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.


4 Comments to “Post 87 —Epilogue (Part 2)”

  1. Hi Chris, I really enjoyed your blog. I currently work in the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office (did not exist during your time in AS). I have a few questions for you if I could get your email please.

    Thank you.


  2. I just wanted to thank you for such an amazing trip down memory lane. My family lived in American Samoa from 1980-82. My parents were schoolteachers and so much of what you describe was still exactly the same in the early 1980s.

    The long trek to Slippery Rock Beach, the impromptu parties at Two-Dollar Beach (named that because that is how much it cost to park), the amazing generosity, warmth and hospitality of the Samoan culture — it was all exactly how we remember it, even 10+ years after your family departed.

    I’m told that when the McDonalds opened, the line of cars to order food was stretched down Route 1 all the way to Faga’itua. I’m sure the Samoans have taken to fast food the same way they took to Spam and the huge crates of salted corned beef that used to come in by ship.

    On my bucket list is a trip back to Pago Pago. I know in my heart that it’s so very much different, but if I end up making it I know that there will be a banyan tree for me to climb, Samoans to greet me warmly and memories of my long-ago childhood surfacing to remind me that our time in American Samoa was something unique and special and only people who have lived there can understand what that means.


  3. Chrissie, you were just a little girl when I knew you and your family. Kathryn and I were at St. Peter’s together, and our family lived across Harper on Ridgemont. What a wonderful story you’ve told! It was fabulous to hear where you’ve all been, as well as where you’ve landed.


    • Hi Kathleen! Wow, St. Peters goes way back! Were you Sheridan back then? I will tell my sister Kathy that you commented and see if she remembers you from school. Thanks for reading!


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