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

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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?!

Modern Day Genealogy Junkie

Gladys' list of family names

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

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

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

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

Have you gone online and checked out Ancestry.com?

Paisley Laing Military record

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

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

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

The Last Hurrah of Summer

Happy Labor Day! Today is the day we celebrate laborers by relaxing and not laboring at all. We relish the last of fun-in-the-sun before officially moving on to autumn. And we reminisce the fun getaways our Amos families did up north.

Remember those days?

Gladys and Jerry at Grayling

Jerry and his mother Gladys, Grayling, MI


In the 1960s and 70s, the Amos families all headed to Grayling, an outdoor sanctuary 145 miles northwest of Lansing. Here’s how that all came about, according to the Amos boys.

If you remember, back in the 1950s Gladys worked for the Michigan National Guard Quartermaster General. At that time the Guard owned several thousand acres near Grayling and around Lake Margrethe, all of which were part of the Michigan National Guard Camp Grayling. In what Jerry describes as “sort of a shady deal,” the Guard divided land on the north end of the lake into small lots (25 X 100 feet) and offered them for sale to Guard employees first and then to the public.

“At a very low price,” says Jerry. “Maybe $15 each. Mom (Gladys) didn’t have much money but she bought a slug of this cheap property. These lots in the woods were a terrific place for all of us.”

(Interestingly, the governor later decided this great land deal to employees was a bit unethical and some of Gladys’ bosses lost their jobs.)

“In 1960 Elaine and I moved our little homemade trailer from the Guard trailer park (near where I worked at the beer warehouse in summer) around the lake to Mom’s lots,” says Jerry. “We dug a big hole, built an outhouse and were good to go. We three men, Jeanie, Carol, Elaine, Mom and most of our little rug rats were camping out and having a load of fun. We decided that if any of the kids fell in the outhouse hole, rather than trying to clean them up, it would be easier to make a new one.”

Duane and Bruce drilling a well

“I remember the one time Jerry wanted us to drill a well,” says Duane. “Bruce and I were there, waiting for Jerry. He was still home, “planning” the drilling. Bruce and I went ahead and did it because we only had to dig down 20 feet or so.”

“I’ve got to add my two cents,” interupts Bruce. “I brought the stuff to drill the well and when I got there, Duane was already there. Jerry was late, as normal. He’s always been late, as long as I can remember. Duane was getting antsy to drill that well. I said ‘let’s wait ‘til Jerry gets here,’ but Duane, he wanted to get started.

“Duane had never drilled a well before, but I had helped drill one. Duane found out it was a lot more work than he thought and he wished we’d waited ’til Jerry got there. Well, we did drive the well. Jerry got there just about the time we got it done.”

“They did it just right,” laughs Jerry. “No mistakes.”

“Up at Grayling, there in the woods, we had a lot of fun,” says Jerry. “We cut logs and built a lot of stuff. We made a bucking horse with a log and ropes. And we had a swing, an outhouse and a shower.”

Amos Boys children 1960s

Speaking for my generation, yes, we, the Amos boys’ children had lots of fun. I remember us cousins all sleeping together in the big army tent and telling stories late at night.

Yep, Super Grandma stories.

Like, what would happen if our parents got drunk and took a butcher knife to us children. And tried to slaughter us. Every last one of us.

Super Grandma would save the day! Super Grandma would save us all!

Funny thing is, I don’t remember any drinking going on. Except maybe this canoe trip on the mighty Au Sable River.

Amos Boys canoeing on Au Sable River

Supposedly, the Amos boys and their wives were just trying to pass the beer from one canoe to another. Yes, that’s all. But somehow the canoes tipped over and we can only imagine what was lost. It’s a good thing we kids were back at camp under the diligent care of Super Grandma.

Wait, are those beer cans we’re holding in that picture?

Eventually, Gladys sold her Grayling lots. The Amos boys said they would’ve liked to have bought them, at least some of them, but she sold them to someone else.

“In the late 1970s Gladys had a small travel trailer that she took to Florida two or three times,” writes Jerry in an email. “She had a roomer or someone do the driving. The last year down there she got lonesome and depressed, and after that didn’t return.”

Instead Gladys began renting a lot in the Crystal Lake campground, located about 50 miles northwest of Lansing.

“Later Mom moved to a larger trailer and had a screen porch added where we had some wonderful meals, happy discussions and a fair amount of drinking. Mom liked whiskey and water, light on the water,” writes Jerry, in his humorous way. “There was always something going on in the park and lots of people to socialize with. She loved the place and enjoyed all the noise and commotion when the kids came up. We would go up for the Fourth of July celebrations, and other times when the weather was good. These good times were in the late 70’s and early 80’s.”

So, what are your favorite memories of camping up at Grayling? Or going to the trailer at Crystal Lake?

The Amos Boys in Small Town, USA

In 1937, when Bruce was four and Duane was five, they hopped on board a car-hauling semi and headed down to Topeka, Indiana.

“Our Uncle John (Hughes), from the Gulick side, drove a truck that hauled cars,” says Duane. “Not a big truck like you see now. It only could haul three cars. He was making a delivery to Indiana so we rode with him down to our grandparents’. ”

It’s not like the boys hitched a joy ride without their parent’s permission. If you remember, in the mid-1930s Gladys was having trouble making ends meet. Roland wasn’t home and she’d lost her welfare. She needed help caring for her three young children.

So in 1937, when Duane was about to start first grade, Gladys arranged to have him and Bruce live with Roland’s parents in Topeka and one-year-old Jerry to live with her mother and step-father in Lansing.

Can you imagine how hard that must have been for her? And can you imagine how a trip in a big truck was for two young boys?

I wonder if Roland went with them?

“No, we went by ourselves,” says Duane, matter-of-factly.

“Were you scared? Were you sad about leaving your mother? Were you nervous about living with your grandparents? Had you ever met them before?”

I’m so curious about the feelings of these young boys, but the only answers I get are, “oh, I don’t remember” or “that was just so long ago.”

Instead I get factual data.

“I went to kindergarten when we lived outside Lansing near our Uncle Ralph,” says Duane. “Then, when we moved to Topeka I went to first and second grade. I remember the grade school and high school were in the same building and we all played soccer together at recess.”

Because there was no kindergarten in Topeka, Bruce didn’t go to school.

“I remember those two apricot trees out back,” says Bruce. “We each had a tree we were supposed to keep clean underneath. We had to pick up the bad apricots.”

“One thing I remember is every Sunday morning before church, we’d go to the gas station and get ice and Grandpa would make ice cream,” says Duane. “Every Sunday morning.”

“Remember cranking that thing, Duane?” asks Bruce. “We’d crank it until it’d start getting thick, then Grandpa would take over. We did that every Sunday.”

At that time, their grandfather was the mayor of Topeka.

“Their house was a big house right across the street from the church,” says Duane. “We thought Grandpa was the most important man in town because we lived in a pretty big house and Grandpa was the mayor.”

Now Duane wonders, with a laugh, if maybe they just passed around the mayoral position amongst the businessmen in town.

“Whoever they could force into the job,” adds Jerry. “Although being the blacksmith, he probably was the most important man in town.”

“Well, Grandpa’s shop was always full of men,” says Duane. “I remember Bruce and I were down to the shop, and if they had a particularly mean or ornery horse Grandpa would always send us home. He knew there would be a lot of cussing going on.”

When I ask how they remember their grandfather’s personality, neither Bruce nor Duane have many recollections.

“He may have been a little gruff,” says Duane. “I remember being at a church dinner and pulling a chair out from behind a girl. I was swiftly evicted.”

“He wasn’t too tall,” says Bruce. “He was like the rest of the Amos’s, maybe 5’8” or 5’9”. He was a husky guy though, probably from all those years of blacksmithing. I’m sure he was pretty strict about things, but I don’t remember him being overly strict with us. ‘Course Duane and I were such angels…”

letter by Dorothy LoughmanLetter from Dorothy Loughman to Jason, 1991, in which she describes her father Wm. Arthur Amos. Stay tuned for more of her letter in the months ahead.


The boys also don’t remember much of their grandmother Beatrice.

“I remember she was small, and she had dark hair and skin,” says Duane.

“That’s where Bruce gets his handsome, good looks,” says Jerry. “We always thought he must have been from the mafia, he’s so dark.”

They’ve always gotta’ get that teasing in.

And of course, there’s the train trip Duane and Bruce took with their grandmother to get their tonsils out. They went all the way to Chicago because Beatrice’s daughter Dorothy was a nurse there.

In 1944, their grandmother Beatrice died of cancer. By that time Duane and Bruce were young teens and had been back in Lansing for many years. They remember Roland going to her funeral but he didn’t take them, perhaps because it was too expensive.

A few years later, after Duane graduated from high school, he once again went down to Topeka. This time he went to learn the blacksmithing trade. By then Arthur had remarried to Hazel, the town’s postmistress, and they lived in the house most of us know from our childhood memories and pictures.

“I went down after high school and lasted six months,” says Duane. “That little town of 500 people—there was just nothing to do. I didn’t have a car. I was so bored.”

“Yep, when I graduated from high school, my grandfather thought I should come down too. He thought I should learn some blacksmithing,” says Bruce. “But Duane told me not to. He said I would be too bored.”

So, apparently the big city Amos Boys were no longer cut for small town living! We’ll hear more of that in the months to come.

Mother’s Day and 1st & 2nd Mrs. Amos’s

Amos cousins


@1968

When my generation—the Amos Boys’ children—were kids, we always gathered for holidays, birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Days, and summer outings. We’d all get together—us kids, our parents and our grandparents. It’s just what we did.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how unique this was. It’s unique because there in attendance were Roland, his wife Harriet, and his ex-wife Gladys. And everybody got along.

Maybe unique isn’t the best word. Maybe special is better. And caring, giving and tolerant.


1958

I once asked Harriet about this. It was after Roland died and we were talking about special things.

She said they did this right from the beginning. Apparently, there was to be an upcoming gathering and Bruce’s wife, Jeanne, said she was not going to have separate parties. Harriet asked Roland if that was okay. He said yes. Roland asked Gladys if that was okay. And she said yes.

In our phone conversation this week, the Amos Boys talked about Roland, Harriet and Gladys.

“Elaine, and Jeanne, and Carol, they all got together and informed Dad and Harriet, and I suppose our Mother too, that we were going to get together and if they wanted to come, we would all be there,” says Duane. “And so they did get together.”

“They made it plain they weren’t going to have two or three different celebrations each time,” adds Jerry.

And so it was.


1990s

Harriet (on the right) once introduced Gladys as the first Mrs. Amos
and herself as the second Mrs. Amos.


Harriet told me this togetherness was awkward only when my sisters and I invited them, the grandmothers, to our school’s annual Mother-Daughter Banquet. Harriet would always pick up Gladys and they would ride from Lansing to Owosso together.

“It mustn’t have been too awkward. They often would all ride together,” says Duane. “Like when they came to our house.”

And so it was.


1979

This week our post is dedicated to the awesome mothers in our family—Gladys, who was mother to our beloved Amos Boys; Harriet, who happily took on a ready-made family; and Carol, Jeanne and Elaine, who married the Amos Boys and had us kids.

And, of course, here’s to the generations of mothers that now follow.

Happy Mother’s Day to you all!

We’re a Fairly Healthy Bunch, We Are!

For more than 76 years the world has been blessed by those Expletive Amos Boys. In fact, Duane, being the octogenarian, now leads the pack into their next decade.

I ask the boys what it’s like to live this long—longer than their parents—and to still be amazingly quite healthy. They feel very fortunate.

“Always drink good whiskey,” advises Bruce. “Really, the more active you are the better you are. The longer you can do that, the better.”

Duane agrees. Even though he’s long been known for his love of sedentary reading, he’s done a lot of walking. He walked regularly for his job and later when he retired, he continued the regiment.

Jerry’s secret is lots of exercise and a good diet.

“I got into health stuff starting in my late 20s and early 30s,” says Jerry. “It was just something that interested me. And nowadays, there’s a lot more people living to be a hundred.”

“That’s what Duane’s shooting for. A hundred, isn’t it?” asks Bruce.

“Yeah,” says Jerry. “And he’s almost there.”

So here we have these three hardy guys who are always dissing each other about their age. And as each of us contemplates our own longevity, we thought it pertinent to pass along a family health history. It is, after all, just as important as our genealogical history.

So here’s to that well-worn subject that we discuss as mundanely as the weather—here’s to our health.

Arthritis
This week is National Arthritis Week so let’s start here. As we age, this nasty affliction sometimes stiffens our joints. The Amos folks are not immune.

“I’ve had problems with my knees and shoulder joints and stuff like that, with arthritis,” says Bruce.

“When you get in your 70s, then arthritis, and for men, prostrate—if you’re fortunate to live long enough—you start to have problems,” says Jerry. “I have a little arthritis, but nothing that bothers me too much.”

“I haven’t been bothered by arthritis,” says Duane. “Very seldom. I just have trouble with my balance.” (Age has nothing to do with that one—anyone who knows Duane’s side of the family is well aware of our overall absence of grace and coordination).

As Gladys aged, she too had problems with arthritis. It bothered her hands and her knuckles would swell.

And Roland?

“Sometimes he walked like he may have had trouble,” says Bruce. “But if he did, he never talked about it. He just didn’t talk about those things.”


Maggie Francis Laing death certificate and obit


Maggie Laing Gulick Adams, also called Margie, was Gladys’ mother. Jerry lived with her for the first 12 years of his childhood. Maggie died of throat cancer.


Cancer
Unfortunately, our family has suffered with cancer. Included in our list is prostrate, breast, ovarian, throat and an aggressive brain tumor.

But really, what family hasn’t dealt with this crummy disease? In generations past, many people who died of cancer were elderly. They didn’t have the preventative care and early detection we have today.

“Back then most people didn’t have insurance. They weren’t apt to go to the doctor unless they thought something was really wrong,” says Bruce. “Consequently, they waited too long. Our dad (Roland) didn’t like doctors or dentists. He had prostrate cancer and he didn’t do anything about it until after it spread to his kidneys.”

Macular degeneration
(I admit, I spent a great deal of time searching how to spell this one. Is it immaculate? Demaculate? Who knew?)

“There’s a dry kind and a wet kind,” says Bruce. “The dry kind is slow progressing and that’s what I have. The doctor wants me to check me frequently so it can be monitored.”

“That’s what happens when you get old,” says Duane.

“Are you speaking from experience?”

“I say, Jerry and I aren’t having those problems. We mustn’t be getting old.”

“Well, that’s because you led a good, clean life.”

There’s always this back and forth repartee between the guys.

Cataracts
When I was a kid, cataracts surgery was something really old people had in order to improve upon their near-blindness. Not so nowadays.

“Elaine and I have both had cataract surgery so we don’t need to wear glasses,” says Jerry.

“I’ve had cataract surgery too, but I still wear glasses,” says Bruce.

“I haven’t had it,” says Duane. “But I’m going to need it done someday. I’ll need it in my left eye.”

I wonder if cataracts are heredity or are they a fact of life if one lives long enough?

“I guess it’s mostly if you’ve been in the sun a lot, which is most people. Then the lens gets clouded,” says Jerry. “They (doctors) just go in the side of the eyeball and pop the old lens out and put it a new one. They can put in any prescription you want.”

All this eyeball talk makes me rather squeamish, but it is good to know someday I may not have to wear glasses.

An interesting story
With all this health talk, I forgot to ask the guys about their childhood. Were they healthy kids, I wonder?

One interesting story did come up.

When Duane and Bruce were living in Indiana, their Grandma (Beatrice) Amos took them all the way to Chicago to get their tonsils out.

“We went by train,” says Bruce. “We went to the hospital that my Aunt Dorothy was at. She was a nurse there.”

Wow, what an adventure for two young boys!