Hawai‘i

NA MELE
Jerry Santos

Na Mele: Jerry Santos

 

When we hear his distinctive voice, there is no mistaking the music of Jerry Santos. And when we listen to his lyrics, there is no mistaking his connection with the memories and emotions of our own lives. In this NA MELE, Jerry has woven together a story of home. “The idea of home was the driving force for the content. Most of the songs speak to the idea of ku‘u home, a personal, endearing way to refer to our place in the world. It becomes ku‘u because we attach to it our familiarity, what the wind and the rain are like, how the mountains smell, what is in the river, who our people are, our attachment to them and the things we have learned by being of a place,” Jerry says.

 

Jerry mixes “All of That Love from Here” with his signature song, “Ku‘u Home ‘O Kahalu‘u,” as well as “Tewe Tewe,” a playful song that pays tribute to the slippery o‘opu. He also performs “Seabird” and “Ku‘u Makamaka,” among other songs. Joining Jerry are musicians Kamuela Kimokeo and Hoku Zuttermeister.

 



PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
The Roots of ‘Ulu

 

Follow the mythological origins of ‘ulu, its journey from Tahiti to Hawai‘i on Polynesian voyaging canoes, and modern efforts to revitalize breadfruit as a possible solution to food shortages. Native practitioners, medical specialists and agricultural experts have a shared vision of the ‘ulu tree playing an important role in cultural preservation, health restoration and food sustainability for Hawai‘i’s future.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Mick Kalber

 

Mick Kalber moved to Hawai‘i Island on a whim after a successful but draining career in television. There, he would confront the most creative and destructive of muses: the Kilauea volcano. A self-described “volcanographer,” Kalber has spent the past 30 years capturing one of the longest volcanic eruptions in recent history through the lens of a video camera, while hovering in a helicopter above the 2,000˚F lava flows.

 

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

 

Mick Kalber Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I remember flying in Denver, before I ever shot volcanoes, flying over the City of Denver and looking out, and being very scared, for some reason. But I’ve never been afraid around a volcano. It’s like … looking into the Gates of Hell. You know, there’s just something about that, that’s intriguing and mysterious.

 

Hovering in a helicopter above two thousand-degree molten rock is all in a day’s work for Mick Kalber, as he films the epic spectacle of Hawai‘i Island’s Kilauea Volcano. Volcanographer Mick Kalber, next, on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. For over thirty years, Mick Kalber has been documenting the stunning, destructive, and creative forces of Kilauea Volcano on Hawai‘i Island through the lens of a video camera. With his VolcanoScapes documentary series, and his Kilauea overflight videos on news and social media, Kalber continues to share one of the longest volcanic eruptions in recent history with people around the world. Mick was born far from the fiery lava fields of Puna; he grew up in the Midwestern United States.

 

I was born in Peoria, Illinois. My dad was a sportscaster, and actually called the NIT Tournament in New York, and Harry Caray subbed for him when my dad lost his voice. And anyway, I was born there, but only lived there for six months. Never been back there, don’t know anything about Peoria. We moved back to Omaha, and I was raised in Omaha ‘til I was twelve, and then went to Chicago.

 

Why did you go to Chicago?

 

Dad got the job at NBC in Chicago. And so, he went to Chicago and the news was doing poorly. And a man named Alex Dreier was doing the news then, and my father replaced him. And they struggled a little bit the first year, and then they got it together. He was number one, basically, for fifteen years.

 

And what was his appeal as an anchor, do you think, to viewers?

 

Oh, he was good-looking, he was no-nonsense, he was believable. And he also at the end of his newscast—and this is his claim to fame, as it were. He did a final funny. So, at the end, it was, And finally … and then, he’d do the little filler-in. And that was kind of a chance for him to let down his hair and, you know, show a different side of him.

 

How many kids were there in the family?

 

My sister and me. My sister’s three years younger than I am.

 

And what was family life like? What wisdom did you learn from your father, your mother, your sister?

 

My father, I think, taught me honesty. He taught me to work hard. My mom was my saving grace. I mean, I loved my dad; okay? But it was a different kind of relationship. My mother and I were really close, we were really tight. She was funny. You know, she was a kick. One of the things that she did was, The Joke of the Day. And my father at some point said, Enough of Joke of the Day. You know.

 

[CHUCKLE] Well, he did a finally every day.

 

Yeah, you’re right; you’re right. He picked it up in his own way. But my mom was great, and we had a lot of fun. But my dad wasn’t around a lot of the time, because he did news. You know, doing news. You know, he would do the five o’clock news and the ten o’clock news, six days a week. You know, so as he said in a speech he gave, that my mother raised us. And she did. And she was wonderful. She was a great mom. You know, a real … she was a cheerleader. Not literally, but I mean, in our lives, you know, she kept encouraging us and telling us, you know, we can do what. And uh, she’s still that way. [CHUCKLE]

 

Although future volcano videographer Mick Kalber would visit his father’s television stations, he says he had no interest at all in following his father’s footsteps, or going into the television business.

 

I wanted to be a doctor when I went to college. That was not gonna happen; I was a horrible student. And I fell into a TV production course, which cross-listed as a speech course and journalism course. And I loved it. You know, they let us direct, and run camera, and produce stories, and shoot. And I thought it was a kick. You know. But I never really got that before then, for some reason. That summer, there was an internship opening in Omaha. I was in Lincoln. A guy named Mark Catiro [PHONETIC], who my father had hired years before, was now the news director at the same station, KMTV. And so, he was interviewing students for an internship in the summer, and he sees me, and so it was a natural somewhat nepotistic event that he hired me. But when I went to do that job, I did well at it. They hired me part-time, and then eventually, they hired me fulltime. And I switched over, ended up finishing my college career there. And I was already working in the business, and so, I already knew what I wanted to do, ‘cause I was doing it. You know. And it was fun; I really enjoyed it. You know, we were chasing sirens and doing all the things that news guys do, and you know, I was, what, twenty-two or something like that. I was having a ball, you know. And so, I just stuck around doing that for several years.

 

Did you see it as a career?

 

No, not really. I mean, yeah, I did, but what happened was, they put me on the noon news. And like I told you, I wasn’t very good on the noon news. But I went on vacation after being on the noon news for three or four months, and they took me off the air while I was on vacation.

 

That’s a handy little trick that I notice happens in commercial television.

 

That was pretty brutal, and it made me angry. But when I came back, I found out the reason they took me—this is 1972, 73, something like that. And I found out the reason they took me off the air was because my hair was too long. Now, they didn’t ask me to cut my hair; they just took me off the air. So, maybe there was more to it than that.

 

While you were gone. [CHUCKLE]

 

Yeah; while I was gone. But I basically just said, you know, forget this. And I left the news, and I went and did a little professional dinner theater. I did a little acting. And I worked as a night manager at a Jewish delicatessen, and I kinda fooled around. You know, ran off to Colorado, and I worked on cutting down some trees on a ski run, building a ski run. I worked in a lumberyard and pulled lumber on the green chain. And I was twenty-five, and I was, you know, just kind of exploring. And eventually, I got a ski pass, actually, for the year. I’m gonna be a ski bum, and I lasted about a month. And I couldn’t find a job, even a janitor job, and just said [RASPBERRY]. You know. So, I went back to Omaha, and I kept going back to Omaha. I don’t know what that was all about. You know, probably six times, I went back to Omaha. But actually, there’s a soft place in my heart for Omaha, you know. The people are really nice, it’s an easy place to live. The weather is brutal. Absolutely brutal; summer, winter, nothing in between a lot of times. But I went back, and did a little construction with a friend of mine, and I met my first wife. And it was like, ’73, hippie time, we saw what was happening San Francisco, and we wanted to go to San Francisco. So, she was just getting divorced. She moved to Kansas City, I followed her. We had jobs, we saved what we thought was enough money to go to San Francisco. I think we had seven hundred dollars. [CHUCKLE] And a Camaro and a U-Haul trailer. So, we drove to San Francisco, tied the U-Haul trailer to a telephone pole, and looked for an apartment. And we found a flat in the Mission for two hundred and fifty dollars a month.

 

Oh, those times have changed.

 

Yes; within a few years, it was two to three thousand dollars a month. God knows what it is now. But lived there for about a year, had a lot of fun. Sold art on the street. Not drugs; art on the street. [CHUCKLE] And then, settled down in Sacramento and decided to get married. My wife came up pregnant, and so I just thought, What can I do? TV. It’s the only thing I know how to do. So, I ended up back in Omaha, oddly, at the same station I’d left before. And it was completely different, of course. And I worked there for a couple of years.

 

After returning to work in television as a news photographer, Mick Kalber later followed his news director from Omaha, Nebraska to Denver, Colorado. It was there that Mick found his stride in the television business.

 

Denver was good and bad. It taught me a lot in the business. I went out on a story one time. I was shooting news, and they sent me on a really brutal murder. And I didn’t want to be there. And I went … you know. I called them up; I said, I can’t do this, you gotta send somebody else out. And so, they did, and I became a feature photographer. And they had a guy named Ed O’Malley who was doing features, and he was not without talent, but he was difficult to work with because he didn’t really have all the chops of the business. But what I got out of it was, he’d let me help him, and I co-produced with him. And I shot, and I edited, and I co-produced, and he would write. But we just did features, and I ended up winning a news photographer of the year award by doing features. Which was hard, ‘cause I’m up against the hard news guys.

 

Right.

 

And so, we killed it. And I ended up on a show called PM Magazine in Denver, which was Evening Magazine in some markets. It was like the Hawaiian Moving Company; very much like the Hawaiian Moving Company. And it was very successful. We were the number one show on that station. And I had a lot of fun, but I got really burned out on it, ‘cause we worked sixty to eighty hours a week. And after three years, I was toast. And I visited a friend down on the Big Island, and I said, Hm, I’m gonna run away. [CHUCKLE] So, my wife and I were separated at the time, and I just basically sold everything I had and packed up a VW bus, and moved to the Big Island. What happened in pretty short order was, I got there in March of ’84, and Mauna Loa was erupting. And at some point, Kilauea erupted. It was doing high fountaining eruptions back then, and Kilauea erupted at the same time. And I went, Oh, man, I’ve gotta get some equipment. And so, I did. I got a camera, and I got a recorder. And back then, it was all separate system, you know. And called up Kent Baker.

 

At Channel 2.

 

At Channel 2 and said, I’m here on the Big Island, I’m for real, and I can shoot for you. And lo and behold, one day he called me up and he said, Go get in a helicopter and go shoot the volcano. And I did, and I was totally blown away. Never seen anything like that in my life, coming from Omaha and Denver, and like … oh, you know, 1,000-foot fountain, 1,200-foot fountain. And it was amazing; absolutely amazing. And I thought to myself at that time; I thought, you know, I’m gonna do something with this at some point, but I couldn’t quite nail it down, because it was right when VHS was starting. And there were people at that time that had other videos out that had high fountaining eruptions in them. And I thought, you know, what can I do different from that? But eventually, it created a fissure eruption and made a lava lake down the hill, took a couple houses, and went in the ocean. I said, Now I got a story. You know. So, I knew how to view that, because I’d done PM Magazine. So, I put together a show. That show was my first VolcanoScapes show, Pele’s March to the Pacific. It was about a forty-minute show, and took me a while, but it was very well received, and people were snapping ‘em up like crazy. You know, initially, we just sold those like crazy, like hotcakes, as they say. You know.

 

Mick Kalber made it his life’s work to film Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii Island. He founded Tropical Visions Video, and released an eight-part VolcanoScapes documentary series. Kalber could often be found hanging off the side of a helicopter to film the 2,000-degree lava flows. But as it turns out, his newfound career was not the greatest threat to his life.

 

Twenty-two years ago, I came up with throat cancer, squamous cell carcinoma at the base of my tongue. And I was forty-five, and it was, what, 1993. And I went to Chicago, went to University Hospital, Rush Presbyterian, and they treated me, and it was brutal. But they saved my life with chemo and radiation. I lost fifty-five pounds. I thought I was gonna die, not from the cancer, but from the treatment. But I survived. And it took me about eight years to come back as far as I was gonna get back from that. And I was in pretty good shape. I lost all my saliva glands, so that’s why I’m drinking water all the time. And my taste buds were altered a little bit. I don’t taste sugar, don’t taste sweet anymore, ‘cause they burned the outside of my tongue with the radiation. And it’s a little more difficult to swallow. But other than that, it didn’t really affect me so much. But then, last Christmas, I was diagnosed with the same thing. Not a recurrence, but what they think was caused by the radiation I had the first time.

 

Caused by the radiation?

 

Yes.

 

Okay.

 

And that’s unfortunate, but it saved my life the first time, so how can I complain? But this time, they took it out surgically, and it was very quick. I won’t say it was very easy, but it was a lot easier than the first time.

 

Was it at the back of your throat?

 

Back of my throat, behind the soft palate. And they cut out about a half-dollar size of the back of my palate. But they didn’t have to cut all the way through, so they didn’t have to reconstruct my throat. But they think they got it.

 

Having had these threats to your life in terms of coming from inside you, cancer, does it change the way you look at life? Has it changed the way you live?

 

The first time, it definitely did. The first time, I got a sense of my own mortality. I decided that we’re not gonna be here all that long, so if there’s something we want to do, we better get it on. You know.

 

Battling throat cancer is not the only life-threatening challenge that volcano videographer Mick Kalber has overcome. During the 1980s, Kalber struggled with substance addiction.

 

Yeah; I’m in my thirtieth year of sobriety now. I moved here thirty-two years ago, so I lived here for only about two years before I got into AA. I was lucky, because I found it, and I never went back out. I hit the ground running, and it saved my life. Yeah. Everything was going south. That was part of the reason I moved here, was, I was in Denver, I was drinking, I was using mostly marijuana, got into a little bit of cocaine, which kind of was what brought me to my knees. I probably would still be kind of a high level drunk if it hadn’t been for that. But that sped the whole process up, and I found myself in trouble, and I actually went and investigated the program with a friend of mine. A friend of mine’s dad was in the program, and I went and talked to him about it. And I said, you know, Am I an alcoholic? And he said, I don’t know. And he threw a big book at me, and he said, Read that and find out. And that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted him to say, Yeah, you are or no, you’re not, here’s what you do, don’t worry about it. You know. So, I read the book. And I knew I was an alcoholic. But I wasn’t quite ready to stop. But what I did do at that time was, I just pulled a geographic. I visited a friend of mine on the Big Island. I loved the Big Island. And I said, I’m gonna leave here, and you know, get out of Dodge, and go out and have a great life in Hawaii and live on the beach and get healthy, and you know, da-da-da. But my disease came right along with me, before you knew it, I was doing the same old things again. My ex, we were separated at the time. She actually moved out, and we put the kids in school. My kids were in Waldorf at Malamalama School in Paradise Park. And if it hadn’t been for that, I probably wouldn’t have been able to stay there, because I was tight with my kids. And just having them during the summer, I don’t know if I could have done that. But she moved out here, and the kids went to school there, and we got back together for a little while. It was a disaster. But I did get sober during that time, and I haven’t had a drink or a drug other than the medicines prescribed for me for my throat and stuff since then.

 

It did not save your marriage, though.

 

No. In fact, after I got sober, my ex was very unhappy.

 

This is after you divorced, or while you were—

 

No; while we were still together. You know, I got sober and a couple months after I was sober, she was not happy. And that’s not unusual in couples, where one gets into recovery and the other one doesn’t. Because addiction and alcoholism is a family disease. It’s like a mobile. So, if one person is addicted, then everybody’s affected. If they get clean, then everybody’s affected. But everybody still has what they had when that person was addicted.

 

Mick Kalber would remarry in 2001. His second wife, Ann Kalber, is now a producer and collaborator in his company and in his most recent film, VolcanoScapes: Dancing With the Goddess.

 

You don’t advertise yourself as a videographer; you are a …

 

Volcanographer. I made that up. You know, that’s my own creation, because I think it more aptly describes what I do. You know, I’m not a volcanologist; don’t get me wrong. You know. I don’t claim to be Jim Kauahikaua or, you know, in that department. But I’ve been around it long enough, and seen a lot of stuff that I kind of have an insight to it. And, you know, I’ve made my living basically for the past thirty years, over thirty years, shooting Kilauea Volcano. It’s what I do. And so, yeah, I’m a volcanographer. We fly basically wherever we want to, because we’re on a media flight, it’s a charter flight, and so we can fly at any altitude. And we do; we go down as close as we can to shoot what we shoot.

 

Have you ever been in danger? Have you really felt danger? ‘Cause where you fall is gonna be into fire.

 

Exactly; and it’s two thousand degrees hot liquid rock with—

 

And auto rotation won’t help you.

 

With jet fuel. You know.

 

Yeah; that’s true.

 

Jet fuel and hot …

 

Yup.

 

Not a good combo.

 

You’d go fast.

 

There was one time when my pilot, John Greenway with Hilo Bay Air, was flying me over Kupaianaha, which was a lava lake in the shape of key. They call it the key vent as well. And we were flying over the neck of the key, which is probably … eighty or a hundred feet across or something. And he got halfway across it and he stopped; he hovered, because another helicopter was coming in front of him. And it was early on, this was the first three or four years that I’d been flying, and I didn’t know anything about air speed at the time. And so, when he hovered, I looked down below me and I went … Oh, man. You know. If the engine quits, we’re toast, you know.

 

Right.

 

We’re done. And yeah, it scared me. Nothing happened, obviously. When we got across that, I said something to him about that, and he said, Oh, we had thirty knots of air speed, and should anything have happened, I could have auto-rotated down to one side or the other. So, it really wasn’t a problem. But I didn’t know that. And so, psychologically, you know. And it’s unnerving. People who go with us, we fly with the doors off.

 

M-hm.

 

‘Cause you can’t shoot through the window, you know. So, we fly doors off, and go close to it, and there’s people who can’t do that; they can’t fly with us. We also stand. I don’t stand on the struts, ‘cause then the helicopter would be flying too far down. But when I flew in a Jet Ranger, we would stand on the struts. And so, you’re basically standing outside of the helicopter.

 

And you’re tied up; right?

 

Well, I have a seatbelt on. I don’t have a harness on; I don’t wear a harness. Seatbelt with a piece of tape around it so it doesn’t accidentally come off. You know.

 

You mean, duct tape?

 

Well, yeah, if we’re taped, yeah, duct tape.

 

Whoa. [CHUCKLE]

 

Well, it’s not going anywhere. You know. Long as you keep the buckle closed, you know.

 

Does your wife have any thoughts about this guy who goes up in a chopper all the time next to hot lava?

 

My first wife, or my second wife?

 

Second.

 

[CHUCKLE] I think Annie has acquiesced. You know, she knows that’s my life, that’s what I do. Does she worry about it? I don’t know. You’d have to ask her; she doesn’t express that to me. You know, she doesn’t say, Yeah, I’m worried about your flying, or you know, yadda-ya. But I think she’s confident in what we do, confident in the pilot, confident in me.

 

And so, all of this time, these thirty years, any time Kilauea could have stopped erupting. I mean, the fact that it’s been going on this long is just amazing.

 

Oh, yeah. It’s the longest documented eruption in modern history, or in recorded history.

 

And you’d be out of a job.

 

[CHUCKLE] Yeah.

 

A self-made job.

 

In a way. I mean, you know, there’s two ways of looking at it. You can look at it that as long as it continues to erupt, it continues to be topical, it continues to be on people’s minds, and you know, you continue to have interest in it. But as soon as it stops, then nobody can get it anymore.

 

So, it’s a prized commodity.

 

So, what you have is more valuable, theoretically. But then it can be forgotten, too. So, it’s a double-edged sword.

 

Are you gonna go up as long as you can, as long as the volcano is willing?

 

Yeah, I guess. I mean, you know, I’m getting to the age where it’s not so easy to hike out like I used to. You know, I used to hike out by myself, four or five miles, you know. And if it comes down right now, it’s probably gonna be about a five-mile hike to go see it.

 

And what about hanging out of the helicopter?

 

Well, that’s easy.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

No, it is. I mean, uh, flying in a helicopter, we fly for an hour. You know, I can go fly for an hour holding a camera. I love that; that’s fun.

 

At the time of this conversation during the summer of 2016, a new lava flow from Kilauea made its way to the ocean. And Mick Kalber, now cancer-free, set out to document the latest chapter of the 33-year-old eruption. Mick and his wife Ann also were about to move from North Hilo to Leilani Estates that’s a subdivision in the Puna District that’s directly in the shadow of the active volcano. Mick says he’s still humbled and awed by the spirit and energy of the eruption, and remains just as fascinated as he was when he first started filming in 1984. Mahalo to Mick Kalber of Hilo for sharing your story with us. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

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

 

You know, I tell people all the time that if you move to the Big Island, you know, you’re dealing with the fire energy, and I don’t mean to be esoteric about the whole thing, but there’s something about it that, in my opinion, makes things happen. It kinda forces your hand. You know, whatever is going on in your life is gonna come to a head because of the energy that’s on that island. And some people can handle it, some people can’t.

 

[END]

 


LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Monica Toguchi

 

Monica Toguchi’s ability to adapt and evolve is evident in her role as the third-generation owner of Highway Inn. The Oahu restaurant, which specializes in local favorites, has come a long way from the charming Waipahu establishment it started as 70 years ago, growing into a modern business with a location in the booming Kakaako neighborhood. The restaurants have thrived due to Monica’s ability to lead her family business into the future – without compromising the values that define it.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Aug. 28 at 4:00 pm.

 

Monica Toguchi Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

My grandfather, you know, having Highway Inn and having the memories of going to this little store on Depot Road with the tall green chairs, it was a time period of people just sitting together as complete strangers and eating, and sharing their foods, you know. And he told my father when my father took over; he said to my dad, As long as you have this business, you can support your family.

 

Monica Toguchi is the third generation owner of Highway Inn, a longtime Hawaiian restaurant that serves up local favorites like lau lau, poi, and pipikaula. She didn’t plan on taking over the business, but she did, and she needed to answer the question: How do you take a beloved but aging business from Waipahu, Oahu and keep it vibrant in the 21st century? Monica Toguchi, next on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A common dilemma with multigenerational family businesses in Hawai‘i is the question of who will carry on after one generation retires. We see how many multigenerational family businesses have not survived. Under Monica Toguchi, the third generation owner of Highway Inn, the family Hawaiian restaurant has not only survived, but has expanded into new neighborhoods. Monica’s roots are firmly planted in the old plantation town of Waipahu, Oahu, with her grandfather, Seiichi Toguchi, who started Highway Inn in 1947 to feed his growing family.

 

My grandfather was born and raised in Hawai‘i. And you know, my grandfather loved Hawaiian food. He had a lot of Hawaiian friends who taught him how to make pipikaula. But he was picked up by the American government when Pearl Harbor was bombed. My grandmother did not know where he was for about two months. And then, when they did find out, he was in Durham, Arkansas. And so, she and the first three eldest children, my Auntie Barbara, my Auntie Jonette, my Auntie Shirley, they moved to Durham, Arkansas at the time. And then, he was transferred during the war to Tule Lake. And for people that are familiar with Japanese American history, Tule Lake was one of those places that you just didn’t want to go to.

 

It had a reputation; that’s where they sent the troublemakers.

 

Correct. Right; correct. So, from my understanding, or my limited understanding, the American government would classify different groups of Japanese Americans. You know, you’re very pro-Japanese, or you’re moderate. And Tule Lake was one of those internment camps that a lot of people that were assumed to be very pro-Japanese were placed. For reasons unknown to us—my grandfather was no one of prominence during that time, he didn’t have the restaurant, he was just a working husband and father, he didn’t have any power within the community, so it’s huge mystery to us why they picked him up, but they did. And so, towards the end of the war in 1945, my father, who took over Highway Inn, was born in the internment camp. My grandparents left with three children, and came back with five. So, they were pretty busy in the internment camp.   And one of the things the American government did was, they identified people’s occupation within the internment camp. So, my grandfather listed cook. And so, what they did was, they put him in the mess hall along with other Japanese American cooks. And so, that’s why Highway Inn has a history of having Hawaiian and American foods. That’s where he learned how to cook hamburger steak and sirloin cutlets, was from being in a mess hall in an internment camp with other Japanese American cooks from around the country, and my grandfather really had to figure out how he was going to support now five children. And what ended up happening was, he decided to go back. He tried several things before he started Highway Inn. He tried to raise pigs, but the pigs got skinnier, not fatter.

 

Oh.

 

So, he realized, Okay, I’m not a pig farmer. And at that time, a lot of Okinawans were pig farmers.

 

That’s right.

 

So, my grandfather started Highway Inn in 1947. He only had a second grade education.

 

There he is.

 

Yeah. So, that’s my grandfather and my grandmother. They were very, very poor. But it went to my father in the late 70s. At the time that my grandfather was ready to retire, he was considering closing Highway Inn. But my father really felt that, you know, it’s been around for thirty years, and it was something that he wanted to try to continue, even though restaurant and cooking was not his thing. So, I had another uncle who had worked alongside my grandfather, got a lot of his culinary training during Vietnam, and came back to work with him. But he would not pass the restaurant down to this particular uncle.

 

Is this the uncle?

 

That’s my father’s older uncle, my Uncle George. So, my father has two brothers, one older than him, and one younger than him. But the business got passed down to him, and he’s the second boy, which is very atypical for, you know, Japanese American families. And he was the third youngest.

 

Did the other boys want the business?

 

I’m not too sure about that. At that time, my Uncle George was working for Oahu Sugar Mill. And I think my Uncle Gary, my dad’s younger brother that worked alongside my grandfather, helped us to continue the cooking, you know, thirty years after my grandfather had exited the business. So, my Uncle Gary was very instrumental in being able to keep the family recipes consistent to the way that my grandfather had cooked it. And my father was also very disciplined, and I think my grandfather knew that. He typically would describe himself as being a karate man. So, I think my grandfather innately understood that my father had the kind of qualities that a restaurant would require.

 

Under the second generation ownership of Bobby Toguchi, Highway Inn continued to thrive in Waipahu, Oahu. Monica Toguchi grew up around the restaurant and nearby, in the newly-developed planned community of Mililani.

 

So, I was born at Kapiolani Hospital, and I was raised primarily in the Waipahu and Mililani areas. So, Waipahu because my father is from that community, and our business Highway Inn is from that community. My parents bought a house in Mililani, so for most of my upbringing, I went to Mililani Uka, I went to Wheeler Intermediate, and then, I went to Mililani High School thereafter. Every Sunday, my grandfather would cook Sunday meals for all my cousins and his children and their spouses, and we would all gather at his house in Waipahu. And so, we would go to Depot Road and my grandfather would typically either feed us tripe and rice or beef stew and rice.

 

And you loved it.

 

And I loved it. And when my father took over, we ate a lot of beef stew and rice at home. Because my mom at that point had four children, four girls to raise, my father was working long hours at the restaurant, and so he would bring over the leftovers, you know, home. And so, we would pretty much eat what they cooked almost every day.

 

What were your years like after high school? You know, young adulthood.

 

I’m not proud to say this, but it was definitely a time where there was a great deal of unsuccessful relationships and, you know, poor decision making. I had moved out of my parents’ house probably when I was about seventeen, and I ended up getting married at quite a young age, you know, around twenty-one. I had my daughter at twenty-two, I had my son before I was twenty-five, you know, so I was a very young mother. And as a consequence to some of, you know, the not-so-good decisions, I found myself in a very, you know, difficult situation in regards to how do I raise my children on my own. My twenties was really a difficult time, but during that process, the one thing that I stayed true to was my education. So, you know, I finished up my master’s degree in counseling at the University of Hawai‘i. One of my first jobs was working at Waipahu Intermediate School. And on the first day that I was there, there was—and I think it’s gotten a lot better today, but at the time that I was there, there was a gang-related fight. And so, I believe what they called it at the time was a Code Red, which was a really high level of security, and you know, the police get involved. And I was just thinking to myself, you know, I’ve been in this Waipahu community my whole entire life, so it wasn’t that I was a stranger to some of, you know, the issues of our community, but also at the same time, you know, I was a bit nervous to, you know, try to figure out, well, you know, how much is the situation gonna escalate before it gets better. And that experience was one of the reasons why I ended up wanting to get my PhD. I really went into graduate school thinking that, you know, I would try to understand more about juvenile delinquency.

 

Monica Toguchi pursued her new dream of earning a PhD. As a single mom in her twenties, Monica packed up her two young children and moved to the University of Oregon to attend graduate school.

 

You know, a lot of people would ask me, How’d you do it? And I think when you’re young, that’s the beauty of being young. You know.

 

What did your family say?

 

I never really told them what I was doing until it was time to catch the plane. And the response really, was really quite an interesting one to me. It was one, actually, that I didn’t appreciate. It was a very gender and cultural stereotypical response that, as a mother, I really should focus on my children. And in my mind, I felt that, you know, making these educational decisions was really for the benefit of my children.

 

While still working on her PhD at the University of Oregon, Monica Toguchi was abruptly summoned back home to her family in Hawai‘i.

 

My father never complained once of being overworked, and supported his family. And then, he then prematurely had to exit. Like so many business owners, you know, they suffer from high blood pressure. You know, the business is foremost, typically they neglect their health in the process until it catches up with them, and they have a life-changing moment. And so, for my father, it was a brain aneurism in the basal ganglia, which is very close to the brain stem, so it’s one of those situations where if you suffer an aneurism and it’s close to the brain stem, there’s nothing you can do. You just have to wait it out. Amazingly, he survived, but he also had to take it easier from that point on. And when my dad was recovering at, you know, Rehab of the Pacific, my sister Regina and I were in his bed, and my father was trying to get out of the bed. You know, he actually had an alarm. You know, when people, they try to get out of bed and they’re not supposed to, an alarm goes off. So, he had one of those, because he was very stubborn and, you know, wanted to get back to work. But you know, he was in bed, and my sister and I were like, Okay, so who’s gonna take over the business? And she just immediately said, Well, I don’t want to take over the family business, I really just don’t want to have the lifestyle that Dad, you know, has, which is working constantly, seven days a week, hundred-hour work weeks. And my sister was smart enough to think through that and to recognize that that’s not the kind of lifestyle that she wanted.

 

What did you say?

 

You know, I was probably in my late twenties at the time, and I looked at her and I said, Great, I don’t have to fight you for it, then. In many ways, I always felt that it perhaps was my responsibility, it was perhaps my kuleana, if you will. So, I thought perhaps at some point in life, I would need to address that, but what I didn’t anticipate was, I didn’t anticipate that it would come so soon. There was probably an idea in my head, probably mostly created on my own, that you know, it was my responsibility to make sure that if this business was gonna continue, that would be my responsibility to bear.

 

But you had been deferring that.

 

Well, A, I didn’t want to count on it, because I did not know what my father’s plans were. He never explicitly said, This is what I want to do.

 

M-hm.

 

I think he was quite pleased. So, you know, I think as most multigenerational family owners … typically, I think it’s safe to say that most parents don’t force their children. They really want their children to come to that decision on their own. You know, because when people are able to come to those decisions on their own, it really becomes the best decision for that person and for the business itself. Because it doesn’t feel like it was forced upon you.

 

But heavy is the crown.

 

Heavy is—right.

 

If you say no, what happens to the business?

 

Right; right.

 

Do you want to be the one who stepped out?

 

Right. And also too, you know, there’s statistics out there that multigenerational businesses don’t really … there’s not a lot of confidence in succession. So, you know, there’s about thirty percent of businesses that will go from the first generation to the second generation, and then that percentage actually decreases to twelve percent from the second generation to the third generation. And typically, you know, they say that it’s the third generation that screws it up.

 

Or that the third generation is soft.

 

Right. You know, we don’t have the character, you know, traits, we kinda squander away all the hard work that was built.

 

How do you feel about that observation, or opinion?

 

You know, because the restaurant is such a difficult business, you know, my sister used to say this. You know, no matter twelve-hour or fifteen-hour days, failure is just simply not an option.

 

Monica Toguchi’s father Bobby survived his stroke; however, he no longer ran the family business. Monica became the third generation owner of Highway Inn, and eventually gave up her pursuit of a doctoral degree to focus on running the business. And then, in 2011, hard times struck the family again.

 

I lost my son about five years ago. And you know, he died by suicide, and that was a really, really difficult thing. You know, every other day here in Hawai‘i, somebody dies from suicide, and there are so many people that are affected by it, but we don’t talk about it. And the Kakaako store was named in his memory, so I named the business—the legal name of Kakaako is Hoola Mau. And ola is life, you know, mau is to move forward, to move life forward. And that was my thing. But my son really … I think a lot of us, you know, when you’re faced with those kinds of tragedies, you try to make sense, you ask a lot why questions. But really, at the same time, it’s, you know, how do you take something that is so personal and so tragic, and not become paralyzed by it. And I had to just, you know, really keep it together. And Highway Inn and the business itself really, I think, helps me to do that. You know, at that time, we had about forty, forty-five employees, and I knew that if I was paralyzed or incapacitated mentally by my son’s passing and having to address that, go through that emotional process of healing, you know, if that took me under, then the lives of my staff would be affected. And so, that really gave me the motivation to think beyond my own tragedy, and to think outside of myself. And sometimes, when I’m really like in the thick of it all, you know, how I recognize that, you know, this is gonna pass, tomorrow will be a better day. And you know, when you go through something that tough, anything in comparison is really not that challenging.

 

Monica Toguchi persevered after the loss of her son and continued to channel her energy into rebuilding and creating. At the time of this conversation in 2016, Highway Inn has grown to seventy employees, in three locations. The business caters, as well.

 

How many outlets or how many businesses are part of Highway Inn now?

 

So, when I came onboard, we had Waipahu, and at that time, we probably had about thirty-five employees or so on the payroll. And then, the opportunity came to partner with Kamehameha Schools; we were approached by Kamehameha Schools. They came out to Waipahu, and they saw what we were doing, you know, and they felt that it would be a good fit for what was up and coming in Kakaako and what their vision was for their lands in Kakaako. So, one of the struggles for me personally was, how do you take an old business like Highway Inn that in the next year, we’ll be celebrating our seventieth anniversary, and how do you then put that kind of business into a very urban, up-and-coming neighborhood like Kakaako? You know. The natural partnerships in an urban community like that would be to find an operation that was trendy, that was, you know, hip and cool. And here we are, coming into, you know, the coolest part of Honolulu, and we have this very old quaint place.

 

Isn’t there a Hawaiian proverb that says, Look to the future by looking to the past?

 

M-hm; m-hm. Or, you know, you need to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going. And so, that happened, and we opened our Kakaako location in October of 2013. And then, last year in September, we were also very fortunate. This process had started about a year before the partnership was solidified, but we had the opportunity to partner with Bishop Museum. You know, a lot of things did not come easy for me in my life. A lot of people may think that, you know, because we have Highway Inn and the brand that it has become today, you know, I think it’s easy to assume that I was given a silver spoon, you know, and perhaps, you know, I might have been born in a life of privilege. But it certainly wasn’t that way.

 

What do you think your grandfather would have made of a woman taking over Highway Inn—you?

 

I’m not really sure if he had a premonition of some sort. But my grandfather passed away in 1994. And I had said goodbye to my grandfather. He at the time was hospitalized for a couple months before that. And I went to the Waipahu house, he was in his wheelchair, and I said goodbye to my grandfather. And he cried. And my mother and I went back into our car, and my mother was like, You know, that was really strange for him to cry. And it kind of stuck in my mind. And what had happened was, he then passed away about two months later, and I got a phone call in California, my parents telling me that my grandfather had passed away. So, that was really the last time that I saw him. But you know, I think my grandfather, if he were alive today, he would be about a hundred and one years old. He was a very humble man; I don’t think he would believe what he started would have grown to what it is today. And I think some of my best moments is, you know, like when you feel like you’ve finally arrived. You have those moments where you feel like you’ve finally arrived, is when Senator Inouye came to visit us a couple months before he passed away. And out in Kakaako, Senator Akaka, you know, visiting us, and you know, Governor and former governors, and you know, we have so many movers and shakers.

 

Highway Inn on the map.

 

You know, yeah. And we have so many movers and shakers that we typically read about in the paper that make a difference in our communities, and I don’t think my grandfather would have ever imagined that these are the people that his business would be feeding one day.

 

You know, speaking of the family business, the family is about to look different.

 

M-hm.

 

You’re engaged, you’re going to be married soon.

 

I am. So, I have been very fortunate. When I came back from Oregon, I was, you know, thinking about who I wanted to be with, what kind of person I would be with. And you know, when you gain these kinds of experiences outside of Hawai‘i, it really expands your understanding of the rest of the world. And in my mind, I thought, you know, I really want to date somebody that, you know, can appreciate what is here, and the culture that we have, but also understand, you know, parts of my life that I’ve been exposed to living on the mainland for five years. So, I met Russell, and he’s actually British, and he was part of Aloha Airlines, and then he was part of Hawaiian Airlines, and he eventually became an investor into our Kakaako business. And so, about two years ago, he came onboard fulltime, and so, he’s my chief financial officer, my chief commercial officer, he’s a great visionary, great finance person. What it’s allowed me to do is really focus my time on everything outside of the finance parts of the business. And so many decisions are made on understanding, you know, the data that you collect. You know, how many people come in, what the average check size is, you know, whether your traffic is going up, going down. You know, and you base your decisions on these things. And so, he’s been a wonderful asset. And after nine years, it took us nine years, but after nine years, we decided we would get married.

 

We’re speaking in 2016. As you approach the business’ seventieth anniversary, is it still touch-and-go sometimes in business? I mean, do you assume there’ll be a fourth and a fifth generation?

 

No. You know, so my father had four girls, you know, my grandfather had seven kids. So, there were options there; right? So, out of the four girls, the only, you know, fourth generation is my daughter, who’s twenty-one, and she’s studying in New York. And you know, I always describe my daughter; she’s, you know, artsy-fartsy. It’s not one of those things that, you know, as much as we have done pretty well for ourselves, I don’t think it’s a natural choice, even for my cousins or my cousins’ children, that that’s something that they want to participate in.   Because I think they recognize it’s a lot of hard work. I do hope that it continues. How specifically is a big question mark.

 

Third generation Highway Inn owner Monica Toguchi continues to look toward the future, while honoring the legacy of her family business. In a recent interview with Honolulu Magazine, she said, If you understand who you are and what values are truly important to you, evolving is not as difficult as it may appear to be. Mahalo to Monica Toguchi of Honolulu for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.

 

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

 

I have not gotten sick of eating my own food. I try not to eat the lau lau, because the lau lau at Highway Inn is a very precious commodity right now. We just cannot keep up with the demand, so there are times when, you know, we run out of lau lau by the end of the day. And so, I try to not eat the lau lau, because I think if I eat a lau lau, then somebody is gonna come in and not be able to order this item.

 

[END]



PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Biography Hawai‘i: Harriet Bouslog

PBS Presents Biography Hawaii: Harriet Bouslog

 

One of a handful of women lawyers practicing in Hawai‘i in the 1940’s and 50’s, Harriet Bouslog became a champion for the working class. With her partner Myer Symonds, she represented the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), fighting for fair labor laws and wages for the people of Hawai‘i. She was instrumental in ending the death penalty in the Territory of Hawai‘i and her efforts and public comments during the Hawaii Seven trial of alleged Communists led to her disbarment and subsequent reinstatement after a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court. Brilliant, vivacious, and controversial, Bouslog was one of Hawai‘i’s great defenders of human rights and dignity. This inspiring documentary combines interviews with family and friends, commentary by legal historians and photographs and film that recorded the life and times of this extraordinary woman.

 

NA MELE
Haunani Apoliona and Kuʻuipo Kumukahi

NA MELE: Haunani Apoliona and Kuʻuipo Kumukahi

 

Multiple Hoku Hanohano Award-winners Haunani Apoliona and Ku’uipo Kumukahi present classic Hawaiian songs in both solo and duet performances.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Paul and Grace Atkins

 

Filmmakers Paul and Grace Atkins have never shied away from adventure. Partners in both life and career, their acclaimed natural history documentaries have told the stories of our planet in breathtaking, never-before-seen ways. They have worked with National Geographic, BBC and Discovery Channel, as well as some of the most well-known directors in the film industry. This special Valentine’s Day episode spotlights a couple that has boldly embarked on a life full of adventure and purpose, supporting each other every step of the way.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Feb. 19 at 4:00 pm.

 

Paul and Grace Atkins Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

PAUL: Many times, I’ve been filming something, and especially if you’ve got a wide angle lens, ‘cause that something, if it’s a shark or if it’s wave, it’s usually very close to the camera, and you’re inside this movie, and suddenly you take your eye away, and you go, Whoa!

 

GRACE:           Yeah.

 

PAUL: I’m doing that? You know. Suddenly, reality hits you. There’s a desire to get images that no one’s ever seen, there’s a desire to tell a story.

 

You’re very goal-oriented.

 

PAUL: Which is very goal-oriented.

 

Outcome-oriented; right?

 

PAUL: I’m not an adrenalin junkie. I wouldn’t be climbing mountains or diving deep, without a camera in my hands. I wouldn’t do it, normally.

 

GRACE:    I would think also, too, it’s not that you also, too want to tell a story that’s gonna have an effect on the planet. Because, I mean, both of us really have a science background, so we want to tell these stories that we think will do good. We both grew up on Geographic, we grew up on all these wonderful natural history documentaries that really had a mission of trying to better our world and better the planet.

 

Paul and Grace Atkins blaze their own trail as filmmakers with their natural history documentaries. The duo has delighted a global audience with rare footage of exotic and often dangerous environments, and the forces of nature. Paul and Grace Atkins, next, on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. For over three decades, filmmakers Paul and Grace Atkins of Honolulu have traversed the globe, documenting breathtaking natural events, little-know rituals of wildlife, and spectacular imagery for National Geographic, the BBC, the Discovery Channel, and PBS. Paul and Grace, affectionately known as Gracie, are not only a team in filmmaking, but in life as well. This married couple discovered they had a common passion for natural history documentaries, and set out together to follow their passion.

 

Paul Atkins was just five years old when he first got interested in nature while watching fishermen pull up stingrays, crabs, and eels from the muddy waters of his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. He pursued his interest in zoology, which took him to the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the 1970s.

 

PAUL: I was determined to be a marine biologist, and I was working on my doctorate. I just started to feel that even as much as I loved the ocean, and I loved the people I was working with, I loved scuba diving, and I loved being out in the field, the idea that I was going to eventually end up getting a job and being, you know, on a faculty somewhere was not really my dream of the sort of life that I wanted to lead. And then, I picked up, you know, the department’s movie camera, because we used to use the camera to film fish underwater for the research that we were doing, coral reef fish. We were like, doing research on what happens on the coral reef when it changes from the day to the night shift. ‘Cause there’s a whole switchover underwater that happens with the fish. So, we were using lowlight cameras and a lot of cool technology to study that, and I started taking some of these cameras and just training in on grad student friends of mine and getting them to act, and making little home movies, and then, I got an editing table. And it wasn’t long before I started to realize that this is what I really want to do. And actually, I remember the moment when I decided, because … I cut together a film that I’d shot with the department’s Super 8 camera, and we had done some shark fishing off Waikiki as a part of a research project. This was back in the 70s. And I was intending just to document it. And then, I recreated some scenes, and recreated some dream sequences and turned this thing into a movie. And I took the sound track to Jaws, the movie which had just come out, and I took that music, and I cut it up into this dramatic music, and I made something else out of it. And I showed it to faculty and grad student friends of mine at a party we had. And I showed this, and I got this amazing, you know, enthusiastic response from my grad student buddies, and faculty. They were like, Wow, can we watch that again? [CHUCKLE]

 

That’s what creates a career. [CHUCKLE]

 

PAUL: Until that moment, I had no idea that something I’d created was gonna have that effect on an audience, and I was just hooked. I was hooked.

 

Filmmaker Grace Akins grew up in Oregon, California, Virginia, Austria, and Hawai‘i. Much like her husband Paul, she was fascinated with anything outdoors, the ocean, and animals.

 

Your father was a fisheries biologist.

 

GRACE:           Yes, he was.

 

And your stepfather knew the ocean, and he was an expert diver.

 

GRACE:           Yes, he was. He was a Navy SEAL. And my real father was a fisheries biologist who actually worked here in Hawaii for a number of years. I’d been mostly a university student. I’d been seven years at San Francisco State University studying, was a pre-med biology major. And then I got very interested in broadcasting, and so, I went through the whole broadcasting undergraduate program as well as the master’s program there. I knew I wanted to do natural history, or I wanted to do science documentaries. And at the time I went to school, there was really no definitive program that taught you how to do natural history films. I think it was Stanford that had one graduate course that I took in science communications, but other than that, it was a field that was wide open.

 

Before they met, Paul and Grace Atkins both dreamed of creating natural history films. Their chance encounter at Hanauma Bay, Oahu in the 1970s would launch them into their field of dreams.

 

PAUL: I was actually at Hanauma Bay scuba diving with a woman. I wasn’t dating her. I’d just met her, and we decided to go scuba diving together. And I had come out of the water, and so, we had our scuba gear, and we were starting to trudge up that hill. And then, the woman I was with saw the lifeguard and said, Oh, there’s—what was the lifeguard’s name?

 

GRACE:           John.

 

PAUL: John; John. She said, Oh, there’s John, I want to go say hello to John. And I thought, Oh, no; come on, really? And so, I followed her back over, you know, to the lifeguard stand, and then, I saw this beautiful blond in a yellow bikini there at the lifeguard stand. And … that was Gracie. And so, we put our scuba tanks down, and the woman I was with started talking to John the lifeguard, and I struck up a conversation with Gracie.

 

GRACE:           M-hm.

 

PAUL: And I was startled, because we had a lot of the same interests. So, we started talking about making films together.

 

GRACE:           Yeah.

 

PAUL: You know, from the get-go, we just started talking about how this is kinda what we wanted to do. And the conversation just kept going on, and it went on so long, you know, that the woman I was with wanted to leave, and she was getting sort of irritated. And so, we traded uh, phone numbers. And then, the funny thing was, is after that, after we traded phone numbers, I’d give Gracie a call, and we’d have like a forty-five-minute conversation on the phone. And I would go, Well, this is going really well. And then, at the end, I would ask her out. She would always be busy. She’d say, Well, no, I’m sorry, I can’t, I’m busy. And then [CHUCKLE] …

 

What’s the story there?

 

GRACE:           That’s true, actually. [CHUCKLE]

 

Because you were busy?

 

GRACE:           I was busy. Yes. I really enjoyed talking to him, too. We had some of the greatest conversations, and then all of a sudden, he stopped calling. And I just thought, Wait a second, Paul hasn’t called. And I went to look for his number to call him to say, Let’s go out. And I couldn’t find his number. And the next day, he called. And I was so thankful he called, because I would never have been able to reach him, ‘cause I didn’t know where he lived. I just knew his name and his phone number, and that he lived in town. So, we went out, and that was it. We went out on a date, and we actually haven’t separated since, except for when you’ve gone on shoots. [CHUCKLE]

 

And you did exactly what you talked about doing.

 

GRACE:           Oh, yeah; we did.

 

You started a wildlife film company.

 

GRACE:           We did.

 

And did documentaries.

 

GRACE:           Yeah.

 

The relationship of Paul and Grace Atkins blossomed, and they pursued their passion for each other, and their dream of producing natural history documentaries. They began their filmmaking partnership with Paul as the cinematographer and director, and Grace as the producer and sound recordist.

 

GRACE:           At that time, there just was nothing that really would define how one made these kind of films and went about creating a career in that. So, when we started, we were really kind of like forging our way into a newer … world, a new way of making films, and basically had to do it all on our own.

 

PAUL: And I think it was the combination of, you know, just having the courage, really, to try it. Because now, you were a team. Now, you were two people.

 

GRACE:           M-hm.

 

PAUL: And Gracie brought in a sense that I didn’t really have, which was a business sense, about finances, how to use a credit card. I didn’t even have a credit card, or just know how to use one, you know.

 

GRACE:           [CHUCKLE]

 

PAUL: And I brought in this desire, you know, and vision about shooting and making films, and I was sure I could do it, even though I barely knew what I was doing.

 

GRACE:           Our first shoots were in Palau. And that’s when we were starting to evolve our career. We figured that the only way we were gonna get our career started was to make a film and present it to somebody to see.

 

Find a client later; right?

 

GRACE:           Yeah; find a client later. And so, we raised money to be able to go to these places that we wanted to do films.

 

PAUL: M-hm, m-hm.

 

GRACE:           And basically started—

 

PAUL: But a lot of things during this period kind of came together and happened.

 

GRACE:           Yeah.

 

PAUL: You know. I was dreaming about doing this, I met Gracie, and we talked about being a team. And about the same time, I was introduced to Arthur Jones, who was a billionaire inventor of Nautilus exercise machines. And he was spending a lot of his money that he was making on Nautilus exercise machines on a television studio in Lake Helen, Florida. He was going all over the world just filming things. And he showed up in Hawaii, and Bruce Carlson at the Waikiki Aquarium introduced me to him. And so, Arthur hired me for a couple of days to be a grip.

 

GRACE:           M-hm.

 

PAUL: And I started to learn a little bit more about video cameras, working for him. And so, Arthur … the name of his company was Nautilus, because it was based on the cam of his exercise machines, which was based on the spiral design of a nautilus shell. Arthur decided he wanted to mount an expedition to go to Palau to bring chambered nautilus back to be at his studio in Lake Helen, Florida so he could have them in a big aquarium there. And expense didn’t matter. He would pay whatever. And so, I got to know him, and I talked him into—I said, Well, why don’t you do a documentary about this trip, about the expedition to catch live nautilus. And he said, Fine. And I said, I want to shoot it. And he said, Sure. [CHUCKLE] We barely knew what we were doing, but over the course of a couple of trips down there, we managed to get enough footage to put together, you know, a semblance of a documentary.

 

Wasn’t that an award-winning documentary?

 

GRACE:           Yes.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

GRACE:           Actually.

 

PAUL: But not until we showed it to Jim Young, who was, you know, the executive director of Hawaii Public Television at that time. And Jim became a big supporter. And he became, you know, a believer before we had a lot of footage, when he saw the first footage. And he basically said, you know, I will donate editing facility and services to you to edit this show, and we’ll make sure we get it on Public Television and broadcast it. So, that was a great deal.

 

Because you had a billionaire in your pocket.

 

PAUL: Yeah. Well—

 

GRACE:           Actually, at that point in time, no.

 

PAUL: He abandoned us.

 

GRACE:           He abandoned us.

 

Oh, did he?

 

PAUL: He abandoned.

 

GRACE:           He gave us the footage [INDISTINCT].

 

PAUL: After the first expedition, he said … You’ll never make anything out of this footage. That’s what he told us. He said, Nobody wants this kind of documentary. He said, But, he said, I’ll give you the rights to this footage. He said, I’ll have the rights, you have the rights to see what you can make out of it. And so, we took that, and then got KHET’s support.

 

GRACE:           And some more grants.

 

PAUL: And then, we wrote some more grants and went back to Palau, and embellished it and shot more of the expedition, and actually did a better job. You know, that film was like our film school. We were learning along the way.

 

Learn by redoing.

 

GRACE:           Yes.

 

PAUL: Learn by redoing. Oh, that didn’t work, let’s reshoot that. You know. And then, a good friend, Mike deGruy, who’s also a resident of HawaiiH, you know, he several years ago was killed in a helicopter crash. But he did a lot of films for KHET as well during that period.

 

GRACE:           M-hm.

 

PAUL:             And he was our partner, and we were—you know, some people called us the Three Musketeers. We did a lot of work together.

 

And you were just feeling it out as you went.

 

PAUL: Oh, we totally were.

 

GRACE:           Yes.

 

PAUL: Oh, yeah.

 

GRACE:           Completely. [CHUCKLE]

 

PAUL: There was no …

 

GRACE:           That’s an understatement, to say the least. [CHUCKLE]

 

PAUL: There was no model—

GRACE:           There was nothing.

 

PAUL: –having to do this at all.

 

GRACE:           Yeah. There was no YouTube, there was no internet, there was no online courses. And very few productions that were going on, too. Yeah.

 

PAUL: And there weren’t that many natural history films being produced. This was the very beginning. You know, cable had not exploded yet.

 

Through the success of their award-winning nautilus documentary, filmmakers Paul and Grace Atkins of Honolulu continued their journey into documentary filmmaking. They traveled to little-known locations across the world, capturing forces of nature never seen before on film, such as the feeding rituals of great white sharks and killer whales.

 

PAUL: Killer whales feeding on seal pups, actually. Yeah; and yes, we shot this. Mike deGruy was involved in this, too. We shot it in Patagonia, Argentina for a BBC series, a David Attenborough series called Trials of Life. Which back in the 90s, that was, you know, the Planet Earth. You know, that Planet Earth is still well-known today, but that’s how well known Trials of Life was in the 90s. Anyway, we were there for five weeks in Patagonia, Argentina on a beach, and the killer whales would slide up the beach and grab sea lion pups off the beach, and then wiggle, and back into the water.

 

What are some of the other adventures you’ve had together?

 

GRACE:           I think one of our most difficult and challenging films, and yet one of the most satisfying in a long time, because it turned out so well, was the one we did on dolphins for Geographic. When we started that film, we wanted to take a film that looked at the opposite of what the public perception of an animal was. For example, like dolphins. Dolphins are always thought to be sweetness and light, and everybody loves a dolphin. So, we wanted to look at the darker side of dolphins, which meant we were not only just looking at tursiops, but we were looking all the dolphin family. And killer whales are a part of them, and certain kind of whales and things. So, this allowed us to expand our stories that we wanted to tell. And so, we started making this film. So, we went out to a location called—what was that place?

 

PAUL: Cape Peron.

 

GRACE:           Cape Peron.

 

PAUL: We camped out.

 

GRACE:           Yeah.

 

PAUL: Camped out for weeks with the flies.

 

GRACE:           And that was …

 

Waiting for a scene.

 

GRACE:           For the scene of the dolphins.

 

PAUL: M-hm.

 

And that’s really part of a documentarian’s life, isn’t it?

 

GRACE:           Yeah.

 

Waiting.

 

GRACE:           Waiting; waiting.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

Just waiting.

 

GRACE:           So, we went out to this location, and we built a camp there, and the scientist was with us and said, This is the best time of year for you to be able to see dolphins herding fish. And we had never heard of dolphins actually coming and herding fish onto shore, just like the killer whales had done in Patagonia. So, we set up our camp and our tents and everything. And for weeks, we were trying to, you know, see this action happen. And it wasn’t happening, so the scientist said, Well, something must not be right, we’re not at the right time of season. I can’t tell you what it takes to get an expedition all the way out to a remote location like that. The weeks and the months of planning, and then also, the physical actual moving out there and setting up your camps, and getting all your gear ready, and then doing the shooting.

 

PAUL: ‘Cause there’s not power.

 

GRACE:           M-hm; yeah.

 

PAUL: You need to bring all your food, your water, you know, solar showers, generators, all of that out there, charging batteries, all of that.

 

GRACE:           ‘Cause there’s nothing out there. So okay, so we’re there for two weeks and decide, oh, well, this is not gonna happen this time, so we’re gonna have to come back at another time. We lived out on this location for like, two months. And you become connected with an environment like you never would, because there’s nobody out there; just us. And the dolphins sure enough came in, a family of dolphins. And they would come in, and they would herd the fish. And we were on this huge, long beach, maybe three hundred feet of beach. And those dolphins would come in and herd the fish, and Paul would be out there with his camera. Ann Marie, our assistant, who was working with us, she and I would be up on the hills spotting and telling him where the dolphins were coming, and where they were going. And he would run up and down this beach trying to film them, because as soon as he would get up to film, the dolphins would see him and would go to another section of the beach. [CHUCKLE] And so, there would be Paul with his camera gear, humping it all the way to the other side of the beach. And finally, you know, we got the footage.

 

PAUL: After two trips.

 

GRACE:           After two trips.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

Had anyone ever gotten these photos?

 

GRACE:           No; no.

 

This film before?

 

PAUL: No.

 

GRACE:           No.

 

In 2003, Paul Atkins used the skills he honed shooting documentaries to work on a Hollywood feature film, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, starring Russell Crowe. The film’s director, Peter Weir, wanted authentic footage of stormy seas. So, Paul Atkins boarded a ship for a forty-two-day expedition around the treacherous waters of Cape Horn to capture storm footage.

 

PAUL: We were on a replica of Captain Cook’s ship, which was built in Australia. It had been sailing around the world in various places, but it’d never sailed around Cape Horn before. It’d never been to these kind of conditions. We were with an Australian captain; his name was Chris Blake. Great guy. But he had never sailed around Cape Horn either. So, we’re sailing around the most dangerous waters of the world, and we’re approaching them, and no one on the ship has done this before. So, it was really scary.

 

I mean, they were huge waves; right? I mean, what about keeling over?

 

PAUL: We were in the open ocean, and the swells were about fifty-foot swells. And some of them were breaking. And there’s no land out there, there’s no rocks, but they were breaking on the open ocean. And the winds got up to about seventy-five knots. And the ocean, I’ve never seen anything like it; it looks like just sculptures, it’s foam-swept, it’s just foam everywhere.

 

Okay; what is there about you—and you too, ‘cause you were ready to go on this trip, that would submit to that risk?

 

GRACE:           Yeah. Well, you think of it as a risk, you think of the adventure, you think of what you’re getting to film, what you’re gonna be, you know, making.

 

But then, nature; I mean, there’s some factors you can’t plan for or control against.

 

GRACE:           Well, that’s true, too. But you try to plan for everything that you can, and over-plan. You know, so far, we’ve been always pretty successful, ‘cause no one’s really ever gotten hurt.

 

PAUL: Ooh, wow; that is hot. It’s like hot water to my hand. Let’s get suited up.

 

GRACE:          For our science documentary, it hasn’t been this been this thrill-seeking thing, it’s been more about telling a story that will do something better for the world. And it just so happens that some of the things involve a little bit more risky, you know, endeavors.

 

And I think you’re curious, too.

 

GRACE:           Yeah.

 

PAUL: You’re curious.

 

GRACE:           Yes.

 

So, you want to follow that thread.

 

PAUL: You’re definitely curious. And then, there’s one other aspect to it that I realized as well, is the exhilaration of knowing that you were afraid, and you did it anyway.

 

GRACE:           Yeah.

 

PAUL: And you came through the other end, and everything’s okay. There is an exhilaration to that. It might be dangerous exhilaration, but there’s a feeling of, you know, like for example, I used to have a fear of heights. And even today, if I stand on a vertical cliff and look straight down … it’s a mild case of vertigo. And so, to film on cliffs, which I’ve done a lot of, and to film from a helicopter, I had to get over that. I had to really get over it.

 

Master and Commander won an Academy Award for cinematography in 2004. At the same time, Paul and Grace Atkins began to expand their work beyond documentaries to commercials and narrative films. The pair struck up a relationship with acclaimed film director Terrence Malick, and Paul worked with him as a cinematographer on films such as The Tree of Life and the IMAX film, Voyage of Time.

 

PAUL: I’m in love with camerawork and visual storytelling, no matter what it involves. And I did at one point in my career, you know, get a little … I don’t know if tired is the word, but I needed to expand beyond just doing wildlife and sitting and waiting, and that kind of thing. But now, I enjoy flipping back and forth. I think it’s good. You take lessons from one discipline, and apply them to the other. It’s great; I love it. You know, I love working with actors, and I work with a lot of directors like Terrence Malick, who give their actors a lot of freedom both in dialog and in movement. So, as a cameraman, it’s not like you have marks on the floor.

 

Then your background is great for that.

 

PAUL: My background is like, I know how to do this, ‘cause I’ve filmed animals before.

 

[LAUGHTER]

 

Paul Atkins says that film director Terrence Malick shared one of the most important lessons in his life, telling Paul not to play it safe, and to give yourself permission to fail. Otherwise, you’ll never rise above mediocrity. As for overall wisdom, Paul credits Gracie as the most influential person in his life.

 

PAUL: In our personal relationship, you know, Gracie, I always say, taught me how to argue. I’m born and raised in the Deep South.

 

GRACE:           Very non-confrontational.

 

PAUL: And very congenial sort of social structure there. People don’t argue, in public at least. They want to put on a good impression.

 

They refer to the war as the Great Unpleasantness.

 

[LAUGHTER]

 

PAUL: Right; yeah. Yeah; exactly.

 

GRACE:           Exactly. That was your mother.

 

PAUL: Yeah. M-hm; yeah. And I didn’t know how to argue, and also, if somebody got angry with me, I kept it bottled up.

 

GRACE:           M-hm.

 

PAUL: And I retained it, and I resented it for a long time. Even the next day, I’d still be like, angry or hurt about it. And Gracie, you know, I don’t know how, just beat that out of me.

 

GRACE:           [MIMICS WHIPPING SOUND]

 

PAUL: ‘Cause we would get into an argument, and Gracie would be very direct about the way she was feeling at that moment. And then, it could be over for Gracie, ‘cause she’s finished with it. And then, she’d try to move on to something else, and I’m still like, Wait a minute.

 

And you haven’t really spoken about it yet.

 

PAUL: Yeah; exactly.

 

GRACE:           But maybe that’s the artist in you, where you actually are still thinking about it, while I’m more the action person. I get in there, and I figure out what has to be done, do it, and move on to the next.

 

PAUL: M-hm; m-hm.

 

GRACE:           And that’s just the way of a producer, I think. You’re the creative type, and you sit and you think about things. The years that we worked together doing the kind of films that we did and how we did it; everything he was really good at, I was not good at.   And everything I was really good at, he was not good at. So, we were actually really a perfect team.

 

Do you ever think about how lucky you are?

 

GRACE:           Yeah.

 

PAUL: M-hm.

 

GRACE:           I think about it all the time.

 

PAUL: Oh, yeah.

 

GRACE:           Yeah.

 

PAUL: Definitely. Yeah. You know, I definitely feel that way, and then again, you know, as we all like to talk about a lot, it was meant to be. So, is it luck, or is there something guiding us?

 

GRACE:           Was this something that was meant to happen? Were we meant to meet, or was it just happenstance? I like to kind of think that we were somehow meant to meet, and that we created this life because it was meant to be together.

 

As of this conversation in December of 2016, Hawaii-based filmmakers Paul and Grace Atkins were gearing up to work with an environmental foundation called Global Mana to educate people about the effects of global climate change. Paul and Grace feel this is likely to be one of the most important stories of their careers. Mahalo to Paul and Grace Atkins of East Honolulu for sharing their story with us. And mahalo to you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

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

 

PAUL: I hear so many couples say, We never argue. And I just think …

 

GRACE:           Ah.

 

How well do you know each other?

 

PAUL: Sorry, I do not believe that. [CHUCKLE] Or, you should.

 

Or you suffer in silence.

 

PAUL: Or you’re suffering in silence. What’s going on there, you know.

 

GRACE:           No, but I think also, too, however you communicate, if you communicate through love and quietness, or through more emotional, passionate and argumentative ways, each has their own purpose in how a relationship goes.

 

[END]

 


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