Honoring Mom and Dad

Karen Kolavalli is our guest blogger today:

Mom and Dad have been on my mind a lot lately.  After they passed ten years ago, I acquired most of their extensive book collection.  In the years since they’ve been gone, the books have mostly stayed in boxes as I moved around the country, but recently I’ve been working to get them ready to sell.  The bulk of their collection consists of well-read turn-of-the-century novels, with “well-read” translating to heavily used, worn, and sometimes just barely holding together!  Booksellers will often list these as being in “rough condition”.  Indeed.  😉 

As I research the books, I’ve been surprised to find that many of them are quite rare and would command very nice prices–if only they were in better condition.  I spent a number of years as an online sales volunteer for a large Friends of the Library organization.  I had been a hobby bookseller online for a long time, but I definitely upped my game with the bookselling skills I developed working with the high-volume Friends operation. 

I started teaching myself how to do minor book repairs as a volunteer.  After I “retired” from volunteering and put more energy into my online bookselling business, I got serious about doing a better job on book repairs.  With the onset of the pandemic two years ago, I’ve had even more time to devote to restoring/conserving my folks’ books. 

Marie Kennedy Joy’s book (from the collection of Gail and Clyde Martin)

One of the first of those books was actually one that my paternal grandmother, Cora Joy Martin, had given to her mother, Marie Kennedy Joy.  It was then handed down to my dad, Clyde Martin.  Before I noticed the family connection, the book was headed to the donation box because it was in such bad condition.  But when I saw the personal inscriptions, I decided to give it a second chance.  “Helen of the Old House” was written by Harold Bell Wright.  Mom and Dad had a large collection of his books; Mom was proud that one of the characters in Wright’s “The Shepherd of the Hills” was based on her mother’s cousin, Fiddlin’ Jake Vining. 

Riddle me this–exactly how many copies of “The Shepherd of the Hills” does one family need, even factoring in the family connection to one of the characters?! 

Another project. Mom and Dad were huge fans of the western author Zane Grey.

It’s amazing that the paper book jacket survived over the years. Zane Grey’s The Man of the Forest.

Yum – Cherry Mash


Remember this candy? It’s celebrating a big birthday. Chhaya K., “I need some Cherry Mash in the special centennial wrapper!”

When Chhaya posted this video about Cherry Mash, it set off a lively discussion with memories of the candy. Gail Martin loved it and apparently her daughter, Shannon, did too. 


Gail’s granddaughter, Robin Calhoun commented, “I love these!”
Karen K. “Can’t get them here in Kentucky. ☹”

Robin Calhoun, “I’ll have to look to see if we get them here.”
Karen K. “in Eureka?”
Robin Calhoun “Yea”
Lola Beshirs Hicks, “They are wonderful and hard to find. Yummmmmy!”

Karen K. – “Mom used to hide her stash of them when we were kids. We never got to have them–we had to do a 3-way share of a Snickers or Milky Way or 3 Musketeers!”

Gail’s granddaughter, Diana Platt remembered, “My mom used to eat them, but she somehow convinced us they were gross old person food, like divinity or saltwater taffy. To this day I’ve never tried one.”

Karen K. – “Can’t get my mind around the concept that divinity, saltwater taffy, and Cherry Mash are old person food! And gross?! You’ve never tried ANY of them?!”



Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

1911 – The McGhee Children

My grandfather, Clarence McGhee, stands tall with his younger siblings in this photo. In looking for photos of men in hats, this one caught my attention. Fortunately, my mother had neatly labeled the back of the postcard. Clarence would have been 15 or 16 in this picture. The littlest one, Elmer, would just have been a year old. Two more children were born after this date.

1911 Clarence McGhee and siblings

The McGhee children in Tyro, KS in 1911 Back (L to R) – Clarence, Jesse, Roy Front (L to R) – Bertha, Lealon, Loren, Elmer

1911 McGhee children including clarence

I hadn’t examined the details of the photo before. My guess would be that it’s Sunday and they are ready to walk the few blocks to church. Several of the boys have a pin on their lapel which might be a Sunday School pin. Bertha has a flower pinned on her dress, so maybe it isn’t merely a Sunday. Maybe it is a special occasion such as the wedding of someone the family knew.

Three of the boys are old enough for long pants, but two are still in knickers. Jesse looks like he’s still growing into his jacket, but Roy’s coat has sleeves that are too short for him. Lealon and Loren have the loose ties popularized by the Little Lord Fauntleroy book but were spared the wide lace collar and the fancy cap. Elmer is still young enough to be in a dress.

No one looks very enthused about the photo session but perhaps they were inhibited by admonitions not to move. Unfortunately, the two youngest boys did move and so are preserved forever in blurred form.

Bertha has her hair in braids that are coiled or pinned up with bows for the occasion.

The Sepia Saturday Inspiration Photo

You can see what the other bloggers wrote for this week’s Sepia Saturday blog challenge.

sepia saturday 29 aug


Gail’s Glass Chain

My mother had a glass chain that her father, Clarence McGhee, made while working at the glass factory in Tyro, Kansas. The workers made glass chimneys for oil lamps back in the early part of the 1900s. At the end of the day, when some molten glass was left, they made whimsies for themselves.

glass chain pic by KK

Each of the daughters (Melba, Gail, and C.J.) received a section of the chain and kept it as a family treasure. By now, the chain is over 100 years old.

Glass factory - Clarence McGhee standing on pallet 54 kg too small

The workers at the Tyro Glass Plant about 1910. Clarence McGhee is the young man standing on the pallet.

Here’s another photo of the glass plant workers.

1910 tyro glass plant from bob harlan

Photo courtesy of my cousin, Bob Harlan

What made me think of these pictures was an inspiration photo from the Sepia Saturday Blog Challenge. Their picture of workers and a chain is quite different. To see what other bloggers wrote about the challenge, just click on the link.

sepia saturday aug 15

For further history of the glass factory, here’s an earlier article, The Tyro Glass Plant Moves to Sand Springs.

Hard at Work

As you know, I try to match the topic each Saturday with the challenge photo on the Sepia Saturday blog. This week just about defeated me. The photo showed train tracks and a trestle with houses on steep hillsides. How would I find anything like that in our family photo albums?

I settled on a vintage photo of my grandmother’s brother, Lester Vining. It was taken in Taney County, Missouri. That location may sound familiar to some, as it is where Branson, Missouri is. Long before the area became a tourist destination, the people in the Ozarks made a living as best they could.

This sentence from Settlers in the Ozarks explains what Luther is doing. It was a hard way to make a living with a crosscut saw, an ax, and a team of horses.

The first sustained boom to the area’s economy resulted from the harvesting of local timber when the nation’s expanding rail system created demand for a seemingly endless supply of cross ties.

lester vining logging

I’m guessing that the photo is around 1912 as I have a companion photo of Luther with his horses. The photo is from Melba McGhee Harlan’s collection (Luther was her uncle). Note that Luther has the same hat on in both photos. He would have been 23-years-old in 1912.

luther vining & horses

Here’s the Sepia Saturday photo that set the theme for my family story. It’s interesting to see what other bloggers post on the theme.

To learn more about Luther Vining’s life, visit our family history blog, Then And Now.

Karori Electric Tramway Postcard (Via Flickr Commons) Sepia Saturday 532

Karori Electric Tramway Postcard (Via Flickr Commons) Sepia Saturday 532

The Old Grocery Store

Time for another photo match-up. Actually, the example photo showing a vintage street scene is in color, not the usual sepia ones that Sepia Saturday shares. That gives me more options to find a similar scene in our family photo stash. Let’s see what I find.

Sepia Saturday 521 Theme Image, Lincoln Nabraska in Colour

Sepia Saturday Theme Image, Lincoln, Nebraska, in Colour

First I found an old grocery store in Tyro, Kansas. My Vining and McGhee branches of the family lived there, as did some of the Babcocks and the Towers. This photo was kindly lent to me by Jack Irwin who is related to some of the founders of Tyro. His great-grandfather, Joseph Lenhart ran this store.

1st store in Tyro run by jack irwins great grandfather Joseph Lenhart

1907 Deuel store in Tyro

1907 – Inside the store in Tyro, Kansas.

My next find was the Moore Brothers Grocery in Teterville, Kansas. You can read more about this store and my mother’s memories of it in Just Shopping and Teterville Chat. This photo is at the history museum in Eureka, Kansas where they have quite a nice exhibit about Teterville.

teterville store photo from eureka museum

Photo from the Eureka Museum of the Moore’s Store in Teterville, Kansas

I have one more story to share, but sadly, no photo of this grocery store. My grandfather, Ren Martin, had a grocery store in Reading, Kansas, after he retired.


Hang Onto Your Hat

The inspiration photo for this Saturday features a vintage bicycle with a sidecar. The lady riding in that sidecar was wisely hanging onto her hat as they zipped along. Now, I’ve already shared my photo of my grandmother on a motorcycle and one showing my great-uncle and my grandfather with bicycles, so I don’t have any more of those in the family album.

sepia saturday july 25

I could find some photos of the family in hats over the years, but not that many ladies with hats. In Kansas with the wind blowing across the prairies, you needed to hang onto your hat even when you weren’t zipping along in a bike with a sidecar.

Our Family Hats Over the Years

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Scrounging a bit further in the family photos, I did find 2 bicycle pictures that you probably haven’t seen.

dated on front 8-16-1912, house with man, woman, 2 boys with bicycles

Unknown family with bicycles

sam mcghee and bicycle maybe

Great-grandfather Samuel McGhee

The Church Fan

Let’s see what comes to your mind with the phrase “church fan.” You know I’m intrigued by vintage things so yes, I’m always alert for old churches with steeples along a country road or in a village. Here’s a sampling that I’ve captured with my camera over the years. I can’t even tell you where I saw many of these and the photos aren’t the best. We can’t stop for each one, so these are quickie snaps.

So, you could say that I’m a fan of vintage churches.

We like to visit restored villages in our travels and then I get to savor the architecture, the polished pews, and the peaceful silence inside. This one was in New Brunswick, Canada.

Another Kind of Church Fan

On a hot summer day in the early 1900s, the community assembled in their local church. Ladies wore lightweight dresses, their best shoes, a hat, and white gloves. The men wore suits.

The arched ceiling in the church allowed some of the heat to rise, but despite that, it was sweltering for the people as they settled into their regular pew. Immediately, the cardboard hand fans were set in motion. Each lightweight cardboard fan had a flat wooden handle. The artwork featured religious scenes and the back of the fan always contained an advertisement. Usually, it was for a funeral home, but it could be a bank or other commercial entity that probably paid for the fans.

No matter how hot you were, children knew that the fans were not for a frantic flapping to create a breeze. One gently waved the fan back-and-forth and never ever used it to whack your little sister no matter how she aggravated you.

There was another version of the church fan. It consisted of three cardboard panels fastened at the base. These spread open to see the pictures (and the advertising on the back), and there was no stick.

The fans above are available from a seller of vintage items on Etsy. Here’s the link for her vintage advertising church fans in case you have a desire to travel back in time and need a fan to keep cool while there.


Christmas in July

When you see the phrase “Christmas in July,” you usually think of merchants trying to drum up some business during a slow time. I’m not encouraging anyone to head out shopping during a pandemic. Instead, I have an idea for some crafty Christmas projects that you can do at home with supplies that you probably already have on hand.

ancestor ornament cj

(REMINDER: do not cut up original photos, make a copy) My aunt Carol and her cousin Barbara.

Now’s the time to create some special ornaments for your Christmas tree while you keep occupied during those too hot July days. As you know, I inherited an interest in family history from my mother. She would have liked this idea of putting copies of your vintage family photos on the holiday tree.

Harlan, kennedy, ancestors collage cutouts

These photos are too large to put on an ornament. Instead, glue the copies (not the original) onto a stiff backing. Then nestle them into the branches of the tree.

The example below is a copy glued onto a stiff backing (recycle the gold back from your old Christmas cards). Ribbon or yarn is all you need for a hanger. Write out a little about the people in the picture and add that to the back. At the very least, put their names, dates, and relationship.

Harlan glue ornament christmas

I have more ideas for decorating your Family History Christmas tree on an article on Hubpages. What do you think? Will there be ancestors on your tree in December?

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Family Togetherness

My mother wrote many stories of her own about her early years and she collected stories from her aunts, uncles, and cousins. I want to share this memory of Gail’s aunt, Bertha McGhee. Bertha was born in 1903 and grew up in the small town of Tyro, Kansas.

Sam Matilda 1903 Clarence 7 Jesse 5 Roy 2 Bertha baby_roxio

Bertha is the baby in this photo of the Sam McGhee family in 1903.

Bertha Remembers

Our family did lots of things together.   We played games — dominoes and checkers, carom and croconole and Finch.   Outdoors we played hide and seek, blind man’s bluff and races with bases marked off in the dusty dead end street.

We sang around the organ with Papa playing and he also had us study the Sunday School lesson together on Saturday evening–so we’d be ready for Sunday School on Sunday.   We always had grace before meals and often at breakfast Papa would read a scripture — Sunday School and our church were very much a part of our lives.

Most of us are familiar with dominoes and checkers which are still played today. I wonder if Finch was actually Flinch or if those are separate games. In searching through old newspapers, I found what the boards looked like for Carom and Crokinole. These would be considered parlor games.

Crokinole and Caroms game boards - 1915Crokinole and Caroms game boards – 1915 Mon, Dec 13, 1915 – Page 13 · Great Bend Tribune (Great Bend, Kansas) · Newspapers.com