Friday, July 27, 2012

Family dinners were like a scene from a comedy

Throughout the time Rosetta lived in Chicago the family dinners were huge affairs. With most of her 9 siblings living in Chicago, plus their kids, imagine up to 40 people crowding into a relatively small apartment. Then add to that the fact that most of them were absolutely zany and you had the recipe for hilarity.

Rosetta, Edna and Jean were known as the "Three Graces." They worked together to serve all of these people like a finely oiled machine--each with their specific chore. From preparation through the dishes, they never allowed other family members to help. Even after Rosetta, Edna and Jean moved to California, the routine for family dinners, although smaller now--maybe around 20 people--persisted. This continued until the trio ranged in age from Rosetta (about 75 at the time) to Edna (around 79) and Jean approaching 90. The younger family members were always told to "sit and enjoy."

From the time the dinner guests arrived it was non-stop fun, with jokes and pranks bantered around like tennis balls. Each tried to top the other. One time they decided to stage a mock rendition of the old TV show "This is Your Life," with MC Ralph Edwards. Edna put on one of her husband's suits, a fedora and drew a mustache with eyebrow pencil. Rosetta made what was supposed to be the "book of life" for their mother, Mathilda. They sat Mathilda in an armchair and one-by-one Edna read the names of her brothers from the book.

In turn, they stood in front of Mathilda and related some funny incident from her life. Poor Mathilda was completely bewildered by this and sat there saying, "What's going on?" in Yiddish as she didn't speak much English. 

I was a kid at the time--maybe eleven years old--but I can remember that particular dinner as clearly as if it were yesterday. It was the epitome of the constant fun that prevailed in the Schwartz family and inspired all of the offspring to find the laughter in any situation.

Enjoy Rosetta's stories, both funny and inspirational in CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO? Thousands of copies have been downloaded so why not get your own copy?


Morgan St. James, Rosetta's daughter

Monday, July 23, 2012


Rosetta at 93
Rosetta loved to sing and she had a very good voice. Combine that with her sterling sense of humor and imagine her performing in a show at the local Senior Center.

She was about 82 or 83 when her neighbor Jean Williams, a flamboyant woman of about the same age who ran gambling junkets to Las Vegas, invited her to do a number in one of the shows put on at the Center. Despite her age, Rosetta was always game for most things. She decided to do a funny number, but what could it be? 

Then she remembered one of her favorites--an old Fannie Brice number called, "I'm An Indian." It was a lesser known song that told the story of little Rosie Rosenstein, a Jewish woman who fell in love with an Indian chief and became a squaw. What could be better? Not only was it a funny song, but it lent itself to a great costume. My sister and I had loved to hear her sing it through the years, and now she was to perform it on stage accompanied by another senior playing the tune on the piano.

Rosetta dug out a blanket that sort of looked like an Indian pattern and made herself a headband with a feather, then practiced her dance moves. Even though she was in her eighties, Rosetta had some good moves left in her. Hours were spent rehearsing in front of a full-length mirror, singing: "Look at me, just look at me, I'm what you call an Indian, that's something that I never was before. One day I met an Indian chief named (she called him Itchka Mahogna) and right away he took me for his squaw. He wrapped me up in blankets, put feathers in my head. Between the blankets and the feathers, I feel just like a bed."

Click HERE and you can hear the original Fannie Brice rendition of the entire song.

Finally she was ready to do a test run for Jean and me. She nailed it, Jean gave it thumbs up and the audience loved it. Rosetta was in her glory. She smiled and said, "Now I know what it feels like to be a star."
                                             Morgan St. James, daughter

Enjoy Rosetta's stories in CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO? She takes you from being the youngest of ten children, born in 1909, through 1989 when she wrote her memoir. Even when life got rough, her laughter and spirit carried her through. The book has been call funny, inspirational and delightful. A book by an ordinary woman with the extraordinary gift of making people believe in themselves. REMEMBER, Amazon Prime members can borrow the Kindle edition free.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


He was too old for her!
Up until the mid 90s Rosetta was a familiar face in the Pico/Robertson area of Los Angeles. She never learned to drive and went everywhere by foot or bus. Occasionally, she would spring for a taxi. Until she was nearly 89, most mornings she  walked from her apartment at Sherbourne near Olympic to the shopping area on Pico--about a mile walk each way. It was good aerobic exercise, and probably contributed to her good health and youthful attitude.

As Rosetta took her daily walk, always with that great smile lighting her face, she frequently stopped to chat with some of the many friends she'd made along the way. By the time she was 86, it seemed as though one older gentleman waited  in the same spot every morning until she passed 

Finally one morning he struck up a conversation, then walked along with her. After several mornings he asked her out for dinner, but made the mistake of calling it a "date." Much to his dismay, she said she just wanted to be friends. Undaunted, he still waited for her every day. At last she agreed and they had their "date."

It was hard to hold back my chuckles after I asked, "Mom, you said he's a nice guy. I never hear you talk about him anymore."

"Well, honey, he's just too old for me. During dinner he me told he's ninety. Okay he still drives, goes to the gym every day and is a fine-looking fellow--tall and erect with a good head of silver hair, and he's really funny, but what do I want with an old man? She lowered her voice, "Besides, I think he's looking for a sex partner. So, it was a dilemma. You see, I'm too young for him, but I'm too old to be anyone's sex toy."

The poor old gent continued to hound her to no avail. That's all for today. Thanks for following this blog. ROSETTA'S DAUGHTER, MORGAN ST. JAMES
 Love Rosetta? Read her funny and touching memoir. CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO?

Monday, July 16, 2012


Via Photoshop Rosetta was the model for Flossie Silver
 and her own father (at about the same age) the model for Sterling Silver
 in the Silver Sisters Mysteries

Our household was strictly Orthodox Jewish, which included several traditions. I learned to read Hebrew at a very young age and my father would settle back in his favorite chair while I read the Hebrew newspaper to him. Now that I’m old, I can’t read a word of Hebrew. I can’t explain why that is, but as an adult I definitely didn’t get involved in religion much. Maybe that’s why I’ve forgotten Hebrew, but I can still speak Yiddish.  When I do go to temple, it is either Conservative or Reform and I usually only go on the Jewish High Holidays. After my sister Jean and my brothers got married, my sister Edna and I were the only ones still at home and we knew we wanted to be part of the modern world.

My father was a very kind, gentle person and had a great sense of humor. Mama loved to laugh, but not like my father. She was much quieter. He did all the grocery shopping because my mother never had a chance to get out of the kitchen. Cooking for at least twelve people every day was a full-time job. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Buchart Gardens - Sunken Garden
Rosetta loved to travel, and in 1989 my sister Phyllice and I decided to meet in Vancouver, Canada. Phyllice traveled there from Juneau, Alaska with her young son so Mom could see her grandson and Rosetta and I flew to Vancouver from Los Angeles. 

We decided to take the hydrofoil to Victoria and stay for a few days. Going to Victoria is like being in a "mini-England" complete with a Parliament building and many British traditions including the famous high-tea at the Empress Hotel. 

The highlight of the trip was a visit to Buchart Gardens--the second most beautiful public gardens I've ever seen. The first for me will always remain Keukenhof in Holland.

We had a rental car and as we stopped at the kiosk and paid for our admissions, Phyllice spotted a sign that said, "Tell us if you were born in 1909."

Rosetta immediately said to the ticket taker, "I was born in 1909"

It was as though all of the bells and whistles in Victoria went off. The ticket taker said, "This is the 80th anniversary of Buchart Gardens. It was founded in 1909 and we are celebrating with anyone born in that year." The first thing she did was to refund our admission fees, saying, "You are our honored guests."

Then she said, "You will be treated to high tea in the teahouse and we would like to take your photo for our gallery."

The day was magical. They met us at the teahouse and Mom was treated like a celebrity. The servers catered to us and she sat there beaming. The photographer came and snapped several images and told us the best one would be hung in their gallery. 

As we finished our walk through the acres and acres of amazing gardens, Rosetta said, "It sure felt good to be Queen for a Day. Thanks so much for bringing me here."

That was a wonderful memory and she held it close for many years. It was also the day my sister and I knew she was slowing down a bit. Rosetta normally walked miles without getting tired. Near the end of the day we had almost walked the entire gardens, stopping to OOH and AAH at the beautiful displays. There was one more left. Rosetta said, "Honey, I think I'll sit on this bench while you girls look at that one." As much as we didn't want to, we had to acknowledge that when you're 80 you probably do slow down a little.

Read Rosetta's humorous and inspiring memoir, CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO? It has been enjoyed by thousands since it's release in May 2012.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

So cool I had to share it!

Rosetta at 88 years old
I have now received several emails saying they look at Rosetta's smiling face on the cover of Can We Come In and Laugh, Too? so that they can imagine her whispering her legendary message of confidence to them, "You can do it, honey!"

Everyone needs someone in their corner--someone who will encourage them to believe in themselves. This was a unique talent she had, and now she is reaching out with her message from the pages of her book and smiles at them from the cover. She's been gone since 2006 when she was nearing her 97th birthday, but she never stopped cheering people on. The cover photo was shot when she was 95, by then confined to a wheelchair because of a broken hip, but her smile and encouragement to others never faltered.

What a "feel good" project this has been!  Available in paperback and Kindle.

Thank you, everyone! MORGAN ST. JAMES

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Miami, Florida
We piled into Dad's 1949 Pontiac
In 1949, seeking a warmer climate, Rosetta and Al moved from Chicago to Miami, Florida. It was a disaster from Day One! But, being the supportive person she was, Rosetta stayed cheerful through the entire ten month ordeal--at least on the surface. We kids never saw the stress she was under. 

We got as far as Evansville, Indiana when Dad's car broke down and we were stuck in a hotel for two nights while it was being fixed. Was that an omen of what was to come? Who knows.
Morgan St. James

It took almost a week for us to drive to Florida, and when Al pulled up in front of the address his sister Helen gave us, I thought he made a mistake. The building looked so small I couldn’t imagine how it could hold three apartments.

We quickly discovered what his sister hadn’t told us—her “apartments” were only efficiency units. In just one room the living space was combined with a kitchen space, if you can call it that. A sink with a drain board took up one wall. Under the drain board was a small refrigerator and a few cabinets overhead. We had a tiny bathroom, and as far as sleeping arrangements, closet doors on another wall in this room hid a bed on hinges known as a Murphy bed. It was built into the wall and at night you opened the doors and pulled down the bed. Once the bed was down, you barely had any space between the couch and the bed.

These efficiency units were furnished with a few sticks of furniture, and it just took one glance for us to realize they were only meant to accommodate a single person or a perhaps couple in a pinch, but certainly not four people.  Al and I were pretty upset that Helen hadn’t explained what kind of apartments she had, but we couldn’t say anything to her. She meant well. With no children of her own, she probably didn’t have a clue what it would be like to live in that one room with two kids.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Can We Come In and Laugh, Too? - Rosetta had spunk!

Rosetta still youthful at 51 - 1960
Rosetta was a small woman, but mighty. She was all of 5'-1" and weighed about 95 pounds. She wasn't a gushy woman or overly huggy-kissy, but when she was in your corner, you knew you had her support and love 100% .

A peck on the cheek from Rosetta was more endearing than anything I can imagine, because along with that peck came the transfer of confidence in your abilities and the knowledge that she would support whatever you tried. Then there was the other side. No one, and I mean no one, was exempt when it came to standing up for her own rights.

I was with her when she told off a young person twice her size and probably a third of her age after they tried to butt in line in front of her. It was something like, "Don't think you can get away with that just because I'm an old woman. Get back where you belong."

She passed away in July 0f 2006 only months away from her 97th birthday. Even when mini-strokes had stolen her short term memory, if you told her you were going to attempt something, the magic words were there: "I know you can do it, honey."

Her laughter and inspiration live on in

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I got blamed for my brother Phil's troublemaking

Rosetta talks about her brother Phil
Rosetta as she neared 90 with her magnetic smile still shining
Rosetta was the youngest of ten children and Phil, two years older, was next in line.
Phil was the next youngest to me. We were always pals, but he loved to get into trouble.  I had skipped a grade, so we were only one year apart in school. When I had a teacher the year after he did, they automatically thought I would be a troublemaker just like him, and I really had to try hard to show them I wasn’t like my brother.

Phil could talk his way out of most things, and like all of my brothers, had a magnetic personality. When he finally straightened out because I gave him a tongue lashing, he actually gave the main speech at our graduation. That was a magical day for him and when he was done with his talk, the whole audience stood up clapping. I always wondered if that ever would have happened if I hadn’t given him a lecture.