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
Back in our grandparents or great-grandparents’ day, a shed like this served as their wash house. Constructed simply from lumber, it kept the mess of laundry day out of the house. It might have just a dirt floor or possibly a wood floor. Luckily we have electric washers and dryers now so no longer need a shed in the backyard for that purpose.
Now we have so many other storage needs that our ancestors never even dreamed of. Storing the power lawn mower, the leaf blower, the power washer for the deck, the weed whacker, swimming pool accessories, golf gear, and so many other tools that weren’t available back in the 1920s, 30s, or 40s.
The style and materials for a storage space have changed a lot over the years too. Now with rigid plastics, there are many variations to fit our different needs. In the good old days, the size and appearance of your shed depended on accessible lumber and tin.
The one shown here has a stone foundation, a tin roof, and weathered wood for a particularly scenic small building.
My friend, Suzanne, in Australia remembers, “My paper dolls came in books of roughly 10 pages, magazine size, 2 or 3 complete outfits to a page and the clothes would press out although you had to be very careful with the tabs. I would play with them all afternoon.
My mother obviously had a supply of these ‘cut-out dolls’ hidden somewhere for they would miraculously appear on a rainy day or on the odd occasion when I suffered some childish ailment. I kept the dolls with their frocks, hats, and shoes in a shoebox and how I wish that I could pick up that box up again now!”
Isn’t this combination paper doll and Valentine a cutie! The doll and the army nurse outfit are perforated for easy punching out. I’m guessing this could be WWII, but don’t have verification for that.
My Friend, Joan, Shares Her Memories
Joan Adams – “We loved to take a shoebox full of paper dolls and clothes out on the screened porch. We played with them for hours and hours. We also cut out dishes and silverware from magazines to pretend to cook. I can remember cutting out pictures of furniture too!
We usually got new paper dolls and new crayons on our birthdays and Christmas time!”
Memories of Paper Dolls from Lois, Lee, and Nancy
Lois Paugh Osteen – “I still have them from my childhood. Some pages of the clothes had not been cut out, my sister and I would play for hours with them.
We would cut pictures from magazines so we could have a big party or a nice house. Our paper dolls were our babies, just like our dolls, love the memories.”
Lee Hansen Hoch – “I had a huge box of paper dolls. I distinctly remember the Patty Page and Betsy McCall paper dolls plus I drew my own and made clothes for them.”
Nancy Julien Kopp – “My cousin and I spent hours playing paper dolls. Loved getting new ones, especially of the movie stars. We cut out all the clothes and then made up glorious stories for those paper dolls to act out.”
Handing Down Paper Dolls from Generation to Generation
Marsha Cooper – “I don’t really remember having paper dolls myself, but I remember my mom’s that she had kept. A lot of them came in the McCall’s magazine and my grandma cut them out. I remember how excited I was to find books of paper dolls for my own daughters. They played with them for hours at a time with their friends. They each had theirs stored in manilla envelopes. We found one of those envelopes in a box not long ago. Now my granddaughters are having fun playing with them. It does my heart good to watch them enjoying the “simple’ things over worrying about getting on the game system or a phone to play games.”
Karen Kolavalli – “The paper dolls we had most often were families cut out of catalogs. I remember we would create houses for them by placing books together–each book cover was a separate room and bigger rooms could be created with books that had the same color covers.
I loved Betsy McCall paper dolls from McCall’s magazine and thought Grandma McGhee was very unreasonable when she wouldn’t let us cut them out if she hadn’t finished the story on the other side.
And one special Christmas with all the Martin cousins, my gift was Lennon Sisters paper dolls that came in a cardboard and tin carrying container. I found quite a few for sale online. Apparently, they came out in 1960. I found some on eBay that sold for $31!
Also, I have a vintage sheet of Betsy McCall paper dolls that I have framed. I’ve heard that our generation is buying back our childhoods.
Ooh, forgot the paper dolls from the Sugar and Spike comic books! When we’d go with Mom to the grocery store, sometimes we each got to pick out one dime comic book and I always picked Sugar and Spike.”
I see there were earlier Lennon Sister paper dolls from 1957 that are just in booklets, not in a nice carrying tin.
I didn’t remember paper dolls with Sugar and Spike that Karen mentioned, but I sure remember how fun their comic books were. Maybe we should save the topic of favorite comic books for another post, but I couldn’t resist checking Amazon for them. The vintage covers are quite pricey.