Happy Birthday Bruce!

February 27 is a big day for the Amos Boys—it’s Bruce’s birthday and he’s going to be 79. Happy Birthday Bruce!

Supposedly, this week’s conference call was supposed to be an hour long “Roast Bruce,” but I must say, Duane and Jerry went pretty easy on him. A few stories have come out over the weeks, and even though Bruce repeatedly claims they’re all hearsay, I’ll pass some of them along to you anyway. Like, say, the time things got a little “smoky” in their Grandma Maggie Adams’ chicken coop.

I’ll let Jerry clear the air (ahem) on this one:

“When Bruce was 12 or 13 he was visiting on Beaver Street (Maggie’s house, where Jerry was living). It was our step-grandfather Jim Adams’ birthday and he had received a lot of Lucky Strike cigarettes. Bruce thought we and some of our neighborhood buddies should have our own party so he borrowed a carton of Jim’s smokes. We crowded into a little chicken coop out back and smoked those cigarettes.

“After getting sick of the whole thing, we all went down the street to another kid’s house for something to drink. While there, we heard fire engine sirens and ran out to enjoy some excitement. We were shocked though, to see this big rig pull in to Jim and Maggie’s place. Someone had seen a lot of smoke coming from the chicken coop and called the fire department.

“A fireman took his big ax to the coop door and opened up to a large number of smoldering cigarettes butts on the floor. We boys were standing there innocently when the head fireman walked right over to Bruce. I don’t remember what he said but there weren’t any serious consequences that I know of except for a lingering bad taste.”

Here’s one of Bruce’s high school pictures. Isn’t he handsome?

Bruce's high school picture

There’s a story about Bruce’s high school years as well. Apparently, there are several versions, but we’ll go by how he tells it:

“Back when I was in junior high, I got in the habit of skipping school. When I got to high school at Eastern (High School), Duane started skipping right along with me. At the end of the first semester, the principal called us into the office and said Duane was a pretty good student until I got there. He made the statement that the school wasn’t big enough for the two of us.

“I went home and didn’t tell Ma I got kicked out of school. I just asked if she could get me into Sexton (High School) because that’s where all my friends from junior high were going.”

Sexton High School was a long walk across town for Bruce, but it turned out to be quite worthwhile because that’s where he met a very special someone—Coyla Jean McCargar.

Coyla Jean

Coyla, who went by Jeanie, grew up living with her grandparents in the very small town of Henderson, about 45 miles northeast of Lansing. During her high school years she moved to Lansing to live with her mother, and she graduated when she was just 16.

She must have been pretty smart to graduate so young, don’t you think?

“Not too smart,” says Bruce. “Not if she married me.”

Bruce and Coyla Jean

Bruce and Jeanie married that next January 1952, a month before Bruce turned 19 and a few months before Jeanie turned 18.

“She twisted my arm,” says Bruce.

Well, she obviously did more than that. By December of that same year, their daughter Vicki was born. Fourteen months later, in February, 1954, Shelley was born. And in July, 1959, Roland Scott was born.

When I ask Bruce what he enjoyed doing in his younger days, his response is that he was “never particularly smart, or never had any particular interests.”

“I just lived life as it came,” says Bruce.

I’m thinking Bruce is being a bit modest here, because it sounds like he worked hard and did well.

In the early years of their marriage, Bruce worked 40 hours a week delivering mail for the post office during the day, plus another 42 hours a week as the night manager for a McDonalds in Lansing.

“I was getting a little worn out and was going to quit McDonalds,” says Bruce. “But the owner asked how much I was making at both jobs. He offered me more money to quit delivering mail and just manage his McDonalds.”

Eventually Bruce was managing three Lansing McDonalds, and later, one in St. Johns and one in Corunna. He also owned shares in another McDonalds in Portland.

All of this is really interesting. But what’s even better is what Bruce’s children have to say about their dad. It’s very, very special.

Here a word from Vicki, Shelley and Scott.

Vicki

Dad was always one of the hardest working dad’s we know. He always took his job seriously and did his very best. My guess would be his best work years were the one’s he spent at McDonalds in Lansing, which started as a second job (nighttime -after working at the Post Office all day). Eventually he became the supervisor of all three Lansing McDonalds that were owned by Ed MacLuckie.

Dad was a strict dad. If he whistled, you better come running. If he said you should be doing this or that, you better be doing just what he said. We all knew he loved us very much, but he was not a demonstrative man with his feelings…that has changed as he has aged. He shows more emotion now and says I love you. We always knew that he did, but it wasn’t said often when we were young.

Dad gave us all a strong work ethic which we have carried throughout our lives. He’s never been materialistic, he just looks to be comfortable and content.

Dad used to play men’s softball as a pitcher for many years and now he still enjoys watching. He and I have lots of conversations about my granddaughter, Makela, who is a 10th grader in high school and a great little pitcher. When Dad has been home to Michigan he makes sure he takes in one of her summer tournaments.

He is an avid reader…this year we got him a Kindle to move him into the technological world with his reading.

The love of Dad’s life now is his dog, Molly! She is a rescue dog that Scott found for him and they are inseparable.

Vicki, Jeanie, Shelley, Bruce and Scott, 1972

Shelley

The first thing I really remember is my family living in a house with Grandma (Gladys) and Jerry and Elaine. I guess Dad worked nearby, but things must have been tough for everyone if we were all living together.

We moved to a house on State Rd. in north Lansing. I’m not sure if this was our next residence or not, but I remember having a dog and Dad making me go out back and feed it. The dog would run around my legs and I would get caught up in his chain and fall down. That’s when I first remember Dad saying “I’m gonna trade you in for a dog and shoot the dog.” That really scared me because I didn’t want to go away and I didn’t want the dog to die.

I think after that we moved to Coulson Ct. in south Lansing. There were lots of young families on that street with lots of kids to play with. When it was time to go inside in the evenings, Dad would whistle for us and it didn’t matter where we were, we could hear him and knew we’d better get our little butts home. Our parents made friends with lots of the other parents and there were always parties. The adults would dance and Dad was the best twister. He was also pretty good at hula hooping!

I guess I was a daddy’s girl because I always liked to help him with whatever he was doing. I’m sure I was in the way a lot, but I don’t ever remember him telling me to go away. We didn’t talk a lot when we “worked” together and I remember him saying that we could spend half a day together and I wouldn’t say a dozen words. (That’s because my older sister always felt the need to talk for me!) I’m sure I learned a lot of Amos expletives by helping Dad with his projects too.

Dad worked at McDonalds for several years. He took me to work with him one day when I was probably 7 or 8. It was before females were allowed to work there. I thought I was pretty special because I got to put the pickles on the hamburgers! I also remember Mom calling him at work a few times when Scott was a new baby, because we were being naughty. He would come home and get Vicki and I and take us back to McDonalds with him. The first time, he made us sit in the car while he went back to work, but his boss found out we were in the car and made Dad bring us inside. We got to do cool things in the back like cut the potatoes into French fries (yup, they used real potatoes way back then), help make shakes, and eat whatever we could talk Dad into.

Dad was the disciplinarian. Mom would say “wait until your father gets home!” so I would be in tears when Dad walked in the door. He always said all he had to do was scold me because that was harder on me than getting spanked. Dad was not very good at verbalizing his love for us. If we would say “I love you Dad” he would say “me too” or “mmhmm”, but we knew he loved us by his actions. He’s gotten over that over the years and doesn’t have any trouble saying “I love you” now.

We moved to St. Johns when I was in the third grade and lived on a farm and we all got horses. Vicki and I were in 4-H with our horses and Mom and Dad were very involved. We would take our mares down the road to another farm to be bred. Dad thought it would be a good educational experience for me/us (I don’t remember if Vicki was there) to watch. Mom wasn’t too happy about that when she found out!

When we had friends over, Dad would always stare at the top of their heads when he talked to them, which made them very nervous! (I bet he did it to you cousins too.)

I worked for Dad at McDonalds for awhile and all the other employees thought I was a great person to voice their complaints to, hoping I would go home and tell Dad. I tried…once….

Dad was always there for us kids, even when he wasn’t too happy with us, and always gave us good advice, even when we didn’t want it. He still treats me like his little girl…love you Dad!

Scott

I worked at McDonalds also when I was 9, working every other Saturday picking up papers in the neighborhood. After I was done doing that, I got to help out inside. Filling buckets with potatoes, slicing potatoes, putting ketchup & mustard on the buns, making shakes & eating pretty much whatever I wanted. I got sick on cherry pies when they came out.

Dad would ground me and after a couple of days mom would let me off but said, make sure I was home before Dad got home.

Happy Birthday from all of us!

Our 5 Claims to Fame

why geneology?

Every family makes claims of genealogical greatness, but only ours holds credibility. Right?

Actually, there’s some merit to that humorously biased statement. For us, our genealogy truly is great because it belongs to our family alone. It connects us to our past, impacts who we are today, and preserves our heritage for the future. So this week we’re going to introduce a study of the Amos Boys’ genealogy. In the weeks ahead we’ll look at their maternal family, and later in the year, we’ll do their paternal family.

How many of you are genealogy geeks?

I’ve been since my early 20s, when Grandma Gladys sent me an old family photo. Over the years, I’ve acquired bits and pieces here and there and shoved them all into a box. Nowadays, I just go to Ancestry.com and everything’s available in a handy database. It kind of takes away the thrill of historical sleuthing, but who has time for that anyway?

Jerry’s into genealogy too. He’s much more meticulous than I am, and he’s done extensive research on his maternal side.

“There used to be an area called “Hulick Land,” says Jerry. “They don’t pronounce the G’s (or J’s) like we do, they say them like an H. It was right between Holland and Germany, and the two countries used to fight over that. Supposedly, that’s where the Gulicks are from.”

Gulick, as you may know, is Gladys’ maiden name.

And then there are names like Laing, Holmes, Van Ortwick, Cocoran, Mottinger and Beaumont. Obviously, we’re a great mix of people coming from many places.

This is going to be fun, isn’t it?

If you’re interested, sign up at Ancestry.com. You can subscribe for a monthly fee, or you can go to your local library and access it for free.

In the meantime, here are our family’s five big claims to fame (stay tuned to learn how we connect):

  • William I, Duke of Aquitaine, France, and founder of the Benedictine abbey of Cluny
  • Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great and Holy Roman Emperor
  • Stephen Hopkins, Mayflower Pilgrim who landed in Plymouth, MA, in 1620
  • Peter Laing, founder of the hopping metro of Laingsburg, MI.
  • Scottish raiders who stole cattle from the English (okay, maybe this isn’t classifiable as famous, but it’s interesting nonetheless:-)

A Love Story of a Different Kind

Perhaps you’ve noticed many of the pictures so far have been of Duane and Bruce, but not Jerry. Or, if you remember, the Amos Boys moved quite often. Some of this was due to the Depression. Some of it was also due their parents, Roland and Gladys.

Here’s the story of Roland and Gladys and the very special love that came because of them.

Roland&Gladys1929-30

Roland & Gladys, 1929-30

In the late 1920s, Roland moved to Lansing from his hometown Corunna, Indiana. Perhaps he came for job opportunities. We don’t really know. But according to information Jerry gathered from Michigan historical documents and talking with relatives; in 1929, Roland and Gladys lived around the corner from one another. She lived at 617 Smith Ave. He lived at 1815 Beal Ave. And in 1929, they both worked at REO.

On December 21, 1929, when Gladys was 18 and Roland was 20, they headed on down to Indiana and got married.

Here’s their wedding picture. Aren’t they a handsome couple?

Roland & Gladys, Wedding, December 21, 1929

Roland & Gladys, Wedding, December 21, 1929

Unfortunately, the story now gets somewhat sensitive. Apparently, marriage wasn’t an easy thing for Roland and Gladys.

“They had a rough time together,” says Duane. “It was off and on. There were times when Dad (Roland) was there. Then there were times when he wasn’t there for a year or two. I don’t think they had a good marriage.”

“They had problems from the beginning, I think,” says Jerry. “Mom (Gladys) told me one time that they had a big blowout the day after they were married. They both were kind of stubborn.”

So there were times when the Amos Boys’ parents were separated. And there were times when they were back together. Finally, they divorced in 1947.

I’m thinking they gave it a good try, though, right?

“Well,” says Jerry, in a drawn out way. “They both had ‘other friends,’ if you know what I mean.”

So now story goes from sensitive to complicated, and we have to back up a bit.

In 1935, Roland was having trouble finding work in Lansing. He got together with an airplane pilot named Harvey Hughes and together they traveled the country selling rides to people at fairs (more on this story in months to come). According to Jerry’s research, it’s likely he was conceived during the time Roland was away.

Roland did come back when Jerry was born in 1936, but records show by 1937 he was once again living away from the family. And both Roland and Gladys were out of work.

“Mom lost her welfare when she moved out to living on the same road as her brother Ralph,” says Jerry. “I think that’s when she had to give up taking care of her boys.”

And that’s when the Amos Boys were separated.

Duane and Bruce went to live with Roland’s parents in Topeka, Indiana. They lived there for two years before coming back to live with Gladys.

Jerry, however, went to live with Gladys’s mother, Maggie Adams, and Maggie’s second husband, JR. He lived with them until he was twelve.

“It was kind of scary living with my grandfolks sometimes,” says Jerry, with a laugh. “It was nice in some ways because they provided me with more—more stuff and more attention—than probably what Bruce and Duane were getting. But on weekends they (Maggie and JR) would do a lot of boozing and fighting. I always thought it was nicer to be with Mom, Bruce and Duane. Whenever I could, I would visit them for a few days.”

Bruce, Jerry and Duane

Bruce, Jerry and Duane

You’re probably thinking this isn’t much of a love story. It certainly wasn’t for Roland and Gladys.

But what about Duane, Bruce and Jerry?

Whenever I talk to them in our conference calls about these early days, I never hear any whining or “woe is me.” I repeatedly ask them how they felt about living apart, or did they begrudge one another for getting something maybe they themselves didn’t get. I even ask if they thought of Jerry as a pain-in-the-neck, younger brother finally coming to live with them. No, they say, no they did not.

“That’s just the way it was,” they repeatedly say.

Then I think about them as adults. I mention the closeness they’ve always had with one another, and the love and respect they showed their parents, flawed as they were.

“We always have a good time when we get together,” says Bruce. “We always enjoy getting together.” (It seems this is the most schmaltz I’m going to get out of them.)

Nowadays the Amos boys don’t get together as much. Duane and Jerry live in Michigan. Bruce lives in Florida. But you should hear them on the phone—their banter, their patience with one another, their reminiscing.

I’ll let you in on it soon, because this is the real love story.

Bruce, Jerry and Duane, 1990s

Bruce, Jerry and Duane, 1990s

Do You Remember Snow Days?

So, the plan for today was to reminisce childhood winters and all the snowy adventures the Amos Boys had back in the day. But, with the exception of Duane perilously sliding under an oncoming car with his sled; or Bruce riding down the Beech Street hill on sheet metal from an old furnace; or Jerry hitching rides from the back bumper of cars while skiing on his feet; these guys don’t have many snowy sagas to tell. In fact, they didn’t even get snow days off from school.

“Most students in Lansing walked to school and a foot of snow would not be a problem,” says Jerry.

Amos Boys and friends playing ball

Back, l-r; Uncle Ralph Gulick, his oldest son LaVern. Middle: Bruce and Duane. Front: Ralph and Laura's twins, Don and Ron.

What the guys do reminisce a lot of is running around the neighborhood and hanging out with friends. They remember playing ball in the street. Or kick-the-can. Or bicycle tag at night (one of their friends even painted his bike an advantageous black).

“That was our entertainment. We didn’t have all the things kids have today,” says Bruce. “There was nothing to do in the house.”

And yet, interestingly, it sounds like the Amos house was the place to be.

“We never had any grass in our front yard because all the kids congregated at our house,” says Duane. “No grass, just hard dirt. Our mom always worked, but the other kids’ moms were home. So everyone came to our front yard.”

“And in the house, sometimes, for wrestling matches,” adds Jerry. “We had a big jam pile there one time. About six guys were wrestling each other and they fell onto the couch and broke the feet off.”

Another time their friend Dick Ritchie’s sister, Delores, angrily chased him through their house. As she swiped at him with a mop, she shattered a chandelier.

Oh, man. Think of the Amos Boys’ poor mother when she came home from work.

Perhaps we should go back to talking about snow.

Jerry and his daughter Jenny

Maybe living in Lansing didn’t give the Amos Boys a lot of snowy memories. But interestingly, they all grew up and raised their families in the country. We, their children, spent a lot of time ice skating, tobogganing, and snurfing (a precursor to snowboarding, don’tcha know).

The memories that stand out most, however, are of Uncle Jerry pulling us cousins through the snowy fields on a wooden skid with his tractor.

Those were fun times, weren’t they?