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!

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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?

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?!

The Treasure of a Family Bible

The Amos Family Bible

Bibles are precious for so many reasons, one being the family history so carefully recorded within their pages. In a previous post, Jerry showed us a picture of a Gulick family Bible. Here, pictured above, we have one from the Amos family. It belonged to Charles and Elizabeth Amos, great-grandparents to the Amos boys.

Let’s take a look at the genealogy of this side of the family. We know a few facts—names and dates from Ancestry.com—but we don’t know many stories. We’ll have to take what we can get, yes?

On July 31,1809, Andrew Amos was born in Hannover, Germany. We don’t have a date for his immigration to the United States, but in 1837 when he was 28 years old, Andrew married Catharine Mottinger in Columbiana County, Ohio. Interestingly, Catharine’s family traces back to the mid 1700s in Pennsylvania, where the name is also listed as Mattinger.

According to the 1840 census, Andrew and Catharine settled in Columbiana County and started their family of seven children—four girls and three boys, one of whom was Charles Wesley Amos.

In the 1850 census, Andrew was a wagon maker and he owned property valued at $800. By 1860, he and Catharine had moved to Noble County, Indiana and he farmed on land valued at $1500. Their son Charles was 18 and listed as a farm laborer.

Charles, of course, is the son we’re interested in.

Amos Family Bible, marriage

Isn’t this beautiful? The artwork, the handwriting—all of it is stunning. On October 24, 1867, Charles married Elizabeth Amelia Jarrett. I wonder if they received this Bible as a wedding gift? I wonder whose handwriting it is, Charles or Elizabeth’s?

Amos Family Bible, births

By 1880, Charles, Elizabeth and their children were living in Swan, Indiana. Here, Charles worked as a carpenter. In fact, the tools my son Jason writes about in his report are Charles’ tools.

In 1880, William Arthur was born. That’s right, our Arthur—the guy who would later become a blacksmith to the Amish and grandfather to the Amos boys.

So there you have it, a record of the Amos family from 1809 to 1880. We look at this family Bible, we admire the beauty of their handwriting, we envision the things Charles created with his tools…and suddenly we have so much more than just names and dates. These treasures personalize those who once owned them and they give us part of the people themselves.