Adios 2012!

Bruce, Jerry and Duane
Here we are already, the end of 2012!

If we rehash the year according to Time Magazine, the top news event was Hurricane Sandy. The most popular tweet was “Four more years,” by Barack Obama. And the number one sports story was Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace.

We are, by the way, also at the end of our yearlong Expletive Amos Boys blog. It’s been a fascinating journey, has it not? And just as the media has its top events, I’ve got my “top phrases.” They’re interesting expressions the Amos Boys used repeatedly in our weekly telephone chats.

Here they are:

“Speaking of police, do you remember the time…” 

Should we be concerned that this was the introductory line to a disturbingly large number of Amos Boys conversations? Like the story of Duane finishing a night of work at Matthew’s Restaurant and landing himself smack in jail.

“When I came out of the restaurant a guy was waiting on the sidewalk and he punched me in the eye,” says Duane, admitting that, yes, he may have previously smarted off to him. “A cop was there and grabbed us both. I had to get stitches and we both had to spend the night in jail.”

“That’s all hearsay…” 

Every once in a while the three guys came up with differing views of the same story. This, of course, is common for everyone as we remember events of our youth. What’s interesting though, is that in our year of reminiscing, I heard this comment most often from Bruce and it was always in reply to Duane and Jerry’s incriminating stories.

“Every day Bruce would chase Pat Matfore home from school. Every single day,” say both Duane and Jerry. “He’s the kid that grew up to be a big football player for St. Mary’s. And later he became a doctor.”

“I don’t remember that,” says Bruce. “That’s all hearsay. I was always Mrs. Amos’s good boy.”

“Giving it the Ol’ Beech Street Try”

Jerry made this comment more than a year ago when we first discussed the feasibility of doing this blog. At that time we brainstormed topics we wished to cover and how to coordinate the telephone calls. Jerry thought we should be an open book. He said even though none of them were big phone conversationalists, they’d give it “the Ol’ Beech Street try.” This rally, which references their house on Beech Street (you know, the one with the hard-as-rock front yard where all the kids hung out), is one he made several times throughout our project.

If we’re going to be metaphorically streetwise, the Amos Boys not only gave it the Ol’ Beech Street try, they made 2012 a Grand River Avenue of a year. Each Monday, as we connected via modern technology, they reinforced what I’ve always known—that these three brothers are truly special men. I feel so privileged to have shared this time with them.

Thanks Duane, Bruce and Jerry!

But wait, what about the rest of us? Our conversations in the comment section have been a blast. The Expletive Amos Boys blog is online for the duration, so let’s keep the chatter going!

And then there’s the reunion. Wasn’t last summer’s get together fun? Are you interested in having another? We need to start planning now—dates, location, activities!

Here’s one idea (and we certainly want to hear more):

This year, on September 14, Laingsburg is celebrating its 175th centennial anniversary. Check it out here. Note the mention of the Laing family’s interest in participating. That’s us! And remember the helpful gentleman we met last summer in the Laingsburg restaurant? He mentioned the possibility of a parade float just for us (now wouldn’t that just be riotous:-). Whether this materializes or not isn’t important, but, just in case, we need to start practicing our parade waves now.

It’s been a fun year everyone. Let’s keep in touch!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! It’s a blessed time of year!

As I talk about Christmas with the Amos Boys, I’m once again reminded of how special these guys really are (and funny, of course). When they were young and living apart, their Christmases were really quite different. Some brothers might hold resentment toward one another. Not these guys. Instead, they say, that’s just the way it was.

And they give each other a lot of ribbing.

“When I lived with my grandparents (Maggie and her husband Jim Adams), I got a lot of stuff for Christmas,” says Jerry. “Grandma would help me make a list of what I wanted. Then we’d roll it up and put it in a milk bottle on the back porch. One of Santa’s elves would come and take the note—of course, what it really was, was Jim going out the front door, around to the back door and stamping his feet. He’d take the note and knock over the milk bottle. It was always real exciting.”

“But I don’t think Duane and Bruce got too much,” Jerry adds.

If you recall, Duane and Bruce lived with their mother Gladys, and while she worked hard, she didn’t have the financial means to provide Christmas luxuries for her boys.

“No, I don’t think Duane and I ever had such a thing as making out a list,” says Bruce, in a tone that’s not at all self-pitying. “Do you remember any, Duane?”

“Well, maybe you guys didn’t want anything,” teases Jerry. “You weren’t that smart, you know.”

“We used to get a pair of high top shoes,” says Bruce.

“Yeah, I remember those shoes,” says Duane. “They had a little pocket on the side of them and there was a jack knife inside it.”

“I remember when I was about six or seven, and Bruce spent quite a bit of his money and got me an easel,” says Jerry. “And someone bought me a little rocker.”

“I must have bought that with my paper route money,” says Bruce. “I was in about the fifth grade.”

Isn’t that special? Here these guys didn’t have much, but they still bought Christmas gifts for each other. And they looked out for one another. Remember the story of the boys’ father, Roland, coming to the house with gifts, and Bruce and Duane made sure he brought one for Jerry too?

Here’s an interesting article from 1983. By this time the Amos Boys are grown with kids and grandkids of their own. This article about their mother, Gladys, says quite a bit. She was a pretty nice and caring lady.

That’s why her boys are too.

Helping Santa

A Piano Bond From Across the Miles


piano

In doing this blog, stories come up in ways I least expect. Like earlier this month when I was talking on the phone with the Amos Boys and the conversation drifted from one thing to another. It often happens that the guys say they don’t remember things. But inevitably what one forgets, one of the others fills in.

And so it was when Duane wondered if he’d been baptized.

“I don’t remember any of us being baptized,” said Duane. “Do you know anything about it Bruce?”

“You and I were baptized down in Topeka,” answered Bruce, definitely. “At the Methodist Church that was across the corner from where Grandpa and Grandma lived when we were down there. We were baptized there.”

Bruce was referring to his grandparents Wm. Arthur and Beatrice Amos, who he and Duane lived with in the later 1930s.

“Later we went to church for a little while at the Salvation Army,” said Bruce. “It was on East Allegen Street. That was when we came back to Lansing. ”

I asked Jerry if he went to church when he lived with his grandmother Maggie and her husband Jim.

“No, they never went to church,” said Jerry. “My grandmother was her daddy’s little girl and he didn’t like the Catholic Church. Her mother was a die-hard Catholic, but her father didn’t like the priest for some reason. So my grandmother didn’t have anything to do with it either.”

Since then Duane’s been wondering more about his baptism. He still can’t remember being baptized, so I offered to call the Topeka Methodist Church and verify their records.

Here’s where it gets really interesting.

I contacted Pastor Tamra Gerber, of the Methodist Church, and it turns out she grew up in Topeka. When she was a girl, she and her twin sister often visited Arthur and Hazel (Arthur’s second wife).

“I remember as youngsters going to sing for Art and Hazel Amos,” writes Pastor Gerber. “Art was a big man as I remember him but then I was quite small. Our mother would play the piano and we would sing for them. They were Christian people and active in church.”

Talking with Pastor Gerber on the phone was really fun. When I asked about the piano, she described exactly where it was when she was a girl—the same place against the wall, to the south of the front door, just as I remember it.

Then I told her I have that piano now. I sent her a picture of it, sitting right here in my dining room. I feel a bit of a bond knowing we both have made music on this very old instrument. Pretty cool, don’t you think?

But what about Duane and Bruce’s baptism?

Pastor Gerber said their records only go back to 1943, a few years after Duane and Bruce lived in Topeka. If they’d like to, she welcomes them back to reaffirm their baptism. And she welcomes all of us to visit her church.

“The sanctuary still looks the same,” said Pastor Gerber. “It really hasn’t changed.”

A Different Era of News

dec7

Would you agree that we don’t realize how monumental an event is as it’s actually happening? That we don’t know to what extent history is in the making? Do you think this was more true 71 years ago than it is today?

Seventy-one years ago this weekend, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese Navy. Over in Lansing, MI, Duane had just turned 10, Bruce was 8 and Jerry was 5. None of them had a clue how the world was about to change.

Both Bruce and Jerry say they can’t remember anything of that day. Duane recalls a little bit.

“I remember the paper boys were going through the neighborhood hollering ‘Extra, Extra!’ and they were telling about it,” says Duane. “I remember the next day in school, us kids were all talking about it. We said ‘we’ll win this war right away because the Japs are just little people and the biggest guns they have are .22s.'”

Of course, back then there was no TV or Internet to spread the news. How did people keep up with what was happening and how did they respond?

“Jim Adams (Maggie’s husband) always had the radio on for ballgames and such, so my grandparents would have heard about it that way,” says Jerry, as he relates history. “Roosevelt got on the radio right away the next day and declared war on Japan. Of course, Japan had already declared war on us several months earlier, but we didn’t know that. And four days after Pearl Harbor, Hitler declared war on the U.S. too.”

So much happened in the years following Pearl Harbor. How much of it consumed their daily life?

“I remember they always had news reels at the movie theater,” says Duane.

“We used to go to the show every Saturday because they had a matinee,” says Bruce. “Ten cents to go to the movie. Two shows, plus a news reel and a short.”

“Short comedy, or short cartoons,” explains Jerry.

During a time when so many things were rationed—butter, sugar, gasoline—the movies were obviously an inexpensive means of entertainment.

“That was our Saturday afternoon,” says Bruce. “Seems we went every Saturday for several years. It was jam-packed with kids. Most of the movies were westerns…Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, Lone Ranger, Tex Ritter…”

Jerry says he remembers hearing when President Franklin Roosevelt died. His step-grandfather Jim Adams was at the back fence talking to “ol’ Mr. Muzzleman” about it and leaning against the handle of his push lawnmower.

“When he let go of the lawnmower, the handle hit me right on the head and knocked me down,” says Jerry. “I always tell people Roosevelt’s death made a big impression on me.”

“I always knew there was something different about you,” says Duane.

“Yeah, the scar used to be further into my hairline,” says Jerry. “Now it’s part of my forehead.”

“I don’t remember much about the beginning of the war. I just remember a lot of men were enlisting in the service,” says Bruce. “I remember the end of the war though.”

“I don’t know if it was the end of the war in Europe or the war overall, but, Bruce, do you remember Melvin—he had this car with the top cut off,” asks Duane. “The day peace was declared, he had every kid in the neighborhood in that ol’ car and he was driving all around town with us.”

“Melvin Thompson,” says Bruce. “Yeah, I remember that. We used to have to have stamps to get gas. That particular night we stopped at a gas station and the guy wanted our rationing stamps and we all told him we didn’t have any.”

So what do you think? Do you think we’ll have the same stories to tell when today’s wars finally end? Will we talk about our Twitter and Facebook comments the same way the Amos Boys talk about riding around in Melvin’s car?