Post 62 — Downtown (Where All the Lights Are Bright)

The view from the front of the house. The dog was optional.

The view from the front of the house. The dog was optional.

Before the decision to NOT to move home had been made, the family had decided to move home. But this move was only 7 miles, from Tafuna into Fagatogo, not 7000 miles back to Detroit. It took almost as long.

March 13, 1966

After fiddling around for the last six months, the Government of American Samoa’s Housing director informed us that we could have that house in town if we wanted it. We had just about decided against it, but the reaction of the kids was a bit different—so we moved!

Oka, oka, what a barn! The place is gigantic! We moved last Thursday and we haven’t seen Karen for three days! Wonderful! I borrowed a pickup truck and hauled about five loads of stuff. It is amazing just how much junk we’ve accumulated since we’ve been here. We didn’t bring any furniture with us, but we must have had fifty boxes.

The place is old, termite ridden, ugly, and right across the street from the noisy market place in town—but all the kids have their own bedrooms and most important of all, WE HAVE THREE BATHROOMS!

I don’t know how excited anyone else would get over the three johns, but I’ve been fighting the Battle of the Bathroom with five females for the past eighteen months in Tafuna and the pleasure of a private bathroom with shower, toilet, sink and tub just for Jean and me is the real topper.


Eleven little girls fit in the dining room at the new house. The sewing machine room is through the window behind Karen.

Eleven little girls fit in the dining room at the new house. The sewing machine room is through the window behind Karen.

The town house was less an actual townhouse and more like an airplane hangar with dividers, many which did not reach to the ceiling. Formerly used to board officers in the war, the rambling wooden house had so many different spaces that the family actually had a sewing machine room and a phonograph room, simply because there was nothing else to put in them.

“For the last few weeks, we have been working with fiberglass. I made a red fish, an aqua one and a white one with yellow spots and a red streak down its back. Tonight I am going to use them in a 36 by 24 inch clear white panel using shells and bits and pieces of white coral, plus green and yellow tissue paper to make it look sea weedy. We have a window between our room and Karen’s room, and while it is rather high up, Karen and her friends like to jump on the bed and peek through. Larry said he didn’t mind the looking, but the laughing kind of bothered him.”


The bathroom that the girls shared was a tiled space that whole soccer teams could have showered in and still had room for the four of them. It was also home to a population of extra large cockroaches who had lived there since the dawn of time and were unimpressed with the shrieks that came from the new tenants. They learned quickly that one did not venture barefoot into the bathroom without turning on the light and keeping your eyes closed as the sounds of a million scattering legs rushed to new hiding places. Not having to look at the bugs was comforting, but not knowing where they had gone was a study in psychological terror.

The enclosed porch that wrapped around the entire house could have been used for roller derby tournaments. One side had a ping-pong table that had been left by previous tenants, and the other end boasted a swing that was as improbable as it was wonderful. It was a platform the width of a double bed with a musty mattress that always seemed slightly damp on top, anchored to the ceiling with ropes the size of the gym class specials that not a single Broquet girl had ever been able to climb.

Jean paused as she passed through the living room and saw a rare moment of peace between her headstrong daughters. Kathy and Chrissie were laid out next to each other on the swing, swaying gently in the humid air while Kathy read aloud from “Tom Sawyer.” It was an idyllic tableaux, a moment frozen in time connected through classic literature— until a screaming banshee hurtled herself off of a nearby table and landed between the two, knocking the book to the ground and sending the swing careening in the opposite direction.

“MOM!” screamed Chrissie, trying to shove the squirming curly-top to the floor. “Karen is bothering us! MOM!”

Somewhere far away, Jean gently closed the door to her very own bathroom and leaned against it. With any luck, they wouldn’t find her for hours.

5 Comments to “Post 62 — Downtown (Where All the Lights Are Bright)”

  1. I am loving reliving those days in Samoa – Sally Nelson

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Who are you people? And, what were you doing in American Samoa?


  3. I loved loved loved your house in town, esp since I was your next door neighbor. The new records arriving from the states, the get togethers…. all of it!!! I am so enjoying your book!!


    • Tracy! How great to hear from you! I remember you hanging out with my sister Kathy all the time. Actually going to visit her in DC tomorrow and will tell her I heard from you. So happy you like the book!


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