The Victory Garden

In times of stress, it isn’t surprising when people turn to gardening. There’s something soothing about working with the dirt and the plants. In addition, you end up with something edible for your effort. In the 1940s, these were called Victory Gardens and everyone considered it one of their contributions to the war effort. The gardens served to supplement each family’s food supply during a time of food rationing.

grow vegetables seeds advertisement 1922grow vegetables seeds advertisement 1922 Thu, Mar 2, 1922 – Page 4 · The Coffeyville Daily Journal (Coffeyville, Kansas) ·

During the previous decade, planting a garden was a necessity as businesses closed and banks failed. There were bread lines and families turned out of their homes. The Great Depression of the 1930s put a lot of pressure on families. Growing their own food was a necessity.

I’m not sure what we should call the current surge of interest in gardening. Are these Pandemic Gardens? Maybe Survivor Gardens would be a suitable name. I plan to survive this terrible epidemic and growing my own food is one way to minimize my outings to get food. Each time that I leave my home, I risk exposing myself to a deadly virus.

Since I can’t plant a garden in my yard due to our community restrictions, I’ve resorted to grow-bags in my patio. Acquiring dirt meant a trip to Lowes where we picked up some tomato and pepper plants as well. Even wearing the mask and gloves, it was a relief to get in and out quickly and return home with our planting supplies.

We’d ordered the grow-bags from Amazon and a big batch of various vegetable seeds. I can’t wait to get the lettuce and herbs started. I’m afraid it’s too late for peas which like cooler weather. The tomato plants are blooming already and I’m checking each day to see if the carrots, beets, yellow squash, onions, and potatoes might be sending up sprouts.

pandemic garden june 10

There are plenty of reasons to plant vegetables this year. Buying the containers, soil, and plants means every tomato or carrot harvested costs more than the actual food would in a supermarket. It’s worth it to me to reduce any possible exposure to the virus and to protect from possible food shortages. Disruption of the food supply is quite possible if the necessary workers become sick.

Beyond that reason, food that you grow yourself does taste better than some varieties designed for shipping and longer shelf-life. There’s also the psychological benefits of planting a garden. It’s an affirmation that you expect to be around to tend and harvest it as the months progress. My 2020 Victory Garden is my statement that I will survive this pandemic.

There may be a shortage of plants and seeds as more people catch the gardening bug. People who never planted anything before are suddenly inspired with the idea of growing their own food. Have you started your garden yet?

Here’s the link for updates on how my Victory Garden is growing.


Gail and the Boarding Houses of the War Years

Gail Lee Martin’s notes about the boarding houses she lived in while working at Boeing in the 1940s. These are emails between her and her daughter Karen. All the photos were taken by Karen a few years ago. The houses are still there.

Both of the emails date from July 15, 2011.

The email was in response to the photos of the house on Emporia Street that I sent her:

“I really enjoyed living in the 2nd tower room until I got the intestinal flu and the bathroom was downstairs.”

That’s when her Mother came to take care of her and immediately found the rooming house for her on Pattie Street.

Pattie Street house in Wichita where our mom lived in WWI while working at Boeing Aircraft.

Pattie Street house in Wichita where our mom lived in WWI while working at Boeing Aircraft. Photo by her daughter, Karen K.

This email is about the one on Pattie Street:

“Sure looks like the house Mrs. Dixon owned and I lived in the front downstairs bedroom, with the door opening off the front room.  There was a grocery store east across the street where I bought a package of 6 cinnamon rolls and ate them on the way to work.  The bus stopped there during the daytime and then I had to change buses to go on to Boeing.  Even the front door looks the same.  It was 1000 S. Pattie.”

You’ll remember that she often had to work after the buses had stopped running in the evening and that she walked (most?) of the way home.  I can’t imagine that she walked all the way from Boeing though.

Just checked and Boeing was 5 miles south of where she lived at 1000 S. Pattie,  South Wichita has never been safe, but maybe during the war people were more respectful of those involved in the war effort and refrained from raping the girls.

Maybe the buses just ran a limited route after hours and she didn’t have to walk the whole way.


September Memory Prompts

These are ideas that Gail Lee Martin shared on the Our Echo website back in 2007. She hoped they would inspire people to write about their childhood days.

September Memories
I recently read about a restored World War II P-38 named Glacier Girl being featured at the Oshkosh Air Show in Wisconsin in July and this jogged my memory of using food stamps and gathering scrap metal during WWII. We did without a lot of things because they were rationed, such as car tires, gasoline, sugar even meat. What are your memories of things during WWII?


Scrap metal and rubber collected during WWII for the war effort.

I also remember when we moved to town and had to buy oleo. It looked like lard until you put this small yellow pill into the oleo and blended it all together. Still didn’t taste like butter. Have I jogged your memories yet?

What kind of magazines do you remember your parents & grandparents having around the house? Maybe Good Housekeeping, Red Book, Country Gentleman, or an Almanac. Did you ever order anything from the ads in the magazines or order from Sears and Roebuck or Montgomery Wards catalogs? Or other types of catalogs.

Then did we start having home parties like Tupperware, Avon, to sell things to our friends? Those were fun and they still are except so many women have jobs outside the home that you can find only a few that have the time come.

I see they have brought the Bobble Head dolls back. Every young person old enough to drive had some kind of those bobbleheads on the dashboard of their cars, mostly dogs and other animals. This was just before WWII.

I remember when Farm Auctions were a place to go to see your friends and find something you just couldn’t do without. Of course, they were no fun if it was your family that was selling out. Did you ever go to auctions with your Dad or Granddad?

Romantic ruffles are back again. My mother put ruffles on my dresses and blouses in the 1930s and again for my five girls in the late forties and early fifties. She even put them on her aprons.

Ginger Martin in a ruffled dress - 1950s

Ginger Martin in a ruffled dress – 1950s. Probably made by her grandmother, Ruth McGhee.

School started in our area this past week and school days should jog your memories of how you dressed, or carried lunch or ate at school. My kids each had a different lunch box decorated with their choice of popular characters on the sides. Did you? Let’s see how many different school memories we can come up with.


Gail and Rosie the Riveter

Mom identified with Rosie the Riveter, although she was chagrined to find herself too slight to handle the kick of the rivet gun. Despite that, Gail found other work to do at Boeing Aircraft and contribute to the war work. Here’s a memory piece that Gail Lee Martin wrote for the Our Echo site about her fondness for Rosie.

Friends by Gail Lee Martin

My Merriam Webster’s Concise Dictionary large-print edition states that a friend is ”person one likes.” But it works both ways. I treasure this person as my friend and she proved she thought of me as a friend.

At my writing group, Prairie Prose & Poetry’s monthly meeting in February 2003, I read my essay titled, My Wall of Books (one of very first that I posted on OurEchoes April 4th, 2006). One paragraph was about our collection of books and calendars of Norman Rockwell’s paintings. At another meeting, I shared what I had recently written about working for Boeing Aircraft Company during World War II.

My friend, Mary Skipworth, put two and two together and one day in July she came to our house and presented me with a t-shirt with Rockwell’s ’Rosie the Riveter’ on it. I was moved almost to tears. But settled on a great big hug.

Rockwell’s Rosie must have been the fad of the year as my daughter, Cindy, gave me a Rosie, We Can Do It, pot-holder for Mother’s Day. Not to be outdone my sister, Carol, gave me hand towels with the same logo for my birthday. No one knew what the others had done until later. Family can be great friends too.

Saving the Cooking Grease

As long as I can remember, mama drained the bacon grease into a container kept handy on the stove. The next day, the saved grease was added while heating up home-canned green beans. It made that vegetable super-tasty. It was also used when frying eggs for breakfast. I’m guessing many women who grew up during the Great Depression, not just Gail Lee Martin, saved their leftover cooking grease.

Grease can gallery

Vintage grease container from Catnutti’s shop on Etsy.

During WWII, housewives were urged to Save Your Waste Fats to Make Explosives. Previously, the U.S. imported a lot of vegetable fats from the Far East, but the war disrupted that supply. The fats were needed to make glycerine which was used in explosives for the Allies.

Here’s how it worked, housewives were told to keep every single drop of used cooking fat. This included bacon grease, meat drippings, and frying fats. They strained the grease through a metal strainer and stored it in a tin. The grease was taken to a meat dealer once a pound or more was saved. They rewarded the housewife with two red points which were ration stamps for buying meat.

The meat dealer would pay for the waste fats and send them on to the war industries. They would have a sticker on the window or door that proclaimed, “Official Fat Collecting Station.”


Thanks to World War Era site for this poster. It can be purchased from them if you would like one for your kitchen.

Although Gail spent part of the war years in a rented room while she worked at Boeing, I’m sure she was very aware of this campaign to save fats for the war effort. On the occasional weekends back, she would see her mother carefully strain the hot grease to save.

Other home front contributions to the war effort included collecting scrap metal and cans, plus helping with paper drives and silk drives (silk stockings were reprocessed into parachutes). Driving was kept to a minimum to save rubber, which was another vital resource for the military.

Do you carry on the tradition from your grandmother and mother of saving used cooking grease for reuse?


Memories of Pearl Harbor

My aunt, CJ Garriott, was quite young when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. She still remembers that day.

I was 7 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked; Mother & Daddy were listening to the radio. I didn’t understand exactly what had happened, but somebody, I didn’t know who (the “Japanese”? Did they live in KS?) had done something really, really bad to Americans.

I was very scared, and went out, got my cat, went to my bedroom, and got under the bed. I was afraid they were coming to our house.

She was 10 years younger than my mom, Gail. I have several posts about Gail McGhee’s wartime experiences.


Radio from the World War II era.

Shivaree in Kansas

My sister, Karen Kolavalli tells this story,

“I remember Mom telling about their shivaree. They were married in Neodesha, Kansas, with Mom’s parents as witnesses, and spent their wedding night with Mom’s uncle and aunt in Tyro. So the shivaree must have been when they returned to their farm home outside Madison. All the labels had been taken off their canned goods in the kitchen and that night all their friends (and relatives?) came banging pans and making a ruckus.”

I looked into the custom and see there are variations on it. Luckily, no one kidnapped Mom and took her for a ride in a wheelbarrow. You can read more about What Is a Shivaree? in the article that I compiled on Hubpages.

To frame this by what was going on in the world, the final surrender of the Germans occurred on May 8, 1945. Gail and Clyde were married less than a month after that. The surrender of Japan happened about two months after their marriage.

We don’t have any photos of their wedding.  Gail and Clyde drove to Neodesha, Kansas to be married in the office of a minister they knew, Reverend Hawkins. The minister’s wife was the witness for the ceremony.

There was an angel food cake which Gail ceremoniously cut. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t know the right way to cut such a fluffy cake and ended up squashing it. That’s a story retold many times around the family dinner table.


Angel Food Angelfood Cake Slice Strawberry Sticker
Angel Food Cake Slice Sticker by rebeccaheartsny

Karen did a little research on it,

Family history research often takes me down random pathways that don’t necessarily make much difference in the family story, but simply intrigue me. Such is the case of my interest in Reverend Sidney Hawkins, the minister who married my folks.

My parents drove from Madison, in southeast Kansas where they both lived, to Neodesha, Kansas, which is close to the Missouri border, on that spring day in 1945. Mom’s parents went along as witnesses. Reverend Hawkins had been the minister of Mom’s church in Madison when she was growing up and she wanted him to officiate at her wedding.

No photos were taken of the happy couple that day and all that exists to mark the occasion is a faded newspaper clipping announcing the nuptials and my Mom’s stories.

I never thought to question Mom when she told the story. I always enjoyed hearing about the old-time chivaree their friends had for them when they got back to Madison. Since she and Dad are both gone now, the time for questions has passed.

I never wondered about why they didn’t have a “real” wedding with invited guests and all the trimmings. I suppose I thought it had to do with it being the war years. But looking back now, I think it’s more likely because it was a quickie wedding when Mom found herself pregnant. My brother was born 8 months later. And, remember, this was the 1940s and illegitimate babies were beyond scandalous.

So, for some reason, today I was curious about what happened to Reverend Hawkins. I found him, thanks to the Find-A-Grave website, buried in Restland Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas, alongside his wife Marion (1904-1987). He was born in 1896 and died in 1979. I wish I knew more of his story.

This was taken on Clyde's folks' farm southeast of Madison. They had retired and were living up on standpipe hill in Madison while Clyde and Gail lived on the farm.

This was taken on Clyde’s folks’ farm southeast of Madison. His parents had retired and were living up on Standpipe Hill in Madison while Clyde and Gail lived on the farm.

Gail Lee McGhee and Clyde Owen Martin were married for 67 years.

Mom’s Experience at Boeing During WWII

Boeing plane signed by Gail Lee McGhee and other aircraft workers who built the plane in 1944.

Boeing plane signed by Gail Lee McGhee and other aircraft workers who built the plane in 1944.

Allen Hauser – “Gail…how long did you work making planes during the war? How did you end up getting involved?”

Gail Martin“Funny you should ask, Allen. The Butler County Historical Society recently video interview me about my work at Boeing in conjunction with the Smithsonian exhibit “Posters on the American Home Front, 1941-1945” coming to the museum from the middle of May to middle of June. I also found some Country Gentleman magazines from those years that I loaned the museum for display. Wish you could hear & see the tape. I will see if somebody will make copies. Cindy is viewing it now.
I graduated in 1942 and worked one year as a nanny for a woman school teacher then in 1943 I signed up for a government-funded training for women to work in the aircraft field. I had to go to Ark City and when the school lost their funding I went with most of the other girls to Wichita and applied for a job. I choose Boeing because I did not have to join a union to work there. My reasoning for that is a whole different story from Daddy’s experience in the oilfields.
Boeing put me in electrical wiring department because I was small in those days. Couldn’t hold up the heavy rivet guns. A lot on my work was in the tunnel that led back to the tail-gunner in the B-29’s. In May of 1945 the war was over and I quit so homecoming soldiers could have jobs. In June, Clyde & I were married.”

Allen Hauser – “Thanks for the information! That must have been some experience, though I suppose growing up around the oil fields, heavy machinery was pretty familiar. So you mostly worked on B-29’s (or perhaps it was solely on B-29’s). Those were used exclusively against Japan. You said you stopped in May, did soldiers come back so quickly to take over jobs even before the war was over in the Pacific? It’s strange to think where all those planes you helped make went. It is also interesting the role women played overall in the B-29s, from building them, testing them, and flying them to deliver them where the military needed them. It was quite a time.”

Carol Garriott – “My, what memories this photo brings back! Being 10 years younger than Gail, I was of course still at home and in elementary school, and enormously proud and in awe of my big sister. I LIVED for the weekends she would come home.

A time or two she brought a boy a bit older than me, who was, I think, the son of her landlady in Wichita, and had never been to the country. On his first visit, he was wildly excited about the oil field we lived in. A pumping well was adjacent to our house and yard. Everyone had trooped into the house after a cursory tour of the outside. Everyone, that is, it became apparent, except our young visitor. Daddy looked back for him, and saw him astraddle, like riding a horse, of the pumping mechanism on the well. I remember Daddy walking so steadily and calmly out and snatching the boy off the well. He could so easily have gotten his pant leg caught in the mechanism and been drawn inexorably into it! We, of course, had grown up with the understanding of how dangerous they were, and knew, under peril of severe consequences, mechanical or parental, not to mess. As I recall, Daddy had a private discussion with the boy, who never went near the wells again.

An example of a Kansas oil pumpjack at the museum in El Dorado.

An example of a Kansas oil pumpjack at the museum in El Dorado.

(This discussion comes from the Martin-McGhee My Family site, May 2002)

Another Street Photo

Carol Garriott – Dec 28, 1999 “It seems like I ought to know, having seen this photo before — but, who took the picture? Boyfriend? Roving reporter, spotting a beautiful girl?”

Karen Kolavalli – Dec 28, 1999 “I’m sure Mom can tell you in a more interesting way than I can since it’s her story, but I believe it was a street photographer. There’s another one of Mom and a girlfriend of hers, too, taken by a street photographer. Both are postcards. Oh, now that I think of it, the second one is actually a postcard addressed to you, February 19, 1945, Wichita, Kansas. I’ll get it scanned and uploaded soon.”

Gail Martin – Dec 29, 1999 “Well, of course, I loved this coat too! It was a chocolate-brown & cream colored plaid. Mother never said anything about my choice of clothing I bought while working at Boeing. I lived in a home with a divorced lady and her two sons. 1000 S. Patty.

Gail Lee McGhee - photo taken in Wichita KS by a street photographer in the 1940s.

Gail Lee McGhee – photo taken in Wichita KS by a street photographer in the 1940s.

In the Photo Booth

Gail McGhee in Wichita, Kansas in 1944

Gail McGhee in Wichita, Kansas in 1944

Mom’s commented on this photo,

“I had this photo taken in a little 3 for $1.00 shops that were around Wichita. They were patronized by many military guys and their girlfriends because they were developed fast while you waited.

You’ll notice I still thought I looked better without my glasses.”

She would have been 20 years old in 1944.