Gail Lee Martin

Gail Lee Martin

At 84, Gail Martin’s memories go back a long ways. She remembers living in oil field camp housing, wearing dresses made from feed sack material in the 1930s, trips to town in the family’s Model A, raising her pet badger, and fishing on the Cottonwood River. Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren value her memories of childhood days during the Great Depression. Martin started recording them some years ago and isn’t finished yet getting later memories of her life onto paper. Now her childhood memories of the Depression years have become a book. The title, My Flint Hills Childhood, plus the vintage family photo on the cover entices the reader into her homespun memoir.

Martin even taught others how to write about their family memories. A number of years, she led classes in that topic at the Shepherd Center in Wichita. “I made myself write something for each assignment that I gave the class,” Martin confessed, feeling that she had to set a good example for participants. She found an additional audience for her writing when Kanhistique magazine featured many of them in the 1980s and 1990s. In the last twenty years she has been published in the Tower Family Book, contributed to the Greenwood and Wilson County history books as well as having stories in The Golden Years and Schooner magazines.

The author won the Butler County’s Historical Essay contest several times and says she just loves to research and write. In 1995, she wrote a fiftieth-anniversary story about the history of The Little Ranger, a doodlebug that ran from Emporia through El Dorado to Winfield and back. Martin was appointed Kansas Authors Club archivist in 1995 and held that position for ten years.

Although some seniors rest on their laurels, Martin tackled the internet some years back. Her diligence in posting essays and poems on the Our Echo website caught the attention of the web designer for the site. He so greatly appreciated her efforts in encouraging the other writers on Our Echo, that he asked her to serve as the site’s webmaster. She selects and changes the Editor’s Choice and Featured Comments section of the site’s homepage. Another responsibility Martin handles is regularly adding members’ postings to the Wall of Fame on the site.

This octogenarian, a resident of El Dorado, has several other books underway. Her daughter, Virginia Allain, converted Martin’s written memories into a book at the print-on-demand site, Blurb.com. “Mom’s been great about dredging up the old family photos and emailing them to me in New Hampshire for the book,” said Allain. At first, Allain thought the book would merely become a treasured family keepsake. “As I arranged the stories and photos, I realized that my mother’s memories of the 1930s were both an endearing and valuable snapshot of early days in Kansas,” Allain added.

The second book, currently underway, contains Martin’s writings about her husband, Clyde Martin. It includes his years of working in the El Dorado oil industry, and his family’s history stretching back to Kansas pioneer days. Supplementing Martin’s memories for this second book are essays contributed by two of Martin’s daughters, Cynthia Ross of Towanda and Virginia Allain.

It seems that Gail Martin’s example of writing family memories has spread through the whole family. Last year, her sister, Carol Garriott published her own memories using the lulu.com website. Garriott’s book, called Curve of the Coast, covers her life’s journey from Greenwood County, Kansas to her current home along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Martin still needs to get more memories onto paper, according to her daughter. “She hasn’t written about her wartime job at Boeing or about surviving a rattlesnake bite,” said Allain. Allain intends to prod her mother to keep writing. “Mom worries about getting a swelled head from all the attention about the book,” reported Allain, “but hopefully it will inspire her to further writing.”

Preview the first fifteen pages online, of My Flint Hills Childhood by Gail Lee Martin, at the Blurb Bookstore where it’s available in hardback or paperback.


One Response to “ABOUT THE AUTHOR”

  1. Wanda Ryder Says:

    What a dynamic and intersting lady. Her stories will live long into the future — valuable material for both family and historians.
    Wanda Ryder

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