The Wedding – 1945

My parents, Clyde Martin and Gail McGhee, married in 1945 about a month after the surrender in Europe and several months before Japan surrendered. World War II was winding down and my mother could leave her job at Boeing Aircraft.

Martin - McGhee Married

1945 – Clyde Martin and Gail McGhee marry in Neodesha

I’m the middle child from this union and over the years, we heard bits and pieces about their dating and marriage. I’ve put that into story form to supplement the clipping.

“The bride wore a forest green suit with a braided design on the lapel. It was the first purchase with her paycheck from Boeing. 

Gail felt properly citified for Wichita, Kansas during the war years when she wore her green suit. No one would guess that she’d grown up in an oil field camp in the Flint Hills where she wore dresses her mother made from flowered feed sack material.

Now, the green suit was several years old, but it still felt special. It was her wedding day and she was marrying handsome Clyde Martin. She had known him for years as the best friend of her steady guy, Johnny Faylor. Then Johnny got fresh with her when he was leaving for the service, so she and Johnny broke up. After that, Clyde started asking her out. 

Photo of Clyde Martin from the family album and Gail in her green suit.

The war did its best to keep them apart, though Clyde didn’t go into the army. After going to Cherryvale to learn to weld he had ended up back in Madison farming. Farmers were essential to the war effort to raise food for America and for the troops and refugees in Europe. 

Working at Boeing filled Gail’s need to help with the war effort and meant she could start stocking her hope chest with things she would need when she married. Even with the good salary, there was little left after she paid for her room in Wichita, bought some clothes, and paid for bus fare to go home to Lyon County to see her family and Clyde on occasional weekends. 

Now, it was their special day to stand before the minister in his study with the minister’s wife and Gail’s parents for witnesses as they said their vows. After the simple ceremony, they had an angel food cake, rather than the traditional tiered cake. 

The marriage lasted 66 years. When Clyde died, Gail tried to make a life on her own. It seemed she lost heart and only drifted in the year after she lost him. She spoke of wanting to be with him again and then at age 88, she passed away.”

1940s wedding pixabay

Wedding styles in the 1940s

 

 

Never once, in all those years, did I hear a hint of regret that she didn’t have a fancy wedding with bridesmaids and all the trimmings. She was happy that the war was ending and she could start her married life with Clyde. They had plans for raising a big family.

Thoughts about Mulberry Pie

This is an old newspaper clipping about mulberry pies that Mom had saved. Plains Folk was a column written by Tom Isern and Jim Hoy (and apparently they’re still writing it: http://www.plainsfolk.com/).
mulberries clipping

A distant cousin, Susan Hunnicutt-Balman, remembers her grandparents “had a big old mulberry in their back yard also good for climbing. My sister and I had the job of climbing it, shaking limbs to Grandma’s clean sheet below for collecting mulberries for baking. We liked just eating them off the tree!”

Karen Martin Kolavalli also remembers a childhood mulberry tree. “We had our swing on a huge mulberry in the back yard where I grew up. I wonder why we never gathered the mulberries to use? We just left them for the birds.”
I do remember Mom making gooseberry pies and she put strawberries in to sweeten the rhubarb for pies. Personally, I found the gooseberry pie too tart for my taste, but I do love the strawberry rhubarb combination.
I’ll have to rummage out her recipe. In the meantime, here’s one to try.

Mom and the Postcards

Back in 1999, Mom joined the Wichita Postcard Club. Maybe she was hoping for some clues to date the family photos that were in postcard format. We have some those photo postcards in the family albums.

2008-08-20 gail and ks photos 070

A vintage postcard with a photo from Guy S. “These are my bear dogs. Thanks for the present you sent.”

2008-08-20 gail and ks photos 069

I can’t read the date on the old postcard but it was addressed to my grandfather, Lorenzo Martin of Madison, Kansas.

Another reason that she might have joined is perhaps she found some intriguing postcards at yard sales. She loved rummaging around in boxes filled with the bits and pieces of other people’s lives.

She placed the newsletters in a three ring binder and kept the club roster in a folder with some articles about postcard collection that she clipped from newspapers and magazines. That leads me to my third guess, that she planned to write about the topic for Kanhistique. That monthly magazine covered Kansas history and antiques.

Kanhistique Magazines

Here are a few of Gail Lee Martin’s articles that were the cover story.

Over the years, they published quite a few of Mom’s articles. It thrilled her to see her writing in print and even featured as the cover story many times. The magazine, now defunct, paid for the articles which gave her an extra incentive to keep writing for them. Apparently the postcard article never made it out of the research stage.

I flipped through the club roster to find Mom’s name. It listed her collecting interests as El Dorado, Kansas oil field towns, and history. Her father and her husband both worked in the oil industry, so I imagine she hoped to learn more through the postcards about the early days to supplement her writing on their lives.

 

2011-09-24 gail and ks photos 050

Vintage Kansas postcard showing an oil well gusher in Sedan.

 

 

 

 

Depression Era Thriftiness

After Mom’s book came out, a feature in USA Today commented on her memories of feedsack dresses. I’d seen the reporter’s query in HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and put her in touch with Mom. After a phone interview, this was the article published in October 2009.

An article in USA Today by Laura Vanderkam, Grandma's Greener Than You Are.

An article in USA Today by Laura Vandercamp, Grandma’s Greener Than You Are.

It resonated with people, resulting in blog posts like this one by Lisa in Oklahoma.

Here’s the section about Gail (2nd paragraph in the article shown in the clipping above).

Then I read 85-year-old Gail Lee Martin’s recent memoir, My Flint Hills Childhood. During the Great Depression, she reports, companies began selling feed and flour in colorful sacks, knowing full well that cash strapped customers would turn the material into children’s clothes. In her Kansas town “we traded sacks with our neighbors and relatives until we had the required yardage” for dresses, she writes.

Hers was far from the only family reusing what was possible — not because recycling was hip but because the family lacked the means to do anything else. Nonetheless, the result was the same: a lower impact lifestyle than most of us buying organic pajamas can fathom.

Read more about feedsack dresses.

cousins 1937

Mom’s Clipping Habit

My mother sat next to a pile of newspapers that teetered and sometimes slid from their stack to spread across the floor around her. I cautioned her not to step on those and go sliding, so she tried to keep the papers in their place.

In the 1940s radio cabinet, she kept her clipping tools; her scissors, tape, stapler, pen and rubber cement. The cabinet served as a lamp stand and a place to set her Pepsi can too. Her brother-in-law Ralph Martin made the cabinet in his high school shop class.

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

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

Hours passed as she watched the Cubs or other baseball game on TV while between plays, she scanned the newspapers for articles to clip.  Soon there was a second stack of papers for recycling and a batch of articles saved for filing.

What merited clipping? There were obits and mentions of people she knew. Some were inspiration for her writing. Here’s a sample of those:

  • The changing style of the Morton Salt girl from 1914 to 1968.
  • Old-fashioned autograph books
  • The discovery of an old trunk filled with family letters in Kanopolis.
  • The 50 year anniversary of Tupperware
  • 1880s jigsaw puzzles
  • 1918 Flu Epidemic
  • Advertising cookbooks distributed by Jello, Quaker Oats, etc. in the early 1900s
  • 90 years of the Fuller Brush company
  • Pre-1960s kitchen tools becoming collectible
  • Vintage butter churns
  • Grandma’s version of TV Dinners
  • Adding coloring to margarine in WWII

These are just from the folder labeled “Around the Home.” Mom had an inquiring mind and liked to learn about the history of everyday objects. These served also as triggers for her memory writing.

I can’t just toss these folders of yellowed clippings. First I have to determine if it was written by anyone in the family or about someone in the family. Then I look at the topic and try to imagine what Mom would have written or why the subject intrigued her.

My librarian genes come from her, I’m sure. Information is precious and knowledge is power, so I hate to fill my recycling bin with these. Since she is no longer here to use these, I have to remind myself that they are just paper and are expendable.

Q is for Quints

Apparently my mother found the Dionne Quintuplets fascinating. Stashed away were some yellowed clippings featuring cute photos and little vignettes about the five girls who were born in 1934. My mother would have been ten years old that year.

Vintage clipping of the Canadian quints

Vintage clipping of the Canadian quints

This ad shows how popular the little girls were. Advertisers wanted to cash in on the public obsession with the quintuplets.

Palmolive soap advertisement with the Dionne quintuplets.

Palmolive soap advertisement with the Dionne quintuplets.

Removed from their family, the girls were raised by the Canadian government while being displayed as a tourist attraction. It’s rather a sad story, but I doubt that people in the 1930s were aware of the issues surrounding the rearing of the girls.

The quintuplets with one of their caregivers.

The quintuplets with one of their caregivers.

Another newspaper clipping about the children.

Another newspaper clipping about the children. This one tells about some of the problems with managing the lives of the little celebrities.

All their activities became fodder for press releases to satisfy public curiosity.

All their activities became fodder for press releases to satisfy public curiosity.

I don’t think these are clippings that Mom saved from her childhood. It’s doubtful they would have survived the many family moves over the years. Most likely she discovered them in recent years in a scrapbook at a yard sale. I’m guessing they triggered some nostalgia and she saved them as the basis for a future article.

A Is for Aviatrix

In my mother’s files, I found a thick folder with clippings about Amelia Earhart. Amelia grew up in the small Kansas town of Atchison. These were recent clippings, probably as inspiration for an article Mom wanted to write about this adventurous woman.

I’m sure as my mother grew up, everyone talked about Earhart’s flights and her life. Her disappearance in 1937 on the flight around the world happened when my mother was an impressionable 13-year-old.

My mother, Gail, could identify with the tomboyish Amelia who rambled around the bluffs along the Missouri River and leaped over fences. Gail wrote about her childhood days of wearing overalls and tagging along with her father in the Flint Hills.

As it turns out, my mother’s ambitions to learn to fly and be another Amelia Earhart did not survive the war-time years. Instead of flying a two-seat bi-plane, she worked at Boeing on bombers for the troops.

She managed to take one lesson and to soar above the clouds as a passenger for that one time. Marriage and children and responsibilities filled her life after the war. She never set foot in an airplane again in her long life.

I is for In-The-News

Mom and Dad were pretty much homebodies who devoted their time to family, their garden, fishing and other hobbies. Despite fairly quiet lives, they seemed to get featured in the local papers more than you would expect.

Looking back at these yellowing clippings, one can see their dedication to excellence in whatever they tried. That, I think, made them newsworthy. Each had a way with words so anyone interviewing them left with some good quotes to sprinkle through their article.

Here are some examples.

Gail shares her mother's potato cake recipe with the newspaper.

Gail shares her mother’s potato cake recipe with the newspaper.

For easier reading, here’s a transcription of the above clipping:
“Recipes from the heart: Martin serves ‘leftover’ love

By Tina McCluer, Times Lifestyle Editor
(transcription of the El Dorado Times article of January 27, 2000)

This recipe was sent to us from Gail Martin of El Dorado. Martin contributes to an on-line recipe newsletter called “Kitchen Happenings and More” that carries a heritage recipe column and another column titled “Little Helping Hands.”

She is an avid cook, as is her husband, Clyde, and they both regularly sell products from their kitchen at the farmers’ market located at the El Dorado Meat Processing parking area.

Martin’s favorite recipe was handed down from her “frugal” mother, Ruth McGhee, who “never let a bit of food go to waste.” It is Potato Cakes.

“We use a cup or more of leftover mashed potatoes with two farm fresh eggs (when possible), 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder and a dash each of salt and pepper,” recalls Martin.

According to Martin, to get the most out of an eggshell, bring it to room temperature before cracking it.

Mix and drop potato mixture by spoonful on a greased hot iron skillet. Make sure the skillet isn’t too hot to burn the mixture but not so cool that the potatoes soak up the grease.

Reduce heat, if necessary, and fry until brown, turn over and brown the other side.

“Mother used either plain lard or bacon drippings to fry the small cakes,” suggested Martin. “Of course, the bacon dripping added to the flavor.”

Another thing Martin uses to add to the flavor is she serves the potato cakes with catsup though some prefer to eat them plain.

If one were creative in the kitchen, it is supposed that chopped green onions, bacon bits or other items might be added.

“We’ve always just cooked them plain,” said Martin. “That’s how we like them and if it ain’t broke–don’t fix it!

“Mother’s eggs were from her own New Hampshire Red hens. This breed of chickens laid eggs with brown shells and the chickens ranged on the open prairies of Greenwood County.

“If you haven’t experienced the joy of eating fresh country eggs, you are in for the treat of your life.

“In the summer time the yolks will be a brilliant orange globe and the white will stay in a small area around the yolk. There is no comparison to the store-bought eggs that have been in cold storage for who knows how long.”

Martin’s daughter, Cindy, is said to peel an extra potato or two so she will have leftovers to make Grandma’s potato cakes for her family.

Potato Cakes

leftover mashed potatoes
2 farm fresh eggs
1/4 tsp. baking powder
dash each of salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Drop by spoonfuls into hot greased skillet. Brown on both sides. Serve plain or with catsup.

Gail's memories of recycling in the 1930s were featured in this nationally distributed article.

This nationally distributed article featured Gail’s memories of 1930s recycling.

This article appeared in USA Today.