Quarantined on the Prairie

With the possibility of a worldwide pandemic starting to loom, my mind goes back to a story Mom wrote about her own experience with a feared disease.


I Passed the Eighth Grade

by Gail Lee Martin

When I was in the eighth grade the school year of 1937-38, I was sure I would never pass my eighth-grade exams. At that time my folks were living on the Phillips Petroleum Company’s Burkett lease in the middle of Greenwood County and I was attending the Allen District Number 7, a two-room, nine-month school. I was never more than just an average student, and always had trouble with Math, English, and Spelling. For me, Reading, Geography, and History were a breeze.

The schoolhouse was a brick building built over a basement. Very different than the school at Noler district that I had gone to for all the other six years. I also had another man teacher, Robert Knox, and really liked him, because he encouraged me to do better.

Just before Christmas my older sister, Melba, who was riding the bus to Hamilton for her senior year came down with scarlet fever. Mother immediately banished Daddy, my baby sister, Carol Jean and me to the wash house to keep us from catching the disease. There was a two-burner stove that Daddy cooked on and Daddy installed a small gas heater to heat up the small room. We slept on camp cots and thought it was fun.

The County Health Department posted a big red quarantined sign on both the front and back doors of our home. When we needed groceries, Daddy took a list down to the small country store and tacked it to a porch post. The grocery owner would look at the list and put our groceries out on the porch. When Daddy came by after his day job in the oilfield he picked up the groceries and took the list with him. Back home, Daddy left the food that Mother needed by the back door.

Wichita museum

Photo by Virginia Allain at Wichita Historical Museum

Then Christmas week came and the whole neighborhood woke up one night to see the grade school on fire. It was an awful sight. Out in the country, there were no fire departments or even a place to get enough water so the school burned completely down. The heating system burned coal and the supply of coal burned for several days. This fire also destroyed my belief that brick houses were safer from fire than the common wooden houses most people of that time and place lived in.

Allen School burns downAllen School burns down Fri, Jan 28, 1938 – Page 3 · The Emporia Gazette (Emporia, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

But the oil community rallied around and found an empty oilfield house just the east of our home. When school started again after the holiday, it was held in that small house. Since we were still under quarantine Mr. Knox would post my assignments on the porch post and after school was out for the day he would set on the porch and listen to me recite my classwork.

None of the rest of us came down with the disease. I believe with all my heart that was because of my mother’s cleaning habits and her strenuous disinfecting regime. Daddy was able to continue his job as he was an oilfield pumper so his work was isolated anyway.

Fumigating the house and everything in it was a hard job. But we all pitched in to do it properly. I remember I was given the job of holding our books over the stinking formaldehyde and flipping the pages back and forth. The County Health Department declared our home was safe and took down the big red quarantine signs.

I did pass my eighth-grade exams. Thank goodness, the exams were all in writing, but it had to be Robert Knox’s extra time and efforts that made it happen.

Further Notes:

  • This story was published in the first volume of The History of Greenwood County, Kansasin 1988 (page 107) and also in Gail Lee Martin’s memoir, My Flint Hills Childhood: Growing Up in 1930s Kansas.
  • The Emporia Gazette reported that for the week ending December 18, 1937, a total of 160 new scarlet fever cases were reported in Kansas.
  • In nearby Coffey County, both the grade schools and the high school were closed for a 7-day period in November 1937. Football games were postponed, and they closed churches, revival meetings, and shows because of the spread of scarlet fever.
  • What kind of disinfecting products did Gail’s mother use? She mentions formaldehyde. Searching in newspapers of the time, I find Clorox in popular use for disinfecting.

Clorox advertisement - 1937Clorox advertisement – 1937 Fri, Jun 11, 1937 – Page 12 · The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

Lace in June

Here’s a little poem by Gail Lee Martin. She only wrote a few poems, but this one drew some appreciative comments on the Our Echo site.

Bridal Flowers

In the month of June
our thoughts turn
to love and marriage
and our God envisioned
Queen Anne’s lace 
For the wedding flowers.

 Susan Hammett Poole commented, “When I see Queen Anne’s Lace, instead of weddings, I always think of my mother. These lovely lacy flowers (akin to the carrot family, of all things) grew along the roadway about a mile from our house and many times Mama would come home with a bucket full. She’d put some red food coloring in one fruit jar, some yellow in another, and some blue coloring in still another jar. Then she’d plop the flowers into the jars and wait several hours or overnight, long enough for the coloring to soak into the stems and out into the flowerheads. Voila! She would then arrange the beautiful pink, light yellow, and baby blue long-stemmed flowers into a bouquet fit for the real Queen Anne. We children thought it was magical!

Thanks, Gail for stirring up my memory with your poem about Bridal Flowers.”


“Dear Gail, I see beautiful lace all around us on windows, doilies, delicate little hankies. Whether on windows, hair or polished wood, lace is always about letting the light in. You are a beacon of light for OurEcho.” Veronica

“Lace in any form lights up my day, especially Mother’s hand made lacy doilies. When I made family books for each of my 6 children I put one of my Mother’s doilies in the inside front of each book.” Gail

family history book doily

Doily, crocheted by Ruth (Vining) McGhee, displayed on the inside cover of a Martin family history book.

[poem and comments from the Our Echo site]

Gail’s Story – Panhandle Pup

At one of the first writing workshops that Gail Lee Martin attended at the East Wichita Shepard Center in 1995 they were asked to write 10 nouns and 10 verbs on pieces of paper that were placed in a container. Then each participant drew out ten pieces of paper and wrote a story using all ten words. Gail ended up with the following words: rose, treasure, Scorpio, rodeo, arrow, stride, deceit, gather, restaurant, terror. All are in this story, can you find them?

I’m guessing from the rich descriptions in the story that Gail had recently been researching the Woodward, Oklahoma ancestors in her genealogy work. She also had a strong interest in geology which shows up in the story. 

Gail Martin's story of the Panhandle Pup. puppy-pixabay Image by ariesa66

Image by ariesa66 from Pixabay


Just west of the little town of Freedom in the panhandle of Oklahoma territory is five thousand acres of rose-colored sand, coated with a shimmering crust. Locally known as the Great Salt Plains it was a rugged escarpment of red shale capped with white gypsum the Indians called it the salt mountain because there they could gather a treasure in the form of salt that the tribal Indians needed in their diets.

A mile or two due north of the Great Salt Plains, but still in the sandhill country a salt collector’s camp was made in a ‘little bit of paradise’ that surrounded a tiny oval pool of cold water, that continually overflowed a slight depression to disappear in the hot sand a short distance away. Under the feathery, drooping branches of a lone tamarack tree on the downside of the pool almost completely hidden was a small, furry puppy. Lying flat on his belly he was watching the two boys in the nearby camp.

The boys were arguing about something they had found in the sand. The taller boy was correcting the pronunciation of his little brother, who was calling it a Scorpio instead of a scorpion. “So what? I’ll bet he’ll sure sting with that tail, no matter what we call it.”

Meanwhile, the scorpion was busy playing a game of deceit by hiding in the sand that was the very same color as he was. But the boys marked his spot with a stick so they wouldn’t be deceived.

The men of the camp had left early that morning while the sun was still below the horizon. The small mongrel pup had been relieved when the men disappeared in a mirage of trees that appeared in the middle the salt flats and soon returned his full attention on the two smaller humans sprucing up the campsite after their meal.

Even if this wasn’t a restaurant their Dad had instructed them to be sure and clean it, and he meant clean, like the restaurant they had lunch when they attended the rodeo in Woodward last fall.

The smell of frying bacon had been almost more than the pup’s terror-stricken and starved little body could stand. The sturdy red-headed boy with freckles scattered across his face and arms gathered up some leftover flapjacks and flung them with all his might, straight as an arrow towards the little dog’s hiding place, beyond the camp-site.

This was too much for the pup and he slunk deeper into the shadows. A couple of the flat cakes had landed not far away and the aroma was tantalizing to the cowering pup. Keeping one eye on the boys, the puppy crept slowly toward the enticing smell. In another stride, he quickly grabbed the pancake and gulped it down. Becoming braver he advanced on the other scrap of food.

Just then the older boy saw him and shouted. “Luther! there’s an old coyote getting those cakes you threw away!” As the pup quickly retreated to the hollow under the tree the redheaded boy declared. “Be quiet Francis! that’s just a puppy and he is must be awful hungry.” Kneeling he held out another pancake to the pup that had become lost in the panhandle of Oklahoma. That was all it took for the three to become fast friends.

(This story was first published on the Our Echo website.)

Save on Heating Bills the Old-Fashioned Way

Back in November 2008, Gail Lee Martin’s article on saving on heating bills was the featured post of the day on the eHow site. The next day her daughter emailed her,

Wow, you had around 4,500 viewings of your featured article yesterday.  It went from 0 earnings to $5.09 in one day.  Apparently, people also visited some of your other articles, because your total income for the month went up about $7 just yesterday.
Good work,  Ginger

How to Save on Heating Bills the Old-Fashioned Way

Many people are cutting back on spending when jobs are lost or Social Security doesn’t stretch far enough to cover all the bills that arrive in the mail. After all, we have to eat and buy the medicine that we need. I want to show you some old-fashioned hints that might help cut your heating bills.

Depending on where and in what type of housing you live in some of these tips will help.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Throw rugs
  • Worn out socks
  • Scissors
  • Table knife (not a sharp knife)
  • Warm clothing
winter cold red cap gloves pixabay

To accompany the article, eHow chose a trendy young woman inadequately clad. Gail thought the choice rather silly, but I’m sure they were trying to appeal to a young audience.

As the winter weather grows colder and colder, you can learn to adjust the temperature lower and lower and your body will adjust too. Every few days set your heat a few degrees cooler.

Each time you adjust the temperature lower, add more warm clothing, such as thermal underclothing, an extra pair of socks and warm sweatshirts. There are so many different seasonal sweatshirts that you probably have many already that will make you look great and feel comfy at the same time.

I even keep an old throw pillow on the floor where I sit at the computer That helps keep my feet from the coldest part of my house, the floor. You will be surprised that you don’t need as much heat as you had thought. Just think of the savings!

Check out the windows of your home. If you feel cold air coming in around your windows, you have a problem. You can stuff strips of old worn out socks around the cracks between the window and the frame. Cut the socks lengthwise and then cut into halves or fourths depending on the size of the cracks where the cold air comes in. It’s much cheaper than caulking and much easier to remove when spring comes. Use the rounded knife blade to push the material into the cracks. If your friends wonder at your new decorations, just tell them your windows have ruffles!

Many older houses have problems with air seeping in under the doors. Use a throw rug, fold and tuck it across the bottom of the door. This helps especially at night when the outside temperature goes down and the wind is blowing a blue northern.

On those cold, but sunny days, open the drapes and pull up your blinds and let the sunshine in. It’s free solar heating.

eHow of the Day - Screenshot

Here are some of the comments and Gail’s answer to one:
giambattista said

Flag This Comment

on 12/25/2008 Very nice article. Very informative!

SandiFL said on 12/1/2008, “Your “how to” articles are so interesting and informative, Gail! Relished your remark about telling friends that the socks stuffed in your windows are ruffles! Toooooo amusing! Living in Florida, it never gets very cold here, unless you consider 55 degrees cold.”

GailM said on 12/1/2008, “Green Woman is correct. A doctor recommended wearing a stocking cap in bed to my father to keep his feet warm.

Thanks for everybody’s comments, I love hearing from you and getting a chance to read your eHows too.”

GreenWoman said on 11/30/2008, “Wearing a wooly pull-down hat also helps keeps the head warm, which helps the rest of the body. I like the socks idea — but for those who don’t have socks or tights, worn out panties, which I’ve used to block cold air between upper and lower window-sections, also work really well.”

Inspiring Memories for Writing

Gail wrote this in an email back in September 2011.
I once took a hand full of Jacks and the ball to visit a group of elderly people like me and tossed them out on the table and started playing jacks like we did as a kid. Then asked them to write about the games they remembered resulting in some very good stories.
Childhood Jacks Postcard
Childhood Jacks Postcardby cinnamonbite
Another time I took maple seeds and threw them up in the air and as they came swirling down like miniature helicopters everyone laughed and remembered doing that too. I really like getting others to write their memories.
My one almost failure was when I asked a group of ladies to write about the doll they remembered most and one lady started to cry. We finally found out she had never ever had a doll. So I quickly talked her into writing about the doll she had wished for the most. One of the ladies had a large collection of dolls from her childhood and at our next meeting she brought one to give the other lady and yes that brought tears to all the group.
I had them put their stories into 3-ring notebooks and recommended they make copies for all their families. That was one wonderful group. If I remember right there was around 25 to 30 ladies and one man in that series of writing meetings. We each took turns reading our stories. Memory writing is so important to the writer as well as the readers. 

Gail Lee Martin, author and leader of memory writing classes

 Here are some memory prompts for you to start writing about your childhood.

The Moon and Writing

Here’s some information that I wanted Gail to make into an article to post online. The article was never completed, but I’m sharing here her research on this interesting topic of how the signs of the moon affect writers.

” I also found that the signs of the moon inspire what we write. One week you do creative writing; another week researching goes best; a third week you write letters to friends and family and the last week is for organizing. Sometimes this one extends to my whole writing room. I found this information in a Farmer’s Almanac. In checking back through my journals I found that it was right. “
writing-pen pixabay

Graphic from Pixabay

Here’s what Mom found on the subject:
Increasing Moon
“An increasing moon going from new to full means writing will flow easily.  At that time, a writer is more prolific and productive. Ideas come easily and facts pop into your mind.”
Waning Moon
“When it goes from a full moon to the new moon, that’s the waning moon. For writers, the flow begins to dry up. Shift into doing editing, organizing.” She then has “great for news columns or for magazines.” I wish she would have elaborated on that part.
Mercury Retrograde
“When Mercury is retrograde, it’s a good influence on research, taking notes, and for the preparation of a writing project. It slows the thought process, so you need to allow more time for the writing process. Proofread carefully.
Mercury retrograde slows the thought processes, communications, and transportation.”
The takeaway from that is to allow more time for the writing process and factor in the time for mail to get delivered and for possible delays. Proof read carefully.
Here is the Farmer’s Almanac chart for the moon for the current month.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you considered the effects of the moon sign on your writing?

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.


  • 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.