June Memory Joggers

Getting people to write about their childhood and various times in their lives was a passion for Gail Lee Martin. When she worked with the Our Echo website, she wrote memory prompts in 2007 for each month of the year.

June 1 – June 30 – June Memories

June has more weddings than another month. Does your wedding anniversary bring back memories that should be written about? Write about all the little things that made your wedding special. Who was there or did you elope? Who made your cake? Surely you have lots of pictures to choose from.

paper flowers in a mason jar - wedding

Gail’s granddaughter, Diana made dozens of paper flowers for her wedding tables. They looked terrific in Gail’s vintage canning jars.

How do you spend the extra hours you have in the summer because of the daylight saving time. Can you remember when we didn’t have daylight saving time and just worked from dawn to dark?

Did your family take long vacation trips? Ever travel on Highway 66 and stay in motels when they were separate little cabins? Remember the Burma Shave signs? I have more postcards from my family’s trips than pictures. 


Family Memory Gifts to Make and Give

This post was written by Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain, on December 14, 2010 for the List-My-5 website.

Give the Gift of Memories


Give the gift of family memories for a birthday or Christmas gift that will be treasured by the recipient. This doesn’t have to cost much and can be particularly meaningful. There’s still time to create a gift like this for this Christmas.

Write About a Special Memory

Print it out with a pretty computer font on good quality paper and frame it. I like to use a script that looks like handwriting. This could be a memory of your early days that you are sharing with your children or grandchildren or it could be a memory about them.

Old Letters

If you’ve saved their letters over the years, or from a special time like college or military, display them in a binder. Use archival quality clear sleeves to slip the letters into. Present the binder to them for Christmas or a birthday. These will bring back a lot of memories for them.

Old letters

If you’ve saved someone’s letters, package them up in a pretty way to present to them.

Family Heritage Recipes

Gather recipes that have been handed down in the family. You can buy a blank recipe book and hand write them in and put comments about the person or occasions related to the recipes. You can also self-publish these with sites like blurb.com so you’re presenting them with a “real” book.

Genealogy Information

Fill in a family tree chart and have it framed or make a notebook with the family tree and various genealogy information in it. Look for an attractive binder or scrapbook album for this.

family tree

This family chart includes five generations

Start Them Writing Their Memories

Give them a memory book where they can answer questions to fill in the pages. An alternate idea is to give them a lovely leather blank journal to start recording their memories. Team this up with a book on memoir writing.


I Remember Mama


Since my mother lived 88 years, I have many memories to treasure and to store away for savoring later. Her grandchildren have their own memories, but for her great-grandchildren, the memories may be skimpy.

To pass the stories down through the generations requires sharing and repetition. Often that oral tradition falls by the wayside after a generation or two. We need to preserve those memories of our mothers. Writing the stories, creating a scrapbook or publishing a family history book are ways to keep those memories alive.

gail in pink in chair

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

I’m on a crusade to encourage people to collect and store family memories. Future generations will want to know what their ancestor was like, what made them special and little anecdotes that show their personality.

Although you remember your mother, the memories fade and become fragmented over time. Write them out to preserve them. It really is important.

I’ve chosen to blog about my mother’s life and the many traits and behaviors that made her special. Most of the people who follow Discovering Mom are siblings, cousins or friends of hers. By writing about little things like her hobbies, recipes, or stories about her activities, I preserve my own memories and share them with others.

Over time, the blog has added more followers, even people who never knew my mother. Perhaps the topics I write about bring back memories of their own mother. I hope it might inspire them to do something similar. Perhaps someday I’ll gather all the blog posts into a self-published book. Then my siblings and Mom’s cousins can have a keepsake copy. That book can be passed along to future generations so Gail Lee Martin’s memory is preserved long after I am gone.

(article first published on Daily Two Cents)

Remember Catching Fireflies?

Childhood memories from Gail’s daughter, Virginia. 

All you need is a jar

Running around the yard at dusk trying to catch fireflies was such fun. My parents relaxed in lawn chairs, while we used up our excess energy. The grass felt cool under our bare feet.

Putting the fireflies in an old peanut-butter jar let us admire our captures and provided a small lantern as the fireflies lighted up. Dad had punched some holes in the lid so the fireflies could breathe.

The lights blinked on and off, keeping us enchanted by their activity. At the end of the evening, we released our captives and headed inside to bed.

Remember Catching Fireflies? Tell us about your childhood memories of summer evenings.

How Far Back Do Your Early Memories Go?

Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain, wrote this for another site. Reblogging it here.

My real memories only go back so far, so I don’t actually remember being me in the picture below. Since I was too young to store the memory of that moment, my knowledge of it comes from family stories and pictures. Those earliest times are framed in my mind by black and white photos, faded and with edges curling slightly.

It’s a time created by family stories making space in my memories.

I look at the picture of me sitting on an overturned red wagon. It had to be red, weren’t they all red in those days? On my lap, there’s a black and white puppy and my baby arms clasp him close to me. My memory bank contains no reference for the puppy. No one told me its name or where it came from.

I don’t know what happened to the puppy later. When we moved to the Big House, we had a dog named Tippy that I remember well. I was 4 or 5 years old then. Could this puppy be Tippy?

Memories of a 1950s childhood - Ginger Martin

Here I am, little Ginger, with a puppy and a red wagon.

I’m wearing a little girl’s dress just like all little 1950s toddlers wore. I never thought to ask as we looked through the family pictures, “who made the dress, Mama or Grandma?”

I never asked where were my shoes. The grass and weeds must have felt rough to my bare feet. Since it is Kansas, I’m sure there were chiggers and sandburs.

Given my approximate age in the picture, I know it was the yard at the Little House. My parents rented that from my grandparents who lived a quarter mile down the road in the Big House.  Another photo shows the Little House which couldn’t have had more than a few rooms in it. It’s a tiny box of a house. Where did four children sleep in such a small house?

Rental house - owned by Clarence McGhee in 1951

The little house that the Martins rented from the McGhees.

These old photos give me clues to a long-ago time. The people who could tell me more about that time are gone. It will always be an incomplete fragment of time in my mind.

In the photo of the Little House, the yard looks pretty bare. Perhaps that was right after the flood of 1951 had subsided.

Jog your memories

In 2007, Gail made a list of topics that would serve as inspiration for future stories. She posted the list to the Our Echo website. She hoped that it would get others on the site to write on the subjects as well.

Here’s the comment that I put on her list, “I look forward to seeing detailed stories and memories on each of these topics. How about adding some writings on:
favorite pets
weekly visits to town
getting dishes as premiums at the movies
visits from the Stanley Brush man
getting your first television
starting school
Now, these are triggering some memories that I need to put on paper as well!”

memory joggers blogs

For the stories that Gail did write about or her daughters wrote about, I’ve put a link so you can read the story.

Gail Lee Martin’s List of Memory Joggers

This year I plan on writing what I remember about some of the following topics. Do you have memories about any of these writing triggers?
Let’s share.
We made ice cream in a hand-cranked wooden bucket.
Homemade butter in Mother‘s Daisy glass churn.

Daisy Butter Churn

Here’s the kind of churn we had when I was growing up (Virginia Allain)

Homemade buttermilk and cottage cheese.
When people had horses & buggies.
Riding in a horse-drawn sleigh.
Your first car in my case my first bike.
Your first or worst accident.
FDR was president.
Pearl Harbor was bombed.
Walking to school.
Catching crawdads for a summer treat.
Sledding down a hill for winter fun without a sled.
We had an icebox instead of a refrigerator.
People did their own canning of garden vegetables & we still do.
Two-room schoolhouses.
Going fishing with a stick fishing pole and grasshoppers.
Milk was from our cow named Cream.
Life before television.
Working at Boeing.
Life away from home the first time.
When World War II ended.
When prayer was a daily part of our school.
When kids respected parents, teachers etc.
When we had to hand-crank the cars.
We enjoyed evenings on the front porch.
Chased lightening bugs.
We had pen pals and autograph books.
We played jacks, jump ropes & marbles.
Advertisements were on paper matches,
wooden nickels & Burma Shave signs.
Making rings from our baby’s spoon.
My first permanent wave.
We wore silk hose and long neckties.
When we graduated from eighth grade & high school.
Bird’s nest in the overalls.
My acting career was in school plays.
We had fun with May baskets & April Fool jokes.

These topics should keep me writing for awhile so I better get started. Which one shall I start with?

I wish she had lived many more years and had time to write about the rest of these topics. How about you? Are you writing down some of your memories? Now is the time.

Sunday Drive with Gail

Guest Blogger: Gail’s daughter, Karen Kolavalli.

Remembering another special day with Mom and my daughter five years ago. A Facebook chat memory.

Gail Lee Martin: Enjoyed a Sunday drive along Butler county back roads with Karen and her daughter. Saw lots of beautiful wildflowers. Returned home to see vases of Karen’s special iris blooms and to watch the cubs ballgame that had been on a rain delay for 2 hours and 40 minutes.

karen's iris

Iris from Karen’s yard

Cj Garriott: Sounds like a delightful afternoon!

Karen Kolavalli: Gail Lee Martin, my daughter, and I had a great time puttering along the back roads of Butler County–wildflowers, birds (scared up a big ol’ turkey!), and even a box turtle.

Karen Kolavalli: Was that one flower you were trying to remember a “mock orange”?

Gail Lee Martin: Yes that was what it was. Thanks ·

Karen Kolavalli: yay! Glad we didn’t make you miss the Cubs’ game!

kk photo road trip with gail

Some of the scenery on the Kansas road trip. Photo by Karen Kolavalli.

kk road trip 3 with gail

Wild plant photographed by Karen on the road trip with her mom.

KK road trip 2 with gail

Kansas sunlight filtered through the trees. Photo by Karen.

Mom Discovers TV Dinners

My mom, Gail Lee Martin, served hearty farm fare, like fried chicken and mashed potatoes, to keep eight people well fed. Every meal featured potatoes in some form; either mashed, fried, scalloped, baked or in the spring, creamed new peas and potatoes. Vegetables tended to be green beans, peas, and corn. We didn’t adventure into exotic things like asparagus or broccoli. She learned much of her cooking from her mother and also from between the black covers of the Searchlight cookbook.

searchlight cookbook

Putting food on the table was pretty labor intensive. It started with planting, hoeing, weeding, watering and harvesting. From there it progressed to canning and freezing. For meat, we raised the chickens, rabbits, and beef that filled our plates. Preparing a chicken dinner started with catching the hen, cutting off its head, dipping it in boiling water and pulling out all the feathers. Then she cleaned out the interior and cut it into pieces to cook.

Feeding eight people was a daily chore, even when her daughters were old enough to fetch the canned green beans from the root cellar and to peel the potatoes or churn the butter. To further complicate her workload, Dad worked shift work. That meant reheating everything to feed him when he came home late from his oil field job. There was no microwave to speed the cooking or hasten the thawing in the 1950s.

Television advertising in 1954 showed an innovative, time-saver… the TV dinner. The meat, vegetable, and dessert filled a compartmented aluminum tray. Covered in foil, it went straight from the freezer to the oven. It seemed like the perfect solution to late evening meals for Dad. Mom loved the concept and bought some right away to try them on Dad.tv dinners

Unfortunately, these prepared meals seemed pricey and didn’t always have the foods my dad liked. Mom saved the metal trays and started making her own TV dinners. For regular meals, she fixed just a little extra each time. She used the leftovers to fill the compartmented TV dinner trays. Covered with aluminum foil, these stacked compactly in our large freezer.

Now when Dad arrived home from his late shift, a hot meal was soon on the table. To supplement the TV dinner, she opened a jar of homemade applesauce, put out a stack of white bread with home-churned butter, and poured a tall glass of milk from our cow.

Her next discovery was ethnic food. She found a package of eight enchiladas in the grocery frozen foods section (probably next to the TV dinners). Our meals were typical midwestern meat-and-potatoes fare, all cooked from scratch. This was a big step introducing the family to store-bought, foreign food.

She served two trays of the beef enchiladas. That allowed two per person. To round out the meal, she fixed a big batch of mashed potatoes with a golden lump of homemade butter melting on the top. Opening and heating several Kerr jars of home-canned green beans took care of the vegetables. The family loved the spicy new food.

A plate stacked with slices of Rainbow bread passed around the table. Anyone who was still hungry could spread it with butter or sop up the enchilada sauce with it. There were plenty of refills of milk from our jersey cow. No one left the table hungry.

white bread pixabay

White bread – Photo courtesy of Pixabay

When I lived in South Texas, my Hispanic friends laughed with me when I told them of my first experience with Mexican food. The concept of green beans and mashed potatoes with enchiladas seemed odd to them. I love all types of Mexican food now and even made my own enchiladas from scratch. Thanks, Mom, for taking that first adventurous step in culinary diversity.

(Originally posted on Our Echo by Virginia Allain)

Summer Food Memories

(This post written by Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain, for the Our Echo site.)
Many childhood memories of Mom are centered on food. Perhaps that’s natural since motherly caregiving included keeping six children well-fed. We probably seemed like bottomless pits to her. After playing around the farm for hours, wading in the creek and wandering the pastures, we were ravenous. Many of our games involved running like wild yahoos through the sparse Kansas woods or galloping our pretend horses across the prairie. These activities guaranteed a good appetite.

Many childhood memories of Mom are centered on food. Perhaps that’s natural since motherly caregiving included keeping six children well-fed. We probably seemed like bottomless pits to her. After playing around the farm for hours, wading in the creek and wandering the pastures, we were ravenous. Many of our games involved running like wild yahoos through the sparse Kansas woods or galloping our pretend horses across the prairie. These activities guaranteed a good appetite.

To stave off the hunger pangs until supper time, we had some favorite snacks to fill the void. Bread with a liberal layer of white sugar, saturated with rich cream, was a favorite. We spooned the cream onto the sugar since it was too thick to pour. The golden cream from our jersey cow soaked into the sugar coating in a most satisfying way. Probably a nutritionist would cringe, but we worked off the extra calories running around the countryside, working in the garden and hauling buckets of water to the rabbits. Chubbiness was not a worry.

The garden yielded another favorite snack of tomato sandwiches. We sliced an oversized beefsteak tomato and placed the slices between two pieces of white bread. Of course, we slathered Miracle Whip salad dressing on the Rainbow bread first. We didn’t mind when the juicy tomato and excess Miracle Whip dripped down our chins. We ate the sandwiches outside anyway. When we couldn’t wait to return to our play, we just grabbed a tomato and bit into it. A little sprinkle of salt enhanced the flavor.

Sometimes we pulled out the standard peanut butter to spread on bread or saltines. Again we added extra sustenance by spreading home-churned butter on top of it all. Our peanut butter came in bucket-shaped tins, not in a jar. An oily layer rose to the top and had to be stirred in for creaminess. A topping of Mom’s jam or jelly or preserves completed the sandwich.

Mom kept the cookie jar full. She taught us all to make no-bake cookies, snickerdoodles, brownies and muffins. These weren’t the spongy, cakelike muffins served nowadays. Muffins in the 1950s were similar to hearty bread in texture. We also learned to make fudge, but it didn’t always stiffen properly.

karens muffins

Old-fashioned muffins like we ate in the 1950s and 1960s. Gail’s daughter, Karen, made these recently.

I tried raiding the cookie jar, but it was hard to lift the lid without making a clinking noise. Sneaking a piece of cake was even harder, especially since I cut so crookedly that it was easily detected.

Sometimes we had waffles or pancakes for supper. We looked forward to this treat, but I’m guessing it was a last minute measure when Mom forgot to defrost meat for the meal. She made the pancakes special by pouring the batter into odd shapes. Other families can have their stacks of round pancakes, but we had cloud shapes, turtle shapes, and even swans. Drowned in Log Cabin syrup, from the can that was shaped like a little cabin, the pancakes filled all our hungry tummies. Sometimes we spread jam on the pancakes or sprinkled on powdered sugar. I even remember putting peanut butter on pancakes.

log cabin syrup tin etsy

Photo of Log Cabin Syrup tin from Nutmeg Cottage on Etsy

Eating out was a rare treat. The A&W Root Beer stand was an occasional stop. They had 5 cent (was it really that cheap?) kid’s mugs of root beer. The mug was tiny but coated with frost and the tangy root beer tasted so good on a hot summer day. It was one of the few affordable places to take six children.

Sometimes we visited the Dairy Queen to get the soft serve vanilla ice cream cones. These were the ones with the curl on top. My Mom was a very brave woman to take a carload of kids there. We left with six of us licking our treat as fast as we could to keep the ice cream from melting in the searing Kansas heat. Even so, we always ended up with drips running down our arms and creating sticky spots on our clothing.

retro ice cream cone classic round sticker
retro ice cream cone  by doonidesigns

We sometimes went to a tiny diner where one day a week they had eight hamburgers for a dollar. They weren’t very large hamburgers, but it fit the family budget to eat there on the rare occasion. I think we drove the counter girl crazy when we ordered our eight hamburgers. Each child had their own preferences; with pickles, no pickles, ketchup, no ketchup, mustard, lettuce, etc.

I’d better stop now, as this is making me hungry for a tomato sandwich. I’d love to see other people’s food memories in the comment section.

D Is for Dandelion Wine

Mom submitted this “recipe” to a book of Butler County recipes of the 1920s and 30s. The title of the book is Grandmother’s Legacy. She emphasized that this was a just for fun recipe and not actually for consumption.


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Gail Lee Martin said, “This is an oil camp kid’s memories of making this wine. There was never a shortage of dandelions.”

Pick 5 cups of dandelions. Keep only the yellow part of the flower and discard the green part. The green part makes the wine bitter. Always wash and drain the petals. Put the petals and a gallon of water, more or less, into an empty glass gallon jar. Stir in 1 pound of sugar.

Put the lid on tightly and bury the jar. Oil camp friends are needed to help dig a big enough hole. Of course, they would be in on the taste testing too.

Gail and friends in 1930s

Kids at the oil camp in Greenwood County, KS

After two or three weeks, the mixture should be dug up and taste tested. If needed, add more sugar to suit taste.

“This recipe is for historical purposes and reading enjoyment only,” Gail said.

I’m amazed that back in the 1930s that her mother would let her have a pound of sugar for what definitely sounds like an experimental project. When I looked up real recipes for dandelion wine, they call for additional ingredients like lemons, oranges, and wine yeast.

You could go to the Commonsense Homesteading blog to try her recipe for dandelion wine. It appears to be adult tested, at least.