July Memory Joggers

Memory joggers for the month of July created by Gail Lee Martin. She would love it if you would take pen in hand and write about some of these topics.

July 1 – July 31 – July Memories

With our Nation’s birthday coming up on the fourth, let’s try and recall how we celebrated the 4th of July as far back as we can. We used to go swimming and have a picnic. I can even remember when we had no fireworks, can you? What were your favorite fireworks? Our children loved smoke bombs and sparklers. If you recall picnics tell us your menu and how you kept the food safe. Who attended? How about some pet stories and the noise of the fireworks?

sparkler photo dark background by Virginia Allain

A photo of a 4th of July sparkler (by Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain)

Hallmark channel on TV is planning a month of “Rough N Ready” shows for July. How about writing some Rough N Ready stories or memories of your favorite Western movies? Our favorites were movies with Tom Mix, Dale & Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hop-a-Long Cassidy in them.



Classic western hero – The Lone Ranger

Where did you go to see the movies? Who did you go with and what did it cost to get in? Who could forget the smell of the popcorn? Describe the theater inside and out. Do you remember the first drive-in-movies? Did your theater have drawings or gifts?

I found an old Log Cabin Syrup tin that looked like the ones I played with as a kid. Do you remember what syrup you liked on pancakes as a kid? Did your mother make them from scratch or use a mix? Tell us some breakfast stories.

What would you do if you had as much rain as Kansas, Oklahoma & Texas has had lately? Maybe you’ve gone through that sort of thing already. Tell us about your rainy ordeals.

July 2012 Rain at the Bronco ball park in El Dorado KS

Karen Kolavalli’s photo of the lightning and rain clouds at the Bronco Ball Park in El Dorado, Kansas.

Stocking Up for Thanksgiving

Time to buy the turkey or ham and all the trimming for the holiday feast. I’m sure your list on the week before Thanksgiving includes cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and other traditional foods. The Publix Supermarket that I use was so busy today, there were no shopping carts in the cart area. My husband hunted around the parking lot and returned triumphantly with one.

retro-1950 shopping pixabay

Shopping for groceries in the 1950s

Much of our Thanksgiving meal was homegrown in my childhood years. We didn’t raise our own turkeys but the mashed potatoes and the green beans came from our bountiful garden. Gail Lee Martin would have shopped at the local IGA market for the cans of cranberry sauce. We always had the jellied kind that you served in slices. Now, I opt for the whole berry, but still from a can.

The pies were homemade with Gail rolling out the pie crust in the farmhouse kitchen. There would be pumpkin pie and whipped cream to go on it. Someone would assemble the 5-cup salad with the luxury of mandarin oranges, tiny marshmallows, shredded coconut, pineapple, and a sweet creamy sauce tying it all together. So the shopping list would include those.

Gail wrote about the Thanksgiving meals from her childhood. The 1930s holiday didn’t necessarily include a turkey. Read the details at We Gave Thanks Prairie Style. The description shows how times change but the family gathering was still special.  The desserts included a gooseberry pie made from berries they picked along the Cottonwood River. Sometimes pumpkin wasn’t available so a faux pumpkin pie was made with other ingredients.

Clyde and Gail Martin just finishing Thanksgiving dinner_Shanno

Thanksgiving in the 1970s – Clyde and Gail Martin.

What special dishes are you serving this Thanksgiving? I hope you don’t forget any of the special ingredients while shopping.


Vintage Soda Ads

Sodas, Colas, Pop…  (memories by Gail Martin’s daughter, Virginia)

I remember sipping orange pop at the corner gas station as a kid. We could choose from grape or strawberry or chocolate pop from the big red cooler filled with icy water while Dad had the Pontiac’s gas tank filled. Ah, so cool and refreshing on a hot Kansas day.

There was a bottle opener on the side of the red cooler to pry off the metal cap. Then you took a big swig of flavored soda. The strawberry would make red streaks down your chin and on your shirt if you weren’t careful drinking it.

Vintage soda machine - Coca Cola

Old time soda cooler like you would see in a gas station. Photo by Virginia Allain

If you share my memories of vintage sodas, then you’ll enjoy these retro ads that I’ve found and photographed. You’ll see these old tin signs on the walls of restaurants along with other antique and nostalgia items.

We didn’t have pop at home, even for picnics or special occasions. We drank Koolaid or lemonade back in the 1950s and 1960s. Soda was too expensive.

kayo soda tin sign

KayO chocolate soda tin advertising sign.

Whether you call it pop or soda or cola depends on the region you grew up in, but the exact wording doesn’t matter. Some of these old advertisements have been reproduced on tin signs which people like to use to decorate their family room.

Enjoy this trip down memory lane.

hot dog tin sign

Hot dog and a Coca Cola for 15 cents – the good old days.

Photos by Virginia Allain

In the comment section, tell me your memories of drinking sodas as a kid (or did you call them pop)?


Store Bought Cookies

Gail’s daughter, Virginia, shares a yummy food memory.

Mom sometimes brought home some packaged cookies from the store. Sure, we loved her oatmeal raisin cookies, sugar cookies, and snickerdoodles, but it was a treat to have Fig Newtons or Vanilla Wafers for a change. One that I really liked was called Devil’s Food Cookie. It had a cookie textured center with a solid coating of chocolate around it. Yum!

Retro Grocery Check-out Pantry Party Stock Kitchen Card

Retro Grocery Check-out Card

by nostalgicjourney

We could even turn graham crackers into a cookie by spreading icing on it and sticking two squares together. Do people still do that? If so, I bet they use the containers of pre-made frosting. We would mix powdered sugar icing to spread on the graham crackers. Vanilla wafers benefited from some icing and we could stick them together for a sandwich cookie effect.

Many people have fond memories of chocolate Oreos. I wasn’t a big fan of Oreos, but I’d pull them apart to eat the icing. The cookie part wasn’t that tasty to me. I remember vanilla flavored cookies shaped like Oreos and having icing in the middle. I liked those better.

When we had homemade ice cream, Mom would get those slim, rectangular waffle cookies that came in pink and cream and chocolate. They had icing in the center, I think. What were those called?

Of course, we had animal crackers now and then. The box was most appealing with the circus animals and the bright colors. Inside were the fairly tasteless, but interestingly-shaped lions and elephants to munch.

Tell me about your favorite store-bought cookies from childhood.

Gail and the Great Depression

Back in 2009, I kept sending article ideas to my mom (Gail Lee Martin). We were both writing short how-to articles on the eHow site. Here’s how one of those exchanges went:
Me: There’s a lady on TV named Clara who has a cooking show called Depression Cooking with Clara (she’s 93 years old).  Anyway, it’s a big hit.
If you wrote an article about Depression Cooking (the kinds of meals to feed families on a budget) then it would come up when people are looking for Clara.  Anyway, you would get lots of viewers (and maybe some money). We could put links to your articles on breaded tomatoes, and other recipes.

Gail Lee Martin: Boy, I’m having trouble with this one. First I was only five when the banks went broke in 1929. Secondly, Daddy was working for Phillips by that time so he had a good job that furnished housing and gas heating and lighting.

If Daddy lost any money from the bank closing I never heard of it.  My folks had a milk cow, raised chickens, and a garden plus we gathered things that grew wild, even wild onions and garlic. We heard that some people ate possum and rattlesnakes but we never did. They did barter with neighbors and family that had other food that we could trade for with our eggs, milk, and butter.

Now Clyde folks lost what money they had in the bank but his Dad had just paid cash for a new car as well as a new tractor, so there probably wasn’t too much money in the bank. Clyde remembers being told that Ren decided to raise Angora rabbits. Clyde just remembers the house that Ren built for the rabbits. Since the first four children were girls, Dorothy remembered working in the fields along with her Dad.
Ralph Martin and ducks

Clyde’s brother, Ralph with the ducks. The Ren Martin farm in the 1930s.

Both families keep eating as they always had, being self-sufficient. Worked hard and made do.  I do remember Mother stretching canned stewed tomatoes by adding a jar of them to cooked macaroni. Her macaroni and cheese didn’t taste like ours does. Probably the difference in cheese. Rice was used as a cereal or pudding.
We ate a lot of potato soup with onions cooked with the potatoes like Clara cooked hers. Mother would make a white sauce and add it as a thickening or made dumplings with flour, baking powder, salt and an egg. Then she dropped them by the spoonful on top of the potato soup covered with a lid and had a low fire until she thought they were done. She would never let me lift the lid for a peek.

I watched a video of that Depression Cooking with Clara online just now and she was cooking peas and pasta. I don’t recall cooking pasta until recent years. Still not a favorite of ours.  More later, Gail

Me: Thanks, I may be able to put together something with this.
You might want to elaborate on the family memories and put those on Our Echo.
I’m in the writing mood tonight, so will get going after supper. Love, Ginger

From Kansas to India and Back

The recipe has gone around the world with me. As I pulled it out today to make my “Texas” banana bread, I took a minute to read the notes I’d jotted down over the years. It looks like I first made it in 1991 when I was newly married and living in Ahmedabad, India. Another note shows that I made it for my daughter’s 4th birthday party in July of 1994, still in Ahmedabad. In 2008 I’m divorced and back in Kansas, still using this recipe. At some point, my daughter started adding her notes to the recipe as she began baking. She was the first to add a lemon glaze to the bread. I see that I substituted 1 cup of dahi or curds (plain yogurt) for some of the bananas when I was short on bananas one time.

The recipe is from a cookbook my aunt gave me for Christmas back in 1978, when I was living in Wichita, Kansas, and she was a new Texan. She was working as a typesetter in Austin and The Wide, Wide World of Texas Cooking is one of the books she worked on. When I moved to India to marry, it was one of the few books I packed to take with me. It was my go-to book when I was homesick for American food.

Tonight I spent some time flipping through the pages of the book and realize that it’s a veritable journal of that part of my life. I’ve never been able to keep a real journal for more than a few days at a time (despite good intentions!), so it’s a delight to see that I WAS actually keeping a journal of sorts during those years.

Yes, the notes on the recipe do evoke memories.

Recipe for Pecan-Banana Bread. Yes, the notes on the recipe do evoke memories.

The first note in the book dates to the time before I moved to India, when I was single and living in Wichita, Kansas: Jalapeno Buttermilk Cornbread (served with country spareribs) in Wichita before I moved to India. The note is brief, but I vividly recall serving this meal to my parents and my brother in my apartment along the Arkansas River in Wichita. Dad was a big fan of the jalapenos, but Mom and Owen would have preferred plain cornbread. My parents are both gone now and my brother is in a nursing home, partially paralyzed from a stroke, so these are bittersweet memories of a happier time.

My first years in India show that I must have really been missing American breads and pies! I made Flannel Cakes, Sour Milk Cornbread, Amarillo Risen Biscuits (for Easter), and Butter Biscuits. Pies just weren’t something you found in India, so the only way to get my fix was to make them myself and, boy, did I! Apple Cream Pie, Osgood Pie, Pumpkin Custard Pie (from fresh pumpkins from the market), Oatmeal Pie, Fried Pies (that page is really grease-spattered!), Old-fashioned Egg Pie, Lemon Chess Pie (I substituted rava, which is coarsely ground rice, for cornmeal), Lemon Meringue Pie, Buttermilk Pie, and Banana Cream Pie. These would have been served with chai in the afternoon or for dessert after an evening meal.

Karen with her daughter.

Karen with her daughter.

The notes show that I managed to celebrate American holidays in a traditional way during my years in India. For my first Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I made Baked Hen with Dressing, Buttermilk Pralines, and Date-Nut Roll, which I wrote was “like Uncle Glenn’s recipe.” I also found recipes that reminded me of my Mom’s cooking when I was growing up, such as Mrs. Spitzenberger’s Apple Oatmeal Strudel, which I noted was similar to my Mom’s apple crisp. Another recipe was for Cinnamon Puffs, “like Mom’s cake doughnuts she used to make on the farm.” I remember teaching my Indian cook how to make egg noodles, but my daughter liked to be the one to cut the dough into noodles, just as I did when I was her age.

The finished pecan-banana bread.

The finished pecan-banana bread.

The banana bread is out of the oven, cooling on the kitchen counter. And I make another entry in my well-worn recipe book/journal before I return it to the bookshelf. In the fall, the cookbook will be packed away to make the journey across the country with me when I move to Kentucky to start a new stage in my life. I’m enjoying the adventure!

To follow Karen’s adventures in Kentucky, check out her blog, Kentucky Day Trips.

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