Halloween: More Tricks Than Treats

Well, here it is once again—that goblin and ghoulish time of year. Do you ever wonder what Halloween was like back in the 1930-40s? Or how the Amos boys celebrated, if they did at all?

Obviously things were different back then. Jerry says most parents were too busy working long hours for the war effort and trying to make do.

“Maybe it was just our social class environment but I can’t remember any birthday parties, graduations, open houses, or parents giving any special attention to Halloween,” says Jerry. “We were on our own for fun things to do.”

Although he does remember tricking-or-treating once when he was about 11-years old and living with his Grandma Maggie and her husband Jim Adams.

“Three or four of us guys thought we were really too old for this but might try getting some candy on another street,” says Jerry. “We didn’t have costumes or masks. It was after dark and in a different neighborhood. We went up to a strange house, knocked and shouted “trick-or-treat.” A little, sweet old lady finally came to the door and seemed really taken back. She was unprepared for Halloweeners but said if we would come in she would find something for us. She returned from the kitchen with a pint jar of grape jelly and a tablespoon. Having us hold out our hands she gave each of us a nice big scoop. We thanked her and departed leaving the treat somewhere along the way back home. We never knew for sure whether we were flimflammed or not.”

Duane and Bruce

It’s too bad we don’t have any pictures of Jerry and his friends with their hands full of jelly. We do however have this cute snapshot of these two cowboys, Duane and Bruce, although I’m betting it has nothing to do with Halloween—not the stories they tell anyway!

“I don’t remember doing any trick-or-treating. I suppose the tricks we did would be considered next to vandalism,” says Duane. “There were a couple houses we picked on quite a bit.

“There was a man—I don’t remember his name, but we called him Van—we picked on him quite a bit because he always called the cops on us. We would play ball in the street in front of his house and he would call the cops. I suppose if he had just ignored us, we wouldn’t have bothered him. As it was, he fought a losing battle.”

I wonder what vandalism they did?

“Oh, just throwing rotten eggs and things like that,” says Duane. “A few kids would throw stuff at his front door and while he was yelling at them, a whole bunch of kids would be throwing eggs at the back of his house.”

Bruce has a Van story as well.

“Once we tied a rope to his front door and then wrapped it around his house and tied the other end to his back door,” says Bruce. “Then we made a lot of noise so he would come out.

“He couldn’t get out the doors. But he must have climbed out a window because all the sudden he came up behind and grabbed me. He dragged me over to the window and his wife dumped a bucket of water on me. It was a cold night and that water was real cold.”

Bruce remembers another incident with someone down the street—a woman and her friend.

“Her gentleman caller left his car parked on the street in front of her house,” says Bruce. “Back then no one locked their car doors. We got in and moved it further down the street. He thought it was stolen and called the police.”

Seems like the mention of police comes up often in the Amos boys’ stories, doesn’t it?

“We were always up to something,” says Bruce. “Whether or not it was Halloween didn’t make any difference.”

Will Family Albums Be a Thing of the Past?

Several years ago an instructor for the photography class I was taking expressed concern that a whole generation of photography would eventually go missing. His thought was that right now, in this age of digital photography, we are still new enough to the concept that we are not taking care to preserve our images. In the future however, people will realize what’s been lost and they’ll take specific measures to once again produce hardcopy photos.

He’s right, you know. I’m a perfect example.

I put together photo albums for my family up to the late 1990s (albeit in great need of organization). Somewhere after that I went digital and no longer had them printed. Oh, I always mean to. But year after year goes by and I add hundreds of pictures to my computerized stash, yet I fail to make hardcopies. At any given time, my technology could fail and I could easily loose these irreplaceable family treasures.

Does posting pictures on Facebook count? Or in a blog?

Some say our photos are safer online than in the old-fashioned photo album. But there’s something to be said about sitting down with a tangible timeline of one’s beloved family. There’s joy in turning the pages of an album—those plastic sheaths that archive the pieces of our lives. Somehow the pass of a finger across a digital screen just doesn’t compare.

We don’t have a lot of pictures of the Amos boys when they were young. Those we do have are so very, very special. We’re lucky Gladys and others took the time to shoot those photographs—it certainly was much more expensive then than now—and we’re lucky they cared enough to save them for us.

Here are good suggestions for preserving family photos and data (click here). Do you have more ideas to add? How can we make sure the pictures we take today will be there for our grandchildren and their children?

The Voices We Love

One of the funnest things about our reunion this summer was noting the obvious similarities in our family traits. From the cleft of a chin passed on to generations of men to the hilarious laughter exchanged between the female cousins, there are many cool things we Amos folks share.

These common traits carry through in the way we speak as well. When I listen to the recordings of my conference calls with the Amos Boys, I hear my sisters in myself. In the Amos Boys’ voices, I find memories of my grandfather and great-grandfather.

A while ago the Amos Boys and I were talking about school. By now we know the three of them and school didn’t always jive. The stories they tell are funny and I’m excited to share them with you, as told by the guys themselves.

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Here’s one by Bruce (click here). Don’t you just love the resonating gravel of his voice?

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Speaking of handwriting, Duane also has a story (click here). Apparently, he didn’t take the fine art of penmanship as seriously as did Bruce.

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Hmmm… (click here to hear Duane speak first, then Bruce and then Jerry)…considering Jerry is the teacher among us, wouldn’t you figure him to have been a well-read, scholastic child?

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And then there was after school. The loving banter the Amos Boys display today obviously goes way back to when they were boys (click here).

As we close this week, I have to comment on our conference call good-byes. Sometimes we’re like the Waltons, with the brothers all saying good-bye to each other. Other times the good-byes are like the one below. There’s something to listen for.

You know how each family has that someone who binds everyone together? It’s the person who organizes the gatherings, pulls in the strays, and speaks his heart for those who sometimes have trouble speaking their own. Listening to the Amos Boys, it’s easy to hear which of the three that someone is. He kept his older brothers in line back then. He keeps them in touch with each other now.

Interesting how that goes, eh? (Click here.)

Modern Day Genealogy Junkie

Gladys' list of family names

Well, where did September go? Somehow, I got extra busy and the weeks slipped by without any new posts to the blog. So sorry about that. But, hey, it’s October and we’re back!

October is also Family History Month. The Amos family is way ahead—we’ve been celebrating our history the whole year. Even so, genealogy is a study worth discussing, partly because it’s a popular trend and also because—well, of course—because it tells us who we are.

Family history made its first grab at me when I was a teenager. I remember talking with the Amos boys’ mother, (my grandmother) Gladys, and she wrote down a list of names. Then she gave me a copy of this photo. Suddenly the names became real people and I was hooked. I was a genealogy junkie.

Back then learning of our family tree was a slow and tedious hobby. I wrote to people, via U.S. mail, and then I waited. I sat in libraries and scanned through microfilm. Nowadays, the internet brings everything to an immediate accessibility. Some say it’s taken away the thrill of the hunt, but, hey, I’m a busy woman so I’ll take less thrill and more reward.

Have you gone online and checked out Ancestry.com?

Paisley Laing Military record

At this time, Ancestry.com is the biggest genealogy resource and with its claim of 10 billion records, it’s the candy shop of family history. One can’t decide which direction to go first. Birth? Immigration? Military? Census? With a simple click of your mouse on the waving green leaf you can find interesting artifacts like this military pension record for our Paisley Laing (the Amos boys’ great-grandfather).

Yes, Ancestry.com charges a subscription fee to join. But you can also check your local library – many hold subscriptions and allow you to use it for free. If you join, let’s share information!

So what about you? Are you a genealogy junkie? What does knowing our family tree mean to you?