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?

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7 thoughts on “The Last Hurrah of Summer

  1. So when you say if the kid fell in the out house pit it would be easier to make a new one….. did they mean the out house, or the kid.

  2. I remember one year at Grayling, Dad sat on and broke several of us kids’ little canvas covered folding camping stools, one after another trying to find a place to sit.

    At Crystal Lake, I remember driving Grandma’s 3-wheeler around the trailer park with Buck or Joel in the basket, along with Grandma’s little dog Mickey, whom we called Killer.

  3. I am late again but wanted to add some stories. I remember great times at Grayling with all the cousins. I remember when the aunts found a great deal on bananas at the local grocery store and we had to eat banana everything.

    We picked a lot of wild huckleberries and went swimming in the lake down at the end of the road.

    One time a bunch of the cousins were up on the dunes and Scott ( another Scott story) had a bow and arrow and wanted to try it out. We were all standing in a group around him when he decided it would be interesting to see what would happen if he shot the arrow straight up in the air. I remember all of us screaming at him not to do it but he let the arrow fly. We all scattered, running for our lives. I just kept picturing someone with an arrow sticking out of their head. I don’t remember where the arrow finally landed but we all let Scott know what we thought of his little experiment.

    I spent a lot of time at Crystal Lake with Grandma Klotz. She would pick me up at home and we would stop on the way to the lake for ice cream cones. One for me, one for her and one for Mickey aka Killer. We would hang out at the trailer and play cards, read and I would swim. I don’t remember Grandma ever going in the water. I became a really good euchre playing from spending time with Grandma and her girlfriends. I also learned to make a killer whiskey and water just the way Grandma liked it. Add two cubes of ice to glass. Add whiskey to cover ice. Turn on cold water tap. Move glass quickly through water stream. Deliver to Grandma. I have a whiskey and water every once in a while to toast Grandma.

  4. Does anyone remember some of us on Grandma Klotz’ porch at Crystal Lake fishing for suckers? We had an old billfold with a dollar sticking out of it in the road out front. It was the bait on our fising line. We sat on the porch holding the fishing rod and waited for unsuspecting dupes. It was more fun than regular fishing. One older, stuffshirt man didn’t think it was funny but most victims laughed with us.

  5. I was rather young when I married and moved to Wisconsin so I missed out on both Crystal Lake and getting to know Grandma on a more adult level (fishing for suckers, now that must have been fun:-).

    I have so many special memories of Grayling though! Things like singing around the campfire, making s’mores, and eating those yummy fruit pie made from bread crusts. Or riding the bucking bronco, jumping off the sand dunes in the fire lane, and canoeing on the Au Sable (sans beer, of course). I remember all of us punk kids piling in the backseat while Uncle Jerry was teaching Shelly to drive stick shift. I’m sure we were exceptionally bratty and she would have liked to kick us out and make us walk.

    A few years ago we drove down those Lake Margrethe roads. Of course, it has all changed so much and is filled with houses. Kind of sad, that way. But we still have all these memories!

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