Halloween in the Good Old Days

Back in the 1920s and 1930s when Gail Lee McGhee was growing up, Halloween was celebrated in a simpler way than today. Since she lived in an oil field camp in the Flint Hills of Kansas, there was no door-to-door trick or treating. A community Halloween party was held at the Teterville School with adults and children wearing costumes.

Gail wrote about her clown costume that her mother made for her and her sister and about the fright she had when she saw her mother and father in gypsy costumes. The party games included bobbing for apples. You can read her story of that 1930 Halloween on the Our Echo website.

Bats and Girl Halloween CardBats and Girl Halloween CardView DetailsVintage Little Witch and Black Cat Halloween CardVintage Little Witch and Black Cat Halloween CardView DetailsGhost Jack O Lantern Pumpkin Child PostcardGhost Jack O Lantern Pumpkin Child PostcardView DetailsJack O Lantern Pumpkin Ghost Child PostcardJack O Lantern Pumpkin Ghost Child PostcardView DetailsHalloween Retro Vintage Children's Costume Party PostcardHalloween Retro Vintage Children’s Costume Party PostcardView Details

Decorations from the time included carved pumpkins and black cats. There was none of the zombies and gory costumes that are seen today.

Retro Black Cats Can Be Scary or Cute

Many people collect vintage Halloween items. They make great decorations for a Halloween party or for the Halloween season. They show up on eBay and if you’re the lucky bidder, you can decorate with Halloween cats too.

The designs have been reproduced on tote bags and t-shirts as well. I’ve collected a sampling of the best here for your review.

Vintage Halloween CardVintage Halloween CardView DetailsHalloween Greetings Card Cat with PumpkinHalloween Greetings Card Cat with PumpkinView DetailsSalem Witch & Black Cat CardSalem Witch & Black Cat CardView DetailsBoy Wizard Halloween Costume CardBoy Wizard Halloween Costume CardView DetailsMoon and Girl in Halloween Costume CardMoon and Girl in Halloween Costume CardView DetailsA Jolly Halloween, CardA Jolly Halloween, CardView DetailsOld Paper Invitation PumpkinOld Paper Invitation PumpkinView Details

A Collector’s Guide to Vintage Halloween Items

There are many Halloween collectibles dating back to the early days of the 1900s. Besides black cats, I’m partial to the sturdy cardboard jack-o-lanterns. Once in awhile you’ll find some of these at an estate sale or maybe in your grandmother’s attic. Check out the background on these and the value with these books.

Halloween Collectables : A Price GuideHalloween Collectables : A Price GuideView DetailsVintage Halloween Collectibles -Third EditionVintage Halloween Collectibles -Third EditionView DetailsHalloween in America: A Collector's Guide With Prices (Schiffer Book for Collectors)Halloween in America: A Collector’s Guide With Prices (Schiffer Book for Collectors)View DetailsTimeless Halloween Collectibles: 1920 to 1949, a Halloween Reference Book from the Beistle Company Archive with Price Guide (Schiffer Book for Collectors)Timeless Halloween Collectibles: 1920 to 1949, a Halloween Reference Book from the Beistle Company Archive with Price Guide (Schiffer Book for Collectors)View Details


Teterville Chat

When Gail Lee Martin was quite young, she lived with her parents and older sister Melba in Teterville, Kansas. It was an oilfield boomtown that has since disappeared. She wrote about that time in Teterville. It led to a contact from another lady who had roots in Teterville. Mom was always thrilled to know that her writing touched someone. 

Wed Aug 26, 2009
Gail, My dad, Earl Jones, and grandad lived in Teterville. I would love to see a picture of that place. I visited Teter Rock two weeks ago. remember going to a reunion picnic when I was a child.
Thanks,  Barb Jones Rickstrew

On 21 Sep 2009, Gail Martin wrote: Sorry that I’ve been so slow in answering you. It has been so long since I lived out there that the name of your dad doesn’t ring a bell. When did they live there? My aunt and uncle lived in the house just west of Moore’s grocery store. They were Viola and Roy McGhee. 

Have you any memories of Teterville that your folks passed down to you? Did they work for any of the oil companies? Or go to the Teter school? I was always scared of Mr. Teter’s wild cattle that roamed everywhere and liked to lay in the dusty roads. They didn’t even want to get up to let us pass by in our car. Thanks for taking the time to write to me. It meant a lot.

As always, Gail Martin

teterville store photo from eureka museum

Photo from the Eureka Museum of the Moore’s Store in Teterville, Kansas

From: Barb Rickstrew 
To: Clyde and Gail Martin
Sent: Thursday, September 24, 2009
Subject: Our Oil Field Home in the Flint Hills

Gail, Thank you so much for the picture. I don’t really have any information about Teterville but I remember going to a reunion picnic with my dad and grandpa. I was probably 7 or 8 and there weren’t many kids there but I thought there was maybe 2 buildings and an old merry go round.

Maybe the reunion picnic was somewhere else close, I don’t know. My dad is gone and you know how you wish you had asked more questions. I believe my grandpa worked for the oil company and my dad ended up going to school in Eureka.

I grew up in Eldorado and still have ties there and plan to visit Teter Rock again soon.
Thank you so much for replying to my email.
Barbara Jones Rickstrew

On 29 Sep 2009, Gail Martin wrote: Do you know what year your Dad graduated in Eureka. My sister Melba rode the school bus from Teterville to Eureka for 3 years. 1935/1937, then our folks moved and she graduated at Hamilton in 1938. But they used to have the school bus reunions at Teterville and Melba would go. I expect your Dad rode the bus too. I believe the bus driver was George Deering.

The Greenwood County Museum in Eureka has some great files on Greenwood County schools. I go there for my research. So interesting that we have met this way. If you ever get to El Dorado stop by and we could chat up a storm. We live at 1000 S. Atchison, phone 321-5399. My husband’s name is Clyde.

I sure would like to see you at my book signing October 11 from 2/4 at the Oil Museum 383 East Central, El Dorado. Our daughter has sent my second book with stories about my husband’s family. so I should have both books there plus my daughter, Cindy Jo Ross’ book of poetry and family photos, Ride a Stick Horse.

The Teter Rock was after my time in the area. Glad you got the picture. Those old ones are so small and have been around so long they are hard to get a good view. Gail

From: Barb Rickstrew
To: Clyde and Gail Martin
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Subject: Our Oil Field Home in the Flint Hills

Thanks, Gail! I would have to guess that dad graduated in 1942 or 43. I will sure look you up if I get back to Eldorado.

School and Moore's Store in Teterville, KS

These photos of the Teterville School and the Moore Bros. Grocery are on display at the Eureka Museum in Eureka, KS.

Honoring Gail and Clyde at Rock Springs and Teterville

C.J. Garriott, Gail’s sister, said, “Coming back from Rock Springs 4-H Ranch, we detoured to find Teterville. It’s where my parents and sisters lived when I was born in 1934.

Cj Garriott - "It's often difficult to show depth, etc., in photos, but thought these came out well! Loved those clouds."

Cj Garriott – “It’s often difficult to show depth, etc., in photos, but thought these came out well! Loved those clouds.”

This is Teter Hill, which is one of the highest hills in Kansas, if not the highest. As a little girl, when Daddy was navigating our car up the zig-zag track that vehicles had worried out of the rocky scrub, I was certain we were going to fall off the world. Teterville is beyond a ghost town these days, just foundations here and there.

The sign for the long-gone town of Teterville, Kansas. Photo by C.J. Garriott.

The sign for the long-gone town of Teterville, Kansas. Photo by C.J. Garriott.

It was lovely. The rain stopped just before we got to the spot, and after we headed back up the road home, it started again! It just let us do our thing without rain falling. Nice.

The road trip started with a tree planting ceremony at the Rock Springs 4-H Center near Junction City, Kansas. Clyde was a 4-Her as a boy and Gail guided many young 4-Hers in her years as a project leader. Having a tree providing shade to future 4-Hers seems like a very fitting memorial for them.

The side trip to Teterville was for the purpose of spreading Mom and Dad’s ashes. They had both chosen cremation. After Dad’s death, we had talked with Mom about making a trip out to the Flint Hills with his ashes. It was difficult to get her and all my siblings together for that excursion.

It was several years later and the time was right, even though not all of us could be there. Teterville was chosen for Mom’s ties to that now-defunct town. Gail’s sister, three of Gail and Clyde’s children, and some grandchildren and great-grandchildren made the trek on a day of torrential rain.

During the brief break in the downpour, the ashes were spread. Some were tossed into the Kansas wind to drift to earth at random. Mom and Dad felt a special affinity for the Kansas Flint Hills. Now they are a part of this scenic area.

Looking across the Flint Hills from Teter Hill. Photo by CJ Garriott.

Looking across the Flint Hills from Teter Hill. Photo by CJ Garriott.

More Teterville Memories

Scanners are a wonderful invention and my sister, Karen, is making good use of hers. She just digitized some old Teterville photos that expand our knowledge of that time in Mom’s life.

Here’s her mother, Ruth (Vining) McGhee in Teterville sometime in the 1930s.

Here’s her mother, Ruth (Vining) McGhee in Teterville sometime in the 1930s.

Here she is, little Gail McGhee, standing in the doorway with some of her older Bolte cousins.

Here she is, little Gail McGhee, standing in the doorway with some of her Bolte cousins.

The photo label says, “Ed Bolte’s home, Teterville. Back: Viola Bolte, Wanda Bolte, Gail McGhee. Front: Lillian Phelps with Jackie and Ruth Bolte with Patsy.” There were three Bolte’s with Ruth in their name, but my sister and I narrowed it down to Ruth Maxene Bolte, a sister-in-law to Wanda and Viola and Lillian.

Examine the pictures and you can see how basic the houses were in this oil boom town. My grandmother spent part of her childhood in a sod house in Woodward, Oklahoma, so at least they are an improvement over that.

You can even see the family cat. Looks like a calico cat to me. Another small detail is the pipe leading into Ed Bolte’s home in the second photo. I’m guessing they piped in gas for lighting and heat. Could be a water pipe though. What do you think?

Read more about Teterville in Home Is Where the Heart Is.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Mom’s earliest days were in the Teterville area. Below is a picture of her with her mother, Ruth Vining McGhee in 1927. Here’s Mom’s description of this time, “Although jobs were scarce all across America, the oilfields of Greenwood County were booming. Those early years in the Teterville area were very prosperous.

Mother’s two sisters with their big families moved from Woodward, Oklahoma to Teterville. They were her older sisters, Lucy and Bessie who married the Bolte brothers, Charley and Ed. My cousins were all older than me. They came to Kansas to find work. Even Uncle Ed’s older sons found roughnecking jobs in the oilfield and wives to marry.”

Ruth McGhee with her 3-year-old daughter, Gail.  Teterville, Kansas

Ruth McGhee with her 3 year old daughter, Gail. Teterville, Kansas

She continues her story, “Then Daddy’s younger unmarried brothers, Jesse, Roy, Lealon and Loren McGhee came. They also found jobs and lived in different company’s bunkhouses.

Life became fun with all these relatives visiting us. When Mother’s cousin, Ed Babcock, came, he brought his guitar. Many evenings were spent singing while Ed strummed.”

That wasn’t all. “Mother’s brother, Albert Vining and his wife, Vina, who was Daddy’s cousin on the Tower side, came from Tyro, Kansas. They were my favorites as we shared a special occasion.

The day they were married, September 13, 1924, was the day I was born. Mother was to be Vina’s matron of honor, only she was giving birth to me. They got married anyway. I always told everyone I was born on Friday the 13th, but Aunt Vina insists it was Saturday.”

The oil boom didn’t last. Mom says, “I don’t remember them all staying in that area as long as we did. Daddy’s job was pumping the oil. Most of the others were involved in the drilling end of the industry.”


Rustic Wood with Heart
Rustic Wood with Heart by DizzyDebbieRead more about Teterville’s early history.
I also have a page about Vina Vining’s life. She lived into her nineties.

G is for Girl Friend

Even after 75 years or more years had passed, Mom spoke fondly of her childhood friend, Dorothy Rose Laird. Noller was a small school in Greenwood County and the children lived with their families in company housing at the Phillips Petroleum Camp. All their fathers worked for Phillips.

Gail and her school friends standing by her daddy's new car.

Gail and her school friends standing by her daddy’s new car.

Looking through the vintage black and white photos from her childhood, I remember her telling me that Dorothy was one of the girls in this photo. The middle girl is my mom, Gail Lee McGhee. Which one was Dorothy?

Searching further, I found a school photo that solved the mystery. In the photo with the car, Dorothy is on the right, Gail is in the center and my sister is fairly sure Norma Jean Dowell is on the left.

Gail McGhee and Dorothy Rose Laird - 1933-34

Gail McGhee and Dorothy Rose Laird – 1930s

In case any descendants of these students are searching for them, I’ll list all their names here.

Noller School, District 21, Teterville, Greenwood County, Kansas (1933-1934)

Naomi McKinney, Pauline Ridgely, Buddy Palmer, Agnes Hawthorn (teacher), Dorothy McKinney, Melba McGhee, Gail McGhee, Dorothy Rose Laird, Norma Jean Dowell, Teddy Bernard, Donald Hindman, Roscoe Bernard, Kathryn Peterson.

Here's my mother's friend, Norma Jean Dowell, holding Mom's little sister, Carol Jean McGhee.  1935

Here’s my mother’s friend, Norma Jean Dowell, holding Mom’s little sister, Carol Jean McGhee. 1935