Archive for March, 2016

March 14, 2016

Post 87 —Epilogue (Part 2)

The story of the Family Broquet didn’t end in 1968, although their tans faded quickly. After returning to Detroit for an awkward summer of feeling like strangers among their relatives, Larry got a job at another new start-up, WMUL-TV, the first public television station in Huntington, West Virginia.

The culture shock of living in Huntington was almost as great as when they first arrived in Samoa. West Virginia may have fought on the Union side of the Civil War, but it still had roots deep in the south. Manners and appearances counted—not only were people wearing shoes all the time, but stockings and girdles as well!

Huntington was a college town, home of Marshall University; the entire family immersed themselves in a community theatre group, and somehow thrived amidst the green mountains of Appalachia, the one thing that reminded them of Samoa.

The stay in Huntington was short and the family left after three years, headed to the Land of Lincoln. Larry became an administrator for the Illinois Board of Education, figuring there were enough good state schools in Illinois to be able to send all his girls to college. Jean also worked for the state and the two of them stayed there until their retirement in 1989. They spent their leisure years traveling, managing to check China, South Africa, most of Europe and New Zealand off the list of Places To See Before You Die.

Several reunions of ETV alumni were held, and Jean and Larry fulfilled a life-long dream in 1990 by going back to the island, some 22 years after they had left. Jean chronicled that trip in (what else?) a letter:

We expected to ride around Tutuila, reminisce and see all the changes. What we didn’t expect was the welcome and continual hospitality we received. Tapes of the old TV project were played on KVZK and the public was informed that some of these people were visiting and anyone who had formerly cherished them should come to the airport. They did, complete with great big smiles, shrieks of remembrance and some of dismay. One Samoan lady thought Larry had traded in his old brunette wife for a silver-haired one!

We stayed at the hotel in ocean-view rooms. (Rumor has it that rats are living in the hotel fales!) Hotel beach area is polluted, but the pool is enormous . . . much larger than remembered. No wonder the kids became such good swimmers since they had to do laps in that pool! The sky, ocean and mountains are still impressive and a Samoan beautification campaign must have been waged on a grand scale. The blooming island we all expected long ago . . . now is. Poinsettias, puas, ginger, crotons, etc. are everywhere. Now the island is not only green and lush, but lusciously colorful too.

There have been many changes but much remains the same. The hotel restaurant menu has a variety of offerings but seldom had them available; the vases in the snack bar contained plastic flowers but the water was changed daily! We attended a reception at the hotel and those of us who wore long dresses were in the minority – the local ladies wore heels, hose and cocktail dresses.

There were many busy Samoans rushing around but there was always someone who would happily pass the time of day and swear that they remembered being in one of the original TV classrooms. We toured the TV studio and mourned the changes. The old spiral staircase (aka The Golden Screw) from KVZK somehow ended up in a village. At one point, Larry and Gene S. and a few others of our group actually ended up on TV again, on a Samoan version of Password!

Random thoughts . . . flower ulas not generally handmade but bought at ula booth at airport; shell ulas imported. No more Boat Days, so hang onto your artifacts. Collectively the ex-contract people possess a vast and valuable treasure of Polynesian history. Hurricanes have virtually eliminated traditional fales for homes; all wood and cement block now. The coral sand of Tafuna is now covered in sturdy crab grass and the mature palms in that area could only have been planted by the early pioneers!

There was a serious decrease in the pig population while we were there. Reason: feasts for us! Nancy M. counted; she said it was a five-pig trip! What a time we had, both then and now.

And today:

Jean was diagnosed in 2000 with a rare brain disorder called PSP (progressive supranuclear palsy) and her slow decline was the impetus for The Samoan Letters. She died in 2007, leaving boxes of saved notes and letters everywhere that her daughters cherish.

Larry spent much of his retirement trying to get on game shows. Although he was never chosen to be on his beloved Jeopardy!, he did manage to appear on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?; a show on which he won no money but did get to meet Regis Philbin. He continued writing song parodies throughout his life, and The Battle Hymn of the Republic was always his go to tune.  He got to read the first draft of The Samoan Letters and ran his red pen through ever part with which he disagreed. He was an unsentimental editor but was also right. He died in 2017, and at his funeral, his grandchildren sang a song they wrote just for him. It was to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and it brought down the house. He would have been so proud.

Kathy, the oldest of the four girls, is now retired from journalism/copy editing and lives with her husband Jay in Washington, DC, where she volunteers for The Smithsonian and tries to think of new ways to interest her two grandsons in musicals. Every year she creates a diorama out of marshmallow peeps to enter in the Washington Post Peeps Contest. She still beams whenever a camera is pointed at her.

Carolyn followed Larry’s path into television and has been a video editor for the local Chicago CBS station for over thirty years. She has so many Emmys that they are literally just scattered about her house. All those years of singing while doing the dishes really paid off, and she now sings and plays guitar in a band called Cowboy Choir (full disclosure: they are not real cowboys). She hopes this is the year for the Chicago Cubs.

Karen, the curly-topped youngest who whined her way across the south pacific, actually grew up to be a lovely person with a normal speaking voice who is also a doctor. She has a huge old Victorian house in Springfield, IL that constantly needs work but also has a contractor husband named Greg, so that evens out. Their two adult daughters, Roxane and Lillian, live in nearby states and Roxane occasionally keeps chickens. Coincidence or heredity? You decide.

Chris (aka “Chrissie”) by day is a graphic designer at a music publishing house. She considers her two children, Zoe and Remy, to be her greatest accomplishments, although she has also made scrapbooks for her cats. Her first foray into writing was a column for a small local paper that allowed her to say whatever she wanted as long as it wasn’t longer than 500 words. She mistook that as encouragement and now tends to write overly long emails and Facebook posts for anyone who will click on her. This is her first blook.


Larry and (clockwise from lower left) Karen, Carolyn, Kathy and Chris.


March 14, 2016

Post 86— Epilogue (Part 1)

samoa_TV StudioThings went downhill quickly in the ETV program after the Broquets left American Samoa. There were rumblings of problems within the ranks of the project as early as 1967 when Governor H. Rex Lee’s term was over. His successor, Owen Aspinall, had other priorities for the islands and absolutely no investment in the master educational plan that had been crafted by the National Association of Broadcasters under Lee’s watchful guidance. Money was shuffled from the educational budget to meet different objectives and Aspinall flirted with other teaching methods that may have guaranteed results at the university level but were wholly unsuitable for elementary-age children.

There was a bugging scandal that had nothing to do with the infamous roaches found on the island, but occurred in the form of wiretapping. It was discovered that several high government officials were being eavesdropped on, including the Director of Education. Funds were directed away from the program, and the final blow came when Aspinall attempted to institute a bizarre salary increase that would have paid newly-hired personnel up to 30% more than what the eight-year plus experienced employees were already receiving. The threat of mass resignation caused him to back down, but staff morale was at an all-time low and the NAEB stepped in.

We just heard that a 30% raise is going to go into effect with the new contract. Larry knew there was a possibility a couple of months ago, but it is fairly official now. Would have been a good raise, but they are talking about it for the new people, not the old experienced ones. The money here hasn’t kept up with the increases in the states and something had to be done to aid the recruiting. Oh well. We are still unemployed as of 7/31/68.


On February 17, 1969, a letter was sent to The Honorable Owen S. Aspinall from the president of the NAEB. It was five pages long, and William G. Harley made no attempt to hide his disdain.
Here are a few excerpts:

For nearly eight years, the NAEB has been actively engaged in the basic design and development of an educational system for American Samoa. The accomplishments of the system have attracted worldwide attention and have illustrated that it is possible to provide relevant educational opportunities for children whose situation presents them with fundamental and serious learning handicaps.

The NAEB is proud of what has been undertaken and what has been achieved in American Samoa. It is especially aware of the personal and professional contributions that a large number of American educators have made in order to give life and meaning to a unique educational plan. We are also aware of the willing and confident trust of many Samoan educators and leaders for whom the plan was designed and upon whom its success will continue to depend.


Since assuming office in the summer of 1967, your public statements to the contrary notwithstanding, it has been clear that the Governor’s tolerance of the NAEB and the main officials in the Department of Education was grudging and impatient. All conversations between the NAEB and the Governor of American Samoa have illustrated a major failure to understand the central characteristics and needs of the education system, and an unwillingness to support it. 


It is conceivable that the important educational lessons being demonstrated in Samoa would persuade the NAEB to maintain its interests, at considerable professional risk and inconvenience  to itself, if it were not that the same tactics and behavior have seriously affected the leaders in the Department of Education. They have been publicly maligned and humiliated; they have been capriciously treated with respect to contract renewals, housing, early departures  . . . prorated budget cuts have seriously jeopardized the education program, and a recent memorandum outlining Major Program Issues for FY1971 does not include education.

The 5-page letter finishes with this:

In withdrawing from our relationship with the Government of American Samoa, I wish to underline that we intend to communicate no lack of confidence or support for the Samoan and American educators who have played such a central role in making the program so successful. But we do not believe that our continued tolerance of the present circumstances will improve the conditions under which they work.

Feb 17, 1969

William G. Harley

After the NAEB pulled their support from the program, Aspinall decided that teachers should have control over whether or not they used television lessons. Over the next few years, television – both the production of lessons and their use in the classroom – was cut further and further back. By 1975, high schools were not using instructional television at all. KVZK was separated from the Department of Education in 1976, and today is used for commercial broadcasting.

Was the great ETV experiment a success or a failure? Depends upon on whom you ask. The program was dismantled before enough data was gathered to determine if it would have remained a viable way to bring education to places without easy access to teachers or textbooks. To the teachers and administrators who were involved from the beginning, it was groundbreaking and fulfilling, and they could point to the hundreds of students who became fluent in English and were able to pursue their studies with many more available resources. The experiences of the ETV staff and their time in American Samoa changed the lives of all who had been pioneers, and their hope and belief was that they had given back as much as they had received.