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

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!

A Game Board Much More than a Birthday Board

Game Table

Perhaps the greatest mystery in life for the male gender is shopping for females. Combine that with an adolescent’s natural absence of cognitive thinking and you’re guaranteed a doozie of a present.

And so it was for Gladys one year for her birthday (actually, it turns out this may have been a Christmas gift, but we’ll talk about today since today is Gladys’ day).

It seems Bruce got the idea the three boys should go down to Knapp’s Department Store and pick out a gift. For those of you unfamiliar with the store, Knapp’s was synonymous with great quality and, of course, expense.

“We found the perfect gift,” says Jerry. “It was a beautiful, wood, card table-like, game table with a shiny roulette pointer, a checker board, and other game designs. They say we often get gifts for others that we would like for ourselves. This may have been evidence of that.”

Apparently Gladys wasn’t too happy with the gift, especially when she learned the boys charged it to her credit card.

“I may have been 14 at the time,” says Bruce. That means Duane was 16 and Jerry was 11.

Perhaps the table didn’t go over well back then, but over the years generations of kids and adults have gotten lots of enjoyment from it. In fact, Duane still has it (come to the reunion and check it out!)

Anyway, Gladys obviously was a tolerant woman. And as Bruce said in last week’s post, she put up with a whole lot raising her boys.

You may remember a post back in February, when the three guys described their household as the place to gather for all their friends. Gladys would come home from work to broken decor such as her couch and chandelier.

“Mom had a pretty good temper once in a while,” says Jerry. “It would flair up.”

“Oh yeah, I remember her chasing me around the dining room table with a spatula. I had done something,” says Bruce. “We went round and round that table. Finally it got kind of ridiculous and we both started laughing. By that time, she forgot what she was going to spank me for.”

Duane relayed a similar story.

“Once I was playing with matches at the dining room table,” says Duane. “I built a little house out of wooden matches and then lit it on fire. It didn’t burn through but it charred the wood. Oh, I saw her temper then. She had a frying pan. Same thing happened—she chased me round the table until it got funny. She let me live.”

Even at the end of a weary day, when the comforts of an inviting bed should have awaited her, Gladys didn’t always find rest.

“Once I was working on a project and I needed some wood,” says Jerry. “So I took slats from Mom’s bed. That night she got into bed and the whole thing collapsed.”

Sigh…(along with the chuckles).

That Gladys—she sure was quite a woman, wasn’t she?

And how wonderful that her three boys grew up to become loving, doting sons who took great care of their mother.

Remembering Gladys

Back in February when I wrote of the difficulties Roland and Glady had, it felt a bit like a betrayal. As their grandchild, I think I can vouch for the rest of my generation when I say that both Roland and Gladys were super people (in fact, we even share Super Grandma stories…but more on those in the months to come).

So now is my time for restitution. Because this upcoming week is Gladys’ birthday—she would have been 101—she is our person of the week. There’s a lot of great stuff to talk about because, after all, she was Super Grandma.

Gladys was born on April 27, 1911, to Earl and Maggie (Laing) Gulick. She and her older brother Ralph grew up living right next door to her grandparents Perry and Fidelia Gulick, and just a farm or two away from any number of extended Gulick relatives.

This family togetherness was part of Gladys’ growing up. Her first cousin, once removed, was Golda Gulick McBride and, being just a year apart in age, the two were always close friends. Much of what we know of Gladys’ childhood comes from stories Golda shared with Jerry many years later.

“When she was little, she had a pet chicken,” says Jerry. “In the cold weather, it slept on top of the horse to stay warm. One night it froze to death. Her brother Ralph must have done something to tease her about it because she got mad and chased him with a butcher knife. She had a bit of a temper. She got that from her mother probably.”

Childhood wasn’t always easy for Gladys. Her parents had marital problems and for many years, from when she was 5-11 years old, she and Ralph lived next door with their grandparents. By that time, Grandpa Perry had suffered a stroke and wasn’t in his right mind. As the story goes, once Ralph was working in the field and when he took a break under a tree, he looked up to find Perry standing over him with an ax. Perry also was said to have gotten up during nights and done strange things such as setting the table for a houseful of company.

According to Golda, Gladys was afraid of Perry. Her bed was at the top of the stairs and she slept close to the edge in case she had to get out fast.

Eventually Gladys’ parents divorced. Earl remarried a woman named Clara (White) Swanson, who came as a package with four daughters (one of whom would later marry Ralph).

“For a while she (Gladys) moved in with Earl and Clara, so she had some stepsisters to try and get along with. I don’t think she lived with them too long,” says Jerry. “She got passed around. But not as much as one of Clara’s daughters, Francis—she was sent off to relatives in Chicago, then over to Bay City, then back again, then back to Bay City. There was quite a bit of that going on back then—families splitting up and they couldn’t take care of all the kids.”

Life was transitional for Gladys during her young adult years as well. For a while she lived with her mother Maggie, who had moved to Lansing and remarried to Jim (JR) Adams. Then, for a while she lived with her brother in a house next door to Maggie and Jim. She quit high school after 10th grade and began business classes at Lansing Business University.

I ask Duane and Bruce if they had heard many stories of their mother’s younger days. They both say no, Gladys didn’t talk much about it.

“She had her hands full just trying to keep Duane in line,” banters Bruce. We all get a good laugh from that.

But really, there’s a lot of truth in that statement. In 1929, Gladys married Roland and within a few years was the mother to three young boys. On top of that, her husband was often gone from home and she worked whatever job she could during the difficult times of the Depression. So, yes, Gladys had her hands full.

“When she could find some relaxation and fun, she had it,” says Jerry. “Just to keep her sanity, I guess.”

Coca Cola Girls

Coca Cola Girls 1930’s. Gladys (the Amos Boys’ mother) is in lower left

Over the years Gladys worked many jobs, including a job as a Coca Cola girl installing bottle openers in people’s homes. Most of her jobs, however, were office positions. When she worked as a bookkeeper for Liberty Highway, the manager provided her with a pickup truck because she had no other way of getting to work.

“The fellow that managed that truck company was very nice to her and always willing to help her any way he could,” says Bruce.

I’m thinking she must have been a valued employee, if the company was willing to provide her transportation.

“Yes,” says Jerry. “She was good at her job. She knew what she was doing.”

Eventually, Gladys got a job with the Michigan National Guard and worked there until she retired in 1966.

“When she got with the National Guard, that was the best paying job she’d ever had up to that point,” says Bruce.

“Yeah, she made a lot of friends there,” adds Jerry. “She worked with a lot of big shots. Colonel Case was her boss and she fixed him up with her friend, Joyce. They (Case and Joyce) eventually got married.”

In 1949, Gladys had been divorced for a couple years when she met a man named Emil Messerschmidt. He ran a meat packing plant. Emil and Gladys married and she moved her then-teenage boys into his big house. They weren’t married long however.

Duane and Hack, 1949

“I went down to Indiana before they got married. Then I went in the Navy. So I didn’t really know him or what went on there,” says Duane.

“He kind of liked to run everything,” says Bruce.

“People called him Hack,” says Jerry. “He’d get cantankerous. He could be pretty gruff and was used to bossing everyone around. Mom was pretty independent. She didn’t appreciate anyone bossing her around, outside of her boss at work.”

I ask if that independence was her personality? A trait acquired out of necessity? Or, maybe both?

“Back then most families were pretty traditional. She was ahead of her time,” says Jerry. “Most people assumed then that the woman stayed at home and took care of things, and the man made the money and made the decisions.”

“It was essential for her to work and be in charge,” says Bruce. “She brought us boys up basically on her own.”

Did the Amos Boys get their strong work ethic from their mother?

“Undoubtedly,” says Duane.

“I would think so, yes,” says Bruce.

“She had a lot of energy, I know that,” says Jerry. “She would work all day, come home, and then she was always rearranging the furniture.”

“Well, she had to keep Duane out of trouble,” says Bruce. “Really though, looking back, you have to give her a lot of credit. She put up with a whole lot raising us boys.”

In 1965, Gladys married again. She married Leo Klotz and when it comes to nice guys, she hit the jackpot. Leo had been a security guard during his working days and was active in the Moose Lodge, as was Gladys. Together they enjoyed a busy social life with lots of friends. Sadly, they were only married three years when Leo died of a massive heart attack.

As we look at Gladys, we see a woman who took the good things in life along with the sometimes-not-so-good. From there, she went ahead the best she knew how.

And she loved her boys.

Somehow, as I’ve acquired family mementos, I was given this note. It’s a thank-you written by Gladys to her boys and it’s really special. I think these few words say more of who she was as a person than anything we can write.

In 1987, Gladys noticed she was having trouble managing the treasurer’s position she held at the Cedar Place Retirement Community where she lived. Medical tests revealed she had an aggressive brain tumor and not long to live. She moved in with Jerry and Elaine, and on March 27, 1988, she peacefully passed away.

She was one month from her 77th birthday.

Happy birthday to Super Grandma! What special memories do you have to share?

A Love Story of a Different Kind

Perhaps you’ve noticed many of the pictures so far have been of Duane and Bruce, but not Jerry. Or, if you remember, the Amos Boys moved quite often. Some of this was due to the Depression. Some of it was also due their parents, Roland and Gladys.

Here’s the story of Roland and Gladys and the very special love that came because of them.

Roland&Gladys1929-30

Roland & Gladys, 1929-30

In the late 1920s, Roland moved to Lansing from his hometown Corunna, Indiana. Perhaps he came for job opportunities. We don’t really know. But according to information Jerry gathered from Michigan historical documents and talking with relatives; in 1929, Roland and Gladys lived around the corner from one another. She lived at 617 Smith Ave. He lived at 1815 Beal Ave. And in 1929, they both worked at REO.

On December 21, 1929, when Gladys was 18 and Roland was 20, they headed on down to Indiana and got married.

Here’s their wedding picture. Aren’t they a handsome couple?

Roland & Gladys, Wedding, December 21, 1929

Roland & Gladys, Wedding, December 21, 1929

Unfortunately, the story now gets somewhat sensitive. Apparently, marriage wasn’t an easy thing for Roland and Gladys.

“They had a rough time together,” says Duane. “It was off and on. There were times when Dad (Roland) was there. Then there were times when he wasn’t there for a year or two. I don’t think they had a good marriage.”

“They had problems from the beginning, I think,” says Jerry. “Mom (Gladys) told me one time that they had a big blowout the day after they were married. They both were kind of stubborn.”

So there were times when the Amos Boys’ parents were separated. And there were times when they were back together. Finally, they divorced in 1947.

I’m thinking they gave it a good try, though, right?

“Well,” says Jerry, in a drawn out way. “They both had ‘other friends,’ if you know what I mean.”

So now story goes from sensitive to complicated, and we have to back up a bit.

In 1935, Roland was having trouble finding work in Lansing. He got together with an airplane pilot named Harvey Hughes and together they traveled the country selling rides to people at fairs (more on this story in months to come). According to Jerry’s research, it’s likely he was conceived during the time Roland was away.

Roland did come back when Jerry was born in 1936, but records show by 1937 he was once again living away from the family. And both Roland and Gladys were out of work.

“Mom lost her welfare when she moved out to living on the same road as her brother Ralph,” says Jerry. “I think that’s when she had to give up taking care of her boys.”

And that’s when the Amos Boys were separated.

Duane and Bruce went to live with Roland’s parents in Topeka, Indiana. They lived there for two years before coming back to live with Gladys.

Jerry, however, went to live with Gladys’s mother, Maggie Adams, and Maggie’s second husband, JR. He lived with them until he was twelve.

“It was kind of scary living with my grandfolks sometimes,” says Jerry, with a laugh. “It was nice in some ways because they provided me with more—more stuff and more attention—than probably what Bruce and Duane were getting. But on weekends they (Maggie and JR) would do a lot of boozing and fighting. I always thought it was nicer to be with Mom, Bruce and Duane. Whenever I could, I would visit them for a few days.”

Bruce, Jerry and Duane

Bruce, Jerry and Duane

You’re probably thinking this isn’t much of a love story. It certainly wasn’t for Roland and Gladys.

But what about Duane, Bruce and Jerry?

Whenever I talk to them in our conference calls about these early days, I never hear any whining or “woe is me.” I repeatedly ask them how they felt about living apart, or did they begrudge one another for getting something maybe they themselves didn’t get. I even ask if they thought of Jerry as a pain-in-the-neck, younger brother finally coming to live with them. No, they say, no they did not.

“That’s just the way it was,” they repeatedly say.

Then I think about them as adults. I mention the closeness they’ve always had with one another, and the love and respect they showed their parents, flawed as they were.

“We always have a good time when we get together,” says Bruce. “We always enjoy getting together.” (It seems this is the most schmaltz I’m going to get out of them.)

Nowadays the Amos boys don’t get together as much. Duane and Jerry live in Michigan. Bruce lives in Florida. But you should hear them on the phone—their banter, their patience with one another, their reminiscing.

I’ll let you in on it soon, because this is the real love story.

Bruce, Jerry and Duane, 1990s

Bruce, Jerry and Duane, 1990s