Food Fads

A & P (March 16, 1936) Public Domain, nypl.org

A & P (March 16, 1936) Digital ID: 1219150, public domain, nypl.org

Have you ever noticed how food is like fashion? How it changes over time and what we ate in some eras, we may not in others? For example, the recipes we posted last week—many of them were from the 1960s and there were lots of jellos and sugar. Compare them to the healthier, natural foods we eat nowadays.

“I remember when we were kids we had salmon a lot,” says Duane. “And when Bruce would get home from school he always had an onion and peanut butter sandwich. And I had a mustard sandwich.”

“At lunch time we had grilled cheese,” adds Jerry. “I also liked scrambled eggs and cereal. I’d have that in evenings a lot. I’d have a scrambled egg sandwich. That’s why I was the fattest kid in fifth grade.”

Seriously? Jerry was fat?!

The Amos Boys say they don’t remember their mother Gladys having any foods that were her specialty. Because she worked out of the house each day until 5 o’ clock, she didn’t have a lot of time for creative cooking.

“I don’t think she had a recipe box or paid a lot of attention to recipes,” says Jerry. “Other than a few slips of paper here and there, I don’t remember seeing any of the standard cookbooks in our house. I remember her cooking a lot of liver. She would send us over to the back of Curtis’ store and he’d give it to us.

“When I lived with my grandma Maggie and her husband Jim Adams, it was pretty much meat and potatoes. There weren’t very many vegetables. We had a lot of chicken because they raised chickens. We raised them for meat and eggs.”

I ask the Amos Boys if they had a favorite meal?

“I remember going to the Famous Grill when I was quite small. My grandfolks never went to restaurants but I went with Mom, and maybe you guys,” Jerry says to Bruce and Duane. “I had a grill cheese sandwich and chocolate milk, and it was about the best thing I ever tasted.”

“That was on the corner of Larch and Michigan, wasn’t it?” says Duane.

“Well, as an adult, I always enjoyed Jeanie’s spaghetti dinners,” says Bruce. “The kids loved those too.”

“I’ll tell you what Bruce’s favorite was when he was a kid, like 12-13 years old,” says Jerry. “Mashed potatoes. My grandmother was having a big dinner. I don’t remember whether it was Thanksgiving or what, but there was probably dumplings and chicken and mashed potatoes and all kinds of stuff. Mom got mad at Bruce because he only wanted a big plate of mashed potatoes.”

“I can’t really remember any specific thing that was my favorite,” says Duane. “I remember when I went down to Topeka after I graduated from high school, they (grandfather Wm. Arthur and his wife Hazel) had a lot of things I’d never had before. Like fried cucumbers. They had a lot of vegetables and we didn’t have them much growing up.”

I ask if the foods they ate when they were young were shipped in from far away?

No, the Amos Boys say the food was pretty local. You know how we always hear that oranges were special treats for Christmas? That was true for them, as well.

“You couldn’t get bananas during the war either,” says Jerry. “Anything that had to be shipped, you couldn’t get. All the ships were busy with the war. There wasn’t a lot of produce except in the summer, when people went door to door.”

Interesting how that goes, isn’t it? Nowadays, local food is a popular buzzword and we’re willing to pay extra for it so we can “live sustainably.” Back then, however, people often struggled just to sustain life.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving, early 1990sAmos Thanksgiving, mid-1990s


Well, here it is, a few days after Thanksgiving…a.k.a. recovery mode. Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend!

I’ve asked the Amos Boys about their childhood Thanksgivings and they didn’t have any stories to offer. But as adults, they and their wives sure created wonderful Thanksgiving memories for their children and grandchildren, didn’t they? So many of us associate this special day with the gathering of family, lots of fun and laughter, the blue and silver of the Detroit Lions and a huge spread of the most awesome food.

Oh, the food!

So this post is about food (the cool picture above was after-dinner entertainment by the Amos Boys’ grandchildren—remember that, kiddos?). Food, as we know, is a universal language. It unites generations and documents our history. Here’s a sampling from the Amos Foodie Files (you can “right click” your mouse on any of these images and save the recipe for future reference).

Jerry and Elaine have a Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook that belonged to the Amos Boys’ mother Gladys. Jerry says she probably got it after they were grown and she had more time to cook (more on that next week). Anyway, the following are loose leaf recipes Gladys filed in that book.

Chex Mix RecipeWhat would Thanksgiving be without Chex Mix?

pickle recipe

I remember two of my cousins being quite the pickle connaisseurs …ahem, Shelley, Jenny.

Heavenly Fruit Salad recipe

 Jello salads of any kind were a mainstay at every gathering.50 People Salad

 Is it a salad? A dressing? Whatever it is, you surely want to save
this for your next feeding of the 50. No calories here. At all. 


Gladys wasn’t the only one who cooked for family gatherings. In fact, her daughters-in-law Carol and Jeanie were excellent cooks, and we know from this summer’s family reunion that Jerry, Elaine and family should be assigned the role of family chefs.

Here are some of their recipes.

Carrot Bread Recipe

Jeanie’s Carrot Bread and Cranberry Salad

Carol's German Potato Salad recipeCarol's German Potato SaladCarol’s German Potato Salad
(Carol’s daughter-in-law, Cindy, has this recipe mastered.
It’s like Thanksgiving 1960-70s once again!)


So, tell us! What are your Amos Thanksgiving memories? And what were your favorite foods? How does the food you cook nowadays compare to days gone by?

Share your stories! Share your recipes!

Revisiting Topeka

Three weeks ago, having left Philadelphia early to avoid Hurricane Sandy, we found ourselves driving through Indiana with a bit of time to spare. In my opinion, unscheduled, meandrous travels are times of serendipitous happenstance. This trip was no exception.

We got off the I-80/90 freeway at the Indiana-Ohio border and headed 30 miles southwest on country roads to Swan, Indiana. This is where our Amos and Holmes ancestors settled.

Swan, Indiana

Swan is a small cluster of houses on Old State Road 3, just off Highway 3 (it doesn’t even show up as a village on the map, but is listed as a township). If we let our imaginations run, we could wonder if the old building in the background was Charles Wesley Amos’s carpenter shop.

Just south of Swan, the Swan Cemetery is at the intersection of Old State Road 3 and E 300 S (creative street naming at its best). Here the Holmes and Cramer families are buried—if you remember, these are names from the Amos Boys’ Grandmother Beatrice’s side of the family.

Because it was cold and raining (thanks to Hurricane Sandy) and because there are over 900 interments in the Swan Cemetery, we were not about to get out and search for gravestones. Mark that down for next time, along with some advance research!

Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan, Noble Co. Indiana

Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

We did, however, find the Bethlehem Cemetery, a much smaller, quaint, country cemetery located a few miles west on Swan Road. And here is the Amos family!

Charles Wesley and Elizabeth Amelia (Jarrett) Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Charles Wesley Amos military marker, 5 IND Battalion, G.A.R. Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Charles and Elizabeth (Jarrett) are the Amos Boys great-grandparents. On the gravestone it reads 5 IND BAT. G.A.R. for Charles’ military service during the Civil War.

Andrew and Catharine Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Our son, Jonathan, needed to be in South Bend later that week. Not trusting the flights out of his town of Philadelphia, he hitched a ride with us. Jonathan’s middle name is Amos so spending 3-4 hours with his parents on a cold, rainy legacy tour was especially meaningful…right, Jonny? (Thanks again, Hurricane Sandy, he says.)

Andrew Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co., Indiana

Catharine Mottinger Amos gravestone, Bethlehem Cemetery, Swan Township, Noble Co. Indiana

Andrew and Catharine (Mottinger) Amos were Charles Wesley’s parents. If you recall, Andrew was born in Hanover, Germany. At some point, he immigrated to America and settled in Ohio, where he married Catharine. Together, they raised their family in Swan.

From here, we loaded back into the car and headed westward. We drove past Corunna, a town my father Duane has often mentioned; and Kendallville, where Duane remembers, as children, he and Bruce went shopping every Friday with their Grandmother Beatrice.

Late in the afternoon, we arrived in Topeka.

Amish buggy in Topeka, Indiana

In some ways Topeka is the same town I remember as a child. It still has only one stop light. There still is a hardware store on the corner. And there still are Amish—in fact, there are lots of Amish!

Just as Duane described on the phone, if you turn west at the street light (Main and Lake St) and go one block to Babcock St., there on the corner is the building that was their grandfather Wm. Arthur Amos’s blacksmith shop. Interestingly, it still looks somewhat the same. It’s now the Eastside Harness and Tack Shop, and here is a blog with lots of photos of the shop.

I later called Eastside and left a phone message. The owner called back and also left a message. He said Arthur Amos was before his time, however his father remembered such a blacksmith shop. I’m still trying to connect with him.

209 S. Babcock, Topeka, Indiana

Does this house look familiar? It’s 209 S. Babcock St., in Topeka, and it’s where Arthur and his second wife Hazel lived. Many of us may remember coming here when we were young.

How’s this for fun…the house is currently for sale and it’s listed on this realtor’s page. You can see the interior rooms and imagine how they looked decades ago.

On the outskirts of Topeka is Eden Cemetery. Here, Wm. Arthur and his first wife Beatrice are buried. I’ve marked this cemetery for a return-trip-to-do list but in the meantime, you can check out their gravestone on this page.

So that was our trip. In spite of some nasty weather, it was still lots of fun and very special. Definitely one to do again on a nicer day!

The Amos Alley Cats

During the 1930s, 40s and ’50s, Americans set themselves up in a bowling craze, and Amos’s were knocking pins with the best of them.

“Bowling was really big back then,” says Duane. “During the Depression and World War II times—there was no money and there was gas rationing. You couldn’t get out and do anything else.”

Apparently the Amos Boys’ father, Roland, was a pretty good bowler. When he worked for REO, he bowled in their leagues and bowled a 300 game.

Their mother, Gladys, was a good bowler as well.

“I remember one time out to Spartan bowling alley, there was a tournament and Dad put Mom’s name in,” says Duane. “It was just a local tournament but the first prize was $100. Anyway, Mom won it. I don’t suppose she gave Dad any of that money.”

“That was a couple weeks’ wages back then,” says Jerry.

“Funny thing, at the time, Dad worked at that bowling alley,” says Duane. “And back then, things weren’t automated like they are now. Someone had to sit in a booth to watch for people stepping over the foul line. I was about 14 and Dad had me sitting in the booth. Probably if people knew I was up there, they wouldn’t have approved.”

“Conflict of interest,” laughs Jerry.

If you recall, it’s likely Roland met his second wife, Harriet, at a bowling alley. And if you’re old enough to have visited their home on Holmes St., you certainly remember the great display of bowling trophies on the dresser in the back bedroom.

“Harriet was probably one of the top women bowlers in Lansing,” says Bruce. “But after she and Dad were married, they didn’t bowl as much.”

The Amos Boys have bowling memories as well.

In high school Duane, Bruce and their cousin LaVern were on a team together in a school-sponsored league.

“I got involved in bowling for several years,” says Bruce. “I was on that same high school team. And after high school I bowled in league bowling for several years. Jeanie was a good bowler too.”

“I remember being like 5-6 years old and going to an alley sometimes. I’d be staying with Mom for a bit, and we’d go for her league days,” says Jerry. “There were all these smells and the sounds, everybody yelling and screaming. Once I ran up to the return to grab a ball. Everyone started hollering at me because another ball was coming up the ramp, but I didn’t know and I got my hand pinched between two balls.”

Ouch!

But interestingly, the Amos’s didn’t just knock down the pins, they set them up as well. Manually. In fact, you could say they were part of what today is a lost art.

They were pinboys. (Here’s an interesting article and photo on that.)

“When we were younger, like 13-14, our Dad worked at the Spartan bowl,” says Bruce. “We were substitutes because at that alley grown men set the pins.”

Later, he and Duane worked at the Strand Bowling Alley.

“I was between jobs,” says Duane, of a time when he was about 15-16. “After a couple days of sitting around the house, Ma told me to go out and get a job. She didn’t care what it was, I just had to get a job. So I set pins at the Strand.”

The Amos Boys describe pinsetting as a typical job for kids who hadn’t found anything else. It was low-paying, part-time and flying pins often made it dangerous.

“There was a cut-out between the alleys and you sat in there. When you got a little better you could set two lanes at once,” says Duane.

I wonder if this manuel setup of pins slowed the game?

“No, it wasn’t much slower,” says Bruce. “It takes the automated setup just as long to run its cycle as it did for us to pick them up. Even when you did two lanes. That’s where the courtesy of bowling comes from—you don’t bowl two lanes at the same time because of that.”

“Pinsetters got pretty fast,” says Jerry. “Some of them could pick up 3-4 pins at a time. I tried it for one evening in North Lansing and that was enough for me. Plus the guy wouldn’t pay me.”

Bummer. But if you did get paid, how much was it?

“You got paid like piece work. You got paid for each game you set,” says Bruce.

“You liked it when you got good bowlers because they’d get more strikes and the game would go quicker,” says Duane.

So there you have it—stories of the Amos Alley Cats. Next time we get together for a reunion we’ll have to roll a few balls for history’s sake, yes?

Who wants to set the pins?!

Happy Birthday Duane!

Duane, as a baby, with his mother Gladys. Do we know the woman holding him?

So here we are into the final months of our Expletive Amos Boys blog and it’s birthday time for the very guy who prompted this year-long adventure. Yep, it’s Duane’s birthday, the oldest of the three Amos boys, and today, November 3, he is 81 years old.

Happy Birthday Duane!

If his brothers were to razz him (although I can’t imagine them ever doing that), the first thing they would bring up is books. Apparently, Duane was a big reader, even as a kid.

“We would all be outside doing something,” says Bruce. “And Duane would be in reading. Ma would always tell us to get him out of the house.”

“Well, he was big on clothes too,” adds Jerry. “He spent a lot of money on clothes. Bruce and Duane used to fight about them all the time.”

“Yeah, you used to get a little nappy with me about your clothes,” Bruce says to Duane. Apparently so much so that Bruce once locked him in the basement and Duane had to break his way out.

Here’s one of Duane’s high school pictures. Don’t you just love that wavy hair?

In high school, Duane added music to his repertoire and played trumpet in the band. Years later he would serenade his kids with renditions of Ciribiribin (but not on his own horn, since he left that behind at a high school graduation party). He would also regale the day he skipped school (imagine that) to hear Louis Armstrong in Lansing’s Michigan Theater.

Isn’t this interesting? It’s the back of the band photo and Duane’s friends all signed their names.

In 1949, two days after he graduated from Eastern High School, Duane headed down to Topeka, Indiana.

“My grandpa (William Arthur Amos) invited me to work with him in his blacksmith shop,” says Duane. “My boss from the bowling alley, Joe Joseph, was going down to Michigan City, so I hitched a ride with him.”

Duane lived in Topeka for about seven months. There he learned the fine art of blacksmithing; i.e. holding the hooves of heavy workhorses and swearing at high strung steeds. He also learned a small town with only one streetlight is pretty boring.

“There was nothing to do. I didn’t have a car and Grandad never offered me his. Once in a while I went out with other kids, but even then, there was nothing to do.

“Apparently, before I came down, there had been a youth center. But one night two girls were dancing to music and the townswomen raised such a ruckus, they closed the center.”

So in February 1950, Duane came back to Lansing and by that September he joined the Navy.

“When I came back from Indiana I was taking some business classes from Lansing Business College and there were quite a few veterans who told sea stories. I guess I got a little enamored by them so I went and signed up,” says Duane.

Duane spent 46 months in the Navy (two months shy of his full 4-year duty because the Korean War ended and Truman cut short the enlistments of personnel). While serving, Duane studied fire control and spent almost a year in Washington D.C. From there he served aboard the U.S.S. Ashtabula.

And, of course, it’s during his Navy years that Carol came into his life. By now we’ve heard the story how Duane was on leave and met Carol at Benny’s Drive-In. I ask him how that went—like did he call her up again after the night they first met? Or did he write to her once he returned to duty?

“I guess so.”

“You guess so?”

Duane is not exactly a man of expressive words. But when pressed, he admits he wrote Carol “most every day” during his time on the Ashtabula. And on July 18, 1953, while he once again was on leave, the two of them were married.

When Duane got out of the Navy, he and Carol settled in Owosso. He began an electrician’s apprenticeship with General Motors in Flint and for the next 42 years he dedicated himself to keeping those cars rolling off GM’s production line.

“It was an interesting job, never routine,” says Duane. “And I made a pretty good living— it got all my kids through college.”

So, yes, Duane went to work each day. When he came home, he still liked to sit down and read a book. But you know how that goes when life gets busy…there’s a house in the country to build, 4-H clubs to supervise, and school activities to attend. Duane did all of these things, and more, with great love and dedication.

In 1999, Carol, his wife and friend for 46 years, died from a three-year battle with cancer. Duane then kept himself busy with traveling and his dog Jake, but life just wasn’t the same. In March 2001, he was blessed once again with the love of a wonderful woman when he married Jan.

Nowadays, Duane and Jan keep active with daily life and lots of kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.

But let’s back up a bit to those Amos kids.

At Duane’s 75th birthday party, Bruce recalled how Duane used to say he was never having kids. Then he’d say, well, maybe he’d have one. Strange how that goes…

Here’s a word from each of his six kids!

Duane, as father-of-the-bride, with Terri, 1980.

Terri

My Earthly Dad
With these three words,
“Dear Heavenly Father,”
I begin my every prayer,
But the man I see
While on bended knee
Is always my earthly dad.

He is the image
Of the Father divine
Reflecting the nature of God,
For his love and care
And the faith he shared
Pointed me to my Father above.

—Mary Fairchild

Being 56 years of age, I should have tons of stories to tell about Dad. But since I have to share space with my siblings, I am forced to be concise. The above poem says best what I feel about Dad. Earthly fathers are to be an example of our Heavenly Father, so that we as children can know God. And Dad did just that.

Dad and I spent a lot of time in the car. Seems like Dad was always driving me to school. Sunday School, Christian Day School, Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Dr. Martin Luther College, and finally Salem Lutheran School where I would teach in Edmonds, Washington. Dad was doing what he could for my education. More importantly, he was doing all he could for my spiritual education. And finally, Dad was helping me become what I wanted to be—a Christian Day School Teacher.

Thank you Dad for being the kind of dad that leads his children to the Heavenly Father. That is the best gift you could give us. I love you very much. Happy Birthday!

Duane with his family; Carol, Dave, Terri and Diahann, 1961.

Di

When I was a kid my dad would squeeze my biceps and say, “Just feel these muscles!” Or he’d play catch with me as I practiced becoming an all-star windup pitcher.

Now anyone who knows our side of the family is well aware we have not one iota of genetic muscle or athleticism. The point is my dad gave us confidence and hope, no matter how unrealistic it may have been.

I’ve thought about confidence a lot while doing this blog. The Amos boys’ parents didn’t give them an ideal example for marriage or parenting. It’s likely the three of them did not go boldly into the unknowns of their adult lives. Yet all of them married, raised children and created the legacy we cherish today.

In my eyes, my dad will always stand on the highest of pedestals. I admire him for all he’s accomplished just by steadily going forth and not whining or complaining. I laugh at his gruff exterior, knowing full well there’s a caring, sensitive and emotional marshmallow underneath. And most of all, I’m blessed. Because of him, I’m confident of the hope God gives us—the whole Amos family together—for an eternal life in heaven.

Love you lots Dad! Happy Birthday!

Duane and Carol, with Dave on his graduation from college, 1983.

Dave

I remember as a kid having to help Dad work on the family car or tractor, usually on miserably cold winter days. These were apparently male bonding moments, since the girls were allowed to stay inside and watch TV.

My contribution was mostly in a supporting role (“Can’t you hold the flashlight steady?!?”), shagging tools (“What do you mean you can’t find it?!? It’s in the basement right where I told you!!”), and crawling under the car after dropped sockets. These shared afternoons convinced me that neither one of us would be mistaken for Mr. Goodwrench and having the right tools would have made all the difference in the world (“Let me have the vice grips… No!! The vice grips! Those are the channel locks!”). I did learn the fine art of muttering under my breath though (“What did you say?!?”).

Working on the cars with Dad taught me that being an adult meant doing necessary jobs, whether they were pleasant or not. I doubt Dad enjoyed working on the cars, but he never shied away from any work that had to be done at home. That is one of the many lessons he passed on to us kids.

Thanks Dad. Happy Birthday.

Duane and Cheryl, 1968

Cheryl

Leftover from his Navy days, Dad walks with “a lelf, and a lelf, and a lelf, right, lelf.” He can also sing old marching tunes and songs from the ship’s showers like “It’s a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi Mud.”

Though he’d rather be sleeping, Dad took care of me weekdays after working third shift while Mom was a cook at school. It worked out that grilled cheese sandwiches were the extent of Dad’s cooking ability and my culinary vocabulary. A man who cooks remains priority in my heart still. By time I enrolled in kindergarten, Mom was back home in the new big house and Dad still wasn’t getting enough sleep.

Dad’s sleep was always an issue. On scorching summer days we’d find him sleeping in the basement, bug him until drove us to the lake, and leave him sleeping in the car while us kids cooled off in the water. The following year we scored a swimming pool.

We also scored lots of animals, activities, sport points and recitals. If Dad wasn’t working he was with his family, providing, protecting, and governing. He taught me repeatedly to be grateful for what I have, to do what I say I will do, and to “stop or there’ll be war.”  In a large house full of kids and dogs, Dad must have felt like he was still on a ship, steering us all through unknown memorable waters.

Friends who see pictures of Dad say he looks like a diplomat, a Viking chieftan, Santa, and of coarse tired. While he fits all of the above, when I see Dad I’m ready for a big hug, some sandwiches, and a nap.

Happy Birthday Dad, everyday I thank God you are my Father. And a special big thanks for bringing Jan and her family into our lives which has enriched us all.

Duane with Rebecca and Joel, on Rebecca’s first day of school, 1976.
(Gotta love that outfit, Joel)

Rebecca

Before I went away to college, Dad went over how to do some basic car maintenance like changing a flat tire (which has come in extremely handy more than once!) and checking and adding fluids. He said I needed to be prepared for anything, driving in Milwaukee. He would be seven hours away and unable to come quickly and rescue me if I needed help.

Years later, the winter after mom died, Dad came for a visit. We were talking and I apologized for living so far away from him and mom. For not being able to come home and help as much as I would have liked to. He said no, that he and mom were so proud of each of us kids and the lives we were leading. And even though he and mom missed each of us kids and all the grandkids, they were happy and proud that the hours between us forced us to handle our own lives and not come running home every time we had a little problem. He knew that each of us could handle whatever life threw at us like the responsible adults he and mom had raised us to be.

Now whenever I am unsure what to do, I take a step back and think of Dad’s words. Then I remember that yes, I am a responsible adult and I have the tools to deal with problems big or small. To make my own decisions. To stand on my own two feet. Because I have the best Daddy in the world, who first taught me these skills and then stood back while I flew away into the big world and used them to live my life.

Thank you Dad! I love you! Happy birthday!

No wonder Duane never got any sleep! Joel practicing a trumpet, 1986.

Joel

When I think of Dad (Duane) as a father, the one word that comes to mind is sacrifice.  Dad made countless self sacrifices for the benefit of our upbringing, and also not to have to listen to us whine.

He sacrificed many family vehicles so that his kids would have something to drive when needed. I know I smashed up two of his vehicles. Or was it three?

The steel siding of his garage took an awful beating while it was used as a backstop during my years of baseball development.

I’m sure many hours of peaceful newspaper reading were unavailable as we all learned to play our various musical instruments.

Why once, he even sacrificed his big toe so that we could have a nice lawn!

Thanks Dad! Happy Birthday!