Graduation Day in 1942

It’s the time of year when high school students start counting down the days until graduation. Free at last, they think. We won’t warn them that as they enter adulthood, it means having the many responsibilities that go with being a grown-up.

hamilton, Kansas graduation class1942 - 242 kb

Gail McGhee is right below the school logo.

 

It was the same back in 1942, but there was the additional responsibility of World War II. Young men after graduation were likely to go into the army or navy or another branch of the service. Training for war and coping with the discipline of the military would far exceed any restrictions placed on them by school assignments or a stern teacher.

Here’s the graduation program from my mother’s high school. She looked forward to leaving school behind as she considered herself ready to help in some way, anyway she could, with winning the war. She wanted to do more than just collect scrap metal or cope with ration stamps. You can read her own words about that last year of high school, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and her graduation in her memory blog, Discovering Mom.

gail mcghee Hamilton high school

The graduation took place on May 19, 1942. The Reverand Melvin A. Good gave the invocation and later the benediction. Mr. C.R. Jones presented the diplomas. There’s no indication of his status, perhaps the principal or a school superintendent.

Here’s the fairly short list of those graduating. I see Gail Lee McGhee at the top of the second column.

gail mcghee graduation

All pictures from my family archives.

My mother said it was not the fashion of the time to wear long dresses for graduation. She never mentioned wearing a cap and gown, so not even sure that was part of the event.

hamilton high school ring

Gail Martin’s high school ring. It’s worn down that it’s hard to tell if the center part is the school logo (see the graduation picture).

Camping on the Cottonwood

Over the years, Gail’s parents took a vacation not far from home. They camped along the Cottonwood River to fish, swim, pick berries, and enjoy nature. The photo below shows my mother getting really close to nature at a young age. I’d date this photo as about 1928.

topazgail in bushes-gigapixel

I don’t know if this was every year that they took these excursions. It must have been over quite a few years because here are my grandparents in a boat on the river. We can date it about 1950 as also in the boat is my mom’s younger sister in her teen years with a school friend.

Mother Daddy on cottonwood River boat

This story came to mind after seeing the Sepia Saturday inspiration photo for today (below). I could only find the one boat photo in the family album and certainly none with canal boats or 200-year-old houses.

If you’d like to see what other bloggers shared for Sepia Saturday, just click the link.

Remember the Good Times

Sometimes our memories of a loved one and the good times you’ve had together are overlaid by years of decline and sad times. The hardships at the end may make it easier to let go as you might feel that now the person won’t suffer any longer.

After accepting the loss, it’s good to go back and tap into the memories of better times together. Often the funeral or celebration of life brings together friends and family to tell those stories. You might feel a little guilty laughing with a cousin as you chat after the solemnity of the funeral, but it’s important to have those moments of sharing. Your loved one would want you to remember them with fondness and laughter rather than with depression and regrets.

Owen got a kick out of playing with his nieces and nephews at the family gatherings. There are plenty of photos to bring back those fun times. I hope the last 10 years or so have not pushed these earlier high jinks from their memories.

 

My brother loved entertaining people with his stories. Our Irish ancestry probably contributed to that. Dad also had the ability to turn any incident into a compelling yarn. Sadly, after Owen’s stroke, he sometimes had to search for his words which hampered the flow of his stories. His short-term memory was affected too. It was just one more way that his health issues affected his enjoyment of life.

I can’t be there to talk with the nieces, the nephew, the cousins, or the siblings about these more carefree times. We would have talked about what made Owen a special person in our family, so I’ve shared them here. Often, there’s a slide show, so here it is.

A Slide Show – Owen Lee Martin

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

The ’29 Essex

This photo, taken over 30 years ago, shows my brother with one of his hot rods. You can tell from the cars parked around him that a lot of time has passed since this picture. This is his ’29 Essex, his pride and joy.

Owen Martin and his Essex 143 kb

The event is my parents’ 40th-anniversary party, so that makes it easy to remember the year (1985).

My brother looks quite dapper here but you should see him at work on his cars. In his worn-out cut-off jean shorts and a sagging t-shirt, he worked on an engine or crawled under the vehicle. He had his garage set up for extensive auto work so he could customize his forty Ford or work on this 1929 Essex.

The old Essex went through a number of transformations in Owen’s garage. Once he had it show-worthy, an accident forced him to start over. That must have been heartbreaking, but he never gave up on it. You can see that it was in pretty rough shape when he first got it.

It went through a period where it was a lovely red, then the next transformation went with the intense yellow.

Essex_and_Model_A cars

Owen Martin’s ’29 Essex and his father, Clyde Martin’s Model A Briggs Special.

Despite all that dirty, oily work on engines and chassis, both he and the car cleaned up quite respectably. The anniversary was a marvelous day for the family and I can see he enjoyed himself on the occasion.

The Essex appeared in car shows all over Kansas. Owen was particularly partial to the annual show in Osborne. On other occasions, it appeared in parades, at Owen’s wedding, and it provided a ride for young ladies on their way to the high school prom.

You can still see the yellow Essex around our hometown. Owen sold it to his good friend, also a street rodder, because he wanted to focus on his ’40 Ford.

owen's forty with mom and dad

Owen with his parents, Clyde and Gail Martin, and the ’40 Ford.

Their First Child

My parents, Gail and Clyde Martin married at the end of World War II. Yes, they contributed to the Baby Boom. Their first baby arrived a bit less than 9 months later, but you know the old saying, “first babies always come early.”

owen martin's baby announcement

Owen Martin’s birth announcements from 1946

The proud parents used lots of 3 cent stamps as they sent cute birth announcements to all the relatives. Cameras weren’t as widely available then, but they captured a few candid shots of the infant and then as a toddler.

Owen_Martin__at_6_months 1946 baby

Owen at 6 months

baby owen martin 1946

Owen Lee Martin

They said they wanted to have a dozen children. After having six, they decided that was enough.

Gail Clyde Owen Martin

Here are Mom and Dad with their baby boy, Owen.

His school photos show the same winsome smile as the little boy grows. Along the way, he acquired the nickname, Butch. It took him some years to outgrow that.

His early ambition was to be a cowboy. After all, it was the era of Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, and Rex Allen. He even met a real Indian chief in Oklahoma (Chief Nu-ke-gri, age 73).

I put together this post as my brother’s birthday was coming up in two weeks. He has been ill and we were all worrying. As I put in the last photos and had it ready to post, I heard from my sister that Owen passed away today.

Fun in the Good Old Days

Oops, I accidentally posted this to the family history blog (Then and Now) when I meant to post it on Discovering Mom. Here it is…

Every Saturday, I get a photo prompt from the Sepia Saturday challenge. This time they showed a vintage photo of children on a playground. The hard part is for other bloggers to find a photo in their own family album with that theme.

I grew up in the country, so our playground was the pastures, the creek, and the woods. We did have that red wagon which served both for fun and also was useful for bringing firewood for the woodstove that heated our poorly-insulated farmhouse.

cindy in barrel wagon

Looking back to my mother’s generation, they were oil camp kids in the 1930s and 1940s.  They appear in the picture below to be out on the prairie. Perhaps just taking a walk. That almost looks like a lake behind them so perhaps this is a photo from a trip.

Gail, Carol, Treva Mae, Viola Matilda McGhee

This photo might be 1936, as that’s Gail Lee McGhee with her arm around her little sis, Carol Jean. A cousin Treva Mae Davidson, and their grandmother, Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee are on the right.

children and milk barrels

What can you do with a milk can? For Kansas kids, it becomes a horse to ride.

Here’s the photo from the Sepia Saturday challenge that inspired my search for kids having fun.

(Well, now I can’t remove the reblog fragment. Just ignore what comes after this. I’d love for you to comment with some memories of your own about playgrounds and fun times as kids.)

Then and Now

Every Saturday, I get a photo prompt from the Sepia Saturday challenge. This time they showed a vintage photo of children on a playground. The hard part is for other bloggers to find a photo in their own family album with that theme.

I grew up in the country, so our playground was the pastures, the creek, and the woods. We did have that red wagon which served both for fun and also was useful for bringing firewood for the woodstove that heated our poorly-insulated farmhouse.

cindy in barrel wagon

Looking back to my mother’s generation, they were oil camp kids in the 1930s and 1940s.  They appear in the picture below to be out on the prairie. Perhaps just taking a walk. That almost looks like a lake behind them so perhaps this is a photo from a trip.

They don’t look like they are having much fun at the moment the photo…

View original post 29 more words

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