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 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.

The Smithy

The Smithy by Paul Detlefsen

Isn’t it interesting how a person’s career defines not only him, but also his family? How many in the Amos family hold a nostalgic fascination for the Amish, simply because they’re part of our childhood? Or, as Joel wondered in last week’s comments, who remembers this painting entitled The Smithy, by Paul Detlefsen, and feels a kinship to the art of blacksmithing?

We feel these emotional tugs because a hundred years ago Arthur Amos, grandfather to the Amos boys, was a blacksmith for the Amish. They are our heritage as much as the man himself is.

Thankfully, I’ve come across a bit of a treasure trove on Arthur, considering we don’t have much information otherwise. Back in 1991, my son Jason also was intrigued by the Amish and blacksmithing (well, as intrigued as an 11-yr-old can be when his mother tells him he must write a 4-H report on family history during the middle of summer vacation). He chose to research and write about Arthur.

Here are portions of his report.

Our Very Own Clark Gable

Roland Amos

As we look at pictures, several people have commented how Roland looks a bit like Clark Gable. Maybe it’s that pencil mustache. Or maybe the jaunty glint in his eye. Whatever it is, he certainly adds a touch of charisma to the Amos Boys family portraits.

We know Roland is the Amos boys’ father, but what do we really know of his life?

1910 Census

Roland Elbert was born on July 8, 1909, to Wm. Arthur and Beatrice (Holmes) Amos. According to this 1910 U.S. Census, the family lived in the town of Corunna, DeKalb County, Indiana. Four years later, in 1913, his sister Dorothy was born and the family continued living in Corunna.

Apparently, Roland was not much on talking about his childhood. Even more unfortunate is that none of us, his offspring, ever pinned him down for stories.

“The only thing I can remember him telling,” says Duane, “was that when he was a boy, the neighbor’s dog bit him on his lip and gave him a scar.”

“Supposedly he was pretty good in basketball,” says Bruce. “A (Native American) Indian team recruited him to play for them because he was so dark.”

Roland & Gladys with friends

Roland and Gladys, on left, together with friends, circa late 1920s.

Small town Indiana must not have appealed to Roland because in the late 1920s he moved up to Lansing, Michigan. That’s when he met and married Gladys Gulick and started his family of Amos boys.

“For a while he worked as a tool and die maker for REO,” says Duane. “Supposedly REO had a basketball team. Maybe he came because of that, I don’t know. Later he got in with Ford Motor Company in Detroit when they were paying $5 a day.”

That was a big salary in those days.

It seems Roland was quite the adventurous spirit. In the mid-1930s, he met up with a pilot named Harvey Hughes and the two of them began traveling around the country doing air shows.

“Harvey had a plane and they went to fairs all over the country selling airplane rides,” says Bruce.

“I don’t know if it’s true or not, but someone told me they used to do some stunt work. They’d do that to attract attention and Roland would get out on the wing,” says Jerry.

“Yep, I heard that too,” says Bruce.

“As part of their show Dad (Roland) would ride a motorcycle through a burning wall. One time he broke his collarbone,” adds Duane.

“I heard that too,” says Jerry.

“Well, he didn’t check the other side of the wall and somebody had parked a car there. When he went through the wall, he hit this car,” says Bruce.

So not only was Roland adventurous, he was a bit of a daredevil as well!

Roland with Duane and Bruce

As we know, things weren’t always well with Roland and Gladys. Over time the boys lived with several different families, including Duane and Bruce living with Roland’s parents in Indiana and Jerry living with Gladys’ mother and stepfather in Lansing.

By then, Roland’s parents Arthur and Beatrice had moved to the small town of Topeka.

“Dad wasn’t with us all the time while we lived in Indiana,” says Duane. “But sometimes he was. I remember one time there was a bad thunderstorm and he took Bruce and I out on the big covered porch. He held us, one in each arm, so we wouldn’t be afraid of the storm.”

Duane remembers another time when Bruce, who would have only been four or five, was climbing on the guide wire of a telephone pole and got a shard of wire caught near his eye. It was Roland who took Bruce to the doctor and Roland who became upset when he felt the doctor wasn’t treating his son right.

“I guess Dad was holding Bruce while the doctor took the stitches out. Something happened and Bruce jumped,” says Duane. “Dad got mad and yelled at the doctor.”

Jerry remembers an incident with Roland as well. It was Christmas time and Jerry was spending the holiday with Gladys, Duane and Bruce (remember that he lived with his maternal grandparents until he was 13).

“Roland came to the house with presents for Duane and Bruce,” says Jerry. “He apparently didn’t know I was going to be there. He didn’t recognize me at first until Bruce or Duane said something to him. Thinking back on it now, it was to his credit that he made up the excuse that he must have left my present somewhere and would have to go back and get it…which he did. Roland and I did not know each other then. It was the only time I remember him ever saying anything to me. He was taken by surprise finding me there on Beech Street and knew the other boys did not want me to feel bad.”

These memories are special. But when a man isn’t around for his wife and children a sense of animosity easily arises. That’s how it was for the Amos boys.

“Yes, I resented my dad for a time,” says Bruce. “Mom had to basically raise us boys by herself.”

“When I was in junior high and high school I really resented him. He gave my mother a lot of dirt,” says Duane. “It wasn’t anything that was outspoken but we just never spent much time with him.”

“He seemed to be a very distant father, and I was not a part of his world,” says Jerry. “Gladys never let on that Roland was not my father and I did not give it much thought until adulthood when it was too late to discuss the matter with Mom. As adults, Roland and I became better acquainted and got along fine. We just never talked about our family relationship.”

That’s what’s so special about these Amos boys—they all grew up, got on with life and chose to forget whatever injustices transpired during their childhood.

“When I was in the service, I was stationed in Washington D.C. before going overseas,” says Duane. “It was 1951 and Dad and Harriet had just gotten married. They came to D.C. for their honeymoon. I wrote a letter to Harriet before they came, just to get acquainted, and when they visited we all did things together. When I came home from the Navy and all of us got married, everyone got along real well.”

And so we come to Harriet…

Sometime after WWII, Roland met Harriet Green. The Amos guys think they may have met at the bowling alley because they both enjoyed bowling.

“Bowling was a real big thing back then,” says Bruce. “Everyone bowled. Harriet was probably one of the top women bowlers in Lansing.”

Harriet Amos, 1955

Harriet was a professional woman who had previously never married. She was independent and had her own home in Lansing, which she inherited from a family member.

Originally, Harriet was from Lapeer, a town about 75 miles northeast of Lansing.

“I don’t know if her mother died or what happened,” says Jerry. “Harriet talked a lot about when she was a young girl and the nice things father would do for her. Maybe he felt bad that her mother was gone, but he got her a pony and that was a great thrill for her. She spent a lot of time riding.”

“Her dad was kind of a wheeler dealer,” says Bruce. “He was a horse trader.”

Harriet’s father Wallace eventually remarried and Harriet had two step-brothers, Wally and Robert.

When Harriet finished school, she moved to Lansing and began a career. At first she worked for the state in liquor control. By 1948, she had joined Donovan, Gilbert & Company, a small financial firm that dealt largely in bonds. She eventually became a stockbroker and decades later ended up owning the company.

I ask the guys if Harriet was an influence on Roland settling down and becoming a family-oriented guy. It’s possible, they say.

Roland, with his sister Dorothy Loughman, and their father Arthur Amos, stepmother Hazel and an unknown gentleman, 1963

Roland & Di, 1964

Roland and Scott

Roland and his namesake, his grandson Roland Scott, share July 8th as their birthdays.

Whatever it was, something clicked. The Roland my generation (his grandchildren) knew was a really super guy. Always together, he and Harriet came to family gatherings and grandchildren’s events, and they shared with us their involvement in various civic organizations (who can forget those Zonta fruitcakes!)

Roland & Harriet with Bruce, Duane and Jerry. Roland’s 75th birthday, 1984

Roland with his grandson Joel, 1984

Roland with his grandson Joel, 1984

Unfortunately, in the mid 1980s Roland developed trouble with his prostrate.

“Our dad didn’t like doctors or dentists,” says Bruce. “He had prostrate cancer and he didn’t do anything about it until after it spread to his kidneys.”

Roland died on August 19, 1987, when he was 78 years old. True to his family, everyone was there for his funeral—the three Amos Boys and their wives, Harriet, Gladys, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

We are a special family, aren’t we?

Roland and Harriet

After Roland died, Harriet began to appear disoriented.

“We didn’t know if it was because she was grieving,” says Duane. “Or perhaps Roland had taken care of things more than we knew. But she would get lost coming to our house. Or she wasn’t taking care of her bills.”

In the early 1990s, Harriet was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She eventually moved to a memory care facility and on March 11, 2006, when she was 94 years old, she passed away.

Harriet’s death marked the end of a generation in the Amos family. But life just keeps moving on. The Amos Boys are now great-grandparents and the family is growing and growing.

Isn’t it great to be an Amos!

The Magical World of Indiana

Arthur Amos and family, 1963

When I was a kid, one of my favorite outings was going down to Topeka, Indiana to visit our Amos great-grandparents. Because we only went once or twice a year and because life there seemed so amazingly different, those trips were very exciting.

Topeka, located just 25 miles south of the Michigan border, is a small town in the heart of Indiana’s Amish country. As a kid, I remember the magic of turning off the main highway, going round a bend and, voilà, we were in a magical world—a long-ago land where people drove horse and buggies and dressed in old-fashioned clothes.

This is the land of our Amos people; even though, no, we’re not Amish.

Four generations, oldest to youngest: Arthur, Roland, Bruce, Scott

Roland, whose birthday we celebrate today, was born in Corunna, just a few miles east in DeKalb County. (His grandson Roland Scott also celebrates his birthday today—happy birthday Scott!)

Roland’s parents, Beatrice and William Arthur, who went by Arthur, were also from this area and eventually lived in DeKalb, Noble and LaGrange Counties. They did so specifically because of the Amish.

“He (Arthur) was a blacksmith first in Swan, Indiana,” says Duane. “He came to Topeka because at that time farmers were shifting over to tractors. He could see there wasn’t going to be much demand. But there were a lot of Amish near Topeka and there would always be demand.”

In the weeks ahead, we’re going to shift our attention to the Amos branch of the family tree. As I talk with the Amos Boys and look at old pictures, it’s intriguing not only because this area of Indiana is different than our own, but also because it’s home to ancestors we know little about.

But something also becomes poignantly apparent—something I didn’t think about before. The magical world of Indiana isn’t one we all share. In fact, a whole branch of our family gets left out—Jerry’s family.

After the wonderful reunion we had together three weeks ago, leaving part of us out seems kind of weird.

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 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