much rain as Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas has had lately? Have you experienced torrential rains or flooding? Write about your rainy ordeals? Do you remember excessively hot summers? What did you do to cool off?

Tips & Warnings
  • The more you write, the more memories will flow into your mind.

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  • Try to write regularly. Every day is best, even if just a paragraph or two.

Love Local Cookbooks?

I’m guessing that every household has a spiral-bound cookbook filled with recipes from local cooks. Gail Lee Martin collected some of these and wrote about them for the Butler County Historical Society in Kansas. She submitted the research to their annual history essay contest in 2001 and received honorable mention for it. She donated 7 cookbooks to the museum’s collection. She also contributed her recipes to a number of  local cookbooks that came out after this article.

Hometown Sharing

Through the past hundred years, local cooks have shared their favorite recipes with friends and neighbors in many ways. Reunions, church suppers, picnics, fish fries, ice-cream socials, birthdays, weddings, Sunday dinners, and every occasion that could get a group of people together. The theory being, if you invite them to come eat good food they will show up at your meetings or events.

By early 1900 organizations around the town began to get on the bandwagon of publishing cookbooks as fund-raisers. Churches, businesses, schools, grocery stores, even radio stations discovered the fun of compiling favorite recipes from their members into a cookbook for sale.

So the call went out to all cooks in their organization to submit their favorites recipes. Catchy titles were sought to encourage sales. Some of the more interesting ones I found were: Meat Recipe RallyCountry Cooking; Regal Recipes, and the Partyline Cookbooks to name just a few.

The cookbooks reveal much more about the community than just the cooks and recipes. Local advertising was found here and there in the books to tell of businesses, some that are still here and others that have faded to just memories. The Meat Recipe Rally by Joe Browne’s Market advertises Joe’s own Hickory Smoked Sliced Bacon and Hams and Open Kettle Pure Lard. In the 1959 El Dorado City Directory Joe’s Market is listed as “ Browne’s Market, the complete food store since 1905.” The Market stayed on the same downtown corner of 200 W. Central until 1973.

In The Art of cooking in El Dorado, a Senior Citizens of El Dorado cookbook, Walnut Valley Bank and Trust listed their advertisement this way. Recipe For Financial Service. Take instant mix of Walnut Valley people, know-how, and concern . . .AND JUST ADD YOU!” Their ad certainly fit the book‘s theme.

The El Dorado Senior Center celebrated their 10th anniversary in September 1985. Around that time the cookbook was planned and Cathlin Buffum was director of the center and contributed a handful of recipes herself. Other businesses contributing their ad’s to the senior’s project were El Dorado Cable; Mc Cartney Pharmacy; PT Machine & Welding; Farmer’s Insurance; Arlene’s Beauty Shop; Castle of Lighting; Flavor Maid Do-nuts; AAA; Best’s Cleaners and Dale’s Service.

cookbooks with Gail's recipes

Family and community cookbooks that have Gail Martin’s recipes included.

In the late seventies and early eighties, the area radio station KOYY Kountry had a listener participation program called Partyline. Many recipes were shared in this morning phone-in style get together. In 1979 Partyline hostess, Jean Plummer compiled the many recipes that had flooded her office and published the first Partyline Cookbook . Two years later, when Connie Phillips was serving as hostess, the second edition of the Partyline Cookbook was published by popular demand. Together, young and old, men and women filled these cookbooks with their best cooking efforts.

A 1982 ‘Benton Community’ project producing a Country Cooking cookbook went all out with ten pages of advertisers, two full pages listing their supporters, some community history dating back to 1913, local artwork by Jo Bell for a drawing of a windmill and surrounding countryside for the cover and a unique list of what you could buy from the grocery store for a $1.00 in 1931, all from a small town of around 600 residents. Many contributors were Benton High School alumni from the 1920’s; Benton Busy Bee’s 4-H members; Girl and Boy Scouts, the Lions Club; Golden Agers; Jaycees Jaynes and Tops members.

El Dorado is the home to many churches and these churches have many church dinners. Food in every available form is brought. Everyone wants to take their best. As they taste tested their way through the many varieties, the women begin asking “Who brought this or that dish, and then ask would you share your recipe, it tasted wonderful.” This is one reason almost every church in the county has at one time or another put out a cookbook.

The United Methodist Church has been publishing cookbooks since the turn of the century. The recipes of a 1909 cookbook, Regal Recipes, were collected and arranged by the Kings Daughters of the Methodist Episcopal and is being preserved at the Butler County Historical Society Museum. This same group put out another book in 1924 with additions of new recipes from Circle One of the Methodist Ladies Aid. The women of this church but probably another generation or two published again in 1985 and the current one of 1996, Lord’s Acre Cookbook, Naomi Circle is still available. In the miscellaneous section is a neat saying, “Happiness is like jam. You can’t spread a little without getting a little on yourself.” Recipes in this segment include Homemade Apple Butter, Easy Grape Jelly, and Jalapeno Jelly.

The Towanda United Methodist Church of Christ published a Tribute to Our Past, Our Joy For Today, The Hope For Tomorrow 1885-1985. Some of the other cookbooks from their past were known to have been in 1907, 1924, and 1979.

The Christian Women’s Fellowship groups of Potwin and El Dorado compiled cookbooks in the 1980s. Potwin put out a cookbook in 1981 and titled it, Favorites Recipes From Our Best Cooks. They included a picture of their lovely brick church and a schedule of their Sunday School and Morning Worship services. The El Dorado women came out with a small handmade booklet in November 1983. With checkered oilcloth covers. The Young Women’s Group of the First Christian Church of El Dorado put out a three-ring notebook size cookbook in October 1986 to coincide with their fall money-making event, a luncheon, and craft fair.

Starting in 2005 the original El Dorado Farmer’s Market is planning a garden cookbook. So Butler County’s food sharing tradition just keeps going.

 

The Abandoned School

Gail Lee Martin didn’t write many poems and often apologized for them. Here’s one she felt brave enough to post on the Our Echo website where she had so many friends.

Forgotten Heritage

Old abandoned school houses
left to rack and ruin.
windows broken, porches sagging,
surrounded with trash and tall weeds.

Built so long ago by our ancestors.
now no one cares that they once sheltered
the children of sturdy pioneers
who labored to learn from Mc Guffy readers.

We’ve flown to the moon,
talked across the seas and
can fly faster than sound and this
knowledge came from those humble beginnings.

All those old schoolhouses should be
shrines to our ancestors whose
thirst for knowledge of a better life
led us to fame and prosperity.

I wanted to find a picture that would match Gail’s poem. The one below was shared on Facebook by Mary Meyer. Here’s Mary’s description of it, “Breaks my heart to see the old stone school out on the Browning go up in flames due to a suspicious grass fire. Always hoped it could be restored.” Ross Clopton remembered that his dad went to school there.

A photo by Mary Meyer of a burned school near Madison Kansas.

Photo used with permission of Mary Meyer.

Gail and the Great Depression

Back in 2009, I kept sending article ideas to my mom (Gail Lee Martin). We were both writing short how-to articles on the eHow site. Here’s how one of those exchanges went:
Me: There’s a lady on TV named Clara who has a cooking show called Depression Cooking with Clara (she’s 93 years old).  Anyway, it’s a big hit.
If you wrote an article about Depression Cooking (the kinds of meals to feed families on a budget) then it would come up when people are looking for Clara.  Anyway, you would get lots of viewers (and maybe some money). We could put links to your articles on breaded tomatoes, and other recipes.

Gail Lee Martin: Boy, I’m having trouble with this one. First I was only five when the banks went broke in 1929. Secondly, Daddy was working for Phillips by that time so he had a good job that furnished housing and gas heating and lighting.

If Daddy lost any money from the bank closing I never heard of it.  My folks had a milk cow, raised chickens, and a garden plus we gathered things that grew wild, even wild onions and garlic. We heard that some people ate possum and rattlesnakes but we never did. They did barter with neighbors and family that had other food that we could trade for with our eggs, milk, and butter.

Now Clyde folks lost what money they had in the bank but his Dad had just paid cash for a new car as well as a new tractor, so there probably wasn’t too much money in the bank. Clyde remembers being told that Ren decided to raise Angora rabbits. Clyde just remembers the house that Ren built for the rabbits. Since the first four children were girls, Dorothy remembered working in the fields along with her Dad.
Ralph Martin and ducks

Clyde’s brother, Ralph with the ducks. The Ren Martin farm in the 1930s.

Both families keep eating as they always had, being self-sufficient. Worked hard and made do.  I do remember Mother stretching canned stewed tomatoes by adding a jar of them to cooked macaroni. Her macaroni and cheese didn’t taste like ours does. Probably the difference in cheese. Rice was used as a cereal or pudding.
We ate a lot of potato soup with onions cooked with the potatoes like Clara cooked hers. Mother would make a white sauce and add it as a thickening or made dumplings with flour, baking powder, salt and an egg. Then she dropped them by the spoonful on top of the potato soup covered with a lid and had a low fire until she thought they were done. She would never let me lift the lid for a peek.

I watched a video of that Depression Cooking with Clara online just now and she was cooking peas and pasta. I don’t recall cooking pasta until recent years. Still not a favorite of ours.  More later, Gail

Me: Thanks, I may be able to put together something with this.
You might want to elaborate on the family memories and put those on Our Echo.
I’m in the writing mood tonight, so will get going after supper. Love, Ginger

Gail’s Memories of the Flood of ’51

Last month, I posted a pieced-together account of the 1951 flood, but now I have recovered Mom’s account of it using the Wayback Machine. Here is Gail Lee Martin’s story of that event.

“My husband and I with our four children were living 3 miles northwest of Madison in northern Greenwood County, Kansas in the summer of 1951. We had never had to worry about the river, as it was a good half-mile away. But in 1951, after several days of steady rain, the Verdigris river became fuller than ever before.

While we were asleep the river started backing up every creek and stream that normally flowed into it. When our youngest woke up in her baby bed and began to cry at the sight of water in our bedroom, she woke us up. What a shock it was to swing my warm feet into cold, muddy, river water.

The river had silently backed up the tiny stream nearby and overflowed everywhere. It had slowly crept into our back porch on the ground level, then up higher and higher above the two cement block high foundation, before spreading its dirty mess into our house.

We waded around through the house trying to put everything up high on cabinets, the sink, and the stove because they were already standing in two foot of water.

When we first discovered the situation, the water in the county road was already three foot deep, so all we could do was watch the water rise higher and higher to the door handles of our car, parked in the driveway.

Our children, Owen, Susan, Ginger and the baby, Cindy were wild with the excitement of actually ‘wading’ in the house, until they saw the rabbit hutches had tipped over into the water drowning their beloved pets. We never had swift water, I think my terror came from the silence as the water just steadily flowed backward, rising higher all the time.

My brother-in-law, Norman Harlan, waded in from the shallowest west side and helped carry the children to safety. Our toddler ran out to jump into his arms and not being able to tell where the floor ended, she stepped off into the water and would have sunk if he hadn’t been quick to grab her.

Norman_Melba_and_family_Vicki_1_Timothy_6_Robert_3

Gail’s sister, Melba and Melba’s husband, Norman Harlan in 1949. Their children – Vicki, Tim and Bob.

I’ll never forget the beautiful breakfast my sister, Melba, had ready when my bedraggled, wet family arrived on her doorstep.

Of course, the rain did quit, the water went slowly away and we were left to clean out the mud and haul away what couldn’t be saved. Our children held a quiet funeral and mass burial of their pets.

To this day, some of our furniture has knee-high water marks, sad reminders of what can happen while you sleep.”

Going, Going, Gone…

A Guest Post by Gail’s daughter, Karen Kolavalli (written in 2014 for Bubblews)

“I spent the afternoon sorting, sorting, sorting! It’s a seemingly unending job of sifting through boxes of photos, letters, and documents. In doing so, I came across a printout from a page at Genealogy.com that shows a listing of my Mother’s stories that were archived there. It says that “Gail Martin created this page with the help of the ‘My History is America’s History’ website.”

I was able to pull up the page at Genealogy.com with the list of her stories, but when I tried the links to go to the stories, all I got was “The connection has timed out.” And when I tried the link to “My History is America’s History,” it took me to a page showing that the domain name was for sale, so that site went belly up at some point.

I recognize many of the story titles as chapters in the books that my Mom published with the help of my sister, Virginia. There are some, though, that I’m not familiar with, such as Treasures from the Barnyard, More of the Treasure from the Barnyard, Carol’s Memory of the Flood of ’51, and Ginger’s Year 1948. I hope these stories survive in printed form and that my sister will be able to find them in my Mom’s files. Those files were transferred to her care and keeping after our Mother passed away a year and a half ago.
 
Mom didn’t start writing until she had all six kids raised and out on their own, and then she made up for lost time! From the late 1970s until her death in 2013, writing was her life and the stories poured out of her. Although she was an avid reader, she had always struggled in school and thought it was a miracle that she graduated from high school. So every award she received for her writing absolutely blew her away.

She loved to teach memoir writing classes at a senior center and was the much-loved moderator of a writers’ website, called Our Echo. When her daughter helped get her books published, she was over the moon. But at the end of the day, she was proudest just to be able to share her stories.”

gail and star writer

Gail Lee Martin hard at work on her Star Writer word processor.

Gail’s Memory of Her Mother’s Apron

For Mother’s Day 2017, I’ll share with you one of Gail Lee Martin’s most popular stories. It’s a nostalgic piece about her mother’s apron. It was also recorded and you can hear the story in her own voice on the Our Echo site: Mother’s Apron.

“Mother’s aprons
I grew up in the oilfields of Greenwood County Kansas in the dusty thirties but I remember Mother’s apron always kept her neat and clean. She made aprons to cover the whole front of her dress and tied with a bow in the back. Her aprons had two large patch pockets on the skirt and Mother used them in so many ways.

On washdays, she carried clothespins out to the line in her pockets instead of juggling a separate clothespin bag. She also picked her pockets full of peas or other produce for lunch as she left the garden after her daily hoeing. With aprons protecting her clothes, she could wear the same dress for several days. A real plus when you had to haul all your water during the dust-bowl days.

Two or three safety pins adorned the bib of her apron and even a threaded needle so she was always ready for a quick repair of our clothes or on the spot splinter removal. I recall her using a corner of her apron to wipe her sweaty brow and my childhood tears.

While cooking, a corner of her apron became an instant potholder. Each evening she would shoo the chickens into their pen for the night by flapping her apron skirt. My fondest memory is Mother coming in with her apron full of chilled and mewing kittens followed by an anxious mother cat. She warmed them by the kitchen fire and saved their lives.

In the 1930s chicken feed & flour companies began using an attractive print material for sacks to hold their product. Mother was in seventh heaven with this new source of material. She made dresses, skirts and blouses, and more everyday and fancy aprons.

When company came to visit Mother would whisk off her apron. As she greeted her guests, they saw no trace of her work-filled days. Her dress was spotless.”

Clarence_and_Ruth_McGhee

Clarence and Ruth McGhee – This is the only photo I could find of Ruth wearing her apron. In all other photos, she’s removed it.