“Don’t take any wooden nickels.” This old saying wasn’t adhered to by Gail and Clyde Martin. They actively sought out wooden nickels for their collection which they displayed on their living room wall.
Gail and Clyde Martin’s wooden nickel collection.
They had vintage ones and new ones too. Sometimes local businesses would print up some as an advertising gimmick. Gail and Clyde found so many that they wouldn’t all fit into their display cases.
An assortment of wooden nickels
Here is a sampling of ones they picked up over the years.
Dalton Museum – Coffeyville, KS
Greenwood County Historical Museum – Eureka, KS
Pony Express Museum – Marysville, KS
Chamber of Commerce – Waterville, KS
Madison Kansas Centennial
Friends and family found some further afield and sent them to boost the collection. For their 40th wedding anniversary, their daughter, Virginia had wooden nickels printed for them to give to the guests.
Their specially printed wooden nickel for their 40th anniversary.
I’m sure Gail researched the history of wooden nickels and found that the earliest ones go back to the 1880s and were issued at times of coin shortages. They became popular in the 1930s when the tokens were issued at fairs and festivals to commemorate the event. Merchants also issued them offering something free if the wooden token was presented in their store.
Remember the Rambler? I sure do. I had a small green one during my college years.
I’ll share my memories of that first car, the Rambler. There was a funny song from the 1960s about the Rambler –The Beep Beep Song?I’m guessing that already this song is playing in your head.
Towards the end of the 1960s when I left for college, my father found a little Rambler for me to drive. It was used, but he was good at patching up old cars and I was grateful for the wheels, any wheels. That little Rambler carried me the 60 miles to college in Emporia, Kansas and back to my family in El Dorado on many weekends when I was homesick.
During the week at college, it mostly stayed parked since I lived just across from the campus in an old ramshackle, Victorian house. Every so often, I’d drive the Rambler to the public library when I wanted leisure reading that the college library might not have. It also ventured out to Pizza Hut and to the grocery store as well.
Ginger Martin and her dad, Clyde Martin – The green Rambler in the foreground.
When I finished college and got my first job, far away from Kansas, in Chardon, Ohio, the Rambler went with me. Mom and Dad drove out in one car and I drove the Rambler. They wanted to make sure I made it safely and found a place to live.
Some of these still linger on in Kansas backyards and some are still used when the sky turns ominous and a tornado funnel starts to form. This particular one was in the yard where Gail’s daughter, Karen, lived for a number of years in El Dorado, Kansas. The house dated back to 1918 and perhaps the old storm cellar was of that vintage too.
Possibly, the doors had been replaced a few times over the years. It’s been painted but then that weathers away over the years.
It’s a fact of life if you live in Kansas, you need to know where the nearest tornado shelter is. Living in tornado alley means learning how to read the clouds and recognize a tornado funnel forming. It means knowing the siren tones to know which is a tornado alert and which is a “take cover.”
A vintage storm cellar like this one might have a dirt floor or could have been improved over the years. Some people stock them with chairs, a lantern, a weather radio, and other comforts to get through dangerous times. Sometimes the walls are lined with rough shelving to hold canned foods from the vegetable garden and have bins for potatoes and other root crops.
Nellie – Karen’s Cat
There’s a handle to make it easier to pull open the wooden doors. Fear lends you strength to haul it open as the wind howls around you and the rain pelts down.
Memories from Other Folks of Storm Shelters
Sara Sluss – We had one at the farm – long gone. I hated going into it – for potatoes, onions, or apples or because there were tornados in the area. Spiders, dark, dank, ick.
Nicholas C. – My grandparents had one in Maple Hill, Kansas. A lantern hung on the back porch to take when it stormed at night. It was used for canned goods and vegetables (potatoes, carrots, onions, etc.) and crocks of sauerkraut. There were always toads! There was a vent in the top which made the wind and thunder sound strange and ominous! Thank heavens, I never saw a snake! I fell down the concrete steps when I was 5 and broke my left eardrum. Lots of memories!
Mary M. – My Aunt has one inside an outbuilding (which was a smokehouse at one time) in her backyard in Towanda. It started to cave in so she had to fill it with dirt.
Mike M. – We had one in western Linn County where I grew up. We kept our potatoes and onions from the garden in it and I learned to ride a bike by coasting off the top of it.
Beverly M. – Some called them ‘fraidy’ holes.
Robinette G. – We still have our cellar on the farmstead of my great-grandparents. The 6th generation now lives here. When I was a kid, this was my playhouse in the summer because it was cool in the western Kansas heat. We’d always go through the doorway really fast to avoid spiders, then checked for snakes! It’s covered by a silver lace vine.
Dorothy L. – We called them caves. Although we had a basement, our neighbor had a cave. During one tornado scare, several people from town gathered in that small space. I was in grade school and counted twenty-four people taking shelter while our local policeman, Officer Holder, drive through town in his police car sounding his siren or horn as a warning. No Shawnee County sirens in those days.
John F. – My grandparents had one just like it. I loved the smell of brick and earth and the dozens of mason jars full of fruit and vegetables. This was in the late 60s early 70s.
The Daily Republican Burlington, Kansas 09 May 1910, Mon • Page 8
My mother, Gail Lee Martin, lived into her late 80s. She was the family archivist carefully preserving her uncles’ WWI helmet, her father’s moth-eaten wool bathing suit from the early 1900s, and many more items entrusted to her care as the previous generation died.
Here’s Albert Vining’s shelf that he made. Mom used to keep books on it in her writing room.
Gail’s uncle, Albert Vining, left this diary from World War I about his experience in France.
Albert Vining’s 5th-grade report card from Gentry, Arkansas 1909
Now, I’m 70 and as a Baby Boomer find that it makes me sad to let go of the earlier generations’ belongings. At some point, one realizes that you can’t keep everything, but choosing what to preserve and what to let go is very difficult.
The older Boomers are so traditional and as loyal as their parents; they generally have a difficult time letting go of stuff. They may feel a profound sadness in letting go of previous generations’ things, even as they realize the younger generation no longer wants these things. They are in the middle of making tough decisions to keep or sell these items.
Yes, these are tough decisions. Sometimes you have to decide that a photo of an item will serve to keep the memory fresh even if you have no room for the what-not shelf that your great-uncle made. It isn’t that we don’t care about these ancestors, but recognizing that integrating dozens, even hundreds of their possessions into our already full home isn’t practical.
As it is, I’m clearing out lots of stuff that I’ve bought and no longer use. It makes no sense for me to keep my own junk like a broken vacuum cleaner that I’ve already replaced while giving up something that is meaningful in my family. Decluttering meaningless modern stuff makes some room for treasured family items.
I’m also using some of the photos in nostalgic blog posts and in making some family history books. Hopefully, even when an item is no longer in the family’s possession, they will enjoy the memories in the blog and in the books which take up minimal space.
My big sis asked me about my memories of the Martin family oak table that’s been handed down in our family. I know now that it came from Dad’s parents and I assume we got it at the time Cora and Ren downsized and moved to Emporia for their retirement years. That would have been when I was a child and, really, I don’t remember a time that we didn’t have it. I think we must have gotten our cherry slant-top desk from them at the same time.
This was back in the 1950s and our family was the typical one, where Dad was the breadwinner and Mom was the homemaker. Meals–all of them–were eaten together as a family at the big, round table in the dining room. Since we were a family of eight, at least one of the two expansion leaves was left in place during those years. It was very rare for us to eat out at a restaurant, either sit-down or drive-through. We did occasionally have picnics. But other than that, we ate at home at that table!
I like knowing that this is the table my Dad grew up with. His family was even bigger–eight children–but the table was big enough for them, too. I think it’s likely that the table was purchased from the Sears catalog. Sears started selling quarter-sawn oak extension tables of this type around the turn of the last century.
Now the oak table has been handed down to my family. When I downsized in my turn at the time I retired, I handed the table down to my daughter. That makes her the fourth generation of the family to have this 100-year-old table.
One more view of that table. This photo is from 1957. That’s our dad, Clyde, and his younger brother, Howard Martin. They grew up with the table and then it came to our family and we grew up with it, too. I see that they are playing cards which all of our family loved to do. Also on the table are some packs of cigarettes. I think Dad smoked Camels. I’m not sure what’s in that bowl, maybe snacks.
Mason jars or canning jars have dozens of uses far beyond the basic job of storing preserved foods for the winter. Of course, they still do the job if you want to can your beets or carrots from the garden. I’ve gathered together here some ideas to upcycle or get new uses from those Ball or Mason canning jars.
Gail Lee Martin collected old canning jars and displayed them on shelves above the sink in her kitchen. I have some other suggestions to show off or make useful those vintage jars. One of my nieces used the jars filled with paper flowers to decorate the tables at her wedding.
Diana made the paper roses to place in the canning jars that she borrowed from her Grandmother Gail.
Party or Table Decor Ideas with Mason Jars
Use them to hold silverware on the buffet table.
For a wedding, place jars on each table and fill them with wildflowers.
Put a pump style lid on 2 jars for a BBQ and put ketchup or mustard in them.
When eating outside, decorate your patio table with a canning jar filled with sunflowers.
Since you’re visiting this page, I’m guessing that you already have some Mason jars. They may be the more common clear canning jars or the vintage green or blue ones.
With these tops, you can put your empty canning jars to work for many purposes.
The green plastic lids from parmesan cheese containers fit perfectly on a canning jar too. With that, you can store any food that you want to shake out or use the jar for storing craft beads or glitter.
Uses for Newer Canning Jars
For some of the craft projects below, you’ll want to use newer canning jars instead of making permanent alterations to an antique jar.
Get out your paints and give a jar a cute pumpkin face. Put a battery-powered votive candle inside for a light.
Make Frosted Jar Lanterns – With these video instructions
You can make one of these. Look how easy it is. I really like video tutorials. Guess I’m a visual learner.
Gail Martin filled several of her vintage canning jars with sand. They made great bookends for her cookbooks.
Do you have memories of something that frightened you as a child? Maybe footsteps on the stairs after you’ve gone to bed? I’m intrigued by octogenarian Monte Manka who taps into his childhood memories from the 1930s for his poems. He grew up in Chelsea, Kansas in the same county where Gail Martin lived later in life. Chelsea is gone now, hidden under the water of the El Dorado Reservoir.
Here’s his account of something that really scared him as a child. The house his family lived in showed signs of being haunted. I’ve also added some memories his younger sister had of that same house. The house is gone now, so was it really haunted or ???
Read his poem describing the spooky events and also the other evidence presented. See what you think.
As for me, I’m sure glad I didn’t have to climb those stairs each night and lie awake listening to the strange sounds.
Who or What Made the Footsteps on the Stairs Late at Night?
Those “Spooky” Farmhouse Stairs
A poem by an octogenarian, Monte Manka about his childhood memories
The stairway in that farmhouse
That led up to the second floor
Meant a way to reach my bedroom
Newel posts, balusters, banisters
Landing, risers, and treads
I used them daily
When heading for my upstairs bed.
As I grew older
I often wondered who
Engineered this marvel
Such beautiful workmanship, too.
That old railing and Newel Post
Were well hand-worn
Solid walnut wood
Built long before I was born.
If I wanted a midnight snack
Down these stairs, I could not sneak
The pressure on each riser
Let out a telltale squeak.
As I lay in bed
I pulled the covers
Tight over my head
Because in the stillness of the night
That old stairway would creak
From the bottom step to the top
You’d be scared to speak.
Besides, there was no such thing
As Goblins and Ghosts
Looking to do me harm, I said to myself
As those creaky sounds grew close.
I kept telling myself
While shivering in my bed
I was afraid to fall asleep
Afraid I’d wake up dead.
Thank goodness for that Sandman
He saved my life many a night
By putting me to sleep
And keeping me free from fright.
An Odd Incident
Remembered by Monte Manka
One night while we were sitting by the pot-bellied stove in the living room, keeping warm, suddenly a muffled noise and the house began to fill with smoke.
Dad finally got it under control. One of the bricks was missing on the chimney on the top and that brick fell down the chimney and clogged up the draft. Dad and the hired man had to take the stovepipe apart and remove the brick and all was well–
Funny no wind that night, no earthquake ????????????? Monte
A drawing by Karen Martin showing the black wood stove similar to one in the Manka house.
Another Person’s Experience in That House – Monte’s Sister
“Something came up those stairs every night at precisely the same time, around 10:00 or 10:30 I don’t remember which. The footsteps were clear and distinct from the bottom of the stairs to the top.
I am not the only one in the family that heard that either. Ray commented on that very thing. I thought it was just a kid thing and now I know that it wasn’t.
There were other things that went on in that house as well. That house was a haunted house when I was living in it.
Monte Leon Manka
Monte is 83 and now lives in California. He grew up in Chelsea, Kansas. These poems cover his experiences from school days, the Great Depression, small town life, and also his military experience in Korea.
The Manka House Eventually Burned to the Ground
In His 90s Now, Monte Manka Lives in Retirement on the West Coast