It’s the time of year when new graduates beam with pride for the camera as they clutch their hard-earned diplomas. They are glad the school year has ended, little realizing that ahead are many trials and tribulations as they learn about being an adult.
For the moment, don’t bring up jobs, bills, keeping the spouse happy, coping with car repairs and grumpy bosses, plus the challenge of raising children. Let them savor that triumphant and heady feeling of achieving the long-term goal of getting an education.
Learning about Hamilton, Kansas
My mother, Gail Martin, graduated from high school in Hamilton, Kansas, back when she was still Gail McGhee. That was about all I knew about Hamilton, so I did some research. Here’s what I found out about this small Kansas town. Only a few hundred people now live there. The small town is located in Greenwood County, just north of Eureka and south of Madison.
Perhaps you have links to Hamilton or have heard of it. Please sound the guestbook at the end of the page and tell us about your interest in Hamilton, Kansas.
The photo below shows my mother’s graduating class at Hamilton. It is in the family photo collection.
Mom had a postcard image of Hamilton High School. Pretty impressive building for such a small town. If this is like Madison, it would house all the grades from first grade through high school. The high school would have been on the top floor.
To see what the area around Hamilton looks like, view this short YouTube video, The Flint Hills – Meditations from a Kansas Prairie.
Read More About It
My mother wrote many family memory pieces about her early life. I gathered these together in a book that I self-published on blurb.com. Her book is titled My Flint Hills Childhood: Growing Up in 1930s Kansas. In the book, she includes a picture of herself in her prom dress for the Hamilton prom. Her maiden name was Gail McGhee. She dated Johnnie Faylor while attending Madison High School, but ended up marrying my dad, Clyde Martin.
There’s a book about his life as well, Clyde Owen Martin: Family Memories of His Life and Times. It’s also available in the Blurb online bookstore. Dad has family connections to Hamilton that goes back several generations.
The Martin Connection to Hamilton
This is my great-grandfather, Alfred Joy and his son Harry standing in front of the feed mill that he owned in Hamilton. The picture is from the book, Clyde Owen Martin: Family Memories of His Life and Times.
This piece of Hamiton history is from the early 1900s. Harry Earl Joy, son of Marie (Kennedy) and Henry Alfred Joy, is in first grade in this picture. I don’t know which child is Harry. He was born in 1898 in Baldwin, Kansas.
This photo is from the paperback edition of Dad’s book. Harry Joy was Dad’s uncle.
In hopes of finding out more about Hamilton and its early days, I’ve asked to join a Facebook group called U Know U R from Hamilton KS. I’ll keep exploring.
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.
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.
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)
My mother spoke a number of times about learning acrobatics when she was in school. Their teacher Brownie Dillman taught the students. Recently I scanned some stamp-sized photos that showed this teacher and some of the students.
I’m enlarging them here for more detail. To see them even larger, click on each photo.
It seems that the acrobatic team had the opportunity to perform at the Kansas State Fair. It lists the names of the students, but not Gail McGhee. I don’t know if at age 13, she had already moved on to another school or if some other reason kept her from attending.
The Hutchinson News (page 13, Sept. 16, 1937) wrote about the free day for school children that expected 7,000 children and teens to attend. Here’s the schedule for the entertainment in the grandstand at 10:30 am on the free day.
- Short speeches by some school officials
- A clown from the state fire marshal’s office
- Rover the mathematical dog
- A troupe of juvenile acrobats – The acrobatic team originated from the Seeley Grade School of Madison, Kansas. Members of the troupe are Dixie Jean Falk age 7, Edna Mae Laird age 7, Marilyn Ruth Dettcr (spelling?) age 7, and Dorothy Rose Laird age 12.
- Dancers from local schools and Clyde S. Miller’s Wild West Show
- Music by the Hutchinson High School band directed by S. Allen Watrous.
- Also music by Turkey Creek, Wakeeney and Pawnee Rock bands.
In Mom’s photo collection are four photos relating to her childhood friend, Dorothy Rose Laird. I wrote about their friendship in another post, so you’ve seen one of the pictures there.
It occurred to me that descendants of Dorothy or relatives would love to have these 60 year old pictures. I researched on the Ancestry site for family trees that included Dorothy Rose Laird.
When I found one, I messaged the owner of the tree asking if she would like the photos to add. She was thrilled. I emailed digital copies of the pictures and I see she has already attached them to the people on her family tree.
Here are the four pictures in case anyone else is looking for Dorothy.
I could not find details later than 1940 on Dorothy, so I don’t know who she married, where she lived and if she died.
According to that member’s family tree, the grandmother’s name was Mary Ellen “Ella” Combs and she married Thomas Laird.
The good part of sharing these photos is now they are on Ancestry so others who are searching for her will easily find them. The bad part is that Ancestry’s subscription fee keeps many from using it. For that, I’m posting them here.
PS – One of the activities that my mother, Gail, remembered fondly from her school days was learning acrobatics with her friend Dorothy. Click the link to read about that.