Friday, June 29, 2012


When I was 14, my mother talked her office manager at Oregon Mutual Insurance Company into hiring me as a file clerk for a month in the summer when the regular clerk went on vacation. The job was simple enough: file the case folders and index cards back in their alphabetical drawers after they were used. There were lots of cards, lots of folders and lots of drawers. It was very boring, the room was hot and stuffy and I frequently sat on the little stool, pulled out a lower drawer and laid my head down for a nap.

Rosetta would pass by the file room on her way to the restroom and discover me nodding off.  She would duck in, shake me awake and say, “Wake up Phyllice, you’re sleeping again. I told them you were a good worker. If the boss catches you, you’ll lose your job and I’ll lose mine, too.” 

I’m sure that during that month, Rosetta must have made a hundred trips to the Ladies’ Room just to check on me.

Rosetta had a gift that is often referred to as “a keen sense of the obvious”. You could come to her with any problem—personal or academic—lay out the facts and she would cut through all the B.S. to give you the one best answer. That’s why everyone came to her for advice. She wasn’t judgmental, she didn’t over analyze, she just saw the unvarnished truth. 


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why Rosetta's brother Sam never became a photographer

Life in a zany family in the early 1900s
Rosetta as a young woman

Twelve people were trying to exist in our apartment and we only had one bathroom. So, what do you think? To make matters worse my brother Sam was studying photography, and after taking a picture he went into the bathroom to develop it. He drew the shade and got all ready but invariably someone would have to use the bathroom. Poor Sam.  He never did get to develop any pictures and finally gave up photography.  

Rosetta's funny memoir is available in paperback and Kindle. Get your daily dose of laughter from the book she wrote when she was 80. Rosetta nearly reached her 97th birthday when she passed away in 2006.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Believe in yourself

Rosetta's words of wisdom

"There's one thing you must always believe in, honey...yourself."   ~Rosetta Schwartz

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Jean & Husband Sam-Around 1910

Rosetta devoted space to each of her 9 brothers and sisters in the book. Jean, the oldest, was about 17 when Rosetta was born. She lived to 93 and was like a second mother to Rosetta.


My sister Jean was the oldest and she was almost more like a mother to me than a sister because of our age difference. When she finished grammar school, she got a job in a department store as a cashier. Kids from poor families went to work very early in those days. 

Her earnings were so minimal, that after staying on that job for a while, Jean found a job with the Saturday Evening Post.  It was a very popular magazine in Chicago, and her job was going from door-to-door to get subscriptions for the magazine.

She was a very beautiful girl with jet black hair and pretty soon people at the company noticed her good looks and approached her. They wanted to make her a cover girl. She accepted and was on a Saturday Evening Post magazine cover, but didn’t stay with the company very long. Jean wanted to better herself, and was offered a job with Cameron Dental Lab, a dental laboratory that manufactured all kinds of dental equipment.

Jean was not only pretty, she had beautiful teeth. Well, while she was working in the dental industry, it didn’t take long for the people in charge to notice how pretty she was and even more important what a wonderful smile she had. Sure enough, they asked if she would model their instruments.

So once again she became a model in addition to her job of working on the assembly line. They got away with highway robbery, because neither of those companies ever paid her an extra dime for being their model, but it was fun for her to see her photo in print.

 She worked for Cameron a long time, assembling instruments and lending them her smile. When she finally left, they begged her to stay and even kept calling her and asking her to come back.

Eventually she met a man named Sam Heftel and they got married. Family members were surprised at her choice because many handsome, successful men had courted my sister and she had turned all of them down.

Sam was into real estate, and although Jean assumed he was a fairly good salesman, he never seemed to be able to close a deal. They were married many years and lived in a small efficiency apartment with a pull down bed and what was called a Pullman kitchen.  It was so small and so compact, it was built into an alcove. They never had any children, and to tell the truth, Sam always had to scrape out a living so her life wasn’t very exciting. Not only that, but he loved to smoke the smelliest cigars you can imagine, and  that little apartment always smelled putrid no matter how much Lysol she used to clean it. She could have married so much better.

Read her stories in the popular memoir CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO? Over 6,000 copies downloaded since May. Also available in paperback as a wonderful gift of laughter for someone you love.

 NOTE: When Jean was in her early thirties she had major surgery. The anesthetic caused her jet black hair to turn snow white overnight. She kept it long and rolled it into "sausage curls" which was a style of the times. To me it looked like strands of spun silver, and as a very young child one of my big treats was being able to brush Aunt Jean's beautiful hair.  ~MORGAN ST. JAMES

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Rosetta's mother and sister Jean in the 1940s in Florida
Every year Rosetta's brother Al made it a point to send his mother Mathilda and his sister Jean to Florida during the harsh Chicago winters. Jean was eighteen when Rosetta was born, and as the oldest of ten children she had been a little mom to several of her siblings. Jean's help made it easier for her mother to care for so many kids, and Al always treated her as a second mother.

Traveling by air in the 1940s  was far from the norm, but Al knew the trip by train had become very taxing for his mother. Although it was extremely expensive in those days, he convinced her that it was the only way to go. He drove them to the airport and as they sat in the passenger area waiting to board the plane, Mathilda was mentally prepared for the adventure of actually flying through the air.

Mathilda, a very little woman, was small but mighty. To give you an idea, Jean was only five feet tall, and you can see how much shorter her mother was.

However, there was a young couple also waiting to board the propeller plane that day, and the young woman was absolutely terrified.

As Rosetta related the story, even though Mathilda spoke very little English, she approached the young woman and with Jean's help got her message across. Essentially it was:

"I'm an old woman and I'm not afraid of this newfangled contraption. You are a young beautiful woman and should be fearless, but if it will help, please hold my hand. I will give you some of my courage."

In later years, the roles switched and Jean became the one taking care my Grandmother. Both of them lived into their 90s while Rosetta's father died in the 1930s. It is no mystery where Rosetta got that indomitable spirit. Although her mother was generally a very quiet woman, there was an underlying strength and she passed it along to her ten children. When Rosetta was still alive, she said their father, my Grandfather, had a fantastic sense of humor and that was why the family was always laughing, regardless of the situation, and the neighbors asked if they could join the laughter. Rosetta got the best of both. Her mother's gentle strength and her father's humor.

Read her stories in "Can We Come In and Laugh, Too?" Over 6,000 copies downloaded since May. Also available in paperback.

Thursday, June 14, 2012



In this photo Rosetta is sitting in the front row. Her mischief-maker brother Phil is right behind her, wearing the paper crown.

Back in 1920, there was a really large family in Chicago. It is amazing how they managed to fit all of those people into the apartment. Of Rosetta's seven brothers and two sisters, all but Jean (who is standing by the piano) were absolutely zany. Jean was reserved. Maybe that was because she was the oldest and had helped raise so many of them.

A family party was no small affair. The laughter resounded through the building, and the neighbors always hoped they'd be asked to join in.

Rosetta was eleven when this Halloween party photo was taken. To the right you can see the huge mirror where her brother Meyer  experimented with stage makeup day after day while he practiced different characters. His big desire was to be a stage actor. Her brother Charlie would probably be playing the drums in another part of the apartment, and Rosetta said she never knew what kind of character makeup Meyer would be wearing when she got home from school. 

Meyer didn't make it as an actor, but according to her brother Al, Meyer did wind up playing the coronet with one of John Phillips Sousa's bands for a year before going into sales. Many of the brothers played an instrument and  Rosetta shared the banjo with her sister Edna when they got older.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


They certainly weren't your typical "bevy of beauties."

A group of women who worked at Swartzchild & Company, a jewelry supply company in downtown Chicago, decided to get together and have a pajama party. Rosetta is the one  dead center in the third row. This photo was probably taken around 1927 when she was eighteen years old.

Rosetta's comment: "We all held our breath while the photographer got everything ready and prayed the bed wouldn't break!"

If some of the ladies look a little stoned, it's because without Photoshop or digital cameras back in those times, if the photo came out with some eyes closed, the photographer simply painted the eyes onto the eyelids.

Years later, this photo hung on her daughter Phyllice's wall, and Phyllice looks quite a bit like Rosetta. One of her friends squinted at the image and said, "Phyllice, when were you working in a cat house?"

Rosetta lived for laughter and shared it in her memoir. Since recently being published, thousands of Kindle copies of  Rosetta's heartwarming, funny book, CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO?  have been downloaded . It is also available in paperback and makes a wonderful gift.

She passed on in 2006 nearing her 97th birthday, but her humor lives on.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Rosetta is on TOP-Again!
Rosetta Schwartz 1909-2006

That's her at the top of the heap back in in the 1920s during a day at the beach. Her sister Edna is the one on the left.

The response to the free Kindle edition of Rosetta's memoir on June 6-7 was overwhelming. In two days nearly 5,300 copies were downloaded followed by many more people buying copies from Amazon for only $2.99.

Rosetta almost made her 97th birthday, but If she had lived long enough to see this response and realized how many people will now read her stories and tell their friends and relatives about her book, she would have been ecstatic. After all, when she was approached and asked to write about her life, her answer was, "But I'm  not a writer, Honey."

Oh yes she was. The book came about because I turned one of her favorite phrases around and used it on her: "You can do it." And, she not only wrote Part I of the book, she did it with a flair for comedy in a tightly written memoir.    
                        Morgan St. James

From Part II: 

I remember when Aunt Rosetta walked into a room it was painted with sunshine.  Soon that room overflowed with laughter. Laughter is contagious and let me tell you Aunt Rosetta was the primary carrier.  Even though she is no longer with us, I know that she is spreading sunshine and laughter somewhere.  
Nephew Sandy Schwartz, her brother Charlie's son