It’s Harvest Season!

Garden Harvest

Here we are, already into September and the summer’s winding down. While we’ve been reaping the benefits of gardens for months, now’s the time we really pull out those baskets and bring in the produce.

How many of you are gardeners? What do you grow and what are your favorites?

Back in the day, when the Amos boys were young, many families gardened out of necessity. During the Great Depression they participated in Relief Gardens and during World War II they had Victory gardens. I asked the boys if they remember gardening and here’s what they had to say.

“When I was little and lived on Beaver Street (with grandmother Maggie and her husband Jim Adams), it was during the war and everyone was supposed to have a Victory Garden,” says Jerry. “A lot of people on our street had little gardens out back. Jim Adams, he always had a big garden. Every time friends would stop he’d load them up with sweet corn, tomatoes…whatever he had. He always grew more than we could use. He’d also load me up with a basket and let me go around to the neighbors and sell some.”

“We never had a garden as kids that I could remember,” says Duane.

“Well, the only place we could’ve had one was the front,” says Bruce, referring to their mother Gladys’ yard.

“Which was, what, like 6×8-feet?” asks Jerry. “And all trampled down from the kids that were always there. The dirt was like concrete.”

Isn’t it interesting how things go? In the years following World War II, gardening was no longer a means of subsistence. Food was plentiful and the idea of raising fruits and vegetables was relegated to just a charming hobby. And even though the Amos boys or their wives were amongst these quaint hobbiests (remember Jeanie’s 52 jars of pickles—one for each week of the year), much of the American population simply drove to the store and picked up a box of well-processed, packaged food.

Nowadays the pendulum has begun to swing. Gardening and knowing where your food originates has become quite the fad (one we should rightfully credit to the millennium generation). We now regularly use terms such as ‘foodie,’ community gardens and CSAs. And everyone wants their ingredients to be grown locally and in a sustainable fashion.

Food has definitely taken a turnabout. Kind of like how it was back in the 1930s and 40s, yes?

Farmer Jerry

No it’s not a tree root, it’s a parsnip! “One of Farmer Jerry’s pride and joys of gardening,” says Elaine. 

Hey folks, share some of your gardening stories. How did the weather affect your success this year? How are you getting your food these days?

The Last Hurrah of Summer

Happy Labor Day! Today is the day we celebrate laborers by relaxing and not laboring at all. We relish the last of fun-in-the-sun before officially moving on to autumn. And we reminisce the fun getaways our Amos families did up north.

Remember those days?

Gladys and Jerry at Grayling

Jerry and his mother Gladys, Grayling, MI

In the 1960s and 70s, the Amos families all headed to Grayling, an outdoor sanctuary 145 miles northwest of Lansing. Here’s how that all came about, according to the Amos boys.

If you remember, back in the 1950s Gladys worked for the Michigan National Guard Quartermaster General. At that time the Guard owned several thousand acres near Grayling and around Lake Margrethe, all of which were part of the Michigan National Guard Camp Grayling. In what Jerry describes as “sort of a shady deal,” the Guard divided land on the north end of the lake into small lots (25 X 100 feet) and offered them for sale to Guard employees first and then to the public.

“At a very low price,” says Jerry. “Maybe $15 each. Mom (Gladys) didn’t have much money but she bought a slug of this cheap property. These lots in the woods were a terrific place for all of us.”

(Interestingly, the governor later decided this great land deal to employees was a bit unethical and some of Gladys’ bosses lost their jobs.)

“In 1960 Elaine and I moved our little homemade trailer from the Guard trailer park (near where I worked at the beer warehouse in summer) around the lake to Mom’s lots,” says Jerry. “We dug a big hole, built an outhouse and were good to go. We three men, Jeanie, Carol, Elaine, Mom and most of our little rug rats were camping out and having a load of fun. We decided that if any of the kids fell in the outhouse hole, rather than trying to clean them up, it would be easier to make a new one.”

Duane and Bruce drilling a well

“I remember the one time Jerry wanted us to drill a well,” says Duane. “Bruce and I were there, waiting for Jerry. He was still home, “planning” the drilling. Bruce and I went ahead and did it because we only had to dig down 20 feet or so.”

“I’ve got to add my two cents,” interupts Bruce. “I brought the stuff to drill the well and when I got there, Duane was already there. Jerry was late, as normal. He’s always been late, as long as I can remember. Duane was getting antsy to drill that well. I said ‘let’s wait ‘til Jerry gets here,’ but Duane, he wanted to get started.

“Duane had never drilled a well before, but I had helped drill one. Duane found out it was a lot more work than he thought and he wished we’d waited ’til Jerry got there. Well, we did drive the well. Jerry got there just about the time we got it done.”

“They did it just right,” laughs Jerry. “No mistakes.”

“Up at Grayling, there in the woods, we had a lot of fun,” says Jerry. “We cut logs and built a lot of stuff. We made a bucking horse with a log and ropes. And we had a swing, an outhouse and a shower.”

Amos Boys children 1960s

Speaking for my generation, yes, we, the Amos boys’ children had lots of fun. I remember us cousins all sleeping together in the big army tent and telling stories late at night.

Yep, Super Grandma stories.

Like, what would happen if our parents got drunk and took a butcher knife to us children. And tried to slaughter us. Every last one of us.

Super Grandma would save the day! Super Grandma would save us all!

Funny thing is, I don’t remember any drinking going on. Except maybe this canoe trip on the mighty Au Sable River.

Amos Boys canoeing on Au Sable River

Supposedly, the Amos boys and their wives were just trying to pass the beer from one canoe to another. Yes, that’s all. But somehow the canoes tipped over and we can only imagine what was lost. It’s a good thing we kids were back at camp under the diligent care of Super Grandma.

Wait, are those beer cans we’re holding in that picture?

Eventually, Gladys sold her Grayling lots. The Amos boys said they would’ve liked to have bought them, at least some of them, but she sold them to someone else.

“In the late 1970s Gladys had a small travel trailer that she took to Florida two or three times,” writes Jerry in an email. “She had a roomer or someone do the driving. The last year down there she got lonesome and depressed, and after that didn’t return.”

Instead Gladys began renting a lot in the Crystal Lake campground, located about 50 miles northwest of Lansing.

“Later Mom moved to a larger trailer and had a screen porch added where we had some wonderful meals, happy discussions and a fair amount of drinking. Mom liked whiskey and water, light on the water,” writes Jerry, in his humorous way. “There was always something going on in the park and lots of people to socialize with. She loved the place and enjoyed all the noise and commotion when the kids came up. We would go up for the Fourth of July celebrations, and other times when the weather was good. These good times were in the late 70’s and early 80’s.”

So, what are your favorite memories of camping up at Grayling? Or going to the trailer at Crystal Lake?