Interview

POV examines police militarization on ‘Do Not Resist’

SWAT officers in Ferguson, Missouri.

Do Not Resist explores the militarization of local police departments and their Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams – in their training, tactics and acquisition of equipment – since 9/11. With unprecedented access to police conventions, equipment expos, and officers themselves, filmmaker Craig Atkinson has crafted an observational, nonpartisan look at the changing face of law enforcement in America. The documentary makes its POV broadcast premiere on Monday, February 12 at 10 pm on PBS Hawaiʻi.

 

Liberty Peralta, Vice President of Communications at PBS Hawaiʻi, recently spoke with Atkinson (pictured, below) by phone about the film.

 

PBS Hawaiʻi: Could you talk about your own personal connection to law enforcement, within your family?
Craig Atkinson

Craig Atkinson: My father was a police officer for 29 years, outside of Detroit, and he was a SWAT officer for 13 of those years. Growing up, he used to take me on SWAT training exercises. When I was really young, I’d be a hostage, and when I got a little bit older, I would be an armed assailant, so it would be me vs. the SWAT team in an abandoned factory in Detroit. It was a way for him to create greater obstacles for his team, and it was very fun as a kid to go and participate in something like that. So I was relatively familiar with SWAT and tactical teams, going into this film, but I think that just allowed me to empathize with the police officers, because my dad was a very upstanding officer, and I know his heart and I know he was always trying to do it right, and I know there are a lot of cops out there trying to do it right, as well.

 

What was your expectation going in to make Do Not Resist, and how did that vision change as you went along?

I felt when we started making the film that we would be able to show the full range of a SWAT officer’s experience. We worked really hard to try to find teams that we thought could demonstrate an appropriate use of SWAT. I point people towards the Pulse nightclub shooting [in Miami], where they took an armored vehicle, punctured a hole in the side of the nightclub and were able to save those hostages. Showing an appropriate use of SWAT only strengthens the film in general: Here’s an appropriate use of SWAT, thus we can see an inappropriate use of SWAT.

 

Unfortunately, despite our efforts and despite filming in 22 states and spending three years on it and going on dozens of ride-alongs, we never came across an opportunity that demonstrated the use of SWAT that we were being told by the officers that it was actually going to be used for, which was for counter-terrorism or for really violent situations. Every single search warrant that we went out for was a proactive search warrant, and in our case, 90% of those were for drugs, and oftentimes, low-level drug offenses, which was so shocking.

 

Do Not Resist was completed in 2016, after three years of production. What’s changed since then?

One of the main things that I point people towards is the scene that people find to be the most shocking in the film, which is the asset forfeiture scene: Police in South Carolina retrieve a small amount of marijuana and end up not only arresting the 22-year-old college student, but they also take $800 of his money, claiming that it was drug money, although he claims that it was for a landscape business. This process of seizing someone’s assets became completely abused amongst law enforcement for decades.

 

There were states that were changing laws and requiring a criminal conviction before seizing assets. This was doing a lot to dissuade law enforcement from going out and just randomly seizing funds that would then go back to their departments. With the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he reversed the Obama-era changes to asset forfeiture. Mind you, these changes weren’t doing a lot in order to really stop the abuse of asset forfeiture. They found a way to exercise federal law to circumvent the state law, and I’m not the first to point out how that, in the long term, can be completely detrimental to the fabric of our society.

 

What was your awareness of this asset forfeiture abuse before you set out to make the film?

My father came up in the first wave, or almost-second wave, of SWAT in the mid-’80s, responding to the crack epidemic. In my father’s era, [there were] maybe 29 search warrants total. He was a police officer for almost 30 years, but he was only a SWAT member for 13 of those years. He only did 29 search warrants total. Contrast that with these teams that we went out with while making the film, they’re doing 200 raids a year, three to four times a day.

 

What I observed to be a major shift is the fact that we incentivize police departments to directly benefit from the money that they take. Classically speaking, asset forfeiture – anything that you took from a member of your community – the money would have to go into a general fund for the city, so the city could then use those funds to improve the community. That’s all well and good on paper, but the federal government came in and said, “If you include one federal agent on your task force, you get to keep 80% of the funds, and we’ll only keep 20%. Not just for a general fund for the city, but for your department itself.” You started to see police departments raising their operating revenue from ticketing their citizens and from seizing their assets.

 

That’s what was going on in Ferguson, Missouri. You had municipalities raising up to 50% of their operating revenue from ticketing their citizens. Imagine living in that community – you pay your taxes, and your police department can’t fund itself unless it raises up to 50% of the money that it needs to operate from additional ticketing. And when you give police departments the tools of war, you give them no indication of how to use those tools, and then you financially incentivize them if you use those tools in this way to seize assets, you actually financially benefit from it. That was a major shift that I saw in SWAT from my dad’s era to the SWAT that we are seeing unfold while making the film.

 

 

How have police departments reacted to Do Not Resist?

The thing that I’m most encouraged by is the fact that police departments have used the film as a teaching tool. I was really hoping that was going to happen – that we don’t necessarily condemn the individuals or departments in the film, but more of the style of policing that’s portrayed in the film.

 

We actually did a police academy screening tour with the film, where we took the film and showed it in academies and police departments. There was one police department that allowed their officers to have access to the film on their squad car computers. We’ve had a really interesting response from law enforcement agencies as big as the NYPD, who showed it at the John Jay Criminal Justice College with 300 active NYPD officers. It was an amazing response. A lot of officers got up and said things like, “This film does reflect reality. It shows many of the things that we ourselves are concerned with, and are trying to work with in our department. We’re actually happy that we have this example because it allows us to go to our command staff, who often aren’t sensitive to these issues, and we have an example to show them.”

 

Aside from asset forfeiture, another thing that was most often pointed out is the [retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and law enforcement trainer] Dave Grossman aspect of training, which is like preparing for the next Al Qaeda attack, although you’re actually going out to write traffic tickets. A former commander of the NYPD SWAT team got up and denounced Dave Grossman in front of the class. He said, “Yes, he has been influential in various law enforcement circles for a very long time, but I assure you that we are moving away from his teaching style, and it is not indicative of what we want the NYPD or the NYPD SWAT to be going in.” I thought that was a very powerful statement to make publicly, and it was very encouraging.

 

The thing that I’m most encouraged by is the fact that police departments have used the film as a teaching tool.

-Craig Atkinson, Do Not Resist filmmaker

 

In the film, the Department of Homeland Security admits that there is no reporting procedure in place for them to track how military-grade equipment given to police departments is used.

Since we started filming [in 2013], Homeland Security gave [police departments] $34 billion of equipment, and the Department of Defense is giving people $5 billion. You’re talking about nearly $40 billion worth of equipment. There was only one state that required reporting, and that was in Maryland, because the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, had a SWAT team come to his home because they were raiding the wrong house. They shot and killed his dog, and had him on the ground handcuffed. Because it happened to someone who was in a position of power, people started to pay attention, and sure enough, he passed laws in Maryland that required reporting statistics for SWAT teams. And sure enough, SWAT teams were being used 90% of the time for drug search warrants, and oftentimes those are low-level offenses. That initiative came up on the ballot, and it was dropped, so now even Maryland doesn’t even require reporting statistics for law enforcement.

 

While riding along with SWAT teams, a lot of the teams who were made up from really respected, upstanding individuals wanted to know nationally what the statistics were for SWAT because they figure the ones that were doing it right would only help them do their jobs better. They said, “Reporting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We could really hone in on what we’re doing if we had those figures, but they’re just not required to keep them,” which obviously opened the door for tremendous abuse for teams who aren’t so upstanding.

 

What did the ratio of “upstanding” versus “non-upstanding” officers look like?

The majority of police officers that I came in contact with were people who truly wanted to protect and serve. We did find an alarming number of people who maybe had the best intentions, but didn’t even realize themselves their implicit bias, just seeing which cars they pay attention to, and who they decide to pull over. It was almost as if even the well-intended officers weren’t fully aware of their innate bias and racism.

 

As a whole, I would say that the majority of officers are there to do the right thing. However, oftentimes they’re given the top-down objectives that puts them at odds with their community. And a lot of it was coming from the federal government. I think that if you left communities to their own devices, you would reach an equilibrium, where the police department realizes that it’s putting them at odds with their community when you’re requiring them to raise their operating revenue from ticketing and seizing the assets of their citizens.

 

Does this mean that this is a systemic issue, that individuals aren’t necessarily responsible for this current situation?

I think you can’t let individuals off the hook, because that’s where the actual change happens. And I’m really reluctant to do that because there were so many officers who were just kind of hiding behind the badge and their power, and they truly needed to be held accountable themselves. By no means am I trying to make it seem like it’s just a bunch of Boy Scouts out there and if the policies change, the fabric of policing will change. I kind of straddle both sides of the fence because I understand the law enforcement perspective, just seeing what my dad went through, but also seeing all the problems in his own department and how, when you multiply that as a whole, it really does become individuals caught in it. The individuals need to hold strong and really think about the way they’re interacting with the community.

 

One thing that I think we can all do is not treat everyone as a collective mass. The police department is not a collective mass. Protesters are not a collective mass. They’re made up of individuals. There’s a protest scene in Do Not Resist, and there’s an officer yelling at a protestor. He’s like, “I’ve known you since you were little. And you’re out here now and burning things down and why is this?” That officer actually got in trouble from management for engaging in conversation with the individual. We caught up with that officer after the fact, and he was just mentioning to us how obviously the police and community relations are so strained, but he uses small moments to access the community. He’s an officer that gets out of his car. He’s not bombarded by the technology in the squad car, the computer, all the scanning devices. He rolls down his window. He’ll stop at a neighborhood barbecue, he’ll talk to people.

 

That officer actually came to our screening in St. Louis, and he did the Q&A with me. And when he got up, a woman from the community said, “What happened to the police department? When I was growing up, all the police officers had baseball cards. We used to run up to a squad car because all the police officers would give us baseball cards.” To me, it just totally created a snapshot in my mind of a forgotten history of our police-community relationship. But wouldn’t you know, this officer, who was off-duty and in plain clothes, reaches into his leather jacket and pulls out baseball cards. He still does it. He’s the type of officer that will go out and engage the community and try to build that relationship.

A Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle driving through a neighborhood in Juneau County, Wisconsin, pop. 24,000.

 

What would you say to someone who sees the trailer for your film and thinks, “Oh, this isn’t happening in my community. I don’t need to worry about this”?

We had some screenings where people would come up afterwards, and it was usually older white women who would be so baffled. They were asking where the raid actually took place, the one in South Carolina, as if we were actually in South Africa or something. They couldn’t really comprehend that this was going on. And we’re like, “Oh no, that was one of four raids that day in that community.” I think that there’s such a difference between the geographical location of where someone lives, and what they’re exposed to on a day-to-day basis. This is something that’s happening three or four times in a county, usually in one specific region of a county. And you just think about the long term effect of a SWAT team coming through your neighborhood three or four times a day. We can’t wake up a decade from now and wonder why people have resentment towards police departments, when they were basically doing home invasion, Fallujah-style home invasions in their house while growing up the entire time. When we see the physical application of force and the SWAT home entries, it’s very shocking. And that may only be contained to certain areas of a city where some people can completely avoid that their entire lives.

 

However, when it comes to surveillance technology, this is something that is universally applied. It doesn’t matter if people are in Hawaiʻi, or no matter where they are, so long as they’re an internet user, no one is able to get away from the ubiquitous surveillance of their social media posts, of their e-mails, of all the information that we’re contributing online. That’s all now being collected and being analyzed. This is not something that people are going to be able to shy away from in the coming decades. It’s not just going to happen in the lower income communities where we can push it aside and never think about it again. Everyone is implicated in that, so long as they’re an internet user.

 

It seems like we’re at a crossroads between human, face-to-face interaction, and technology. How are you feeling about where law enforcement is headed?

I think it’s reflecting on the bigger picture as a whole. I think that we would benefit more in our society in general with far more interaction than what’s happening. Everything is going behind social media posts, and the amount of time people are interacting is going down, and that’s indicative of the law enforcement community relationship itself.

 

One thing that it comes down to is financing. We had a police chief in Dayton, Ohio, say, “I can’t hire ten more officers. I can’t afford all of that. But what I can do is hire one police officer and all of this additional surveillance technology and for the same cost, I can have one officer use this technology as a ‘force multiplier.’” And I think that this type of reliance on technology is not just restricted to law enforcement.

 

Am I hopeful? Yes, because I still believe in people. I am not without hope because I believe humans have the ability to adapt and to be creative, and I think that’s what we need to bring to any situation, whether it be reforming law enforcement or otherwise.

 

Do Not Resist premieres on POV Monday, February 12 at 10 pm on PBS Hawaiʻi.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Daniel Martinez

 

As Chief Historian at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Daniel Martinez has heard the stories from the survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and shares those stories with Park visitors.  In this conversation with Leslie Wilcox, you’ll hear how his connection with that infamous event goes deeper than his role as an historian.

 

Daniel Martinez Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

When we were on these trips back East, with my dad being in the space industry, we stopped at Gettysburg. And this park ranger came out with his Smokey the Bear hat. This park ranger gave a talk, and then he went in and he got in a Civil War uniform and came out with a musket, and fired it. And I said, That’s for me.

 

So, you truly intended to do that when you grew up?

 

I just said, That’s for me, but I didn’t know how I was gonna get there. But that whole idea of working in a national park like Gettysburg, it was just like, How do I do this?

 

Daniel Marinez has been captivated by military history since childhood, and he followed his passion. Today, he’s Chief Historian at the World War II Valor In the Pacific National Monument, which preserves and interprets the stories of the Pacific war, including the events at Pearl Harbor. Daniel Martinez, 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. Daniel Martinez has been the Chief Historian at Pearl Harbor since 1989, where he keeps history alive for the many visitors from around the world who come to see where World War II began for America. History has always been an important part of Daniel’s life, starting from his youth growing up in California. His German and Mexican grandparents shared stories of their lives, which started him on the path that would later lead him to become an historian.

 

Oh; without a doubt, my grandfather. My grandfather taught me how to fish, and I found out he was at Pearl Harbor, and he had this interest in the American West, and he was a miner. On my grandfather and grandmother’s side, in particular on my grandmother’s side, they grew up in Boise, Idaho, they were first immigrants to come in the late 1870s, became gold miners. And then later, one was a sheriff. And so, we had all of that. So, on both sides of the family. My father’s was more humble. My grandfather came from Mexico, from the area of Guadalajara, and emigrated here legally through the Southern Pacific Railroad. He was one of the workers. And that’s how my dad ended up being born in Lone Pine, California, one of nine children. And my love for railroad and that history, especially I’m a big Southern Pacific fan, came from that. And then, my dad was in the Navy, and my dad served in the Korean War. My Aunt Jo was the first one on my mother’s side to take me to a library when I was five years old, and picked up my first book, which was Custer’s Last Stand. There were always these influences on reading and going to places where events happened.

 

When you say, you know, history really imbued your family, you had a sense of that, did you say that to yourself? You know, history is important to me. Or was that not a known specialization or concept?

 

If my mom was alive, she’d probably have more of a description of it. Because when I was little, I had toy soldiers, and I would recreate battles. I would read books, I would be actively involved in watching films on history. I think it was just something that was instinctively there, and thank God my family endorsed it, and not only that, took me to a number of historic places that were like these deviations off the road. And so, I don’t know; I think my rudder was fixed, and I was headed that way.

 

You know, you’re cross-cultural; Mexican, German.

 

Yeah; and know, the difficult part was that I didn’t realize this, because even I grew up in a world that was not as judgmental. And here in Hawai‘i, even less. But it was called interracial marriage. And that’s what my parents’ marriage was, and they ran off and got married.

 

Because their family wouldn’t support the match?

 

Oh, no; on both sides. You know, my grandfather on the Mexican side was hoping that my dad was gonna marry a Mexican girl, and I know for a fact on my mother’s side, they wished the same. But love overcomes a lot, and they ran off and got married. And then, when I came along, all was forgiven, and the families were joined. And so, my grandfather, who was so opposed to this on my mom’s side, became so close to my dad that he was like a second father.

 

Did you ever have the sensation of having to pick one, you know, racial background over the other?

 

You know, I didn’t have a choice; the last name was Martinez. And I went to a Catholic high school and I went through a little bit of hazing of that. And I had a cousin named Paul Gomez, who was a scholar and a great guy, and he just said, Hey, just roll with it. Just roll with it; don’t be upset over it, just be proud of it. And I always have been. And when I came to Hawai‘i, one of the things that touched me a great deal was the acceptance of peoples here.

 

People always want to know what you are, even if they’re not prejudiced against you.

 

Right.

 

They want to know.

 

I tell them I’m sort of—

 

You’re hapa.

 

Hapa; you know, and then they get that. And so, I’m very proud of our German-English background, especially what my uh, grandparents on that side did.

 

When your grandfather moved to Hawai‘i, why? He was a miner.

 

Yeah; the thing was that there was a company, a big company, and everybody knew it at the time, called Morrison-Knudsen. And it was located in Boise, Idaho. And they were rounding up all of these miners and construction workers. They had been given contracts to build military bases throughout the Pacific; Wake Island, Midway, all over. My grandfather was in his thirties at the time, so he was relatively mature. And he had just remarried, and he saw this opportunity, so they wanted this work. They needed tunnelers, they needed people that knew how to work with dynamite; my grandfather.

What they were going to build was twenty of these that are basically twenty stories deep as well. And I forget the circumference, but it’s close to seventy-five yards in circumference. And these tanks were gonna be literally blasted out of the lava rock on Red Hill, and then they would use like an iron basket around it, and then gunnite that, and then use cement and build it. Now, they built these things, you know, kind of bottom up, and many men fell. And when you fall in there, even despite there’s water, it doesn’t come out well when you’re falling eight or nine stories. you know, over two hundred feet. And so, my grandfather worked on that, and then my mother came over in ’41, early ’41, went to school, living the dream as I say. That’s what I often say, living the dream here in Hawai‘i. And then, you know, went to school.

 

Wait a minute. Going back to those storage tanks. So, your father is working with people who are dying.

 

Yes; this whole thing that they were doing was secret. They tried to keep it as secret as possible. I don’t know how they did that, but they just didn’t want people talking about it.

 

But there was dynamite going off in Red Hill.

 

Yeah; but it was like a rumble, ‘cause it’s underneath the ground. And they were taking all the tailings, and they were not pulling them out of there; they were spilling them into the valley there. And you can still see some of those tailings where cement factory is now today.

 

So, he would go back, and he couldn’t even tell your grandmother.

 

He’d just say they were doing tunneling.

 

Was he there throughout the entire twenty tanks?

 

Yes, he was. Yeah.

 

How long did that take?

 

It took almost ‘til 1944. And you see, my family, my mom and her sisters, a baby and my Aunt Janelle [PHONETIC], who went to Roosevelt High School, they were sent back on, I think, the Mariposa, and went back to San Francisco. From there, they went back to Boise and waited, and then my grandfather returned and he needed to find work, and he knew that the war effort needed talc, and he knew where talc was. And so, he went there, and he established his family there, and opened a talc mine in the White Mountains. And my mom went to Lone Pine High School, and met one Rudy Martinez.

 

For the next six years after he graduated from college, Daniel Martinez taught high school in the winter, and during the summer he worked for the National Parks Service as a seasonal ranger at the Little Big Horn Battlefield. The Parks Service offered him a fulltime position at the USS Arizona Memorial, which he readily accepted. Although his grandparents had told him stories about living in Hawai‘i during the war, he was unprepared for what awaited him.

 

Although I lived in California, my friends used to go to Hawai‘i in the summers, I never did. And I came here for the first time, you know, in 1985 with fourteen boxes and my girlfriend. And we were there at the airport, and we didn’t know what we were in for. But it was quite an experience adjusting to Hawai‘i. Because there wasn’t a lot of stores that we have now, and it was expensive, and I was very low grade. So, we worked some little second jobs, and things like that, to make it, make my way through.

 

Where did you live when you first arrived?

 

I lived in Aiea. And I lived right above the high school, and I didn’t have a car then, so I walked to work, and then later got established, and life changed and evolved. And I was adopted, ‘cause my girlfriend couldn’t hack it; she went home. I came home, and I had like a Dear John letter. And the family that I stayed with, I lived on the lower end of of a home. So, it was like a little ohana. And they were just really, you know, shocked that I had a Dear John, and they were so consoling. But I couldn’t afford it anymore, so Clinton Kane, who was a park ranger at the memorial, said, Come with me. And he took care of me, and I ended up living in Waimanalo with another Japanese American fellow who worked for Hawaiian Tel. And I learned to be Hawaiian. I ate food that I thought I could never eat, did things that I never thought I could do. I learned how to body board at Makapuu. And that was … thrilling. [CHUCKLE]

 

And the food teaches you a lot about history of the islands, too.

 

It does. I never quite caught onto opihi, but I gave it a good attempt. But I started to fall in love with some of the Hawaiian foods. And if I can digress, a simple story of this kind of generosity and culture here that was unknown to me was that, where we lived, we lived close to the mountain in Waimanalo. So, when it rained, the roof was metal, and it was just a racket. But you get used to it. And then, when we would go fishing or anything, the fish that we got, we would drop off to some of the neighbors who had their farms there. And the next day, there would be vegetables or fruits left there. And it just the kind of warmth and generosity that … didn’t see that in Los Angeles.

 

When you said your girlfriend couldn’t hack it, did you consider saying, Okay, this is really complex for me and I don’t think I’m gonna do it?

 

No; ‘cause I had fallen in love with the story of the USS Arizona Memorial, and the fact that both sides of my family were at Pearl Harbor. And I had fallen in love with the ethics of the National Parks Service. There was just no turning back for me. And I was told that if I wanted to be a permanent ranger, because I had come here for that reason, that I needed to go to the law enforcement academy. And I did so; I left here, I went to Santa Rosa, California and went to the sheriff’s academy there and became a law enforcement ranger for the National Parks Service. And on the day of graduation, I got a call from the chief ranger, and he hired me. And that was the beginning of that career, and it was one of those magical moments that I had arrived.

 

You know, most times, when people do go into history, it’s with the idea of teaching it. Getting advanced degrees so they can teach it at the college or higher ed level.

 

Right.

 

But that was not your course, and you remained employed in it continuously.

 

Yeah. You know, the bottom line is that we that engage in this, whether we work in a museum or work for the National Parks or State Parks, we’re public historians that have a history field, and we deal with the public. And that in itself defines that we are educators almost at every moment. Because when people come to the national parks, or like to our site, they’re there to experience it, and we’re there to inform and illustrate why the site is important, and how it fit into the national past.

 

And at a place like Pearl Harbor, you get more material that you can vet from listening to people.

 

Right. And we have a story beyond the tragic events of December 7th. Now, we’re a World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. It includes all of the Pacific war.

 

You know, one of the things I used to love about going to Pearl Harbor, even when I was a young adult, was getting to talk to people, volunteers, who had actually been at Pearl Harbor when the bombing occurred.

 

Yeah.

 

Men who had experienced it. Are there any volunteers now who do that? They must be in their nineties.

 

Yeah, there are. There’s one who was a young man. I believe his name is Robert Lee. He lived right in in at Halawa Landing. His home was on the edge of Pearl Harbor, right there in that kind of Aiea Bay right there, and he watched the attack from his second story, on Battleship Row.

 

Wow.

 

But we’re talking about individuals in their nineties, and that is our fading resource.

 

Because before, the survivors would walk you around briskly.

 

I know; don’t you miss those days?

 

And tell you this, and tell you that. But they must have more limited circumference these days.

 

Well, I was a volunteer and the parks coordinator in 1987, 88. And I had over twenty-five Pearl Harbor survivors that volunteered through the week. And it’s just amazing that we have seen since that time, you know, the passing of a generation. There’s also the other group that’s right here, the civilian eyewitnesses, and those that worked at Pearl Harbor or the airfields, or at home. The biggest connection we made with the civilian community here, and I’m very proud of it because it was a movement to make sure all of the casualties recorded, were the civilian casualties. And at the time, to get those records was very difficult, because they were held by the Health Department here. Mayor Fasi, God bless him, he paved the way for us to get their records. They didn’t want to release them to us. We got all the civilian records, death records.

 

Of the civilians who were killed, I think it came out later that much of that was from friendly fire.

 

Right.

 

Honolulu was defending itself.

 

We found out two things, that it was actually forty-eight civilians. Later, we’d find one more, forty-nine civilians were killed in the attack. Most of them, almost eighty-five, eighty-six percent killed by friendly fire, and the definition of friendly fire, which is a strange term for it, was that as we were firing up at the planes, the shells were either not being fused properly, or faulty, and they were landing all over Honolulu, Waikiki area. And when that happened, many of the people believed they were being bombed. Remember, the planes were still flying over. That’s what my mother remembers; the houses being bombed and it was friendly fire coming down.

 

You know, there are so many myths about Pearl Harbor, including some I grew up with. Some of them were dispelled after I attended school in Hawai‘i. And I know of them was, you know, the Japanese planes didn’t come through Kolekole Pass to get to Pearl Harbor.

 

I know.

 

I thought that for years, and I’d drive by those mountains and think, Oh, that’s right where the planes came in.

 

Yeah.

 

No.

 

That myth had some truth to it. And that’s one of the things I found out in doing some of the research about, was eyewitnesses watching the attack, in particular on Wheeler and Schofield, in that area, saw the planes. But the planes were turning at the base of the mountains, not flying through it. And the Japanese were always kind of, when I interviewed them, Why do they think we would do that? Because the main strike force flew down from Kaena Point, all the way, and turned over Makakilo, and then broke up in their attacks at Hickam and Pearl Harbor, and Ewa. One group came down the center of the island over Haleiwa, and moved up and attacked Wheeler Field, but they circled around. And so, film kind of endorsed that; the book and film From Here to Eternity somewhat endorsed that myth. Then tour guides caught onto it, and then it became part of the story, and they took people out there to Kolekole Pass. Now, the pass itself is historic, but the film Tora! Tora! Tora!, you see them flying right through the pass. So, Hollywood in many, many ways instills and certifies, and embosses some of our myths.

 

So, something that happened all those decades ago is still a moving target in terms of learning about it and memorializing it.

 

I’ll tell you, Leslie; the more you know, the less you know. And that’s been my case. You know, everybody says, Oh, you’re one of the experts on Pearl Harbor. And you know, I think what I could say safely is, I know where to find it, but it’s just an evolution still occurring. So, long after I leave my position, there’ll be someone that will find more history and more angles of that. And that’s been my case. Every time I go to work, there’s going to be something that’s new.

 

Teaching visitors about history is an important part of Daniel Martinez’s job. But there are other aspects of his work that go beyond uncovering new facts and correcting misconceptions. There is the ongoing story of the consequences and the lessons of that even today continue to inform us and affect our lives.

 

One of the things that I’ve been blessed with is, I’m the interment officer for what takes place on the Arizona. To see how the Navy, or in the case if it’s a Marine, how they honor and work with us on that ceremony, and when the families come there, and I take the urn down, and the family members are with me, and then I turn that urn over to the family member that’s appointed by the rest to do that, and then that person gives it to the diver … that is a moment.

 

You’ve gotten to meet so many of the survivors of Pearl Harbor attack. And you know, many have come over the years, some have volunteered here, some have moved here. And you’ve conducted oral history interviews with a lot of them. So, I just wonder; for those who went through those horrific times, I mean, they saw their fellow soldiers and other professionals, they saw such terrible carnage. What were their lives like after surviving this?

 

After the war, no matter what horrific circumstance they went through, whether they witnessed people being killed, or wounded themselves, or nearly killed themselves, they wanted to move on with their lives. Think about it; many of them were young. I did my first oral history with my grandfather, and he agreed to do it, but he wasn’t wild about it. And I couldn’t understand it. So, I started the interview and I had a little recording machine, you know, and microphone. And I get into the whole Pearl Harbor stuff, and he gets up in the interview and walks away. And he said, That’s it, that’s it; that’s all. And my grandmother, you can hear in the background saying, No, no, go back. You know. He got up, I think, three times and walked away. It wasn’t ‘til I started doing oral history interviews on my own in the late 80s that I understood what I was dealing with. He had never told anybody about it. And he had seen a young Hawaiian boy that worked on his crew wounded. He had to dive for cover, because he was in the area of Merry Point Landing. That was ground zero for the torpedo attack; they flew right up that channel. And so, he was seeing things and remembering things that he had not talked about. And as a result, he was reliving it.

 

I see.

 

And I didn’t know that. And so, I couldn’t understand at that time, and it took several years for me to get from the university here that I was going into an area of his remembrance that was extremely difficult, and he was reliving it. And he remembered the Arizona exploding, but he didn’t know it was the Arizona; he just saw a ship explode and the concussion rocked them there. And he remembered that he stayed there as a Navy federal worker, pulling bodies out of Aiea Bay and placing them on the landing in Aiea for identification, and never got over how young the faces were. And he remembered going through a darkened and panicked Downtown Honolulu, and seeing people and behavior that he never had seen before. People were frightened, and they were scared, and they were running lights, and they were driving up to the sidewalks. And he just said it was crazy. And nobody remembers or really talks about that, but it indeed happened. And so, when he got home late at night, we were now under martial law and it was blackout. And they huddled in their home in Kaimuki, like so many others did, not knowing what the next day would bring, sensing there would be Japanese soldiers in their front yard. And that was just the beginning of the martial law experience in Hawai‘i that, fortunately for my family, they were lucky enough to leave, although sadly, and be in a place where there was a lot more freedom. So, for the people of Hawai‘i, I mean, they’re often not really congratulated for their own sustainability and courage and effort in the war effort, just sustaining themselves under martial law. And so, the one thing that my grandfather witnessed that he couldn’t believe also was, and I tell the story now to a lot of visitors, is that after the attack, suddenly the workers that were of Japanese ancestry were being attacked and called names by local people that worked on the project. Which just seems crazy. But it was crazy. And so, it got to such a point there were fights, and the inability for crews to work together, and ethnic groups from Hawai‘i now even that had been their friends were no longer their friends. So, the crews were segregated; there was a Japanese American crew. This went on for several months, and then as feeling subsided—

 

Yeah; fear is a terrible thing. It drives bad behavior.

 

We see it. Yeah; and it drove some bad behavior. But it was one of those untold stories that he mentions on his interview, and in doing so, gave me glimpse of the kind of fear, as you say, sustained itself in the weeks and months after Pearl Harbor.

 

We learn the human experience of history and war through the testimonies of witnesses and survivors. Daniel Martinez’s passion for gathering and perpetuating these stories keeps them alive, so we can heal from the emotional wounds of the past and understand history. Mahalo to Daniel Martinez of Kapolei for teaching us through stories. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. 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 the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I remember we were making a film about Pearl Harbor on September 11, 2001. We were in Washington, D.C., not more than fifteen miles away from the Pentagon. And these suits come in, and he leans over and said, We just got Pearl Harbored in New York. And that’s going on while we’re having …

 

While you are remembering Pearl Harbor.

 

While we’re remembering Pearl Harbor. We were ushered out; we could see the smoke coming up from the Pentagon.

 

Did you stay in the building?

 

They kept us there, and they moved us into the cafeteria lobby area, and we watched the second plane go in. It was profound, because we were scheduled to fly that day on Flight 77, the plane that went into the Pentagon. But the reservation was changed. It’s never been lost on me that I had a second chance in life, and … so, September 11th is, I guess, my touch with a Pearl Harbor-like event.

 

[END]

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Jim Burns: A Local Boy

 

In honor of the late Jim Burns, PBS Hawai‘i presents an in-memoriam encore of this episode recorded in June 2014.

 

Jim Burns’ father, John A. Burns, always thought of himself as a local boy. Jim, who grew up in Kailua and could easily break into Pidgin English, saw himself the same way. As Jim was growing up, he saw the respect that his father had for Hawai‘i’s immigrants, and learned that being a local boy was about more than just speaking Pidgin.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, April 5, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, April 9, at 4:00 pm.

 

Transcript

 

I’m told that your law clerks, when you were looking for a new one, of course, you checked all aspects of their background, but it was really important to you to find out where they went to high school.

 

Yeah; I started with that. You know, that gives me a picture of, you know, where they lived and who they are. And then, from there, I’d ask them other questions. But, yes. I think that’s true of all the people who lived—local boys, back in the old days. You know, Where you went high school? And if they said Kamehameha; okay, you got a picture of them. They said St. Louis, they said Punahou, they said Iolani, they said Farrington, Kaimuki, you’d get sort of a picture or flavor.

 

So, what did it say about you, that you went to St. Louis?

 

Well … that during school, I had to wear a tie.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You know, that it was a little stricter operation than other places, little more controlled. That it was all boys, so you don’t know anything about girls.

 

Jim Burns has always called himself just a local boy. This, despite the lofty trappings of his career, rising to Chief Judge of the State Intermediate Court of Appeals. And he’s the son of one of the most consequential political leaders in Hawai‘i’s modern history, Governor John Burns. Jim Burns, 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. James Stanton Seishiro Burns, better known as Jim Burns, retired Chief Judge of the Hawai‘i Intermediate Court of Appeals, was born in Honolulu in 1937 to a father who was a police officer and a mother who was partially paralyzed by polio two years before Jim was conceived. It wasn’t until much later that Jim’s father, the late Governor John A. Burns, became a politician and the driving force that brought Democratic Party to power, changing Hawai‘i’s political landscape forever. It was apparent in Jim’s young life that there was something exception about his parents.

 

When people talk about when they were born, it’s you know, just a fact. I was born on this date. But your story of birth is huge. I mean, I’ve never heard such a dramatic birth story as yours. I’d love to hear it from you.

 

Well, I don’t remember it.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I only know what they told me. Interesting story. My mother had two children, and then while she was pregnant with the third during the seventh month, she got polio. Then called infantile paralysis. And so, the baby was born, my brother, but he didn’t live long. And so, she was paralyzed at that time, from the neck, down, and real bad.

 

Now, this was 1935. But subsequently in 1936, she became pregnant with me., while she was paralyzed. And you know, I don’t know how much of the upper body then was paralyzed, but definitely from the lower body, she was paralyzed. And so, all the doctors told her to abort. And they said they wouldn’t treat her if she refused. And she said, No, I’m not going to abort. And so really, nobody wanted to treat her.

 

So, was she personally at risk? Is that why they wanted her to abort?

 

Yes; both of us were at risk. Yes. And she said, No, I won’t. Fortunately, my father knew a guy, a Japanese body expert, I think you’d call him. He was a jujitsu, judo master, and so, my father found him. And of course, the doctors didn’t want him to touch my mother, said he would kill her, you know, with what he was going to do. But no, my father went with him, and he took care of my mother during the pregnancy; all during the pregnancy. You know, she said, dunked her into bathwater. What was it … seaweed water and et cetera. Massaged her, stretched her. My mother said, It almost killed me, but every time I would scream, he’d say, Go ahead, scream some more.

 

Now, she was paralyzed. It’s indicating that she’s feeling pain, but would she feel pain?

 

Oh, yes.

 

Oh, she did feel pain?

 

Oh, gosh; yes. Yes. She just couldn’t move her body. But she could feel pain. Yes.

 

I see.

 

I never talked to my father about it, but I did talk to her about it. You know, why would you get pregnant while you were paralyzed? And she said, I wanted to show that I could continue to be a wife, you know, that I could be together with him. And being good Catholics, it happened.

 

And you were born perfect?

 

I was born healthy, almost eight pounds, full-term pregnancy. And delivered by a friend who didn’t deliver babies, because there was no doctor to deliver me. He was a doctor, but he was not a doctor who specialized in that particular business.

 

So, I notice that you have a Japanese middle name.

 

Yes, I do.

 

Is that because of the man who helped your mom deliver?

 

Yes. His name was Henry Seishiro Okazaki. Quite famous in the community. And after I was born, you know, my father talked to him, I guess, about, Hey, what can I do for you? I’ve gotta pay you whatever. And the man said, You call him Seishiro. And that’s all my father ever called me.

 

Jim Burns’ brother and sister were only a few years older than him, but by the time Jim came along, the family had gone through many changes. Jim’s father had become a police officer, and he had moved his family from Kalihi to the Windward side, Kailua, where Jim grew up.

 

So, you were the favored child, right, because you were the youngest, who’d come through so miraculously.

 

Well, that’s what my sister says. I’m not sure it’s true, but I guess I had a better life than she did, or my older brother did.

 

Was your father, who was known as very strict and sometimes punitive—

 

Yes.

 

You had it easier than the older kids?

 

Well, I don’t know how they had it, but I know that I had some whacks; some pretty good ones. So, he was very strict with me, also. But I think because I’m younger, he mellowed over the course of time. So, I think they caught it more than me, before he mellowed.

 

You know, when your father was governor, people said—and this was sometimes quoted in the papers—his nickname could be The Great Stone Face; he was very impassive and stern.

 

Yes.

 

What was he like as a father?

 

Same. Exactly. Yes; very. Not too many jokes.

 

They both sound like very strong people. I mean, did you feel like you had room to breathe around them?

 

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Well, you know, depending on what part of my life you’re talking about, I didn’t see him that often. I saw my mother much more than him, and my mother was much easier to deal with than he was.

 

And even your mother went away for a while for treatment; right?

 

When I was two years old, she went to the mainland for treatment, and she was there until Christmas of ’42. Actually should not have come back; she came back sooner than she should have. But she was so homesick.

 

Wow. And your dad was often gone as well.

 

Yes. So, I didn’t see her. You know, I wasn’t conscious of her when I was two years old, and I didn’t see her until I was four and a half.

 

Wow.

 

Or actually, let’s see. Christmas—I’m sorry; five and a half.

 

Five and a half.

 

Five and a half years old.

 

Do you remember seeing her at five and a half?

 

Well, I know that she came home. And we had been writing to her while she was gone. You know. I mean, I’m sure my penmanship was not so good in those days.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

But I would write notes to her.

 

Who took care of you?

 

Well, that’s a good question. I recall a lady from down the street, a good family friend, who used to take care of all of us. My father’s mother lived next door. But, lots of kids she took care of, and I remember her. And then, when we got older, I know my father got some gals from the detention home, the girls’ home, and they came and babysat. So, it was just whoever. And then, it was wartime.

 

Tell me about Pearl Harbor.

 

Okay. Well, let’s go back a ways. My father’s a policeman, and prior to the war, he’s in charge of espionage. He’s the chief of espionage in the police department. And I think the United States knew that it was going to get into a war with Japan. It had to, to get into the war in Europe. And so, I think about ’39, the chief asked my father to put together him and four guys, to go check with the Japanese community and find any signs of disloyalty. So, my father gathered together four other guys from the police department, three of whom were Japanese, and one was Hawaiian.

 

Did your dad get to pick?

 

Yes; he got to pick. So, he picked the four. And … interesting story. I always tell this story, and it’s true. Five people … remember Hawaii Five-O?

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

That’s where the five comes from. You know, that investigative unit. But anyway, so the five went out and checked all over the place, and came back and said, No, no signs of disloyalty whatsoever within the community.

 

We were at church Sunday morning, December 7th, 7:00 a.m. Church was finished, and we were just gonna start going to home. And we saw this … blast, explosions at what was then the Kaneohe Naval Air Station, which is now the Kaneohe Marine Station. And we could see planes and bombs, and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And you know, I’m young, I’m only four and a half years old, and all I know is that there’s a ruckus going on. But he knew what was going on. So, he rushed home, ran into the house, picked up the phone, called, and all I heard him was say, Oh, four-letter word. And out the door he went, and I didn’t see him for a long time. We didn’t see him for a long time.

 

Long time, meaning how long?

 

You know, I recall two, three weeks. But he was gone. And now, we were at home, we didn’t have my mother. You know, just had whoever was looking after us, and thinking that we’re going to be invaded. And then martial law came, and et cetera. We lived under that. And right next door, there was a military camp that they set up in the ironwood pine trees, which was interesting. So, part of my growing up was working with the soldiers, being with the soldiers. They were nice to us.

 

So, very unconventional entry to the world, and very unconventional upbringing.

 

M-hm; yeah. I would say so.

 

How do you think it affected you?

 

Well, it made me very independent; that’s for sure. You know, I didn’t have a lot of social contact, other than my brother, sister, and whoever else was around. So, I learned how to do my own thing.

 

I know you went to St. Louis. I think it was called college at the time.

 

St. Louis College.

 

And you lived in Kailua.

 

Yes.

 

So, Pali Road was there.

 

But it was the Old Pali Road.

 

So, it wasn’t that hairpin …

 

It was the Old Pali Road.

 

With the hairpin turn?

 

Yes.

 

How did you get to school?

 

That way. In the mornings, somebody took us. Either my father, or somebody. Lots of kids went to St. Louis, Sacred Hearts in those days from Kailua. So, somebody, whoever it was, took us to St. Louis.

 

How’d you get home?

 

Well, when I was younger, you know, somebody would pick us up; my father or somebody he got to pick us up. But as I got older, the bus went to Nuuanu, dropped us off. Those days, the buses had electrical lines, wires.

 

That’s right. They were trolleys.

 

Yes; trolleys.

 

More like trolleys.

 

So, Nuuanu was as far as they got.

 

And then, how did you get home from there?

 

Hitchhike.

 

Did you always find somebody to take you?

 

Yes. Yes.

 

Who was it usually? What kind of person?

 

You know, all kinds of people; neighbors, friends, or just people. You know, Kailua was a small town, country town, and everybody kind of knew each other, friendly with each other. Different kinds of people. But there was one man; an interesting story. A guy named Charley Asada, and he drove the kerosene truck. And people say, Kerosene truck?

 

Yeah.

 

Well, in those days, the farmers between the Pali and Kailua, talking along the Koolaus, lots of Japanese farmers. And they didn’t have electricity, so their source of power was kerosene.

 

Oh …

 

And so, he would drive his kerosene truck, and he’d go fill up the tanks for all of these people. You know, different places, different days. And so, I went with him. And people say, Why did you do that? And I say, Well, number one, he was fun to be with; he was very educational, entertaining, et cetera. But number two, while he was filling up the tanks, guess what we were doing? We were eating. I mean, those people had good food.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

And so, by the time I got home, I was full.

 

There was a time when your father left the police force to become a fulltime politician. And your mom started running a liquor store.

 

Well, yeah. Initially, he ran it. So, he bought a liquor store, and he was running it in Kailua. But then, he got so involved in politics. Now, we’re talking about ’46, ’47. And then, he ran in’48. And so then, my mother started running it. And we lived five blocks away, so we’re talking a lady in a wheelchair going to the liquor store. And sometimes somebody took her, sometimes she wheeled herself, and sometimes I pushed her.

 

And she basically took charge of the purchases and the ordering, and …

 

She was there all day. You know, I don’t know how she did it, but she did. And when I could, I went and helped. As I got older, I did more and more help. But, you know, we had shelves, and she couldn’t reach. So, the customer would just reach and take whatever they wanted, and … you know, then they would make their purchase.

 

I thought that was an interesting choice of a type of business, because hadn’t your father previously had a problem with alcohol, and he’d stopped? But then, he bought a liquor store.

 

Well, his father was an alcoholic, and then deserted the family. And so, he was a very angry man. I think my father grew up very, very angry and bothered. So, he was incorrigible when he was young. And in fact, so much so their mother couldn’t handle him, sent him off to Fort Leavenworth to live with an uncle. And when he came back, he bounced around and finally became a policeman. But while he was a policeman initially, in the 30s, he got into an accident and had liquor on his breath. Now, nobody said he was drunk, but he had liquor on his breath, and apparently, policemen weren’t supposed to do that. So, he was sanctioned for it. And I guess his mother sat him down, and eventually, he promised, Okay, I’m not gonna drink anymore.

 

And he did; he quit cold turkey at some point.

 

I never saw the man drink.

 

Amazing.

 

No.

 

And could handle the liquor store, no problem.

 

Yes. But he drank coffee [CHUCKLE] constantly. But, yes. And then, as I say, my mother ran the store, and they ran ‘til the early 50s. And then, Piggly Wiggly came to Kailua, and ran us out of business.

 

The old Piggly Wiggly. It was during Jim Burns’ high school years that his father, John Burns, started becoming politically active. It would be many years before John Burns would win an election, but through his organizing activities, the elder Burns was laying the groundwork for what would become major social change in Hawaii.

 

When you were a kid, here you are with a Japanese middle name. You’re going to St. Louis. And I bet you there weren’t many Caucasian boys at St. Louis.

 

Well, Caucasian; if you include Portuguese, there were plenty.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE] Yes. So, I don’t think they knew whether I was Portagee or Haole. I was just one of the local boys. I spoke Pidgin, and I associated with everybody.

 

Yeah; that’s true. If I hear you, and you’re talking with your St. Louis buddies, I would never know what race you are.

 

Yes; yes. So, yeah. No; we just mixed, and nobody ever said, Eh, you one Haole. The only difficulty I had was, my father was a loser as a politician.

 

In the beginning.

 

He lost from ’46 to ’56; ten years. I went to college before he won an election. So, it was all during my grade school and high school, he was a loser. And I used to catch heck for that.

 

Why did people mind that your dad was losing political battles?

 

Well, because he’d run for office, and he’d lose. And they would say, What the hell is your father doing, running for office? You know, losing. And in fact, even worse, they used to call him names. And I went home one time and I said, Daddy, what‘s a Communist? And he said, Why are you asking me that kind of question? I said, Well, that’s what my classmates say you are. And he never really answered the question. I had to go find out by myself.

 

So, all those years, his political aspirations and the ability he had in bringing people together, that was not a plus for you?

 

I wasn’t involved. No. All I knew is, he was involved with running for office or organizing the Democratic Party. And I think he was on the other side of most of the kids that I was hanging around with, and you know, they were all on the other side of the track. And so, he was sort of an outsider and everybody’s wondering, What’s he doing? Why is he over there? You know.

 

What do you mean, other side of the track?

 

Well, the Republicans were totally in charge. So, anybody who wasn’t Republican was on the other side of the track.

 

And it’s true; at that time, the leaders in Hawaii tended to be Republican and Caucasian. But your dad was Caucasian, but from Kalihi, and the son of a single mom who eked out an existence, and like you said, he was an angry young man who, I guess, knew something about street gangs growing up.

 

Well, yes. Number one, he grew up in Hawaii. Grew up in Kalihi; he was very much a local boy. Again, he went to St. Louis. So, I don’t think you would call him a Haole. Same as me.

 

Would he consider that fighting words?

 

Probably. Yes.

 

So, your dad really had a way different profile than any of the others. He was on the Democratic side.

 

Yes.

 

And he was from an impoverished background. 

 

From the streets. Yes; yes.

 

I know he wasn’t a man to sit you down for father-son talks. But did you get the sense of his passion for equal opportunity for everybody in a place that marginalized many ethnicities?

 

Oh, yes. I mean, I’d sit and listen when he had conversations with other people, and you know, I could get the sense of what he was talking about. And so, I didn’t have any difficulty understanding what was happening. I didn’t know that the Haole was in charge of everything, you know, but I did know that we couldn’t be members of Oahu Country Club. You know, there were certain things that I knew that they had, but we didn’t have. And I knew the difference between Punahou and St. Louis.

 

What is the difference?

 

Well, in those days, it was more the Haoles than St. Louis, which was more of the local people. I knew that difference.

 

So, you grew up with that sense of the local people are getting a bad shake, bad rap.

 

I don’t think I really realized it, other than through my father. You know. Why is this man so committed to doing what he’s doing? Why isn’t he out there working for the family, kind of thing. Other than that, I don’t think I thought about it.

 

And you knew it wasn’t getting him any traction while you were growing up, because he wasn’t winning elections.

 

Right; right. So, you know, I didn’t think about too much, but still, you’re wondering, Hm, why is he doing what he’s doing?

 

When your friends at school or anybody would criticize your dad or say things about him, did you feel proprietary and defensive, or how did that make you feel?

 

Just made me wonder. That’s all. I didn’t think they were fighting words. At St. Louis, every word was a fighting word, if you took it that way, you know, if you were insulted. Everybody talks stink about everybody, so I sort of got used to it, and I got to be pretty good at it myself. I think during the course of his growing up, and especially as a policeman, he got to realize what kind of society Hawaii was. And he got to realize that this bunch of White folks were totally in charge of this place, and nobody else had an opportunity or chance to do anything. He was at the police department one time, and this businessman, one of the Big Five people in control, picked up the phone and said, Governor, come to my office. And my father said, That’s kind of backwards. You know; Governor, come to my office? Isn’t the governor supposed to say, You come to—you know. But that’s the way it was; who was in charge, who was in control. And you know, and I guess he could see the prejudice against the local people; Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans. And he just eventually said, No, no, I’m gonna do something to change this. And he totally committed himself. So, he quit the police department. Which was sad, because he loved the police department. I say this to people; all his life, he was truly a cop. In his heart, he was a policeman. He loved it. And that’s part of the problem with his family. You know, policemen—it’s very tough on the family, because they go to work and they get to see what’s going on, then they come home and say, I don’t want you to be like that. You know, so they’re very strict on you.

 

And did you ever talk to your mom about your father’s political aspirations, and what was he doing?

 

Well, no, but I knew she was getting frustrated.

 

Because she was working at the liquor store, while he was organizing?

 

She knew that he was doing what he wanted to do, and she knew he was doing the right thing. So, I think she supported him in that way. But on the other hand, I’m sure she said, Hm, I wish I had a little more family life.

 

And so did you, no doubt?

 

Yeah; sort of. But, you know, I saw my father more, I think, than others. I used to caddy for him, and you know, I spent time with him in the car, listening to him, or time when he was running the liquor store. So, you know, I associated with him.

 

And your mom looked at his time away from the family as something that he just had to do, and she accepted it?

 

Yes. That was the kind of person she was. You know, same way she handled her paralysis; it was, That’s the deck of cards that they dealt me, and that’s what I’m gonna deal with. You know, and I’m not gonna agonize over it or worry about it.

 

And your dad was busy trying to change the world.

 

Yes. That, he was doing, and my mother put up with it.

 

Jim Burns was in college on the mainland by the time his father was finally elected to office as Hawaii’s Delegate to Congress in 1956. During his term, Hawaii became a State, and John Burns came home to run for Governor. He lost his first two tries, but finally won in 1962, well after Jim had finished college and law school. Mahalo to Jim Burns for sharing his childhood memories with us and what it was like to grow up with a father who sacrificed so much, including time with his family, for his social and political ideals for Hawaii. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. 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 noted that that’s you here.

 

Yes.

 

Cut off from view.

 

Yes.

 

And then, there’s another picture where you’re also cut off, and you’re wheeling your mom, and in a very important occasion.

 

That’s my day off from basic training to go attend the inauguration. And I’m in my uniform, and I’m behind her, and pushing her. And nobody had a clue who I was. They just thought I was a soldier pushing Mrs. Burns. The local paper said: Unidentified Soldier. They didn’t know that I was related to them.

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Daniel Case

 

In honor of the late Daniel Case, PBS Hawaii presents this in-memoriam encore of this episode from March, 2015.

 

From a childhood spent on a Kauai plantation, Daniel Case grew up to become one of Hawaii’s longest-serving attorneys. Case shares how he stood guard at Punahou School on the night of December 7, 1941; represented aviator Charles Lindbergh; and with his wife, Carol, raised four children, one of whom became a billionaire.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Aug. 7 at 4:00 pm.

 

Daniel Case Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

There was something from your high school years about your being elected a class officer. But I think it said that your nickname was— 

 

Mouse.

 

–Mouse, because you kinda kept quiet, and when you answered questions, you left a lot out. You just weren’t real talkative.

 

Well, I was shy. Shy, and I was very young, younger than most of the people in my class. I was no Tyrone Power, so, somebody called me Mouse. And in those days, you’d be surprised how many boys particularly had nicknames, and they couldn’t shake ‘em until they left.

 

Did you not like your nickname?

 

I hated it.

 

Oh. Because it sounded mousey; right?

 

It was kind of wimpy-ish, and … there was some truth in it. [CHUCKLE]

 

That shy boy who lacked confidence in school grew up to be a strong legal advocate in a prominent law firm, and a family whose children include billionaire Steve Case. Daniel Case, 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. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Daniel Case turned ninety in 2015 after working into his late eighties. He spent sixty years at the same prominent Honolulu law firm, retiring in 2013. He’s known for having both influence and humility. And he’s a devoted family man who sometimes gets choked up with emotion when he speaks of his wife Carol or his children. In the year 2000, his number-three kid, internet billionaire Steve Case, bought the former neighbor island sugar plantation where his father grew up. Daniel Case’s childhood had the trappings of privilege without the cash, but he says his life was rich in outdoor adventures.

 

I grew up on “cow I”. And that’s the way we all pronounced it, even the Hawaiians. [CHUCKLES]

 

I can always tell somebody who grew up on Kauai. I say that, ‘cause I’m from Honolulu, and I didn’t grow up there at that time. And it’s sort of capital C-O-W … I.

 

Yeah.

 

“Cow I”. [CHUCKLE]

 

I agree. No; it’s uh, it’s accepted now. But say it, I say “cow I”. [CHUCKLE]

 

What was it like? You grew up on Grove Farm Sugar Plantation.

 

I did. It was … very rural. My father got his first job out of the Army at Grove Farm as a luna, as they all start at the bottom. And then, G.N. Wilcox needed a bookkeeper, and apparently had the talent, so he made him his bookkeeper. And then, he became the office manager, and all that stuff. But they built a plantation home, no architect, just Japanese carpenter. They were very good. And they built a house for he and my mother. But it was a nice house. It had four bedrooms in it, a normal house, and plenty of room, and a nice big yard, and everything. So, it was very pleasant.

 

When you say your dad started out as a luna, what did he do? What kind of luna work?

 

Those days, when they had a sugar plantation, you had crews of workers. Hard work. And many of them, as you know from history, Hawaiians began it, but they really didn’t like the work, and they brought in Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, and then Puerto Rico and different places. But they started because of the hot sun. They all congregated at about four-thirty in the morning, and the lunas, the people that were in charge of different areas would meet and agree on which fields needed work today, whether it’s irrigation or harvesting, or clearing the fields, or whatever it was. And then, after he quit being a luna, then he’d go to the office. But otherwise, he’d then go back and supervise whatever area his group was.

 

So, he made this transition to indoor work, and on up the chain.

 

Right; right. So, he just turned out to be good at it, and so, he did it all his business life. He’d always been very good with numbers and investments.

 

What did you do with yourself as a boy growing up in the country on Kauai?

 

Well, I had a good life. We lived next door to the manager’s house. And it was a wonderful eight-acre estate, really. ‘Cause it was built by G.N. Wilcox for his son-in-law, Digby Sloggett, who married a Wilcox. So, they had a tennis court closer to our house than his, a wonderful swimming pool where we all learned to swim, a great front yard, royal palm drive-in and a port cochere.

 

What kind of trouble did you get up to?

 

Actually, we never had any trouble. We honestly didn’t. We were busy all the time. Nobody had play dates then. The kids from Lihue School, it’s only about a mile home. So, we’d would walk back. And then, those that were able to come, would come and join us for tennis, and swimming, and touch football, and all that stuff. So, we always had something to do.

 

Mostly sports? Not exploring and playing with sticks, and …

 

Well, we took a lot of hikes. Partly, we could just go without a car. Across the street, there was a valley, up from the mill to the Grove Farm museum. We would hike that. We could walk to Lihue town, and we with a little help from somebody who had a car, we would go to Kipu Falls, which was down to Lihue valley as we call it. If we were really lucky, they’d take us to Poipu and go to Brennecke’s to bodysurf.

 

What was your expectation of yourself, as you were growing up? What did you think you would become?

 

Nothing; I didn’t have the faintest. In my own mind, I said, you go down the middle of the road. [CHUCKLE]

 

So, you didn’t have these, you know, striking career goals, where you had to do this, that, and that by a certain time; not at all?

 

Never. Somewhere along the line, because my father was never—they never paid much. There got a lot of perquisites; a free house, a yardman, n=and medical privileges, but they didn’t pay them much. I always wanted to make a million bucks. [CHUCKLE] That was my only goal.

 

Really? And yet, you were perceived as a child of privilege. Well, you did have a lot of entitlements.

 

We did.

 

But you’re saying your family didn’t have a lot of money.

 

Yeah. Yeah; money in the bank. My father had to borrow money to send me to Punahou.

 

When Daniel Case was in the eighth grade, his parents sent him to boarding school on Oahu, back when Punahou still had student boarders on campus. Young Case’s senior year of high school was disrupted by the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

 

What was it like living in the dorm when you were in eighth grade, through almost your senior year?

 

Well, it’s wonderful. Roughly, thirty-three seems to be a magic number, but it could have been a little more. Well, we had thirty-three friends in different grades. They had some in from seventh grade, that was a little young. So, we got to know a lot of people from the grades, about five grades in a row, and six sometimes. And so, that was helpful, getting to know people around the campus, and knowing the school people, and following the activities, mainly the sports. You know, we were right above Alexander Field, where we used to play football all the time, and then they built a beautiful track. The swimming pool was right below it. So, we followed all those sports every day. [CHUCKLE] And participated in many of them, and so it was just a very good life, one of the happiest times in my life right there.

 

And yet, you didn’t have your parents, you weren’t in your parents’ home. Did you miss them? Did you miss Mom?

 

Well, [CHUCKLE] in truth, we were just happy the way we were. Happy to go home, but happy to be there.

 

You were at a critical age during Pearl Harbor.

 

M-hm.

 

You were on campus when the Pearl Harbor attack came.

 

Yes, I was. Yeah; we had finished breakfast, and there was a building called Dole Hall then, where both the boys and the girls always ate together. And they mixed the tables, so we would socialize a little bit, and we’d talk after the meals. And we’d gone back, and we’d seen some antiaircraft, it turned out to be. We didn’t know that. But then we heard on the radio that there’d been an invasion, so we all went down to the girls’ dorm. They had better radio facilities there, and we listened to Roosevelt’s speech. Then, as I say, the next day, really, but effectively Monday morning, the engineers took over the campus. So, we finished school going to Central Union Church just briefly, figuring out what to do. But we all dug trenches, we had gas masks, and all that stuff.

 

You wore gas masks as a general rule during the day; right?

 

That started fairly soon; yeah.

 

And did you ever do any guarding of the campus? I know at Kamehameha Schools, that was done.

 

Well, that very first two nights, we did. They had compulsory ROTC then. And so, the very first night, Sunday night, those of that lived in the dorm that were in ROTC, of which there were five or six, were sent up to Rocky Hill, which is the hill above the campus, but had the water tank for that whole school. And they spread us around Rocky Hill to protect the stuff. My particular one was protecting the water tank. And we all loaded rifles, but we really didn’t know how to shoot ‘em. [CHUCKLE] It was a very dark night. The Japanese had planned it very, very well. So, we were just all kinda itchy. [CHUCKLE] But luckily, none of us shot each other. [CHUCKLE]

 

After graduating from Punahou in 1942, Daniel Case headed off to Williams College in Massachusetts. He joined the Navy in 1945, serving for four years, before going to law school at the University of Denver. While he was waiting to take the Bar, a fluke accident brought Case back to Hawaii to recuperate. Here, he would stay for a six-decade legal career.

 

I think I’ve read that you and your friends were … you may have, on your own, bought or somehow you ran a hotel while you were going to law school?

 

Yeah. Well, when I first got back, and my friend—Al Herman, his name was, very good friend. We got out in April, and Williams didn’t start until late September. So, he was gonna get married, and so he worked for his father, which was a downtown hotel. Hundred rooms, but third-rate in every sense of the meaning. [CHUCKLE] And so, I was with him and looking around, and there was a a restaurant across the street called the Owl Café, selling for three thousand dollars. Happened to be three thousand I got getting out of the Navy, severance pay. And foolishly, I bought it. And I ran it. I had no experience, just stupidity. But I did run it, and then with that and the G.I. Bill, I was able to get through my last year of college.

 

So, you made a profit?

 

I profited from a place to live and self-sufficiency. But I sold it, after we got into law school for the same three thousand bucks. So, I made about five cents an hour. [CHUCKLE] And then, his father trusted me, liked me, offered my friend and I, the lease of the hotel free, without any down payment, and we just took it over and ran it while we went through law school. So, that experience was helpful.

 

So now, you’ve graduated from law school. What was your area of expertise in law school? Had you picked it?

 

No; no. You really didn’t pick specialties. Those were days of generalism. In school, you could take different courses, but we all basically took the same courses. And back then, most of the law firms wanted the associates to be fairly general in the beginning, and learn how to do different specialties. And then, after, oh, a year or two, or three, if they showed an interest and skill in a particular area, then they would go in that area. So, I didn’t have any; I just went to work. [CHUCKLE]

 

And you weren’t hoping you’d be chosen for this particular type of law?

 

No; just wanted to practice.

 

I imagine a lot of people didn’t come home from law school; they stayed on the mainland and worked. Was it always your plan to come home?

 

Not really. I left Hawaii when was seventeen, and except for a stint in the Navy, I really hadn’t been back ‘til I was twenty-seven. I was away ten years, so I didn’t know if I had any old friends or anything. So, it didn’t have a must draw to it. And in fact, in law school, a couple of us were good friends; we planned to sort of start a law firm of our own. Nothing serious, four of us, that’s what we’d do after we take the Bar exam and decide. So, we didn’t do any more than talk about it. But then, we had to take the Bar. And strangely, this is fate. My best friend and I said, Let’s work in an ice plant and toughen up a little. And we’d been working, and a hundred-pound cake of ice broke my foot. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE] Oh!

 

So, I was in a cast for a short spell, and I started saying, Maybe I’d better just go home. So, I came home.

 

Home, being?

 

Hawaii.

 

To Oahu, or Kauai? 

 

My father was still on Kauai. But I never expected to practice anywhere else. So, I looked for a job when I first got here, one particular law firm, Pratt, Tavares & Cassidy, and the Attorney General and the City. None of them offered me a job right away, so I then studied for the Bar. Went home, stayed with my father. My parents had been divorced in 1948; he’d been remarried to a very nice lady, and so I got to know them that way. And studied for the bar, and … came back tried again. And Pratt, Tavares & Cassidy offered me a job, so that’s where I stayed for sixty years.

 

And in all that time, you didn’t leave that firm.

 

I was happy. They treated me well, I was happy, I liked being a lawyer, and I liked the clientele we had. Many of the clients, a young lawyer starts to get to know them, and then the older lawyer retires or dies, and there’s a tendency to stay with the client. So, you build relationships, and I was fortunate enough to do that.

 

Daniel Case recalls a land sale on Maui as part of settling the estate of the late-famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. The fight over Lindbergh’s estate made headlines when an attorney who said he represented Lindbergh’s abducted child tried to claim the Lindbergh land on Maui.

 

And we filed a notice in the Maui court, and a lawyer from Georgia, never heard of him before or since, filed a claim saying he represented the former Lindbergh child, that he was alive. And so, we had a lot of litigation over it, but his main purpose, we decided, was to get publicity by interviewing Anne Lindbergh and the kids, and all that. So, they didn’t want that.

 

It was really the lawyer who wanted the publicity.

 

Yes.

 

Not the pretender to the Lindbergh baby identity.

 

Not the pretender. We don’t know if he exists. So luckily, we were able to get it dismissed by the judge. And so, it was gone, and he didn’t pursue it further. That was interesting.

 

When I read the names of the people in your law firm that you joined—you said that wasn’t a shoe-in, you had to look for a job. But that was a kick-butt law firm. I mean, those were the Territorial days, and I remember those names as being big cheeses in Hawaii at the time.

 

Well, they were. Dudley Pratt was a marvelous person, good citizen, very good lawyer, very good in the community, and a wonderful mentor. Judge Tavares was a very bright guy who was the State Attorney General, from which Dudley Pratt hired him. And Judge Cassidy was a well-known prosecutor.

 

So, when you became an attorney, did you have to go toe-to-toe and head-to-head, and to the jugular with people?

 

Well, luckily, I wasn’t born to be a litigator. But when I got back from law school, I knew I was shy and not a very good public speaker. So, I went to the Dale Carnegie School after work once a week for five months, which helped a little bit. And then, after I finished it, they asked me to be a teacher. That was manuahi, but I did that for another four months, just for the exposure and trying to get used to it. And I think it helped me. I was never a battering ram litigator, but I did it for a couple of years, did the best I could. And I wasn’t strong at it.

 

Daniel Case met the love of his life at a friend’s wedding. Carol was a teacher at his alma mater, Punahou. The two got married and raised four children together. At first, the Cases didn’t expect to have a big family.

 

Our oldest daughter, Carin, was adopted. Because the doctor told Carol she didn’t look like she could have children. So, Frank Spencer, her doctor, wahine doctor, said there was a nice child coming up, and that we might consider it. So, we did. So happens that Carol was pregnant. [CHUCKLE] We didn’t know it ‘til after we’d made the decision. So we stuck with it, and happily so. Then we had a son Danny five months later. And then, thirteen months later, our son Steve.

 

That was a busy household.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Oh, boy.

 

And a little over four years later, our son Jeff. So, she had a lot of work and needed a lot of help.

 

Daniel Case’s third child is America Online cofounder, billionaire Steve Case. In the year 2000, Steve Case bought the former Kauai Sugar Planation where his father grew up. Grove Farm had evolved into a land management company and commercial developer, and it ran into financial trouble. It needed to be saved. For the company and its obligations, Steve Case reportedly paid some one hundred million dollars.

 

Pretty cool to have a son who’s a white knight.

 

Well, he started what he did, and made a lot of money. [CHUCKLE]

 

Did you see that in him as he was growing up?

 

Oh, I don’t think you could ever see it in him. He was always independent and busy. He never had enough time, which was a clue to something, but I don’t know what. I don’t think he knew, either. But he was always that way, all his life. Today, he’s very restless and wants to do things.

 

And he is a disrupter. He does things—

 

Yeah.

 

Did you see that as a kid? I say that in a positive sense.

 

No; not in the slightest.

 

Not; okay. Because basically, you have to go against the grain sometimes, to really make headway.

 

Well, it’s true. When they were first starting AOL—that wasn’t its name at the time. But the predecessor just wasn’t making it, making any money, so he worked with him, though, and then finally, the guy turned it over to Steve and two other executives and said, You take it over. So, they took it over, and worked on it. And Jim Kimsey was more experienced and a little older, and he became the CEO, and Steve was just number two or three. I don’t know what you would call it. But he then helped push it along very well. He was a good marketer, and has a good thinking mind.

 

Daniel Case’s most difficult moment came in 2002, as his firstborn son, named after him, lost his life to brain cancer.

 

He was one wonderful guy. [SNIFFING] Very successful, very popular. He was a Rhodes Scholar, and wonderful investment banker. And helped a lot of people.

 

Would you agree that the hardest thing for a parent to go through is the death of a child? Any advice you could give other parents who go through something like that?

 

Just … just work with them with their time off. When they found it, he was already Stage 4. So … it was terminal. So … surgery in the beginning, and got treatment. He lived another sixteen months. We spent a lot of time.

 

Daniel Case considers his family to be his greatest joy and achievement. At the time of our conversation in February of 2015, Case was about to head out to a retreat on Oahu’s north shore with his loved ones and celebrate his ninetieth birthday.

 

Do you have a history in your family of longevity?

 

[CHUCKLE] I think my sister-in-law, Celia Case, was wonderful, looking in the genealogy and stuff; a scrapbook. And I think I would have been the oldest in my family, except my older brother Jim is still alive, [CHUCKLE] and doing pretty well at ninety-four, going on ninety-five. So, I think he holds the family record. [CHUCKLE]

 

Because you seem like you’re trim and fit, and you know, ageless.

 

No; it’s not true. We’ve all got a lot of nicks and crannies, and problems. But I’m fortunate to be as healthy as I am.

 

I mean, you’re driving around, you’re going daily to—you play a regular Bridge game at the Pacific Club. What else do you do?

 

Well, since I retired, I read a lot. I always have. And a lot of television, including your program, and public television generally. And we have friends. So, it’s a quieter life, clearly.

 

What do you read?

 

Almost everything. I love history, I like novels, I like business stuff. I try and mix reading business type books with a novel or a history book, and mix it up. But I like long books. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE] Oh, big, fat books.

 

I do. I like many of those. So, I just mix it up, and it keeps me going.

 

Also in 2015, Daniel Case and his wife Carol celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary. His secret to a long and happy marriage? Give extra love, Case says, and always respect each other. We’d like to thank Kauai born Daniel Case of Honolulu for sharing his story. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. 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 iTune Store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

You did something after your wedding at Oahu Country Club.

 

[CHUCKLE] I did.

 

That is still remembered. What did you do?

 

We hired a bicycle built for two. So, after all the hoopla went on, we went out and got out bike, and pedaled through the port cochere waving, and headed out. [CHUCKLE] So, that was a little unusual.

 

The last your guests saw of you, you were on a bicycle built for two.

 

Right.

 

Heading out. [CHUCKLE]

 

We went so fast, I don’t think anybody, including us, knew what was happening. [CHUCKLE]

 

[END]

 

 


LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Sarah Keahi

 

As a student at the University of Hawaii in the early 1960s, Sarah Keahi wanted to be an English teacher. But her Hawaiian language instructor, Dr. Samuel Elbert, saw a different path for her. “He said, ‘What about Hawaiian?’ And I said, ‘There were no schools teaching Hawaiian, you know,’” Keahi remembers. “And he looked at me, and he said, ‘There will be a day.’” Sarah Keahi went on to help establish a mandatory Hawaiian language curriculum at Kamehameha Schools, and taught Hawaiian language to generations of Kamehameha students.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Dec. 20 at 4:00 pm.

 

Sarah Keahi Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I used to tell my students that if you’re somewhere and you’re singing a song, and then you hear all the tutu’s laughing, you will know why, because you probably mispronounced a word, and you didn’t even realize it. But when you mispronounce a word, it changes meaning. And so, in Song Contest time, I would go around and talk to them about the different meanings. And so, you know, you have to draw pictures for them. So, you say the word ma‘I and mai. And so, you want to use the word mai, and you say ma‘i. Well, you know, ma‘i can be to be ill, but ma‘i can also refer to the genitals. You know, so, as in a mele ma‘i. Um, another word that comes up in songs often is the world li‘a. And li‘a has to do with yearning desire. And so, you’re desiring someone. And if you don’t put the okina there, you’re saying lia. And do you know what lia are? Like liha, they’re little baby uku’s.

 

They’re uku nits, baby nits. And so, then they start, Oh, no! You know. And you show them these differences, and then they realize, wow. So now, well, and you know, for many years, the students are really, really concerned about pronunciation.

 

Sarah Keahi expected to be surrounded by Hawaiian-ness when she started teaching at Kamehameha Schools in 1966. Instead, she found that there were no Hawaiian studies courses, and that she was the only Hawaiian language teacher. She advocated relentlessly for Hawaiian language and culture to be taught, and by the time she retired thirty-seven years later, there were ten fulltime Hawaiian language teachers, and a mandatory Hawaiian studies curriculum firmly in place. Sarah Keahi, 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. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Sarah Patricia ‘ilialoha Kwai Fah Ayat Keahi is remembered by many of her students by her previous married name, Mrs. Quick. Generations of high schoolers at Kamehameha Schools took her Hawaiian language classes. In the broader Hawaiian language speaking community, she’s known as a champion who fought to perpetuate the language when it was increasingly marginalized. Today, the Hawaiian language is thriving, thanks to the efforts of Sarah Keahi and other like-minded people in the 1960s and 1970s. Sarah Keahi’s love of Hawaiian culture and language started with her family, and with growing up on Hawaiian Homestead land in Honolulu.

 

Well, I was born and raised on this island in Kaimuki. And we were living with my grandmother, my maternal grandmother, Sarah Keahi Smythe. Eventually, we moved to Papakolea and settled in Papakolea.

 

Because you were granted a homestead lot?

 

Right; my mom was granted a homestead lot in 1950. And when we moved to Papakolea, my mom was pregnant with my youngest brother. You know, her tenth child. And so, we moved up there in December, early December in 1950, and my brother was born in February of 1951.

 

Ten kids.

 

Yeah.

 

Mom and Dad.

 

Yeah.

 

How big was your house? I mean, I can’t imagine—

 

I know.

 

–twelve people in house.

 

We all had bunkbeds, and of course, in those days, you only had one bathroom, you know. It was a wonderful life, we had chickens and ducks to eat.

 

You raised your own chickens and ducks, and then you’d have to kill them to eat them?

 

Yeah.

 

Farm to table.

 

Yeah. See, my mom would go out, get a chicken, kill it, clean it, cook it, and serve it. I couldn’t do that. I’d have to go to Costco, you know.

 

Well, those feathers that your mother took from the chickens; did they go anywhere?

 

Oh, yes.

 

Since she used everything.

 

She made feather leis.

 

She did?

 

Yes; she did.

 

Where did she get the time to do all that?

 

That’s a good question. You know. But she was an incredible woman. Her thing was, If you see something needs to be done, you do it. Don’t want to be asked; just do it. She was amazing. I mean, she was a homemaker; my dad worked. But my mom made all our clothes. She cleaned the house, and she’d put fresh flowers and plants every week. You know. She’d go out and cut things, and bring it in. And I think that’s why my love of gardening—I love gardening and I love flowers and plants. My friends would call and they would say, Who was that Haole woman that answered the phone? I said, That’s my mom. Your mom? Is she Haole?

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I said, Well, yeah, she’s half Haole. You know, half Hawaiian, yeah.

 

So, she spoke Standard English.

 

Oh, yes.

 

And she insisted you do, too.

 

We had to speak Standard English in the house. Yeah. If we were outside with our friends, you know, we could speak Pidgin and everything, but when you came in, you had to speak Standard English.

 

Was there a drill with the kids so that the older kids would take care of the little kids, to take some of the pressure off her?

 

Yes; yes. And she assigned each sister, older sister to one brother. And so, we had to make sure, you know, that their teeth was brushed and everything like that. But my mom ran quite a tight ship, but she was super-organized. And then, she went out and entertained at night. My mom had studied hula in the early days. In fact, Iolani Luahine was one of her hula sisters. And so, we were involved with hula. And we were involved with pageantry and Aloha Week. And when Auntie Elsie Ross Lane was living, they had wonderful pageants every year. And we were always in the pageants, ‘cause my mom was costume director for Aloha Week. So, she even made costumes. [CHUCKLE]

 

What was your dad like? What kind of a match were they?

 

My dad was a really easygoing guy. He was really easygoing. Hard worker.

 

Two hard workers.

 

Two hard workers. You know, my dad, he would come home from work after working all day, and if there was a pail of clothes to hang up, he’d hang it on the line. If there was something to iron, he’d pitch up and iron. I mean, he was … you know. He painted our house about every five years; my dad did. We had an imu in our yard, so my dad, you know, every so often he would kalua pig and all his friends would come over. He went fishing with his friends. If my dad got extra fish, he’d share it with the neighbors.

 

Even though he had all these kids in the house?

 

Yes; yes. And my mom, she sewed clothes for our friends across the street because, you know, they didn’t have a whole lot of stuff. If we had extra whatever, you know, bananas or whatever, we’d share it with people.

 

Your mom was half-Hawaiian, your dad half-Hawaiian. That was the time when people were really trying to be Western, wasn’t it?

 

Right; right. Yeah. They were. Some people, you know, they were embarrassed about, you know, their Hawaiian. In fact, some people, you know, some of my … people even didn’t want to say where they lived. They didn’t want to say they lived in Papakolea. And Papakolea didn’t really have, you know, a very good reputation. And I think the media tends to, you know, sensationalize and maximize the negative and minimize the positives, you know. I was proud. I mean, we had people from Papakolea, Danny Kaleikini’s family, Iolani Luahine, Hoakalei Kamauu, Auntie Genoa Keawe. We had people who went to the military academies, you know. The Kukea family, Kala, Kahele, and his sister Mele. So, we had lots of people who, you know, were notable people.   They don’t talk about all of those things, you know. They talk about the negative things. And I had wonderful years there. Parks and Recreation was a really wonderful program. We had a wonderful director, Mealii Kalama, and she was a very, very influential woman in my life, very firm and organized, and just wonderful, warm, and compassionate, you know.

 

From the time she was a little girl in Papakolea, Sarah Keahi knew she wanted to become a teacher, and she knew she’d need a good education to accomplish that, even though it wouldn’t be at the school that comes to mind first.

 

I think everybody who’s ever come to your class to learn has probably been surprised, if they didn’t already know, that you did not attend Kamehameha Schools.

 

Right; right. You know, my students would say to me, Well, Kumu, what year did you graduate? And I would say, I am a proud public school product. What? You didn’t come to Kamehameha? And I said, No, you know, unfortunately I didn’t, but I’m a proud public school product, and you know, I have no regrets. Roosevelt was a really good school, academically aggressive, and you know, I think I learned a lot from it.

 

As a matter of fact, your mother didn’t really want you to go to Kamehameha.

 

Yeah. [CHUCKLE] Yeah; she didn’t. Because you know, she said to me, Well, you know, part of the girls’ training is, they learn how to take care of a baby, and they learn how to cook, and sew; and you know how to do that. You know. You already know that. I said, But Mom, that’s not all they learn; they learn the basic stuff. You know, they have to take the classes of math, science, and English, and so forth, so that’s in addition to that. Well, she still thought it was—you know. So, I just went to Roosevelt, which was, you know, a good thing. I enjoyed my years at Pauoa Elementary and Stevenson Intermediate, and Roosevelt.

 

Right in your neighborhood.

 

Right; exactly.

 

At that time, there were no career days. Kids weren’t channeled into, you know, Try to think now what you might want to do for a living.

 

Right.

 

Was that something you gave thought to?

 

Oh, I knew; I knew from the very beginning, I wanted to be a teacher.

 

Because?

 

Well, you know, my grandmother, she wasn’t a formal teacher, but she did some teaching. And she told me about her experiences teaching. And ever since I was a little girl, my mom said, Do you know that you used to call the neighborhood kids and bring them over, and you’d play school. You’d pass out pencils and paper, and under the house, and you’d play school. And I said, Really?

 

You were comfortable with having authority, because you’d been in charge of a younger brother, and you’d seen your mother as the head of the household on the homemaking side.

 

Right; right. So, yeah. But my very first teacher at Pauoa Elementary was Manu Boyd’s grandmother, Julia Boyd. And the teachers then were very strict, like the Gladys Brandt type people. I just admired and loved Gladys Brandt. But they hapa Haole teachers, and very, very, you know, strict.

 

Did you get in trouble?

 

Oh, no; no.

 

You were always a good student.

 

I know. My brothers and sisters teased me; You’re such a Goody Two Shoes, you know. And I guess I liked school, and I did well in school. I studied hard. It didn’t come to me naturally. I mean, I had to study hard. And I did, ‘cause I really enjoyed it. All my friends said, You’re so studious. And you know, at Roosevelt I was kidded about that, how studious I was.   I was one that didn’t go out very much. You know, I was such a homebody. I wasn’t a real social kind of person. Like, you know, I didn’t care to go to proms or stuff like that. My brothers and sisters would say, We go to the beach, and there you are under a tree reading a book or something. You know. I mean, I went in the water and all that, but I just wasn’t perhaps as active as they were. But we did go hiking. You know, we lived in Papakolea, and behind our house up the mountain and Tantalus, and we explored all the trails.

 

Sarah Keahi had always wanted to learn Hawaiian so she could speak the language with her grandmother, who was a manaleo, a native speaker. After graduating from Roosevelt High School, Sarah Keahi enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she had her first opportunity to learn the Hawaiian language in a formal setting.

 

Now, was Hawaiian spoken in the house at all?

 

Well, my grandmother spoke Hawaiian with my mom sometimes. And I was fascinated. You know, I would talk to my grandmother a lot, ask her zillions of questions, and I really did want to learn Hawaiian. And it wasn’t until I went to the University that, you know, I saw Hawaiian 101, and I’m gonna take this. But my mom spoke Hawaiian with my grandmother, and my dad spoke sometimes. The only time we spoke Hawaiian was when they were scolding.

 

Scolding …

 

Scolding; they would scold us.

 

And you would know what it meant?

 

And we knew all the scolding. Like, you know, kulikuli, and you know, some of those things.

 

What does kulikuli mean?

 

Kulikuli is the not-so-nice way of saying, be quiet. It’s more like, shut up. You know. And so, we knew those kinds of things.

 

You were spoken to in Hawaiian as a way of scolding you, but it was also kind of a secret language too, among the adults.

 

Well, yes. ‘Cause like, when friends would come over, or my grandmother would talk with her friends, it was all in Hawaiian, you know.

 

It was the adult language.

 

Yeah. They never really sat down and taught you anything, because that’s not how they do it. You know. If you’re interested, you would sit down and listen. But it wasn’t until I was in college and when I started studying Hawaiian, and then you know, I think the day when I could understand my grandmother was just like, Oh, yes. You know?

 

She was a manaleo?

 

Yes; she was a manaleo.

 

And you were learning textbook Hawaiian.

 

Right. But I had my grandmother to practice with. I was really fortunate, because when I was at the University, I worked in the recording lab at the Bishop Museum with Eleanor Williamson, who was like my second mom to me. And Ele worked with Kawena Pukui, and they went on the road and they interviewed native informants. So, I got to go. And Kawena wanted to interview my grandmother, ‘cause she knew my grandmother; they were in the Royal Society together. And she said, I haven’t seen Grandma for a long time, I think I should go interview her. So, I went with them up to my grandmother’s house, and did the interview. And so, on the way back to the museum, Kawena said to me, You know, Grandma used so many words I haven’t heard for so long. You know, it’s so nice to hear those words again. I said, They’re probably archaic; right? [CHUCKLE] Only you native speakers know those words. And you know, my grandmother was a really fascinating woman because she was born when Kalakaua was King. And she lived through the Provisional Government, she lived through the Republic, Territory, and ten years into statehood.

 

Wow.

 

So, she saw all of those periods.

 

What was her take on statehood?

 

Well, she told me that on the day of the annexation down at the Palace, you know, the women who came, and she said as they saw their flag coming down, they wept, and they thought they would never see their flag again. So, they all went home and made Hawaiian flag quilts.

 

Wow …

 

And my grandmother made one. She made one. And I remember there was a time when Napua Stevens was having a program at the Ilikai, and she announced that she would honor Liliu’s birthday. Anyone who has a Hawaiian flag quilt in their family, if they would bring it forth, and they would have a display of them. So, Mom took Grandma’s quilt. And it was incredible, because as you looked at all the different quilts, there was no two alike. We still have that in our family, Grandma’s Hawaiian flag quilt. She signed the petition against annexation. I have a copy of it with her signature. You know, she said the Queen was imprisoned in her own home, and how it was done. I’m amazed, because to me, Liliuokalani epitomizes humility, that in the song she wrote, The Queen’s Prayer, in verse three, she says to her people that, you know, let’s not look at the evils of men, but let’s forgive them for what they did. I mean, that to me, you know, Liliu was just an incredible woman, and I really admire her a lot.

 

Earlier, you said that your grandmother didn’t like the way it was done.

 

Right.

 

But did she come to think that annexation was a good thing?

 

Well, you know, down the road, she did say to me that other powers were looking at us too. You know, she said the Russians were here; you know, they had built a fort. The French were here. I said to her, What about the British? Don’t you think the British might have been a good thing? You know. [CHUCKLE] I mean, look; Vancouver gives Kamehmeha a flag, and Kamehameha asked, What is this? And he says, It’s a symbol of our country. So, Kamehameha has a Hawaiian flag made, and that’s why the Union Jack is in the corner of the Hawaiian flag. So I said, What about England? What if we were English, you know, under England? She goes, Well, you know, it could have been. But I think she kind of came to terms with being part of the U.S.

 

Was there a Hawaiian major when you entered UH?

 

No. In fact, I had to go see the dean. It was Dr. Elbert who actually encouraged me to consider Hawaiian.

 

This is Samuel Elbert.

 

Yes; Sam Elbert.

 

Who co-wrote the Hawaiian Dictionary.

 

Yes; and everything else. Place names.

 

What was he like?

 

Warm, you know, kind, compassionate person. I loved him. I remember when I saw Hawaiian 101, I told my grandmother; Grandma, I’m signing up for Hawaiian 101. And she said, Hawaiian, at the University? I said, Yeah. So, I walked into class, and there was this man with gray, white hair, dark skin. And I thought, Wow, he looks like a Hawaiian grandpa. You know. And I sat right in front of him and I looked at him, and I smiled. And he introduced himself, and then he said, You know, I am not Hawaiian. And everybody was like, Really? He said, I am full Danish.

 

And he taught you your first Hawaiian language class?

 

M-hm. He called me up one day after class, and he said, Now, what do you want to do when in college? I said, Well, you know, Dr. Elbert, I’m gonna be a teacher. He said, Oh, maikai, maikai. And he said, Well, do you know what kind? I said, Well, I’m thinking English. He looked at me and he said, English? English? He said, What about Hawaiian? And I said, Hawaiian? There were no schools teaching Hawaiian, you know.

 

It seemed like bum advice.

 

Yeah.

 

Because you couldn’t get a job.

 

I said, Dr. Elbert, there’s nobody that I know, except the University. And he looked at me, and he said, There will be a day. And he just looked at me; There will be a day.

 

And he was right.

 

And he was right.

 

Sarah Keahi continued her English and Hawaiian studies at the University on her way to becoming a teacher. She was set to be a student teacher at Farrington High School in Kalihi during her senior year when she received a phone call that changed everything.

 

When it was time student teach, I got this call from Donald Mitchell from Kamehameha Schools. And he said, You don’t know who I am, but I know who you are. And I said, Oh, really? And he said, I know you’re gonna be ready for student teaching next year, and I would like for you to come to Kamehameha and student teach. I said, Really? Wow. I said, I’m already assigned to Farrington, you know, with Marion Lee Loy. And he said, Yes, I know, and I talked with the University people, and they said if it’s okay with you, it’s fine. [GASP] So, I got to student teach with Dr. Mitchell. And that was just transformative in my life. That man was just incredible.

 

You had already heard of him?

 

I didn’t, until I got there.

 

And then, he turned out to be—

 

Yes. Because see, if you were a Kamehameha student, you would have known him. But I wasn’t, see? And so, when I got there and really mentored by him, he was just an incredible person. I consider him Mr. Hawaiian Studies at Kamehameha. I really do. Because if it weren’t for him, you know, and Auntie Nona Beamer, those two people just welcomed me with open arms and thus, you know, we began a wonderful relationship. And Dr. Mitchell wasn’t even Hawaiian. He was from Kansas. But he was culturally Hawaiian. I student taught with him, and then he went on sabbatical, and I taught. And he would come and sit in my language classes. He would actually come and sit in my language class, and then I’d go sit in his culture class and learn everything that I could. So, it was a really wonderful relationship.

 

What was there of Hawaiian language at Kamehameha when you went there, I think, in 1966?

 

Yes. Nothing. We proposed a requirement in Hawaiian culture and history for years. Seven years, I think it took. Nothing happened, nothing happened. Then the Hawaiian community, you know, got involved in it. But I think when they did a graduate survey, and the graduates said—the five-year graduate survey, that they were deficient. The school prepared them well for math and science, and all, but they were totally deficient when it came to anything Hawaiian. And as they were in college on the mainland and people would ask them questions, they couldn’t answer them intelligently. Like, where did the Hawaiians come from? Or, could you say something, could you speak your language? Or, is there a language? I mean, they were embarrassed. So, the graduates said that they were really deficient, and finally, the requirement materialized.

 

And you were no easy teacher. You were no softie.

 

No. You heard about that?

 

Yes. I heard so many of your students who just admire you greatly; they say, She’s tough, but fair.

 

Yeah.

 

And you’re really adorable, except when you’re really not happy. You know, you have high standards.

 

Yeah.

 

And you’re just not gonna accept less.

 

Right; exactly. I said, you know, you cannot expect maximum grade if you put minimum work. You know? It doesn’t work that way. When I started in 1966, I was the only teacher. I couldn’t take sabbaticals because there was no one to replace me. You know, so I had to put it off, and put it off. And finally, you know, I was able to take a sabbatical. But I’m really happy to say that when I started, you know, yes, it was only me for years, and years, and years, and when I retired, there were like ten fulltime Hawaiian language teachers.

 

And you taught them all, I bet.

 

And most of them were my former students. Yes; I’m so proud of that. I could pass the baton.

 

And yet, she is still Kumu Keahi. Even though Sarah Keahi has retired from teaching, she continues to share her knowledge with the community, including serving as senior editor of the Hawaiian Bible project. Not only was she able to share her love of the language through her work on the Hawaiian Bible manuscript, she calls this the best job she ever had because she got to work at home in a tee-shirt and shorts. Mahalo to Hawaiian language champion and retired groundbreaking Kamehameha Schools teacher Sarah Keahi of Honolulu for sharing your stories with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii 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 PBSHawaii.org.

 

If you look across the State, a lot of people in the Hawaiian world and the Hawaiian language field are Kamehameha graduates. And I’m really happy about that, you know. Because I said to them, you know, you need to share what you know, and go out there and spread the aloha, you know, and help your people, help your people.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Peter Merriman

 

Original airdate: Mar. 17, 2015

 

How is it that the culinary movement now known as Hawaii Regional Cuisine was developed by someone who grew up in a steel mill town in Pennsylvania? Chef and restaurateur Peter Merriman tells his story of falling in love with the people, culture and food of Hawaii – and how that love and respect led to a culinary movement.

 

Peter Merriman Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

What was the best thing you could cook at age fifteen?

 

The best thing I could cook at age fifteen. Well, I did learn to make eggs benedict when I was about fourteen years old, ‘cause we had a contest. I was a Boy Scout, and they had a Camporee, so we had to make the best campfire meal you could. And I figured out how to do eggs benedict on a campfire, and that became my claim to fame for many years, that I had done eggs benedict on a campfire.

 

From cooking eggs benedict on a campfire, to incorporating local ingredients into his Hawaii restaurants, Peter Merriman is a culinary innovator. Not only has he used his talents to elevate local flavors, he credits Hawaii’s many cultures as playing a crucial role in developing the menus in his restaurants and influencing what is now known as Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Peter Merriman, 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. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Starting with his first restaurant in Waimea on Hawaii Island, and now on several islands under different names, Peter Merriman’s restaurants feature locally-sourced ingredients and local flavors. It’s his signature, recognizing our many culinary traditions. Growing up in Pennsylvania, Peter knew he wanted to be a chef from the time he was young, but there was nothing in his experience or his career path that pointed toward Hawaii.

 

I was born just outside of Pittsburgh in a small mill town called McKeesport. And you know, I had a great childhood. I was a, you know, middleclass kid like everybody else, my father was a steelworker, my mother was a journalist. You know, it was just a idyllic 1960s American lifestyle.

 

And did you see yourself as going into the steel business like your dad?

 

No; no, I never wanted to go into the steel business. When I was in college, I actually worked in steel mills during the summer, and that was enough to convince me that I never wanted to work in the steel business.

 

You get good money, imagine, in the steel mills.

 

It was really good pay, and so, you know, you were really fortunate if you were a college kid and were able to get summer work in a mill. But it was real tough work. We had to wear, like, flameproof suits and helmets, and some of the areas we’d work in, we could only work for twenty minutes at a time because the heat was so incredible. But that convinced me that I didn’t want to do that anyway. But I had kind of decided as a teenager that I wanted to be a cook. I had gotten exposed to Ferdinand Metz, a famous chef; I got to work for him a little bit. And I had always been interested in food, so I knew I wanted to be a chef. So, working in the steel mill was really a steppingstone to be able to afford some spending money in college, et cetera.

 

You said your mother was a journalist. She was a food writer.

 

Yeah.

 

So, that helped.

 

Yeah. Yeah; I mean, yeah, she was a great, great writer. And when I was very young, she worked for a smaller newspaper, the McKeesport Daily News, and she did sort of like women’s columns. When I was in high school, she went to work for the Pittsburgh Post, which was a large newspaper in Pittsburgh. And she wrote about chefs, and she wrote about restaurants, about food quite a bit.

 

Did she only write about food, or was she a cook as well?

 

Well, she’s a really good cook, but she’s not a professional cook. And she would test her recipes. Actually, when I was young, I would test a few of her recipes for her; very simple things. But that was okay, because she was writing at that time for home cooks, so they could be real simple things. And that worked out real well, ‘cause I always had a huge appetite.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

So, I needed stuff to eat. And so, you know, she’d be on the phone in her office, telling me what to cook and how to cook it, and we’d see how it turned out. So, that was real fun.

 

Is that when you knew you wanted to be a professional, or did it come later?

 

No; I pretty much knew I wanted to be a professional from about the time I was, say, fifteen or sixteen years old. Sixteen was when I started working for Chef Metz, and I worked in restaurants as busboys and that sort of thing.

 

And in college, you were a popular guy on campus, because you could cook, and you did for groups.

 

Yeah; that’s true. I lived in a large house with lots of people, and it was in Philadelphia. And every Saturday, we’d go to the Italian market and buy all fresh food, and bring it back, and I’d cook for fifteen, twenty, however many people. It was really fun. We called it Dinner Club.

 

And yet, when you went to the University of Pennsylvania, your major was political science.

 

Right.

 

How does that fit in?

 

Well, [CHUCKLE] I only got to go to Penn because I was an okay football player; right? I could never have gotten accepted into that school, except that I was a football player. And since I did get an offer to go to Penn, I wanted to be a cook, and I actually had applied to the Culinary Institute of America and been accepted. But when Penn offered me a chance to go there, I thought, well, I ought to just go to Penn first, and then I can go to the Culinary Institute of America later. So, that’s how I ended up at Penn. And to this day, I’m a political buff; I just enjoy politics for fun. And so, it all worked out.

 

What happened after college?

 

Well, after college, I got offered a job to go work in New York City as a manager at the World Trade Center. And I also got offered a job to be an apprentice cook with the Rock Resorts. But the good thing was, the apprentice cook’s job didn’t start until late the next fall. So, I was able to go up to New York. Right from Penn, I went straight to New York, and I worked in the World Trade Center as a manager, and trained as a manager there, and then decided the management life wasn’t for me; I preferred to be a cook. So, I went to Vermont, Woodstock, Vermont and became an apprentice chef for the Rock Resorts there; apprentice cook.

 

And I got paid minimum wage, and I often joke that I was the lowest paid Ivy League graduate the entire year. [CHUCKLE]

 

And I’m sure that’s true. [CHUCKLE]

 

Yeah. [CHUCKLE] Yeah; and it was a great experience, you know. And I worked for another dynamic chef named Hans Schadler, a German chef who was very stringent, hard, and that was really good training, you know. He, as we say, kicked your butt every morning, and it made you understand the importance of being exact, and not wasting time, and getting things done in a proper fashion.

 

All right; so now, I’m trying to figure out how you got all the way to the Big Island of Hawaii, is it from Woodstock? Is that …

 

No; I got to travel around a little bit. I was out in Wyoming for a little bit, I went to Martha’s Vineyard. And I worked in Frankfurt, Germany. Hans Schadler actually got me a job at the Intercontinental Hotel, so I spent a little over a year in Germany working. I had come back; I was working at the Four Seasons in Washington, DC.

 

You were getting good jobs, weren’t you?

 

Yeah, I don’t know, I’m really lucky. [CHUCKLE] You know. In fact, in DC, I was very lucky, because I didn’t like the job, and so, I had quit. I gave notice, and I quit right in early January. And I came home to my sister’s apartment where I was staying at that time, and she was living there with her husband. And I said, you know, Hey, looks like I’m unemployed. And my brother-in-law, he’s this tough guy from South Boston, and he goes, Yeah, yeah, yeah, you better get out there and start looking for work, man; we can’t have any lazy bums around here. And within fifteen minutes, the phone rang, and it’s Hans-Peter Schadler from the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel saying, Hey, would you like to come out here and be a cook? It took me like ten seconds to figure that out.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You know, D.C. in January to the Big Island of Hawaii. So, I was here the next week.

 

Chef Peter Merriman admits he knew almost nothing about Hawaii before he arrived. That didn’t hold him back from immersing himself immediately into island culture.

 

Being on the East Coast in 1982 and 83, we had no idea what Hawaii was really like. I actually thought they might speak a different language out here.

 

And you were up for that?

 

Yeah; I was totally up for that, right? [CHUCKLE] And so, I came; I had one bag, and I had seventy-five dollars. And from the moment I touched down at Honolulu Airport and smelled those plumerias, I just said, Man, this is a cool place. And we landed at the old um, Kona Airport. Remember when they had just that one little place there, and they’d pull your luggage in by hand? And I’m going, Man, I can’t believe this. You know, it was so great. And the chef, Hans-Peter Hager, he was the Mauna Lani chef, and he dropped me off at the Mauna Kea cooks’ quarters. [CHUCKLE] You know, and everybody gets along, right? There’s no problem. And so, I knew some of the cooks that were working at the Mauna Kea at that time. And so, they said, Well, you know, you can stay here, but we don’t have any room, so you can sleep outside. So, I was able to sleep on the beach for about my first six weeks in Hawaii.

 

You were able to. So, that was a treat for you, right?

 

Yeah; I probably could have found a place to sleep inside, but I mean, I was going, Are you kidding me? You know, because I’d just come from cold weather and a year in Germany, you know. The fact that the cooks’ quarters on this private little bay on the west coast of the Big Island, and I’m just going, Yeah, this is great, this is a dream.

 

So, at this point in your cooking career, are you known for a particular specialty? Is there something that had your touch specifically?

 

No; at that point, I’m a line cook. And in those days, there weren’t quite as many resort hotels yet. So, there was like a small cadre of resort cooks who were like the top level that would travel around to the different resorts. And that’s how I ended up here, really, was because Hans-Peter needed somebody, and one chef would call another chef that was in the resort business and just say, Hey, you know, I need a line cook. So, I was a line cook. And I loved being a line cook. You know, it’s a young person’s game, so I don’t get to be on the line anymore.

 

Because you’re juggling all kinds of things at once, at different temperatures and different cooking?

 

Absolutely. It’s a lot like a sporting event too; right? You have to be really focused, very intense. You’ve got multiple things going on. And you’re incredibly reliant on other people to do their job properly. Which is just like team sports. I think what I most liked about working at Mauna Lani was getting to know the local people in Hawaii. Because they were so great, you know, as everybody knows in Hawaii, and humble, and they had all this knowledge about food; food that I didn’t understand at all. And the chef said, You know what, I want you to oversee the food that we’re serving in the employee cafeteria. And a lot of cooks would have thought that was the low-line assignment. And I felt that was such a blessing that he did that for me, because that’s where I learned local food. Because we were cooking for local people who were working in the hotel. Things like, you know, chicken long rice; that was fantastic.

 

 

And you better not use non-sticky rice; right?

Yeah. [CHUCKLE] Yeah. Yeah; exactly. You know, and I think the first time I saw sticky rice pulling out of the steamer at the hotel, I’m going, Who ruined the rice?

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You know, and everybody’s laughing at me, you know, because there was so much to learn. And that was just a fantastic thing to have an opportunity to do that.

 

What were the kind of things that the employees wanted to be served in the cafeteria?

 

Oh, it was just straight ahead. I mean, I think Thursdays was lau lau, and shoyu chicken was on Friday. It was just right down to basics. And at the same time, I joined the Kawaihae Canoe Club. And that was great fun. And the other thing we’d do is, we’d have the potluck on Saturday after the regatta. And everybody would bring something, and I saw all these different, interesting dishes. And to me, at the time, the hotels were still doing continental cuisine; right? And I’m seeing sole almondine served in this very expensive hotel, and I’m going over to this canoe club and somebody’s got beef broccoli, and somebody else has pork adobo. And I’m going. Whoa, there’s stuff to be done over here. And so, for me, that was one of the first origins of Hawaii regional cuisine, was to see that there was really interesting stuff that just needed to be tweaked a little bit to be served in restaurants.

 

So, the inspiration was the canoe regatta potlucks.

 

Yeah, and all the interesting people, and everybody’s coming from different ethnic backgrounds, and the way it all came together. Yeah, it was just great.

 

Isn’t it interesting that you were given what you say was usually kind of a scrub job or low-line job, and yet, that turned out to be the breakthrough for you? And plus, you loved it.

 

Right; yeah. I know; it often happens that way.

 

And it was a breakthrough in vision, I guess I should say.

 

Yeah; I guess I was looking for different things, too. You know, because I had worked in Europe, and you know, I had seen fine cuisine, and that wasn’t so interesting to me. It’s more interesting for me to go into somebody’s home, of whatever ethnicity, and see what Mama’s cooking. You know, because so often, that’s the clues to where great things start, is from what has been done in families for generations. There’s often a lot of secrets that are hidden there. And I think if you look around the world and ask chefs what they’re gonna do on vacation, they don’t want to go to eat at three-star restaurants; they want to go to ethnic places around the world.

 

I guess there’s a reason the stuff survives generations; right? You don’t have to if you don’t want to in your own home, so it’s gotta be good.

 

That’s exactly right. And often simple. And until recently, had to be affordable. You know, once, I had the opportunity to judge the Portuguese Bean Contest in Honokaa, and I went up to judge in it, and I got to talk with all the aunties after a while. And they were telling me that in the old days, there was very little meat in Portuguese bean. And I didn’t know that. And this was like twenty years ago, they were telling me this. And they said, Yeah, yeah, we always put kale in there. ‘Cause everybody could grow kale, and it was really nutritious. You know, I thought, Man, that’s really interesting. So, I ‘ve been playing with kale in my Portuguese bean soup ever since, and now, like, kale’s the rage. Everybody’s eating kale, you know.

 

That’s true.

 

So, they knew it in Honokaa way back then, twenty years ago. [CHUCKLE]

 

Exactly; and what’s old is new again.

 

Right; yeah. And it’s nutritious, it can be grown in really poor soils. It’s a great crop.

 

So, you said this was kind of the inkling of regional cuisine in your mind, you know, potlucks and home cooking, and …

 

Yeah.

 

Employee dining room.

 

Yeah. When I was coming to Hawaii, I had a few days before I had to get on the airplane, so I went to the library, ‘cause this was before computers. I went to the library, and I’m trying to figure out about the cuisine here. And I’m thinking, Man, it’s gonna be this really interesting cuisine. And then, when I got there, and the hotels, all the hotels were doing this, were still stuck on this continental model, I was really disappointed, ‘cause I wanted to see a cuisine which reflects society. I think that’s the way cuisine should be. So, to find it in the employee cafeteria, or to find it at a potluck at a canoe club regatta was a great gift for me.

 

Peter Merriman’s education about Hawaii’s many local cuisines opened his eyes to untapped culinary possibilities. It wasn’t long before he got an opportunity to test his new knowledge.

 

I left the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel. And the resort, the Mauna Lani Resort which is a sister company, they were building a steak and lobster restaurant. And I thought I was only gonna stay in Hawaii like a year or two. But I loved this place, right, and the people are great, the place is great, everything is wonderful. So, I had to stay. So, I figured, I’ll just go up there and be the chef at this steak and lobster place. And when I was being interviewed for the job, the guy asked me what I thought at the time was a rhetorical question. And the interviewer said to me, you know, If you could do whatever you want, what would you do for the food there? And is said, Oh, I’d do regional cuisine; right? I was just like, young and cocky. And so, he called me up a couple days later and he said, you know, Hey, you got the job. And I’m going, Oh, that’s great. And he said, We’re gonna do that regional cuisine thing. And I said, Oh, my gosh. [CHUCKLE] It doesn’t exist. So, that was the origins of it.

 

When you said regional cuisine, were you thinking farm-to-table, or what did that mean to you?

 

Well, it meant both farm-to-table, but it more importantly meant food that looked like the community it came from. Right? And the farm-to- table thing was really difficult, because I would guess the population on the Big Island then was about a hundred thousand people. There was not many people. So, almost all the food that was grown on the Big Island was meant to be shipped to Oahu or to the mainland. And so, it was hard for us to find locally produced items. So, we did a few things. I mean, the resort helped us plant a little herb garden in the back of The Gallery Restaurant. We would run ads in the newspaper saying, If you grow it, we’ll buy it; we want local food, we want local items. And you know, little by little, people started to show up. Some people would show up with free food. They’d say, Hey, I have a star fruit tree in my yard, and I can’t do anything; here’s a bag of star fruit, just have ‘em, you know. [CHUCKLE] And it was fantastic.

 

So, you wanted to do farm-to-table when nobody was really doing it in a restaurant.

 

M-hm.

 

And to do that, you had to go talk to farmers.

 

We talked to farmers, we advertised, we grew our own. I would actually dive for sea urchin. Whatever it took. We called it guerilla purchasing, was the term we used for it. Because it just took every skill you had to figure out how to get something going.

 

‘Cause it was on your menu, and you had to then find it; right?

 

Right.

 

Are there any other farmers that perhaps a word from you has helped, or the fact that you were in need of that sparked something?

 

Oh, man. There’s a long list of farmers. But some of my favorite are Richard Ha at Hamakua Springs. I didn’t even know Richard, and I’d only been at it a few years and living in Puako, and my phone rings Christmas morning. And I pick it up, and it’s uh, it’s Richard. He goes, Hey, you don’t know me, but my name is Richard Ha, and I’d really like to thank you for what you’re doing for the farmers. You know. And I’m like, tears in my eyes, you know.

 

So, you’re on the Big Island, and you’ve decided to stay.

 

M-hm. I don’t know what made me want to stay. I guess I decided to stay when I was just having so much fun, you know, hiking on Kohala Mountain, and paddling for Kawaihae Canoe Club. And then, I did meet my wife, and I think I met her in about 1985. And we didn’t get married for a couple years after that, but yeah, that’s probably what made me stay. But she would have left with me if I asked, but I didn’t.

 

[CHUCKLE] You wanted to stay.

 

Yeah; this is just a great place. And you know, I’ve been fortunate to have lived quite a few other places, so I understood the value of what was going on in Hawaii.

 

I have asked a lot of people, Who started the farm-to-table movement? And almost everyone mentions you were the one who started it. Do you consider yourself a pioneer of it, or were you the first chef ever to do regional cuisine and farm-to-table here?

 

I believe I was the first. There may be somebody that I’m unaware of, maybe long before. I’m probably the first at least in this generation of chefs that came along to do regional cuisine. At the time we started doing it, there was nobody else doing it. And that was, I think, 1986.

 

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that you as the first one would have been located on a neighbor island, more agrarian, more agriculture possible?

 

You’re right; you’re exactly right. Throughout my career, for some reason, I always end up in the right place at the right time. And being a neighbor island chef, you don’t get the publicity you might get on Oahu, but you do get to know farmers, and you’re right there next to the farmers. And that was very much a blessing.

 

Okay; I’m noticing a trend here. You often say, this happened, but it was just accidental, or I was lucky. Really? How much of that is really accidental and lucky? I mean, you know, you were pursuing a plan.

 

I was pursuing a plan, but you know, if I’d have been born twenty years earlier or twenty years later, it wouldn’t have happened to me. So, I always say, Hey, look, maybe I was good at taking advantage of the opportunities put in front of me, but they were put in front of me. And if it hadn’t been me, it would have been somebody else. So, I think it is. I like to call it fortunate more than lucky. It’s a slight difference there. I was very fortunate.

 

After working in a number of fine dining establishments, Peter Merriman decided it was time to open his own restaurant; a dream that required money, hard work, and good sampling of luck.

 

Of course, when you started Merriman’s Restaurant in Waimea on the Big Island, you weren’t lucky in the sense that it wasn’t, Ta-da done!

 

I was kinda unlucky. [CHUCKLE] Yeah; it was really slow for a lot of years.

 

Why’d you stick with it?

 

I didn’t have a choice. I had a partner on that thing, and he made me leverage my house. I had bought a house for a hundred and forty thousand dollars, which was a fortune; right? And we were totally broke, my wife and I, and we put everything into that restaurant. And, you know, there was no way of starting over. And so, we carried it on our back, really, for a number of years. And our big break was being in the New York Times. And it’s the most incredible story. Here, this is luck. So, there was a famous food writer from the New York Times; his name is Johnny Apple. Right? And so, I’m cooking lunch one day, and lunch is kinda over, and I’m in the back, literally washing pots. And a waitress comes in and says, Hey, there’s this guy out here from the New York Times and he wants to talk to you. And I’m like, Oh, yeah, yeah, right.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

It’s always guys trying to get a—

 

I’m busy doing my pots. [CHUCKLE]

 

Exactly. [CHUCKLES] That’s right. I figured it’s a guy trying to get a free meal. And so, Ah, tell him I’m busy. You know. And she comes back in and says, Hey, you know, he’s insisting that you go out and see him. So, I go out to see him, and he goes, Hey, I’m Johnny Apple. I’m like, Whoa, Johnny Apple? You know. And he goes, Yeah, we were just driving by and we were hungry, so we stopped in. I said, Wow, that’s fantastic. And I said, Let me buy your lunch. He said, No way. And he said, If you buy my lunch, I’m not allowed to write about you. I said, Oh, you can pay double, if you like. [CHUCKLE] No; and then, Johnny Apple wrote about us in the New York Times, and it changed our world.

 

Well, what did he write about you?

 

Just that we were doing the local cuisine thing, you know, and that it was very provincial, and he really liked that. He’d got that. You know, our phone started ringing; people from New York. Literally, our slowest nights were like under forty people served in a single night; right? And our phone starts ringing; they says, Oh, we’re gonna be there in thirty days and you have to get me in your restaurant, have to get me in there.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

And we were so slow, I would answer the phone; right? [CHUCKLE] I mean, I’d go, I think I can squeeze you in, in thirty days. [CHUCKLE] So, that was what really changed everything for us.

 

Not only people from New York were coming; right? I mean, the word spread.

 

Yeah. I mean, once again, we kept being lucky, and then we ended up in—the LA Times liked us a lot, and the Chicago Tribune Herald liked us a lot.

 

Did the outsider writers have a favorite?

 

Well, you know, I think a lot of people learned to like us with the lamb, the Kahua Ranch lamb. And that lamb, we started buying way back in, I think, ’86 from Monty Richards. I called him up. I didn’t know him, and I called him up and I said, Hey, I heard you have lamb up there, and I’d like to buy some. He said, Great. You know. And he said, It’s frozen and it comes like this. I said, Oh, no, no; I need fresh. And he said, Well, if you want fresh, you have to buy a whole animal. And I said, Okay. And we’ve been buying fresh animals from the Kahua Ranch ever since then. But what that meant for us was that we couldn’t have one lamb dish every single day of the week. So, Monday might be leg, Tuesday might be chops, Wednesday is braised shoulder, and so forth. And to do this in a restaurant, you need a skilled culinary staff. And so, I think the skilled writers understood that to be able to do that, that’s very much like Provence; right? And now, they call that snout-to- tail; right? [CHUCKLE] Yeah. We weren’t calling it snout-to-tail; we were calling it trying to get it fresh. You know. So, I think that was the dish that really put us on the map. When we started our restaurant, it was a real tough go for us, and it was just really hard work for a number of years.

 

And when you say for us, who’s us?

 

It was my wife and I. But I also say us, because the people that I had working with me, some of the people had worked with me at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, and then they had come up and worked with me at the Gallery Restaurant, and then they came up to my restaurant in Waimea. So, we had a group of people. I’ve been really fortunate that way, to have great people around me my entire career here in Hawaii. So, usually, I like to refer to we; it’s the team that makes it happen. I get the credit, but it was really the team that did all the work.

 

With the help of his many mentors, Peter Merriman found a new direction in life that was far from the steel mills in Pennsylvania. And with his willingness to immerse himself into Hawaii’s potluck gatherings, canoe clubs, and farm communities, he found a fresh and exciting way to serve Hawaii diners, and to present Hawaii to the world. Mahalo to Peter Merriman, now a Maui resident, for sharing his stories with us. And mahalo to you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. 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 cook all the time. Even like, some friends, we just went to Sonoma and rented a house, and I was cooking the whole time. And they kept saying, Why are you cooking? And I said, I’m like a guitar player; I want to play it all the time. It’s not that it’s work for me, it’s enjoyment.

 

And that is true ‘til today?

 

To this day; yeah. Oh, I love to cook. And it’s kinda like I jones it if I don’t cook; right? I need to go cook something, ‘cause I haven’t cooked for a while. And I love challenges. Like a new product will show up, or we’re having trouble with a certain dish in the restaurant, so I’ll take it to my home kitchen and work it out, and then bring it back to the chefs, and tell them what I found. And then they take it from there.

 

[END]

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Holly Henderson

 

From the moment she arrived in Hawaii in 1977, Holly Henderson, a product of New York and Massachusetts, knew that she was home. But she has always thought of herself as a guest in Hawaii. This “guest” was once arrested while protesting the eviction of Hansen’s disease patients from Hale Mohalu, and since arriving here, she has trained innumerable executive directors and board members of Hawaii non-profits.

 

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

 

Holly Henderson Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

When I hit the world, it was the 60s, and we were looking at whole different model of what society was like, and what we wanted to be and do. People do focus on the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, and there was plenty of that. And I certainly am not gonna deny any of it. But I also remember how many serious people there were talking about issues and what we wanted to do, and what kind of world we wanted to live in, and how to make that kind of a world come about.

 

Holly Henderson came of age in the 1960s, a member of a generation that redefined values and spoke up for change. For decades, she has trained and advised nonprofit leaders in Hawaii. Holly Henderson, 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. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Holly Henderson has trained nonprofit leaders in Hawaii for decades. Her social conscience serves her well in advising executive directors and members of boards of directors. She’s an original, known for wisdom and wit, and for speaking truth to power as needed. At the time of our conversation in the summer of 2015, Henderson was letting go of the reins of the Weinberg Fellows Program in which she taught executive directors of nonprofits serving the poor and needy. She continued to serve as the executive director of another nonprofit training and mentoring program with emphasis on early childhood program leadership, Castle Colleagues. She is keenly observant and analytical, perhaps as a result of her upbringing as the daughter of two scientists.

 

I was born in Stillwater, New York to Robert William Eric and Henry Hoskem Eric. And he was an anthropologist, and she was an archeologist.

 

Did they travel the world like in Raiders of the Lost Ark?

 

Yeah.   Actually, that was how they met. They met on a dig, which I think was in Turkey. And they did travel the world after that. And then, my mother came home to have my sister in 1939, when the war clouds were pretty much gathering, and I was born in 1941, two years later, three days before Pearl Harbor. So, my father was gone most of the time when I was a small child; he served in the Pacific, which was the first time he came to Hawaii.

 

And your father; was he more open and forthcoming?

 

Yes. I was my father’s pet. That is true; I was.

 

Because?

 

I could make him laugh. My start at standup comedy.

 

And your mom was an archeologist?

 

Yes, she was.

 

Wasn’t that uncommon at the time?

 

Yeah, it was. She was a biological sport, I think. And when I look at her family, I have no explanation for how that actually happened. ‘Cause she was born in 1908, you know, and there she was, photographing the steps of the acropolis as a young woman, as a young archeologist. But there was really a dark side to that, you know. The 50s were a terrible time for women. Because what happened during the war years is, the women had to basically run the country, because really, almost all the men were in that war. And actually, it was a wonderful opportunity for women to get out of the home and learn trades, and do things. But then, they all had to be stuffed back into the kitchen when the men came home.

 

Your mother could have gone back to work. No?

 

No; she was more complicated than that. She was caught, as so many of the women at that time were, between the idea of your own competence and your own interests, and all of that, and although she would never have wanted anything to do with Tammy Wynette, but that general philosophy, stand by your man and be the good little woman, and all that.

 

And commitment to family means staying at home.

 

Yeah. And it was just a very, very confusing time for women.

 

So, how was that bad for your mother? What was the effect on her?

 

She spent her whole life restless, I think. Because she had that wonderful education, she had that early career path, and never went anywhere.

 

Like her mother, Holly Henderson had a restless life in her younger years. She had a love of literature and a thirst for knowledge, but rejected the formality of prep school, and later, college.

 

It’s interesting to think of you not enjoying school, ‘cause you’re so literate. I mean, you love information and knowledge.

 

I loved to read, but I hated most of my schooling. Except for the last two years of high school.

 

Okay; so where did you go to school before the last two years? Was it at a dreary school?

 

It was an incredibly pretentious place. The kind of place where you called your French teacher mademoiselle. And we had gym tunics.

 

Gym tunics?

 

Yes.

 

And I remember you called it hideous.

 

It was.

 

I bet in the eyes of other people, it was this elite prep school?

 

Perhaps. But it didn’t do a thing for me, except cause me to think like a prisoner.

 

I don’t know how old you were, but along the way, and not early, you found out that you were German and Jewish on your dad’s side.

 

Yes. I was thirteen.

 

And considering the war that had been experienced, you know, it was odd that you didn’t know that.

 

Well, it’s obviously deliberate that I didn’t know that.

 

You know, at that time, it must have been so hard to grasp; German, Jewish. At the time.

 

It still is. It still is.

 

Did you finally find happiness in college?

 

No.

 

Never did?

 

Never did. Nope. Wanted to get out there in the big world.

 

Did you know where you wanted to be in the big world?

 

I knew I wanted to be a writer. My parents really encouraged us to do what we were drawn to, but to work hard at it. I mean, they weren’t overly permissive about it. They just wanted us to be who we are, and I give them a lot of credit for that.

 

And off to college. Where’d you go?

 

I went to Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and crashed to the ground because we had all been told since babyhood that the main goal in life is to get into a good college, and it was gonna be so wonderful. Well, compared to where I had just been, it wasn’t. And it was very common among the people at that school to think, Oh, I just picked the wrong college. So, we all transferred like crazy, trucked out, took leaves of absences. We were the bane of our parents’ existence, because college was a big comedown after that.

 

So, where’d you go? Or did you end up staying?

 

I went to New York University. I went to the new school, and I realized it wasn’t that I had picked the wrong place. I should have stayed in high school.

 

You should have stayed in high school.

 

In her early twenties, future nonprofit consultant Holly Henderson took a job at a respected national business membership organization, The Conference Board. She started out as an entry level typist, but a series of what she calls “flukey” events would quickly advance her career.

 

I actually was only working there, I guess, about a week or so. But the lady who ran the pool was interested that I was writing these stories. So one day, she came to me and she asked me if I could take dictation. So, I did, and I was able to do a version of it that passed her test. So, she took me to meet the controller of the company whose secretary had just quit. And when I walked into his office, his radio was on and was playing an aria. And I said, Oh, Puccini! And that was it. I mean, he wouldn’t have cared if I couldn’t type at all. The fact that I knew Puccini when I heard him was enough. So, I now left the pool within days of being hired, and I became his secretary, and then the following week they made him treasurer of the company. So, I was now an executive secretary. Picture this, ‘cause I was a hippie in those days; right? So, I had this long, straggly hair, and I had black tights with holes in them, and I was the bane of the actual executive secretaries. Oh! They thought that I was the most awful ruffian.

 

After her stint as an executive secretary, Holly Henderson became a reporter for The Conference Board’s publications. As the turbulent social issues of the 1960s swirled around her, she began to incorporate them into her articles.

 

So, I tried to get into it various pieces on social issues that were important to me, and discovered the most amazing thing. In the belly of the beast, there was this old guy who was there for the same reason.

 

Which was?

 

To begin to get them to think a little bit differently about social issues. And so, we colluded. I was in my twenties, and he was in his sixties or so. I would report on these conferences that they had, where they invited all the Fortune 500, and they had various speakers talking on various issues. And I would write in such a way that I would … I guess I was asking diabolical questions, now that you mention it. I would go up to the speakers afterwards and ask them some questions, and those would make it into the articles. And I remember one that was about the unreliability of lower income employees. And what they didn’t know was that those employees, first of all, had to cross gang territory to get to work. So, if there was a problem, they had to go around, and they were frequently late for work, and they got a bad reputation for that. But I was trying to show the other side of what was going in these people’s lives. So, things like that; I wrote about things like that.

 

Lasting marriage was not in the cards for Holly Henderson. However, her ill-fated relationships would lead Holly to discover Hawaii, which would become her home.

 

I did not know that you had three husbands before you got here.

 

I did, in fact. I mean, that was what I did. I was a slow learner.

 

Yeah; tell me about that. You were young. How old were you at the time you were married?

 

The first time I got married, I had just turned nineteen.

 

Oh …

 

And that was a marriage because of the morays of the times. I had drunk the Kool-Aid, I was a good girl. I wish I had already been a hippie at the time. Because I wouldn’t have married him, and that would have been a much better thing for both of us.

 

So, divorced, I take it.

 

Yes. That was the baby marriage. Yes.

 

But then, you also went through the deaths of two husbands.

 

Yes, I did.

 

Were those marriages happier?

 

I don’t know; they didn’t last very long. The first one died when we had been married for only about eight months.   And then, the second one … actually, when I married him, I was in therapy because I was anxious, and the therapist felt that this was because I was coming up on the eighth month, and that I was nervous about that. And then in the eighth month, he died of a heart attack.

 

Two husbands died at the eighth month?

 

Yes. So …

 

So, what was the effect on you?

 

It was like being hit in the head with an ax or something. Yeah. That’s not the sort of thing you expect is going to happen to you once, let alone twice. But your life goes on; that’s the amazing thing. There wasn’t a whole lot of money, but there was a little. And when somebody that you love dies, and there is money as a result, you feel like you should do something special with that. And what I did was, I traveled, and I went to a number of very interesting places. I was really happy that I got a chance to travel. But the last place that I had been before Hawaii, I had gotten hassled considerably because—I mean, this was fifty years and a hundred pounds ago, so … you know.

 

So, you were a single woman traveling alone.

 

I’m a single woman traveling alone. And I just wanted to go someplace where I could wander around and feel safe, and not be harassed. So, the first night that I spent in Hawaii was on Kauai, at Coco Palms.

 

When you were there, Grace Guslander owned it.

 

Actually, Amfac owned it.

 

Oh, she ran it. But didn’t she own it at one point?

 

Yeah. I think she and Gus did, her husband. But she was the most magic person. And I really think that I am in Hawaii today because of her. Because she managed to show people what Hawaii was really about. Which is interesting, because she did it while at the same time there were the hokey things, you know.

 

Yes. There’s a lot of hokey-ness in a sweet way about the old Coco Palms.

 

Yes.

 

With its channels of water, and its palm trees dipping into the water.

 

But that’s royal ground, you know, and she never forgot that it was.

 

How did she bring Hawaii home to you, the authentic Hawaii, from her tourist accommodations?

 

Oh, so many different ways. The staff at Coco Palms really was a family. And when you would go back year after year, they would whip out the pictures of their grandchildren, they would invite you to their homes. After I saw what Grace had shown me, I thought if I lived in Hawaii, it would make me a nicer person.

 

Did you think you weren’t nice? Not that nice?

 

I’m not.

 

You mean, you’re still not?

 

Well, I’m nicer.

 

It did sort of work.

 

Well, I mean—okay, I’m trying to figure out what you mean by that. Do you mean that you had a wicked sense of humor?

 

No.

 

Not that. You just were not a kind person?

 

Not the way someone who has been born and raised in this culture is.

 

After several visits to Hawaii during the 70s, Holly Henderson decided it was time to make the islands her home. In 1977, she quit her job at the United Church of Christ in New York, and made the move to Hawaii. She didn’t have a job, or even a plan, but Hawaii welcomed her. She secured a position that she called a perfect fit at a human services nonprofit organization.

 

There used to be a wonderful man named Wally Smith in this town. And he ran Health and Community Services Council, which later morphed into Hawaii Community Services Council. I got a job with them. And it was based on a model that came out of United Way of America, to train boards of directors on what their responsibilities should be. You see why this was such an ironic thing for me. Because up until that point, being on a board of directors was often just a sort of honorary thing. They weren’t really expected to do that much.

 

Names on the stationery.

 

Yeah. And at that point, it became important that they step up and know what they were supposed to do, and do it. So, my job initially was to train volunteers, and they were volunteers, to go into all sorts of organizations all over the islands and work with them, work with the boards of directors, so that it functioned on all the different islands. And I did that for many years. And it was while I was in that job that Harry Weinberg died, and Alvin Awaya was one of his trustees, and he thought from his kitchen cabinet ideas for what to fund initially. And the Weinberg Fellows Program came out of that. And then, Al Castle, who was involved in the early years of the Weinberg Fellows Program, and still is to this day, said, You know, we really should do something like this for early childhood centers. And so then, the Castle Colleagues Program came out of that.

 

Holly Henderson continues to train and refine the leaders of many nonprofit organizations in Hawaii.

 

And you’ve been minting nonprofit executives.

 

No, I haven’t been minting them. They come to me already minted. But the thing is that very few people, when they’re sitting outside playing with mud pies say, I’m gonna grow up and run a not-for-profit organization. And there are management responsibilities nonprofits have that sometimes they’re not prepared for. But I know the expectations of them are merciless. Because if you think about the model that we use in the Weinberg Fellows Program, and we look at the different areas that we’re talking about in terms of governance and board relations, HR, personnel issues, financial management, fundraising, planning, evaluation.

 

And your core mission.

 

Your core mission.

 

Besides that.

 

And vision and values at the center of it. And then, marketing and community relations. You tell me what human being is good at all of that.

 

I was one of your Weinberg Fellows.

 

Yes, you were.

 

And I was one of your Weinberg Fellows in the great recession. And I recall you had a board speaker come in, who turned out to be my board chair, Robbie Alm.

 

 

And I thought, Okay, this is the Fellows Program, this is going to be high level stuff. And what happened was, just profound simplicity. I think he came in and he said something like … You guys look terrible. How can you take care of an organization unless you take care of yourself?

 

 

And it’s true. You know, everybody was just kind of working really hard, and burning the candle at both ends, and apparently, we looked unkempt or something. I don’t know, but he called it right. And then, that’s the basis on which that particular Fellows session started. You chose that as the starting point.

 

M-hm.

 

Holly Henderson has a deep respect and appreciation for the Hawaiian culture. Throughout her nearly forty years in Hawaii, she has considered it a privilege and a joy to live here.

 

The word that’s important to me is, guest. I think of myself as a guest in Hawaii. And I have been here since 1977 as a guest, and I will die as a guest. Because there is etiquette involved in being a guest, that’s why that word is so important to me. You know. When you’re a guest, if you expect to be welcomed, you do not criticize what your host says, does, eats, drinks, values … what they believe, where they go to church, how they dress. You don’t try to change who they are; you try to adapt yourself to the way they live. That’s what a good guest does, I think. But the situation of native Hawaiians in their own land … it just breaks my heart. Whether they agree with each other or not is not the point. So, it’s important to me to do what I can, which isn’t a whole lot, but to try to speak up about it.

 

And you made a film?

 

I did make a film.

 

And that’s the subject of it.

 

That is the subject of it.

 

To remember that you’re a guest. You don’t come here and bulldoze your way around.

 

Yes. Because that’s what my people have been doing for a long, long, long, long time, and have no right to, in my view.

 

Nonprofit consultant Holly Henderson says that one of the most important moments in her life was being arrested. In 1983, Henderson stood up for the rights of Hansen’s Disease patients who were being evicted from a State housing complex called Hale Mohalu in Pearl City, Oahu. It was to be torn down, with patients offered quarters in Leahi Hospital in Honolulu. State agents forcibly evicted the residents, and Holly Henderson was arrested, along with seventeen other protestors.

 

I’m proud of it. I’m proud of it. Because I think there are times when you’ve tried everything else, and nothing has worked. You have to know that about yourself, that when the time comes, if you have to go to the mat, you will. Martin Luther King said something I really like. He said, If a man hasn’t found something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live. And you just have to know that when the time comes, you’ll stand up. It took eleven years from then ‘til when they broke ground for the new place in Pearl City, but it does stand as a testimonial that sometimes you do win, if you persist.

 

Holly Henderson was acquitted of the charges for her protest at Hale Mohalu. Her social conscience has not diminished with time; it is felt as she trains nonprofit leaders and consults with nonprofit boards of directors. And you will sometimes see her name on well-crafted letters to the editor about community issues. Mahalo to nonprofit consultant Holly Henderson of Honolulu for sharing your story with us. And thank 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.

 

No matter how imaginative you are, you could never imagine a better life than fate provides. You know? I couldn’t have planned a path like I’ve had, and I’m so grateful that I didn’t try.

 

You clearly weren’t following a formula.

 

I definitely was not.

 

[END]

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

 

Leslie Wilcox talks with Desmond Tutu, the South African former archbishop who openly and peacefully opposed apartheid. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate recalls tough experiences that taught him peace and compassion. Archbishop Tutu also explains why it’s best to forgive, even in the most difficult situations. He even reveals his lighthearted side and talks about how humor can defuse tense moments.

 

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Transcript

 

My father was a schoolmaster, and I went with him to shop, and all the shops were in town. And there was a slip of a girl behind the counter, a White girl, young enough to be my father’s grandchild, really. And she turned to serve my father and said, Yes, Boy? And I wondered what my father was feeling, the headmaster of a school, and here he is with his seven-year-old son, and he is called Boy in the presence of his son.

 

Many of us live our lives trying to make a difference in our world. Whether we do it by donating our time or money to worthy causes, or just taking the time to listen to someone’s troubles, making a difference can sometimes define us as human beings. But what if we devoted our lives to changing an entire culture, righting a wrong in place for decades, putting ourselves and our loved ones in danger because we decided to stand up against a system of injustice? Such is the life of Nobel Peace Laureate, Desmond Tutu.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program

produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. In August of 2012, the retired Anglican Arch Bishop of Cape Town, South Africa, Desmond Tutu, was invited to Honolulu to help mark the 150th year of the Episcopal Church in Hawaii. A Nobel Peace Laureate, Arch Bishop Tutu is best known for his strong, peaceful opposition to Apartheid that’s the legally mandated racial segregation that divided South Africa from 1948 to 1994. During his visit to Hawaii, Arch Bishop Tutu kindly allowed us to sit down with him and talk story. He’s seen some of the worst that life has to give, and his response his peace, understanding, and forgiveness.

 

The person who is regarded as the architect of Apartheid, Dr. Hendrick Verwoerd, who became Prime Minister of South Africa at one point, used an odd. He said, Because we can’t feed all the children, we won’t feed some. Now, just imagine if you say, Well, we can’t cure all the people who suffer from TB, so we’re not going to try and cure the ones that we can. Now, a crazy justification but … racism is crazy. [CHUCKLE] There weren’t too many occasions when you sort of felt sorry for yourself. I mean, we played, and just went on and thought, Well, this is how life is ordered, and that is how it’s going to go on. It was a little later that you began asking, when you read a history textbook that said almost always, it would describe the Khoisans stole cattle from the settlers. Okay. But each time, they would say the settlers captured cattle from the Khoisans. And you said, But, I mean, where did they get their cattle from? I mean, coming as they did from overseas, they surely ought to have had to buy or do something to own cattle, because the only people who owned cattle when they came were the Black farmers. That was when you began to be slightly politicized. We were far less politicized on the kind of kids you got in 1976, the 16th of June in Soweto when you had the uprising.

 

But even with a growing awareness of the racial oppression by the White upper class in South Africa, Desmond Tutu’s heart could not hate. And as a teen when he was stricken with a disease that nearly took his life, the future Arch Bishop learned about compassion from an Anglican priest, a White priest.

 

By and large, many of us would not have been educated, had it not been for the schools that were established by missionaries from overseas. Many of us would not have been alive without the clinics and hospitals that that they provided. Yeah. Well, I, like many others succumbed to tuberculosis, and I spent, in fact, twenty months.

 

Twenty?

 

Yeah; twenty months. It was when they didn’t have all the new style drugs, and you went into what was really an isolation hospital. I was in this large ward, and noticed that almost always, those patients who hemorrhaged, coughed up blood, ended up being pushed out to the morgue, what we call a mortuary. And, lo and behold, one day, I went into the toilet and started coughing, and I coughed up blood. And I said, Well, anyone who does this that I’ve seen, end up being carried out on a stretcher out to the morgue. And very strangely, actually, I said, Well, if I am going to die, I’m going to die. But I had wonderful people who cared for us.

 

Including a White man, who’d become a mentor of sorts by that time.

 

Trevor Huddleston. He was quite amazing. I knew that he would visit me at least once every week, and I knew he was a very busy person. I mean, his schedule was very tight. And it did something to you inside to say, Here is this guy from overseas, a White man who makes you feel so special. You’re a township urchin, and I owe a very great deal to him. I know that many others regarded him as an incredible mentor. I don’t know whether you know Hugh Masekela. Hugh Masekela is one of our top jazz musicians, and he’s a trumpeter. And Trevor Huddleston bought him his first trumpet from Louis Satchmo Armstrong. Really. And that was just a fantastic thing. But that was Trevor all over. He really helped to, I think, exorcise from many of us hate of White people. Because you said, Well, if there’s someone who can put himself out to such an extent for us, then they can’t all be bad. [CHUCKLE]

 

In his play Twelfth Night, Shakespeare wrote: Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Influenced by a White clergyman who did not see the world in Black and White, unwilling to enable a society that perpetuated racism, Desmond Tutu had greatness thrust upon him. He likes to say that nature abhors a vacuum, and that’s how he became a leader.

 

 

 

I had wanted to be a physician. And I was admitted to medical school, but then, we didn’t [CHUCKLE]—we didn’t have enough money to be able to send me to medical school. So, I opted to go and train as a teacher, because we were getting scholarships to be able to do that. And it was only when the government introduced what they called Bantu education that my wife and I, who were both teachers, decided no, we didn’t want to be part of this where we were going to be giving our children this horrendous stuff.

 

Unequal education?

 

Yeah. I mean, it was worse than what we had had. Ours was also in some ways unequal. I mean, the resources were unequal. When Verwoerd came in, he decided, no, things like mathematics, what does a Black child need mathematics for? No, they mustn’t study the American War of Independence, the French Revolution. Those will put subversive ideas into their heads.

 

So, the government became more regressive.

 

Yeah. And was awful. It was quite awful. And he said quite unabashedly, the aim of Bantu education is to teach Black children enough English and Afrikaans, which were the languages of the White people, enough English and Afrikaans so that they can understand instructions by their White—he said that publicly, openly. So, we decided, no thank you, we don’t want to be part of this, having to feed our children a travesty. And I didn’t have too many options, so I said, Maybe, maybe I might become a priest. And it so happened that the Bishop decided he would accept me. Yes. And I have said that I was a leader by default, really. It was because our real leaders were either in jail, Nelson Mandela and all these others were on Robben Island, or they were in exile. All were restricted somehow or other by the Apartheid government. So, God doesn’t allow, or nature doesn’t allow for a vacuum, and I happened to go and fill in that particular vacuum.

 

In a time when high emotions threatened to turn into bloodshed, Arch Bishop Tutu put himself in harm’s way to quell the potential violence in South Africa. In one incident, he saved the life of a man who was being beaten because the Black community suspected him of being an informant. Another time, Tutu stood between armed White police officer and hundreds of angry young Blacks, and diffused a situation that could have easily turned into violence.

 

And the way you filled that vacuum was extremely dangerous to you. I mean, there literally were people on one hand throwing stones, and people on the other hand with guns, and you got up by yourself and stood between them.

 

When you’ve got a crowd of ten thousand, you can’t really depend on a script. You’ve got to try to hold the people somehow in the palm of your hand, their mood can change just like that. And, yeah, we were fortunate. I mean, people got to accept that we were their leaders, even if we were leaders by default. Partly, you gained a credibility by the fact that you did stand up to a vicious system. I mean, you did say, We won’t accept this. You might want to turn us into less than human beings, we are human. We know that we have been created in the image of God, we don’t need your permission, White people, to realize that we too have been created in the image of God. We too have an intrinsic worth that doesn’t depend on you. I mean, for me, it wasn’t a political creed. It was my faith, it was my Biblical faith that inspired me.

 

When violent uprisings threatened South Africa, Arch Bishop Tutu called upon other nations not to invest any money in the country until it did away with legally mandated racial segregation. Though he was aware that this economic boycott would hurt everyone in South Africa, especially the Black populous, he believed that a nonviolent protest would have better long term results for the nation as a whole.

 

And did your faith tell you that one day, Apartheid would be abolished in South Africa?

 

Yes. I mean, the way things happen in a moral universe is that ultimately, right will prevail.

 

Now, what makes you say it’s a moral universe?

 

Because it is. I mean, it might take long, but wrong will ultimately get its comeuppance. Just look. I mean, when you look at history, you see, I mean, that, hey, here is Caesar, and he’s ruling the roost and thinks he’s cock of the walk. And, he bites the dust. Hitler … Mussolini … Amin. I mean, you look at them. Yes, it may take a very, very long time, but as sure as anything, they will get their comeuppance.

 

Which reminds me of the questions you must get all the time from people as a faith leader. You know, people saying, Well, why does God want us to suffer, why does He allow this suffering, why am I suffering more than other people?

 

Oh, yeah; yeah.

 

You must get that all the time.

 

Well, yes. I mean, ultimately, you can’t pretend that you know everything aspect of it, but you can say some things. One is that God created us to be persons, which means that we have freedom of choice. And God, incredible. I mean, it really is incredible. I mean, look at the Holocaust. You say, For goodness sake, God, why did You not intervene? And God says, Look, I gave them freedom of choice, I gave them the freedom to choose good, and to choose wrong. And if the Nazis who are in power choose wrong, if I intervene, I am subverting the gift that I have given. And there is a time when God is impotent, you know. And that is the glory of our God.

 

Spend any amount of time with Arch Bishop Tutu, and you’ll hear him laugh. It catches you by surprise, because he laughs at some of the most unexpected moments.

 

We only talked a short time, but I’ve noticed a couple of things. You tend to understate, the conditions were very bad and you were deathly ill, but you don’t paint that grim a picture, and you laugh. The Dalai Lama does the same thing, doesn’t he?

 

Yeah, he’s more mischievous. I’m more serious.

 

You are not that serious. [CHUCKLE]

 

More dignified.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I mean, I’ve had to say to him, he’ll probably pull my cap off my head, and I say, Sh-h, the cameras are on us. Try to behave like a holy man. [CHUCKLE]

 

The two of you are laughing over there.

 

[CHUCKLE] Yes.

 

But do you find that humor is needed in a profession such as yours, when there’s just so much misery you’re exposed to?

 

I don’t know that I could have, I mean, I wake up in the morning, and I say, Now, look here, Tutu, you’ve got to joke about this or that. It just happens that well, maybe that was a gift that God gave for us to be able to survive. Yeah. And actually, our people were remarkably I mean, they had a wonderful funny truth, actually. Because even at their worst moments, like you have a funeral where you’ve had a massacre of thirty, forty people, and it’s gloom, and there’s a lot of tension, telling a funny story made—I mean, the tension just eased out of people, and they realize, I mean, that despite what the Apartheid system was trying to do to them, they were human. They had a dignity, and they needed to know that there was nothing ultimately that someone else could do which would undermine their humanity, ultimately. That they were in charge. If you didn’t laugh, if we didn’t laugh, we would have been crying far too much.

 

Arch Bishop Tutu has seen firsthand the abominations that human beings can inflict on one another. He has seen mankind at its worst. And yet, one of the teachings that he communicates to the world is forgiveness.

 

What you’ve said is, It gives us the capacity to make a new start, and forgiveness is grace by which you’re able to get the other person to get up, get up with dignity to begin anew. But how do you see forgiveness? You can’t forgive someone without being very clear on what they did to hurt; right?

 

Yes. I mean, forgiving isn’t saying you’re pretending that they didn’t hurt you. You don’t pretend, and you don’t pretend that it’s all okay. There are certain conditions. Yeah. I mean, you’re saying, I hope the culprit will have the grace to acknowledge that they made a mistake or they hurt me. But, if you are going to wait for the perpetrator to be ready to ask for forgiveness, to be penitent, you are binding yourself into a victim mode. You are saying, I depend on him. Whereas, you can say, I am ready to forgive you, and I forgive you. And then, it is like a gift. It is up to him or her to accept the gift. But you are then released from the victim mode, and you can get on with your life. But it isn’t easy, it isn’t also feeling good. You know, it’s a decision that you have to make. It’s not anything that has to do merely with feeling, but you can, in having forgiven, get to feel good. But it is, in fact, also [CHUCKLE] good for your health.

 

Not to become embittered and hang onto these griefs.

 

Yes. You know anger, it raises your blood pressure, and can get to a point where it gives you stomach ulcers. So, forgiving, apart from anything else, is good for your health.

 

Have you had trouble forgiving?

 

I have had times when I thought this was very close to being unforgivable. During the times of the struggle, Leah and I often got telephone calls with death threats. And sometimes, I mean, the people who called were not able to get directly to us. Maybe one of the children would pick up the phone, and you could see by the fact of your child stiffening, that, oh, one of those kind of calls has come. And I often thought, I mean, this is really unconscionable. This person is aware that they’re not speaking to me or to Leah, they’re speaking to a child, and they still say something like, Go tell your father that we are going to kill him, or something, you know. And that, for me, was very close to being unforgivable, where they also were trying to get at us by getting at our children, which I didn’t think was playing by the rules. [CHUCKLE]

 

In today’s celebrity-driven world, it’s getting more difficult to find real heroes, men and women who are willing to put themselves at risk for what they believe in, someone like Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, who helped make a difference for the people and the country he loves. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of this program, and all episodes of Long Story

 

Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit pbshawaii.org.

 

I think each of us is being asked to help make this world slightly more beautiful, slightly more gentle, slightly more caring, slightly more compassionate.  Uh, and it can be.  I mean, if we … just realize, I—I mean, that um … we are ultimately meant to live as members of one family. God’s family.

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Bob Apisa

 

When he first came to Hawaii from American Samoa at the age of seven, Bob Apisa could not understand a word of English. Despite that initial difficulty, he excelled in sports at Farrington High School and won a national championship as a member of the Michigan State Spartan football team. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers and went on to a successful career in Hollywood as an actor and stuntman.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wed., Aug. 19 at 11:00 pm and Sun., Aug. 23 at 4:00 pm.

 

Bob Apisa Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

So, forty-nine years before Marcus Mariotta helped to win the Rose Bowl, you were playing the Rose Bowl.

 

That’s correct. That’s correct. I was probably the first Samoan that played in the Rose Bowl; I’m not sure of that. When you’re raised in Hawaii, I mean, ethnically, I am of Samoan mix. Culturally, I am of Hawaiiana. When I’m raised with people here, they would have an influence on the way you look at things in life. And I knew that go up there, don’t shame your surname, don’t shame yourself, and don’t shame the state that you’re from. And that was the driving force for all of us who were up there.

 

Before Marcus Mariota, there was Bob Apisa, a Samoan recruited from Hawaii, who also made history on the football field nearly half a century ago. Bob Apisa, 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. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Bob Apisa was the first all-American college football player of Samoan ancestry whose achievements helped open the door for Polynesian players like Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariot. Apisa’s athleticism made him a college football star, and led him to a long career as a stuntman in Hollywood’s film industry. However, Apisa’s early years were a struggle. When he moved to Hawaii at the age of seven, he couldn’t understand a word of English.

 

Where were you born?

 

Leslie, I was born in Fagatogo, American Samoa. And that’s adjacent to Pago Pago, American Samoa. That’s the capital of American Samoa.

 

But you didn’t stay there, obviously.

 

Fortunately for me and my family—well, there were eleven siblings. I mean, I had ten siblings, rather. I was the eleventh. There eight boys, three girls. And my dad was in the military at the time; he knew that the only way to improve our lot in life was to bring us from Samoa to Hawaii, so that we can get into or be engrained with proper uh, education. I remember sixty-three years ago when I left American Samoa in 1952. And I remember pulling out of that port, and we never seen electricity; I’d never seen it. I lived in a house that was lit up by kerosene lanterns. And I never spoke English, could not understand a word of English. And as we left Samoa, two and a half weeks later, we were pulling in at Honolulu Harbor. And the landscape of the land was just lit up, and I was on deck, and I asked my brother, George—his name was Siosi. In Samoan, that’s George. And I said, Siosi, [SAMOAN LANGUAGE]. Meaning, there must be hundreds of, you know, kerosene lanterns out there lighting this place up. And he looked at me; he said, Papu. Papu is Bob in Samoan. He said, Papu, [SAMOAN LANGUAGE]. Meaning, Those are not kerosene lanterns; that’s electricity. I had never seen a switch. We never had an inside toilet; we had outhouses. So, the confirmation of just bringing this whole new world was there. And the reaffirmation of that was the effort that we had to go out and strike it on our own. My mom and my father went up to as high as eighth grade in Samoa. They didn’t have high schools. And that was one of the reasons why my dad brought us here.

 

What was the hardest thing for you? I can’t imagine. The culture, the language; what was the hardest thing?

 

Well, the hardest thing was cognitive skills, social etiquettes; things of that nature. I remember sitting in the classroom at Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary, and when the teacher would gather the kids around, and she would read us a book, like, See Tom run; run, run, run. See Jane hop; hop, hop. And kids would laugh. And they would laugh, and that was my clue to laugh along with them, so I would feel like I’m one of them.

 

But you didn’t know why.

 

But I didn’t know why I was laughing. I didn’t know why I was laughing.

 

No special language lessons, or tutoring; nothing like that?

 

No; this was strictly through osmosis or just by being around the vicinity of being around English-speaking military dependents. Because I was brought up with military dependents at Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary. But I had teachers that helped me. I remember arriving in November, and starting school late. Because it started in September, and arriving, and then I had to re-acclimate myself. Then I got hurt. We were playing cowboys and Indians; I got shot in my left eye with a slingshot, and bled for quite some time. So, I missed more school. And as a result, I was set back a grade to repeat that same grade in order for me to get on. But I took that as an onus that I had some making up to do, but it was incumbent on me to make the move and make the motivation to move ahead.

 

Where did your family live, and what was it like growing up with ten siblings?

 

It was a very disciplinarian upbringing. My dad, I think in my lifetime, because he was a man of few words, but he’ll give you that look, and you’ll know exactly what he meant. But he was very soft-spoken. My mom was the general foreman; she ran the shop. So, she was very dedicated as a mother. She attended and made sure that we went to school. She took us there, and picked us up. You know, she was all-giving and all-supportive.

 

So, at the time, what public school did you go to?

 

I came out of Pearl Harbor Kai. I entered Aliamanu Intermediate when it first opened up. This, I think, was 1960. And I remember going to Aliamanu the very first day it opened up, and the Salt Lake City was just nothing but a salt lake and marshland.

 

It really was a salt lake then.

 

There were no buildings. There were no buildings; just that school there. But from there, I had to go on to ninth grade. They did not have a ninth grade; it was just up to eighth grade. And I had left the eighth grade, so I was going to the ninth grade. And what my brother Bill and I did—I mean, Bill was the catalyst in bringing me to the old Interscholastic League of Honolulu.

 

ILH.

 

ILH. And that was the premier competition. And I think because he felt slighted—I didn’t know any better, but he felt slighted that all the friends that we were playing around with when we were little kids all went to private schools. And he felt slighted.

 

The immigrants got left behind.

 

But the immigrants were left behind. And so, we concocted a story based on Bill’s theory that if we had a district exception from someone, that we can play at Farrington. Because Farrington was in the ILH. So, we asked my uncle, Reverend McMoore—that’s the Scotch part of my family, to use his residence address over at Republican Street in Kalihi. And he said, Yeah, by all means. So, that’s how we ended up at Farrington.

 

Bob Apisa says he didn’t play organized football until he entered the ninth grade at Farrington High School. He was a natural at that, and other sports as well.

 

You did things like you were playing a doubleheader in baseball, and the coach ran you over to the Punahou relays, and you took two events there, and you came back and you played your second baseball game.

 

Yes; that’s very true. This is my senior year, and it was the spring of my senior year. And I had fiddled around with the track team so I can work out and do my sprints, and just starting out, because I knew as a running back, I needed speed. But he needed a shot-putter, and he knew that in my sophomore year, I tinkered around with shot-putting, and it was only about, you know, two feet or three feet and a lot of rolls after that. But I didn’t know how to acquire the skills. So, we were playing Roosevelt at Moiliili Field, and he went up to my coach, Dick Kitamura, and he said, Dick, may I borrow Bob uh, in between the games? He said, Fine. I went up there.

 

And are you still wearing your baseball shoes?

 

I was wearing my baseball gear.

 

 

I took off my baseball top and put on a FHS tee-shirt or shirt, tank top, and I wore my baseball pants and my baseball leggings, and I borrowed a pair of tennis shoes. And these were the best shot-putters from all over the State. And they were all kinda [SNICKERS], you know, laughing and giggling.

 

How did that make you feel? Did that make you feel like—

 

Well, you know, I was laughing, myself. [CHUCKLE] But anyway, I said, Well, you know, I’m gonna do the best I can. My first throw, I said to myself, All I want to do is get some height on it. And I pumped it back, and I let go, and all I heard was the crowd going, Wow! Because I had just broken the State record that was there for eight and a half years later. I mean, previous. And I’m walking around like I knew what I was doing, but I was looking for the first dog poop that I may have stood on before I came into the ring. But, you know, my second and third throws, I mean, ba-boom, little dribbles here and there.   But the damage was done. I had won the shotput, I had set the State record for the shotput of fifty-six, three and three-quarters, and I broke—the gentleman’s name, I think it was Souza that was from Waialua in 1956.   So, I told the coach, I’ve got a second game, so put on my uniform, and went back to play the second game of the doubleheader.

 

How’d you do in the doubleheader?

 

I hit a homerun.

 

It was a good night; a very good night.

 

It was a good night.

 

Bob Apisa’s athletic achievements at Farrington caught the attention of dozens of college football recruiters. He chose Michigan State University, where he became part of a national championship team known for pioneering racial integration, and for having four future Hall of Fame players, all African American. And he earned a spot in Rose Bowl lore.

 

I was. You know, when you’re raised in Hawaii, I mean, ethnically, I am of Samoan mix. Culturally, I am of Hawaiiana. When I’m raised with people here, they would have an influence on the way you look at things in life. And I knew that go up there, don’t shame your surname, don’t shame yourself, and don’t shame the state that you’re from. And that was the driving force for all of us who were up there. You know, Dick Kenney and Charley Wedemeyer, when we were playing, we were ranked number one in the country. We would go to Ann Arbor to play University of Michigan or go down to Columbus and play Ohio State, or go down to South Bend to play Notre Dame; the top schools in the country. And we would look at each other, kust before we’d go out on the field, we’d look at each other. We’d do this. Meaning, when we get together, we say, Don’t make … you know what.

 

A.

 

A; of yourself. Because that’s how local boys related; don’t make A. So, we look at each other, and we knew. We were in tune.

 

And at the same time, Michigan State had an unusual makeup of its starters. I read that there were eleven African American starters, which was really unusual at the time, and you had far more players on the team. And then, there was you, who became the first all-American player of Samoan ancestry.

 

Yeah; yeah.

 

What a team.

 

Oh, it was a great team. You know, at that time in 1964, we had just legislated civil rights. In 1965, there was the Civil Rights Voting Act.

 

And that’s when you were a sophomore.

 

When I was a sophomore. And I looked at Bubba Smith, and Bubba Smith would look at George Webster, and George Webster would look at Dick Kenney. And we would look at each other … people of color. We said, You mean, we can actually vote for the first time? And so, there was a lot of history in that, that we had to encumber along the way. But the fact is, you look at things, and you learn from those experiences, and having African Americans who were great athletes. Being from the islands, again, you know, we had this mantra that you’re there to represent your people, you go out there and kick okole.

 

Here we are at the granddaddy of all the bowl games, the Rose Bowl, in—

 

So, forty-nine years before Marcus Mariotta helped to win the Rose Bowl, you were playing the Rose Bowl.

 

That’s correct. That’s correct. I was probably the first Samoan that played in the Rose Bowl; I’m not sure of that.

 

Bob Apisa, the fullback …

 

In 1966, I was a sophomore. And we were ranked number one in the country, undefeated, and we played UCLA, who we had beaten in the first game of the year. We were behind by fourteen to twelve, and I had scored a touchdown, and we went for a two-point conversion instead of having Dick kick a field goal or a point after. So, that made a difference. So, when we scored the second touchdown, we had to make up two points. And I was given that opportunity, and it’s been in lore, the Rose Bowl lore throughout the years that I was stopped by the one-yard line by Bob Stiles.

 

Apisa the fullback, and Bob is caught a yard short …

 

And Bob … I think he was a hundred seventy-pounds or two twenty-five. But he just threw himself at you; right?

 

Well, he was knocked out in the process. But the fact of the matter is, he did the job. And that’s the important thing. You know, you only had about four major bowls back in those days. And the Rose Bowl was the granddaddy of them all. That was The Big One. And that’s what I wanted to aspire to play in when I left Farrington, to go to a conference that would give me a shot at playing in the granddaddy of them all.

 

Ten months after that close loss in the Rose Bowl, on November 19, 1966, Bob Apisa played a part in history, taking the field in a matchup dubbed The Game of the Century. It was the first ever live TV sports broadcast in Hawaii.

 

I played in that game. And what happened was, prior to that game, throughout that week, people were just so jazzed up about the Game of the Century. We were both undefeated.

 

Okay. This was Michigan State, and …

 

Notre Dame. And Notre Dame at that time had one minority on their team. Just one. They had maybe twenty-seven in the entire enrollment, in South Bend. And that made them change and incorporate more people. But the fact that we were playing … I had a scroll with about three thousand names sent to me from my high school wishing us luck from Farrington. You know, those are cherished moments. And I remember when Dick Kenney and Charley and I got together, I said, You know, this is big-time, guys. I mean, I’m a kid from Samoa, Palama Housing to Kalihi Valley, and we’re playing big-time. People are gonna be seeing us live and direct. And that game, I think it was Governor Burns at that time, I believe it was, along with the Legislature, and they petitioned the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, to see if they can see it live and direct. So, they got permission from them, and on the morning of November 19, 1966, there was a little satellite revolving around Sydney, Australia. The satellite was called Lani Bird. And they had that satellite beam the signal from Sydney, Australia, ricochet that signal across to Honolulu. And for the first time, you know, six hours earlier, people from Hawaii turned on their TVs, whether it’s an RCA, whether it’s the Zenith or Motorola, one of those brands, with two rabbit ears.

 

Small screen.

 

And with tin foil at the end of it, and with a small screen.

 

No cable television back then.

 

No cable TV. And they turned it on, they saw the splotchy black and white figures, and they finally saw the game, the first live telecast in the history of Hawaii. That’s one of the proudest moments of my life. I know I speak on behalf of my departed brothers, Dick Kenney and Charley Wedemeyer. That made us so proud. If there’s anything that we’re proudest of is that we helped facilitate this state into the 20th Century, as far as telecommunications is concerned.

 

After all the hype, The Game of the Century ended in a tie. Injuries sidelined Bob Apisa for much of his senior year at Michigan State. Still, he was chosen in the ninth round of the NFL draft by the late legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, who was then general manager of the Green Bay Packers.

 

That was a great honor for me, Leslie, because when you’re drafted by the world champions—they were just coming out of their second Super Bowl championship. And I was hoping to get onto an expansion team like the Miami Dolphins at that time, or Cincinnati Bengals. But lo and behold, I could hear vividly well Pete Roselle, the commissioner, announcing my name over the PA, and I can hear them saying, you know, Drafted in the ninth round, from Michigan State, bla-bla-bla-bla. And I can hear there’s cheering. And my heart sank in a way, because I wanted to go to a lesser team in developing. And here I am, I’m drafted by Green Bay, by Vince Lombardi. So, you know, people would see that trophy named after him on every Super Bowl, and eighty percent of the country probably don’t know who this man is. I was honored to be drafted by him. I shook hands with him, I talked to him, I negotiated my contract with him. And that’s quite an honor. The fact of the matter is, you know, to have that opportunity, to have just the experience of someone who is so iconic in football folklore. And when I see that, and I’m tracing myself back to 1952 when that young man who stood on that boat, who could not speak a word of English, and to where I am today, those are some of the moments that I’m most proudest of
You know, your career with the Green Bay Packers was fairly short, because I think you had serious knee damage; didn’t you?

 

Yes, I did. I signed a two-year contract with them. I lasted a year; they paid my year off. And I knew I was, you know, damaged goods to pursue an NFL career, because I paid that price during my collegiate career. But since, I’ve had prosthesis; I had three hip replacements, two on my right and one on my left, and a left knee replaced, so I walk with a shuffle and a distinct gait, and a gimp and a limp.

 

And other than that, you feel good?

 

Other than that, everything else is working.

 

You’re okay.

 

Being a fullback, always working to move the ball forward, Bob Apisa didn’t look back after the end of his football career. He went on to a thirty-three-year career as a stuntman and sometime actor, following a chance encounter with a Hawaii Five-O casting director.

 

I sat there, and there was this silver-haired guy with a beard, and he kept looking at me. And I’m saying, Well, maybe I owe him money or something.

 

So, he finally came over. And he says, I’m Bob Busch, I’m the casting director for Hawaii Five-O. The original Five-O. And he says, You’re Bob Apisa? I says, Yes. And he says, Have you ever done pictures before? And I says, The only pictures I’ve ever dealt with are Kodak cameras and stuff like that. But he says, No. So he said, I’m giving you a card. Why don’t you give me a call tomorrow. And I had a few days before I went back to Flint. And so, I called him on a lark, and he said, Why don’t you come in, I’d like to see you. So, I went down to the studio over by Diamond Head.

 

Were you excited?

 

No, I wasn’t excited. I didn’t know what why he wanted me to come in. Because I wasn’t involved with filming, I did not know what filming was. Once again, this was a first-timer. And as I’m walking in through the door, I noticed that there were about three big guys like me. And as I’m walking through the door, Jack Lord exits his office, and he’s looking right at me. He says, Oh, you’re the guy I’m looking for. I turned behind, and I’m wondering if he’s talking to the guy behind me, but there was nobody there. And then, Bob Busch came out and made the introduction. And so, Jack Lord said, Can you come tomorrow and do a little scene with us? I said, Wow, this thing is happening so quick. I mean, twenty-four hours later, I’m asked to come in another twenty-four hours later to do a jail scene with some people, some guys. And so, I said, Yeah, fine. You know, I didn’t mind doing that just to kill time and get a day’s pay. And he said something; the dialog between him and James MacArthur, Danno at that time. So, Steve McGarrett was saying this to Danno, and then it didn’t make sense. So, Jack looks at me; he said, Bob, when I say this, just say, No, I didn’t do it, or something to that effect. I don’t quite remember. And so, when he said this, then I said, No, I didn’t do it. I was immediately Taft-Hartleyed into Screen Actors Guild.

 

 

 

Forty-eight hours later, no experience as an extra or anything, I went from Point A to Point Z.

 

Well, you were comfortable with yourself; right?

 

I was comfortable with myself, because, you know, I thought it was a new adventure, and I said, Ah, why not. You know. And a week later, just before I left, or a couple days later before I left the following week, they asked me if I could take jeep and squib it and drive it. I said, Hey, it’s no big thing. And had bullet holes. I mean, squibbed it and came right up to the camera, and that was no big thing. And that’s how my stunt career started. I’ve done train falls, I’ve done horse falls, I’ve done horse stampedes, motorcycles, car chases, falling off of four-story buildings into water. You know, it’s all timing. But if you’re an athlete and you have the innate skills to adjust, to make your adjustment. Before I go on a set and they ask me to do something, I’ll turn ‘em down too.

 

So, this is 2015, and you are how old? Seventy?

 

I just turned uh, the milestone of seven, zero.

 

So, it’s a new stage of your life. What’s it like? I mean, you’re now officially retired.

 

Yeah.

 

I mean, that’s another kind of career, because you have to figure out how to spend your time, what relationships to keep, and which to invest time in, and where to go.

 

Well, I have a great relationship with AARP. No, I’m just kidding you. I find time to do things. I can wake up and read the paper, and I go and work out, and I come back and have lunch with friends. Or the wife and I can just get up and go.

 

Bob Apisa lives in Southern California. At the time of our conversation in 2015, he was producing a project dear to his heart, a documentary about the Michigan Spartans’ two-year run as national champions, and the team’s groundbreaking impact on racial integration in college football. Thank you, Bob Apisa, for sharing your story with us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Stort 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.

 

People always point out that Bob Apisa came first. He was the first Samoan to really make a dent in the national scene. So, you were the Marcus Mariota of your time.

 

Marcus Mariota is a gentleman that when I looked at the way he carries himself, I’m proud of him. He represents America. He represents the cross-section of all ethnicity; all ethnicity. And he carries himself with humility, which is from here.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Gerri Hayes

 

For businesswoman Gerri Hayes, being told that “you can’t do it” just makes her more determined to succeed. Gerri shares her survival story as a single mother of two young children who moved to Hawaii to take a human-services job that didn’t materialize. She founded a business, Office Pavilion Hawaii, providing furniture to workplaces. It was hailed by Pacific Business News as 2011’s top female-owned business in the Islands, with revenues that year of $37 million.

 

Gerri Hayes Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

There’s always another way. I just find adversity … I’m there to learn something. And I have failed at a number of things. And if you don’t get the learning, then it was a real wasted exercise to have gone through that much pain.

 

From raising two daughters on her own, to starting and running a very successful business, Gerri Hayes has never backed down from a challenge. Gerri Hayes, CEO of the furniture company Office Pavilion, next on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. How does one overcome adversity? The toughest situations can motivate some people to exceed what they thought to be their own limitations. As a young, unemployed single parent of two daughters, Gerri Hayes faced adversity. With great tenacity, she overcame her tough situation and many other challenges that followed. She’s the founder and CEO of Office Pavilion, one of the most successful woman-owned businesses in Hawaii. Life for Gerri Hayes began in a small New England town.

 

Did you move around a lot growing up?

 

No, I did not. I was born and raised in Western Massachusetts, in a very small town, Orange. Stayed in the same house ‘til I left home at seventeen, and did not have any … it was a Peyton Place. [CHUCKLE]

 

It was a Peyton Place?

 

You know, I remember when that came out, the book, I said, Sounds like our town. You know, they’re very small, very insular.

 

Did you have a sense of what you would be and do when you grew up?

 

I only had one dream, and it was to get out of Orange. [CHUCKLE]

 

Is that right? Why?

 

It was so provincial. I used to joke, and my mother even said; she said, You always said, I must have been switched in the crib, I don’t belong here. [CHUCKLE] It was one of those places, I just didn’t feel like I belonged. And then, I had a twin brother and a younger sister, and older sister, and everyone’s still there. No one ever leaves this place.

 

So, you’re not in step with your twin brother as far as childhood?

 

No. It was just like I said. I just always felt like I had only one dream, and it was to get out of Orange and go somewhere else. I graduated, actually, right after I turned seventeen. And I got a job and moved to Worchester, which is a city south of us, and knew I was out. [CHUCKLE]

 

And was it better for you in another town?

 

Oh, yeah.

 

In the same area?

 

Yeah. It was just better to be in the city. I think I just needed to get out and get into a less provincial environment, and with more exposure to more things. And it was a great thing to do, to get out of Orange. [CHUCKLE]

 

Where did life take you from this new city?

 

Well, actually, here’s the good news and bad news. That’s when I found I was pregnant; I was seventeen.

 

Soon after you left Orange?

 

Right after I left home and had settled in with three girlfriends into an apartment in Worchester, Massachusetts, had the shock and surprise. They forgot that part about family planning; they didn’t teach us. [CHUCKLE]

 

And who was the father?

 

He’d been the guy I dated all through high school, and he had gone into the Navy. And of course, then there was the question of what do I do, and we ended up getting married. Which was fine.

 

It didn’t work out?

 

Of course not. I think children should never get children or have children. [CHUCKLE] Anyways. So, anyway, so I was in Charleston, South Carolina. We got married in Charleston, South Carolina. He was in the Navy. You know, it was the Vietnam War and he got drafted, so he was in Charleston, South Carolina, and that’s where my first daughter was born. And then, I went to San Diego; my second daughter Leanne was born in Balboa Naval. And then, about two years later, it just wasn’t working. You know, those marriages don’t. So I became a single parent. But then, we got divorced and I moved back to Orange.

 

To have family childcare?

 

To try to figure out what I was going to do. Yes; my mother helped, and that’s when I decided that I had to figure out what I was really gonna do with this life. And so, that’s when I went back to school and became a surgical tech.

 

As a single parent with no support from her ex-husband, Gerri Hayes needed to learn to survive and provide. She began training and working as a surgical technician, prepping hospital operating rooms for surgeries.

 

So, liked your job.

 

I did like my job, and found it fascinating. And it gave me a real foundation. Obviously, part of even getting that training is understanding all the medical terminology and what went on in hospitals, and how it worked. Anyways, but then there was nowhere to go. You know, you worked long hours. I’d have to be in the OR by six and take call almost every other night. So, I decided to move on, and that’s when I met this woman. I was very active politically. It was the 60s. [CHUCKLE] So, there I was. Very much a feminist, got into the anti-war movement. And I was actually at a League of Women Voters meeting where they were talking about, you know, abortion reform, and ended up meeting my mentor. She was one of the women. And that’s who I went to work for, and became her executive assistant at this family planning program, and then eventually became the director.

 

So, that’s a good job, right, director of family planning?

 

Yes. And actually, what happened was, I felt they were going at it wrong, which that’s usually how I do things. I said, Well, you’re doing this all wrong. Why would you put these clinics in a hospital?

 

I can understand why you’re the boss of a business now. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE] I am a little bossy. [CHUCKLE] But I said, You’re doing this wrong. You’re trying to attract these populations who are terrified of going into hospitals. And so, that’s how I co-authored an article on setting up non-hospital-based family planning clinics.   The first ones in New England, actually, and then I got put into Planned Parenthood International, and that’s how I got invited to Hawaii. They wanted me to consult, because they were having the same problem.

 

How controversial were family planning clinics back then?

 

Oh; very. Very.

 

I mean, there had been bombings and you know, violence associated with family planning.

 

Family planning was—yeah. And so, that was the other thing; putting it down on a main street and in a rough neighborhoods anywhere so that women would have access without having—right? Because back then, even, if they were married, had to have the husband’s permission to go. So, it was pretty radical to set up non-hospital-based family clinics.

 

That’s what you did?

 

Yeah. Hired my own doctors and nurses, and set up this thing, and did peer counseling, and went out and spoke to Head Start groups. My belief was, obviously, having had the experience, I said, If you could stop first birth order with young women, you give them a chance to go on and really create their lives.

 

Did you ever feel in peril, unsafe?

 

Only once. [CHUCKLE] I got thrown down the stairs. Someone came in late at night, and they were … but mostly no.

 

So, philosophically, they decided they would take a shot.

 

Yeah. And I’m also very feisty, so you can imagine I wasn’t someone who was intimidated.

 

Where did that come from? The feistiness; and going against the grain.

 

I was the black sheep in my family, and I was the girl. [CHUCKLE]   My mother said, If you could have only learned to manage your mouth. But my father was so domineering, and I just wouldn’t take it. And so, I have to tell you, I got the belt more times that most people should ever get one.

 

And you still mouthed off?

 

And I would just say, Fine, let’s go. Because I felt like I had to say my peace.

 

And you took the blows.

 

I took the beating. I said, You know, you will not silence me. [CHUCKLE]

 

So, you never had regrets about speaking out?

 

Oh, no.

 

As a result of Gerri Hayes’ article about her non-hospital-based clinics, she was invited to Hawaii to meet with Planned Parenthood. Little did she know that her trip to Hawaii would alter the direction of her life.

 

So, here you were, running a family planning clinic, and feeling that you were working for a good cause.

 

Yeah.

 

And then?

 

And then I published that article, and got invited to come to Hawaii, which I had never had any interest in. And came here, and absolutely went ass over tea kettle. Thought it was the most fabulous place on Earth.

 

Why? What was it, exactly? I mean, besides the surf and the sun.

 

No, no; it wasn’t even the physi—it was the … remember, I had two daughters, and I was a single parent. And I remembered every time they—and I had asked not to stay in hotels. I said, I’d like to stay with the directors or with a staff member. ‘Cause I said, I want them to experience the people of Hawaii. So, I ended up having this wonderful experiences. In Maui, I’ll never forget, they were having a big pau hana, and then, they brought all the children. And she said, You’d never not invite the keiki. And I looked at her, and I said, Oh, my god, in Boston, you don’t understand, they’ll call me and say, Gerri, if you can find a babysitter, we’d love you come to the party. And I would always go. It was just very—your roles were really separate. And here, I realized the appreciation of the fact that you had children was really high, and and the inclusiveness. You know, so it was sort of like, hmm, this is a whole new way to look at it. So, I went back. That was June, thirty-nine years ago. And I thought about it, and then Judy said she was gonna quit her job over in Maui, and she said, Why don’t you take over Planned Parenthood Maui? So, I gave my notice, sold everything I owned, and moved here on February 1st, thirty-eight years ago.

 

And?

 

And got here. [CHUCKLE] And just as I was coming in December, she sent me a note and said, I can’t afford to quit, we started building a house on Hana Highway. And I said, You know what, I’ve sold everything, I’ve given my notice, I’m coming anyway, I’ll figure it out.

 

That seems so confident. Did you feel confident?

 

I did; I did. I just knew I was supposed to not be back there anymore. So I moved here, and I didn’t have a job, but I had an apartment. And I figured it out. [CHUCKLE]

 

What did you figure out? The door was closed, you were on Maui.

 

I started applying for jobs, and mostly social service, like I said, so I applied for the American Cancer Society job in Kauai, I interviewed for [SIGH] all kinds of things. And then, I kept seeing how little they paid, which was kinda shocking. It still is shocking; right? The lack of value we place on social services.

 

Social services.

 

And I went, Oh, my goodness, I don’t think I can do this. Well, then I saw these other ads. ‘Cause you know, you’re look at all ads. And then, I was just looking for a medical surgical salesperson to sell high level open heart equipment, packs and gowns. And so, I was like, Sounds like me. [CHUCKLE]

 

Had you sold before?

 

I’d never sold a thing in my life. I remember saying, If you can use it, you could sell it. So, I went in and interviewed, and he didn’t hire me right away, ‘cause he said, you know, he had this other nurse that he hired. And then, he called me back, and he said, Come in. And so, I absolutely found my calling.

 

Gerri Hayes relied on her background as a surgical technician to make the transition into medical sales. Taking the time to learn the subtle ways of island culture, and to sit and listen to her new customers was important to her success.

 

I came from Boston, and as you can tell, New Englanders, we’re rough, we’re aggressive. I obviously had a wicked accent then. Now, I only slip occasionally in “park cars” [BOSTON ACCENT]. But back then, I remember coming in, and then I went into every one of my operating room nurses and sat down, and I just said, I need you to tell me what it would be that I could do for you, that would make it important for you to buy from me and work with me. And they all said the same thing. Show up on time, keep your word, follow up, and tell the truth. I was like, That’s it? [CHUCKLE]

 

They must have liked that you asked them, too, one-on-one.

 

Oh, yeah.

 

Like they mattered.

 

They said, No one’s ever. They said, Gerri, number one, this is Hawaii. People think they’re on time if they’re three hours late, and it’s annoying because we’re busy, we’re running an OR. And so I was like, Oh! So, I did; I just wrote it all down. And I remembered years later, I still have this whole group. Most of them are retired now, but all these directors of OR, they just said, You were the best. And they said, The other thing is because you’d used it, you knew how to do it, we could call you in, you could scrub in and help show everybody how to use the new equipment. And then we’d sit in the nurses’ lounge. You know, it was like it was very easy. And then I learned all the rest, so I had to sell operating room, but then I also had to sell other kinds of medical supplies.

 

Working fulltime as a single mother with no family support was a struggle for Gerri Hayes. She credits her Hawaii friends and neighbors for helping to raise her two daughters.

 

Must be very hard to raise children without a grandma. You know, people have family and really use them here to help them with their kids.

 

Yeah. That was the hardest.

 

How did you manage?

 

That was the hardest. I had … [SIGH] I don’t know. [CHUCKLE] I don’t know how I did it. Don’t know how I did it. Someone said, How did you do it? I said, You just do what you do. I had great neighbors, I will say. I lived on a sweet little street, Mikiola Drive, and all the neighbors, they all watched out for me. They just thought I was—right? I mean, it was really sweet. It was like, Eh, Mama, watch the kids, you know, ‘til you get home. So, I was very lucky. That’s again, that culture that knew and respected how hard I worked. And so, I had Walter and Harry across the street, and I mean, those kids couldn’t have done a think without them getting busted by them.

 

A few years into her new sales career, Gerri Hayes received an opportunity that would propel her from salesperson to running a sales operation.

 

Okay; so I did med surg sales, then I got a call from this man who owned a business and had a division here in Hawaii, Medical Business Interiors in Seattle. And he said, I heard you’re the best salesperson in Hawaii. And I said, Well, it’s true. [CHUCKLE] A little hutzpah. And he said, I’m looking for someone to run my territory over there.

 

And it’s business interiors.

 

Medical business interiors.

 

Business interiors. Okay.

 

This is hilarious. So, he flies over on a Sunday, and I met him at the Top of the Ilikai. After three mai tai’s, he—I should have asked for more; I left too much money on the table. [CHUCKLE] But it was like, he hired me. And so, I took over, and it was basically doing interiors for hospitals.

 

You mean, providing furniture for hospitals?

 

Providing furniture, but also having to do, you know, go out and meet with architects and designers, and end users. And the part I could do, ‘cause I understood material distributions, I could do some of this, but the rest of it was … and I learned it. Again, one of those, I don’t know where you get that piece that just says, You know what, I can figure this out. And I did.

 

Was it hard to figure out, or I mean, does it come easily?

 

It came pretty quick. But again, I have always been lucky. Had somebody, an installer. And he said, Kerry, what am I gonna do? I said, This architect’s calling me, and he wants to show me these plans. He said, I’m going with you, girlfriend. He said, Just keep asking him questions, and when he asks you what you think, say, You know, I need to think about that, and I’ll get back to you. So, we get in there. Guy rolls out the plans. I didn’t know electrical, plumbing. And I would just sit there and I’d tell him, So what’s your concept, what are you trying to accomplish? And I got Kerry sitting there, and he’s going, Sir, I don’t think that’s gonna work ‘cause the way doors are laid out. And so, he was great, ‘cause he actually knew how to do this. And he took me aside and he taught me how to read a blueprint, and he taught me all the … and so, I was very lucky. And we worked as a team.

 

So, this time, you were not just selling; you were running a business.

 

Right.

 

A division of a business.

 

Yes. So, I had to hire, and I did. I had an interior designer, and I had a logistics person to handle shipping and do all those things. But I did what I did well, and I was actually very good at knowing what I was good at, and delegating. So, I let the interior designer take over, and then I would let the gal who did the order entry, and so I think that’s why it worked. Because I also didn’t feel like I had to do it all. The ability to know what you’re good at, and then let those who do what they’re good at.

 

Did you do the hiring?

 

Uh, yes.

 

Were you good at reading people? And you’re still hiring, so I should ask you, Are you good at reading people?

 

Yeah; I’m actually pretty good at it.

 

Here you are working, doing medical business interiors. And things went along quite well, until they went very badly. What happened?

 

I absolutely loved working for MBI, and learned the whole industry while I worked for Hank. And one of the biggest jobs, and it was so exciting to win it, was the HMSA was building a new state of the art building over on Keeaumoku Street. And everybody kept saying, Gerri, there is no way they’re gonna buy furniture. I said, There is no way they’re not. How could they have you build a state of the art building, and then move that crap? I said, I have been in their offices. And he said, There’s no way the board will approve it. I said, I’m going to figure a way, I said, ‘cause I know two things. They need an emotional coat hook to hang that decision on, and I’m gonna find it, because, I said, it’s how you solve the idea.

 

Gerri Hayes came up with an innovative sales pitch, or an emotional coat hook as she calls it, to refurnish all of her client’s new offices. But what should have been the sale of her career had an unforeseen outcome.

 

The point would be, why would you have a beautiful new facility, and move all your people into it, and then move all this old furniture, when you could … I said, And I would handle the whole disposal, the sale of it, and everything, and give you a credit toward the purchase of new furniture. I said, I think it’s at least worth—I’ll write you a proposal to give the board. Fine. And he took it, and of course, they jumped on it with both feet. And it was amazing.

 

And it was a great sell for you.

 

It was the emotional coat hook, and it ended up being like a six million dollar sale. Which thirty years ago, was a lot of money. Eight floors, everything, front door to back. Everything. So, the good news and bad news was, after the job was done, that’s when I found out that my boss had put all of these expenses against the job, and there was eighty-seven thousand dollars in commission that he wasn’t gonna pay me. And my girlfriend, because she worked in accounting, said I had to sit in the meetings with these three men going, No woman should ever make that much money, and ra-ra-ra-ra-ra.

 

Did you get the money?

 

Well, the attorneys all get money. Don’t you know that? So, I ended up with about thirty-seven thousand, which is still okay. It was enough for me to say, I can go do my own thing now.

 

Gerri Hayes says that experience of being shut out of an eighty-seven thousand dollar sales commission left her unwilling to work for somebody else. She decided to start her own business.

 

You know, I went to a Pacific Business News event, and I heard that the top woman-owned business in Hawaii was called Office Pavilion. And I thought, Let’s see, what would make the most money? You know, what is that? You know, what would Office Pavilion do?

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

It’s just incredible to me that, you know, you’re a contract furniture provider.

 

And that’s what people don’t understand. Every time you go to the airport and you sit in that black and silver seating, that is Eames Tandem Sling Seating that we have done since 1976 out at that airport. If you go into a hospital, if you go into rehab, all that renovation at rehab we just did, it’s all done in this fabulous new Compass program that we do. So, I do hospitals, I do healthcare, we did Case Middle School, Iolani, UH IT that just opened, the Cancer Research Center. See, I just think of all the different pieces to this business. It isn’t just furniture. You know, I’ve done all the special operations. I have a lot of fun with special ops guys.

 

And you have to know how people work in order to serve them in this business.

 

Yes.

 

You have to know a lot about them and their business.

 

Yeah. And how it’s changing for them. Part of the biggest challenge right now is really helping them get in front of the curve of everything that’s changing. Healthcare is just … everybody’s on there around this one. Right? And I mean, there’s just so many things. Part of it is, that’s why you educate yourself and you try to become a partner and a proactive solution provider, because they’re all facing—I mean, it’s becoming very competitive.

 

In 2011, and again in 2012, Office Pavilion was named the number one woman-owned business in Hawaii by Pacific Business News. One of those years, company revenues reached thirty-seven million dollars. Over time, Gerri Hayes’ business has expanded beyond Hawaii, to the Philippines, Japan, Korea, and Guam. As the driving force behind the company that she founded, Gerri admits it’s been difficult for her to loosen the reins for the next generation of the family company.

 

You could be retiring, if you wanted to.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You could be retiring yesterday.

 

I have started my exit strategy. I have two daughters, Wendy and Leanne and my son-in-law Bruce in the business, and they’ve been there a long time. But it’s so different, you know. I think that is the next thing. How do they learn, how do you teach and mentor people into that entrepreneurial piece, as opposed to the maintenance piece of keeping a business just running. And that is probably the challenge I’ve got right now is, they’re getting there, I’m having to shut up and back off. I think that is hardest, because sometimes we’re doing strategic business, and I can type that up and have it out tomorrow. [CHUCKLE] And I said, But then, it wouldn’t be their plan, and it isn’t allowing them to … it’s not forcing them to think the issues through.

 

Is it important for you that your business live on after you?

 

Yeah. That’s probably the biggest struggle I’m having right now. I really want my kids to see it as a legacy business that creates all kinds of things, creates jobs. We have a staff meeting Friday, the first one of the year. And look it, you have forty-two people. Now, multiply that times all the people they support, and you realize the power when you create jobs, and you create a business. It’s not about you. And I want them to know that my grandsons … I mean, I honestly look at my youngest; he was sitting here in the chair. He’s the salesman in the group. And I said, What a wonderful thing it would be to have a third generation come and sit in that chair. And I said, Your job is to take it from thirty million to a hundred and fifty million, and maybe open up Australia. I said, You know, I’ve done what I set out to do, and I’d love to see you grow it, and I’d love to see … he said, I’m going to Harvard, Grandma, and then I’m coming back and taking the chair. [CHUCKLE] And I said, But just to know. I said, Do you know what a gift a business like this is? I said, it creates a life for you, you create livelihoods for others, you get to do good in the world, you get to have all the fun and travel. I mean, I have traveled the world. My true love, besides reading, is traveling. So yeah, I want to see it live on. [CHUCKLE]

 

Gerri Hayes says that she has women business mentors, and she believes Hawaii is a supportive and encouraging environment for entrepreneurial women. She’s certainly a testament to that. Mahalo to Gerri Hayes for sharing her story with us. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. 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 the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

Okay; I’ve had three people say, I don’t know why you haven’t written a book. And I’m like, What would I write? And I say, Well, if I ever wrote a book, it would be called, And It Ain’t About Furniture. ‘Cause it’s about your life, and how all these things, and all the serendipity, and all the hilarious stories. Leanne said, You can’t tell these stories, Mom, when you’re with Leslie. [CHUCKLE]

 

[END]

 

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