Obituary for Gail Lee Martin

This obituary appeared in the El Dorado Times and in the Wichita and Madison newspapers. These serve an important role in informing friends and family but also serve through the years to aid genealogists working on their family history. For those who never met Gail Lee Martin, the obituary lets them see that someone special is no longer with us.

Gail Martin -KS author

Gail Lee Martin published two books with stories from her family history, her own childhood, and her husband’s life.

Gail Lee Martin

September 13, 1924 – January 17, 2013

El Dorado lost a local author when octogenarian, Gail Lee Martin died January 17. Martin, age 88, suffered a heart attack at Wesley Medical Center.

Her memoir, My Flint Hills Childhood: Growing up in 1930s Kansas, won the 2010 Ferguson Kansas History Book Award. Other writing included a biography of her husband, Clyde Owen Martin. Both books are featured in the Kansas Oil Museum gift shop.

Earlier writings appeared in magazines such as Kanhistique, The Golden Year and Reminisce. An online search for “Gail Lee Martin” reveals an active online presence with stories posted on Our Echo and Squidoo. Martin served as webmaster for the first site encouraging other writers. She served as archivist for the Kansas Authors Club for over 10 years and presented programs at the state convention.

Martin, known for her homemade jams at the El Dorado Farmer’s Market, also won recognition over the years as a 4-H leader.

Born September 13, 1924, in Eureka, Martin is the middle child of Clarence Oliver McGhee and Ruth (Vining).

She is survived by her sister, Carol Garriott of El Dorado, five children; Owen Martin of Whitewater, Susan Leigh and Karen Kolavalli of El Dorado, Cynthia Ross of Towanda and Virginia Allain of Poinciana, Florida and grandchildren, Paul Calhoun, Robin Calhoun, Kristy (Ross) Duggan, April (Calhoun) Wickwire, Nikki (Ross) Teel, Diana (Hyle) Platt, Samantha (Hyle) Noble, and Chhaya Kolavalli. She has eight great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 67 years, Clyde O. Martin, her parents, her sister, Melba Harlan; a daughter, Shannon Hyle and son-in-laws, Ronald Calhoun and Larry Ross.

Family and friends can participate in a celebration of her life on Saturday, February 2, 2013 at Trinity United Methodist Church, 430 Eunice, El Dorado.

A memorial has been set up with Kansas Authors Club and will be used for a book award. Writing was an important part of Gail’s life.

N is for No-Bake Cookies

Gail Lee Martin taught her daughters to cook in the farmhouse kitchen as they were growing up. They made the recipe below for no-bake cookies and passed the techniques for making this easy, chocolaty taste treat on to their own children. You’ll find that it is more similar to fudge than to traditional oven-baked cookies.

Gail’s grandaughter, C.R. K. took up cooking at the young age of three. Now a doctoral student in college, she’s an accomplished baker and a maker of all sorts of gourmet recipes. How does Black Walnut Fudge or White Chocolate Chunk Cookies sound to you? For now, we’ll share the no-bake cookie recipe and save the others for later.

She’s innovative in her presentations of her kitchen creations too. At Easter, she converted the no-bake cookies into the shape of bird’s nests and placed three colorful jelly beans in the center of each.

No bake cookies for Easter

No bake cookies for Easter
You make these fudge-like cookies on the stove top.

Her Mom First Made No-Bake Cookies back in the 1960s

Here are her memories of the origins of no-bake cookies in our family. “The Scribners brought no-bake cookies to one of the West Branch programs/community dinners. I got the recipe from Marlene, who was in my class, and I made the first ones in the family. Would have been early 1960’s.

No Bake Cookies.jpg


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 stick of margarine
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 3 cups quick oatmeal
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Get out all the ingredients before starting. Lay out the waxed paper to cool the cookies on.

Mix the following in a medium sauce pan:

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 cup milk

1 stick oleo

Bring to a fast boil and boil one minute. Stir frequently.

Remove from fire and add:

1/2 cup peanut butter

3 cups quick oatmeal

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir well and drop by teaspoon onto wax paper. Let set until cool.

Because the mixture is brought to boiling on a stove, children making this should be closely supervised.

To make the Easter version of these, let the cookies set slightly, then shape into nest shapes. Fill the center with small jelly beans. (see the photo above)


This is the more traditional no-bake cookie

M is for Memories of the Flood of 1951

Gail’s children heard the story many times about the great flood that almost swept little Cindy away. The family rented a small house owned by Gail’s parents, Clarence and Ruth McGhee. It was just a quarter mile down the road from the McGhee home. The “little house” was home to Gail and Clyde Martin with their four young children.
Rental house - owned by Clarence McGhee in 1951

The little house that the Martins rented from the McGhees.

As you can see, the house was fairly basic and had a few cinder blocks for the front step. Take a look at the video below and then I’ll tell you the rest of the story.

Apparently, the creek turned into a river rushing across the yard towards the little house. Water surrounded them and they were cut off. Gail’s brother-in-law, Norman Harlan, arrived in a boat to rescue the family. When they opened the door, toddler Cindy stepped out. Fortunately, Norman grabbed her as she came through the door.


Cindy Martin rescued in the Great Flood of 1951.

She would have been swept away in the floodwaters. The whole family was rescued.

Cj Garriott, Gail’s younger sister, tells about the flood in the Madison area,Some memories I have of the ’51 flood–Perched as our house was on the little hill, we were high and dry as our home and barns were spared. We lost some cows–we tried to get them to the homeplace, and some did get there, but we watched as others were swept downstream.

Even though the railroad tracks were covered with water, a couple of neighbor men were able to walk it to town for supplies.

I remember squatting at the edge of the water, as it inched up our hill, watching grasshoppers getting pushed off grass stalks by the rising water. I wished I could save them.”

McGhee house in Greenwood County KS

The Clarence and Ruth McGhee home on the hill near Madison, KS.

I asked Carol about the history of the houses, and she said, “Daddy bought the 40 acres with a house that needed to be torn down. Then Daddy and Norman built the new one, I believe. I think Melba and Norman lived in it first, while they built a new house on their farm. The little house across the creek that was flooded was rented by Gail and Clyde.”

L is for Liking the Book

Radell Smith of the Yahoo Contributor Network interviewed Bobbie H. Here’s what Smith wrote:

She had been asked to take a gander at Gail Martin’s “My Flint Hills Childhood” and see if she could relate to the stories woven by an octogenarian from Kansas. The request, more an effort to help Bobbie find her own biographical voice, turned out quite a different result entirely.

I have to express my pleasure and thoughts about this little masterpiece,” Bobbie concluded when asked to share her thoughts about the life and times of Gail’s family in 1930s Kansas.

Bobbie says that as she went deeper into Gail Martin’s biographical account of what it was like to live in the Kansas prairie during the era of the Depression, she couldn’t help but “think back to my own childhood and relive many memories of my own.

While not a product of that generation, Bobbie says some activities and actions by Gail and her family resonated with her anyway.

“My Flint Hills Childhood” and the Depression Period

Gail grew up during some of the hardest times America has ever known,” Bobbie lamented, adding, “Because of ancestors who knew the most important things in life was God and family, she was instilled with great values of love of God, family, and country.”

In our current economic climate, those values would be a welcome attribute today many would conclude. But this reader wasn’t finished with her accolades for Ms. Martin, heaping more praise for the book with less than 200 pages from cover to cover.


Gail also learned survival techniques which have obviously served her well.

Indeed, the octogenarian is still around to tell others about them, serving previously as a webmaster for an online memory-writing website called Our Echo. The friendly and informative writing venue encourages others to do like Gail and share treasured family memories about bygone eras — or current ones, for the younger generation. (since this article came out in 2011, Gail Martin has died)

You can pick up a copy of Gail’s historical journey for yourself from Amazon or go directly to the publishing entity known as There’s an author website at and a fan page at the Gail Lee Martin Facebook Page.

Gail’s book “My Flint Hills Childhood” won the 2010 Ferguson Kansas History Book Award and the author has enjoyed the attention of writers as esteemed as those found on USA Today, who say that “Grandma’s greener than you.” The USA Today article featured Gail’s memories of thrifty times in the 1930s.

Keeping the Old Car Running

Gail Martin wrote this advice piece for the eHow website over 10 years ago.

The car is getting old, but there’s no money in the budget to replace it. What do you do? Here’s our experience of how to keep that older car running so you don’t lose your mobility. Ours has over 200,000 miles on it now.

Mom and Dad's old car

Here’s their faithful old car that lasted for years.

Ideally, you have some mechanical aptitude and can make repairs to the car yourself. This saves a bundle over taking it to a mechanic. My husband and son both taught themselves to fix most car problems we had. This is easier to do with an older car that doesn’t have lots of computerized parts in it.


Clyde Martin kept the family cars going for many years.

If you don’t have a friend who can show you how to fix things, look for a class through adult continuing education or a local community college. Something like a “powderpuff mechanic” or a “shade tree mechanic” course.

Go to the public library and ask to see their auto repair manuals. Usually, the Mitchell manuals or Chilton manuals are in the reference section or they might have it on a computer. Copy or print out the pages that tell how to fix your car’s problem.

Get the parts for the repair at the cheapest place, usually an auto salvage yard. If they don’t have the model or part you need in a junked car, then you’ll have to go to an auto parts store.

If you are unable to fix the car yourself, find a mechanic. Try to build up a relationship with one place so there’s less chance they will try to take advantage of you. Usually, a small mechanic’s shop will charge less than an auto dealership.

Tune up the vehicle regularly, so you don’t ruin it by letting it run out of oil or something else that’s preventable.

Keep some emergency repair items in the trunk. I recommend having some cans of extra oil, a charger to jump start the engine, and an air compressor that you plug into the cigarette lighter to reinflate a flat tire. It’s also handy to have a rug to lay on if you need to get under the car and some rags to clean your hands after a fix-up.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don’t raise the car just with jacks and get under it. We knew someone who was crushed this way.
car repair pixabay vintage advertisement

Vintage car repair advertisement from Pixabay

J is for Journaling

My mom, Gail Lee Martin, kept a journal in whatever blank book came to hand over the years. She wrote in school type notebooks back when her children were little. She called them her blue books. I don’t know if the covers were blue or if she wrote about the things that made her blue. Perhaps in those spiral notebooks with lined pages, as an isolated young housewife, she could pour out her heart.

Somewhere along the way, these early journals were lost in the many household moves. Life became too busy with six children to raise, so she gave up keeping a diary for those hectic years. In retirement, she took it up again.

Now, there’s a whole shelf of these slightly battered books. The entries stop and start, sometimes with more than one year sharing a book. Often the entries are pretty ordinary with the small events that made up her day. She noted a visitor, a phone call, a baseball game watched on television, or the activities of a neighbor.

She kept the current one on the side table by her chair in the living room.


diary pixabay

Photo from Pixabay


Along with her journal, she maintained a variety of notebooks. Each featured some aspect of their life. One documented the sales made at the farmer’s market with a meticulous count of how many jars of jelly or loaves of bread were sold. Another notebook traveled with her back in the days when they drove to Prescott, Kansas on weekends. She noted short descriptions of scenery that perhaps she planned to use in her writing or to turn into a poem someday.

mom's book list notebook

The notebook above lists the books they collected. That was a small one that she could carry in her handbag for consulting when she found a book at a yard sale or shop. In another one, she kept a log of the fish they caught at Sugar Valley and photos of the catch.

For the most part, the journals and notebooks served as a mostly mundane record, mere fragments of her life. Her real writing about family history and about her childhood went into her essays. She labored over those and wrote a number of versions of the memory pieces. These eventually became her published memoir, My Flint Hills Childhood.



I Remember Our 1940s Homes

Gail McGhee and Clyde Martin were married by a Christian Church minister formerly of Madison, KS, named Sydney Hawkins. He had been a favorite of Gail’s in her teens. He married the two in his study in Neodesha in 1945. Gail’s parents, Ruth and Clarence McGhee, attended, then drove the newly married couple to Tyro to stay with relatives for the weekend.

Here is Gail’s account of their life together:
We started housekeeping 4 miles south of Madison, 2 miles east, 1/4 miles south on a rented farm called the Long Farm. Clyde had been batching there since his folks had retired and moved to Madison. The farm sold, so we had to move the next winter.

In January 1946, we moved into the Ren Martin homestead back west 1/2 mile. We shared the house with Dorothy (Clyde’s sister) and Orville Stafford who were living there, while they were getting their house in Madison fixed up.

Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1946, our son Owen was born at Newman Memorial Hospital in Emporia. Owen Lee is named after his parent’s middle names. Clyde Owen and Gail Lee. He was called “Butch” for most of his preschool days. A family friend, Haynes Redding, called him that and it stuck, even if great-grandmother McGhee, said it “was a dog’s name.”

Clyde farmed the home place and we had a herd of milk cows. Clyde milked them and we bought several registered Ayrshires. In the summer we teamed up with Haynes and Marion Redding to bale hay for people. I raked the hay into windrows and pile it for the men to fork into the baler. I poked the wires through the bales and Marion would twist the ends together.

When Owen started to school, the Butch nickname was left behind. He went to Madison grade school the first four years, riding the school bus.

When Owen was a year and 8 months old, we had a farm sale.
The winter and spring of 1947 were very wet and mastitis, a dairy disease, got in our herd and we had to sell them as butcher cows. It took us out of the dairy business. The Ayrshires were separate, so we were able to take them to Uncle Jesse’s in Missouri for awhile. We sold them later when they didn’t get the disease.

Clyde's herd of milking cows before the Aryshires_roxio

Clyde Martin’s milk cows – 1940s

Clyde took a job with a dairy in Wellsville, KS. After Susan was born, November 7, 1947, we moved into the small house the boss kept for his help in December 1947.
We moved to an apartment in Wichita while Clyde worked with a crew digging a pipeline. The apartment was in a basement.

By Thanksgiving 1948, we were so homesick that our friends Wayne and Dorothy Baysinger persuaded us to move into the upper story of the farmhouse they had rented. It was five miles south of Madison and was called the “half-way house.” Clyde went to work with Wayne in the oilfield and on various jobs. Our daughter, Virginia was born December 1948.

The summer of 1949, we found a small rental house several miles north of Madison until my Dad bought a three-room house and moved it to a corner of his farm northwest of Madison. With Clyde’s help, he fixed it up and we moved there before Cindy, our fourth child, was born in September 1950.

Gail Martin Susan Owen June 1948

Gail Lee Martin with her first two children, Susan and Owen. Around 1947/48.

This is a segment of a memory piece that Gail wrote for her son. The complete post is on the Our Echo site.