Archive for October, 2012

October 28, 2012

Post 7 — Filariasis and vaccinations

Larry and Jean went through the stack of National Geographics to try to find articles that would help them figure out exactly what they had signed on for. Aside from Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa and some mentions in Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener, there just wasn’t that much written about the place.

Kathy brought the Michener book to the dinner table one night. “There’s a story in here about a man who had a disease called filariasis,” she said. “It says his scrotum weighed over seventy pounds and he had to carry it around in a wheelbarrow. Daddy, will we get filariasis? Where’s my scrotum?” They all turned expectantly to their father, who had gone even paler than the man with the wheelbarrow.

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October 24, 2012

Post 6 — The Family Has Questions

As Jean had suspected, the news that four of the grandchildren were about to be whisked away to some unknown island was not met with much enthusiasm on the part of the grandparents. “What the hell are you going to Africa for?” her father shouted. “You don’t know what could be hiding in that jungle!” It was difficult to calm the parent’s fears when they knew so little themselves, although they were pretty sure the island wasn’t in Africa. Lack of information was a major problem — it wasn’t like they could just Google American Samoa and get all their questions answered.

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October 19, 2012

Post 5 — The Decision

The Broquets were not big travelers. Larry had spent some Army time in Germany at the end of World War II and Jean had taken a cross-country bus trip to California, but that was about it. Their family vacations were the typical throw-all-the-kids-in-the-back-of-the-station-wagon kind to places within a few hours of Detroit.

“Guess what we did,” Chrissie bragged to Debbie, Davey and Dawn. “We got to tour this big cereal factory in Battle Creek. They gave us little boxes of Fruit Loops and they were free! It was the best vacation ever!” They saw the tulips in Holland, rode the Boblo boat in Detroit, and actually left the country once to drive through the tunnel to Windsor, Canada. They bought some cheese and came home. It took about an hour.

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October 17, 2012

Post 4 — The Father, Larry

Larry Broquet taught geography and world history on educational television, WTVS Channel 56 in Detroit. ETV was a fairly new concept in the sixties and the station was producing original programming to be broadcast into classrooms. The information being taught was the same as in a regular school, but it was hard to hold student’s attention if you just stood in front of the camera and pointed to a map. Larry had always had a bit of a theatrical side and he put it to good use in his curriculum. He would write sketches that illustrated great moments in history and regularly worked costumes and props into his lessons. He also enjoyed using puns to make his point. One show about the Crusades ended with the punch line “I wouldn’t send a knight out on a dog like this” and involved a suit of armor and a live sheepdog in the studio. His program was very popular.

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October 14, 2012

Post 3 — The Mother, Jean

They were a rambunctious group, roughhousing like puppies and occasionally really beating the crap out of each other. The level of physicality might have seemed out of place in a house full of girls, but no attempt was made to force them to adhere to feminine stereotypes. The competitiveness was heightened by their perception of parental favoritism, something their mother and father were well aware of and determined not to encourage. Christmas gifts were presented in stacks of exactly the same number of boxes; each girl had an equal amount of socks in her drawer. The canned peas were counted and divided by four, regardless of whether or not anyone planned on eating them. Every child was equal in the Broquet household, and it occasionally drove them mad with fury.

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October 14, 2012

Post 2 — The Family Broquet

Before the plane ride, before the packing, before the terror of the trolls, they were simply an ordinary family. A history teaching dad, a stay-at-home mom, and a bunch of kids who spent most of their days coloring pictures of apostles and learning how to spell from nuns.

Detroit in 1964 was still three years away from the riots that would paralyze the city, although racial tension was high and a long simmering resentment was building based on widespread reports of police brutality. The Detroit Tigers were in fourth place in the American League and the Beatles, fresh from their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, would be playing Olympia Stadium in September. But for these children living in suburban Harper Woods, MI, life was as insulated as the plaid thermos of tomato soup that was tucked into their Flintstone’s plastic lunchboxes.

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