Saturday, March 14, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Fearless Females!

For this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, we have a choice of 31 topics to write on!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music here), is:

(1) Lisa Alzo developed a series of Fearless Female writing prompts 10 years ago to celebrate National Women's History Month.  This year's listing of prompts is in Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Fearless Females Blogging Prompts.

(2) Today is March 14, so the writing prompt is "
Newsmakers?  Did you have a female ancestor who made the news?  Why?  Was she famous or notorious?  Did she appear in the social column?"  
If you cannot write about that prompt, choose another one from the list.

(3) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a post on Facebook.

I don't know of any newsmaking female ancestors in my family, so I'm going with the prompt for March 28:  "Do you remember your mother's best friend?  Your grandmother's?  How and where did they meet?  How long were they friends?  What activities did they share?"

It's a fortuitous prompt, because I've actually been thinking about my mother's best friend for the past couple of months.  Her name was Samantha O'Connell, known as Sam.  She was originally from back east, I think Maine.

As far as I know, my mother and Sam met at work.  They worked the graveyard shift at a plant assembling circuit boards.  My mother didn't have a sister of her own, so Sam filled that role, and we called her Aunt Sam.  My father told me that they used to be known as Sam and Mike when they hung out.

I have vague recollections of my mother telling me when she and Sam would go out and play pool with people for money.  My mother was the shill, and Sam then came in and cleaned 'em out.

My mother used to tell me that she and Sam were proto women's libbers.  Then again, after I went to college, my mother started asking me regularly, "When are you getting married?  When are you going to give me a granddaughter?"  So maybe she recovered from being a women's libber.

They were close enough that Sam used to come over often with her children, Cathy and Jeff, for dinner, particularly on holidays.  I remember Jeff didn't like peas, but if we were having peas on a night when they were there, my mother's deal with him was that he had to eat ten peas and then he was off the hook.  He always ate the ten peas.

I especially remember Sam's impact on our holiday menus.  Sam was very fond of ham.  So for Thanksgiving we had turkey and ham.  For Christmas we had turkey and ham.  And of course for Easter we had — you guessed it — ham!  (My mother may not have been the world's most observant Jew.)

We had to prepare for Sam's visits, however.  She was morbidly afraid of snakes, to the point that even a statue of a snake freaked her out.  And my mother had a lovely statue of a cobra with its hood spread out.  So when Sam was coming over, we had to hide it.

Sam got throat cancer at one point.  It had to be before 1971, because we were still living in California when it happened.  While she was recuperating, she was limited in what she could eat, and the main thing she ate was baby food.  Even after she recovered, she still liked baby food.

When Sam got a hangover, it apparently hit her pretty hard.  She used to complain:  "My hair hurts.  My eyebrows hurt.  Everything hurts."

I don't know this from my own memories, but my mother told me that Sam didn't want to be 30, but she didn't want to lie about being younger than she really was.  So she went 29, 31, 31.  I just looked her up in the California Death Index, and she was born in 1937 (and in Maine!  so I remembered that correctly!), so she would have turned 30 in 1967.  I was only 5; that's a good excuse for not being able to remember that on my own.

My mother and Sam remained friends and stayed in touch even after our family moved from California in 1971.  In 1975 Sam remarried (I never knew if her first marriage ended due to divorce or her husband's death), to Don Ellerbrake.  When I returned to California to go to college in 1979, I got in touch with her and talked with her semiregularly.  When she passed away in 1985, I tried to stay in contact with Don, but he seemed to totally forget who I was, so I gave up.


  1. Pretty good memories. My mother had a best friend until she married and got too busy with 6 kids. I think she would have been happier if she had had a friend.

  2. My mother told me when I was very young that God made her a woman first, then a wife, and then a mother and that those were her priorities. So she made sure she prioritized her friendships.

  3. Nice tribute to your mother's best friend and you remembered a lot of details. :) I know my mom's best friend, but I couldn't tell you as many things about her as you remembered.

    1. Sam was pretty much a part of our family, so I guess that made it easier to remember lots of stuff.

  4. Just for fun, I remembered that Sam's favorite drink was a grasshopper. That must have rubbed off on me, because I love them too. Although I'm pretty sure I didn't have any when I was a kid. :)


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