Memories of Korea Before the War

Korean War Poems by Monte Manka

Monte Manka wrote a variety of poems about his experience in Korea. Gail Martin’s daughter, Virginia, finds people’s memories of great events important to save. She created this page to feature Monte’s memories of that long ago time. Monte Manka grew up in Chelsea, Kansas in the 1930s, not far from where Gail Lee Martin was raised.
Monte Manka - Army days

1945 – Monte Manka (and friend) – Army Days

Here’s the younger Monte at the time these writing were inspired.

An Octogenarian Writes Poems about His Experiences in Korea

Monte Manka went off to Korea in the 1940s as part of the occupying forces after growing up on a Kansas farm in the 1930s/40s. His experiences in Korea triggered some poetry that’s entertaining and insightful.

Now in his nineties, Monte keeps writing those poems about being a Kansas farm boy and about adjusting to the very foreign culture of Korea and the restrictions of the military. Enjoy his poems and be sure to leave a comment for Monte.

Army Training Camp Poetry – by Monte Manka

You can read Monte’s poems on the Our Echo website. I’m linking to individual poems so they will be easier for you to find.

Learn More about the Korean War with These Stories and Poems

Most Americans have a very vague concept of what happened during the Korean War, how it started and how it ended. I admit that most of what I know came from watching episodes of MASH on TV.

Learn more about this war that made such an impact on this Kansas farm boy.

“World War II ended when I was headed for the invasion of Japan. We were called off the troop train in Kansas and told that Harry had dropped the bomb and the war was over. Can’t take any credit for any battles, strictly Occupation of Korea. I was in Korea during the occupation, the “Police Action” started after I left for home.”

— Monte explains his role in Korea

Korean Woman with Parasol – Photo by Monte Manka

Korean lady - war years 1945

Korean war – woman with parasol umbrella (Do not use this photo elsewhere. It belongs to Monte Manka.)

Poems about the Korean People and Culture – by Monte Manka

These are available to read on the Our Echo website.

  • Little Nell Two-Ten-Yen (If you ever bargained with a Korean over eggs, silk or hammered copper pans The bidding always started with a bid of Two Ten Yen.)
  • Hiking out in the Korean Boonies (A poem with more adventures in meeting the Korean people. It has great photos with it.)
  • Buddha Intruder (Another poem about exploring in Korea.)
  • Korean Wash Day
  • Stroll to a Mystery (Three soldiers going for a Sunday stroll Monte, Mac and Don With Addie Dean, the Red Cross gal tagging along. I carried Mom’s Kodak 116 ready to take any photo of some pretty mountain scene)
  • Rice planting in Korea (Fascinating photos with this poem.)
  • Cruelty of The River Han (The people build their huts close to the River Han To do their laundry and water for their cooking pan)
  • Break Time at the Shrine (here’s a snippet from the poem.)

Break Time at the Shrine

While hiking in the Korean boonies
I spotted this old Shrine
I stopped to take a picture
Of a forgotten time

I wanted to get those stone steps
Mismatched and rough
Walking up these stairs with heels 
Would be mighty tough

Timbers on each side of the doorway
One a log one hand hewn
The whole doorway
Slightly out of plumb

Resting in the doorway
Was this toothless old Momason
Holding a long Korean pipe
That she was puffing on

Korean Shrine – Photo by Monte Manka

Korean shrine (photo by Monte Manka) - read his poems about Korea before the war

Korean shrine (photo by Monte Manka) – read his poems about Korea before the war

Korean Women Washing Clothes in a Stream – Photo by Monte Manka

korean women washing clothes in river

Korean war women washing clothes in a river

A Sampling of Photos Showing the Korean War

Korean Farmer Carrying a Heavy Load – Photo by Monte Manka

korean farmer carrying heavy load - Photo by Monte Manka

a Korean farmer carrying a heavy load (all rights reserved on this photo)

I close my eyes

Seems like yesterday

When I was in Korea

Thousands of miles away.

monte korea (2)

Where Do People Come from When They Visit This Page?


Counter added May 28, 2012.

Betty – 7 years ago – “My Dad was in the Korean war too; in the Army. Thank you for your service, Monte & for the great poetry you’ve shared with us.”

Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

Gayle – 7 years ago  – “Mr. Manka–I enjoyed your poems! I was too young to know very much about the Korean War but your poems gave me a personal insight into that time and war. Thanks for the real-life glimpse of how it was!”

Joan Haines profile image

Joan Haines – 7 years ago – “I have read only your first poem about the kind and creative leadership of your Captain Knight. “Little Nell Two Ten Yen” is a great story. I am sending a link to all these poems to my daughter in South Korea. She is there teaching English. Thank you. I look forward to reading the rest!”

A Gift of Treasured Memories

Old Letters, Family Memories and Other Memorabilia

Often people receive “fun” gifts, frivolous gifts or the most recent gimmick for a birthday or holiday, but in a few weeks, it is forgotten. Give a gift that lasts a lifetime by sharing your family memories with the next generation.

A Gift They Will Cherish and Pass Down in the Family

This can be in the form of a scrapbook, a self-published book, a videotaped interview, a pretty box filled with old letters, or a framed essay. Memories that can be hung on the wall, viewed on the television or browsed in book form make a gift that will be cherished from one generation to the next. Recording these memories or saving old letters are truly a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Goofy Gifts – Who Will Remember Them?

People spend money on gag gifts. Sometimes they buy the annoying singing Christmas moose because they can’t figure out what to give. Sometimes it’s the garish Christmas socks with Santa Claus all over them. Instead of wasting your money on these, give a timeless gift of family memories.

Stop with the goofy gifts. Read on down the page to find some really meaningful gifts that will last for a lifetime.

Save old letters and family memories

Save old letters and family memories for the next generation to enjoy. (Graphic from Pixabay)

Ideas for Meaningful Gifts

    • Save Letters in Archival Sleeves in a Binder – Gather all the letters saved from the person and put them in order by the dates. Put the letters (oldest ones first) in the archival sleeves in the binder. The recipient will have hours of enjoyment re-reading their own letters from years gone by. It forms a journal or diary of their life. This also works to put older letters like a great-grandparent’s letters into a binder to give their descendant. What a treasure!
    • Turn Letters, Memories or a Blog into a Self-Published Book – using It’s delightful to see how much this means to this woman to receive her blog made into a book.

  • Make a Video to Share Family Memories – Get out the video camera (or your cellphone) and get grandma or grandpa talking about their memories.
  • Give a Family Member a Journal – to start recording their childhood memories.
  • Create Your Own Heritage Scrapbook – with family history, copies of old photos and other memorabilia.

Supplies for the Projects

Scrapbook Photo Album Vintage Leather Memory Book 60 Pages Refillable Black Paper for Christmas Gifts Valentine's Day Wedding BirthdayScrapbook Photo Album Vintage Leather Memory Book 60 Pages Refillable Black Paper for Christmas Gifts Valentine’s Day Wedding BirthdayView DetailsAvery 72611 Heavy-Duty Plastic Sleeves, Letter size, Archival safeAvery 72611 Heavy-Duty Plastic Sleeves, Letter size, Archival safeView DetailsAvery Products - Avery - Secure Side-Load Sheet Protectors,  Archival safe, fits standard 3-ring binders.Avery Products – Avery – Secure Side-Load Sheet Protectors, Archival safe, fits standard 3-ring binders.View DetailsScrapbook Storytelling: Save Family Stories and Memories With Photos, Journaling and Your Own CreativityScrapbook Storytelling: Save Family Stories and Memories With Photos, Journaling and Your Own CreativityView DetailsThe Oral History Workshop: Collect and Celebrate the Life Stories of Your Family and FriendsThe Oral History Workshop: Collect and Celebrate the Life Stories of Your Family and FriendsView DetailsStep-by-Step Guide: Make a Heritage ScrapbookStep-by-Step Guide: Make a Heritage ScrapbookView DetailsK&Company Heritage Words Sticker MedleyK&Company Heritage Words Sticker MedleyView DetailsTouching Tomorrow: How to Interview Your Loved Ones to Capture a Lifetime of Memories on Video or AudioTouching Tomorrow: How to Interview Your Loved Ones to Capture a Lifetime of Memories on Video or AudioView DetailsHow to Create a Video Family History: The Complete Guide to Interviewing and Taping Your Family's Stories & MemoriesHow to Create a Video Family History: The Complete Guide to Interviewing and Taping Your Family’s Stories & MemoriesView DetailsBlue Embossed Dragonfly Faux Leather Journal - LinedBlue Embossed Dragonfly Faux Leather Journal – LinedView Details

(Article previously published on Squidoo by Virginia Allain)

Comments and Suggestions From Friends

Suzy – “I am working on a Heritage Album now. I regret not having asked important questions when my family was alive. You’ve given some great tips that sure would have made my life easier if I would have known then what I know now.”

Susanna – “I have my great-grandmother’s photo album and, as you can imagine, I treasure it. The next person to have it will be my granddaughter.”

My suggestion for Susanna, “That is a precious family heirloom. I’d recommend scanning all the photos into the computer (may have to use a portable scanner if it is fragile). Then the photos can be shared online with more family members. They also are of historical significance, I imagine.”

Cathy – “Every Christmas I give my kids a photo album filled with pictures taken that year. Since I get them made into an actual book, there’s no way for them to take out a picture and lose it. It’s a wonderful way to preserve memories.”

Willa – “Brilliant idea. Family history once lost is lost for good. Having been in the framing industry I know how valuable a well-documented photo is because a generation or two later no one will know who they are. This is a great way to document family.”

Four Generations of Mothers

Researching family history becomes more meaningful when you can see the faces that go with the names and dates. For Mother’s Day, I pulled together my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother. Beyond that, I have just the names and information, but no photos.

I like seeing them all lined up like this. Looks like that high forehead and the nose came down through the generations. I must have gotten my nose and blonde hair from the Martin side, but I do have the forehead.

Here are their names and dates (left to right):

    • Gail Lee McGhee Martin 1924-2013
    • Ruth Vining McGhee 1897-1960
    • Nancy Jane Babcock Vining 1851–1924
    • Ellenor Nancy Jane Wright Babcock 1820–1882

These four women had 36 children and that doesn’t count the miscarriages or ones that died at birth. Nancy Jane remarried not long after her first husband died. In 1873 Kansas, a woman with children didn’t have the luxury of a long mourning period.

They were part of the migration westward in the U.S. as the family moved from Indiana to Illinois, then to Iowa, and finally to Kansas. Pregnancy and raising children must have been difficult in those times; feeding a large family while cooking over an open fire, washing unending diapers with water brought from a stream or well or cistern, and tending a sick child with no doctor nearby.

Many thanks to these women for persevering through hard times while caring for their children.



Remembering Mom Reading to Us

vintage mother reading clip artRead to Your Children –

Reading to children is so important. Not only does it allow you to bond with the child, but it teaches them how to pronounce words and expand their vocabulary. They will also learn how to read and to spell words as they get old enough to follow the text on the page as the story unfolds.

My mother read to us often when were quite young, and I grew up loving words and loving books. All my siblings did as well and became lifelong readers. It’s a tradition passed down through generations. My mom (Gail Lee Martin) remembered her parents reading aloud to her and her sister after dinner. They gathered around the table with an oil lamp in the center to listen to the stories.

Today’s world is a bit different, and books are now available on reading devices, and when you’re traveling, these are awesome. You can bring your child’s favorite books along with you without having to pack bulky, heavy paperback and hardcover books.

The Kindle and other reading devices are ingenious! Take it with you anywhere you have to wait, like the doctor’s office. Read to your children today and every day!

This poster is from Zazzle Vintage Fairy Tale by YesterdayCafe.

Free Kindle Fairy Tales to Read to Children

Fairy tales from around the world thrill a child with new adventures and exotic locales. Best of all these vintage tales are free for download on the Kindle. Below are the links to get these fairy tale books from Amazon.

Check the price to be sure it hasn’t changed, then click to BUY the book for $0.00. Amazon will send you an e-mail confirmation that you have bought the book for free. It’s easy and you’ll have new stories to read your child each day.

Reading to your children will help their imagination to blossom as they create characters in their heads that go along with the stories. Most of these lack illustrations. Generally, the illustrated versions for Kindle cost 99 cents or higher.

The Blue Fairy BookThe Blue Fairy BookView DetailsFairy Tales Every Child Should KnowFairy Tales Every Child Should KnowView DetailsGrimm's Fairy StoriesGrimm’s Fairy StoriesView Details

The month of May is Get Caught Reading Month so let’s all participate by reading a good book and by encouraging our children to read as well. 


How to Make a Grandmother Happy

Gail Lee Martin’s daughter, Virginia Allain wrote this article for the eHow website back in 2009.

Our lives are busy and it seems like there’s never time for Grandma or great-grandma anymore. If you want to keep your family connections strong, set aside some time for your grandmother. There are lots of ways to make your grandmother happy.

gail in pink in chair

Gail Lee Martin in her favorite spot for TV watching, newspaper clipping, and chatting.

  • Call now and then. Don’t wait just for her birthday or Mother’s Day. Just call and ask how things are. Tell her what you’ve been doing. If she’s housebound or in a nursing home, then that phone call may be the highlight of her day. She may want to talk and talk if she hasn’t had much chance lately.
  • When you call or visit, ask about the good-old-days. There are lots of things about your grandmother that you probably don’t know. Where did she meet grandpa? What was her childhood like? What was it like in the Great Depression or World War II or whatever era she lived through? Encourage her to write her memories down.
  • Ask about the family tree. If the family history is not written down, it’s important to get some names and dates before that information is lost to you. Ask her to tell you about pictures in the family album. Note down the names if the album is unlabeled. You’ll be glad later on that you did.
  • Talk about things you did together in the past and family events. It will trigger memories for her and get her talking.
  • Offer to take her places, particularly if she’s stopped driving or is in a care situation. She will enjoy a family dinner at your home or a trip to the library. Consider her interests to plan an outing that is within her physical capability. Be aware if her budget is limited and find activities that fit within a social security income or else treat her to tickets.
  • Make sure your children have time with their grandmother. Create situations where they can be together in enjoyable situations so it’s a pleasant time for all. Remember she may not have the stamina and patience to babysit over-energetic youngsters, so don’t expect that.

    Gail Lee Martin with her grandchild

    Gail with one of her grandchildren.

  • Ask her to teach you things like cooking. Ask for her advice on raising a child. You don’t necessarily have to follow it, but it’s good to know alternate ways of doing something.
  • Ask her to bake your favorite cookies or knit you some slippers if she still does those activities. It gives her an opportunity to be the giver sometimes.
  • Stop by for a visit. Ask about things that she might need help with. Does her lawn need mowing? Ask if she needs any light bulbs changed or the trash bin taken to the curb. Before the visit, give her a quick call to see if there’s anything she needs to be picked up at the store.
  • Send cards for holidays and birthdays. Everyone loves to get mail. Write letters to update her on your life and include photos.

PS – These tips will work great for a grandfather as well.

Tracing Our Irish Ancestors

St Patrick’s Day is over for this year, but it isn’t too late to get in touch with your Irish roots. The last few years I’ve really gotten hooked on genealogy and I’m learning more about my roots to Ireland.
ancestry dna map
One of my family lines is Kennedy that goes back to Ireland in the 1700s. I also have Scots-Irish ancestors on my mother’s side, the McGhee line. More recently, I’m traced my father’s Joy line back far enough that it appears to cross to Ireland where it was originally Joyce.
Perhaps you have ancestors from Ireland. More and more information is being made available on the Internet to research your family history. Take advantage of it. Watch a  YouTube video features genealogy expert Helen Kelly who provides some advice on tracing your Irish roots.
smilebox mcghee family photos

Graphic created with our family photos and Smilebox.

Read More about Our Roots in Ireland in the Following Pages

  • Scotch-Irish Ancestry: My Family Roots – I learned about the Scotch-Irish while researching my McGhee and Kennedy family roots. It’s a heritage that you can be proud to claim. Learn more about these immigrants to America and their background.
  • Clarence McGhee – My Grandfather’s WWI Years – My grandfather served in France in the first world war. Learn about his experience and the family memorabilia from this momentous time in his life. I’m sure it parallels that of other young men of the time.
  • Ruth Vining McGhee – A tribute to Ruth Vining McGhee, my grandmother. She grew up in Oklahoma and Kansas. She married a young man just as he went off to WWI. This is their story.
  • Bertha McGhee – Missionary from Kansas – This is Clarence McGhee’s sister who dedicated her life to ministering to Indian children in New Mexico and later in Alaska.
  • The Kennedy Family Desk – My sister researched this family heirloom that traveled with the pioneers from Pennsylvania to Kansas in the 1800s.

1918 Postcard from France

As World War I raged in France, Clarence McGhee sent a postcard home to his bride, Ruth. It is part of the family memorabilia that his daughter, Gail Lee Martin, preserved and passed along to the next generation.

In sorting the papers, cards, and photos, I found myself having a hard time reading his handwriting. “I wonder if it is as hot in Tyro ? or is — ? This has been the warmest day without ? ? this is the picture of the church I was in the other Sunday. (can’t read the rest.)

Clarence’s granddaughter, Karen, came to the rescue. She deciphered the handwriting. Here’s what the postcard says,
“Somewhere in France. July 16, –18. Dear Ruth: I wonder if it as hot in Tyro today as it is here. This has been the warmest day we have had yet. This is the picture of the church I was in the other Sunday. This is just the center for there is another section on each side. Good by dear. As ever, Clarence”

It looks like he didn’t have to pay postage. “Soldiers Mail” is in the top right corner where the stamp usually goes.
I feel so fortunate that Mom saved this card that her father sent to her mother.  Wish we knew where the church was located in France and if it survived the war.