experience

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Benny Rietveld

 

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

 

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

 

Benny Rietveld Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Do you think music is more than just fun?

 

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

 

M-hm.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I took piano lessons when I was six.

 

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

 

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

 

Kapalama?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Then you learned other songs.

 

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

 

By yourself, or with a teacher?

 

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

 

You were on the piano?

 

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

 

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

 

You were just picking it up as you went.

 

Yeah; yeah. ‘Cause it was easy.

 

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

 

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

 

And it was nighttime.

 

And it was nighttime.

 

Driving.

 

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

 

And you gave them reason to.

 

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

 

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

 

Yeah.

 

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

 

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

 

What schools did you go to?

 

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

 

You had a band director who is legendary.

 

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

 

How do you think he did it?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Were you already getting paid to play?

 

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

 

And you went to college right after that, here.

 

Not right after, but yeah, I did.

 

Oh; so you graduated from high school.

 

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

 

And didn’t graduate.

 

No.

 

Because?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

You played with some biggies, fairly early on.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Yes, yes; for about two years.

 

How did you get along with Prince?

 

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

 

Now, did that tour lead to anything?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

You had to be really mindful.

 

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

 

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

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

–how he wanted.

 

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

 

And he expected you to.

 

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

 

Why?

 

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

 

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

 

Yeah.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Coincidentally, I did a recording session with Carlos Santana.

 

You sound so casual when you say that.

 

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

 

Aren’t you the musical director as well now?

 

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

 

How much of the year do you go on tours?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

And how long do you see that going on?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Jimmy Lee

 

Jimmy Lee was only 11 years old on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. Watching from his family’s farm as the bombs dropped, Jimmy couldn’t begin to imagine how his world would change, or what his simple childhood would become after Hawai‘i declared martial law.

 

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

 

Jimmy Lee Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

We had no radios or TV, and things like that; we didn’t. But let me tell you; from that moment on, when we were told that this was war, that’s it. My life, I thought, I changed. It was not fun anymore. And I think this is when I got to be a little bit—I think I grew up overnight. And because there was fear; from then on, it was fear. And so, you know, this is really something, you know, for a young kid just changing like that with all this. Never experienced, and it was not fun anymore.

 

Jimmy Lee was eleven years old on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was outside, feeding his family’s pigs, when he heard the planes overhead. He watched from less than a mile away, as they dropped their bombs on ships in Pearl Harbor. Jimmy Lee, next, on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. James Hoy Sau Lee, better known as Jimmy, was raised on a farm in an area known as Kalauao. Just upland of Pearl Harbor’s east loch, Kalauao was famous in ancient times for its freshwater springs and fishponds. Today, the name is gone, and the land is covered with buildings and roadways, but in 1930 when Jimmy was born, the stream still flowed and supported the family farms in the area.

 

You know, my parents were born here, but their parents were born in China. And of course, my father at the younger age went back to China, and lived there for a short while. But anyway, they came back here and they were rice farmers, long time ago. And then, they gave up rice and got a farm; pigs and cattle, chickens, ducks and things. It’s really not for commercial type, it was just for home use. Well, anyway, that’s what we had there in the little place called Kalauao.

 

Which is where?

 

It’s located between Aiea and Pearl City right now. And I must say it’s no longer on the map anymore.

 

What’s there now?

 

Well, right now, it’s all full of warehouses, apartment buildings, and stores, and commercial area. The whole area has been filled. Even the fishpond that was there before; it’s all filled up, it’s all warehouses there now.

 

So, this is on the Pearl Harbor side of Kamehameha Highway in Aiea side?

 

That’s correct. Yes; that’s right.

 

Oh …

 

And you could never recognize the place before, because it was so rural, our neighbors were not just next door. I mean, they were maybe about half mile away. We were all friends, but you know, that’s what it is; just local rural area.

 

So, your farm was for subsistence.

 

Yes, for subsistence; yes. M-hm.

 

And where did you go to school?

 

I was going to school in Aiea, maybe about mile or two away up on the hillside.

 

You had many siblings.

 

Oh, yes. Well, you see, my father was married to this woman. And of course, she had four kids. And then, when one of the older brothers was born, she died. Through some way, you know, they met my mother, and they got married. And of course, she cared for the four kids like her own, and then, of course, she had six. I’m number six in that family.

 

Birth order is important; right? What does that mean your responsibilities were?

 

Well, me and my brothers, you know, we had to take care of more or less the animals. The rough stuff. You know, and of course, the sisters were there to help my mother, you know, whatever. But we had to take care of the hard stuff, like the cows, milking the cows and feeding the pigs, and picking up garbage, and walking in the pond, catching ducks and chickens, and things like that. My parents were very strict. You had to stay home and do your work; feed the pigs, and you know. And that took up lot of our time during the day. Yes, we had other neighbors. They may have had some pigs or some chickens, but not like we did. And of course, they mind their own business. We were never enemies, but we were all friends, but you know, they had their own little thing. But again, you know, they were not right next door. But we did get together once in a while, more than just to say hello.

 

And what was your personality like as a boy?

 

You know, my older sister told me that I was a rascal little kid, full of mischief.

 

And you know nothing about this; right?

 

And I know nothing. And, you know, but we’re just playing. I mean, whenever we had spare time, we would do that. And, you know, we had our pigs, and you know, our pigs were our pets. You know, we would jump in and play with the pigs, and things like that, because you know, that was what it was. But we were a bunch of rascals and did a lot of things. When I was eight years old, I broke my leg. And I was in the hospital, in Shriner’s Hospital for six months. Because I would just play, run through the fields, the cane fields, running all over the place, playing with the dog or playing with the cows, you know. Running, running, just running all over the place.

 

Lots of energy.

 

Lots of energy.

 

So, your idea of mischief is just really having tons of energy and running around.

 

That’s right. And again, typical country boy.

 

Did you see a lot of activity at Pearl Harbor? You know, you must have watched the ships. Oh, no, you were a mile away, so you couldn’t see it.

 

Oh, no; no.

 

You could see it?

 

Oh, in the inner side of the harbor, there were so many ships. So many ships anchored in there. And of course, this was closer to my home. As I mentioned, about a mile away, but this was maybe a quarter or half a mile, all anchored there, from what I could remember. There were a lot of ships.

 

On December 7, 1941, Jimmy Lee started the day the same way he began every other morning of his young life, doing chores. It was the last time his life would be so uncomplicated.

 

Your life changed one day when you were just eleven.

 

Oh, yes. Well, I can say it really changed. Well, not for that very moment. Because it was so exciting when everything was happening that it was fun. I never saw anything like that in my life. And although I was feeding the pigs that morning, when I saw all of these things happening, wow, what is it?

 

What did you see?

 

Well, feeding the pigs, and all of a sudden, all at treetop level, here come these planes. I could hear the roar of the planes, with gunfire, canon fire, and looking up, and I saw the bombs on the plane and the big red circle. And so low that you could see the pilot. But as I looked, wow, there were planes all over the place. And curious as I was, I ran down to the railroad track and boy, I tell you, I never saw so much.

 

You ran to the action, rather than away from it.

 

Yes. Down the railroad track, and sat on the railroad track just like sitting on the front row of a theater to watch a show.

 

And didn’t think of calling anybody.

 

Didn’t call; my parents didn’t know where in the world I was. I could see all the way in Wahiawa, over the airport, which is, I could say, at least ten miles. Planes all over the place. And you know, for a youngster, I’d never seen anything like that. All the sounds, the explosions, the planes coming in, the gunfire, the smoke, the fire; it was really a sight. And was I scared? No. I don’t remember ever being scared.

 

Did any of the bombs come close to you?

 

The bombs didn’t come close at all. And in close to our home, there were many ships in the harbor that day. But none of them were being even harmed. But way out there, what I saw near the island, that’s where all the fire and smoke was. But you know, what’s happening to this? Everything was there, not in front of me. And so, you know, there was not a shot or anything like that fired my way. I didn’t feel in danger at all. So, I was just seeing all of those things, the torpedo planes being blown out of the sky, the explosions. I didn’t know that was the Arizona at that time, but you know, the explosions, something I’ll never forget. And yet at the same time, up in the sky, the planes are flying, all the gunfire, none of the planes are shot down. But none of those shrapnel, those shells ever fell on us, either. And that was really a show. And then, the other most exciting, as I mentioned, was the Nevada. I didn’t know that was the Nevada, but that was a ship coming in, burning and smoking. And seeing the dive bombers coming in, dropping the bombs, blowing up on the ship. And the ship don’t sink. And then, here comes the planes coming by strafing, and the ship still don’t sink. It just keeps moving, and it’s burning and smoking, and it finally disappears.

 

Oh …

 

You know what happened. And then, you know, finally … you know, time went by so fast. But it was finally announced that, Hey, we’re at war. Through loudspeakers or something; We’re at war, we’re being bombed by the Japanese, the Japanese troops have landed. And let me tell you, when that happened, that’s when fear came in. Oh, it was not fun anymore. We were so scared. So scared, didn’t know what to do. My parents finally found me, and we got on the jalopy, took off into the hills up in the valley.

 

Just to while time?

 

Just to get away. Yes.

 

Okay.

 

And to hide out in the caves over there. And you know, they had banana fields, and you know, we’re in the caves, we could see the planes up here, we could hear the bombs, we could hear the firing, but we could not see the attack. And then, it was over after a while. A very short while, it was over. There wasn’t any more planes in the sky anymore. So, we went home to get more supplies and everything. We went there, no more planes, the attack was over. But at the same time, all the fire, the flames, the boats. And I think one of the most, I guess, sights that was very sickening to me was seeing the boats going around and around. You know, fireboats, you know, trying to put out the flames. But later, we learned that they were picking up dead bodies and survivors.

 

Oh, I see.

 

You know, seeing something like that, and it’s something that you’ll always remember. And of course, all of that, the explosions going by. You know, when I saw one of the ships on the other side of the island, the first one to get hit; wow, what is this? But again, always thought it was a game. But it looked so real. And I can tell you honestly, I watched these torpedo planes come in, dropping their torpedoes, and of course, not knowing what it was. It was the Oklahoma that was being hit. But what was most exciting was when the planes came in and was hit by gunfire, seeing the flames coming out, the smoke, and it blows up in the sky. I was cheering. I remember jumping up and down. Wow, they shot down another plane. Not knowing what it was. But it was impressive, you know, for a young kid. But let me tell you, from that moment on, when we were told that this was war, that’s it. My life, I thought, I changed. It was not fun anymore.

 

On the afternoon of December 7, 1941, the Territorial Government of Hawaiʻi surrendered its authority to the U.S. military. The new military governor issued laws that severely restricted the freedom of residents of Hawaiʻi, instituting blackouts, curfews, and food and gas rationing. Soldiers enforced the restrictions.

 

When we came back down, there were soldiers all over the place. And this is when, later on we came under martial law, when the military was under control. And that’s where they told us, You folks will obey, you will follow our rules. And so, this is what it is, so we were scared of them. You know, these young soldiers, things like that. And I, for one, was scared of the military. But at the same time, we were very happy; we felt safe with them. You know, I can tell you that military really shaped me up. Because, you know, I was arrested so many times for doing things wrong, which to me, I mean, it’s nothing wrong at all, because I’ve been doing this all the time. Like going into the water, catching crabs, catching fish, and digging clams. Because that’s our food. But when martial law came, you could not step into the water.

 

Pearl Harbor.

 

That’s right; Pearl Harbor. And for myself, I know, I’ve been in there, I got arrested many, many times for violating, for trespassing. But because I was a little youngster, they let me go. But don’t do it again. Yes, okay. So, they turned their back. We were in there, we had to eat. That’s it. But martial law was very strict, and we lived in fear. You know, it was about three years that we had that. But I’m gonna tell you, I think the one that scared the daylights out of me, and I still remember this. You know, my job was to milk the cows in the morning. Hey, you know, we had to eat, so we had to milk the cows. And we had curfews. And cows don’t believe in curfews.

 

You know, I remember taking the cow out of the bushes that one morning before curfew time, and you know, you’re walking through the bushes and you hear a noise. And you know, a soldier met me with a bayonet.

 

Wow.

 

Sticking at my throat. Boy, I tell you. A tall soldier, and I think I was maybe only two or three feet high, with a cow, with a rope. And a soldier to meet you with a rifle, with a bayonet sticking at your throat. That young soldier told me he was so scared; he didn’t know whether I was friend or foe. And I looked different. You know. And he was so scared. And at the same time, he said, you know, with all the talk about the Japanese troops, and he thought I was one of them.

 

M-hm. So, he was sort of apologizing to you.

 

Well, yes, in a way. And I said, but you know, they’re small, but they’re not that small.

 

You said that, as a kid?

 

That’s right. I tell you, I remember saying that. And you know, maybe not exactly, you know, but basically that’s what it is. But I was so scared. But you know, he got to be our friends. And you know, because you know, their camp was right next to our property. But later on, when we got to know him and, you know, as the war progressed, they kinda looked the other way. You know. But that was very interesting. But that’s something I will never forget. You know, as an eleven-year-old kid, with a bayonet sticking at his throat.

 

Wow.

 

But you know, with the soldiers over there, we felt safe. And then at the same time, you know, they kinda let us into the camp. They knew who we were, and they could trust us. They knew we were not enemies or anything. So, they kinda bend backwards a little bit for us. And you know, for myself, I really liked the soldiers after a while. You know, and they were real nice to us.   And you know, that’s what it amounts to.

 

They just happened to be camping right next to you, too.

 

Yes; right next. You see, at one time, they used to have what we call barrage balloons, you know, up in the sky with cables dangling on it to prevent, to deter Japanese planes from diving, you know, from dive bombing. And the whole perimeter of Pearl Harbor used to have that. But that’s what it amounts to.

 

Right.

 

You know, and so this were the little detachments they had. And you know, I can say one of the things that they had was that we used to go out there and dig clams, and crab, and we taught them how to eat. And we had rationing. And they used to have lot of chickens and steaks. You know, and boy, we would kinda envy them. But at the same time, because of our pigs, they let us pick up the garbage from them. And you know, many times in the garbage, we had steak and chickens, wrapped up pretty well.

 

Oh …

 

And boy, I tell you, we ate ‘em. We ate lot of steak and chicken. They couldn’t give it to us outright. I think they hid it in the garbage. But we ate lot of chicken and lot of steak. But we were friends. We were friends.

 

Were they friends with everybody in the area?

 

They were; they were, in the area. And again, one of the things I do want to mention, though. You know, our neighbors were a little far apart, but when we had martial law, everybody came together to help each other. I didn’t realize we could even do that, but you know, we had to dig bomb shelters. They were out there to help us dig bomb shelters. They made sure that everybody was being cared for. You know, we shared things. I tell you, the community came together and really helped out. And the soldiers were there. And again, they were there as protectors, but then at the same time, you know, they were friends. You know. And so, that’s one of the big things, one of the changes that really got me, is how the community got together. You know, the Hawaiians, the Puerto Ricans one side; the Hawaiians, the Filipinos on this side. They were just great.

 

Jimmy Lee’s boundless energy continued to get him into trouble with the law. His parents came up with a solution.

 

My parents always said that I needed to have discipline. And because I was getting arrested and getting into problems all the time, you know, they sent me to ʻIolani School.

 

That was your prison?

 

Yes.

 

Oh, my goodness.

 

Because it was an all-boys school. You know, all boys.

 

But it was far away.

 

It was far away; yes.

 

And transportation was probably an issue; right?

 

Yeah; it was transportation. But you see, my sister married an alumni from ʻIolani. And through some maybe pull or recommendation, I was able to go to ʻIolani.

 

And did you live in town?

 

Yes; she lived in town, in the Chinatown area. You see.

 

And your parents paid the freight for you to go to ʻIolani?

 

Well, I think because my brother-in-law, you know, he was a photographer. And his father was a minister. I think they footed everything, because my father could not do that.

 

Did they knock that rascal spirit right out of you?

 

It sure did. It sure did, because again I say, martial law was still there. And this is where the teachers—you know, during the years at ʻIolani, it was all boys, and they were strict. You know, and the families that we hadi, the kids were not like me. They were not like me. They were you know, I think little more refined, I think, where I had to behave.

 

They probably never had taken care of pigs or anything.

 

That’s right; they never did.

 

I wonder if your parents, after having seen you arrested by the military, and you would go back and do the same thing again, even though it wasn’t a terrible crime, they probably were afraid that you’d really run afoul of the military.

 

Oh, yes. And you see, when they first sent me out there, my aunt lived next to Oahu Prison. And they were always saying, We’re keeping you close to the prison because you’re gonna end up in there.

 

And yet, when you think about it, you know, your crimes were not terribly serious.

 

That’s right; they were not.

 

Even though martial law ended three years later, Jimmy Lee stayed at ʻIolani, where he graduated and went on to the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa. He was drafted into the Army, and eventually made the civilian branch of the military his career. Throughout much of Jimmy’s life, there was a mystery that he kept trying to solve. On the day of the attack, his best boyhood friend, Toshi Yamamoto, had disappeared.

 

When I came back that morning, December 7th, you know, this was around midday already. And I went and ran out by the plum tree, yelling out, Toshi, Toshi, where are you? There was no answer. I ran under the house where we played Hide-and-Seek. Toshi, where are you? None. I ran up to the house, where I used to sleep. The house was empty. From that day on, December 7th again, never saw him. During all those years when I was in school, even when I was in the military, I used to write little notes. You know, Where are you? Hoping that someday, you know, he would come back, and maybe an old man like me would come up and say, Hey, I’m Toshi. But that never did happen. And when I spoke about him over the radio on December 7, 2012, that’s when his son called and said, You’re talking about my dad. Oh, I tell you, that really struck me. I could not even say a word anymore; I was speechless. When I finally met his son, that’s when the son told me a little bit more about his father. And that they were at gunpoint forced to leave, they lost everything, but they were never imprisoned, and never threatened. You know, and he was allowed to work, and things like that. But you know, one of the things about this for myself, you know, when it started like that, it was not only you know, the feeling, of witnessing the attack, but I lost my friend, my best friend. I asked him, Where is your father? Buried in Kaneohe. So, on December 14th, I went out searching for the grave, and I finally did, sure enough. But I tell you, one of the things I had to do was just that I had to stand over the grave, and that was him. And I tell you, you know, it was raining. I don’t know whether it was rain coming in my eyes or not, but as far as I’m concerned, I had tears in my eyes. Well, I finally had to say, Toshi, after seventy-one years, I finally found you. You know, and so long, and goodbye.

 

At the time of our conversation just before the seventy-fifty anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, Jimmy Lee was getting ready to mark his eighty-sixth birthday. Mahalo to Jimmy, a Kaneʻohe resident, for sharing stories that we hope will live on in commemoration of many lives; lives that were lost, and lives that continued but were changed forever. And mahalo to you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaiʻi 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.

 

His son tell me that his dad worked hard. And one of the most remarkable thing about this is that the son, he’s with the community college in Ewa right now, and he’s never gone back to the old house before. So, on December 20th, I took him and all the grandkids, and sat them down, and told them the story. And the kids, ages nine to fourteen, all wanted to hear the story about what it is. And sitting on the seawall, I was able to point out where their grandpa and I played, in the trap where we used to catch fish. That’s where we used to go out in the mudflats, you know, digging clams and things. And with that, I tell you, I was very, very happy to be doing this.
[END]

 

 


MUSIC VOYAGER
Antigua and Barbuda

 

The beautiful Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda tell a story of hospitality and culture, with music and journalist Mirissa Neff as the guide. She follows the trail across the islands to find the heartbeat of the country through its rhythms, and along the way she sample some of the amazing cuisine, experiences the vibrant countryside and the stunning oceans all around. From the sounds of calypso to the carnival celebrations, the pulse of Antigua and Barbuda is calling.

 

ART BASEL: A PORTRAIT

 

Basel, Switzerland’s third most populous city, boasts the highest concentration of museums and the oldest public art collection in the world. Each year in June, the city also plays host to the largest and most influential art fair in the world. This documentary offers viewers a glimpse of the city, the attendees and the art of the famous fair while tracing its 40-year history.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Rose Galera

 

Rose Galera approaches cleaning as both a science and an art. Her early enthusiasm for keeping her environment safe and clean led her to a career in professional cleaning management and as a consultant and training specialist.

 

She is certified by the International Executive Housekeepers Association and has over 45 years of experience and expertise in the hospitality, medical, commercial, education and business cleaning arenas. She was also the first executive housekeeper of the Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki.

 

Her career in what she terms “cleanology” recognizes the science and technique necessary for proper sanitization. Her passion makes her a natural teacher, educating and training Hawaii’s students on proper cleaning etiquette.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Sept. 25 at 4:00 pm.

 

Rose Galera Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Mrs. Bennett taught me an awful lot. She taught me how to speak English, of course. You know, Haole, you know, and—

 

So, you were speaking what kind of English?

 

Well, broken English, Pidgin. I remember pronunciation from what I learned and everything in school, but then, she taught me about the finer things. She would entertain from time to time, so she taught me how to set tables. She taught me about silver, how to polish silver. She taught me about the finer things of dishes and china, and all. And I learned about all those things, and over the years, I appreciated that. I remember for my wedding, she gave me one of her silver platters. You know. But this was sterling, sterling silver, you know, which is, I know, expensive today. Not silver-plated, you know. So, I learned the different values of something that’s silver-plated versus sterling.

 

For five years during her middle and high school years, Rose Galera left her crowded Kalihi home to live with the Bennett family at Navy housing. Lessons that she learned from Mrs. Bennett were instrumental in a career in what she calls “cleanology”, a consulting career that has taken her around the world. Rose Galera, 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. Rosita Abarca Galera, who’s better known as Rose, developed a passion for cleaning at a young age. She grew up with eleven siblings in the 1930s and 40s, and her mother made sure every household member helped keep the house clean. Rose Galera discovered early on that she could earn money outside the home with the skills she learned from her mother, which led to her becoming a live-in nanny.

 

I was born on the Big Island, in Hilo. And actually, we left Hilo when I was about seven, eight years old. We came from the Big Island to Oahu by boat. It was quite interesting. Took a few days, and then when we got to Oahu, right away, we moved in with my grandparents. My grandparents um, we called them Ah Po. Ah Po in Chinese means Grandma. And my grandma was very small, and my grandpa was very big. So, we called them Small Ah Po and Big Ah Po. You know.

 

And where’s the Chinese from?

 

Actually, no, I guess it’s something that was just carried, you know, when they came from the Philippines, and the family just used that. Ah Po was easier; that time, we didn’t use the term grandma or grandpa.

 

When you say we, how big is we, the family who moved in with the Big and Small Ah Po?

 

I come from a family of twelve. We were just there for a short while, until we got a home, actually in what was called Kalihi Royal Homes. And what it is, was a community of actually, apartments. If I remember correctly, it was canec type built apartments, and in each building there was like four units.

 

What’s there now?

 

Actually, it’s where Kuhio Park Terrace area is.

 

Okay.

 

I loved that area. And we would walk. Our parents didn’t drive, and pick us up and drop us off. You know, we walked every day to school, walked to church, and that’s how I feel, that I’ve learned to become a survivor, you know, today, because of the upbringing that I had. Then I went to Kalakaua. From Fern School, I went to Kalakaua Intermediate, and then from Kalakaua Intermediate, I went to Farrington High School.

 

So, when you say you learned to be a survivor, what did you have to survive?

 

Well, because the family, you know, we were on welfare, and you know, we were very careful about how we ate, what we ate. We didn’t, you know, waste anything. My mother was very strict when it came to the home, keeping clean and everything. I was trained, every morning when you get up, you fix your bed, things are always straightened up. And in the old days, it doesn’t happen today, we washed our clothes, we starched our clothes, and we ironed our clothes.

 

An iron; I haven’t seen one of those in a while. [CHUCKLE]

 

Yeah. And actually, before becoming a nanny for the Bennetts, I ironed for about a year for a family, and I was at that time beginning of intermediate, for a family where she had girls. And it was all starched clothes, so they would bring the bag of clothes to me, I would sprinkle it up, roll it up, put it into the refrigerator for a little while, and then I would start ironing. So, I was good at ironing; you know, ironing clothes, and she would pay me ten cents apiece. And that was one of the first job I had as a youngster, because my mom taught us how to wash the clothes, how to hang the clothes, how to starch the clothes, how to sprinkle.

 

And you said she was particular about it.

 

Oh, my mom was very—yeah, she was a housewife; she didn’t work. But she made sure that we were trained. And my father, ‘cause he was working at Hickam Air Force Base, and I would be the one making his lunch every morning so that he could take it to work. And I remember boiling eggs all the time, you know. And actually, because of those kinds of training, I’ve learned how to do things on my own, and how to take care of yourself.

 

It sounds like with all those kids, you still knew that you had a place there, and you had a role to play, and everybody cooperated.

 

We got along. You know. There was no time to fight or anything because, you know, we were busy with taking care of things around the house, taking care of each other. You know, our beds, we would share. You know, three of us in a room, you know, because we had a big family. But yeah, through those growing up years, it really made me strong. And then, when I was going to Kalakaua Intermediate, a friend of mine said, Rose, do you want to babysitting job? And I said, Okay. And so, she said, Go see these people and go for an interview. So, I went to the Bennetts’ home, and I got the job with Mrs. Bennett.

 

Who are the Bennetts?

 

Mrs. Bennett and Commander Bennet actually lived in Navy housing. And that’s where a lot of us who were in middle school or intermediate school then, the girls, we used to all go do babysitting work and what have you. But I got a regular job with Mr. Bennett.

 

Now, did you walk all the way to Navy housing?

 

No; I from school, I would get the bus, and then get off at Navy housing there.

 

How far away is that?

 

Actually, from Kalakaua Intermediate then, not too bad, not too far. And then, it came to a point where I ended up living with the Bennetts. Because Mrs. Bennett felt that it might be better, so I lived with the Bennetts for a little over five years.

 

And what did you do for them?

 

Actually, I would go to school, and after school, I would go home. I’d go home to the Bennetts’, and at that time, there was two children, Peggy and Barbie. And they were about three and four years old, five years old. I would take them to the park, play with them a little bit, then bring them home, and then made sure they took a bath and everything. And then, Mrs. Bennett by that time would have had dinner ready, and then we would have dinner, and then I’d put the girls to bed. This was about maybe oh, before eight o’clock. Then I would do my little homeworks that I had, and then go to bed. Then in the morning, I would get up and then go to school. And she paid me at that time, I always remembered, sixty dollars a month. You know. And that was good money then.

 

That was big money those days.

 

That was good money then. Yes.

 

Rose Galera married her schoolmate, Manuel Galera, instead of finishing high school. She and Manuel had five children over the next nine years, while both worked at different jobs. After eighteen years of marriage, Rose divorced Manuel. But their story was not over; she remarried him fifteen years later.

 

You’re one of the few people around who got married, divorced, and then years later, you married the same person. Tell us about that.

 

Well … this was in the 70s, and I ended up with a good job working for the Army. And you know, you get to meet other people as well. I was more involved than my husband was. I loved my husband dearly; we were high school sweethearts. And so, when we went through the divorce in 1972, we agreed, but our goal was, even though we would be divorced, we would make sure we would take care of the kids, the children.

 

But why did you get divorced, if …

 

Actually, it was me; I think I grew out of the marriage. And then, I met a friend, you know, but I didn’t remarry again or anything. I lived for about maybe eight years with who was, I thought, another mentor. And he was a boss at one time when I worked with the Youth Activity Center. But he taught me about the work life and everything, and he was like a psychiatrist to me. You know. And I lived with him for a little while, about eight years. But he was the one that encouraged me. Rose, go see your family on weekends, that’s okay, Manuel’s there, no problem. That was my husband. And so, I had good relationships with both sides. And one of the things my husband and I said, we want to take care of the kids, we want to make sure they’re okay, their schooling and everything. So, you know, Junior graduated and Darrel graduated, went to University. Carla graduated, and she went into actually beauty school. And then there’s Jeffrey; Jeffrey’s my baby, fifty years old baby. Manuel and I then, in about the 1980s, we got together again, and we lived a little while together, and then we said, Let’s get married again. So, we went through again a second church marriage. I was able to get married in the church again, because I didn’t remarry, and even though we had a divorce. So, it was at Our Lady of Good Counsel, where I go to regularly every day, that we remarried again. And the nice thing about that wedding was, my children were all, you know, part of the package and everything.

 

It all seems so calm, but it’s not really a situation that usually leads to calm.

 

No; Manny and I got along well. I would go over the weekend, help them cook, and we would celebrate all of the special type of holidays together; Christmas, New Year’s. You know, and I would always go over to help cook dinners and cook breakfast or things for them. We had a good relationship, and I think it had to do with the spiritual upbringing that we both had.

 

How does this spiritual belief help you in your daily life?

 

You know, I get angry sometimes, but then always is, you know, the prayers, daily prayers. I find myself always doing the sign of the cross as I’m driving, or when, you know, I’m walking, or when I’m talking. It really becomes a part of me. You know, and actually, it is important; you know, very, very important. The Lord has blessed me, I feel that, with family, with my children. I have actually three boys and one daughter. And they’re all busy now with their own lives and everything, but I’m glad that they’re all in good health, they’ve got good jobs.

 

While Rose Galera was raising her children, she continued to work outside the home, too. An opportunity to enter the cleaning profession came up during this time, and that’s when her career started to take off.

 

I looked back to when I was a nanny, you know, ‘cause I had experience there, learning how to clean and everything, and taking care of things. And then, I worked for the Army at the Schofield Barracks guest house, and I was at that time, a front desk clerk and a supervisor. But how I got that guest house job, which is people would come in and stay there; it’s like a little hotel. Because I was working for the Navy too, at the service station, but because I had what was called NAFE experience, you know, non-appropriated fund, I got hired at the Schofield guest house. Then from there, I got back into the cleaning aspects, because I became a housekeeping supervisor and an assistant manager at the guest house. Then when Hale Koa was built, and then they had announced the opening of the Hale Koa Hotel, I thought, Well, you know, I could do it there. It’s a four hundred sixty room hotel, and it was gonna be the first military hotel. But of course, I took advantage of the fact that I knew Commander Bennett and Mrs. Bennett. So, asked them, Could you write me a letter of reference? ‘Cause I was a housekeeper for them. And of course, Commander Bennett’s name, you know. And then, working at the guest house, I learned military regulations, Army regulations. So, Commander and Mrs. Bennett wrote the letter for me, and then I turned that in with my resume. And then, of course, with the guest house experience as well, and knowing Army regulations—

 

What does Army regulations tell you about housekeeping?

 

Actually, the Army regulations had to do with managing. When I went for the interview, I cited AR-230-1, AR-230-2, and it had to do with personnel, how you deal with personnel and management. They were very impressed, because they didn’t know the ARs.

 

So, I got hired to be the first executive housekeeper of the Army hotel. I knew about cleaning, but I didn’t know much about chemicals. So, through the magazines, I would read and keep track, and keep articles and everything. And I remember how I had vendors come to me, and these vendors selling chemicals. So, I pulled out some articles from the magazine, and I put it under my glass on my desk. And so, when they tried to sell me the chemicals, I would ask those vendors certain questions. What kind of agents are there, you know. And through that, I learned how to actually become very well versed in the chemical. And then, I got close to some vendors who also taught me, and then I always kept up with the trends and technology of cleaning. You know, reading up about it, working with vendors, learning what’s new in the field and everything.

 

I think you learned at a very early age just to keep learning, and keep reaching out. Plus, you had confidence, too, that you could do it. And you’ve cut a career for yourself that I don’t know if anybody else has in Hawaii. You’ve just taken cleaning to another level. And you call it Cleanology.

 

Well, actually, I became a member of the International Executive Housekeeping Association. At that time, it was called NEHA, National Executive Housekeepers Association. I became a member in ’74. Then I decided to go for certification, and this was at KCC. And after I got my certification, KCC asked me if I would do some training on certification, and I did. And so, with certification, you have to keep up with CEUs, you know, continuing education credits, every three years renew your certification. And I did that; I made sure I stayed on top of it, stayed on top of trends and technology of cleaning. And then, the leadership roles that I took helped me as well with NEHA, IEHA. I ran for the board, the association board.

 

The national board?

 

The National Board of Housekeeping Association. Got elected in 1980, and this was in New York City. And I thought, Ooh, wow, you know, I’m with all of these people who have college education, and I don’t have a college education. But I learned a lot from them, and they learned a lot from me. And they liked it because I was from Hawaii. My first convention was in 1976, then I attended every convention thereafter. I only missed one, and that was in 2014. But then, I ran for office, first vice, second vice, ran for the board a couple of times again. So, I served about sixteen years in leadership role. And then at the chapter level, now we have a chapter, I was president on three different terms.

 

And you do have a genuine passion for cleaning.

 

Definitely. Cleaning is a science and an art. And people would ask me, What do you mean science? I bring up some questions. Do you know what PH is? Okay; when you buy chemicals, we need to know the different PHs of the chemicals. Now, the other sciences of cleaning is, germ kill. What are the three scientific processes of germ kill? Lot of times when I ask even medical people, they tell me, washing their hands, hot water. Sanitation kills at least fifty percent germs. Disinfecting, ninety percent-plus. Sterilizing, hundred percent. Those are the three scientific processes of germ kill.

 

In doing these corporate housekeeping jobs, and then later your private business, you really had to understand people, too.

 

Yes.

 

It wasn’t just the process of cleaning; it was how to use people and manage people.

 

When I was in the hotels, I used to do a lot of walking around, and even to the degree where I always used to tell the housekeepers, Your cart should be right parked in front of the room that you’re cleaning. Okay; and it’s a certain way parked. Your vacuum cleaners, your equipment should be there with you. So, sometimes, I would walk around and I’d see the vacuum cleaner way down the hallway, and the cart. So, I would steal their vacuum cleaners and I’d take it to my office. So, if they saw, Oh, where’s my vacuum cleaner? Right way, they’d know, I gotta go see Miss Galera. You know.

 

So, you must have scared and intimidated a lot of your employees.

 

No, I didn’t intimidate them. I think I trained them, and they learned. And then, I would have morning briefings. My morning briefings would not be scoldings, and it would not be what you did wrong, and it would not be complaints. It would be how we can make improvements on things. You know. And ‘til today, when I run into some of those; Hey, Miss Galera, I miss your briefings.

 

You know. Because they remember, you know, some of the things. I think I had good relationships. When I had the Hale Koa Hotel, it was a union property, I never had one union complaint. I believed in working with the people. And when I had the hotels, every morning, I would be in front of my door greeting them coming in, and in the afternoon thanking them going home.

 

As a manager, as an executive, how do you get people excited to have a passion like you have for cleaning?

 

Well, when I work with the high school students, the approach I take is, I get them to become paranoid.

 

I show them pictures of what germs would look like.

 

Mousey mold; right?

 

Yeah. And maybe a picture of a body, you know, a body piece that shows the germ, you know. And I try to encourage them about the profession in that if you’re looking for a profession—‘cause lot of the students will tell me, Oh, we want to get into a job that pays big bucks. Okay. And I’ll tell them about the profession. Yes, I encourage you to go to college to get a degree, because you can demand more in your salary. But if you didn’t get a degree, but you went through a certification program, you still can be well paid. I try to talk to the students or even people when I do my training about how beneficial the profession of cleaning is. Because it’s very diverse. Not only hotels, there’s hospitals, today there’s a lot of retirement communities, there’s schools, there’s colleges. I mean, every building needs to be cleaned, and you need to know about the building environment. So, there will always be a job. And even your retail outlets, the Macy’s and all. At one time, I saw an ad where they were looking for a housekeeping manager. You know. Because they need somebody to make sure they know that the people are cleaning.

 

You actually still clean as a service in selective cases. Where do you personally clean?

 

For this family, and they have a business, and I do their office as well. I’ve been doing, I think, her home for about a good maybe fifty years. And I know she likes me, because she knows that I’m gonna do a good job. You know, I put my whole heart into it.

 

And this is a large executive home, I take it.

 

Yeah; I consider it to be a large executive home.

 

And you do it by yourself?

 

I do it by myself. I do backpack vacuuming. I also do what is called the Easy Trap dusting. I do the microfiber flat mop systems, and the microfiber cleaning technology. Microfiber cloths, microfiber flat mop, vacuuming. And there’s this one tool which is a disposable type; it’s called Easy Trap. And I use it with the flat mop. And because there’s a dog, there’s a pet in the house, it picks up everything. Picks up all the hair, pick up everything. And on top of that, I also change the beds, do it hotel style, and wash the linens and everything, and fold it.

 

I know you’re not self-conscious about your age, so I really feel like I should point out at this point that you’re approaching eighty.

 

Yes.

 

And you’re cleaning this large home and business, even though you don’t have to.

 

No.

 

You’re an executive.

 

Well, actually, you know, I get social security, but I want to supplement my income as well. And yeah, yeah, I can still do it. It helps me keep fit. It’s my way of exercising as well. And staying on top of what’s happening with the industry as well; I’m still a member of the association. In 2015, I got over being the chapter president, so I’m also doing some consulting and training. I’m going to be working with McKinley Community School. Right now, I’m doing some training there. One Friday, I have a workshop there called Cleanology 101, that has to do with communicable diseases and infection prevention in non-health facilities; schools, hotels, retirement communities. And I go into the process of telling them about epidemiology, what communicable diseases are, what are the different kinds of communicable diseases, infection preventions that they can use in their facilities, about outbreaks, should there be an outbreak.   And come up with programs, techniques. I’ve come up with something called Best Practices. What are the best practices you can use in homes, hotels. And you know what? It’s not complicating.

 

Mahalo to Rose Galera of Ewa, in West Oahu, for sharing your life story with us, and for your lifelong passion for cleaning. And thanks to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.

 

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

 

Do you ever get tired of the whole cleanology business?

 

No.

 

Never?

 

No. I would like to see our profession be raised by people doing it scientifically, with knowledge as well, and our custodians and our janitors and all, are all trained so that we can cut back on infection, you know, controls, or cut back on infection spreading. And also, have people do the jobs right.

 

You are a one-woman crusade for cleaning.

 

I am; very much so.

 

[END]

 

DANCING ON THE EDGE
Part 8 of 8

 

Follow this dramatic series about a black jazz band’s experiences in London in the 1930s. Composed of talented musicians, the band achieves success and secures record deals. But tragedy strikes, setting off a chain of events that threatens the band’s survival.

 

Part 8 of 8
In flashbacks, listen to Stanley’s interviews with Louis, Jessie and Carla. The conversations touch on fame, prejudice, music, inequality, the aristocracy, ambition, fandom, family, education and more.

 

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