The Fight for Women’s Rights

WE’LL MEET AGAIN: The Fight for Women’s Rights


Join Ann Curry as two women search for friends and colleagues who forged a path for equal rights. One of the first female commercial pilots wants to thank her mentor, and an advocate hopes to find the woman who inspired her to join a movement.









Feel the pulse of the pacific – the stories of its people, cultures, languages, music and contemporary issues – through PACIFIC HEARTBEAT, the nationally distributed series from Pacific Islanders in Communications and PBS Hawai‘i. These films highlight struggles, values and victories that draw us together and make our Pacific cultures unique.




In the 1980s, an intrepid Australian pilot left behind a surfboard in the seaside village of Vanimo, Papua New Guinea. Twenty years later, surfing is not only a pillar of village life, but it’s also a means to prestige. This story unfolds in the months leading up to the first National Surf Championships and explores the hopes and dreams of the surfers, and how surfing has led to societal changes in a male-dominated culture.




Saved in Vietnam

WE'LL MEET AGAIN: Saved in Vietnam


Join host Ann Curry as two Vietnam veterans search for the heroes who saved them. An Army officer searches for the helicopter pilot who rescued him, while another soldier wants to reconnect with the surgeon who saved his leg from amputation.








Sen. John McCain, a towering figure in American politics, has died at age 81 following a battle with brain cancer. Look back at McCain’s life, politics and legacy, from his years as a POW in Vietnam, to his dramatic 2017 vote against the GOP’s health care bill.



Kanoe and John Miller


Kanoe Miller felt drawn to the spotlight at an early age, fantasizing about becoming a Broadway chorus girl or a ballerina. The young Kanoe began taking hula lessons, and her goal shifted to performing hula in Waikīkī. For more than 40 years, Kanoe has been living that dream. You’ll often find her biggest cheerleader in the audience: her husband John Miller, a former Aloha Airlines pilot. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Kanoe and John tell the story of their love and reflect on the life they’ve built together.


This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, June 24, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.


Kanoe and John Miller Audio


Download the Transcript




JOHN: Even my friends would say: Oh, that’s not a good idea. You know, if you come from the mainland and you steal away one of the local girls, they usually kill you. You know. You’ll end up in the Kunia cane fields someday, you know. Well, I mean, that was a joke, but I mean—


KANOE: They were joking.


JOHN: –people would say that.


KANOE: Yeah.


JOHN: You know, to me.


KANOE: Even his mother said to him: John, now this girl is a performer, and she works on the stage in front of strangers every night; there will be lots of people in the audience wanting her. John, are you sure? You know, so there was a lot of … people.


JOHN: So, it was the two of us out there, just on our own, trying to make sure that the feelings we had for each other were real, you know.


When Kanoe and John Miller fell in love during the 1970s, they faced persistent doubt and opposition from family and friends. All these years later, they say challenges and adversity have only strengthened their marriage. Kanoe and John Miller, next, on Long Story Short.


One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.


Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Our guests today are a husband and wife who say that naysayers made them stronger. Kanoe Miller, born Kanoe Lehua Kaumeheiwa, was crowned Miss Hawai‘i in 1973. For twenty years, she would be one of Hawai‘i’s top fashion models, and at the same time, and up to the time of our conversation in early 2018, she’s been performing hula the iconic Halekulani Hotel in Waikīkī, Oahu, with only a few breaks over forty-one years. Today, Kanoe and her husband, John Miller, own a digital entertainment company, creating videos and live shows of beloved Hawaiian Golden Era music and hula, with Kanoe as the featured dancer.


John Miller grew up in Denver, Colorado and became a military pilot, and served in the Wyoming Air National Guard. In 1976, John says he left the freezing cold of Wyoming to head to the warm shores of Hawaii as a pilot for Aloha Airlines. One fateful night in 1977, as he was walking through Waikīkī, Oahu, he stopped in at the luxury hotel, Halekulani. It was a moment that would change his life.


JOHN: When I first came out here, the second year I was working for Aloha Airlines, I lived on a boat in the Ala Wai. And I used to go for a walk in the evening if I had the evening off. And I walked by the Halekulani, and I saw Kanoe dancing. And I thought: That’s probably the reason I’m here. You know.


What made you say that? Because there are other hula dancers along the beach at Waikīkī.


JOHN: You know, well, there was a lot of entertainment. But Kanoe just has something special. You know? And so, I went in and sat down. And the way she dances, she relates to everybody. But I thought she was just relating to me. And so, I thought: Oh, my god, this is heaven. You know.


A lot of other guys in the audience kind of had the same expression on their face?


JOHN: Probably. I didn’t look at them, though. I was just looking at her, you know. So, yeah, I was probably Number 16 in line.


And it was about the Lovely Hula Hands; it was all about that.


JOHN: You know, if you’ve seen her dance, you know it’s about the whole everything. And I just thought: Oh, my god, she’s dancing right to me. And so then, I tried to talk to her, and I realized she’d never even seen me. You know? It was like, I was just another tourist. And she said something like: Are you having a nice vacation? You know. And I thought: Oh—


And where are you from?


JOHN: Yeah; where are you from? I thought: Oh. But I still was smitten. I just thought: This gal has something different than anybody else. So, I just kept coming back, and coming back. And after I came back enough times, I realized that she had a ring on her finger. She was engaged, or married. I thought she was married. And I thought: Oh, man, I’m too late. You know. But I still kept going. Like everybody else, they go the Halekulani for the music and to watch her dance.


Was that a ring to ward off suitors?


KANOE: No; I was engaged to someone else. And normally, you know, when you dance hula, you’re not supposed to wear any nail polish, no jewelry except your Hawaiian bracelet. But he insisted that I wear this ring. So, I wore it.


So, you’re engaged.


KANOE: I’m engaged.


JOHN: And then, actually, after a couple years of me being smitten by her, a friend of mine who knew that I really was infatuated with her called me up one night, and she said: John, Kanoe is not married; there’s an article about her in this magazine, and it’s all about The Fox of the Month. And it’s like all these questions about what she hopes to meet in her perfect guy.


KANOE: You know, this magazine; it was called …


JOHN: O‘ahu.


KANOE: O‘ahu. And every month, they had wonderful articles, and it was more tailored for the single young set of Hawai‘i, of O‘ahu. And every month, they had a Fox of the Month. And I was Miss November. And they had asked me: Describe your ideal man. And I did. Describe your ideal life. I did. When my fiancé read the answers, the first thing he said was: You’re not describing me. And that was my reaction: Sure, I am. Of course, I am. Yes, I’m describing you. He says: No, you’re not; everything you say in here is not me.


JOHN: Well, I read this article, and every question they asked about, what’s your perfect guy like … it was me. And I thought: Well, she’s talking about me, and obviously, she hasn’t gotten married yet, so he’s not the right one. Must be me.


KANOE: By the way, you have to tell the story of how you got that magazine.


JOHN: Oh. Well … one of the pilots that I got hired with, his wife was along for the whole time that I used to go and watch her dance, and take people there. I would take them there. I took everybody there. And of course, she would see me going: Oh, gosh, she’s so beautiful. You know. And of course, everybody feels that way about Kanoe when they watch her dance. But she was the one that called me up and told me: I read this article about Kanoe in the magazine. And so, she called me kinda late at night, you know. So, I said: Well, what’s the name of the magazine? She said: Oh, I don’t know, but her picture’s on the front. You know. So, I walked to all the bookstores looking for this magazine. And the magazine wasn’t there; it wasn’t for sale in newsstands. So then the next morning, I called her back up and I said: Where did you see that magazine? And she said: Oh, at my hairdresser’s; it’s a little place called Shear Power over in Kailua. I said: Okay. So, I drove over there. And I went in, and I went upstairs, and I walked in, and of course, the dryers were going and ladies were cutting, and you know, it’s a real female place.


Boy, you had it bad.


JOHN: I know. And I walk in, and there’s this table, and there’s the magazine with her picture on it. So, I walked in, and this one lady looks up and she says: Can I help you? And I said: Well, yes, you know, a friend of mine got her hair cut yesterday, and she told me about this magazine that has an article about someone I’m interested in; could I have that magazine? And she says: No; those magazines are for my customers. And I tried to think really quick, you know. I go: Could I get a haircut? And I took her aback. I said: If I get a haircut, does that make me a customer? Then, could I have the magazine? And she says: Okay, sit down and I’ll get with you in a few minutes. So, I sat down and waited for my haircut. At the end of my haircut, I got the magazine. And as an aside, I had my hair cut from her for like, twenty-five years after that.


KANOE: Faithfully.


JOHN: I was very loyal.


KANOE: You paid for that magazine.


JOHN: I paid for it; right. But then I took the magazine and read it, and that’s when I realized: This girl is talking about me. You know?


Okay, now; what did she say? What did you say was your perfect guy?


KANOE: What did I say? The most important question was: Describe your ideal man. And I said: Well, my ideal man is a global thinker. He thinks three hundred sixty degrees, all the way around, his vision goes out. You know, it’s infinite, and it goes three hundred sixty degrees; he can see both sides of the story no matter what the issue is. He has to be a global thinker, he has to be a big thinker with big ideas. He needs to have a big heart, and he needs to have big hands. In other words, generous. I want somebody who is generous in their thinking, generous here, and generous here. And that’s what I ask for. I said: I want a life that … watch out what you ask for. I want a life that goes up, that does down, that goes sideways, that whirls around like a Mad Mouse ride. I don’t want flat-line; I want highs. I want highs, I want desperate lows. I want to turn to the side, I want to go on two wheels, screaming. You know. I got that.


JOHN: So, I renewed my efforts. I was down there that night, you know, a trying to ask her if she would go out on a date with me. You know. And I told her that I had read this article, and that I thought that she was describing me.


KANOE: And I was like: Stalker.


JOHN: Yeah. And she was thinking: Oh, my god, how do I get rid of this stalker?


Did you feel any attraction to him?


KANOE: Oh, yeah; immediately, soon as he came up to me. I was like: Wow, this guy is really cute. Wow, he’s really attractive, but I am engaged to someone else. And I really like him, but no. I’m engaged to someone else; no, no, no, no, no.


JOHN: So, I asked her if she would go on a date. And she said: No.


KANOE: Yeah.


JOHN: So, I just thought: Okay, how can I bridge this gap? So, I asked her: Well, how about if I come here and just walk you to your car? Now, this is the old Halekulani, where you drive in, and you parked on the grass, right in front of the old building. So, all the cars were parked right there on the grass; everybody parked there. And where she danced was just out at the House Without A Key. So, I knew that the walk would only be like, thirty steps or so, you know. But I asked her: How about if I come and walk you to your car; would that be okay? ‘Cause that way, maybe you could get to know me.


KANOE: Yeah; actually, what you said was: I read that article, and I think that if you got to know me, you would see that I’m the guy you’re talking about. So, I said: Okay, you can walk me to my car. Okay.


JOHN: So, I guess she felt safe. You know, there was lots of people around. I didn’t look too creepy, I guess. Had my hair cut like a pilot, you know. So, I would go every night, and wait until she got off, on the nights that I could go. Sometimes, I had to fly. But she would let me walk her to the car, and we would just talk about a little something.


KANOE: Oh, but the walk would only take, you know, thirty seconds.


JOHN: Yeah; the first week, the walk was like, just thirty steps. But after the first month, I think it was probably taking about an hour to get to the car.


KANOE: Yeah.


JOHN: And we could talk about anything. You know, we weren’t in a rush. She wasn’t in a rush, and of course, I wasn’t in a rush.


KANOE: And I really enjoyed talking to him. And we had a lot of things in common. You know, lot of interests that were the same. Lot of almost kinda the same dreams. You know, which every time after I’d leave him, I’d go: Gosh, he and I have the same dreams, same ideas, same visions, but I don’t have that with my fiancé, as much as I love him. You know, we don’t have the same ideals, I think. So, anyway, I looked forward to him coming and walking me to the car.


JOHN: I think I had been coming for about two months, and she was letting me walk her to the car. And one night, I just told her: You know, I think I’m in love with you.


KANOE: Of course, I was really afraid. Terrified; terrified. Because I knew he was right, and I knew he was the right person for me. But now, I had to break off this six-year engagement to someone that I thought I loved, away from his family that I love so much. So, it was like, you know, seeing this giant maw open up in front of you, like a giant crevasse that you know you’re just gonna go plummeting down into. It’s very frightening to break off from people you know and you love, a lifestyle that is comfortable to you, to go off with somebody you’ve only known for maybe two months. And he’s from the mainland, he hasn’t lived in Hawaii very long, he doesn’t know us as a people yet, he’s totally from Colorado. These are things that are frightening to me.


Kanoe Kaumeheiwa had feelings for John Miller, but was conflicted because of her six-year engagement to another man. In turn, her fiancé did not appreciate John’s sudden appearance in her life. John asked to meet with Kanoe’s fiancé at a church in Kailua, Windward Oahu, to sort out the difficult situation. John sought the advice of the church’s brand new priest, and after several hours of counseling, the priest had some advice for the three of them.


JOHN: He came up with the solution and he said: Okay; I want you to not see either one of these guys for a month, and I want you to go and date. I want you to go out there and date as many people, and as many dates as you can, and all different kinds of people.


KANOE: And I want you know, that’s hard for me, ‘cause I’m not a dater. You know, I’m really a one guy kinda woman. And I don’t like to date, and I feel very uncomfortable. But I did it. And he also told me: I want you to go on Kailua Beach, and I want you to take these long walks, and I want you to spend a lot of time by yourself, and I want you to think about things. So, I followed his advice. And one of the things I realized is—oh, and the priest also said: I’ve asked both your suitors to stay away from you, and give you space and give you time. And I said: Okay. So, I did; I spent one month totally by myself. Ooh; I lost a lot of weight, ‘cause I was very stressed. Oh, I looked great. One of the things I noticed is that he was honorable, and he stayed away. And my fiancé did not. And I did date for a month, other people. And when that month was over, ring-ring-ring-ring-ring; called him up.


And said?


KANOE: And said: Let’s get together.


So, you were clear.


KANOE: I was clear.


You were clear at that point.


KANOE: And I had to say to my fiancé, it’s finished, and I had to break it off.


A year later, in 1979, still facing skepticism and opposition from family and friends about their relationship, John Miller married Kanoe Lehua Kaumeheiwa. Kanoe said that in the early days of their relationship, only one friend and one coworker supported their decision. Without wavering, the couple set out on their dream honeymoon across the U.S. continent, visiting more than thirty states.


JOHN: We were both gonna take three months off, and drive around the United States. And I had an old Corvette, and so we decided, let’s do this Route 66 thing.


KANOE: Well, we grew up watching Route 66; yeah? In the 60s. And for the two of us, we found out that was like our dream life, to be vagabonds, to be in this open convertible, to travel untraveled roads, or highways or paths that had never been taken. If you look on the map of the United States, it’s all these main highways and other main roads. But then, there’s these blue highways. The blue highways are the path that nobody takes; it’s the ones that go through the back areas. We were quite interested in taking those roads. And that’s what we did for three months.


JOHN: So, we planned that. And the wedding came, we took care of all that. And then I shipped my car over to the mainland, and then we headed out.


KANOE: Yeah.


Life was good, and the marriage seemed ideal. So much so, that friends would often call them Miss Hawai‘i and Captain Aloha. But life has a way of not going according to plan, and the couple confronted a series of major financial and personal challenges, including the 2008 collapse of John’s employer, Aloha Airlines. However, Kanoe and John say the obstacles they faced made their relationship stronger.


KANOE: I thought: I’m marrying an airline pilot, life is grand, I’m going to have children. Someday, he’ll retire at age sixty. We’ll take up golf, we’ll go on cruises. Oh, this is lovely. Right? And lots of things happened along the way that didn’t happen, and we didn’t have children. Lots of things fell apart. But not us. I think one of the turning points in our life was … well, the main thing is when Aloha Airlines went down. Basically, everyone was out of a job, including him. And we had losses. We lost pensions, healthcare. Let’s just say we were living here; everything dropped. The level of our revenue stream went from here to … there. And we didn’t know what we were gonna do. All he knew was to fly; he was an airline pilot. All I was, was a hula dancer. He was about fifty-five years old; he was not at an age where airlines might want to pick him up. Mandatory retirement age at the time was sixty; he was fifty-five. I highly doubt an airline would pick him up. We were faced with who are we, and what do we want to do? And we decided that we were gonna stick together, and we were gonna put our talents together, and we were going to do a business together. And that’s what it is. And the business is that we became a digital entertainment company. And that was hard because, you know, I don’t know anything about business; he doesn’t either. We really had to teach ourselves.


JOHN: It’s storytelling. It’s what you do. What she does is with the compositions, the musicians, and through the art of hula. And there is such a wonderful history in Hawai‘i ever since David Kalakaua got interested in the ukulele, up until, you know, Kui Lee wrote I’ll Remember You. There’s just a huge repertoire of storytelling. And it shouldn’t be lost; it should be perpetuated and continued.


Lovely hula hands, telling of the rains in the valley, and the swirling winds over the pali. Lovely hula hands.


There’s a feeling deep in my heart, stabbing at me just like a dart. It’s a feeling heavenly.


KANOE: We created the DVD to preserve that kind of storytelling through hula. So, I had to choose ten of my favorite hulas to dance to from that Golden Era. I have many, but I had to focus it down to ten. So, we created the DVD. And then, the next thing we noticed is that DVD sales several years later started to drop off, and people now wanted downloadable things. Okay?


So you have to learn that.


KANOE: So, we have to learn that. And that’s where he taught himself, and he also went to all the outreach classes, the Pacific New Media classes at the University of Hawai‘i. He taught himself websites, and he taught himself how to write an app.


So, you had to learn about yourselves individually, and then what you could deal with as a couple.


KANOE: Yes. We both wear different hats. Sometimes, he wears the creative hat, where he’s doing layouts and editing. And sometimes, I wear the bean-counter hat. You know, I do all the accounting and the bookkeeping. And then, sometimes, we switch; he becomes the CFO, where he thinks about the large picture of our finances and which way we’re going, and I do the creative, which is choreographing dances or writing articles for our magazine. So, we switch all the time. You’re asking: What are the challenges there? To communicate. Constantly. And to share roles, and to, I think, respect what each person brings to the table. That, I think. We don’t do anything, unless we pass it by each other. Emails where we must answer somebody, a business question; we both discuss it first at length, and then he usually composes the email, and then I have to approve it. So, everything we do is done with complete communication.


Any tips for people who are about to set off into the unknown land of marriage?


KANOE: You’ve gotta really count to ten before you speak.


JOHN: If you’re mad at each other.


KANOE: If you’re mad at each other. I didn’t do that so much when we first got married. I’ve learned to do that. You know, just take a deep breath and count to ten, leave the room. You want to say something, but you don’t. You just don’t say it. Wait. And it’ll calm down, and then it’ll go away. Respect the person. Very important.


JOHN: That’s the most important thing.


KANOE: Yeah.


JOHN: Even if you’re mad, and the person is doing something you don’t like, you still need to back off and remember who it is that you fell in love with.


KANOE: Yeah.


JOHN: And that that’s still there, that person is still there. And that’s more important than you winning your argument.


KANOE: Uh-huh.


Do you still think of each other the way you used to when you were courting?


JOHN: I like more things about her now than I did when I fell in love with her. When you find out that someone also has determination and courage, and stick-to-itiveness, and a bunch of other characteristics that you really weren’t thinking about when you’re like, going on your first couple dates, it’s just a bonus.


KANOE: When we have gone through the hard times, which we certainly have, to see his gumption, his positive thinking, his optimism, his drive, is something I really like. Which I didn’t know he had that.


As I speak in early 2018, you can still see Kanoe Miller grace the outdoor stage twice a week at Halekulani’s House Without A Key. And Kanoe and John Miller, who have always defied the naysayers, have expanded the reach of their live hula productions with performances in Japan. With digital storytelling, they continue to share the charm and beauty of old Waikiki and Hawai‘i with the world. Mahalo to this dynamic and committed couple, Kanoe and John Miller of Kāne‘ohe, Oahu. And thank you, for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawai‘i. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.


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.


JOHN: When you are confronted with the naysayers or the negative personalities, or people who say you can’t do that, I think that gives us the strength to show them.


It’s inspiration.


KANOE: It’s inspiration.


JOHN: It’s inspiration, you know. You can get beaten down by naysayers, or you can become more strong. And I think that’s all the way through our lives together.



Rescued from Mount St. Helens

WEʻLL MEET AGAIN: Rescued from Mount St. Helenʻs


Join Ann Curry for the reunions of people whose lives crossed during the deadly eruption. Mindy searches for a scientist’s family to tell them how he saved her life, and Sue wants to find the helicopter pilot who rescued her from near-certain death.



The Impossible Flight


Follow two intrepid pilots as they take on the greatest aviation adventure of our time, overcoming countless challenges as they construct and fly the first solar-powered airplane around the world.





As America threatened to invade Japan in 1944, the Japanese turned to desperate tactics – kamikaze suicide bombers. Now, experts are uncovering the clues to the terrifying weapons Japan sent into war: killer planes, rocket bombs and super torpedoes, all guided by human pilots. Exploring Japan’s coast, the experts uncover caves, overgrown bunkers and top-secret bases that hide the secrets to how kamikaze weapons were built and launched.



Are We Doing Right by Hawai‘i’s Veterans?


Hawai‘i’s roughly 117,000 veterans are entitled to an array of benefits, including heath care, social services and educational assistance. In 2014, an audit of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pointed to delays in claims processing nationwide, but the Veterans Affairs office in Honolulu has already started taking steps to remedy the situation. Are our veterans getting timely access to the benefits they’ve been promised? Malia Mattoch hosts the discussion.

Frank Padgett


Frank Padgett’s B-24 bomber was shot down over Indochina in World War II. Held prisoner by the Japanese, he was subjected to torture by one of the more abusive arms of the Japanese forces. Padgett survived the torture, disease and what was then known as “shell shock,” eventually became a lawyer in Hawaii, and was later appointed to the Hawaii Supreme Court.


Frank Padgett Audio


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Of all places, you decide to go where there’s a heavy concentration of Asians.




After being a prisoner of war in Japan.




No bitterness about—


No; no.

–Japanese nationals?


No; no.


How did that leave you? Or did it never form?


It never formed. Well, because … I got bad treatment and good treatment. Okay? And so, I recognized, you know, that’s not endemic, it’s the damn system—


I see.


–that made them that way.


Retired Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Frank Padgett was a twenty- one-year-old pilot when he was forced to ditch his plane and parachute into enemy territory during World War II. Despite spending the next nine months in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, he says he never let the experience embitter him. Frank Padgett, 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. Born in 1923, Frank David Padgett is a member of what has come to be known as The Greatest Generation, living through the Great Depression and serving in World War II. He grew up in a small town in Indiana, where a challenge in high school started him on a remarkable life journey.


My father was an alcoholic. He and my grandfather sometimes practiced law together. My mother was their secretary.


And your parents didn’t get along, and sometimes—


A lot of times, they didn’t.


–you’d leave the house, or your mother would leave the house.


That’s right.


What was that like for you as a kid, living in this very tempestuous household, and moving around a bit when things weren’t going well?


You know, a kid really doesn’t take that much account of those things. I loved my father; I was unhappy when they were separated or we were separated from him. And that’s part of the reason I guess they got back together. And near as I can tell, I pretty well took all of that in stride. I was an only child.


You always felt loved, even though there was anger and hostility around.


Yeah, yeah, yeah; right. My mother was my father’s second wife, and they understood … that they were excommunicated. And so, we never went to church. When I was about thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, I don’t know, I had a paper route. I started when I was eleven. And there was a woman on that route said to me, Frank, you come from an old Catholic family, and you really ought to go to church. And the rectory was about two blocks off my route, and I thought about it and finally, I went over and knocked on the door. And the priest came; it was Monsignor Becker. I didn’t know him, but small town, he knew me. And he said, What is it, Frank? And I said, Well, I think I ought to become a Catholic, Father. And he said, Well, it’s about time. [CHUCKLE] So, they gave me instructions, I took my first communion, and I became a practicing Catholic.


He threw down the gauntlet.




And when you got to Harvard, very different culture.


Yeah. I know, but [CHUCKLE] I was so busy trying to learn. You know, you accept things. I really didn’t have the background to be in Harvard, and I had to work like a dog, you know. [CHUCKLE]


You became a swimmer, a champion swimmer.


That surprised me, too. When I went to Harvard, before I went, my mother had a girlfriend who had a boyfriend who had gone to Dartmouth. And after I got the scholarship to Harvard, he came over and he said to me, Well, you’re gonna get there and you won’t know anybody, and you’ve got to find an activity you can get into; that’s the way you’ll make some friends. So, I went. I saw a notice that they were trying out people for the swimming team, the freshman swimming team, and I went down there. And they said, What do you swim? And I said, Well, I don’t know; what do you got the least of? And they said, Breaststroke. And I said, Okay, I’m a breaststroker. Well, I was the last kid above the cut.


And you had to support yourself, too; right?


I had a day on Tuesday as a freshman. I got to the dining hall, I think, at six-thirty and got off about eight-thirty, had a class at nine and a class at ten. Back to the dining hall at eleven-something, got off about one-thirty. On Tuesdays, had a geology field trip, and got back at five-thirty, in time to go to serve dinner. [CHUCKLE]


And then, you’d do your homework after that work shift.


Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.


You must have been exhausted.


Well … yeah, I was. It was hard.


The United States had entered World War II while Frank Padgett was at Harvard University, and in February of 1943, he received orders to report for active duty. Padgett was nineteen years old, and still had one year to go of college.


The services came and cleared out the Ivy League schools pretty much, because they were gonna need officers, and so you want to get people who had got education. So, the Air Force got me.


Were you fired up with war spirit and wanted to protect the United States?


No; I wanted to get through college. I figured the war was gonna last forever, and I wanted to get through college before, you know. I finally got to be the number-one breaststroker on the swimming team. I was in four meets, and the Air Force called me up. They were short of pilots. So, I became a pilot. Got my wings at twenty-one. I was still twenty-one when we went down and I was captured.


What happened with you as you were on an Indochina bombing mission, and you had to bail out of your plane?


We were a low altitude radar bombardment plane. On the way down, we tested the bomb release thing. The bombardier had a light that showed, and I had a light on it. My light didn’t show. I didn’t abort the mission; we went ahead. We got down there, and we picked them up on the radar, and we had a great big target. And the bombardier said, Well, that looks like two ships alongside each other; I’ll drop the bombs in between and we’ll get ‘em both. The bombs didn’t go away. And the ack-ack from the ships knocked out my inboard right engine. We tried to climb back to eleven-five, which was the level we had to get to, to get back to our base in China. We got up there, and we had headwinds, and that damn propeller turned and burned, and the sparks flew. I thought that it was gonna blow up; I thought the propeller was gonna fall off. Nothing. Just kept going, and going, going. I was trying to get in touch with the base in China; I never could raise anybody. And finally, the engineer came up and said, Well, we’ve got about fifteen minutes worth of gas. And we’re at eleven thousand feet. Gas gauges were not very reliable; it could be any time. So, if you’re gonna bail out, you’d get out now, and we got out. The crew scattered up; seven got out with the underground, and four got captured. And I was one of those who got captured.


You fell in, I think, a dry rice paddy.




That’s where you landed with your parachute?


Yeah. Yeah; we were northwest of Hanoi.


So, did you fall into friendly hands at first, or not?


No. Well, yes and no. I was trying to walk out to China. You know, I didn’t know what the hell to do. About the second day, I was walking on a pathway between rice, and I looked, and there were all these … Vietnamese following me. So, I stopped, and I spoke enough French, and they spoke enough so that they asked me if I was hungry, and I went back to their village. They fed me, and … the Japanese arrived, and I tried to run out of the village. I got outside, but it was surrounded. Fortunately, I’d laid down my pistol while I was resting, and I didn’t have it, so I didn’t try to shoot it. That’s why I lived. [CHUCKLE]


[CHUCKLE] You can laugh about it now. You not only got captured by the Japanese, but you were put in the control of the Nazi gestapo equivalent of the Japanese forces.


Yeah. That’s the Kempeitai. The Kempeitai was a combination of military police and gestapo, which is kind of a bad combination.


In your book, as it was described, the kind of torture you went through, you know, a broken nose, really serious cigarette burns. I was thinking, you know, what’s going on in your mind? And you were trying not to give any information up.


No; I I wasn’t trying. I couldn’t remember the name. That was a whole interrogation.


What’s the name of your commanding officer?




And you didn’t remember?


Couldn’t remember the group commanding officer. I knew the name of the squadron commanding—they never asked me that. They wanted the group commanding officer. The thing is, and it sounds like bravado to say it, but they beat you when you’re back in the cell. And you know they’re coming back, and they’re gonna do it again. And it really bothers you, you know. And then, they take you out, and they take you back, and the first time they hit you … that’s it. You know, they’ve done it, and you know they’re gonna hit you some more. That’s it; that’s it. There’s … nothing you can do about it.


I was wondering if they find out you don’t have anything to share, does that mean you get killed? Or if they think you’re withholding, do they torture you more? I mean, what’s in your mind as it happens?


Well, the demand was that I tell them the name of the group commander. And after three days, they took me out, and they take me over and … they take me in before this guy who’s a big shot. I don’t know what; he’s got a leather jacket on, and he’s sitting in back of a desk. He says … Sit down. I sat down. He said, Would you like some tea? And I said, Oh, yes, I would. And they brought in the tea. And then, he said, Went to Harvard? You understand, the Army tells you, you give them only your name, rank, and serial number. That isn’t so. Nobody does that. Okay? So, you know, during the course of their questioning me, I told him I’d gone—he said, You went to Harvard? I said, Yeah. He said, Well, I’m a graduate of Columbia, myself; I went to Harvard summer school in 1921. What’s this nonsense you won’t tell them the name of the group commander? I said, I can’t remember it. He told me, Well, then there’s no problem. Because he had table of [INDISTINCT]. [CHUCKLE]


They already knew, really, the information they were—


Yeah, yeah, yeah.


–trying to torture out of you.


Yeah, and that, I’m sure happens about ninety percent of the time when they’re questioning people. They already have the information.


You were being starved, you were subjected to terrible diseases, and you did develop three major diseases.


You were being starved, you were subjected to terrible diseases, and you did develop three major diseases.


Yeah, yeah. You didn’t want to be in a Japanese military prison. So, you know, you lose weight very quickly. And when you’ve got maybe dysentery, and malaria, and beriberi, you can’t walk very far. But then again, I wasn’t doing any walking. I couldn’t walk at all; I was in the damn cell.


I was really intrigued by this quote in your book, with your son. It’s from an unknown person. But it says, To a prisoner of war, the enemy is everywhere; he controls your fate, your future, even your bodily functions. You’re at war at every second. You’re never given leave, and you can never leave the combat zone. Is that what it felt like?


Well, in a Kempeitai jail, yes.


They were starving us to death; okay? We wore a breech cloth, we had a blanket, the tatami with pillow on it, had a six-by-eight cell, the lights were always on. They came and stared through the thing. But, you know, human beings are human beings. One of the guards [CHUCKLE] was from a dairy farm in Japan, and the only thing he was interested in was getting back to Japan. So, they would come and talk to you, and they weren’t supposed to in our in that jail. They were not supposed to, but they did anyway.


So, that was a nice bit of humanity you could share. Now, you had become a Catholic when you were thirteen or fourteen. Did that faith kick in, or was that helpful to you at this time?


I said the Hail Mary, I said the Rosary on my knuckles every day, and I prayed that I get released. God apparently moves at His own speed; it took a while. [CHUCKLE]


And yet, the American officials had essentially prepared your family to give you up for dead, because—


Yeah; that’s right. That’s right.


It certainly seemed like you were nowhere, alive.


General Chennault wrote a letter to my mother, which in basic effect said, Forget it. You know.


Yeah, saying, He will be remembered as wonderful man.




But basically, you’ll be remembered.


Yeah; yeah.


I notice when you talk about being a prisoner of war, as awful as it was, you laugh. Did you have that sense of humor when you were there?


Yeah; yeah.


Kind of a dark humor?


Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.


I think that might be resilience, too.


Well, probably. But, you know, what are you gonna do? You can’t do anything about the circumstances, so … you know, try to see if you can find anything good … okay; you know. There wasn’t in the jail. The best thing that happened was, every two or three days, you got to carry the chamber pot out and dump it in the sewer. [CHUCKLE]


That was your excursion; right?




Frank Padgett was released from prison when the war ended. He spent several months recovering in a North Carolina hospital, where he met Sybil Pharr, a second lieutenant from Georgia who was a nurse on his ward, and who he married. After fully recuperating, he returned to Harvard and was admitted into its law school without having to finish his undergraduate degree. During his last year of studies, a professor made a recommendation to Padgett that he did not hesitate to pursue, even though it would mean moving thousands of miles away.


There was a professor of trust at Harvard, Barton Leach. Very famous trust professor. And he had been a colonel in the Air Force and been out here during World War II. So, I’m in my next to last or final semester, and he said, Frank, have you gotten a job yet? And I said, No. And he said, Well, you really like trust, don’t you? And I said, Yeah. He said, Well, you know, they got more trusts in Hawaii than anyplace else in the world. And he said, I can give you the names of three law firms, and you write them and see. And one responded, and Garner Anthony came up and interviewed us, and I got the job.


And no sooner do you get to Hawaii and pass the bar, but you are holding a banner for a Japanese group here.


Yeah. Well, they had this case, Garner Anthony had it, and the government had filed a bunch of interrogatories and a motion for a summary judgment. And he gave it to me, and he said, you know, Take a look at this. And I looked at it, and I said, You know, I don’t think those government attorneys know what they’re doing. So, I filed a bunch of counter interrogatories, and I carefully answered the government’s interrogatories. They didn’t answer the interrogatories I sent them. The rule at that time said ten days, or you’d admitted it. So, when we got in front of Frank McLaughlin, who was the judge, I brought that up. And he kept them on tenterhooks the whole day, and then he released; he finally said, Okay, we’ll proceed to trial, and we eventually tried the case. But that day, sitting in the courtroom was Lujo [PHONETIC], the old-time female court reporter. I think it was for the Star Bulletin. So, she heard all of this, and she was fascinated by the fact that, you know, I’m an ex-Japanese prisoner of war, and here I am with a bunch of Japanese clients. And she wrote an article on it, and the Associated Press picked it up. Yeah.


But your own law firm really didn’t think you’d win it.


No; no, they didn’t. But then, I had to go study Shintoism. I got books from the University of Hawaii Library. And I found out, you know, the government’s case, there was nothing to it. Kotohira Jinsha was put together by immigrants from three small fishing villages in Japan, and they had their own gods. The government couldn’t come within a million miles of proving Japanese domination. So, we got the temple back.


That was quite the entry into Hawaii and a new career.


Yes; yes, it was. It helped me with the local people a good deal. [CHUCKLE]


You came to Hawaii in ’48?




And what was it like? What was your first impression? You’d never been here before, you took a job sight unseen.


Yeah. There was very little interracial social mixing in Hawaii at the start. You know. The community was very small, the people you knew. You know. [CHUCKLE] You know, we’d go to parties, and everybody had gone to Punahou.


So, how did you fit into that scene?


Well, we went to the parties, and we liked the people, but you know, you couldn’t very well reminisce with somebody. You weren’t here. [CHUCKLE] I’d get up in the morning and walk Downtown. And that was Hawaii in those days; you get out and start walking Downtown, and somebody’d come along and say, Hey, you want a ride? You know. [CHUCKLE] And one of ‘em turned out to be Kinau Wilder. I had no idea who she was, but you know.


And she doesn’t have any idea who you are?


That’s right.


She just said, Hey, you want a ride?


Yeah; yeah.


Oh …


And so, you know, it seemed like a very pleasant place.


And you were here to see the Democratic Revolution of 1954. The Republicans and government gave way to a Democratic majority.


Yeah. I think at the beginning, there were maybe five Haole Democrats in Hawaii. [CHUCKLE] I’m serious about that.




[CHUCKLE] You know.


So, were you sort of the maverick in your group politically?




And did they hold that against you?




Why not?


I have no idea.


Frank Padgett practiced law for thirty-two years before being appointed to the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals in 1980. His next appointment came two years later, when he was appointed to the Hawaii Supreme Court as an Associate Justice. He served on Hawaii’s highest court for ten years, until he retired.


When you were in practice in Honolulu, you were sometimes described as abrasive. What about when you were a judge, and you were maintaining order in your court?


Well, apparently, there were those who didn’t like me very much in that capacity, because … I was … impatient … with lawyers. They had all these pending cases, and somebody had to go through the briefs and make a preliminary judgment about them. And I found out that lawyers were getting extension, and extensions, and this one lawyer was particularly bad about it, and I gave him a big fine. And you got some criticism for running a newspaper story about it.






Five thousand dollars; and did it ever happen again?


No; I never hit anybody that hard again. Remarkably, the requests for extensions of time dropped off. [CHUCKLE]


What do you think was really the epitome of your career? Was it being a corporate lawyer, or was it being a judge?


I think being a judge.




Well, when you’re a lawyer, you’re on one side fighting like hell. When you’re a judge, you’re supposed to be able to take a look at it and reach a rational decision. You know, there’s a difference in what you do.


You don’t choose sides when you’re an attorney, do you? When you’re a judge, you can be …




You represent the people.


Yeah; yeah. That’s right. My favorite, of course, was the Kapiolani Park case.


What was that about?


Well, Frank Fasi wanted to lease a portion of Kapiolani Park to Burger King. And the Waikiki Residents Association was against it, and they brought a lawsuit to stop it, and the lower court allowed it. And it came to the Supreme Court. Kapiolani Park was a trust. Okay?


And that trust had in it a clause which said that there will be no commercial activity. Okay? That was set up way back when, in the days of the Kingdom. And, you know, everybody was saying, Well, you gotta overlook that, you gotta overlook. Well, what they forgot was, it wasn’t just that trust, but people had deeded property to Kapiolani Park to become part of the trust, with that as the agreement. Nowadays, of course, if you’re dealing with corporations, you know, you can do any damn thing you want to, and change it any time you want to. But you can’t do that with a trust.


So, thanks to you and the court, no Burger King in Kapiolani Park.


Yeah; yeah. Right.


You had a very long legal career. You went through periods of your life where things could have worked out really differently.


Looking back on it, two weeks from yesterday will be Sybil and my sixty-ninth wedding anniversary. If I hadn’t been sick and in the hospital, and she hadn’t been a nurse, we’d have never met. So, you know, in life … you play the hand you’re dealt. [CHUCKLE]


As part of America’s Greatest Generation, Frank Padgett was able to put the brutality of his prisoner of war experience aside to become a prominent attorney and highly respected justice in Hawaii. Mahalo to retired Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Frank Padgett of Honolulu for your service to our country, and to Hawaii nei. 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.


You’d gotten a chance to know people.




And see all the commonalities.


Right; right.


So, Hawaii wasn’t the complex and forbidding place that other newcomers sometimes find it.


Yeah; that’s right. None of that bothered me. And, you know, in a law firm, when you’re the youngest guy, the new guy that just came in, and somebody comes, you know, you get the odds and ends, the little pieces of this and that. So, you know, one of the guys that they sent in to see me was a Filipino barber, and I was able to do some things for him, some of his legal problems. And you couldn’t have a better advertiser than a Filipino barber. [CHUCKLE]





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