Kansas

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Surviving the Dust Bowl

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Surviving the Dust Bowl

 

THE DUST BOWL chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the frenzied wheat boom of the “Great Plow-Up,” followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation. Vivid interviews with twenty-six survivors of those hard times, combined with dramatic photographs and seldom seen movie footage, bring to life stories of incredible human suffering and equally incredible human perseverance. It is also a morality tale about our relationship to the land that sustains us—a lesson we ignore at our peril.

 

Preview

 

 

 

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW
Richmond, VA, Part 2 of 3

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW: Richmond, VA, Part 2 of 3

 

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW stops in Virginia’s capital city, where host Mark L. Walberg attempts to stump appraiser Sebastian Clarke on Federal era materials at the Wilton House Museum.

 

Highlights include a 1765 Thomas Pitts silver epergne that was previously used to hold flowers instead of desserts and is now valued at $15,000 to $50,000; a Leveille-Rousseau perfume bottle, ca. 1890, bought at a Virginia flea market for around $20 and now appraised at between $6,000 and $8,000; and a Tiffany & Co. brooch, ca. 1937, found in the spare-button envelope of a dry cleaning business and valued at $65,000.

 

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW
Kansas City, MO, Part 2 of 3

 

Highlights from the Roadshow floor include a beauty book, ca. 1928, by entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, the first American female millionaire; an 1861 E.G. Wright silver cornet that was played by the owner’s great-grandfather when he was part of the 15th Regiment of Indiana; and a 1920 Julian Onderdonk oil painting that was gifted to the owner’s mother when she lived next door to the artist and is now appraised for $125,000.

 

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW
Kansas City, MO, Part 1 of 3

 

Highlights from the Roadshow floor include an 1891 Kansas City Fire Chief badge made by Mermod & Jaccard; a 1796 Chinese bronze censer found on the floor of a local antique mall; and a pristine 1965 Roy Lichtenstein screen print bought by the owner’s parents at a department store.

 

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW
Vintage Kansas City

 

Travel back 15 years to see memorable Kansas City treasures such as an autographed Time magazine cover collection, an 18th-century vase and a 1957 Roy Rogers contest prize. Which appraisal jumps in value to $70,000?

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Ed Francis

 

In honor of the late Ed Francis, PBS Hawai‘i presents an in-memoriam encore of this episode recorded in December 2012.

 

Leslie Wilcox talks story with “Gentleman” Ed Francis, a legend in Hawaii’s pro wrestling world. Francis was a household name in the 1960s and 1970s, during the heyday of 50th State Big Time Wrestling. He recalls growing up in Chicago in the midst of the Great Depression, how wrestling facilitated his move to Hawaii and a life-threatening riot at Honolulu’s Civic Auditorium. Francis says he now leads a quiet life in Kansas.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, January 4 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, January 8 at 4:00 pm.

 

Download Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I can say to the Hawaiian people that if it wasn’t for them and all the fans, I wouldn’t have had that, a life like I’ve had.

 

From a kid living on the mean streets of Chicago to a entertainment sports legend in Hawaii, meet wrestling icon, Gentleman Ed Francis, 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. In this episode of Long Story Short, we’ll talk with legendary wrester and wrestling promoter, Ed Francis. We catch up with him at age eighty-six. He was a household name in the Hawaii of the 1960s and 70s, during the run of the wildly popular 50th State Big Time Wrestling. Long before his involvement with wrestling, however, Edmund Charles Francis, Jr. began life in the tough city streets of Chicago, in the midst of the Great Depression.

 

I’ve read what you ate, the sandwiches you ate during the depression. What were they?

 

Oh, yeah. Well, they called it charity then. We used to go with my mother, and we’d stand in line at about four o’clock in the morning, and they give you some cheese and dried beans, and a big can of lard, and all that kinda stuff. And that’s what you took home to eat. And I used to make … and they gave her flour, so my mother used to make bread. And then I would put lard on a piece of bread with some ketchup and salt and pepper, and I’d put it in the oven, and let it warm up a little bit, and that’s what I’d eat.

 

Oh …

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

But it tasted good. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE] How did your parents handle that depression?

 

Well, finally, when it hit real hard and then my father lost the business. He didn’t work for six years. He couldn’t get a job anyplace. And my mother worked several different jobs, but she worked for the Vassar underwear company I remember she got a dollar a day there. And then, she got a job working at an ice cream parlor that was right down the street from us. The guy’s name was Pete Palastini [PHONETIC]. He had this ice cream parlor, and he hired my mother. So, she worked a few little jobs like that, and that’s how we survived.

 

How many children?

 

Just my brother and I.

 

So four people living on a —

 

Yeah.

 

— reduced income.

 

Yeah.

 

I know for a while, you moved to public housing. Were you in rough neighborhoods?

 

That was quite a ways after that, when I was around twelve or thirteen years old, we moved to public housing. But before that, I had all kinds of things that I did, a little shoeshine thing, and I would go in all the bars.

 

How old were you?

 

I was about, I guess, nine or ten years old.

 

Uh-huh.

 

And I’d go in the bar, and I knew nobody’s gonna want me to shine shoes. But they had a free lunch counter there. So I’d come in with the thing on my shoulder, and I’d go over and make a sandwich. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

They had good food in those bars. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

And the bartenders never kicked me out or anything. That’s after, of course, prohibition was … Roosevelt … I forget when they repealed the law.

 

After Ed Francis’ family lost the business, life was bleak in the Depression –ravaged, rat — infested Chicago of the 1930s and 40s. But a casual visit by young Ed to a gym near his home would plant the seeds for a better life, with pay.

 

When did the wrestling bug hit?

 

Well, the wrestling bug hit me when I was about twelve years old. That was when I was already in the Julia Lathrop Homes, where we moved.

 

The public housing?

 

Yeah. And I went to this park called Hamlin Park. And it was like a circus when you walked in there, because there were wrestlers and weightlifters, and hand balancers, and they had a high bar with a guy swinging on that. And, boy, I looked around there and I said, Man, what’s going on here? So I tried to get in with the guys.

 

What kind of personality did you have? Were you a showman?

 

Well, I had it underneath, a showman, but I was really shy, to begin with. But there was a wrestling coach there named Lou Talaber, and he took me under his wing, and he started teaching me amateur wrestling. And then, they had a big weightlifting platform there. The German American Weightlifting Club were lifting there. So, they eventually got around to showing me how to do the different lifts. And they showed me how to do a lift called the one-armed bent press. And that’s where you rock your weight to your shoulder, and you bend down between your legs and push it up. And I finally got to be able to do my body weight with one arm.

 

Wow.

 

So, they were paid to go around to different taverns and perform weightlifting, and they’d take me along. So I’d do the one-armed bent press and all the Germans were drinking beer, and clapping their hands.

 

And did the weightlifting keep you out of trouble?

 

Probably did. Yeah.

 

‘Cause I’m sure there was trouble to be found in the area.

 

Yeah. Well, I was coming home from school, and I was in high school, and there was a car parked near the Julia Lathrop Homes. And as I was walking by, this guy stepped out of the car and he said, Hey, I want to speak to you. And he showed his badge, and he was a police detective. He said we’re gonna sit in the car. I said, Well, I wonder what the heck I did. I thought they were gonna arrest me for something. So, I got into the car, and they start showing me pictures of criminals in there. And they said, This guy was wanted for murder, this guy raped, this guy, and they went on and on. He said, We want you to help us. I said, Well, how can I do that? He said, Well, you meet us here tonight at 8:00 p.m., and, we’ll tell you then. But don’t tell anybody else where you’re going.

 

Young Ed Francis met the two lawmen, who then drove him to a place nicknamed Little Sicily in Chicago. The men told him to go into a nearby bar, purchase whiskey, and return to their car. Then, the officers took Francis back into the bar and confronted the bar owner for selling to a minor. Ed Francis left the bar, as instructed by the officers, and headed for a rendezvous point where they would pick him up. Just as the teenager thought the ordeal was over, the night took a scary turn.

 

So, I finally got over to the Bowman Dairy Company, and I’m standing there waiting and waiting. And all of a sudden, a big Lincoln pulls up, Lincoln automobile, and out jump two guys. One of them was in a uniform, soldier’s uniform. And they grabbed me and put me in the car, and took me back to the bar. And they took me in the back room, and they told me what these cops did, that they were trying to get this guy to pay money.

 

That was a shakedown.

 

Shakedown. And so, he said, If we ever get these guys, we’re gonna kill ‘em, these two detectives, they told me. So the phone rang in a phone booth. He said, Hey, this is for you, bartender said. So I went in there, and it was the detective on there. He said, Listen to me. He said, Watch for a good spot, and then he said, run right out the door. And he said, And turn right and run down, and we’ll pick you up, so you can get out of there. So, I went back and told the guys it was the detectives, and told them what happened. And that’s when he said, Oh, don’t worry about those guys. He said, But don’t ever do this again, don’t ever come back in this neighborhood again. And he gave me money, and we went to the streetcar so I could get on the streetcar to go home.

Oh, they escorted you to the streetcar?

 

Yeah, they did, the soldier did. And he said, You can look in the paper tomorrow. He said, These two guys are gonna be dead.

 

Wow; and you were fifteen years old.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

At what point did you set off on a wrestling career?

 

Well, I found a fellow named Carl Pergelo [PHONETIC], and he was an old-time wrestler, and he had a wrestling gymnasium. And I used to go there all the time, and then he would put on shows at like the Shriner’s Clubs and all that. They’d just put mats out, and I’d go there and wrestle somebody who would just wrestle an amateur. And then, he started teaching me some professional wrestling. But then, the war came along. And my brother, who’s three years older than me, he joined the Navy, and my cousin who was about my brother’s age, he joined the Navy. And I wanted to go. So, I couldn’t; my parents wouldn’t sign the papers for me to go. So, I found a way to get around that.

 

Ed Francis served in the Coast Guard during World War II. By January of 1945, Ed was discharged, and spent some time as a sketch model at the Art Institute in Chicago. Soon after, he felt a calling to a profession he’d been introduced to as a teenager.

 

And then, I started wrestling for Pergelo again, and then there was a fellow named Ray Fabiani. Ray Fabiani was a concert violinist with the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra, and also, he went to Chicago. And he loved wrestling, and he got hooked with a promoter in Chicago, and he saw me at Carl Pergelo’s gym and he signed me up as one of his wrestlers. So, he decked me out and got my hair bleached, and decked me out with a cape with sequins on it and all that stuff.

 

At that point, did you acquire your moniker, Gentleman Ed Francis?

 

No; that didn’t come up ‘til Al Ventres. So, my career went on from there.

 

You wrestled all over the place?

 

Oh, yeah.

 

Were you usually the good guy, or not?

 

Sometimes one way, and sometimes another way, depending on what the promoter wanted me as.

 

So, what are you like as a bad guy?

 

Well, I did a pretty good job, I guess, because I had plenty of riots.

 

[CHUCKLE] Is that right? People got so angry at you —

 

Oh, yeah.

 

— they stormed the ring?

 

Oh, yeah.

 

By the early 1960s, Ed Francis was making frequent stops in Hawaii, wrestling for promoter Al Karasick. During a conversation with Karasick, Francis saw a golden opportunity he knew he couldn’t pass up.

 

Well, when I was wrestling for Al Karasick and he told me that he was thinking of selling out his business, I thought that would be a good opportunity where I had my kids, and be a good opportunity to get off the road. Because it was killing me and killing them not having their father home, all the time. So, I asked him how much he wanted for the promotion, to have the rights for the promotion. And he said he would agree to ten thousand dollars. So, a friend of mine, a promoter in Oregon, Don Owen, who liked me a lot, Don gave me the ten thousand. I paid Al, brought everybody over.

 

How old were you at the time?

 

I was in my thirties, I guess.

 

And doing business; how was that for you?

 

Tough. Because now, I was an outsider coming in. Now, I’m sitting in Al Karasick’s office. And in order to get to Al’s office, I had to pass Ralph Yempuku’s desk.

 

Who was a promoter extraordinaire, and a fixture.

 

I told him I was trying to get television. He said, If you get television, why would people come to the matches if they’re going to watch ‘em on TV? I said, Well, it doesn’t work that way, Ralph. I said, There’s a certain way you have to build things up, and not show them the main events or whatever, and then they’ll come to the matches. He said, Nah, it’ll never work. He said, Never work. So they all expected me to fail after a few months.

 

But you’d seen it work differently on the mainland.

 

Oh, yes; uh-huh. Yeah. So, when it came around to television, I went to all the stations and they were all saying, Oh, we don’t want any of that phony wrestling on TV in Hawaii, and all that stuff. And finally, I think it was at KHVH when Kaiser owned that station, Denny Kawakami was the program director there. And I finally talked him into give thirteen weeks. He said, We’ll give you a shot at this, he says. ‘Cause I went back to him about ten times. [CHUCKLE]

 

And you wanted a live show from the studio at KHVH?

 

Yeah.

 

TV and radio.

 

Yeah, and then I had to figure out who I was gonna have do the announcing. Couple of guys told me about Lord Blears. And so, I contacted him, and he’d been wrestling for Al Karasick for years. So, he loved Hawaii because he was a surfer, all his kids loved the beach, so he jumped at the chance and came over.

 

So he agreed to be your narrator, your on-air guy.

 

Yeah; and he had a lot of contacts through wrestlers too. Different wrestlers that I didn’t know out of the Los Angeles area and all that. So, the two of us put together like that, we got a lot of wrestlers to come over. Because they’d say, What do you want? Oh, how much can I make? He said, Well, you want to come to Hawaii, it’s just like a vacation, stay here for a few months, or whatever. [CHUCKLE] And you get your airfare back and forth, and we’ll give you a hundred and fifty dollars a week.

 

You had some wild characters. Did you create those characters, or did they come to you fully blown up and crazy?

 

Sometimes, we had to create them. Like the Missing Link, we named him the Missing Link. But he brought the shrunken head on, and he’d talk about that. So, he wasn’t a great performer in the ring, but he was a great performer on television. So that sold it, you know.

 

May I mention some names to you? Could you maybe give me some thoughts about each of these wrestlers that you worked with?

 

Yeah, sure.

 

Handsome Johnny Barend.

 

Great guy, but crazy. He really was a little crazy. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

He was always a great drawing card. But I never knew what he was gonna do on the television show. So, he and Phil Arnone were conjuring all this stuff up. So, when I come out to interview him, now he’s sitting there and he’s gonna wrestle Billy White Wolf, and he’s sitting there with a teepee. He’s sitting in front of a teepee with a feather in his head. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Smoking a cigar. [CHUCKLE]

 

Another name; Ripper Collins. People loved to hate Ripper Collins with his deliberate mangling of the Hawaiian language, saying Moo-ey, and Mo-wee, and Kamimami instead of Kamehameha.

 

Yeah. Ripper was … the ultimate Haole. [CHUCKLE] And then when he started talking about Georgia and mint juleps and all that stuff [CHUCKLE], get everybody mad at him.

 

And he was doing it with great deliberation and forethought.

 

Yeah. [CHUCKLE]

 

What was he like off ring and off stage?

 

He was a good guy.

 

Wasn’t like that at all?

 

Mm-mm.

 

But he really knew how to just rile people up. People who aren’t wrestling fans would know Tosh Togo, who became Odd Job on the James Bond movie, Gold Finger. What was your relationship like with him? I think you did some shaping of him in his career.

 

Yeah. Well, a promoter came over, and Tosh had been wrestling for me for a while. A promoter came over from England, and he came to my house when I lived on Mokapu Boulevard. And he said that the movie producers over in England wanted a Oriental guy with a good body. I said, Well, I think I got the right guy for you.

 

His name is Harold Sakata.

 

Harold Sakata; yeah. And he won a silver medal in the Olympics too, Harold did, for weightlifting. And so, he had a fantastic body. And so, they arranged for him to go back and forth, and finally, they were gonna bring him over to England to test out for the part. And I knew what the storyline was gonna be. I said, Tosh, we gotta go down to a costume shop and get a derby. And you wear the derby, and you put some bricks — ‘cause he could break bricks with his hand. Put some bricks in this briefcase and handcuff the briefcase to you.

 

That was your idea?

 

Yeah.

 

That’s fabulous.

 

And when he got off the plane –‘cause they said they were gonna have news people there and everything. He got off the plane — I didn’t see it, but I was told that he got off and he took the handcuffs off and opened it up, put the bricks down and had this one brick across that, and he broke it. Got the part.

 

A legend was born.

 

Yeah.

 

Among others in the ring for wrestling promoter Ed Francis were two of his sons, Bill and Russ, who went on to pro football. Moody and disgruntled fans came with the territory at 50th State Big Time Wrestling matches. Ed Francis recalls that an incident at the Civic Auditorium in 1961 got the fans so riled up, it turned into a life-threatening riot.

 

Tell me about the riot. It was Curtis Iaukea, a Hawaiian, versus Neff Maiava, Samoan.

 

Yeah.

 

And there was race that played a role in the riot; right?

 

Yeah; oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, I forget how Curtis beat Neff. but I think I wasn’t even standing outside. I was outside the locker room, and I heard this riot coming off, people screaming, and I came out. And Curtis was coming back from the ring, and a couple of cops were escorting him to get back in the locker room. And Neff was laying in the ring.

 

Now, did he do something? He was a heel, a bad guy.

 

Yeah.

 

Did he do something bad to Neff?

 

Yeah, I don’t remember what it was. But then, the people went completely wild. And there was a sergeant there, Sergeant Capellas who also worked for me on the wrestling match. And they picked up some chairs, and the chairs in the Civic at that time, they were like four chairs that were together. So they picked it up, and they had Capellas and I against the ring. And he’s hitting them, and I’m hitting them. [CHUCKLE] And they’re going down so we could get out of there ourselves. And somebody called the Metro Squad, and there was Larry Mehau. I think he was lieutenant then, or sergeant, and he was handling the Metro Squad at that time. And they came down with police dogs and everything, and man, there was real turmoil there.

 

And those were the bruisers; they were big guys.

 

Yeah. And then, somebody grabbed the guy’s gun out of his holster, and Luigi knocked it out of the guy’s hand, and grabbed the gun and ran in the locker room with it. Then the riot was over, gave it back to the police officer. So there could have been a lot worse things happen.

 

Now, if that happened today, wrestling would have been banned from the auditorium.

 

Yeah.

 

But what happened instead? Life went on?

 

This is funny. I went to the police station the next day. They wanted to know what’s going on and how this riot began, and all that, I guess. So, I’m coming up the steps, and out of the police station is … about four Samoan guys. One’s got a bandage on his head, and one got a arm in a sling. And they said, Eh, Mr. Francis. [CHUCKLE] What’s going on next week at the Civic?

 

[CHUCKLE] It was acceptable damage? Was that the idea?

 

Guess so.

 

The days of wrestling have changed so much. You closed out your business in the late 70s, and I think it was probably in the 80s, that’s when wrestling went national and it ceased to be a local phenomenon as it had been in the past. It’s all national, and I can’t imagine the security that must be present with the WWF matches, which are just spectaculars of television and pyrotechnics.

 

Yeah. Well, yeah, it’s put everybody out of business, really. But he was a great promoter, the guy, and he’s doing a fantastic job.

 

Did you fight that trend, or did you see it coming and say …

 

Yeah, I saw it coming.

 

And you decided, I’m not gonna hang in when there’s not gonna be a good return?

 

Yeah. ‘Cause you have to have a lot of money to do it.

 

That must have been really hard, because you weren’t ready to retire, and you were seeing the end of a business, and there’s nothing like it to go to.

 

Yeah. Went back to the ranch. [CHUCKLE]

 

Which you knew how to ranch.

 

Yeah.

 

And you already owned a ranch.

 

Yeah. Old cowboy. [CHUCKLE]

 

So, how old are you now?

 

Eighty-six.

 

How does it feel?

 

Horrible. [CHUCKLE]

 

Why do you say that?

 

Well, you always have flashbacks of when you were young. I still have dreams about going to a wrestling match, and driving two hundred miles, and arriving there, and getting out of my car, and realize I didn’t bring my tights and my shoes along with me. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I have dreams like that all the time. [CHUCKLE] So now, what am I gonna do, I can’t perform. And I’m worried about what the promoter is gonna say, he’s gonna be mad and I’m in the main event. So, I guess that wrestling stuff stays with you over the years.

 

Wrestling promoter Ed Francis has stayed with us over the years through the many memories of die-hard fans. I spoke with him on a Hawaii visit he made in December of 2012, and people still recognized him on the street, calling out, Eh, Mista Francis! His amazing life is chronicled in the book, Gentleman Ed Francis Presents 50th State Big Time Wrestling, which was released shortly after our conversation. For Long Story Short and PBS Hawaii, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.

 

[CHUCKLE] Well, I used to test the waters all the time. Before a big match was coming off, I got disappointed quite a few times. I’d go to Ala Moana Center, go through all the stores and everything, and there were several times not one person said a word to me. And sweat would break out.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

My god, no house tonight. [CHUCKLE]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

But I always did have a pretty good house. But I thought that was kind of a gauge, and I’d say, Well, if nobody talks to me, then nobody is talking about wrestling on TV.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
“Dr. Tusi” Avegalio

 

Original air date: Tues., June 25, 2013

 

Leslie Wilcox talks with Dr. Tusi Avegalio, Director of the Pacific Business Center Program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A twist of fate brought him from American Samoa to a Kansas teachers college. Dr. Tusi, as he’s known on campus at UH Manoa, went on to earn degrees in education and social science. At the Pacific Business Center, Dr. Tusi helps organizations bridge traditional Pacific Islander values and western thought.

 


Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

What we bring to the table, to me, a very compelling cultural perspective. It acknowledges that substance is enduring, and that form is ephemeral, and knowing the difference.

 

Achieving a balance between the wisdom of the past and the knowledge of the future, with the director of a program at the University of Hawaii Shidler College of Business at Manoa, Dr. Failautusi Avegalio, 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, and welcome to Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox. With a foot in both Western and Pacific Island cultures, our guest has been recognized nationally in economic business development. He is Dr. Failautusi Avegalio, better known as Dr. Tusi, at the UH Shidler College of Business. He runs the Pacific Business Center program with the college. Descended from a long line of Samoan chiefs, Dr. Tusi was raised in the coastal village of Leone in American Samoa in a family that included six other siblings. His father served in the U.S. Navy, and ran a successful agricultural business. His mother was a cultural practitioner who devoted her time to serving family members and supervising the family plantation during his father’s military assignments. After graduating from high school, Dr. Tusi, following the family tradition of military service, was on his way to the Marine recruitment office to enlist, along with four friends. But a twist of fate intervened.

 

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, it was the same day that the newspapers published the list of scholarship students. So, my name starting with an A, Avegalio, was the first on the list. So, my aunt brought it to my father’s attention, and the family was absolutely sure I must be the smartest kid on the island, because I was named first on the list. They actually caught me just before I entered the recruiting office.

 

How interesting, how a life can change on timing.

 

So, he grabbed my hand, and for the first time, I was almost disobedient. But, when you got a big father with a big hand, I gave it a second thought and was obedient.

 

And he wanted you to go into education?

 

Wanted me to go to school; college.

 

Which became your livelihood.

 

Yes.

 

Your profession.

 

And so, two weeks later, my dad went with me. Went to Hawaii to meet family there, and then he saw me off in San Francisco. So, I was on the same flight as the other four. They went on to Vietnam, and I went to Kansas. Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia, Kansas. Our Commissioner of Education of Department of Interior at that time felt that small Midwestern schools would best be for acculturation purposes for students from the islands, and I’m glad I went there.

 

So, strong family values, but still culture shock.

 

Extreme culture shock. Especially with winter. But family values were very much the same. In fact, I sort of developed a tongue – in – cheek book called Coming of Age in Kansas. And it’s just basically the cultural adjustments that coming from a tropical sea coastal village, going to the middle of Midwest, and interacting and working with people there. What amazed me was that many of the young Kansas boys had never been to Kansas City, or had never flown on an airplane. So, they had their own kind of insularity, their own kind of island, so we actually had a lot in common, and we certainly had a lot of fun.

 

So, they welcomed you, and you embraced them too?

 

Well, they didn’t welcome me at first. They didn’t know what …

 

What to make of you.

 

They didn’t know what I was. [CHUCKLE] It’s the usual, He’s too big to be a Mexican or an Indian, American Indian. He’s too light – skinned to be Black, so they figured that might be one of the light – skinned Negros, or something of that nature. So, it was fun trying to get to know them, and they get to know me. And it usually comes around by playing music, playing the guitar. [CHUCKLE] Little cultural things that eventually got their curiosity to the point that it laid the foundation to some very enduring relationships.

 

Enduring, as in marriage.

 

Yeah; marriage and friendships. I married a young gal from Emporia, Kansas. She had no idea where American Samoa was. But I think what really helped make the transition to Kansas were the Hawaiians, the Hawaiian students that were there. They, more than anything else, helped me to transition successfully. Because they already had networks, they had relationships, and they were extremely popular. And so, I was very fortunate that they sort of took me under their wing, and … rest is history.

 

And you never once considered leaving, saying, Oh, this is so different from what I’m used to?

 

No, because, again, being part of a collective culture, I think the shame would be unbearable.

 

You represented your community.

 

Yeah, because it wasn’t just me that left.

 

But didn’t your community want you to marry a local girl from your village?

 

Oh, yeah. Well, that came later. I was already gone, and it’s a lot easier to make a decision when you’re like, seven thousand miles away from the village. [CHUCKLE]

 

How did that go over in Leone?

 

It didn’t go over as well as I thought. My grandmother was very concerned that my wife was so skinny, and she was fearful that her health would not allow her to bear as many grandchildren as she would like to see. But I think in time, Linda became a very endearing part of the family, to the point where when we’d go anywhere, the first thing they asked for is, Well, where’s Linda? [CHUCKLE] And I said, Hello? Oh; where’s your wife? [CHUCKLE] So, yes. So, in many ways, going to Samoa enriched her life, and her life enriched my family’s life and my people’s, those that she had the occasion to interact with.

 

So, the people who decided about the match between a Samoan culture and the Midwestern Kansas setting were right.

 

Yes; in ways, yeah. And what also helped was that my dad, having served in the military, was able to keep the family and traditions at a distance to allow his son to make a decision. Dad knew me so well, and he was able to see without having to ask me where I wanted to go in this situation. And I think my mom attuned to me also, so they both, without having to sit down and draw it out, felt and sensed where my heart was. And knowing my heart better than most, they just supported it.

 

Failautusi Avegalio, or Tusi, returned to Leone in American Samoa to teach at a local high school while considering a career in law. With most of their teachers trained locally, the students were excited by the accomplishments of this native son who had returned home with a college degree. Finding his true calling, Tusi went on to pursue his education in Missouri and Utah, earning masters and doctorate degrees in educational administration. After earning his PhD, he proudly returned home. Sitting together under a breadfruit tree, his mother asked him to explain why he thought it was such a great achievement.

 

And I was thinking that this is too much, too complex, et cetera, for my mother to understand. And I sadly also included the fact that she only had two years of education in elementary school, thoroughly confusing the difference between knowledge and wisdom. I shared with her, because I love theory, so much of my emphasis was on looking at the theory of giants in the field. Mintzberg, Hertzberg, Adrius, Hertz and Blanshard, and political people like Montesquieu, Locke, and looking at organization, et cetera. She sort of just absorbed all that and listened quietly. And then, she told me to go feed the pigs. So, [CHUCKLE] I was thinking, Feed the pigs? I mean, that’s what I used to do when I was a kid. Meanwhile, thinking to myself, Wow, the great value of my doctorate degree is no higher than feeding pigs, and a little miffed as I left. But then, when I returned, my mom then asked me, questions that thoroughly put me in my place and forever endeared me to appreciating wisdom. She asked me if all the books that these men wrote were to be put in a large basket, how large the basket would be. And I said, It’d probably be as large as the village. [CHUCKLE] And I was thinking, Where is this going? And a towanga [PHONETIC] is a fibrous mesh that we pull from the Heliconia stem, and we use that to squeeze grated coconuts so we get the milk out of it. So, she said, If we got a towanga and you squeezed all of these books, what would you get? Privately, I was thinking, a lot of ink. But I really didn’t know where she was going, so I said, I don’t know. And she says, This what you’ll get. You’ll get respect, consideration, dignity, sensitivity and compassion, the very things that are needed to make men do the kinds of things that need to be done, especially if you’re a leader. And I was thinking, Damn, she just encapsulated it. Essentially all the theories said the same thing, is to treat a human being humanely, followership and leadership can become that much more effective. And then, if you take those words and you squeeze them in the towanga again, what do you get? Then she really got me there. I said, I don’t know. She said, You get alofa. And alofa means, in our language, love. And then, she said, How strange that you should go so far away to a place, at great expense to learn how to alofa. You could have learned that here at home in your family and among the village. She was just reminding me that, Don’t be so full of yourself. [CHUCKLE]

 

Throughout her life, the mother of Failautusi Avegalio gently imparted to her children the values of the elders, their alofa and hopes for the future. Dr. Tusi’s work honors his mother’s vision that he would one day play a role in enhancing the quality of life for those of the Pacific Region. As the director of the University of Hawaii’s Pacific Business Center program, he consults with and coordinates assistance to organizations that have business and economic development projects in the area. The Center’s staff provides the technical assistance; Dr. Tusi’s key role is bridging traditional values and Western thought.

 

What we bring to the table, to me, a very compelling cultural perspective. It acknowledges that substance is enduring, and that form is ephemeral, and knowing the difference. That by preserving the substance of the past, and then clothing it with the forms of the future, we would be able to achieve an enduring balance between the wisdom of the past and the knowledge of the future. My technical staff are very good in the areas of fiscal management, accounting, marketing, financing. What I bring to the table are the social, cultural, and the historical and the spiritual ones. It’s weaving these two things together. My approach in the Pacific is very different from the person that might be approaching from a corporate business or a business from the mainland or from Europe. I think Bank of Hawaii might be the best example, just recently when American Samoa was hoping to get at least twelve months transition period versus Bank of Hawaii wanting to withdraw within thirty days or ninety days. When a meeting was held at the last minute, the discussions initiated from the Samoa delegation dealt with issues of commonalities, common history, family, ancestors, wisdoms, things of that nature, and reminders that even though we may be separate on the surface, that we all connected in the deep. Now, I can imagine the Bank of Hawaii strategic consultant freaking out and says, What does this have to do with assets and projected profits, et cetera, things that are more business associated? But fortunately, the leader, CEO Peter Ho, as a boy grew up here, was born here. And it resonated. It resonated at that depth. They had reached an agreement that twelve months might be something that the Bank of Hawaii can certainly accommodate and would reconsider its original position. All the lawyers in the world could not have done what occurred there. And again, it’s bringing the social, cultural, spiritual side, and then weaving it with the technical and the knowledge side to arrive at a place where there can be some mutual understanding, basic human decency and consideration. And I think it has worked out then, and I think it will continue to work for the future.

 

So, in a sense, you find partners and ways to get people moving together to enhance mutual lives. It’s so tough to pick personal partners, business partners. How do you do that? How do you identify?

 

We have a term called iike. In Hawaiian, it’s called ike. It means attunement, sensing. And that can only come about from experience, from maturity, and learning, and living wisdoms over a period of time. So, I lead with my senses, which is really peculiar, because my more quantitatively oriented colleagues are wondering, What are you talking about? But we always get there. And I need to be able to sit down with the various leaders, whoever they are, and sense them. Our ancestors used iike to navigate. So, they can sense not only the wind, the wave, the winds and the stars, but they can also feel. And I think that is what enabled them to achieve their destinations, and in a very small humble way, that I was able to tap into that to help me to achieve what goals that we were able to for our purposes.

 

Tapping into the wisdom of the ages did not come easily to Dr. Failautusi Avegalio. With the distractions of youth and exposure to many philosophies and models, he says it’s taken a long time. Today, his life perspectives are well developed, and they begin with the belief that his ancestors have always held, that people and the universe are family.

 

We have two mothers. There’s the birth mother, and there’s your Earth mother. And in Samoa, it’s called Papa. Papa is the name of the Earth mother. The burying of the afterbirth in a ti leaf – and ti leaf is a very spiritual plant, metaphorically symbolizes the connection of your umbilical cord to the Earth. So, my birth mother, and there’s my Earth mother. And there’s also your father, your human father, which is my dad, and Tangaloa Langi, which is the universe, the stars in the heavens. When you have this sense of awareness of who your parents are, that gives you a sense of wholeness that you wouldn’t have without it. What it also means is that the offspring, both your mothers and your fathers, are your siblings. They’re your kin. If the Earth and the heavens are the parents of all living things, and they’re also my parents, that means all living things and inanimates, stones, rocks, et cetera, are my relatives. So, that really didn’t bear fruit in terms of its meaning until I was in college. One of my student friend’s family owned a large ranch. They were clearing some land with huge trees, and they had this tractor knocking down the trees. And in fact, I couldn’t even stay, I couldn’t watch. But I’d been having those kind of feelings every time I see these kinds of things, and then it sort of all came together. It’s like watching your kin being slaughtered or abused. The basis of nature is God; they’re one and the same thing. You can’t separate the two, and it’s this separation thing that I had a real difficult time trying to reconcile. But what made a big difference for me is when I sat in on a lecture about Howard Gardner. Howard Gardner did these studies on human intelligence. What he pointed out is that there’s more than one intelligence. Before, it just used to be either your IQ, and that had to do with problem – solving and quantitative thinking through mathematics. That there are other intelligences, and the one that just jumped out at me was attunement. It was an intelligence, people had an ability to sense and feel what is not readily apparent to others. And then this quantum mechanics things comes out with physics, that all things emanate rhythms or energies, and that there are animals and humans; they can sense these. And I said, Ah, that’s what my grandfather meant was, we talk to the trees. He didn’t talk, literally talk to the trees. If you’re a healthy tree, you would emanate a different energy than if you’re a sick tree, or if you’re young or inappropriate. So, many of these kinds of attributes can actually now be validated or at least reaffirmed with modern science.

 

How do you develop attunement?

 

We develop it only if we focus on it. But we don’t focus on it, because we have technology that does it for us. Let me give you an example. A mother has a child. The child is a block away, and falls off the stairs. Mama knows something happened to Baby. She said, Oh! And there are many incidences where people say, How did you know? Well, I just knew something was wrong. Another more common example. You’ve ever visited a place where it just felt really foreboding? And then, you go to another place, and nobody’s there, but it felt so warm and inviting. An example for that for me is the church in Leone. When I go into that church, I have an incredible feeling of embrace. I now know why, but at the time, I didn’t know. In the late 1800s, churches were built by crushing coral into lime, and then making sort of a cement, but there were no rebar, they used stones. But they ran out of stones when the walls were sort of halfway up. Gathered them from the river and the streams. And so, the only stones left were on what we call kia [PHONETIC]. Kia’s are like the heiau’s where alii are buried. So, Leone, if you go to that village, is noteworthy in the sense that it has no kia’s. So, a very agonizing decision and a testimony to their faith had to be made. So, all the chiefs of the clans gathered, and the proposition was suggested that we have no stones, and the only stones remaining are the stones on the kia of each of our families. And these are our ancestors, these are the giants of our history and the past. So, each clan, I think very emotionally, made a decision that they’re going to build, finish the church. And so, each one brought their stones, and completed the walls that now hold up the church. That explained to me why I felt the way I did, because the kia’s of my alii ancestors are in the walls of this building.

 

Do your cultural values get in the way of your job at all?

 

If you only have a foot in one world, reconciling dilemmas may be an impossible thing. But having a foot in both worlds, I can move back and forth very comfortably in both of these worlds. I’m a firm believer that trust begins with looking in another person’s eyes, and feeling them, sensing them, observing their behavior. It has been a traditional practice of our traditional leaders. We sit and we look at each other, and we share food and drink. Sharing food and drink is so essential to sharing oneself. And you take it even further when you can invite them to your home. It’s important for me to have them feel that I’m comfortable, that they are welcome to meet my grandchildren, my children, and my wife, and others in the family. But see how disarming it could be. When I can move then into my world, then I think I’m in a position where I can enhance a trusting relationship. In our traditional settings, before we engage or receive visiting dignitaries or chiefs from other villages, they do their homework. They check your genealogy and your history so that when the engagement actually occurs, there is a context in which pathways can then be extended out. And multiple pathways enables the guest to find which is the most comfortable to walk on. Once that one is identified, the others all collapse into that one. And then, we receive them that way.

 

Dr. Tusi says he’s thankful for the collective guidance, wisdom, and sacrifices of his parents and extended family in his voyage through life. It’s now his turn, an obligation to impart those Pacific lessons and his Western educational experience to be there for his four children and seven grandchildren, as they navigate toward the future. Thank you. Dr. Failautusi Avegalio – Dr. Tusi, director of the University of Hawaii’s Pacific Business Center, for sharing your long story short. And thank you for watching and supporting PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou, ‘til next time. Aloha.

 

For audio and written transcripts of this program, and all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

Our people, we think in metaphors and we learn through stories. And because we’re a navigator people, most of our wisdoms derive from the ocean. When the winds don’t shift, adjust your sails. My favorite metaphor is the one that deals with challenges. And it’s about being bold, being courageous, being entrepreneurial. Only you can sense when it’s time to turn into the wind and reach for shores yet untouched. When is your time? When do you turn into the wind? When do you adjust your sail? Like my mom said, anybody can hoist an anchor and unfurl a sail. You know how to do that, but it’s knowing when to do it, and more important, why do you do it.