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.
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 But according to information Jerry gathered from Michigan historical documents and talking with relatives; in 1929, Roland and Gladys lived around the corner from one another.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?
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.”
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.