Wally Amos enthusiastically proclaimed he turned 76 this past Sunday. Truly young at heart, Amos, father of the Famous Amos cookie recipe, still has plenty to give to the community and remains proactive in doing so.
A huge supporter of children’s literacy, Amos works with many organizations to promote reading aloud to children. This year Amos, partnering with YMCA, made an agreement that if its staff members read to students involved in its After School Plus Program (A+), then he would visit each participating school and also read to the students.
“I personally drove myself to 46 locations. I went to two schools per day and sometimes three. It was the most gratifying thing I’ve ever done, to see the faces on those children who are so eager to learn and to have fun,” says Amos, whose parents were both illiterate.
“I was at an elementary school in Ewa, and when I showed up all the students were at the door with books waiting for me to read. That is a clear sign how hungry these kids are to be read to and want to learn how to read.”
Amos also is on the board of directors of Read To Me International, a local foundation whose sole purpose is to share the love and joy of reading aloud. He also is very much involved with the Read Aloud America campaign.
“I encourage parents to read aloud to children at least from birth to 6 years old. I’d really like them to do it beforehand while they’re in the womb,” says Amos, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover April 10, 1985.
What you may not know is that before there were any Famous Amos cookies, Amos, after a four-year stint in the Air Force, worked his way up from the mail room at William Morris Talent Agency in New York to become the first black talent agent in its history, signing a then-young musical duo Simon & Garfunkel.
It wasn’t until he moved to Los Angeles that his passion for cookies exploded. In 1975, while his own talent agency struggled, Amos found solace in baking, using a modification of his Aunt Della’s recipe, which he memorized from childhood. Famous Amos was then born, promoted and, after a year, on grocery shelves throughout the U.S.
Amos was forced to sell the Famous Amos Company, which is now owned by Kellogg’s. Now, after other cookie ventures, Amos is back and he couldn’t be more thrilled. Partnering with a local company, his WAMOS Cookies is set to debut this fall.
“We will bake them with tender love and care on Hawaiian soil. This is a project that will be born in Hawaii right here on Oahu and then throughout the world,” says Amos, who credits a connection to a higher power and his understanding of responsibility as the focal theme behind this venture.
Amos, a 35-year resident of Hawaii, now focuses all his attention on his two passions: baking cookies and promoting reading.