A Game Board Much More than a Birthday Board

Game Table

Perhaps the greatest mystery in life for the male gender is shopping for females. Combine that with an adolescent’s natural absence of cognitive thinking and you’re guaranteed a doozie of a present.

And so it was for Gladys one year for her birthday (actually, it turns out this may have been a Christmas gift, but we’ll talk about today since today is Gladys’ day).

It seems Bruce got the idea the three boys should go down to Knapp’s Department Store and pick out a gift. For those of you unfamiliar with the store, Knapp’s was synonymous with great quality and, of course, expense.

“We found the perfect gift,” says Jerry. “It was a beautiful, wood, card table-like, game table with a shiny roulette pointer, a checker board, and other game designs. They say we often get gifts for others that we would like for ourselves. This may have been evidence of that.”

Apparently Gladys wasn’t too happy with the gift, especially when she learned the boys charged it to her credit card.

“I may have been 14 at the time,” says Bruce. That means Duane was 16 and Jerry was 11.

Perhaps the table didn’t go over well back then, but over the years generations of kids and adults have gotten lots of enjoyment from it. In fact, Duane still has it (come to the reunion and check it out!)

Anyway, Gladys obviously was a tolerant woman. And as Bruce said in last week’s post, she put up with a whole lot raising her boys.

You may remember a post back in February, when the three guys described their household as the place to gather for all their friends. Gladys would come home from work to broken decor such as her couch and chandelier.

“Mom had a pretty good temper once in a while,” says Jerry. “It would flair up.”

“Oh yeah, I remember her chasing me around the dining room table with a spatula. I had done something,” says Bruce. “We went round and round that table. Finally it got kind of ridiculous and we both started laughing. By that time, she forgot what she was going to spank me for.”

Duane relayed a similar story.

“Once I was playing with matches at the dining room table,” says Duane. “I built a little house out of wooden matches and then lit it on fire. It didn’t burn through but it charred the wood. Oh, I saw her temper then. She had a frying pan. Same thing happened—she chased me round the table until it got funny. She let me live.”

Even at the end of a weary day, when the comforts of an inviting bed should have awaited her, Gladys didn’t always find rest.

“Once I was working on a project and I needed some wood,” says Jerry. “So I took slats from Mom’s bed. That night she got into bed and the whole thing collapsed.”

Sigh…(along with the chuckles).

That Gladys—she sure was quite a woman, wasn’t she?

And how wonderful that her three boys grew up to become loving, doting sons who took great care of their mother.

Remembering Gladys

Back in February when I wrote of the difficulties Roland and Glady had, it felt a bit like a betrayal. As their grandchild, I think I can vouch for the rest of my generation when I say that both Roland and Gladys were super people (in fact, we even share Super Grandma stories…but more on those in the months to come).

So now is my time for restitution. Because this upcoming week is Gladys’ birthday—she would have been 101—she is our person of the week. There’s a lot of great stuff to talk about because, after all, she was Super Grandma.

Gladys was born on April 27, 1911, to Earl and Maggie (Laing) Gulick. She and her older brother Ralph grew up living right next door to her grandparents Perry and Fidelia Gulick, and just a farm or two away from any number of extended Gulick relatives.

This family togetherness was part of Gladys’ growing up. Her first cousin, once removed, was Golda Gulick McBride and, being just a year apart in age, the two were always close friends. Much of what we know of Gladys’ childhood comes from stories Golda shared with Jerry many years later.

“When she was little, she had a pet chicken,” says Jerry. “In the cold weather, it slept on top of the horse to stay warm. One night it froze to death. Her brother Ralph must have done something to tease her about it because she got mad and chased him with a butcher knife. She had a bit of a temper. She got that from her mother probably.”

Childhood wasn’t always easy for Gladys. Her parents had marital problems and for many years, from when she was 5-11 years old, she and Ralph lived next door with their grandparents. By that time, Grandpa Perry had suffered a stroke and wasn’t in his right mind. As the story goes, once Ralph was working in the field and when he took a break under a tree, he looked up to find Perry standing over him with an ax. Perry also was said to have gotten up during nights and done strange things such as setting the table for a houseful of company.

According to Golda, Gladys was afraid of Perry. Her bed was at the top of the stairs and she slept close to the edge in case she had to get out fast.

Eventually Gladys’ parents divorced. Earl remarried a woman named Clara (White) Swanson, who came as a package with four daughters (one of whom would later marry Ralph).

“For a while she (Gladys) moved in with Earl and Clara, so she had some stepsisters to try and get along with. I don’t think she lived with them too long,” says Jerry. “She got passed around. But not as much as one of Clara’s daughters, Francis—she was sent off to relatives in Chicago, then over to Bay City, then back again, then back to Bay City. There was quite a bit of that going on back then—families splitting up and they couldn’t take care of all the kids.”

Life was transitional for Gladys during her young adult years as well. For a while she lived with her mother Maggie, who had moved to Lansing and remarried to Jim (JR) Adams. Then, for a while she lived with her brother in a house next door to Maggie and Jim. She quit high school after 10th grade and began business classes at Lansing Business University.

I ask Duane and Bruce if they had heard many stories of their mother’s younger days. They both say no, Gladys didn’t talk much about it.

“She had her hands full just trying to keep Duane in line,” banters Bruce. We all get a good laugh from that.

But really, there’s a lot of truth in that statement. In 1929, Gladys married Roland and within a few years was the mother to three young boys. On top of that, her husband was often gone from home and she worked whatever job she could during the difficult times of the Depression. So, yes, Gladys had her hands full.

“When she could find some relaxation and fun, she had it,” says Jerry. “Just to keep her sanity, I guess.”

Coca Cola Girls

Coca Cola Girls 1930’s. Gladys (the Amos Boys’ mother) is in lower left

Over the years Gladys worked many jobs, including a job as a Coca Cola girl installing bottle openers in people’s homes. Most of her jobs, however, were office positions. When she worked as a bookkeeper for Liberty Highway, the manager provided her with a pickup truck because she had no other way of getting to work.

“The fellow that managed that truck company was very nice to her and always willing to help her any way he could,” says Bruce.

I’m thinking she must have been a valued employee, if the company was willing to provide her transportation.

“Yes,” says Jerry. “She was good at her job. She knew what she was doing.”

Eventually, Gladys got a job with the Michigan National Guard and worked there until she retired in 1966.

“When she got with the National Guard, that was the best paying job she’d ever had up to that point,” says Bruce.

“Yeah, she made a lot of friends there,” adds Jerry. “She worked with a lot of big shots. Colonel Case was her boss and she fixed him up with her friend, Joyce. They (Case and Joyce) eventually got married.”

In 1949, Gladys had been divorced for a couple years when she met a man named Emil Messerschmidt. He ran a meat packing plant. Emil and Gladys married and she moved her then-teenage boys into his big house. They weren’t married long however.

Duane and Hack, 1949

“I went down to Indiana before they got married. Then I went in the Navy. So I didn’t really know him or what went on there,” says Duane.

“He kind of liked to run everything,” says Bruce.

“People called him Hack,” says Jerry. “He’d get cantankerous. He could be pretty gruff and was used to bossing everyone around. Mom was pretty independent. She didn’t appreciate anyone bossing her around, outside of her boss at work.”

I ask if that independence was her personality? A trait acquired out of necessity? Or, maybe both?

“Back then most families were pretty traditional. She was ahead of her time,” says Jerry. “Most people assumed then that the woman stayed at home and took care of things, and the man made the money and made the decisions.”

“It was essential for her to work and be in charge,” says Bruce. “She brought us boys up basically on her own.”

Did the Amos Boys get their strong work ethic from their mother?

“Undoubtedly,” says Duane.

“I would think so, yes,” says Bruce.

“She had a lot of energy, I know that,” says Jerry. “She would work all day, come home, and then she was always rearranging the furniture.”

“Well, she had to keep Duane out of trouble,” says Bruce. “Really though, looking back, you have to give her a lot of credit. She put up with a whole lot raising us boys.”

In 1965, Gladys married again. She married Leo Klotz and when it comes to nice guys, she hit the jackpot. Leo had been a security guard during his working days and was active in the Moose Lodge, as was Gladys. Together they enjoyed a busy social life with lots of friends. Sadly, they were only married three years when Leo died of a massive heart attack.

As we look at Gladys, we see a woman who took the good things in life along with the sometimes-not-so-good. From there, she went ahead the best she knew how.

And she loved her boys.

Somehow, as I’ve acquired family mementos, I was given this note. It’s a thank-you written by Gladys to her boys and it’s really special. I think these few words say more of who she was as a person than anything we can write.

In 1987, Gladys noticed she was having trouble managing the treasurer’s position she held at the Cedar Place Retirement Community where she lived. Medical tests revealed she had an aggressive brain tumor and not long to live. She moved in with Jerry and Elaine, and on March 27, 1988, she peacefully passed away.

She was one month from her 77th birthday.

Happy birthday to Super Grandma! What special memories do you have to share?

Get Those Cars Tuned, We’re Doing a Road Trip

So, one activity we’re planning for the reunion is a drive-by tour of places important to our family history. Topping that off in order of interest is easily the town of Laingsburg.

Laingsburg, as you remember, was founded by our ancestor Peter Laing (the Doctor Peter Laing). We know a lot about him from the book The Hill and Below, by Birdie Colby and Emma Jane Wright. It’s a historical tribute to the town of Laingsburg and delves into the generational details of Peter and his family.

In 1833, Peter, his wife Mary, and seven of their nine children came from Wilton, NY, to Michigan. They settled in Ann Arbor where Peter set up a medical practice. In 1835, however, his wife Mary died.

Blood Tavern, Laingsburg, MI

Colby, Birdie, and Emma Jane Wright. The Hill and Below. Exponent Press. 1976. pg. 21.

The next year Peter left Ann Arbor and moved northward to Shiawassee County. Here, on the southeast corner of what is now Fenner and Grand River Roads, he built a log cabin tavern. This became a stopping place for travelers along the Grand River Trail, and later, when owned by someone else, it was called the Blood Tavern, or the “Old Red.”

Peter Laing's Home

Colby, Birdie, and Emma Jane Wright. The Hill and Below. Exponent Press. 1976. pg. 13.

That same year Peter built a home and second tavern near what is now Crum and Church Streets in Laingsburg. In 1837 he established a post office in the tavern and became the first postmaster. Thus the town’s name—Laingsburg.

Peter and Laura Laing

Colby, Birdie, and Emma Jane Wright. The Hill and Below. Exponent Press. 1976. pg. 8-9.

In 1844, Peter remarried. His second wife’s name was Mrs. Laura Louisa Kemp, and together they had two more children; Charles and Paisley. Paisley, of course, is noteworthy because he is the Amos Boys’ great-grandfather. (The name Paisley is interesting in itself. It shows up so many times in the Laing family—even some of the women have it as their middle name.) Also, take note of Peter’s age when he married Laura: 56 years old. And he was 60 when Paisley was born!

So, here are a couple sites to put on our tour. Don’t worry, we’ll make up a map with everything clearly marked (really, I’m surprised Mapquest doesn’t specifically mention the Amos name in their online maps).

In the meantime, here are three interesting newspaper articles. Jerry has several more, but guess what, you’ve got to come to the reunion to see them!

This first article is about Helen Lucretia Phelps. She’s not directly related to us, but I thought its headline deserved attention. Can you imagine the uproar it would cause today? I asked the Amos Boys who might have been “non-white?” Native American Indians.

Laingsburg area newspaper

According to Jerry, at one time there was a push to change the town’s name to Sleepy Hollow. This next article covers a bit of that topic. The name change didn’t go through, obviously, but now there is a Sleepy Hollow State Park nearby.

Laingsburg newspaper

Laingsburg newspaper

Fashionistas in Our Own Right

Two years ago when I blogged about the Larson side of my family, I featured our stylish Easter fashions. Well, certainly we can’t have the Amos family outdone, so I’m doing the same for us this week.

Actually, historical photos prove we Amos’ are a very stylish people (in our own special way). Let’s take a look at this collage of fashionistas, which maybe isn’t in correct chronological order. But that’s okay, because maybe we didn’t always express our great sense of style in the correct chronological era.

Glen and Earl Gulick

In a past episode of our family tree, there’s a picture of Earl Gulick and his brother Glen. Of all things, poor Earl is stuck wearing a skirt. In this picture he’s grown enough to wear short pants. True, he has leggings underneath and some bow around his neck, but at least he’s now into pants.

Duane and Bruce

Not only do we have musicians in our family, we have cowboys as well. Here are Duane and Bruce looking mighty pleased.

Bruce and JerryAnd here are Bruce and Jerry, looking mighty sharp. It’s interesting that even in the hard times of the Depression, it was still important to dress up. For example, Duane, Bruce and Jerry wore leather shoes, even to school.

“We didn’t wear tennis shoes like they do now, except to play basketball,” says Jerry.

“In grade school we had leather shoes with a pocket on the side of the shoe that snapped shut,” says Bruce. “The pocket was for our jack knives. We took knives to school to play Mumbly Peg.”

Times have changed a bit, eh?

It’s been said the Amos Boys were some saavy dressers as young men. Jerry says it must have been Duane and Bruce, because all he wore were blue jeans and T-shirts.

“All the kids in high school were wearing peg pants,” says Duane. “They were real narrow at the cuffs.”

“They tapered from the knee down,” adds Bruce.

“Do you remember, Bruce, we went to Owosso to a high school dance?” asks Duane. He’s recalling a dance they attended with Carol and Jeanne. “We happened to go in the john and we thought we were going to get beat up. The guys there didn’t even know what peg pants were. We apparently stood out.”

I wondered what kind of socks they wore with those tight pants. White? Black?

“Argyle,” says Jerry. “Argyle socks and argyle sweaters.”

Well, the guys weren’t the only ones paying attention to socks. Their women did as well. Jerry’s wife Elaine remembers wearing blue jeans rolled up just below the knee and their socks rolled down. And of course, they wore saddle shoes.

“I remember cutting off the top part of socks and adding that cutoff top to the cuff of the socks you were wearing,” says Elaine. “We rolled all of that down so you had a big round roll above the ankle. Crazy look but that was what we were doing.”

Vote for Elaine!

Elaine went from a high school girl rolling her socks down in the 1950s, to foxy mom and politician in the 60-70s.

And the hair got higher…

Bruce and Jeanne 1972

…and higher.

Here’s Jeanne with some big hair, together with Bruce in his lovely, ruffled shirt. But just in case Bruce’s son Scott is prone to teasing, let’s take a look at his outfit…

Like I said, we have cowboys in our family.

Elaine, Vicki, Carol, Terri

Here it’s 1971 and the young generation is separating their style from their parents’. Elaine and Carol still have the big hair, but Vicki and Terri are into long, flowing tresses. And bangs.

What about Carol’s paisley print dress? Wouldn’t that be a vintage treasure today?

But the eyeglasses—oh, the eyeglasses! Those are what’s funnest of all.

Jerri Lynn’s cat-eye glasses are well complimented with her flowery headband, don’t you think?

Vintage sunglasses

Here are some vintage sunglasses possibly from the 1960s. They’re part of Elaine’s cool collection of eyeglassware (I bet she where’s these when she goes out with the girls:-).

Isn’t it amazing what slaves we are to fashion? For 40 years I wondered what the heck I was thinking when I wore those black glasses. Now look, here I am again.

And last, since it’s Easter and we just can’t overlook this beautiful day, here are some Easter bonnet darlings—Vicki and Shelley.

Happy Easter everyone! May you have a very blessed day!