Hawai‘i

NA MELE
Peter Medeiros

NA MELE Peter Medeiros

 

Slack key artist Peter Medeiros, accompanied by guitarist Josh Silva and bass player Nate Stillman, presents a fun evening of traditional slack key. Joining the trio are the dancers of Pua Ali’i ‘Ilima, led by kumu hula Vicky and Jeff Kānekaiwilani Takamine. Songs performed include “Ulili E,” “He’eia,” “Ke Ala O Ka Rose” and “Kananaka.”

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Benny Rietveld

 

Benny Rietveld’s first experience playing music was at the age of six, in the piano department at Gem’s in Kapalama. “I liked the idea that you could press something, and it creates this…cool sound,” Rietveld remembers. He was mentored by band director Henry Miyamura at McKinley High School, and played in local jazz and rock bands before moving to San Francisco and touring with Sheila E. and Miles Davis. Today, Benny Rietveld plays bass for Carlos Santana, and still sits in with the Hawai‘i musicians he grew up with.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Oct. 18 at 4:00 pm.

 

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Do you think music is more than just fun?

 

Totally; yeah. Music is powerful, music is magic. It allows us to do so many things invisibly. You can put it in the background, you can have it in the foreground, you can stop, start. You know, it’s always there, and it helps you celebrate things, it helps you mourn. It drives people to battle, you get married and you can create babies with it. It transports you, it reminds you of things in your life, just hearing something. Like, oh, my god, you know.

 

M-hm.

 

It’s an incredibly powerful force, and it can actually change people’s lives, you know. And that’s why I think musicians have a really big responsibility to just keep on point, keep being mindful, keep getting better, showing up. Because it’s a really powerful thing.

 

Benny Rietveld, who still calls Hawai‘i home, is the bassist and music director for Santana, a band he first heard when he was a young boy growing up in Honolulu. He’s been recording and touring with Santana since the 1990s, and he’s also known locally as a member of Topaz, a jazz fusion band that he and his high school friends had in the 1970s. Benny Rietveld, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Benny Rietveld has recorded three albums with the iconic Latin rock band Santana, including Supernatural which became a worldwide sensation when it was released in 1999. Rietveld was born in Holland to parents of Dutch, French, and Indonesian ancestry. They moved their family to Hawai‘i when Benny was three. He grew up in Honolulu, where he started showing musical talent at a young age.

 

I took piano lessons when I was six.

 

Why did you take piano when you were six? Now, that’s early. How did that happen?

 

Remember Gem Store on—well, I don’t know …

 

Kapalama?

 

Yeah; in Kapalama. Yeah. Well, we used to live in Kalihi, and so we’d go through there, and it was always the piano section, and I was always plinking on the piano, you know. And my mom thought, Oh, he’s musical. You know how kids, you know, they hit a hammer, and it’s like, Oh, he’s gonna be a carpenter when he grows up.

 

But were you plunking better than most kids, do you think?

 

I don’t think so. I just liked it. I liked the idea that you could press something, and it creates this cool sound. I think. That’s how I remember it. And then, so we got like a little piano, upright piano, and she gave me lessons at Palama Settlement. And I think the first teacher was named Mrs. Leong. I think. But I didn’t really like ‘em. And I was like, Oh, really? You know, really like boring music, and River keep on rolling. You know. I just didn’t get it. And then, when was ten, we still had the piano in the, you know, attracting dust. And then, the song Hey Jude came out from the Beatles, and it had that cool piano intro. I was like, wow, that’s cool. I was like, wow. And then, oh, it’s sort of like that instrument that’s in our living room. So, I was like, huh. And it was really easy for me, and it was really fun. So, I thought, well, this is great, I’m gonna keep doing this. You know.

 

Then you learned other songs.

 

And then, I learned the entire Beatles catalog, practically.

 

By yourself, or with a teacher?

 

No, no; by myself. Yeah. You know, then I was hooked. And it was like, this is fun, I don’t want to do anything else. And I was just on my way. And then, I met my cousin, the guitar player in Topaz, or calabash cousin, actually, Fred Schreuders. And he was slightly older than me, but he was already playing music. He was, you know, playing guitar, and his dad also played music. So, I was like, wow, cool. And we met, and we jammed, you know, tried to play songs together.

 

You were on the piano?

 

Yeah; and then, I branched out to drums, and then a little bit of bass. And then we started, you know, playing. Hey, let’s do a band, you know. And so, yeah, we put together a band. So, when I was about twelve, I was playing in these dances at, you know, Star of the Sea.

 

And that was kind of the beginning of that. So, you know, I met the guitar player for Topaz way back then.

 

You were just picking it up as you went.

 

Yeah; yeah. ‘Cause it was easy.

 

And you were playing for high school dances at age twelve, or middle school dances?

 

Yes; yeah. My parents were really worried. ‘Cause there were some situations where sometimes we’d play a party, and and more like a high school kids’ party. And so, there may have been some illicit drugs.

 

And it was nighttime.

 

And it was nighttime.

 

Driving.

 

Yeah. So, my parents, you know, lost a lot of hair.

 

And you gave them reason to.

 

A little bit. But, you know, I wasn’t that wild.

 

And where were you on instruments? ‘Cause right now, you’re a confirmed bassist.

 

Yeah.

 

How did you pick the bass, or did the bass pick you?

 

Well, yeah. This is the joke. Usually, the bass picks you. It’s usually because you don’t know anyone else who plays the bass. So, you’re like, oh, you play the bass. So, what happened to me was, I was playing drums in this little dance band, and our bass player left. So, we didn’t know any other musicians, but we knew one drummer. So, it was like, well, what do we do? You know, so we’ll just get him, and you play bass. So, that’s how it happened. But I kept playing guitar with Joe the Fiddler, because, you know, it worked better for chords and stuff, and I kept up on piano playing. You know, I just like always was interested in all of that stuff. But you know, I started getting kinda good on the bass, which is easy to do.  Yeah; so that was that. It just happens like that, you know.

 

What schools did you go to?

 

I lived in town mostly, and I went to McKinley High School.

 

You had a band director who is legendary.

 

Yes, legendary; Henry Miyamura. He’s like one of the big musical mentors of my life, and of Noel’s life, and of Allen Won’s life, too, the other guys from Topaz. He was … amazing. He was like that Mr. Holland guy. I mean, just deeply, deeply committed to the real essence of music performance, which goes beyond, you know, the notes and stuff, but the actual conveyance of the emotion or of the story, or of the tragedy or comedy, or whatever. And to get a bunch of high school kids, half of them who weren’t really gonna go into music anyway, or most of them, and get them to sound as good as he got those bands to sound was really a remarkable feat.

 

How do you think he did it?

 

I think he really loved music, and he loved people. He knew how important it was, you know, even if we didn’t. You know, we were kids then. He knew.

 

While Benny Rietveld was busy playing music through high school, his parents were thinking about his future. They didn’t consider music to be a suitable career path. But Benny was already doing what he loved, and it wasn’t long before his talents took him from the local venues in Hawai‘i to a larger stage.

 

Did you decide consciously, I’m going to be a musician as a livelihood?

 

I don’t think so. The only time it was a conscious thought was like as, you know, graduation from high school was imminent. Then my parents were like, So, you know, what are you gonna do? You’re gonna go to trade school? You should go to trade school, because you know, you learn a trade and make a lot of money. I guess they didn’t see me as the scholarly type, which I wasn’t.  And I said, Oh, I’m just gonna play music. I just assumed I was.

 

Were you already getting paid to play?

 

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Just like, well, I don’t know. You know, I just thought I was gonna be a musician. And they went, What? No, you can’t. And they were very upset for a little while, only because, you know, they just saw their child being an intravenous drug user and being in the gutter, and you know, whatever. So yeah, I totally get why they freaked out. But then after a while, they thought, Well, he seems to be doing okay, and he’s playing, you know.

 

And you went to college right after that, here.

 

Not right after, but yeah, I did.

 

Oh; so you graduated from high school.

 

Graduated from high school. I was living on my own. I think for about a year, I was living on my own, then I got a scholarship for UH, through Mr. Miyamoto, who suggested I do that. So, he championed me as far as getting a scholarship.

 

And didn’t graduate.

 

No.

 

Because?

 

‘Cause I was also playing music, and then I got a road touring gig with The Crusaders. It was very short. But with all my other gigs in Hawai‘i, and then going off to the mainland for a little bit, just like I lost the whole momentum.

 

How did you make the transition from having lived almost all of your life in Hawai‘i, to the mainland, to the continent?

 

With scarves and heavy sweaters. Basically, that’s how I made the transition. I went to San Francisco first.

 

And that was, I’m going to go try my luck in the San Francisco Bay Area?

 

Well, because I had a friend there already. And he said, You gotta come here, there’s a lot of good music there. And there was, at the time. Lots of great musicians there.

 

You played with some biggies, fairly early on.

 

No. I mean, I don’t know. Pete Escovedo, you know, I learned a lot from him. Ray Obiedo, you know, he used to play with Herbie Hancock and really good songwriter. And a lot of really great local San Francisco Bay Area musicians.

 

When was the first time you played with someone that you went, Whoa, I’m with so-and-so, I’m intimidated?

 

Well, sort of like Sheila E, because her producer was Prince. So, he’d be around, and I’m like, Whoa, you know, ooh. You know. That was my sort of introduction to the high end pop world.

 

And you went on tour with Sheila E, didn’t you?

 

Yes, yes; for about two years.

 

How did you get along with Prince?

 

He was like kind of a mysterious background guy. So, he didn’t talk much to us, but he seemed okay, you know. But he kinda kept more to Sheila and, you know, just sort of like that.

 

Now, did that tour lead to anything?

 

Then I was playing around the Bay Area for a while, and then, I guess Miles Davis was looking for a bass player, and he kinda wanted that sort of Prince-influenced sound. Then we rehearsed, and I met Miles, and it was crazy. And I think I was too much in shock to be actually intimidated, tell you the truth. It was only until I think a year later, I was on the stage, and I was like, Holy crap, that’s Miles Davis. You know, and then I had that moment. But I think, you know, your body blesses you with the gift of shock, so you’re just, you know, immune.

 

And how was it? You know, you have to feel each other in music, you have to work together. How did that go?

 

It went fabulously. You know, he would, you know, give direction while we’re playing, and sometimes before the shows we’d talk about let’s do this part a little faster, or let’s do this kinda rhythm and, you know. And we would keep trying, and so really, back then it was like a laboratory, you know. Because we would do the same song, and it would just evolve. It was like a petri dish. I mean, the songs would evolve so that if you hear the same song two years apart, they’re almost radically different. You know, the tempo is like way slower or faster, and this part is really loud, you know. It was really, really interesting, and it just demanded that you focus a hundred percent on him and the music all the time. You know. That was the big deal.

 

You had to be really mindful.

 

Yeah; like mindful to an incredible degree, because if you weren’t, then then he’d know, you know, and then those eyes would, you know, turn. You know, zzzz, laser, laser. So yeah, you really had to have presence of mind.

 

So, you had a real sense of what he wanted, who he wanted—

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

–how he wanted.

 

Yeah, yeah. And yet, there was that … still, the challenge was to inject yourself in that, within that framework, you know.

 

And he expected you to.

 

Yeah; yeah, yeah, yeah. And so, that was really intimidating, ‘cause I felt like I wasn’t really mature enough as a musician to inject a lot of myself. I don’t know, maybe I did. I don’t know.  That was another coming of age thing, because I had to, I think, almost completely relearn music. You know, really music and bass playing, and the ethos of what it means to be a bass player and what it means to be a musician.

 

Why?

 

Well, because I hadn’t learned all these really basic fundamental things well enough, you know.

 

So, you were good enough to get in the band.

 

Yeah.

 

And once you were there, you had to up your game.

 

Yeah; yeah, yeah. It was like raw talent is one thing, but to really like hone it is another thing.

 

After two and a half years playing with Miles Davis, Benny Rietveld moved on. Two months later, he met Carlos Santana.

 

Coincidentally, I did a recording session with Carlos Santana.

 

You sound so casual when you say that.

 

Well, no. I mean, because it just happened, you know. It was somebody else’s session, and we met. And that was another intimidating moment, ‘cause it was Carlos Santana, and I grew up looking at that album cover, you know, and all that stuff, listening to all those albums over and over again. And he said, Yeah, you know, I might need another bass player, and you know. Luckily, we lived both in the Bay Area, so I called him and I said, Yeah, I would love to play. Are you kidding? You know. So that’s how that happened.

 

Aren’t you the musical director as well now?

 

Yes. I don’t know, I’m not really the musical director so much as like traffic cop. You know, ‘cause I consider Carlos actually is the musical director, ‘cause he’s very hands-on and he has an uncanny ability to know what he wants. It’s more about during the show itself, when he calls an audible, which he does every time, then I just help direct traffic. Okay, we’re going here now, instead of, you know, how we rehearsed it.

 

How much of the year do you go on tours?

 

With Santana, it’s roughly four to five months out of the year. But it’s broken up. You do get burnt out, you know, no matter what you do. And it’s always gotta be really, really high level, energy, fun. And the minute it’s a little bit below that, then we’re not doing it.

 

Do you ever get sick of being asked to play a song you love, but you’ve heard it and you’ve sung it … Black Magic Woman, so many times before?

 

No; love it. It’s great. I don’t care about all the other times I’ve played it. It’s like, oh, wow, this is the first time I’m playing it. You know. That’s special, and we have to convey that to people every time. That’s the hard part. That’s the higher level stuff. Not playing the music; the notes are like whatever, you know. That’s like hammering a nail; okay? But it’s how to get into that thing, and it sounds so, fluffy and goofy, you know. But that is, to me, the higher level of music.

 

Did working with Santana when you started require a different sensibility than working with Miles Davis? Did you have to shift in any way?

 

Only superficially, actually, with the style of music, the genre, you know. Because it’s more rock-oriented, Latin, which we hardly ever did in Miles’ thing. But in essence, it was actually very similar, because they both demanded passion and fire, and presence of mind, like all the time. And not being afraid, you know. I think that’s another thing. You cannot have any fear.

 

Is there a way to describe how they work musically, and how you work with them musically?

 

With both of those guys, it was about trying to … articulate the in-articulable.  That’s the weird part about music, is that like underneath the hood, underneath all the technique and theory, and all the numbers, which are all useful, underneath it all, I like to say the last thing that music is about is music. You know.  It’s really about feeling and life. And it sounds so, you know … fluffy. You know, like, Oh, it’s feelings. You know. But all the major guys hardly ever talk about nuts and bolts of music, you know. The jazz guys, a little bit more, because it’s more their realm, you know. But all those guys share the predilection for using aphorisms to describe music. It should sound like, you know, red wine streaming through. You know, something like that. And sometimes, it just sounds so bonkers, you know, to the uninitiated. But then, you realize it’s just a personal lexicon and a cosmology. And actually, now that I’ve known Carlos for a while, it makes complete sense, you know. Now when he says something, you know, like really poetic, I’m actually kinda knowing what it means in dry, boring music terms. Sometimes Miles would say—an actual musical thing would be like, Give that part a little lift. Instead of, you know, doong, doong, doong, doong; maybe like doong, ka-doong, ka-doong, ka-doong, doong, ka-doong. You know, all these little things between. I think everyone knows that deep down inside, it’s really silly to talk about music, because it’s the most abstract of all art forms, you know. But we try, anyway. We have to, sometimes. You know, we’re trying to convey what we want, you know.

 

Although Benny Rietveld lives in L.A. when he isn’t touring with Santana, he likes to come to the place he calls home: Hawai‘i. In 2014, he and some of his former bandmates from Topaz reunited for a show.

 

What brings you back to perform with your old high school buddies?

 

Love of music, and love of them. You know. We’ve kept in contact all this time.

 

And tell me what the names are. Who’s your gang?

 

The gang is Noel Okimoto on drums, Allen Won on the saxophones, Fred Schreuders on guitar, and Carl Wakeland on keyboards.

 

That’s a pretty amazing group from McKinley High School, isn’t it?

 

Yeah. Well, me and Allen, and Noel are from McKinley. Carl is from Mililani. Fred ended up graduating from Kaiser High School. We got kind of popular because we were this bunch of high school kids that could play this kind of difficult and technical music known at the time as fusion. And we loved jazz and all that. So, there weren’t many eighteen-year-olds playing that at the time in Hawai‘i. So you know, we got a kind of rep, and we were the little darlings there for a while, and we even played at La Mancha for two weeks. We disbanded ‘cause we all had stuff, and we were doing our lives. And Noel stayed here, so he’d play. And his late dad, unfortunately, George Okimoto, would go to his gigs all the time. And George actually managed us back then, because he was the manager of Easy Music Center, you know, by McCully. And so he was like, You know, you kids really got something. And he got us equipment to use, you know, cool new gear. So he was like our manager, and really championed us. Cut to couple of years ago. We’re at Gordon Biersch, I’m visiting, and I see Noel, and like you know, listening to him, Byron Yasui and all these great local guys. And there was Noel’s dad, George Okimoto, and he goes, Eh, hurry up, you know, get a reunion. And it was like, actually very bittersweet because he actually made a joke. He was like, Eh, hurry up, before I die.  And what I got from that was like, he wasn’t really joking around. He was like, you know, everyone is about to move on here, and you guys should do something, ‘cause it was really special. So, we did a show last year. It was really, really fun. So, this year again, earlier in the year, we recorded a CD. But you know, we all have these other crazy lives, and we’re not gonna like, Yeah, let’s have a band and tour together. That’s not gonna happen.

 

Did you ever conceive, did you ever think in your young life, that you would be in your fifties, and it’s a tour, it’s concerts and crowds, and music, and vans?

 

I had no idea. Who really knows what their thing is, you know.

 

And how long do you see that going on?

 

Playing music, being involved in music for me will go on until either I die, or I find suddenly that I don’t like it. You know. I don’t really see the latter happening.

 

Benny Rietveld has not stopped having fun playing music since figuring out how to play Hey Jude on the piano at age ten. Along with his raw talent, his dedication to his craft, his ability to work with people, his fearlessness and his determination took him to a world stage. Mahalo to Benny Rietveld, a proud graduate of McKinley High School in Honolulu, and longtime bassist for Santana. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawai‘i.org.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Alberta de Jetley

 

Alberta de Jetley’s life has been a winding path, taking her through the island chain. She was born on Moloka‘i, raised on Lana‘i and spent her married life in Hana, Maui. She eventually returned to Lana‘i after the death of her husband, Tony de Jetley. A journalist since 1985, she has served as publisher, editor, photographer and advertising salesperson of her own newspaper, Lanai Today, for the past nine years.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, July 26, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, July 30, at 4:00 pm.

 

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We had horses, we had dogs, we had a whole island right in our backyard to explore. So, the first thing I did is, when I was about seven years old, our neighbor who was one of the last cowboys from the ranch, my Uncle Ernest Richardson, he taught me how to ride. And from then on, I never walked.

 

Alberta de Jetley grew up during the Territorial days of Hawaii. She’s lived almost all of her life in rural and, some might say, idyllic places in the islands. Horseback rider, hotelier, writer, and community newspaper publisher, Alberta de Jetley, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Alberta Sophia Morita de Jetley loves open space, fresh air, and life in small communities. She’s lived on Molokai, Lanai, and in Hana, Maui. She’s the publisher and editor of Lanai Today, a community newspaper she founded in 2008. Alberta de Jetley was born in Kaunakakai, Molokai. At age six, she started school on Lanai, graduating from high school in 1963. Some may think there isn’t much to do on a small island, but she found plenty to do growing up.

 

When I was six years old, my family moved to the Island of Lanai, where my dad became the island’s game warden during the Territorial days.

 

He’s a Morita.

 

He’s the Morita side. His father raised hogs in Kalihi, and my grandmother was actually one of the Japanese brides that came over. When she came over to Hawai‘i, she was sent to someone on the Island of Kauai, and lived there, and had one child with them, my Uncle Harry. Unfortunately, he died, so she came back to Oahu, and she married my grandfather.

 

How did she find him?

 

He was a marriage broker. The story I heard was, my grandfather didn’t want to spend the money to send her back to Japan, because there wasn’t really anything for her to go back to. So, he decided to save the money and married her, himself.

 

So, that’s the Japanese side.

 

Yes. And then, on my mother’s side of the family, my grandmother is pure-blooded Hawaiian. And she married my grandfather, who was pure German. And my grandfather had been previously married, and I don’t know what the circumstances were, but he was no longer married to whoever he had been married. And the story I heard was that—and my grandmother told me this, that he wanted a housekeeper, and one his friends said, Oh, just marry, you know, Grace, because she’s not married, and then you don’t have to pay her.

 

Did you learn Japanese and Hawaiian?

 

No. We came from that period of time, unfortunately, when it wasn’t politically correct or socially acceptable for young Hawaiian families to speak Hawaiian to their children. So, I don’t even have a Hawaiian name. It’s always been a bone of contention for me; I wish I had a Hawaiian name. But my grandmother spoke Hawaiian to her friends whenever they met up. She never spoke Hawaiian at all to us. And on my father’s side of the family, I know my father spoke Japanese in their home, but as we were growing up, we weren’t really exposed to the Japanese side of our family, because they lived on Oahu and we were living on Lanai. So, we didn’t speak Japanese at home, either.

 

Did you make a seamless adjustment to Lanai? When you moved there, you were six years old.

 

When we first moved to Lanai, I remember that it was really, really cold. Every day, the fogs came down and covered the trees. There was fog all the way down to the ground all the time, and it was really cold. Whereas on Molokai, we lived right by the ocean. After living in the town, in Lanai City for a year, our family was moved to Koele, where the old Lanai Ranch was located. And that was a fabulous place to grow up. When I was about seven years old, our neighbor who was one of the last cowboys from the ranch, my Uncle Ernest Richardson, he taught me how to ride. And from then on, I never walked.

 

I always rode.

 

How nice that must be.

 

But I would ride anything. I could ride anything, and everything. They couldn’t keep me away from horses, and many times, it didn’t matter if it wasn’t a horse that I had permission to ride. So, I’ve been called on the carpet several times for riding other people’s horses without permission. I should have been hung.

 

Yeah; horse thief used to be a really bad thing to be.

 

Oh, yeah; I was. My nickname in those days was Alberta the Horse Killer. Or the Horse Thief, depending on who was calling me out.

 

But it sounds like you were an adventurous little girl; you were ready to get up and go.

 

I don’t know how my parents allowed us to do the things that we did. My Uncle Ernest, you know, the day before, he’d say, You fulla. He always called us, You fulla. You fulla want go, you be here four o’clock. And we would be there at four o’clock. He would come out of the house, and we would be there with our horses, waiting for him. And then, we would ride up over the hale with my Uncle Ernest. And I couldn’t have been move than like, ten, eleven years old. And Albert was seven or eight years old. And we did stuff like this all the time.

 

And meanwhile, your parents were having more children, too; right?

 

Yes.

 

Including a certain young girl who became the chair of the Public Utilities.

 

Public Utilities; yes, my sister Mina. When we moved to the Island of Lanai, my parents came with five children. And then, they had my sister Mina. Her real name is Hermina, but everybody called her Mina.

 

And she was a State legislator and the chair of the PUC.

 

So, my sister Mina was hanai’d by the Richardson family, my Uncle Ernest. And then, my sister Trudy, and then my brother Wally. So, he’s the baby of our family. So, we call them the ratoon crop.

 

Right.  Well, explain what that means.

 

It means it’s a last crop, you know, the last harvest. In the pineapple days, usually the first crop is your biggest pineapple, the second harvest is the one that most of us like, and the third crop is the last harvest before the field is plowed under. But then, they experimented, and they found that you could get a really, really sweet sugar crop; so that would be your ratoon crop. So, the last three were the sweetest.

 

So, you’re starting school on Lanai. And how was that?

 

It was difficult. I didn’t quite fit in, in any group. You know, in those days, the population was predominantly Japanese. The Filipino population was just beginning to come in. So, the main push into Lanai was 1947, 48.

 

Okay, but you were a Morita girl; what’s the problem?

 

But we were also, you know, Haole.

 

Hawaiian, Haole.

 

Hawaiian, Haole, Japanese; whatever you want to call it. In those days, they would say, Oh, you’re Cosmopolitan. And it’s okay; it’s kind of fancy to be called Cosmopolitan. But in actuality, you don’t really fit in anywhere.

 

That is so interesting. You know, I’ve heard so many local people who look local and everybody thinks, Okay, local-local. But it depends on your mix and who else is around; right?

 

Yes.

 

There are so many people who don’t feel like they fit, who would seem to.

 

Well, all the Japanese girls in my class were so studious, and they were always so polite, and they did their homework, and they, you know, did everything that was asked of them.

 

Oh, they weren’t stealing horses?

 

No.  They weren’t stealing horses, and I would cut school to go steal horses, too. And it was like it was really boring to be around them. For me, it was really boring to be around them. And then, I had some friends who were part-Hawaiian, you know, mixed, and I played with them too. But they didn’t do things like go out into the forest and build forts, or make tunnels, or you know, just go out and climb trees, and do all kinds of stuff like that. They wanted to come up and play with dolls. And playing with dolls was one of the last things I wanted to do. So, I was always around horses and dogs, and out in the forest playing. After our chores were done, we had this whole island to explore, so why would I want to sit around and visit with people who were playing with dolls. It just wasn’t gonna happen.

 

So, it was more of a temperament, personality disconnect.

 

Yes. And then, at school, I wasn’t very well-liked. I had a few favorite teachers, but I always had difficulties with my teachers because I never paid attention in school.

 

I can see how that would be a problem.

 

It would be a problem. Especially because I would have a book in my lap. The teacher would be out in front of us, and I would have a book in my lap, and my head would be down. And every now and again, I would—Oh. And I would be hiding and reading a book. Well, how do you discipline a child that’s reading a book? It’s almost impossible. You can’t say, You shouldn’t be reading. Because you want children to read. But I would build myself a tent. You know, at recess, I would build myself a tent under a table, and I would sit there and I would read the whole recess. And that was my world. If I wasn’t on a horse and out playing with my dogs, I had a book. One of the things that really made us that way was, of course, it was before television. But my Hawaiian grandmother bought us a World Book Encyclopedia as a present, as a gift. And she bought it on time payments; I think she said that she paid about five dollars a month for thirty months, or something. But my brothers and I read that encyclopedia from back to front, and back to front again. That’s how we grew up; that was our entertainment.

 

After graduating from the public high school on Lanai, Alberta de Jetley left for Oahu to attend the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Or at least, that was the plan. Didn’t last long.

 

After I got out of high school, I was supposed to come down to the University of Hawai‘i. And I had a lot of adult friends who had horses on Oahu. So, as soon as I came down to go to college, they’d call up and say, Hey, what are you doing? We’re gonna go pick up some horses at blah-blah; do you want to go down to Waimānalo, or do you want to go down to ‘Ewa, or do you want to go down with us to go get some horses? And I would be gone; they’d pick me up. So, I had a very short stay at the University.

 

What did you expect your life would be after graduation from high school and starting the University?

 

Well, I knew that I didn’t want to stay on Lanai and work in the pineapple fields. In those days, as soon as you got out of high school, you pretty much left town to go into the military, to go to college, to come down to Oahu to get a job. So, when I was asked to leave the University, I had to go and get a job. And one of the people I interviewed with was Elmer Cravalho, who was in the Hawai‘i State Legislature.

 

As the Speaker.

 

Yes; he was the Speaker.

 

Of the House.

 

And I was offered a job as one of their, you know, aides or whatever you want to call them. But we were the gofers. And I was living with my sister. And she said, You can’t work there, you need to get a real job, because the Legislature is only in session for part of the year, so you have to go and get a real job. So, I became a dental assistant for a dentist. Hated it. I learned a lot. I liked the physical part of working with patients and learning all this stuff, but it was a difficult job for me; it didn’t suit my personality. So then, I became a mail clerk at Theo H. Davies in Downtown Honolulu. And I liked that, because you know, it was a five-story building with one of those old fashioned elevators. So, I’d go up and down, and deliver mail all over the building, and that was kinda cool. But I eventually ended up working in Waikiki for a company that represented hotels and other travel-related businesses on the neighbor island. The best part about my job was walking up and down Waikiki, delivering pamphlets and talking to the people in all of the travel desks. So, I like to tell people that I was a streetwalker in Waikiki. But it was fun days, and that’s how I met my husband.

 

He was in Honolulu?

 

No; he was the general manager of the Royal Lahaina Hotel. It was one of the properties we represented, so I was sent to Maui to look at all these Maui properties, and the first person I met there was my husband.

 

British person who was twenty-two years your senior.

 

Yes.

 

And you were, what, twenty-three?

 

Even younger.

 

Even younger; okay. So … then?

 

It was very difficult. My husband was married. We had to go through the whole process of figuring out what we were doing, what in the hell were we even thinking of. Separated, and then came back together. He was married to a lady who was a citizen of New Zealand. And in those days, the only way that you could get a divorce is if your divorce papers said that you were an adulterer, which—you know, big A on top of your forehead. So, we both had to go back down to New Zealand to be served with papers. And we stayed there a year; we stayed in New Zealand for a year, and we were married in New Zealand on May 31, 1968. Later that year, we moved back to the United States, moved back to Hawai‘i. My husband was offered a job at Hotel Hana Maui, and we moved to Hana, and stayed there until he died.

 

How many years was that?

 

We moved to Hana, I think it was 1969. At Christmas, 1969, and he died on February 1, 1981.

 

And you were helping him with hospitality. I think you did two or three cocktail parties a week.

 

Yeah, that was a different era, a different world. Our guests were mainly a lot of repeat people, guests coming to the hotel. But we had this house right across the Hana Ballpark, which was huge, and we gave three cocktail parties a week. You know, my husband Tony was twenty-two years older than me. So, people couldn’t understand how this Englishman who lived across the world, who traveled and ended up in Hawai‘i, how in the world did we ever get together, because our cultures were so different. So, they were always very curious about us, and would ask questions that really weren’t polite. But they would always ask how we met. And my husband started saying, Oh, I found her under a pineapple plant.  And that would keep things quiet for a little while. But it was fun. It takes a lot of adjustment to be in a May-December type relationship, but we had a very, very loving and good relationship.

 

In some ways, you had it easy. You didn’t have to cook, you didn’t have to clean, you had help with your two boys.

 

Ah … we did not live normally, because we lived on the hotel property, and we had two children. So, the entire time we were at Hana, we had daily maid service, somebody came down and cleaned the house because of all the cocktail parties; right? So, they took care of that. They took care of the flowers. When it was time for a party, they came down and did the setup. And then, we also had nannies while the boys were young who helped to take care of them. So, when my husband died, and we had to move … well, we didn’t have to, but you know, we weren’t gonna be involved with the hotel, my son David was ten years old, my son Tony was five years old. So, we moved to Lanai, where we had to make our own beds, and where we didn’t have daily maid service.

 

And was there a job waiting for you there? How did you support yourself?

 

We did have a job. I had a big job. We had acquired the lease of Hotel Lanai. In 1980, the lease was up, so I applied for it, and we got the lease. And my sister Mina moved over to Lanai and managed the hotel. So, when Tony died, I said, Okay. Mina wanted to go back to her life on Kauai, and I said, Okay, I’ll come over and take care of the hotel myself. So, we moved over to Lanai, and it was like, Oh! We had gone through a very, very sad period in our lives, because my husband had cancer, he was very ill. My boys really needed a lot of time together with me. So, we went horseback riding, we went fishing, we went sailing. The first thing I did is, I bought us dirt bikes. And we just turned into these dirt bike fanatics; we rode all over the island. We took our bikes down onto the ocean, we just went everywhere. And it was really, really fun, but it was also a very bad time economically for the Island of Lanai. I had a five-year lease, but in 1984, I had decided that we really had to bite the bullet, sell the lease, and stop spending money. So, I sold the lease, and we moved back to Maui. We lived in Wailuku. And that’s about the period of time that I became a writer.

 

How did you get to be a writer?

 

I was selling real estate for Carol Ball and Associates in Kahului. Our office is in Kahului. And then, I later decided that I wanted to live more in Hana rather than Kahului. So, I transferred to Cathy Paxton Real Estate. And one of my clients that I was showing property to was a lady named Joan Arnold. She decided that she was gonna have her own four-color magazine, not a newspaper. So, it was called The Mauian. And she said, Do you think you could develop an article for me for the magazine? So, I said I thought I could. And she taught me all kinds of wonderful things. Her son was eighteen years old, fabulous; a genius, really. And he taught me all I know about graphics and layout, and art direction, and photo direction. And that’s how I ended up back on Lanai.

 

The company that owned most of the island, Castle and Cooke, asked Alberta de Jetley to write a newsletter for its one-company town. She accepted the offer, and after moving back yet again to Lanai, it didn’t take long until she met Castle and Cooke’s CEO, David Murdock.

 

I worked in the old Dole administration building. My office was there. So, I was working there, and the phone kept ringing, and ringing, and ringing. I answered the phone, and it was Mr. Murdock’s speechwriter. So, he wanted me to go over to the fax machine, pick up a fax that he was gonna send to Mr. Murdock so he could review the speech he was giving on Oahu. So, I said, yes, I could do that. So, I went up there and I thought, Perfect, Alberta, perfect, perfect, perfect. Because I hadn’t met him yet. I can tell him exactly what I want him to do to my island; right? I’m gonna ask him what he’s gonna do, and then I’m gonna tell him what I would like to see him do. So, I went up and I knocked on the door, and he came to the door and he looked at me, and I said, This is for you. And I gave it to him, and he took it. And I said nothing; I turned around and left. And when I left, I was so mad at myself. I was staying with my parents, and when I walked in, my mother said, Where have you been? This man keeps calling and asking you to go to see David Murdock; he’s sending you some stuff, he wants you to take it back to him. So, I went up to the office, and I went up to the house, and I knocked on the door, and Mr. Murdock came. He took the papers from me and he said, Stay; don’t leave. So, I stayed, and I heard him yelling and screaming the way he does at people on the phone. And then, he came back out to where I was waiting for him in the living room, and he said, Who are you? So, I said, Well, I’m the person who does the newsletter, blah-blah, you know, and my name is Alberta de Jetley, and I’ve been working for you for the last few months. So, after I got through telling him who I was, he said, Well, let’s go to dinner. So, we went down to the Hotel Lanai. I walked in with Mr. Murdock. There’s dead silence. We had the longest, most uncomfortable meal ever. And when we left, he said, What are you doing? I said, I’m just going to go back to work. And he said, No, you’re not, we’re going to go for a drive. And he drove around, and he showed me everything that he was going to do. You know, and it was all up in his brain. You know, it wasn’t anything on paper yet. And I was just fascinated. And that was my first meeting with Mr. Murdock.

 

Did you tell him what you thought he should do to the island?

 

No. Because I liked what he was telling me.

 

So, the man who inspired such fear … gained followers.

 

Oh, yeah.

 

And sold the island, and then there was more fear.

 

Well, it’s a different kind of fear. You know, being afraid of change is normal. People worry about their futures.

 

Especially that kind of control, because it the control of the island.

 

Yeah.

 

And what will the island be like in a few years, do you think?

 

The sad thing I see about the changes occurring now is, we have priced our kama‘aina travelers out of the Lanai market. We still have a lot of vacation rentals, we have bed and breakfasts. There’s other places, smaller places to stay. It still allows our kama‘aina visitors to come back to Lanai. You can come over there from Oahu, which is so crowded, and you can walk up to Koele or you can walk up toward the mountains to the overview, you can go down to one of the beaches and be the only person down there. Five minutes out of town, you’re out in the boonies, and you’ve got all this space to enjoy. It’s just a wonderful feeling to have all this space around you.

 

And cool air.

 

Cool; it’s cool, cool air. And our town is really friendly.

 

At the time of this conversation in Summer of 2017, Alberta de Jetley continues to publish Lanai’s only print newspaper, Lanai Today. The island is still a one-company town, now owned by tech billionaire Larry Ellison, whom she says she does not know well. She’s an empty-nester, with her older son David living in Maryland, and her younger son Tony making his home in Hana, Maui. Mahalo to Alberta de Jetley of Lanai for sharing your life story with us. And mahalo to you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I have a community newspaper, and I’ve been doing newspapers since 1990, you know, on my own. And I look at the newspaper as a vehicle to keep people informed of what’s happening in the community, and trying to encourage them to show up for public meetings, to make their feelings known, and to be out there and not just to sit at home. We all live in this community together, and we should all take part in making the community work. So, that’s what I feel that I can do best, is through my newspaper, bring all of these different things together.

 

[END]

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
E Haku Inoa: To Weave a Name

 

A young multi-racial kanaka maoli (native Hawaiian) woman, filmmaker Christen Hepuakoa Marquez, sets out to discover the meaning of her incredibly lengthy Hawaiian name from her estranged mother, whose diagnosis as schizophrenic in the 80s caused their family separation. Christen not only discovers herself within the name, but gains a whole new perspective on the idea of sanity and how cultural differences can sometimes muddle its definition.

 

NA MELE
Mahi Beamer, Nina Kealiiwahamana and Robert Cazimero

NA MELE: Mahi Beamer, In Memoriam, Mahi Beamer, Nina Kealiiwahamana and Robert Cazimero

 

Three magical talents, Mahi Beamer, Nina Kealiiwahamana and Robert Cazimero, blend their voices together to create an intimacy that only comes with the melding of family and good friends in this encore presentation of a vintage NA MELE episode from the PBS Hawai‘i studios.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Connie Mitchell

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Connie Mitchell

 

As Executive Director of The Institute for Human Services, Hawai‘i’s largest homeless services provider, Connie Mitchell has worked ceaselessly to find effective ways to heal and comfort her community – mind, body and soul. Bringing experience from careers in nursing, financial planning, pastoral work and more, she takes a multifaceted and compassionate approach in her stride toward solutions.

 

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, July 19, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, July 23, at 4:00 pm.

 

Connie Mitchell Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

We’ve had a couple of deaths recently. One lady was in the park, you know, someone that we knew, a homeless person that died. And … sometimes when those things happen, in some ways, it just kinda galvanizes my desire to make things different. And sometimes, people might mistake, you know, my passion for some of that as anger.

 

Connie Mitchell has spent her life serving those in need, especially those who often need the most help. Connie Mitchell, executive director of The Institute for Human Services, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Connie Mitchell runs Hawai‘i’s oldest and largest nonprofit agency dedicated to the problem of homelessness. But for all of her efforts—and she generally gets high marks for her work from a range of community stakeholders, Hawai‘i has one of the highest homeless rates in the nation. She’s known for her positive attitude, in fact, a fiercely positive attitude despite challenges, and she’s known for seeing the homeless population as people, as individuals. Born Constance Kau Yee Fong to immigrant parents from China, Connie Mitchell grew up in the same town neighborhood where The Institute for Human Services is based, and where she leads the agency in serving the homeless and affected communities.

 

I grew up on Vineyard Street. And the duplex that I actually lived in isn’t there anymore. They actually used it as a prop and bombed in Tora! Tora! Tora! Yeah. But anyway, I grew up there, went to school at Kauluwela Elementary School right around the corner there. And I didn’t think I would end up being so close, you know, to where I grew up, but I am now.

 

Does it feel familiar?

 

It does. You know, in some ways, it does and yet, the neighborhood has changed, you know, a little bit. But of course, when I was a child there, there was a really different context, you know, and I might not have noticed, you know, the things. But I ‘m sure there weren’t as many homeless people back then as there are now.

 

Well, what was your life like as a child?

 

Well, I grew up, you know, with an older sister and two younger brothers. And my mom dad are actually immigrants from China.

 

What part?

 

Guangdong. And they came separately, actually. My dad came as a teenager, and then afterward, you know, brought my mom over.

 

How did he know your mom?

 

You know, I asked her that question the other day, and she said, Oh, you know … I think he knew a relative of hers, you know, her mom’s aunt or something. And so, they kinda got together. I always say it was a semi-arranged marriage, ‘cause I think there was, you know, an attraction there. But she didn’t know what she was coming to when she was gonna come to Hawai‘i; right?

 

And they stayed together?

 

They did.

 

Four kids.

 

Four kids. And so, we ended up moving when I was in the fourth grade, I think, or seventh grade, up to Liliha. So, it still wasn’t that far from where I am now, either. But that’s where she lives, still. And we grew up, you know, pretty Spartan lives, but you know, I learned a lot about living simply, but never feeling like I was poor or anything. You know, because we always had what we needed, had our imaginations, had really good friends to play with, you know, and really just enjoyed it. So, I think, you know, I learned a lot from my mom and dad, but didn’t really fully appreciate, I think, the experience of being an immigrant until I was much older.

 

What did your parents do for a living?

 

So, my dad had a restaurant in Kapālama.

 

Called?

 

Called Nam Kok Chop Suey. I don’t know if you remember it. But it was, you know, a small Chinese restaurant, and my mom helped him in the restaurant. I even worked there, you know, in summers when I was in high school to wait on tables. And it’s right where the Central Pacific Bank building is, you know, on Dillingham now. You know, it was really the times that I worked was when I saw my mom and dad, because they were working all the time. And I think that’s real typical a lot of times, you know, of people who have family businesses. And … I think it was great, because I could still connect with my Chinese culture, but you know, they weren’t really there so that I explored a lot of other things and really learned a lot from friends, you know, because my parents weren’t around that much. You know, my dad would bring dinner home, and then he would be back at the restaurant afterwards.

 

And you saw this as a positive thing; that you had your parents, but you also had your friends.

 

Yeah. You know, and I didn’t know the difference. I didn’t know how other people were growing, but that’s how I grew up, and I’m just really thankful for it. I think my parents really were … I know they loved us and cared about us, and really wanted to make sure we were safe and were provided for. But you know, when I would watch TV, and you would see those TV shows about families, and I’m thinking: Well, that’s just not how our family is.

 

Did you have an extended network of family at all?

 

We did, and it’s because my dad and my mom would sponsor other relatives to come over. And my uncle on my dad’s side actually worked for him as a cook, also. You know, so we did have family that came. My grandmother came when I was in the seventh grade, I think, and she was a part of our family for a short while, and then she ended up leaving and finding a place of her own. But it was really sometimes challenging, ‘cause you know, like being bicultural, I went to Chinese school like, from first grade to ninth grade. So, for nine years, I went to—

 

Did you learn to speak Cantonese?

 

Yes; uh-huh. And you know, my parents spoke it at home. But you know, it was a way to really hang onto my ethnic culture, you know. But I think all the while it was being shaped, I also had, you know, a lot of influence from the fact that my parents, being really open, said, Why don’t you go to church? You know, and they actually encouraged me to go. And I went to a church on Judd Street for many years. And, you know, that helped shaped my own faith.

 

Was it the same faith church that they believed in?

 

No. You know, they weren’t Christian. And I think there was a woman that went into the neighborhood and was just, you know, looking for children that might want to go to church. And so, I started going to Sunday School, and then ended up really just learning so much about God’s love, you know. And that was like, a little foreign in some ways, you know, from the culture that I was coming from. But I’m thankful for that, and I think that my faith has actually inspired a lot of the choices that I’ve made, you know, throughout my life and work, particularly.

 

And your parents never said one thing to you about, Don’t go there, that’s not what our Chinese family has always done?

 

Right, right. Yeah. So, I kind of like, you know, was embracing the Christian faith, and then at the same time, you know, my parents practiced their own cultural practices and faith. So, … I think it’s in some ways typical, you know, of people who grow up in Hawai‘i. You know, you’re exposed to a different way of thinking. And I’m thankful for the way that Hawai‘i is, you know, that we are able to … no matter how we think or how we believe, that we’re able to get along most of the time.

 

Did you feel that Honolulu was friendly to immigrants?

 

Yes; and I really felt like … I didn’t feel like I stood out or anything like that. You know, a lot of us maybe came from the same kind of background, and I think as a child, you just know. If you’re playing with other people, you’re playing with them, you’re getting along with them, and you don’t think about those other things. But that kind of childhood, growing up in a diverse community very much shapes how you feel when you grow up.

 

As a child, did you see college in your future?

 

I did, ‘cause my parents really valued education.

 

And had they had a college graduate in the family yet?

 

No.

 

So, who was the first?

 

Well, my older sister was. You know, she graduated from the University of Hawai‘i, and then, I did also. She left right after college, you know, and went to San Francisco. And my brother who’s a couple years younger than me, he did also. And they’re both there now. You know, he’s an architect in San Francisco, and my sister was teaching in the Berkeley school district for many years, and just recently retired.

 

And what did you go to college to study?

 

Oh, I became a nurse, and later on went back to get my master’s in psychiatric and mental health nursing. And you know, at first, I wanted to be a pediatric nurse, but I couldn’t deal with the pain of seeing the children, you know, suffering so much. And I thought: Okay, I don’t know if I want to really do this. You know, but … I think I really … have always seemed to gravitate toward serving underserved people. Like, when I was in San Francisco, my first nursing job was at San Francisco General Hospital. And it was a county hospital, so you had people who were prisoners, and people who were on Medicaid, and you know, people who just didn’t have that much. But it was an excellent medical center, and I learned a lot when I was there.

 

Where do you think that comes from, wanting to serve the underserved?

 

I don’t know. I’m always for the underdog, number one. You know, but I also feel like … maybe because I’ve been given so much, and I feel so blessed … that … for one, I think everyone … it’s a basic need, a basic right, you know, to have healthcare. And I really want to make sure that people are afforded that opportunity.

 

So, you’re in San Francisco getting your master’s of science in nursing. And how did you get back here? And I don’t think it was a direct path to IHS.

 

No, it wasn’t. So, actually, I graduated here at the University in nursing, and then I went to San Francisco. I came back. and I worked actually for a doctor and managed his office. You know, an internist. Internal medicine practice, and then kind of saw that a lot of people who were coming in, they seemed to have a lot of mental health issues also, lot of anxiety and stress that were causing a lot of, you know, their illnesses. So, I did a stint, you know, just really after that, going to work on a demonstration project that really addressed the connection between mind and body. You know, so we were actually trying to demonstrate that if you’re provided mental health services, behavioral health services, you could actually reduce the amount of medical utilization, you know, of a person. You know, this holistic medicine, you know.

 

It was just common sense to you.

 

Yeah; really. And you know, I think along the way, I’ve also done a little bit in financial planning. I think I spent about seven or eight years serving as a pastoral associate at a church. And you know, all of these experiences just kinda come together in my work at IHS, you know, because I think it’s given me skills and perspectives, you know, that are very … maybe different, you know, from somebody else who might be coming from just strictly a social work perspective.

 

You also saw acute mentally ill patients in residence at Hawai‘i State Hospital in Kaneohe.

 

Yeah. And so, after I graduated with my master’s in psych mental health nursing, my first clinical position was as a clinical nurse specialist there. And I worked with people who were dually diagnosed with cognitive impairment, as well as mental illness, so they might have been developmentally disabled also. So, it was just really a wonderful learning experience there. We were under a Department of Justice consent decree and was really needing to upgrade, you know, the quality of the care that was there.

 

It had to be sad to see that, you know, the place wasn’t taken care of as it should have been.

 

Oh, yeah. I mean, I think when I first started there, it was really …

 

And it was dangerous for employees too; right?

 

It was. You know, and at one point when I was there even, you know, I had to take out a TRO on someone, because I thought, Okay, I don’t know if this person’s gonna kind of retaliate or anything. But we also had like a car fire that was set, and it was, you know, very much a retaliatory thing from one of the patients, we believe. And the hospital was evolving at that time. I mean, it was facing the fact that it was a forensic hospital. Almost everybody that was coming in the hospital was coming in from a court order, you know, after that. But I think we really need to maintain a sense of the fact that these were also patients. And I think learning to triage and understand, okay, some people have some criminal tendencies that make them dangerous in a different way, and some people have more mental illness and are impaired by their mental illness. That needs to be acknowledged and recognized, because sometimes, if you just say, Okay, well, they’re all mentally ill, and so we need to just, you know, always take the tack that they’re not responsible for their actions, then some people who are responsible for their actions don’t really get the consequences that they really need.

 

After spending most of her career in the field of nursing and healthcare, including fourteen years at the Hawai‘i State Hospital in Kaneohe, which included a tenure as the director of nursing, Connie Mitchell leaped into tackling homelessness in Hawai‘i.

 

Well, a friend of mine knew that they were looking for an executive director. And you know, I had never worked nonprofit before.

 

You had a stake in the State retirement system.

 

Yes; uh-huh. When I was looking for what next, you know, for myself, I really wasn’t sure where it was gonna be. And that’s why I really think it was almost divine providence that, you know, this really came about. Because I heard about it through a friend of mine, and I applied. But I had applied a while ago, and I thought, Oh, well, I guess they found somebody. So, you know, I didn’t think twice. And then, I got a call back, and I went for a second interview, and then was offered the position, you know, shortly after that. And I thought, Well, okay, do I take a break? You know, ‘cause I was just moving out of, you know, my place and had just left the hospital. And I thought, No, I think this is really what I need to do. And even when I was being interviewed, they asked me, Well, how long are you gonna stay? And I said, Well, I don’t know, and all I can tell you is that when you give me a chance to do something, I will give it my all. And I said, You may not like me, you know, so we’ll how it goes. And I think that it’s been a really good match for me in terms of the work.

 

What is your goal? Is it eliminating homelessness?

 

I think as a group, you know, our Partners In Care consortium of homeless service providers and people who are concerned about homelessness, what we’re trying to do is develop a system where we no longer have unsheltered homeless, and anyone who becomes homeless will quickly get into housing. You know, so it’s not about just managing homeless, like let’s just put ‘em in the shelter and leave them in the shelter. We have long left that model behind at IHS. You know, we have been trying to house people as much as possible, you know, and as quickly as possible. And as the system has changed and as funding has become available, we’ve been able to do more and more of that. I think there’s very few people who just absolutely don’t want help.

 

So, I mean, it seems like there are people who, if you offer them a job, they say, Can’t you just give me money? I mean, I’ve met a couple of those.

 

Yeah. You know, I think the people on the street, you know, people who are unsheltered, there’s a really big mix. But remember, the people on the streets unsheltered are a small population compared to everyone who experiences homelessness. Once you hit the streets, you know, a lot of people stay there for quite a while. And what we’re trying to do is like, try to bring them in so that they don’t stay there. ‘Cause once you become homeless for a long time, it’s harder to get people off the street, because they realize, Oh, I can do this, this is fine. You know, and they don’t realize that their lives are changing, their health could be threatened, and when they do get sick, they’re gonna get more sick. You know, ‘cause we see infections that are just ridiculous, you know.

 

Somehow, they get accustomed and prefer it?

 

I think they lose hope. That’s what it is. You know, and they just don’t think that it’s possible. And you know, if you’re using drugs, you probably can’t get a job. If you can’t get a job, you certainly can’t get a place. And if you can’t get a place, then that’s why you’re out there on the street; right?

 

Hawai‘i has a great compassion, doesn’t want to see people on the streets, doesn’t want to see people suffering. And on the other hand, you know, there’s, Hey, are we using our money well? Because aren’t these people just being moved, moved, moved, moved? Is anything really happening?

 

M-hm.

 

What do you say to that?

 

I think that there are a lot of people that are coming off the street, and you know, they are being tired of the movement, you know, of the enforcements that are going on. But I think what I envision is being able to try to convince people that they can be a part of the community again. You know, they don’t feel a part of the community; that’s why they’re out there. You know, they don’t have a place to go, and we have to, as a community, figure out how to do that. I believe that if every one of those people who is capable of working could work if they weren’t using drugs, or you know, their mental health was stabilized.

 

Those are big ifs.

 

Yeah; but we could do it. I believe that it can be done, if we have the will to provide the services, you know, and to walk alongside some of these people so that they can believe also. Because I don’t think they believe it right now; they don’t think that there is a way out. And I’ve seen it happen, that when they start to believe and they actually take a chance on us, they’re able to get out of that situation.

 

The day-to-day challenges of running a large nonprofit organization and navigating the highly politicized issue of homelessness can take its toll on anyone. Connie Mitchell continues to maintain her positivity through her faith, and through the inspiration of the late Father Claude DuTiel, who is beloved for founding The Institute for Human Services through his Peanut Butter Ministry of handing out sandwiches on Downtown streets.

 

You know, Father DuTeil has always been sort of the person that I think of, you know, in terms of his values and his approach to people.

 

Who started IHS.

 

Yes.

 

Or the forerunner of IHS.

 

Right. You know, he did start IHS, and he himself was someone that suffered from both mental illness and alcoholism. And … he just had that kind of heart, you know, that really wanted to give back to the community. And I think that, you know, it’s a person like that who galvanized the community to want to do something that is my inspiration in a lot of ways. And on the other hand, you know, I feel like the heart part comes from that. I think my husband Mark is someone that has really taught me a lot about systems, and how to be willing, you know, to kind of … change things, so that things can be better. And my husband is just awesome; you know, he really understands, because he was in the mental health field as well. I shouldn’t say was; he still is.

 

Okay; now, how did he come into your life?

 

Well, we met at a conference. And then later on, you know, he was doing some consultation, and when he ended up coming over to Hawai‘i, he was the CEO at Kahi Mohala, you know, for a number of years. And then he retired again, and then he ended up not retiring and going back to work for the State at the Department of Public Safety. So, you know, he’s very well versed in systems issues, you know, with mental health, with developmental disabilities, with health in general. And so, we had a lot in common, you know, and really, I look to him for a lot of wisdom sometimes, you know, about how to proceed. But he also has a lot of experience that he is able to share with me that I’ve learned a lot from, I think. So, emotionally, intellectually, you know, I’m really grateful for a lot of the friends that I have had. You know, a good friend of mine, her brother had committed suicide, and this was when I was in college in nursing school. And I just thought, Wow, you know. I mean, that impacted me. And then, I had another friend who committed suicide later on who was in my Bible study group. And mental health seemed to be a theme in my life.

 

As of this conversation in June of 2017, Connie Mitchell has grown The Institute for Human Services from its original two shelters in Iwilei to eight facilities, including locations in Sand Island and Kalihi Valley. A believer in servant leadership, Mitchell remains passionate about the job, overseeing one hundred and fifty employees.

 

So, one of your staffers, Kimo Carvalho, says he really likes working with you because of course, you’re serious, but you’re also silly. What does that mean?

 

Oh … I can be … pretty silly in terms of, you know, when we get together and we do like little office parties and stuff like that. You know, I will sometimes surprise people, you know, when I would dress up at Halloween, or something like that. But, you know, it’s like I’m just like anybody else, and I’ve always felt like being a leader doesn’t mean you put yourself above. You know, it really means that you’re willing to do whatever anybody else is doing, and you’re working alongside them, you know.

 

So, servant leadership?

 

Yeah. It’s gotta be about that. You know, I think it’s really trying to bring out the best in other people, you know, and really helping them to really blossom and find their voice, and find their strengths.

 

You have so many. How do you spend your time?

 

Well, um …

 

And you’ve got to talk to lawmakers.

 

Absolutely.

 

You got to talk to funders, you’ve got to talk to homeless people, and supervisors, and community leaders, and business owners.

 

So, there’s no … usual day at IHS. Everything is urgent. And you know, you’re right; you know, we really look at the community as a major stakeholder. You know, we serve not only the people who are homeless, but we serve our community. You know, and as a part of that community, we have people who are policymakers, we have people who are funders, people who are just the public. You know, we really want to help people understand better what homelessness is about in Hawai‘i, and we want them to understand how we all can help them better.

 

I think it’s so wonderful that after—is it eleven years on the job now?

 

Yeah.

 

Eleven years on the job, you’re very positive, you continue to work at a very high performance rate. What keeps you going?

 

That’s a good question. I think it’s really seeing people turn their lives around when we are able to help them. And it happens quite often, I have to tell you. So, I think just, you know, being able to … do some new things, find some new solutions, partner with new people who have similar passion and, you know, just really want to make a difference; that’s really exciting to me, to see so many people like that.

 

Connie Mitchell, executive director of The Institute for Human Services, is a hard worker and a respected leader, and Hawai‘i still has a high homeless population per capita. She says we’re making headway in slowing down the rate at which homelessness grows. And she says that if different parts of our government would just agree to work together at important junctures, such as when inmates are released from prison, we could do better. Mahalo to Connie Mitchell of Honolulu for sharing your story with us. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.

 

[END]

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I
High Hopes on Hold

 

It’s been 17 years since Hawai‘i’s medical marijuana registry program was first enacted, and two years since the legislature passed a law establishing a statewide dispensary system. After the State Department of Health encountered stumbling blocks in implementing this system, Gov. David Ige signed a bill into law last month to clarify and expand the dispensary system framework. INSIGHTS discusses the challenges in getting dispensaries up and running, and asks: How much longer will patients need to wait?

 

Your questions and comments are welcome via phone, email and via Twitter during the Live Broadcast.

 

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PACIFIC HEARTBEAT
Pure Caz: The Music of The Brothers Cazimero

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT: Pure Caz. Robert and Roland Cazimero

 

Legendary musicians Robert and Roland Cazimero of the The Brothers Cazimero perform an enchanting array of original compositions and island standards. Also featured are reflections from the brothers and their friends on their childhood, their illustrious careers, and their perspectives on Hawaiian music from the past to the present.

 

 

NA MELE
Richard Ho‘opi‘i and George Kahumoku Jr.

 

Richard Ho‘opi‘i and George Kahumoku Jr. walked into the PBS Hawaii studio, sat down with their instruments, and began to play. George, with his mellow slack key guitar and soothing voice, performing alongside Richard, with his never ending smile and his beautiful falsetto, offered song after song, with talk story in-between. This impromptu concert can only be described as pure joy.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Laura Beeman

 

Head coach of the University of Hawai‘i’s Rainbow Wahine basketball team, Laura Beeman knows what it takes to win. She has revitalized the team drastically since her arrival in 2012, by pushing and inspiring her young women to reach their full potential, on and off the court.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, June 12, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, June 16, at 4:00 pm.

 

Laura Beeman Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Heartbreak a year ago. Elation this season.

 

It was a thrill of a lifetime. You know, and I still talk about it, I can get a big lump in my throat. And remembering in the locker room just this lump of winning the tournament. The range of emotion of seeing their hard work pay off, and being so incredibly proud of them for being that first team, to the community support and feeling the aloha twenty-five hundred miles away, and then feeling the stress that I had been under of … We’re supposed to win this tournament and go the NCAA, and what if I don’t, what a failure is that? And being able to sit in a corner by myself and go, Oh, my gosh, we did this. And just tears; just tears. Tears of happiness, of joy. It was, right now, a little emotional. It was an amazing experience. I want to get back there, I want to have this feeling again.

 

University of Hawaii Women’s Basketball Coach Laura Beeman likes winning. Yet, her drive to make her players the best they can be isn’t limited to the basketball court. She’s teaching them life lessons that will continue to guide them long after they graduate. Laura Beeman, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. Laura Lynne Beeman moved to Hawaii in 2012 to become the head coach of the University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Basketball Team. At that time, the team was losing more games than it was winning. It didn’t take Laura Beeman long to turn the team around. In 2016, only four years after she took over, the Rainbow Wahine won the Big West Conference Championship, securing a spot at the pinnacle event in college post-season basketball, March Madness. It was the program’s sixth appearance overall, but only the first in eighteen years. Laura Beeman has always been competitive; that’s the way she was raised.

 

Both my parents are very, very competitive. They’re self-made. And you know, my dad opened up a pharmacy with his brother right out of college, and it was an independent pharmacy. And basically, my mom supported him. You know, his parents told him, If you guys get married, you’re on your own. And they decided to get married, and my mom said, Well, I’ll put you through USC pharmacology. She did.

 

How did she do it?

 

She sacrificed her education, and she worked. So, I think that drive comes from them. You know, as a kid, I watched my father work seventeen, eighteen-hour days to support his family, so that his wife could raise children, and my mom doing everything she could to support her husband. So, I saw that hard work from a very, very young age, and was always told by my parents, If you’re gonna do it, you’re gonna do it right. You know, you’re gonna have a great attitude, you’re gonna give it all the effort you have, or don’t do it. And so, I think it was instilled at a very young age, even though I didn’t know that was going on. Youngest of four, and was immediately just thrust into sports. I have an older brother. And so, you know, growing up, we went to school with one another, we went to a Christian school, all the way up until middle school. And sports just became a huge foundation of mine and my brother’s life. You know, Sunday church, and then come home after church, go to a little grinder shop down the street, come back, open up the grinders, eat, and watch football. And so, that was kind of my life growing up.

 

When you went to college at California State University at San Bernardino, you earned a bachelor’s in business marketing.

 

Yeah.

 

And? [CHUCKLE]

 

I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And someone said, you know, business is probably one of the areas that is most marketable. You can do anything from being a sports agent, to get into law, to go into sales. And so, I thought, I have no idea, you know, what I want to do. I had been told by a woman who worked for my father, You can sell, you know, ice cubes Eskimos. And so, we always laughed about that. And so, I thought, let me go into business. So, while I was playing sports, I got my business degree with a concentration in marketing, thinking I could do sales or maybe sports agent. And then, graduated and was like, What am I gonna do with my life?

 

Then, what happened?

 

Well, I got a phone call from an assistant coach at the University of Redlands. And they said, We heard you’re in town, we have a graduate assistant position open, would you like to get your master’s paid for and get into coaching? And I thought, I have no idea what I want to do with my life, so let me market myself, make myself a little bit more well-rounded. So, I went and received a master’s in educational counseling. And I loved the counseling aspect; had no idea I would, and had no idea how useful that would come in coaching. So, when I started coaching at the University of Redlands, the basketball coaching bug; it bit. You know, I loved playing, but I had no idea I would want to coach.

 

What would you have done if you hadn’t gotten that call? And then, you get a free master’s. I mean, that’s quite amazing.

 

It is. Again, right place, right time. I have no idea. You know, I was working for my dad at his pharmacy. I probably would have continued to work for him. Had no desire to become a pharmacist. I don’t know what I would have done, but I would have worked for him until I landed on my feet someplace.

 

Do you remember how and when that coaching bug bit you?

 

I think pretty immediately. You know, when I went to the University of Redlands, it was sitting back and watching with the coaches did, and what I liked and what I didn’t like, and how kids responded and how kids didn’t respond. And then, really figuring out, Okay, these kids respond to me with a little bit of a different approach. And all of a sudden, it was like, Okay, this is kinda cool. You know, I can kind of figure this out as I go. I was there for two years, and that’s when Mount SAC, Mount San Antonio Community College in Southern California, the job opened up. I was not hired as the head coach; I was hired as the assistant women’s basketball coach. And again, watched how coaches did things, and how players responded. Fortunate for me, and unfortunate for that coach, it didn’t work out for her, and they hired me the next year as the head coach.

 

You were twenty-five years old.

 

I was young; yeah. I had players that were older than me, so I had to establish some pretty strong boundaries. And again, that goes back to my parents; it goes back to watching them have very, very good boundaries in their life and their relationship, going back to coaches I’d played for and coaches that had really good boundaries, and coaches that maybe didn’t.

 

What kind of boundaries do you need when you’re younger than your players?

 

Well, you can’t go party with them. You know, you can’t go drink with them. If you’re a male coach, female coach, you can’t date players. So, there’s a lot of things you can’t do. And you see that all the time; you hear of both female and male coaches that get involved with players, and that’s just a boundary that’s not appropriate. Going to clubs with them. So, it’s just setting these boundaries of … I’m in a different category; in a position of power, I guess, a little bit. And I think that a lot of people abuse that. And that was something that I was always very cognizant of, is respecting the young ladies. You know, I would never walk into a locker room and just walk in unannounced. Hey, I’m coming in, put your clothes on, you know, get yourself appropriate, whether it’s a male assistant coach walking in with me or not. There was just a very strong, strict boundary that I was always … always made sure that I held, and I wanted my players to see that. Because that’s something that as they grew in their life, there has to be boundaries in their life as well with relationships and other things.

 

From the beginning, were you pretty good at reading players? I mean, you’ve been in sports all your life, so you knew a lot about dynamics. What about reading individuals?

 

You know, some people think I’m crazy for saying this on the show. I went through a lot of counseling, you know, later on in my life. And that is probably what helped me read people, and understand human behavior. And it also allowed me to develop a philosophy that if I wanted players to be their best, then I had to help them get to their best; if I wanted my players to be their best, I had to be at my best. And so, reading players and reading people, human behavior, I feel like that’s something that I’m pretty decent at.

 

Sometimes, the things that help you get to where you are aren’t the best thing for where you need to go.

 

No; sometimes they’re painful, sometimes they’re hard. You know, I’m not a believer that everything happens for a reason, although I guess it does. But I’m not a believer in that. I think things just are cruddy sometimes, and they happen. But it’s how you deal with that, and it’s the after effect that can take you to a really good, solid place in your life where you can continue to live in that yuck. And I just decided there was a point in my life where I didn’t want to live in that yuck.

 

You were already an authority figure when you went for counseling; right?

 

Yes.

 

Was that hard, to ask for help?

 

Yes. [CHUCKLE] Absolutely. It’s hard to go in and kinda put your heart on the table, and get very vulnerable with someone, particularly someone you don’t know, and let them kinda not pick you apart, but say, Okay, let’s go here, and you’re like, I don’t want to go there. Very, very difficult, particularly as a coach, ‘cause you’re always in control.

 

How do you deal with stress? I mean, there are so many things you can’t control in your life as a coach.

 

Yeah. I think one of them is—you just hit it on the head, is admitting and knowing what I can’t control. There are just certain things that I cannot control, because I don’t know what’s gonna happen with it. I have two huge dogs that walk me, and I love that. So, I get them out, go on hikes, try to just enjoy the beauty of Hawaii. The quality of life here is very different than the mainland. And so, for as busy and as stressed as I am, I have learned to enjoy that. And it’s a forced … take a deep breath. Again, going back to what I said earlier, being my best me. I know when I’m tired, I know when I’m overworked, I know when I’m cranky and people don’t want to be around me.   And it’s that moment I need to say, Okay, pause, and admit it.

 

For fifteen years, Laura Beeman was head coach of the women’s college basketball team at Mount San Antonio in a suburb of Los Angeles. She became a legend, leading the team to a record number of wins and state championships. Three years after she left, she accepted the position of head coach for Hawaii’s Rainbow Wahine Basketball Team. The program was in serious need of revitalization, but before Beeman could turn things around, she would first have to change the team culture.

 

The first year of recruiting, you did bring us out of a big stall. [CHUCKLE]

 

Well, you know, the cupboard wasn’t bare. You know, the coach prior did a great job of putting, you know, things there, pieces there for me. And so, we were able to take that group of young ladies and kind of regenerate and rejuvenate them and say, Let’s go. And they really bought into the philosophy of it’s not okay to be okay, we want to be better than okay, we want to be great, we want people to recognize us as great. And they bought into that.

 

So, was that kind of a culture of, we’re good enough, it’s good enough?

 

Very much so. When I met my team the first time, that was the running theme. I said, Okay, what’s gone on? And I remember Shawna Kuehu; love her, came into my office last week. She said, Coach, I’m tired of just being okay, and it’s okay to be okay here. And I said, I’ve never been okay. I’ve never been average, I’ve never been okay, and now I know what the problem is. So, give me your laundry list of things we need to change, I’ll let you know the things that I can try to change and the things I know I can change. And the one thing I can change is that culture. We’re not gonna be average here. But you’re gonna have to work.

 

Yeah; you can’t change the culture by saying, That’s not okay. How do you change a culture? I mean, this is not just one thing, this is a system of beliefs.

 

Yeah. One, I think you have to walk the walk as the coach. You know, you can’t walk in and be on your cell phone, and again, the things I spoke of earlier, you know, using foul language. You have to present yourself as a winner. You have to present yourself as a champion. Whether or not you feel you are, you have to present yourself as that. And I truly believed that if I could get this group of young ladies to buy into, I don’t lose, you guys, and I’m not trying to be arrogant. Not at all. I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful assistant coaches and resources, and have been able to get kids to come together and say, Hey, look at my record, this is what we’re gonna do here if you buy in. And here’s another thing; if you don’t want to buy in … what you’re doing isn’t working, so try something different. And they did. And so, it was a daily challenge to say, No, tuck your uniform in, tie your shoes this way, get in here, get to class, do what you’re supposed to do. Get on the end line, work hard, or please leave the gym, because you’re the one that said you didn’t want to be okay, not me. I have my degree, I’ve won. Let’s go. And so, when you talk that way to kids and you paint that picture of, I really think I can do this, and we have a leader that knows how to do it …

 

And you challenge them.

 

Big time; big time. I’m not gonna let a kid sit back and say they want something, and then not work for it. You have two choices; tell me what you want and we’re gonna go, or tell me what you want and not do it, and then I’m gonna ask you to go ahead and sit over there in the corner by yourself, and do your thing. Because you can do that without me. But if you want to win, and you want to be good, then let’s get together and let’s do this the right way. Don’t tell me what you want do; do what you’re gonna do. And that was a challenge, and that’s where we took that first group of young ladies is, let’s go, that’s enough of this, we have talent. And they bought into it.

 

So, you started with these young women.

 

M-hm.

 

And you made inroads. When you find somebody you really want to bring over, how do you get them here when they’re really looking askance at Hawaii?

 

We sell Hawaii on connection. We sell Hawaii on relationships. We sell Hawaii on the community. You know, we have been fortunate that four of our five years, we’ve done very well. And so, we can approach the, Okay, we’ve won.

 

How did your system of recruiting change as you went along, where you got to be the Big West Conference winner and coach of the year?

 

Yeah. That was fun. You know, as young ladies evolved as players, we all of a sudden said, Okay, this is the system we want to run, this is what we need to do to be successful in the Big West. And so, you go out and you kind of recruit pieces that fit your puzzle, and fit your system. And so, we were able to, after that first year—we were late in the recruiting process. You know, you recruit two and three years in advance.

 

And you came, I think, before the 2012-13 season.

 

April; yeah.

 

April.

 

And so, recruiting, though, for you know, 2012, 13, 14, coaches are already in the mix. They’ve already offered kids that were ‘14s, you know, graduating in ’14. So, we were behind the gun. We went after some key pieces. We found a couple JUCO kids.

 

What does JUCO mean?

 

JC.

 

Okay.

 

Community college, two-year. Found a couple, you know, JC kids, went and found a fifth year transfer; immediate fixes, immediate pieces. Good character kids, but they were gonna have to work. And they were able to get the group together. And then, we were able to play catch up a little bit in the recruiting process, and then bring in people that we wanted; high character, great work ethic. Pieces as far as whether it’s post player or guard, bring in those right pieces. And then, by the year that we finished second in conference and went to the NCAAs, we had put our puzzle together, and that was a really fun year.

 

When you were looking for those pieces, you were looking for specific athletic strengths; right?

 

Yes; absolutely.

 

And you said, high character.

 

M-hm; m-hm. That’s important. You know, if I look at a kid that’s high character and I can get the effort piece, then I know I’m not gonna have problems off the court. When I’m bringing in a young lady where I’m constantly, Go to class, don’t go to the club, what are you doing, it’s taking energy away from where we want to put our energy. So, you know, I say as a coach, the two things you should never have to coach as a coach are attitude and effort. I’ll coach your ability, I’ll motivate you, but I’m not gonna coach your effort, and I’m not gonna coach your attitude.

 

But you don’t know how a young person is gonna act when they get to this new exotic place away from their parental eyes and family.

 

You hope that you’ve developed enough of a relationship in the evaluation process of going out and watching them play, over the phone, through some text messages, talking to parents, that at least you’re not gonna completely get it wrong. Now, have I it got it wrong? Absolutely. And I’ll get wrong again. But you really try to develop a relationship. Recruiting is a relationship, it’s a fit. It’s not just a, I like the way you play, come play for me. There has to be more to it, so that you can keep kids here.

 

And I’m sure there’s always the temptation to say, This person has great raw talent.

 

M-hm.

 

I’m gonna take a big chance on somebody who doesn’t have a lot of the other elements.

 

M-hm.

 

Have you done that in your coaching career?

 

I have. I did that at Mount SAC a lot, because I’d already developed a culture, and I knew when I had a kid, say, that would come in with a bad attitude, I had fourteen young ladies in that locker room that were gonna help me manage them. And a couple really good captains that were gonna keep them in check. I couldn’t do that my first two years here, because we hadn’t developed the culture. When you get a good culture, you can take some risks, you can take some chances, because you have that base of great locker room talk. Where they come in and they’re like, Hey, let’s do this; and your captains go, No, that’s not what champions do, let’s not do that. So, when you get a little bit of a better culture and a foundation, you can take more risks.

 

How have local recruitments gone?

 

Tough; it’s tough. Th—the theme right now and the trend right now, they want to go to the mainland. They want a mainland experience. And some of them do well and stay, a lot of them come back home. Um, I would love to keep our local talent here, but it’s—it’s tough to fight the—the allure of the mainland. So, right now, we’re going after ‘em; we’re offering kids. I just have to keep them home.

 

And you don’t have a lot of people who are really tall awaiting—

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

–your call either in Hawaii.

 

Yeah, you know. But I have some tremendous athletes, and I have young ladies that understand the culture, and understand what it feels like to represent the State of Hawaii, and uh, play in front of their family and their aunties and their uncles, and that’s—that’s huge. So, um, I can find the guard or the forward, possibly, that wants to stay; yeah. Would I love there to be a six-four, six-five local kid that wants to stay home that can play basketball? Absolutely. Um, whether or not that happens, those are things I can’t control, I don’t worry about it. Right now, my challenge is to keep ‘em here.

 

 

Recruiting players and training them to perform during practice and games are only part of Coach Laura Beeman’s job. Teaching young people to become top athletes often requires coaching them off the court as well to learn the life skills they’ll need to achieve their athletic goals.

 

John Wooden, a great basketball coach, coined for this phrase of, Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And so, when you get people, business, team, whatever it is; when people really know you care about them, then you get a common goal, and people want to work hard for you. And that’s not just. Let me fake caring about these kids, and then they’re gonna work hard. My players know I genuinely care about them.

 

How do they know? Do they test you?

 

Of course they do. [CHUCKLE] What children don’t test; right?

 

How do they test you?

 

They’re gonna see how far they can take the discipline. You know, if they miss a class, is Coach really going to, you know, suspend me?

 

And that’s constant management for you.

 

Oh, yeah.

 

Isn’t it?

 

Yeah. And it’s constant discipline for me to stay consistent. Kids say they don’t want discipline. Kids love discipline, and they want consistency. So, it’s a test for me to say, We just talked about this last week, here we go again. That’s where I have to be very disciplined in what I do.

 

And the punishment is, they sit out?

 

Yeah. And you know, I don’t like a lot of rules. I want my players to manage themselves and discipline themselves, and know the right way to go. There is an area, though, that I don’t have any wiggle room; and that’s academics. A lot of coaches, when kids don’t go to class, they put ‘em on the track and they run ‘em. Well, my kids are already in shape, so running ‘em is very easy. I sit ‘em. And for my mainland kids, I sit ‘em when they go home. I let ‘em warm up, and don’t tell ‘em, and they go through all the warmups so people know they’re not hurt, and then they don’t play. And then, the parents come and say, Why did my kid not play? Go talk to your kid about her academics. Doesn’t happen again. And I tell my players that up front. I will put you in the position where you’re going to now get in trouble by your parents, not just me. So, we have a 3.1, 3.2 GPA. And that’s a pretty good GPA when we do as much traveling as we do. And I have a committed group of young ladies that understand that rule very, very clearly.

 

Through the time you’ve been coaching, have the issues that your players bring to you, personal issues, have they changed?

 

No. When I was at Mount SAC, I dealt with a population that—most of the population, single parent, first generation college, a lot of learning disabilities, and a lot of abuse. Whether it was substance, domestic, sexual; a lot of abuse. And so, basketball became the carrot that they wanted dangled in front of them, because that was their way out. That was their way into a better life. So, I would say that I didn’t deal with it as much. Not that it wasn’t there, but the kids didn’t have the need to come and talk to me as a coach. It was USC, different socioeconomic status. Coming back to Hawaii, the problems are the same, and it’s just do kids know that they’re there, do kids want to talk about ‘em. And my door is always open in case they do.

 

What about a difference in—you know, we’re seeing a change in generations and use of media. I mean, all kinds of changes in society. Is that reflected in the players you coach?

 

It is. You know, they’re very connected all the time to their devices. And I remember the first time I ever thought, Wow, there’s a separation with connection. A player texted me and said, Coach, you know, my grandmother died. And I’m like, Don’t text me that; come and see me. We need to give a hug here, we need to have a conversation, I need to check in with you. And all of a sudden, you get those types of conversation in text; there’s a disconnect. There’s an appropriate way of text messaging; Hey, meet me for coffee. Great. But don’t tell me a life issue through a text message, because I can’t see how you are and you can’t relay how you are, and it just allows kids to build this huge wall where they don’t get vulnerable, they don’t share emotion. And it doesn’t have to be with me. But I don’t think anyone can hide behind a wall their entire life and have healthy relationships. So, there’s a huge disconnect, more today than when I started at Mount SAC. And I’m dealing with the same age group; right? I get older, they stay the same.

 

And so, you’ve gotten a chance to see what happens to your eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one-year-old players. What have you seen as far as after their sports involvement? What happens?

 

Lot of them have gone on to coaching. Couple of them are in administration. You see them get married, have children, or great relationships, you know, get jobs where they’re successful. And a lot of them come back and say, Coach, you know, this is what I’m doing. Going to weddings, and you know, it’s been great to see them grow as young women, and see them apply some of the things that they fought you on [CHUCKLE] so many years ago.

 

And now, they enforce.

 

And now, they enforce. You know, I watch them coach, and I’m like, Okay, now they get it, they get how hard this is. And watching them have those boundaries and those rules, and it’s really fun; it’s really fun.

 

Did you have to go through a learning curve to be accepted here? Did you have to change anything about yourself?

 

That’s the weird thing for me, is I feel like I’m more myself here than I’ve ever been, because of how accepting people are. I got some great advice when I was hired. You know, don’t get political, stay out of it. You know, understand the culture, and some key things about the culture. And I listened to that. And also, saw that the people that were mentoring me, and on my interview committee, and women that came up and said, We want to be on your hui, we want to help you, were authentic. And they were just transparent in everything they did with me. And I saw that. And I thought, Okay, you need to be Laura Beeman, you can’t be anybody else, you have to be Laura Beeman. And if you’re honest and do things the way that you feel is right, even if you make a mistake, people are gonna be okay with that. I don’t know why I was embraced here so quickly. But I’m thankful for it.

 

You have a statewide constituency as coach, especially in the islands, because we don’t have professional sports. And so, you know, statewide audiences are watching, and proud, or willing to complain.

 

And when they see you embrace the culture, and they see you embrace—I’m just gonna say it, the aloha spirit, they love that. And so, when you have an off year—I’ve probably had more people come to me this off season and say, Coach, great job. And this is the worst year we’ve had. Because they see it in my face that this was a tough year, we struggled. This is not what I wanted. You know, this is not meeting my expectations. And so, pounding my head against the wall, what I did wrong, I’ve had more people come up to me and say, Keep doing what you’re doing. That doesn’t happen in a lot of other places. You walk through the airport, and instead of someone looking at you and giving you stink eye, they come up and they … Thank you, Coach. And you know, Can we take pictures with you and your team and, can you sign this and, my little girl wants to meet you. And that comes at wonderful, wonderful times when it’s tough. I feel that the community here sees these kids in the community, they see these kids going to class and graduating, they see the work that we’re putting in, and embracing what we have here. And I think that that’s something that when you live here, you understand it. If you don’t live here, you don’t.

 

You’ve been through a lot of victories in your life, though.

 

Uh, yeah.

 

Does it get old hat?

 

No, no, no, no, no. [CHUCKLE] Winning is fun.

 

When Laura Beeman first arrived at UH, the buzz was quite positive. Her hire was considered a good get for the University of Hawaii. And since then, there have been rumors about certain Pac-12 schools being very interested in hiring her away. At the time of our conversation in 2017, five years in, Coach Beeman said Hawaii has been good to her. She did mention that coaching at this level is tough on the body and the daily schedule, and there will be a time when she’d like to explore athletics administration. Mahalo to Laura Beeman of Honolulu, and thank you for watching Long Story Short on PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

You have to make a lot of real time, fast decisions when you’re in the middle of a game. How do you do that? And do you have trouble doing that at all?

 

At times, for sure. At times, you can get caught up in the emotion, you can get caught up in a certain play and miss what’s going on over here. That’s why I have incredible assistant coaches. They don’t miss a thing.

 

It’s teamwork. This is not the Laura Beeman Show; trust me.

 

[END]

 


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