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

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