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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?

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.

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.

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 unlikely the three of them went 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 them. 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!

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.”