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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
Heather Haunani Giugni

 

Heather Haunani Giugni is a longtime filmmaker whose passion for preserving Hawaii’s stories culminated in the establishment of ‘Ulu‘ulu, the Henry Ku‘ualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive at the University of Hawaii – West Oahu. The archive is named after her father, a longtime aide to the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye. Because of her father’s career, Heather’s early life was split between the multi-cultural world of Hawaii and the racially divided world of Washington, D.C. Heather’s latest project, the television series Family Ingredients, premieres on PBS stations across the U.S. in the summer of 2016.

 

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

 

Heather Haunani Giugni Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

When we were in Virginia… as a family, there were these men that were in a truck, and uh, they reached over and spit at us. That was a really int—I didn’t know at the time what they were doing. I thought it was such an odd thing. But um, you know, years later, I—I thought about that.

 

Did your family talk about it right after that?

 

You know, my parents just totally had to ignore it and move on. But it—it completely was related to the fact that my father was one color, and my mother was another, and we were in the State of Virginia, right across the Potomac.

 

Her early life was split between two worlds…the multi-cultural world of the Hawaiian islands, and the racially-divided world of Washington DC in the 1960s. She saw the power of government and politics firsthand, and also saw the power of traditional stories of Hawaii. Heather Haunani Giugni…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. Heather Haunani Giugni has a reputation in Hawaii as being a behind-the-scenes starter of great ideas…ideas like a television news segment delivered in the Hawaiian language…or an archive to preserve the moving images that visually tell Hawaii’s history. Her father, Henry Giugni, was a long-time aide to the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye, and former Sergeant at Arms of the United States Senate. You may have seen some of the programs and documentaries that Heather has produced…shows that tell the stories of Hawaii and our diverse cultures. This “starter” began her life in Pearl City in central Oahu.

 

You’re hapa. Your family has mixed blood. You’ve got Hawaiian on both sides; right?

 

M-hm.

 

Tell me about your family.

 

My family; my mother is—um, was Muriel Roselani Giugni. Her name was Austin, and she was brought up on the um, Pearl City—Pearl City Peninsula, as was my father, whose name was Henry Kuualoha Giugni. And his father came from uh, Napa Valley. He came across when he read a little classified ad in the San Francisco Chronicle that they were building Pearl Harbor. So, he jumped on a ship and came over, and met my pure Hawaiian grandmother, and … they had two sons. And one of them was my father.

 

Many people who are hapa, especially in earlier years, talk about being conflicted—who are they really, which side should they pull, and people react to them differently, based on the … the mores of their particular culture. Did you go through any of that soul-searching about, Who am I, what side do I pull?

 

My parents—you know, I lived in uh, a fabulous household where um, I don’t think we were really given—I know we weren’t given a blue ribbon or a pink ribbon, and—or we weren’t given a color ribbon. You know, we just lived in a community that shared food, and um, and joy. And uh, and there was no um, issues about … what ethnic group we were from. Having said that, uh, it was clear in uh, my family’s history on um, my mother’s side that they married out early from the 1880s, um, Europeans. So, uh, the color faded quite rapidly in that generation. My mother had blue eyes, blond hair growing up. My father, on the other hand, um … was half-Hawaiian and half-Italian. So, um … I was brought up in a very multiethnic neighborhood, um, considered hapa. I was brought up during the 50s and 60s in a time when um … there was a lot of change going on, but uh … I think hapa wasn’t a bad word; it was what I was.

 

That followed on the heels of those times when so many Hawaiians wanted to be Western. They felt like, We’ve got to do away with our language, it’s time to join the US. The US and the American Way.

 

Um, well, I don’t think my father could deny the fact that he has brown skin and uh, Hawaiian features. So—and uh, and I think he was very proud of being Hawaiian. But my grandmother, who I never knew, she uh, passed away before I was born, um … was a very strong woman, from what I understood. She was a principal at Pearl City Elementary, among the uh, many Hawaiian women that were principals during those years. I think that she wanted the best for her son, and she um, she … chose for him to learn the new—the new uh, culture.

 

Well, what about you? Part-Hawaiian from Pearl City, a very Japanese American neighborhood, going to Kamehameha Schools. What was that like for you?

 

I loved Kamehameha Schools. I—um, I always um, aspired to wanting to uh, to attend that school. It was just one of the schools that I thought had the coolest kids [CHUCKLE] at the time, when I was younger. Um, I w—I just—I just loved the Big K.

 

A lot of people were surprised that you attended Kamehameha Schools. Because … light skin.

 

Well, I don’t know. I mean, I never thought about that, uh…

 

Did you get teased at the time?

 

Oh, you’re brave—you are ruthless. [CHUCKLE] No, um, uh, yeah, okay, I got—I got a little bit teased. It was—uh, but you know, it’s—it’s part of high school. Truly, I had the best time. The best time. I c—count myself extremely lucky and extremely fortunate. And I was a boarder, which meant that I had an opportunity to um, know um, people from the neighbor islands during a time when uh, their parents still worked at the sugarcane mills or the pineapple fields. Lanai was one of my favorite, favorite islands. When I uh, first met Lanai in—I think I was sixteen or seventeen … I um, fell in love with that island.

 

What family brought you in?

 

The Richardsons. Oh, Mina Morita; Hermi—Hermina Morita.

 

M-hm.

 

She was um, a classmate, and invited me over and uh, her family adopted me there. And it was truly a magical time; magical. They uh, still lived in their original uh, cowboy little uh, plantation homes up at Koele Ranch, with horses surrounding the place, the smell of kerosene lamps and um, pancakes in the morning, and going riding into the fields. It was just … a really fantastic time.

 

Heather Haunani Giugni’s comfortable life at the Kamehameha Schools and in Hawaii would soon be reshaped. Her father, after a number of law enforcement positions, found his calling as an aide-de-campe to the man who would become one of America’s most influential lawmakers. This job, which would turn into a life-long allegiance, took the Giugni family, including Heather and her three sisters, to the seat of power of the United States of America.

 

My father um … uh, who uh, was … um, first a policeman, and then uh … a liquor inspector, um, uh, gravitated toward uh, politics. And um, and … met Inouye, Dan Inouye, uh, was uh, impressed with him, and uh, and decided to follow him on his journey in life. And that’s when we ended up in Washington, DC in 1962.

 

What did he do in Senator Inouye’s office?

 

Oh, he did—you know, he started off as um … uh, as a young man as uh, the Senator’s driver, secretary, assistant, go-to boy. You know, everything. You know, he started off doing whatever the Senator needed to win. And um, and was extremely supportive and loyal, I think… he just really believed in the man, and uh, and just uh, hooked his little caboose up to, you know, the Senator’s … journey, and followed him to Washington, DC, where he continued as an assistant, uh, continued always as a driver until my dad became too sick. You know, when—uh, I think when they actually first arrived in Washington, DC, my parents were around thirty-six years of age. I think that um, uh, my mother never imagined uh, a—a longer stay than six years, and uh, they both passed away there in their eighties. So, that’s a pretty long run. And my father remained his driver until he couldn’t drive the Senator anymore. But um, he also went up the ranks as uh, Chief of Staff and um, and administrative assistant, and then eventually became sen—Sergeant at Arms.

 

Now, how does a half-Hawaiian, dark-skinned man like your dad, where did he go?

 

You know, I think he navigated his way fairly well in that situation. Um, he was well-liked on Capitol Hill.

 

He was a larger-than-life personality—

 

Yeah.

 

–wasn’t he?

 

Yeah, he was. He was—uh, definitely, he had friends um, that … you know, that—in the uh, garage basement that would only wash the senators’ cars, his car was—would always get washed first. And yet—uh, an—and he had uh, friends in high places. Uh, uh, he was close to um, many senators that um … uh, that he respected greatly, from both sides of the aisle.

 

And when anyone describes your father, they talk about the f—I think the first descriptive they use is, loyal. And I would have to say, looking at his record, that he was loyal to a fault. Because he did get in trouble for accepting campaign contributions from people that he probably shouldn’t have accepted them from.

 

Well, you know, that was just post-Watergate. You know, and um, and—when they changed the rules. And I guess my father did not get that uh, rule change. [CHUCKLE] The memo on that. You know, it’s hard to like, change habits, you know. Uh, so um … uh, I think that was the uh—you’re talking about the Gulf Oil uh …

 

I’m talking about just—several incidents of—one was with …

 

Yeah.

 

–Steinbrenner.

 

Yeah; that was that five thousand dol—yeah, yeah. This is uh, um … you know, it was just uh, uh … that was just a matter of um … I wouldn’t say miscommunication; it was just not um, um … being able to remember to hand the receipts in, and keep the receipts, and that kind of thing.

 

But he took responsibility for it, and—

 

And people said, you know, he would do anything for Senator Inouye.

 

Well, he believed in the man.

 

Mm.

 

So, um, that’s a good thing.

 

M-hm.

 

An—and he believed in uh, the Senator uh, doing good things. How many people can say that they were with a person from when … from their late twenties until, you know, eighty? That’s a pretty remarkable … uh, length of time to be with somebody, and continually uh, believe in the person.

 

In 1962, life in Washington DC was quite different from what it is today. The Civil Rights Amendment, which bans discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, wouldn’t be passed for another two years. The first black President was still 46 years in the future. For a mixed-race family, accustomed to the loving arms of Hawaii, the nation’s capitol could sometimes be an uninviting place. And for a young girl from Hawaii, the dichotomy between Hawaii and Washington DC could be disconcerting.

 

So, let’s talk about, yeah, experiences on both sides of the big pond.

 

Yeah. So, we um, went up to … we followed the Senator to DC in ’62. My father had gone up first to look for a place to live. Uh, it was um, not as easy, because uh, he was still a man of color, and um, while my mother was part-Hawaiian, she was a very light-skinned Hawaiian, so she was considered Haole visually. And uh … and when we arrived up there, he—my dad had already um, secured a house in Maryland. It was in a Catholic neighborhood, and uh, I remember that specifically because … everyone there was Catholic. It was such an interesting uh, division. You know, there were so many different divisions; by color, but also by religions.

 

Was there a color prohibition—

 

Well, it was—

 

–in your neighborhood? That was the law, right? Um—

 

No, there was no c—we were in Maryland, so my parents um, looked—you know, my father looked in Virginia, but he realized that uh, there’s a law that you cannot live in Virginia um, if you are mixed race.

 

Isn’t that amazing that in your lifetime, you were a little kid then, that that law was present?

 

Yeah; I know. Well, also, the Civil Rights Act hadn’t been written, so there were toilets for Black people, and toilets for White people.

 

I did have another experience when I was child at this Catholic school. And I’ll never um, forget this, because uh … we were—th—the nuns were preparing us for the first two Black children to enter our school. And they had us in the auditorium, and told us, you know, to act normal or whatever they were doing. And meanwhile, I was thinking, Who is coming from Mars? You know. [CHUCKLE] I mean, it was like one of these situations.

 

Because it was not a big deal to you if somebody was of another—

 

No, I didn’t—

 

–race was coming

 

No, I didn’t understand um … the way they were prepping and—uh, uh, for us … who these two children were, you know, that we were—that we were supposed to be acting normal about. And so, these two children showed up, and I looked at them, and they looked just like my father. And I called my mom up and said … I don’t want Daddy to pick me up today.

 

[LAUGHTER]

 

‘Cause clearly, you know, it was a—uh, a very racist uh, community and it was shocking to see … to go to a place where there was—the pe—that parents taught their children to hate.

 

M-hm.

 

It just—

 

Especially when you’re making trips back and forth to Hawaii, and there was not this kind of …

 

No.

 

–racial charged …

 

No; there—

 

–action.

 

M-hm. And we would—and my parents uh, were very committed to making sure that if we had—uh, if we were going to school on the East Coast, um … at—at every vacation, we would all be sent back to Hawaii. And—and vice versa. So, my parents made a huge commitment to keeping us connected to Hawaii. So, we never felt, ever, disconnected from our home in Hawaii.

 

Growing up in Washington DC gave Heather Haunani Giugni the opportunity to witness historic events in the 60s that changed our nation. She marched to protest the use of nuclear weapons, and to support gay rights and abortion. At age 18, she was a young delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention. These causes and events shaped her sense of responsibility to make the world a better place. Her Hawaiian roots gave her a direction in which to focus her advocacy.

 

I was living in DC at the time of the Watergate hearings, and I snuck into the hearings all the time. It was pretty amazing, uh, to uh, to—to be part of um, those—uh, that event. I also uh, was affected by a lot of things that needed change. So, I spent a lot of my time on the National Mall protesting, while uh, the Senator and my father were behind the Italian marble watching, [CHUCKLE] watching these protests. So, I had uh, a few um, uh … uh, disagreements with my father over dinner… but I … y—you know, I loved him an—and uh, he really was my hero in so many ways, and uh, and one of the things I’m proudest of him, of many things uh, is the fact that he uh, marched in Selma, Alabama with Martin Luther King in those years. So, that was pretty phenomenal.

 

In 1981, after earning a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, Heather Haunani Giugni came home to Hawaii. She worked for awhile at KGMB News, which, at the time, was by far the number one news station in Hawaii…a great opportunity for a budding journalist. But a career in news was not quite what Giugni saw for her future.

 

You worked at Bob Sevey’s old newsroom.

 

Bob Sevey’s with you, at KGMB News.

 

Yeah.

 

One of the good things. [CHUCKLE]

 

And yet, you didn’t stay in news. I mean, that was sort of the piko of the time, because of the … all of the opportunity to do good and to do well.

 

You know, I—I came back from DC, ‘cause I wanted to um … I came back ‘cause of my grandmother. I wanted to be with my uh, family um, before … people passed away. And uh, the news uh, was a great um, job, but I really cared about my community, and I really cared particularly about my Hawaiian community, and um … had the opportunity to create uh, programming for and about Hawaiians.

 

Heather Haunani Giugni was on a mission. She launched “Enduring Pride,” a magazine program by and for native Hawaiians. She co-produced the documentary, “One Voice,” bringing the story of the Kamehameha Schools Song Contest to the national public television audience. At the time of our conversation, in summer of 2016, she had produced 10 live broadcasts of the famed Song Contest. Giugni was instrumental in the inclusion of Hawaiian language segments in local television newscasts. Then Governor Abercrombie appointed her to the Hawaii State House of Representatives in 2012. And with Hollywood producer Chris Lee, she is a driving force behind Uluulu: The Henry Kuualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawai‘i.

 

And presently, uh, the uh, Moving Image Archive is uh, is something that I’m extremely proud of—

 

Which you are cofounder of.

 

Yeah; I’m one of the founders. But, you know, uh … there’s so many founders of that uh, archive. You know that archive was an idea that came around thirty years ago, maybe more, uh, of different um, librarians and archivists that wanted to save our moving image. The whole idea is to create it so that it’s available for public access, or otherwise, poho if it’s stuck in uh, a can or, you know, in uh, in a case, and nobody can ever see it. I mean…we’ve lost a lot … over the last forty years, but we’ve still gained a lot. And uh—

 

A lot of what?

 

Films and videos have disintegrated or been lost, or people have thrown them away.

 

I remember your coming to give a talk to a group I’m part of, and you just fired everybody in that room up, because you talked about the daily disintegration of film and videos, and family documentation that’s, you know, moldering under beds somewhere and in closets. And you had everybody just ready to go home and look under the bed, and into their closets.

 

Some people have. Some people have. We’ve gotten fabulous material. I mean … this is the best deal in the century. You give um, the archive your precious material, you still get to own the copyright of it. The archive finds the grant to have it transferred to multiple formats, then preserves it and servers not just here on island, but on the mainland, in the salt mine as well as in another facility, so it’s backup. And uh, and so, you have this historical preservation of an entire community.

 

What are the most amazing things you have seen … coming to you in this media archive? I know you have just … cans and cans of film, and all kinds of tapes of different vintages.

 

Okay; so every wo—every collection is my favorite collection. So we have just received your collection at PBS, so it’s pretty fantastic. So, thank you very much. It’s all about the future. Future curriculum, future education. And um, we have uh, collections from Eddie and Myrna Kamae, uh, um, as well as the Don Ho collection. Um, just received the KITV collection. We have al—KGMB’s collection was the—was the anchor.

 

Hello, I would have run for this if I knew what you got. You got all this office space…

 

But Senator Inouye’s collection … because of obviously my personal interest, is pretty fantastic. I see my father in uh, in his late twenties or early thirties, um, driving Miss Daisy [CHUCKLE] around. Which is the Senator and his wife.

 

I’ve been a fireman…a policeman…a liquor inspector…I started out as a messenger with Senator Inouye. A secretary…a driver…and he gave me an opportunity to get ahead. To study, and to learn…

 

And it’s fantastic, because it—it’s footage that, you know, that hasn’t been seen since 1958, 59. It’s just fabulous stuff of Nanakuli, and um, electioneering. An—and—and that’s what’s so fabulous about this footage, is that it’s not just about seeing people’s families, but it’s about seeing what they’re wearing, what they’re eating, what the landscape looks like.

I’m very into kakou. And I just really am a believer in that. And um, and this uh, this archive is about our community.

 

In 2013, Heather Giugni started one of her more ambitious projects. She gathered a 100% local production crew, added local chef and restaurateur Ed Kenney, and proceeded to tell the stories of dishes that our local heritage is based upon. At the intersection of food, family, culture and history is “Family Ingredients.”

 

[Video footage of “Family Ingredients”]

 

“Here we go . . . poisson cru.”

“Mmmmm . . . .” [laughter]

“I don’t have to fake it. It’s soooo good.”

 

Family Ingredients. I mean, this is an amazing, what we think here will be a phenomenon because of the combination of culture, genealogy, all kinds of history, food.

 

Yeah. Everything is an extension of … my belief system, and what I care about, my core, um, which is my community, my Hawaiian community, um, Hawaii. And everything starts there, and everything that I’ve done is related to that mission. And so, this is just um, part and parcel of that. In Family Ingredients, I just use food as chum to tell the story.

 

It’s not a food show, per se.

 

No, not at all. You know, we come from all different places, and so, it reconnects us to family and histories that we’ve either forgotten or never known, or—are reconnecting with.

 

And a lot of times, you know, we know the foods people bring to potlucks, but we don’t know the histories behind them.

 

M-hm.

 

And they’re so elemental and you know that they came from another country, but they’re as close to you as anything could be.

 

It’s the plantation story, you know, when all the workers um, came together and they’d s—all have their ethnic foods, and then they’d just all throw it into one pot. I mean, it was the invention of saimin; right?

 

And it’s very hard to get a show on a national network. And PBS is an especially demanding provider. So, you went and you presented this, and actually have a national series on the PBS network.

 

You know, I actually wanted this to be part of the PBS family. Um, I wanted it to be part of your family here at PBS Hawaii, because it helps uh … it helps all of us. Um, and then, uh, and of course, on the national scene, I wanted um, it to be a calling card to everyone around the globe about who we are and what we profess.

 

At the time of this conversation in summer of 2016, Family Ingredients was set to premiere on PBS stations across the nation. Heather Haunani Giugni, who as a girl was exposed to racial discrimination and to multi-cultural harmony, set a table for all races, cultures and people. Family Ingredients is the stew of Heather’s life experiences in Washington DC and Hawaii, seasoned with her love for Hawaiian culture, and served in a bowl of her passion as a filmmaker. Mahalo to Heather Haunani Giugni of Aiea, 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.

 

I would tell young filmmakers to become a dentist. [CHUCKLE] Get that house, and then use those extra funds to build and create anything you want. I just—it’s a hard, hard road.

 

And do you love it?

 

I love it. I love it because it’s—uh, it’s uh, about my community, and that’s what I care about.

 

GREAT PERFORMANCES
Andrea Bocelli: Cinema

GREAT PERFORMANCES: Andrea Bocelli: Cinema

 

From the Dolby Theater in the heart of Hollywood, Andrea Bocelli pays musical tribute to the silver screen in a lush concert of beloved songs from the movies. Joined by Grammy-winning producer David Foster, the renowned tenor performs memorable favorites from blockbuster classics including The Godfather, Dr. Zhivago, Once Upon a Time in America, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and more.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Larry Lindsey Kimura

 

Larry Lindsey Kimura of Hawaii Island was just a child when he began to sense that the Hawaiian language his grandmother spoke fluently was on the verge of extinction. Ever since, he has committed his life to the preservation and perpetuation of the language, as a teacher and developer of innovative programs, including Punana Leo, the Hawaiian language preschools.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Nov. 27 at 4:00 pm.

 

Larry Lindsey Kimura Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Every once in a while, we slaughtered our own chickens, so we would have chicken hekka. And I thought hekka was a Hawaiian word, but it’s supposed to be a Japanese word. And then I asked people from Japan, and they have no idea what I’m saying. So, I said, well, I’m sorry, I speak the Japanese I heard in Hawaii, so that’s the word we use.

 

So, what happened with chicken hekka at your table?

 

Well, then at the dining table, my Japanese grandfather had made this table special. So, he had cut out in the center of the table a square that you could put a shichirin. Shichirin is where we put the charcoal into this little stove from the furo fire, and charcoal. And then, we put the cast iron skillet on it to cook our hekka with all the vegetables.

 

Right at the table.

 

Right at the table.

 

Wow.

 

The best meal we could have. And I still miss it. I don’t have a stove like that anymore. You have a gas stove, maybe. That’s the closest thing you could do; yeah.

 

Larry Lindsey Kimura of Hawaii Island grew up with a Japanese father and Hawaiian mother. He was exposed to both the Japanese and Hawaiian languages through each of his grandmothers, but it was the Hawaiian language that he resonated with more. His lifelong passion for the language, and determination to keep it alive, is one of the reasons the Hawaiian language is flourishing today. Larry Lindsey Kimura, 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. Dr. Larry Lindsey Kimura, associate professor of Hawaiian language and culture at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, is often called the grandfather of Hawaiian language revitalization. And for good reason. The results of his dedication to perpetuating the language can be seen and heard across the islands through the ever-growing number of Hawaiian language speakers. His interest in Hawaiian language started when he was growing up in the 1940s and 50s in the ranching town of Waimea on Hawaii Island. The only people who still spoke fluent Hawaiian were his grandmother’s generation, and he sensed then that the language was on the verge of extinction.

 

My father is pure Japanese, Isao Kimura, and he’s Nisei, second generation. My grandparents are from Hiroshima, Japan. Came over like most of the Japanese here in Hawaii, for the plantation, sugar plantation. And unusual for a Japanese family to get involved with ranching. On my ji-chan’s side, my Japanese grandfather’s side, as soon as his contract was up in Kohala, then he worked for the Hind Ranch at Puu Waawaa in North Kona. And then, from there, went over to Parker Ranch, and then continued his family there, where my father was born, raised. So, like my mother as well, my mother from the Lindsey family, and her mother is a Purdy. So, that’s how we have the Purdy and Lindsey combination.

 

So, part-Hawaiian. How much Hawaiian?

 

Oh, she always said she’s Hawaiian. And I said, How could you be pure Hawaiian if your name is Lindsey? She said, Well, that’s all I know. But she’s half-Hawaiian. Yeah. She finally proved that to the Hawaiian Homes. A little bit more than half. Yeah.

 

And spoke Hawaiian.

 

Yes; as she grew up. And I heard Hawaiian, you know, from her. And my father, of course, is a native speaker of Japanese, ‘cause that’s his first language with his siblings.

 

What language did they speak to each other?

 

Between my parents, of course, English. Yeah.

 

And you had grandparents, one of whom spoke Japanese, and one Hawaiian.

 

Yeah. No, I only knew my Japanese grandmother and my Hawaiian grandmother, ‘cause both of my grandfathers had died before I got to know them. So, when they got together, they would conduct their conversation in real broken Pidgin. You know, lots of Hawaiian words. I always thought my Japanese grandmother was saying Japanese words, and they were really Hawaiian words when she’s talking to us, as well. She didn’t speak to us in fluent Japanese, except when we needed scolding.

 

So, when you were born, what was your father doing, where?

 

By the time I could remember, he was already working with pasture, noxious weeds, to getting rid of panini. You know, the cactus was getting out of hand, and lantana, and things like that getting out of hand, and working with all of these botanists on what the best solutions would be. And then also feed; the best kinds of grasses that would grow in different sections. The ranch was huge, of course. Is huge. And different weather conditions, all of those things. And this where he got to know the land like the back of his hand. So, although on my mother’s side, of course, my grandfather on my mother’s side was the head of the cowboys of Parker Ranch since 1906 or so, and until his death. But of course, you work on the land, so you get to know it. And I thought all of those life experiences from my father and grandfather’s side made an impact on our lives about a place, and knowing a place, and how to respect it, especially because of what was happening with the land, how it was being used. And you know, I didn’t really appreciate that so much until moving away.

 

During this time, are you learning Hawaiian?

 

The Hawaiian that I got to learn is when I was in the company of basically my Hawaiian grandmother. Because she would socialize in her language. And if you spoke English, she could speak English, but she wasn’t comfortable speaking English. So, she was more normal with her own gang of people, her generation, and people who spoke the language. And there were still people in our community who spoke it very fluently, who were, you know, speakers of it.

 

You were so impressed with the Hawaiian language. Did the Japanese language not appeal to you in the same way?

 

It did appeal to me, but it didn’t appeal to me in the same way. Right. And how I got to make that understanding for myself, you know, I can’t rationalize that now, but I knew that the Hawaiian language had this place, Hawaii as its place, and that Japanese was not. I knew that from a very early time in my life, so it wasn’t difficult for me to think that this language, Hawaiian, won’t be here for long.

 

You thought that as a young boy?

 

Yeah. Because I saw that the people who were using it very naturally in their lives were older people.

 

So, you had a sense that the language might need saving?

 

Well, I didn’t think of it that way, you know, earlier. Until later.

 

M-hm. You thought of it as something that wasn’t gonna be happening in the future much. You know, you’re one of the few people I know who as a child had a sense of something, and an attachment to something, and you know, as you grew up, you know, you wouldn’t know how you would ever monetize it or make a career out of it, or have it be something that stays with you. But you did. There was a career that unfolded for you in Hawaiian language.

 

Yes; a career unfolded. I didn’t think of it in those terms, that I was going to make this a career. ‘Cause I didn’t know what to call it. I just knew this is what my passion is, and this is what I’m gonna be working in, whatever it’s gonna be called. I didn’t know what the name of it was going to be.

 

Were you confident it would come? That it would be would be something that you—

 

I was confident that that’s what was I was going to dedicate myself to. But you know, as I said, who’s gonna pay me for it? Is this a job, or is this a profession? It didn’t um, enter my mind that way.

 

Larry Lindsey Kimura didn’t speak Hawaiian growing up beyond what he learned from spending time listening to his grandmother and her friends. It wasn’t until he was at the Kamehameha School for Boys in Honolulu that he had his first Hawaiian language class. And that didn’t go very well.

 

We were given a six-week course at the eighth grade, and I almost flunked the course, because I didn’t feel it was taught correctly. In my opinion.

 

Because it didn’t sound like what you learned at home.

 

Yeah; it was trite. It wasn’t taught like it was the real thing. And for me, it was a bit offensive. So, I didn’t take to it. So, when another opportunity came up—this is very rare. Colonel Kent, the president of the boys’ school, I didn’t know was interested in Hawaiian, and he convinced this person who is a native speaker of Hawaiian—she had just retired teaching her whole life in Hawaiian music, that is Dorothy Kahananui. She retired from the University, he convinced her to come in my sophomore year, and she was to teach Hawaiian she’s never taught before, and write a textbook for high school. A textbook to teach Hawaiian. And she was there just for those three years I was there, and I happened to have a free homeroom period when she came, enrolled in the class, and just loved it. And that’s how I got to be trained enough to speak it to my grandmother when I got home during the summer breaks that we went home, you know.

 

What did your grandmother say when you came home speaking?

 

Of course, I was a bit hesitant and frightened what her response would be. But luckily, I had been writing to her in Hawaiian, in letters. And she responded. And so, she had this idea about my becoming … well, she thought I was just becoming interested in Hawaiian then, but actually, I was interested in it way before. And so, actually, it it felt very comfortable using Hawaiian. And with my granduncles and grandaunts, you know, that group of people back home, they were not critical at all. They were very supportive. So, I was lucky. Maybe Mrs. Kahananui taught me well enough, so …

 

So, you were loving Hawaiian at Kamehameha, talking with your Hawaiian grandmother in Hawaiian, but you still didn’t see how this would be of benefit to you in a profession. There was no such job that you knew of, right, to move along to.

 

No. I was just, you know, engaging it as much as I could, to learn as much as I could.

 

And was there anybody else around you who wanted to do this?

 

No.

 

Buddies of yours? No?

 

Everybody thought it was a crazy thing, I’m sure. I just didn’t want to discuss, I didn’t know how to talk about my interest with anyone. Because at that time, people would probably think I was crazy.

 

And even your grandmother didn’t know how interested you were.

 

No; she didn’t know. Until she saw the letters that I wrote when I was in the tenth grade, eleventh grade, when I was taking Hawaiian.

 

So, just a personal consuming interest that you kept to yourself mostly.

 

Yes.

 

Wow.

 

But obviously, as it became more outward, people recognized it; yeah.

 

Well, after Kamehameha, it was on to UH?

 

Well, I didn’t know. You know, counselors at Kamehameha didn’t counsel you to go into Hawaiian, actually, back then. There was no place to go, first of all. So, the only thing left for me to do was to stay at home, which I did, and I went to the two-year college at Hilo. Back then, it was only a two-year university campus. And then, you finished up here at Manoa. So, when I was in Hilo, luckily, you know, that gave me the opportunity continue meeting up with my grandparent generation, my grandmother and my aunts and uncles on weekends. And they were my teachers that helped me to become more fluent. And I was brave enough to begin to try and record some of our speakers of the language, older people. Yeah. And in fact, I saw that when Mrs. Kahananui brought this tape recorder, this huge seven-inch tape recorder to class and played this Bishop Museum recording of an interview of a native speaker with Mrs. Pukui. And I said, When my grandmother comes for my graduation, I’d love for her to be recorded like this person was recorded by Mrs. Pukui. You think Mrs. Pukui will do it? Oh, I’m sure she would. Why don’t you just … well, I think we could ask her. So, I did; I just found out where she lived, and introduced myself. And I said in Hawaiian, My grandmother is coming, would you interview her? She said, Of course, I would.

 

Wow; that was a big step forward.

 

Yeah.

 

She was the reigning authority.

 

So, that gave me, you know, this whole interest in understanding the value of trying to record as many of these people as we could.

 

And what did they think of you trying to record them?

 

Yeah; they probably thought I was pretty weird to be interested in what they would want to tell me in Hawaiian. And so, they were pleased to have somebody to actually take an interest in what they knew.

 

What did they talk about for the purpose of language?

 

Everything and anything. And I didn’t care. You know, of course, I tried to find out about them, naturally. Their life, where they come from, and things they did, and all of those kinds of things and all. So many different topics.

 

Larry Lindsey Kimura’s audio recordings of the last generation of Native Hawaiian language speakers have become a priceless community resource not only for language learners, but for his documentation of a way of life that is now long gone. After finishing his first two years of college in Hilo, Larry Lindsey Kimura went on to the University of Hawaii at Manoa to finish his undergraduate degree. It was during this time that he started meeting other students and young people interested in the Hawaiian culture.

 

Before I graduated from the University of Hawaii, I got involved with some young musicians, young male musicians. It was a rare thing to have younger, like you know, my—well, back then, they were twenty-two, twenty-three or so. And in Hawaiian music, lots of the Hawaiian music was being played for tourists and that kind of occupation. But when this group of people, men, young men got together, it was more about seeking a profession, maybe, in Hawaiian music. Not necessarily for the tourist industry, just that maybe they could do some recording. And maybe they could find some job. I don’t know exactly. But I was not a musician. I only got involved because of my connection to Hawaiian language. So, Palani Vaughan, Frank Vaughan’s girlfriend was in my class, one of my anthropology classes, and she knew that I knew some Hawaiian songs, unrecorded ones. And she asked if I could help her boyfriend, ‘cause her boyfriend was interested in doing some Hawaiian songs that had not been recorded. And that’s how I got to get involved with the recording industry, if you call it that, with Hawaiian music, because of my Hawaiian language connection. And so, this is where I got to meet Peter Moon, because he was one of the musicians for Palani Vaughan. The Sons of Hawaii, an older group of men, Gabby Pahinui, Eddie Kamae, and them had formed this group called Sons of Hawaii. And they were trying to bring out the old Hawaiian music. And then, there was this young group, the Sunday Manoa, just upstarts in Hawaiian music. And I think that affected the enrollment in language. And most of the students who enrolled in Hawaiian were ethnic Hawaiian students, and which was rare. I mean, the percentage of Hawaiian students at Manoa was very low at the time. Although, there were other non-ethnic Hawaiians who had enrolled in Hawaiian as well, just people from Hawaii; local people.

 

You think music drove their interest in language, then?

 

I think it kinda caught the ear. Then, another thing that was happening, of course, it was ten years after statehood in ’59, so this is ’69. The expansion of the urban sprawl of Honolulu out into, you know, Kuliouou, Aina Haina, and all of that. We became a state to make decisions about development that caused some concern about agriculture. And among the agriculturalists were some pig farmers, Hawaiian people who were being evicted.

 

From Kalama Valley.

 

From Kalama Valley.

 

Which is farther east.

 

Yeah.

 

Yes.

 

So, I think those three things were signs or indications of this beginning of the renaissance; the Hawaiian music, the Hawaiian language enrollment at Manoa, and eviction of pig farmers in Kalama Valley.

 

Displacement. Huh.

 

Yeah. Because Hokulea and Kahoolawe came after.

 

So, it felt like there was increasing interest, but you couldn’t tell that it would actually develop into a phenomenon that would change many, many lives, and the course of history.

 

Yeah. It’s strange that, you know, language seems to be something subtle, and yet, it is very powerful. And that’s how come it’s so easy to lose language, because people take it for granted, and they don’t realize when it’s not around them anymore, ‘cause they feel that they’re still Hawaiian, or whatever national affiliation, if I can use that word, or a place, your own place. But it’s not just music, and it’s not the food, and all of that, that keeps you who you are, you know. It’s your own language.

 

Larry Lindsey Kimura started teaching Hawaiian language at the University of Hawaii at Manoa before moving back home to Hawaii Island to continue teaching language and culture at the UH Hilo. At the time of our conversation in early 2016, he’d been teaching for more than forty years, while also working from the grassroots community levels to achieve his goal of restoring the language.

 

You’ve had this very amazing role in the Hawaiian language, a number of really amazing roles. For example, you helped to found Punana Leo.

 

Yes.

 

The Hawaiian language preschools.

 

Yeah. Because we knew that just teaching it, you know, at college or in high school, those kinda classes like you would teach a foreign language is not going to get the language back to life. So, we knew that we had to get to the babies as young as we could. And the setting that could provide that for us would be like a preschool setting. Although we knew very little about preschools, except we heard the word preschool, and that’s where parents take their babies to get some early education, childhood education.

 

So, you educated yourself pretty quickly on how to start a preschool.

 

Yeah; a good environment to have children, and then just speak to them in Hawaiian while you’re educating them about all kinds of things.

 

Another amazing role was—well, is Hawaiian Lexicon Committee. You get to help invent new names in the language.

 

Well, it came out of, you know, the engagement especially with the younger kids, the younger children, two and a half, three-year-olds, because you needed to have words for cubbyhole, or how to do you say playhouse in Hawaiian, or you know, all of these words that are used in that kind of a program. And we had, of course, words coming out of our college classrooms, but not at the rate that was impacting us when we started these preschools. And then, it continued.

 

How do you say pacifier?

 

Yeah; all those kinds of things. And you know, they did circles in the morning, and they would have their literacy lessons in reading, writing, and beginning to recognize alphabets, and all kinds of things like that. And the content of the material, and the stories that we were—well, we didn’t have a place to buy little books for our children, or nice posters with beautiful colors, so we had to take what was in English, you know. I’d go to the Salvation Army store, get a book for ten cents, and just cut and paste things on top of the English language, so that our Hawaiian teachers could read them to our children. And the context sometimes, there were words in it that were very foreign to Hawaiian. That’s how we started. You know, now, we’re getting a little bit more from Hawaiian into Hawaiian, but we still have to contend with the onslaught of a whole new world that our language was separated from for so long, that we need to catch up on. So, this Lexicon Committee or Hawaiian New Words Committee started officially more like from the beginning with the Punana Leo in 1983, 84, 85. ’87, we became a little bit more official, because in ’87, the Department of Education allowed our children from the Punana Leo preschools to enter into the kindergarten Department of Education programs. So, the first so-called Hawaiian immersion programs started, one at Waiau here at Pearl City, at Waiau, and also in Keaukaha in Hilo. Those were the first immersion schools. And that, of course, even made more words for the Lexicon Committee to consider.

 

More work!

 

Mahalo to University of Hawaii at Hilo associate professor Larry Lindsey Kimura, dubbed the grandfather of Hawaiian language revitalization, for sharing with us your lifelong passion and dedication to the Hawaiian language and culture. And mahalo 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 think knowing Hawaiian enables you to think in a different way?

 

Oh, yeah.

 

Do you think in Hawaiian?

 

Well, before you get to think in Hawaiian, you begin to see how that thinking is, yeah, before you can begin to think yourself. Because becoming a native speaker when you’re not is a journey, and so, becoming fluent enough takes a while. But as you’re learning and becoming more fluent in it, more native in it, then you begin to see how different it is to see the world around you through that language. You know, growing up on the ranch, you know, they talk about the seasons and they talk about the naulu. And I say, Oh, and how important the naulu is, and you know, I have to hear that language, the word, and then I have to understand what that means in connection to its importance to the place. Because it’s a rain that comes and drifts across the land when it’s hot, during the summer months especially. But that little moisture makes the grass grow greener there, and it’s a salvation. You know, to recognize those things, because the language tells us that.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
James Kauahikaua

 

James Kauahikaua has witnessed some of the planet’s most awe-inspiring spectacles as a geophysicist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on Hawai‘i Island. While his research frequently leads him dangerously close to molten hot magma, a dire cancer diagnosis may have been his most humbling encounter yet.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Sept. 81 at 4:00 pm.

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I always liked puzzles, figuring out how things worked, why they worked, and I like the outdoors. Although, I was encouraged by my parents to do things like collections. You know, stamp collections and coin collections, and things. I tried to collect rocks for a while, but that got kind of boring in Hawai‘i, because there are not that many different kinds of rocks. And at that time, if you bought a book that identified rocks, they were all mainland rocks, and maybe one would be a basalt from the volcano. And you say, Ah, that’s what we have.

 

You might say James Kauahikaua’s passion for collecting things as a kid became a foundation for his profession. Today, he gathers data about Hawai‘i’s volcanos. Volcanologist and cancer survivor, James Kauahikaua, 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. Hawai‘i is home to some of the largest and most active volcanos on earth, and Hilo resident James Kauahikaua is close to the action. Kauahikaua, who studied geology and geophysics, works for the U.S. Geological Survey at the Hawai‘i Volcano Observatory, which monitors Hawai‘i two most active volcanos, Kilauea with its Puu Oo eruption going strong since January 1983, and Mauna Loa, as well as two less active volcanos, Hualalai and Maui’s Haleakala. More than three decades after he started studying lava flows and eruptions, Kauahikaua is still fascinated by what he gets to do for a living. A Big Islander for many years, Kauahikaua grew up on Oahu in the Windward community of Kailua.

 

What was Kailua like then, as compared to the bustling metropolis it seems to be now?

 

Yeah; I don’t remember a whole lot about it, except from photos my parents had. And like all new neighborhoods, there was no vegetation, no hedges, no trees or anything. There were just these tract houses. We lived in Kuulei Tract, which is right around what is now, I think, Kailua Intermediate School. And we were a block and a half from the beach or so when I was old enough, we could do that.

 

Why did your parents pick Kailua? Was there a family connection to that area?

 

No. It was, I think, just new. My parents, when they were married, I think they lived in Nuuanu. And they moved after I was born, but it was like the first year. But I think it was just a new area opening up, you know, they decided to take the plunge, and maybe they could buy a house. The Kuulei Tract, I think, started in 1950 or ’51, and I was born in 1951.

 

What kind of Hawaiian background did your family employ? What was that like for you? Did you have a Hawaiian household? You’re of multiple ethnicities.

 

Right. I’m German from my mom’s side, and Hawaiian-Chinese from my dad’s side. And I’ve thought about that a lot. I think we had basically, your basic suburban household that just happened to have multiple ethnicities. About the only Hawaiian culture thing was, we’d go visit my grandfather out in Haleiwa every couple of weeks, maybe. Long drive, or course, at that time. And, you know, many of my uncles and other cousins would be around, and that was actually pretty interesting. The luau’s, you know, you’d get all the really good stuff, the opihi and many, many delicacies. But yeah, I was never steeped in culture. I never joined a halau, I never felt the need or the desire to join a halau. But I’ve always been fascinated at that field. And so, I kind of think of myself, I guess, as an academic Hawaiian. I love to learn all about what Hawai‘i was like in the 19th century and before, ‘cause that explains a great deal of how we got where we are, I think.

 

James Kauahikaua was glad for the chance to be exposed more to the Hawaiian culture when he transferred in the seventh grade to the Kamehameha Schools in Kapalama. But when he reached high school in the late 1960s, he found himself at odds with a different kind of culture on campus, the ROTC military environment, and strict requirements for boys.

 

At the time, I think they had just gone co-ed in high school. But for the boys, there was still mandatory ROTC. So, we all had to wear uniforms every day, had to parades couple times a year. And it was a military institute, they were very proud to say. We had to wear these little red pins that said it was a military institute. It was not just like your regular ROTC. I guess it’s because we had to wear the uniforms, and we had to always be in uniform, you had to had to polish all your brass, had to keep your hair—you know, all that sort of stuff. Polish your shoes. None of those things interested me, and I was not good at any of them. And so, throughout my four years in high school at Kamehameha, I was never even probably considered for promotion once. You know, it’s like the military; you get to be a corporal, then sergeant, or whatever. And I just stayed a buck private the entire time. But you also got demerits if you didn’t polish your brass, or you didn’t wear your hat outside, or you wore your hat indoors. You know, all breaking rules. And I got a lot of demerits.

 

Were you trying to, or were you just hapless?

 

Hapless would be a kind word for it.

 

But were you trying to get into trouble? Were you making a statement?

 

No; it wasn’t important to me.

 

But you weren’t used to suffering consequences. You’d been a good student, and a good kid.

 

Yeah. No; academically, I was good. But at that time … in fact, I think they called my parents in a couple times, ‘cause I was doing so poorly on the military end that I could have been kicked out. But I wasn’t. But for every demerit that I got, I had to march around the ball field for twenty-five minutes after school. And so, ultimately, I couldn’t do anything else after school.

 

‘Cause you were busy doing your—

 

I couldn’t join sports or anything.

 

You were serving your sentence.

 

I think you could march four of them an afternoon, so only two hours’ worth, you know.

 

So, I don’t understand. So, after you’d done that a few times, wouldn’t you stop getting the demerits? Wouldn’t you say, I’d better, you know, polish my brass, or … no?

 

It just wasn’t that important. That’s all I can say.

 

Despite all of those demerits, James Kauahikaua graduated from the Kamehameha Schools with good grades. He went on to college at the University of Southern California, and later Pomona College, where he majored in geology. He moved back home to Hawai‘i to earn his master’s degree and doctoral degree.

 

Geologists look at what’s on the surface, and infer what’s happening at depth from that. And geophysicists can do a bit better than that in terms of determining what’s under the surface. So, I decided to do that. When I went to graduate school, I went as a geophysicist.

 

So, you’re closing in now on volcanoes. How did you close that gap?

 

So, I went to school as a geophysicist at UH Manoa at a time when you had to get a master’s first, and then a PhD. And so, I got a master’s working on this big project called The Hawai‘i Geothermal Project. Their goal was to try to discover likely resource areas within the state, and one of the ways we were doing that was with electrical geophysical techniques. So, we did that mostly on the Big Island, but some on Maui and Oahu. That got me interested in that, and then when I finished my master’s, I was offered a minority internship with the U.S. Geological Survey. And that’s at the time when they were still doing affirmative action through hires. And so, I worked with them in Denver in a group that was doing electromagnetic studies. They were working out methods to use the techniques and all that.

 

So, did you have trouble catching on there at first?

 

No, actually. I just came in at a time with a set of skills that was what they needed at that time, you know, being interested in electromagnetic methods of detection of subsurface. And at that time, they were studying how the lava lake in Kilauea Iki was cooling. It erupted in fountains in 1959, and it filled up an old crater, so there was quite a good thickness of molten lava that was just sitting there and cooling. And so, electromagnetically, we could watch it shrink, sort of guide drill holes into the lava to take samples and things. And because I’d had that computer background from college, I was able to write computer programs that were able to interpret that data in a way that hadn’t been done before. So, it was just a good fit. I was very lucky.

 

A few years later, James Kauahikaua was hired as a staff scientist at the Hawai‘i Volcano Observatory at Kilauea on Hawai‘i Island. As a volcanologist, he studies past and present eruptions and flows, mostly on Kilauea, where an amazing bountiful eruption has been sending out lava since 1983. Kauahikaua’s job sometimes puts him dangerously close to the molten flow.

 

Often, we want to get pretty close so we can, you know, say, measure the velocity or something, the speed at which the lava is flowing in the tube.   And you never do that by yourself. You always have somebody around watching you, making sure you don’t slip or, you know, something.

 

You’ve seen in the field those fountain domes. I’ve only see pictures of them. What is that like?

 

They’re quite loud, actually. They’re coming out under gas pressure. And I think the one I’ve worked closest with is when Puu Oo was sort of split on one side, and there was lava coming out in fairly large amounts. But it was all confined, you know, where it was very clear it was downhill at that point, so we could watch it at a fairly close distance and make measurements. There was another time where the whole lava supply kinda stopped for a while, but then, it abruptly started again, and lava came back into this tube. And it came back in, in such a large amount that lava was coming out of the skylight in a very nice dome fountain. And so, once we got back out there, the dome fountain was going, it was clearly a much larger amount of lava going through there than before. So, I had to measure it. So, I got up there right at the edge of the fountain. Itt was upslope of the fountain, so everything was flowing away from me, and I was able to get that number, and it turned out to be some incredible amount, like eight or ten times what it had been before the lava supply had shut off. And you know, it eventually, died off within a few hours. But that was incredible. That was very noisy, the ground was vibrating the whole time.

 

What are some of the stories you have of being out there with those fiery elements?

 

Before I became scientist in charge, one of my specific projects was trying to understand lava tubes, how the conduit forms within a flow, and then how that evolved. And so, I would spend a lot of time around skylights, places that collapsed into the lava tubes. You can watch the lava flowing in there. It flows pretty fast, sometimes few tens of miles per hour, depending on the size of the tube. But it’s very quiet. And there was one time I wanted to make observations over three days, three days and nights. And so, I was out there with the bats at night, and it was just so quiet. It was sort of like watching paint flow, you know, ‘cause it’s slightly viscous. But it was just really quiet, but obviously, very hot. Beautiful; just incredibly beautiful. And at other times, you’re in a position around, say, an aa flow or something, where you do need to pay attention to what it’s doing very carefully, ‘cause you want to be making some measurements close to it, but you have to figure out what the lava flow is going to do before, you know, while you’re up there.

 

And you’re out there alone?

 

Well, I’m out there alone sometimes. But usually, I try to have somebody else there.

 

Is there any downplaying how dangerous this is?

 

It’s dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. And you wouldn’t walk up to any of these flows if you didn’t know something about what they’re gonna do.

 

So, while there certainly are hazards that come with being a volcanologist, James Kauahikaua’s scariest moments in life have had nothing to do with his job.

 

One morning, after I’d been up to Mauna Loa, I woke up, and all of a sudden, I had double vision. And so, you know, obviously, I went to see a doctor. But in the meantime, I still had to do my job, and so, I had to drive around for a while an eye patch on, like a pirate, you know, so I only got one eye and see one image. And it took a while. I saw a couple of doctors, got an MRI of my head, and all that sort of stuff. And after a few misdiagnoses, in January of 2003, I was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer. There was a tumor just under the brain, behind the nasopharynx, which is how your nose connects with your throat. I had a lot of support of one or two neighbors who were doctors were, you know, kind of advising us. ‘Cause you’re getting a cancer diagnosis, you’re immediately overwhelmed. It’s scary, you don’t know exactly what to do, what’s the best thing to do first, and all this. And there were a lot of people that really helped us out. And so, almost immediately, started chemo and radiation.

 

What stage was the cancer in at that point?

 

It was uh, 4A. It had …

 

Advanced; it was advanced.

 

It had metastasized, but way in the like, neck area, I think. So, there was still hope. I fortunately got to see Dr. Clayton Chong, who’s also a Kamehameha graduate, and John Lederer, who’s a radiologist, and they prescribed … well, the chemo almost killed me, as Dr. Chong likes to laugh about.

 

So anyway, they did I don’t know how many chemo treatments and forty or fifty radiation treatments, and they finally licked it. I’m in remission. I’ve been remission since late 2003. And you know, my chances even then were pretty good to last for five years, but now, it’s been, you know, eleven, twelve years, and I’m still feeling pretty good. I don’t get checked nearly as often, which is kind of nice. But you never get rid of it, as Dr. Lederer told me. I asked him one time, Well, how do I know, you know, when I’m over cancer, when I’m done with cancer? He said, Well, you’ll know for sure when you die of something else.

 

Scientists have a way of saying things.

 

Oh, that’s really positive.

 

Did it do some damage in your body? The cancer.

 

Well, the cancer didn’t, but the treatment did. It damaged my hearing, my hearing nerve. It wasn’t obvious. They told me it was gonna happen. And it wasn’t obvious at first, you know, the first six or seven years. But then, I slowly did start to lose my hearing. And so, at this point, I have to wear hearing aids, and even then, it’s a pretty profound hearing loss in the higher frequency. So, when I’m talking to somebody, I have to watch their lips to get the consonants. ‘Cause like S and F sounds the same. Even when I say it, it sounds the same. But you know, I’m alive, I survived, I’m happy. I just can’t hear very well.

 

After getting past cancer, James Kauahikaua applied for the top job at the Volcano Observatory. He became Scientist In Charge in 2004. During nearly eleven years of management before stepping back to refocus on his research, Kauahikaua installed a lot more technology, including webcams that show flows and eruptions in real time. He also improved communication with the community, and was the go-to guy for timely updates when the Big Island town of Pahoa was threatened by a long traveling lava flow in 2014 and 2015.

 

You were called on to predict when it would stop.

 

You know, I’ve been through enough of these things that, you know, I realize that we’re limited. We can say a lot about what the lava flow’s gonna do, or you know, the possible consequences and things. But there’s just a limit to it; we can’t answer everybody’s questions. There were people that would come up to us and say, Well, you know, I was planning to go to California in two weeks, and I live right here; should I go?

 

You know, we can provide you the information so you can make the decision, but … you know. And we made an attempt to sort of forecast how fast the lava would get to the highway, say. But every time we did that, we would be wrong. And we would be wrong in the public’s eyes, which was very important. The way we would say it is, If the lava flow kept advancing at this rate, it would be at the highway in seven days, or whatever. And all they would remember is, it’ll be at the highway in seven days. And that didn’t happen, therefore, we were wrong. But the statement was accurate. And so, we didn’t communicate that properly, I think. But I’m not sure how we’re gonna do better the next time.

 

I remember there were people saying, You’ve gotta build some kind of barrier, you’ve gotta stop this thing. And others were saying, No, you can’t stop the flow, because it’ll have other repercussions. Where were you on that?

 

We did provide a lot of background, ‘cause that’s one of our functions. Hawai‘i actually has a fairly long history of diversion attempts. None of them have been hugely successful. So, you know, we can kinda look at that and say, Well, we don’t want to do that, or do anything else. One of the factors, I think, that went into it was the fact that this eruption had been going on for thirty-three years, thirty-two years at that point. And so, if we divert this flow, this eruption’s not gonna stop, it’s gonna continue. And so, does that change the way the government then looks at it? What about the next flow? Does that mean that kinda guarantee we’re gonna have to divert that? Or you know, I’m guessing that from the County government’s point of view, the question of investment or whatever, you know, what is it gonna cost, is it really gonna be effective? And ultimately, I think the whole thing was decided by a statement from the Mayor, and he said that he wasn’t gonna make any decisions until it was very clear what the outcome would be. And you know, that’s something we can again go back to history and say what has been done in the past, but nobody can be sure of what the outcome would be.

 

Why has that flow been going for more than thirty years?

 

That’s a very good question.

 

You don’t know the answer?

 

No. It’s been going long enough that the people that I started working have retired, and that’s been their whole career. And in that time, we’ve all guessed. Well, you know, we’ve made guesses about what’s going to shut the eruption off. Could it be a big earthquake, you know, shifts the plumbing around, and kind of cuts the magma supply off. Any number of things. And all of those things have happened, and there’s just been no effect. You know, we’ve had several larger earthquakes, magnitude five and six, and … nothing.

 

I always feel that everyone in Hawai‘i who can, should go look at it, because you know, even though it’s been going for so very long, many people haven’t made it out there. And it’s something that you may never see again.

 

Oh, absolutely.

 

For those of us lay people.

 

I agree, totally. You know, that’s how our islands were formed, it’s a rare thing to be able to see. And access isn’t great right at the moment, but it has been really excellent in the past. And just to see the glow from the summit vent now, the one that opened in 2008, I see that every morning as I drive in. It’s incredible. This is from a lava lake that’s, you know, glowing so much and putting out so much gas, that you know, you can see that it’s lit up by a lava light. You know, how incredible is that?

 

What have you learned in your studies about what’s happening with volcanic activity in Hawai‘i now, and what the prospects are for future activity?

 

It looks like Kilauea goes through centuries of explosive activity, and then centuries of effusive activity. And within the explosive centuries, there may be a few lava flows; within the lava flow centuries there might be a few explosions. But in general. And so, when you realize that, and you think that maybe Hawaiian volcanoes in general do this, not just Kilauea, but Kilauea is important because there’s so much right on and near the summit of Kilauea that it’s possible, and it’s certainly likely that at some point, Kilauea will go back into being an explosive volcano. Which has big ramifications for our building and the Parks Service, and the people that live close by. So, you know, if you’d asked me that question, say, fifty years ago, I would have just talked about the possibility of future lava flows impacting communities and things. And now, there’s this possibility of a resumption of explosive activity. And these are fairly large explosions. It would probably affect air traffic, at least into the Big Island, if not into Honolulu too, because it would throw up ash and things much higher than the volcanoes themselves. They’d be troublesome.

 

James Kauahikaua stepped down as Scientist In Charge in 2015. At the time of our conversation in 2016, he’s at the Observatory doing research, which he says he enjoys a lot more than managing. And he likes to volunteer, sharing the wonder of volcanos with Hawaiian children in the enrichment program, Na Pua Noeau. Mahalo to volcanologist and cancer survivor, James Kauahikaua 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, 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, sometimes, you don’t know how important somebody is in your life, until much later. As you look back, who’s been the most influential in your life? People.

 

I would be remiss not to mention my wife, Jeri Gertz. She’s very much a people person, always looking for fun things to do and stuff, which I can’t say is my strong suit.

 

So, we make a good team, I think. But she inspires me every day.

 

How does she inspire you?

 

By being happy, you know, and finding the good things in everything.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
William “Yama” Chillingworth

 

William “Yama” Chillingworth served as a state judge on Hawai‘i Island for 25 years. After retiring from the bench, he traced his Native Hawaiian heritage, discovering a familial connection to the rare Hawaiian hawk and an urgent calling to photograph it.

 

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

 

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I had a retirement luncheon on the day I retired from the courtroom in Hilo, and the clerk who was kind of in charge introduced me that afternoon as, the judge who said I hear you. And so, I left the Big Island court job taking with me the understanding that if the staff had heard me that clearly, that the people who were in court had heard me as well. And so, that was the best I could do.

 

William “Yama” Chillingworth racked up a lot of mileage in his twenty-five-year career as a State judge on Hawai‘i Island. He traveled widely throughout the Big Island to hear cases, and he retired content that he gave voice to every defendant who came through his courtroom. William “Yama” Chillingworth, 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. He was known in courtrooms throughout Hawai‘i Island as Judge William Chillingworth; but to family and friends, he is “Yama”. While that may sound like a Japanese nickname, it’s based on the Hawaiianized version of William, Wiliama; Yama. He is very proud of his Native Hawaiian heritage. Chillingworth’s family line includes Princess Victoria Kailulani, who was next in line to the throne when the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893. Kaiulani was sister to Chillingworth’s great-grandmother. It was while researching part of his Native Hawaiian ancestry that Chillingworth discovered he comes from a family of Native Hawaiian bird collectors on Hawai‘i Island, and that’s where he spent most of youth and most of his career.

 

I was born in Honolulu in 1943. My dad was in the Army in New Guinea when I was born, and he was with General MacArthur. And my mother was from Hilo, and having no family in Honolulu after I was born, she returned to Hilo and stayed with my maternal grandparents. And then, after the war, my father came back, and we lived in Hilo, and I grew up there. My grandfather was the proprietor of the Hilo Drug Company, and it was this wonderful 50s fountain and drugstore on what they described as the busiest corner in Hilo. And it was.

 

Back when pharmacies had fountains.

 

Absolutely. It was a 50s fountain.

 

So, there were the stools.

 

The stools.

 

And the milkshakes.

 

The straw containers that you lifted up and pulled. It had everything. And my grandfather was a pharmacist. He came to the Island of Hawai‘i after he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, and settled in Hilo and met my grandmother, who was half German, half Hawaiian. My grandfather was Harry Arthur Wessel.

 

How many pharmacists were there?

 

There was one, and that was my grandfather. He was it. And so, growing up in Hilo at the Wessel’s Drugstore and having my grandmother, who was a public school teacher, and my mother, who followed in her footsteps as a public school teacher, it was a mixed blessing. They were both rather strict about using proper English. You were not able to mess around with Pidgin.

 

In Hilo, you couldn’t speak Pidgin?

 

Absolutely not.

 

How did that go over with the boys and and the girls?

 

Completely forbidden it was easy. But when were in school, especially junior high, it wasn’t so easy, because most of the kids we were in with were not speaking English; they were speaking whatever it was they were speaking. And my brother was better at socializing that way than I was. I was kind of stuck. And until I got to Punahou, I was having a very hard time in school, because I had to hide that I was interested in doing well.

 

You went to schools in Hilo.

 

Right.

 

Public middle.

 

Public schools.

 

You went to elementary school and then intermediate school as well in Hilo?

 

Right.

 

And did you really not speak Pidgin during that time?

 

Well, when my mother and my grandmother were around, I wasn’t speaking Pidgin. But quite frankly, in in a classroom where you were having to deal socially with kids who were not on your scholastic level, it was difficult; it was difficult. There was liable to be recrimination and, anger.

 

Because you were showing them up with grades?

 

Exactly. I was doing better than they were. And so, I had to hide that.

 

How’d you hide it?

 

Just pretend that I didn’t care about what I was doing, and you know, not answer questions in class, et cetera, et cetera.

 

So, what was it about Hilo; was the social norm to pretend you didn’t hear? Or did you people really didn’t care?

 

It was tough; it was tough. My friend, Stanley Roehrig refers to the aama crab syndrome, where the crab that is climbing out of the bucket gets pulled down by the crabs that are underneath. Stanley is that way, and he talks about that. There was an element of that in what was going on.

 

Mm. So, what do you think would have happened if you stayed in the public school system in the area?

 

Good question; good question. I’m not sure. I’m glad I didn’t have to make that decision myself. I’m awfully glad I ended up where I did.

 

Where William “Yama” Chillingworth ended up was Honolulu, in a top private school, Punahou. His family moved to the city at the start of his tenth graded year. For the first time, he says, he felt at home in the classroom.

 

Getting into Punahou was like going to Heaven. I mean, because I was in a classroom environment with equals, and everybody was in there.

 

People who wanted to do well in school.

 

Doing the same thing that I wanted to do. And it was heavenly. I mean, I had the best time.

 

So, you had to make a social transition to Punahou. And was it hard in class?

 

Only in math and science I was terrible in math and science. I sucked. I was fabulous for the rest of the way out, so you know, that made it fairly easy. I wasn’t going into science, and I wasn’t going into any field that required mathematics.

William “Yama” Chillingworth received that political science degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Next, he earned a law degree at the University of Denver Law School.

 

And of course, I’m sure it was expected that you would go to college. Had your parents been to college? Your mom was a teacher.

 

My mom was accepted to Stanford, and then they couldn’t send her because they didn’t have the money at the time, and she went to University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. And my dad had been headed in that direction, and then he got into the National Guard after he graduated from high school. My grandfather was the CEO of the Territorial National Guard in the 30s; he was the head man. And my father was the best soldier in Punahou ROTC program his sophomore year. So, my father was being groomed for the Army, and got into the Territorial National Guard with my grandfather, and was actually in charge of a detachment that was tasked with going down the Koolaus and refurbishing the pillboxes that were on the top of ridges just before the war started. And so then, he was in the war.

 

New Guinea; that was rough fighting, wasn’t it?

 

Oh, it was one of the worst theaters in the war. They talk about that theater as being a knife fight from the Stone Age.

 

But then, you became a lawyer, which you know, you don’t have to know a lot about great English literature.

 

The best part about law school was, I learned how to be specific in the use of language. I hadn’t intended to be a lawyer in private practice. I graduated from law school in June of 1968 and within a week, I’d gotten an induction notice, and I reported, so I was off to Vietnam. And I’d broken my arm in an accident the year before, and the doctor in the induction center looked at it and said, I’m sorry, son, we can’t take you. And I was completely stunned. Completely stunned.

 

You wanted to serve?

 

There was no Plan B. You know, my grandfather was an infantry captain, my father an infantry captain. I was going. And all of a sudden, I wasn’t going. And then, it was, what now? You know. What now? And I’d just graduated from law school, so obviously, it was, decide where to take a bar exam and at least have a license. So, I went …

 

Back home.

 

Came back to Honolulu, got in a bar exam review course, and took the bar exam. And then, things started to happen in a hurry.

 

William “Yama” Chillingworth became a law clerk for the late Federal Judge Martin Pence. He credits Judge Pence for showing him how to command respect in a courtroom.

 

I passed the bar exam, I got a call from Judge Pence’s office. We want you here next week Monday and it was a dream job. It was my perfect job out of law school, going to work for Judge Pence as a clerk, and a bailiff, because he was so good at what he did, and so willing to teach the clerks who came to work for him. He was in control; he told you where you stood. He was extremely good at controlling the courtroom and inspiring confidence in the people who were coming to hear him and coming to the court. Even, you know, as I did as the lowly clerk who was opening up the court sessions, he taught me so much about the courtroom process.

 

How did he gain the respect of people who came before him?

 

It was by demonstrating respect. Demonstrating confidence, demonstrating respect, and you instill it, you inspire it in the people you’re with.

 

So, that was your first job out of law school. And then, what?

 

Well, then I went to work for a law firm in Honolulu, a guy who’s turned out to be a really good friend of mine, Allen Wooddell. And I worked for Allen’s firm in Honolulu for about a year, and they had talked about opening an office on the Big Island. It didn’t quite come together, and I had an opportunity to talk to Judge Pence about it. And he said, you know, my law partner in Hilo would be really happy to join forces if you’re interested in going back to work in the in the Hilo courtroom setting. I did; I did. I went to work with Ron Nakamoto, who was Judge Pence’s former law partner, and spent twelve years there, and was a trial lawyer, and got to go to court every day. So then, one day, I was in the office and got a call from Judge Kubota in Hilo. He says, Come on in, I want to talk to you. I figured I’d done something wrong. Judge Kubota was kind of a curmudgeon that way. And he called me in, and he was with someone I didn’t know, and they had called me in because Judge Mark had retired from the District Court bench in Hilo and they were looking for a replacement, and they wondered if I was interested. Of course, I was. After I was sworn in as a family and district court judge by Chief Justice Richardson, the Chief Justice said, I gave you the job because you were the only one who got a unanimous vote from the commission.

 

And so, for twenty years, you rode circuit on the Big Island.

 

I did.

 

You went to all the courts.

 

I did.

 

And heard cases which took you … I mean, high level legal argents to you know, probably assault and battery stuff.

 

High level, low level; I heard everything that came in the door.

 

Divorces.

 

I put three hundred thousand miles on my cars at the rate of a hundred and twenty miles a day. It was a bit arduous, but there were moments. There were moments. I heard so many stories. So many stories. And all I had to do was, be able to distinguish fact from fiction. And sometimes it was easy, and other times it wasn’t. And there were moments, there were moments. And those moments, for a long time, they kept me going back. One day in the traffic court, I guess it was in Honokaa, and a sixteen-year-old boy had been charged with a seatbelt offense, and I was hearing the sergeant who had issued the citation. And the sergeant was talking about how he had seen the event occur. And then I heard from the boy, and the boy told me he was wearing the seatbelt. And what you do in that kind of a circumstance? And so, I asked about the configuration. Well, it was a convertible, and most cars have the seatbelt coming down a post which is above the shoulder of the operator. This one didn’t; it came off the back of the seat and came around like that. So, this officer probably had a difficult time seeing whether it was being used or not. I found the young man not guilty. And about that moment, I see a hand going up in the gallery, and I’m going, Uh-oh. And turns out that the boy’s father is back in the gallery and is wanting to talk to me. And I’m going … he came up and he said, you know, after my son got the citation, he came home and said, Dad, I was wearing my seatbelt. And I looked at Dad and I said, I’m really glad I got it right. And he looked at me and he said, I’m really glad you got it right too, because it taught my son a lesson about how justice is administered here.

 

That you can trust the system.

 

And I said, Thank you, Dad. Those were the kind of moments that kept me going back. You know.

 

You probably saw the worst common denominator in people’s character, as well.

 

There were difficult days. There were enormously difficult days, and they were hard to leave behind at the end of the day. I found myself getting into canoe paddling, I found myself getting into yoga, I found myself getting into distance running; anything to get rid of the acculation of courtroom emotions. And most of the time, they were negative; extremely negative. The grief, the desperation, the hurt, especially in the family court setting.

 

‘Cause you’re not in a position to do rehab with them. This is, yes or no, here’s the ruling, and off you go.

 

Right. And half the time—well, I wouldn’t say half the time, but a lot of the time, the ruling would be significant enough and emotional enough so that I’d reserve it. You know, otherwise, if I issued it, there would be a fistfight going on in the courtroom on the way out the door. So, I would withhold the ruling. I’d say, Okay, I’m gonna look at this a little bit more and I’ll have my clerk call the attorneys. And then, as soon as we were finished, I’d tell the clerk, call the lawyers. Tell them this, tell them that.

 

Because you really you really did think violence would erupt?

 

I didn’t want any more emotion than was already piled into that courtroom to come out of the decisions.

 

And of course, in courts, you know that a lot of times, whatever you rule, one side’s gonna be angry or distraught. What was that like to live with?

 

That was one of the difficulties of the job. I knew that no matter how I ruled, somebody was gonna come out of the courtroom unhappy with the ruling.

 

Did that make it hard to go to shopping centers and parties?

 

No; and for this reason. I made sure that if I couldn’t do anything else, I let everybody know that I heard them. And I made sure that when they were finished presenting whatever they wanted to present, I looked them in the eye and I said, I hear you, what you’re saying is this, so that even I couldn’t always rule in their favor, they came out of the courtroom with the understanding that they had been heard.

 

Did you get that from Judge Pence?

 

I got that from Judge Pence.

 

After William “Yama” Chillingworth saw the last of his three children off to college and retired from the bench on Hawai‘i Island, he tackled something his mother always wanted him to do; and that is, to trace his Native Hawaiian ancestry on her side of the family. This research led Chillingworth to an unexpected family connection, and a new passion: capturing images of the Hawaiian Hawk.

 

We had two names, and the ahupuaa where the old family home was located, the family home that was the the grass hale’s. I started with the location of the ahupuaa, the translation of the ahupuaa name, and the fact that it was located between Hakalau and Ninole. Hakalau is well-known bird center. One of the translations is, many perches, so it was a bird center in old Hawai‘i. My great-great-great-great-grandfather and his brother, his name was Kanehoalani, and it was the most auspicious name; it was the name that had me sitting down where I was living in Kohala and saying … Great-great-great-great-grandfather, how in the world did you come by this auspicious name?

 

Which means?

 

It’s the Hawaiian Zeus; it’s the ruler of the heavens, the grandfather of Pele. I had a feeling that an answer was coming, and in fact, it was. I’d always had a love of landscape photography, and I’d invested in some rather good equipment. Began taking it out, and one morning, I’m out in the eastern Kohala valleys, and this great bird comes over and screams at me. I mean, literally screams at me, you knowAnd it’s this enormous Hawaiian Hawk, and he’s looking right at me. And his wings are spread, and he is the most incredible thing I had ever seen. And there was this immediate connection.

 

Did you know what it meant?

 

Not at that moment. All I knew was, I had made a connection, and I wasn’t going to be doing any other photography than that bird up there. And I started coming back every day after that, and waiting for the arrival of my royal friend. You know, there was no understanding the connection that was happening with the need to get myself out of bed in morning, get the camera, and go to where the hawks were and begin collecting the images. It just went on, and on, and on. And then, there was just that one final piece which had to do with my mother giving all of her children a copy of the book that Isabella Bird wrote.

 

Oh, Bird.

 

Right.

 

Somebody you never met; somebody from England.

 

Miss Bird, who was here in 1873 on the Island of Hawai‘i. Oh, she loved Hilo. So she describes, Miss Bird describes how she went off to Waipio with my great-great-grandmother as her eighteen-year-old guide. My great-great-grandmother spoke Hawaiian, spoke English, rode, and had been on the Hamakua Coast for her entire life, and guided her up to Waipio, and then came back. And on the way back, they went off the trail and went mauka a mile to where my great-great-grandmother had a family ancestral home. They went up there because my great-great-grandmother was receiving a wedding gift; she had just been married to Ben Macy from Nantucket. And the wedding gift turned out to be a feather lei. And not just any feather lei; lei hulu mamo melemele, a yellow feather lei of mamo feathers. And then, when I finally read that, everything came together. It was as if I finally understood that Miss Bird had met my ancestors, Kanehoalani and his brother Manohoa. And from what she said, I was able to clearly identify that we were from a family of bird collectors and feather workers, and that Kanehoalani is one of the most auspicious names you can give to a male Hawaiian son of a family of bird collectors, the ruler of the heavens. And his brother got the name Manohoa, the friend of the birds. Of course; it all fit together.

 

A friend urged William “Yama” Chillingworth to have his collection of Hawaiian Hawk photographs published. The result is a book titled Io Lani, the Hawaiian Hawk. It won a 2015 Ka Palapala Pookela Award from the Hawai‘i Book Publishers Association. Post-retirement, Chillingworth, a divorcee, married again. His wife is a former Punahou School mate who is a New York Times bestselling author, Susanna Moore. Mahalo to William “Yama” Chillingworth of North Kohala on Hawai‘i Island 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.

 

So, next, feather making?

 

Feather lei making?

 

No more mamo’s, I’m afraid.

 

Capes?

 

The mamo are gone.

 

Yeah.

 

Aole, unfortunately.

 

And how are the Hawaiian Hawks doing?

 

The Hawaiian Hawks are doing pretty well. They’re estimated at twenty-five hundred or thereabouts, and I’m seeing more of them, which is very, very rewarding. I so enjoy seeing them.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Sarah Richards

 

Sarah Richards was the President of Hawaii Theatre Center for nearly 25 years and retired in June 2014. She spearheaded the Hawaii Theatre’s restoration, and the $32 million fundraising campaign for the project. Born and raised in Indiana, Sarah always had a love for the arts, which she brought with her to Hawaii.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, June 29 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, July 3 at 4:00 pm.

 

Sarah Richards Audio

 

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Transcript

 

My grandmother was very musical; pianist, organist. My mother was an amateur singer. And so, I had a lot of experience with music.

 

And you’re being modest, because didn’t you win any kind of voice award there was?

 

Oh, I did; I did. I won several state voice awards when I was in high school.

 

Did you figure on a performing arts career?

 

Well, not really. I loved to sing. I sang in college a fair amount. I really wasn’t committed to be a singer, but I also knew by going to a conservatory what your life was like if you were going to be a professional singer. You needed to be very, very good, and even if you were very good, it was a difficult life. And you either kinda got the breaks or you didn’t, but you went from one backstage to another. And I didn’t see that as my life, doing that.

 

Despite being a gifted vocalist, Sarah Richards pursued a career in a completely different field: higher education administration. Yet, after moving to Hawaii in the mid-70s, she soon found herself on a path that led her right back to the arts. Retired executive director of the Hawaii Theatre Center, and before that the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Sarah Richards, next, on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Sarah Richards is a familiar name in Hawaii’s arts community. Awarded the 2015 Preiss Honor by the Hawaii Arts Alliance, a passionate advocate for the arts, Richards is best known for her leadership role in the restoration of the Hawaii Theatre, transforming a dilapidated historic theater into a national award-winning performance center. Sarah Richards grew up in the Midwest in the 1940s and 50s. Her family had lived there for generations, but she had no intention of staying.

 

I was born in Sullivan, Indiana, and I grew up in a small town called Washington, Indiana, in southern Indiana.

 

How small?

 

Fifteen thousand people; fifteen thousand people. My family was from Sullivan, Indiana, about eight generations. With my parents, I grew up in Washington.

 

And what kind of school did you go to?

 

In Indiana, it was wonderful. We lived on about fifteen acres outside of town. And so, we were farmers, but we had a couple of cows, and couple of horses, and dogs. I went to a small four-room, eight-grade elementary school through junior high, and I went to school with the Amish kids. And so, it was a lovely place, with thirteen students in the class.

 

So, everybody knew everybody in town?

 

Oh, everybody knew everybody. Yes.

 

And did you like that?

 

I loved it. I could ride my horse to school. And it was also nice because the Amish students were on their schedule for planting in the Spring, so our school got out two weeks a year. The kids in town.

 

Did you think you would leave Washington?

 

Oh, yes. Oh, yes; after high school, I knew I was not going to live there.

 

When did you know that?

 

Oh, I knew that in high school. It was a very nice place to grow up, it was a wonderful time to grow up, but no, I really wanted to see the world.

 

Which you did.

 

Which I did.

 

What was your next step after high school?

 

I went to the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, which I went there on scholarship. I was a voice student. Loved the conservatory; it was magnificent. But you don’t get a college education in a conservatory, and I did want to get a college education.

 

So, you gave up your scholarship?

 

Uh-huh. And I went to DePauw University, which is a liberal arts college in Greencastle, Indiana. I was the third generation to go there; my grandfather graduated from there, my mother, and cousins, and aunts and uncles. And I got a wonderful education. I was an English major and a music major.

 

So, what was the plan? And this was in … let’s see. This was in the 60s.

 

Yes; I graduated in ’63 from college. So I graduated, and of course, you always would get your teacher’s license. And so, I got my teacher’s license.

 

You’re saying that because women at the time always—

 

Women at that time had three choices. You could be teacher, you could be a nurse, or you could go to Katie Gibbs Secretarial School in New York. And those were the choices. Or you could get your MRS degree.

 

Were you affected by the tumult of the 60s?

 

Not really too much. No, not so much. I was not, that much. I was not sort of out there stomping the ground, and carrying banners. I was more conservative.

 

Were you interested in the MRS?

 

Not at that time. Not in college. I was not interested necessarily in getting married. Some of the gals in my sorority were, but no, I was more interested in doing something else. I wanted to travel. So, right after college, I became a teacher in Denver, Colorado. So, I taught English and music in Denver, Colorado at the Gibson County Public School System.

 

And you did get to travel. Did you spend a year traveling and studying?

 

I did. And so, two years after teaching junior high school, I said, That’s enough.

 

You need a break.

 

And so, with a girlfriend, we went to Western Europe for a year. And she bought a darling little Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany, and we drove all around. And we sort of were based in Madrid, Spain. And I taught there, English as a second language. And then, of course, drove all around. We had friends in Sweden, and so, I got to see a lot of Western Europe.

 

How did that affect you the rest of your life? They say travel just broadens you, and it’s a gift forever.

 

Yes; yes, you see the world, and you see the way people live, beautiful places, beautiful cities, artwork. Yes; I think your perspective is widened. But I was happy to come home after a year. But it was a terrific experience. But it sort of sets up an appetite to then go back and travel more, which I have since then, of course.

 

You went to graduate school after your travels.

 

After my travels, I came back and went to graduate school at Indiana University. And so, I got a degree in higher education administration, and also in psychology.

 

And I understand you became the very youngest dean ever of a college.

 

I did become a very young dean; yes. I was twenty-six, and I became dean of women at Albion College in Albion, Michigan. And if you recall, that was the time of student unrest. And you couldn’t trust anybody that was over thirty. And so, we negotiated non-negotiable demands, for all the demands that the students had at the time. And they used to say, Throw a rock in the window and say we will negotiate with no one lower than the dean. And we would reply, There is no one lower than the dean.   So, they didn’t have much of a sense of humor. But I was at Albion, and that was a pretty benign place to be. University of Michigan and Kent State were certainly a lot … wilder.

 

So, you weren’t conflicted at all about the generations.

 

No, I wasn’t; no. Uh-uh. And also, being younger, you can relate to the students. But ours weren’t really hardcore. And they were very quiet, wonderful students. But then, if you had a problem, all you did was pick up the phone and call their parents. And that took care of it.

 

But that didn’t last too long.

 

I did that for two years, and then I had friends here in Hawaii who said, Get yourself out of Southern Michigan; it’s cold and snowy. Get yourself out here to Hawaii.

 

Sarah Richards took her friends up on their offer, and came to Hawaii to visit. Even though it was just for a summer, it made enough of an impression on her that she decided that this was where she wanted to live. She wasted no time coming back and immersing herself in Honolulu, including getting her MRS; Mrs. Degree.

 

I was recruited from graduate school, actually, at Indiana University in the summer. I was recruited to teach creative writing at Kamehameha Schools. I got here, and nobody wanted to take creative writing. So they said, Well, we noticed you could teach swimming. So, I had a WSI, Red Cross WSI, and so, I taught swimming at Kamehameha Schools.

 

That’s a switcheroo.

 

That’s a switch. Well, I think what it was, was I was in Indiana, and Indiana at that time was the home of the Olympic swim team. And the real swimming coach out there, Sonny Tanabe, had been an Olympic swimmer from Indiana. So, we were all very friendly, and I taught beginning swimming to junior and senior lifesaving. And it was much better than teaching creative writing for the summertime.

 

And then, back to school?

 

And then, back to graduate school; right.

 

So, how did you end up moving here, and making your life here?

 

Well, I knew I wanted to live in Hawaii. And I think a very big decision you make is, do you want to be dean of women, or a college leader on the mainland, or do you want to live where you want to live? And I decided I would rather live in Hawaii, than just be so focused on a higher education career. I was hired as dean of students at Chaminade University. So, I came as dean of students at Chaminade from Albion College. So, I was able to keep in the same field, but I liked being out here a whole lot better than … Southern Michigan.

 

And … I’m trying to figure out when you got married, because you—

 

I came here in 1970 permanently, and my husband and I married in 1972. And I met him backstage. I was active then even with the Opera Theater. I was head of the education committee for the Opera Theater, while I was still dean at Chaminade. And he was singing in the chorus. So, I met him onstage, Aida, Act 2. Backstage. He was dressed up like a 5th Century Egyptian priest. And my friends were fixing me up with the star, who sang the role of the king, who was a real opera star, Archie Drake. But I went to the cast party with the king. That’s where we met, was onstage. But then, we were introduced at the cast party. We were introduced in February of 1972, and we were married in December of ’72.

 

So, so much for the king.

 

So much for the king. He was twenty years my senior, so I was not too interested.

 

And your husband is interesting. It’s an interesting combination, because here you are, a transplant from the mainland, and you married a guy whose family goes back in Hawaii for generations.

 

Right.

 

 

What was that like?

 

Well, actually, it was wonderful to get acquainted with a lot of cousins. So, his family came over in the 1820s, and they were very active. They’re members of the Cooke family and the Atherton family, but the Cookes at that time did the chief’s children’s school. And so, his many cousins have done a lot of things, been leaders in the community. And so, it was nice to get to know a lot of people that way. You learn an awful lot about Hawaii’s history, and just sort of the way of life. But I had come from a small town in Indiana, and I understood about being a kamaaina, what that was all about, people who have long roots in one place. And it was wonderful.

 

They say Hawaii is a tough place to break into if you’re fresh from somewhere else, and you don’t give it time. Was it tough for you?

 

Well, initially, I felt it was just like a small town. And I understood sort of the ebb and flow of things, and the way people relate to one another. So, at least in the 1970s, it seemed like a very happy place. It’s a small town, but it had the advantage of having different cultural groups here, which of course, Southern Indiana didn’t. But all kinds of different cultures, different people, and I found that very stimulating.

 

Sarah Richards’ husband is retired scientist and researcher Manning Richards. Sarah Richards started volunteering at the Hawaii Opera Theater six months after arriving in the islands, and later became the opera theater’s board president. Under the board’s leadership, the theater, which had been a division of the Honolulu Symphony, became an independent organization, succeeding on its own. With her growing reputation in the arts community, Sarah Richards was offered a leadership position at the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, which she decided was too good to pass up, and she left Chaminade University.

 

You succeeded a man who has got a lot of aura around him in history.

 

Yes.

 

Alfred Preiss.

 

Right.

 

As head of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

 

Right.

 

In 1980?

 

1980; m-hm.

 

What was he like? Did you know him before you took over?

 

I got to know him. He was a wonderful man. He was a Prussian architect. And so, he was very Prussian in character, in modus operandi. And he was the one who really initiated the Art in Public Places program, really, on a European model. He was a lovely man, with a great vision.

 

And when it was time for him to step down, the foundation looked for somebody who was a good administrator, and who could handle the strong voices in the arts community.

 

Yes.

 

And they selected you to do that.

 

They did; they did.

 

What kind of strong voices?

 

Oh, well, the arts, as you know, because the State Foundation dealt with all the arts, whether it was visual arts, performing arts, literary arts. And so, there was a lot of variety of art groups we were dealing with. And of course, since we were the granting agency, we had a lot of very personal contacts with how much money grants were gonna be given to what groups.

 

Right; and projects are like babies.

 

Oh, yes; oh, yes.

 

You give money to one, and it’s my baby.

 

That’s right.

 

You know, it seems like a dream job to have all this money that you can give to wonderful art projects. But you probably are under criticism, no matter what you do.

 

Oh, yes. Giving away money is not just a piece of cake. You need to be clear on what your mission is, what you want to accomplish, and then also who makes decisions and who are qualified to make decisions. It wasn’t just sort of, Here’s some money.

 

And you were criticized for not putting more into Hawaiian arts.

 

Right. I think some people felt I was a mainland Haole, and what would I know.

 

So, how did you handle that?

 

I found it puzzling at first. ‘Cause I had grown up in a situation where I guess we didn’t have conflicts. And so, I felt my job was to do the best I possibly could to get as much money in the agency as I possibly could. It helped that my husband was local, and he could kind of explain a little bit more about how the world works here. And so, that was very helpful.

 

What was his advice?

 

Well, this is the way certain things work. And certain groups have certain opinions on certain things. And just don’t take it too personally. Don’t take it too personally, and just do the best you possibly can, and reach out to whoever had the concern. And so, I found it hurtful at first, ‘cause I didn’t understand it. Did I feel racial discrimination? Absolutely; yes. But you just go on. You move on.

 

 

Did you think of quitting?

 

I thought about it; I thought about it. But then, I thought, no, I cared about what the agency was doing, and we were being very successful. For the most part, the conflict is, we tried to get as much out, good art, support all the arts institutions that were there, and then to purchase art when our little group would go out and get artwork. But we spent a lot of time doing a lot of things.

 

Could you show what priorities were, and did you have agreed-upon priorities?

 

Yes, we did. This is how much money was allocated to each of the panel areas. And so, what happens if one person, we didn’t buy his or her artwork? They were very upset. And so, we introduced the subject of standards. Now, that’s another difficult concept to get across. Because, you know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or in the eye of the creator. But there are certain standards that the art community has, and that’s why you ask a group of knowledgeable people to review and make a judgment. We were proud we were number one in the nation in per capita state support. So, we did a fair amount of lobbying the State Legislature, and also getting money from the federal government.

 

You’re a very determined person, aren’t you? You’re very goal-oriented.

 

I was very goal-oriented; yes, I was. Yes.

 

And you’re a missioned person.

 

Yeah.

 

 

After almost ten years of working for the state government at the Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Sarah Richards was ready to leave. An opportunity opened at the newly-formed Hawaii Theatre Center nonprofit organization, with a vision to restore the ramshackle Downtown theater. With Sarah Richards’ fundraising skills, including experience in navigating at the Hawaii State Legislature, Sarah Richards was the perfect candidate to become its first staff member.

 

In the beginning, we had a lot of the community saying this was a really dumb idea, why are we doing this, you’ll never succeed.

 

Well, a lot of people remember, and I remember this as a little kid, I think Hawaii Theatre had turned into like a movie palace.

 

Exactly.

 

It was all movies.

 

It was; it was.

 

It was not performing arts.

 

Right. It began as a vaudeville theater. You know, with the stage, dressing rooms, orchestra pit. So, it began in 1922 as a vaudeville theater. It morphed into, in about the 30s, a movie theater.

 

Well, I wasn’t a kid in the 30s, so it must have been longer than that.

 

Yeah; yeah. So, when we were able to buy the building, we bought the building in fee simple for a million-one from the Bishop Estate. Before that, Consolidated Amusement, who built the theater, had a month-to-month lease, and they had given that up. And so, the status of the building was dreadful. The rats were rampant, the termites were rampant.

 

The neighborhood was …

 

And the neighborhood was terrible. So, it was all bad. The phone system for the prostitute center was on the side of my building. So, it was pretty bad down there. But we knew if we were going to make it a success, actually, we needed to do three things. We needed to restore the theater, we needed to expand the backstage, and ultimately put an extension on the theater, on part of where the park is today. There was a wonderful group of community leaders who had a vision for what it could be. But meanwhile, we didn’t have anything. I bought into the vision of what it could be, and how we could get there. When I went there, we had a consultant, architectural consultant from New York and a theater consultant, and they said, Oh, this is about an eight-million-dollar project. Well, about two months after I got there, I realized that this was at that time a twenty-two-million-dollar project. Had nothing to do with eight million dollars. And so, what to do? What to do? Just forget it? So, we decided to come up with a public-private partnership. And that’s when we said, Okay, we think we can raise eleven million from the private sector, eleven million from the State. And so, we put together a public-private partnership, and then we went forward.

 

So, you were the point person at the Legislature?

 

Oh, yes; oh, yes.

 

Because you had gotten to know people.

 

Oh, yes. But I had a wonderful board of directors, of community leaders, and they weren’t afraid of big numbers. So, we had some developers on the board, like Diane Plotts, Bill Mills, and we had people like Bob Midkiff, who was wonderful. And so, we had a lot of major community leaders who embraced the vision. We raised thirty-two million dollars. Fourteen of that came from the State Legislature over a period of about four years. We had three different separate capital campaigns. In the meantime, we started the construction. It took us four years, but we had some certain principles we were adhering to. And that was, we would do the best job of historic restoration we could. This was not a paint-up, fix-up job. And so, we had very high standards of quality of restoration. But we had to do everything; all new roof, all new HVAC.

 

And of course, it’s much more expensive and—

 

Oh!

 

–time-consuming to do old, than build new.

 

Oh, much more.

 

And all this time, you can’t have people in to watch shows, because you’re building; right?

 

Right; right.

 

So, that doesn’t help you with fundraising.

 

No.

 

You can’t show people exactly what it could do.

 

Yeah. What happened was, in 1995, we had just about finished the interior. But we still had a loan of five and a half million dollars, then we had money from the State Legislature, and Governor Cayetano wouldn’t release it. So, what to do? Do we just keep fundraising, keep fundraising, because we didn’t have the money to finish the outside façade, the marquee and the façade. And the community told us, You’ve raised all this money, what are you doing? And so, we opened the theater before we finished the outside façade. And that was the right decision.

 

How do you engage people, when they haven’t been to the Hawaii Theatre to see something, and they’re not so sure this is going to be a good thing?

 

Well, what you do is, you first identify if there’s been any history that they would have with the theater. So, for example, our first big gift came from Jack Magoon. And Jack Magoon’s father had been the treasurer of the Hawaii Theatre initially, with Consolidated Amusement. And so, you had to do your history, had to be doing your research to find out what people would have connections. And then, we’d go after people and bring them down there, and we’d paint the picture of what it could be, so you get them involved in what could be. And then, as you know, talk to a lot of people. It’s relentless, you don’t stop. Bob Midkiff made it very clear. This is not personal; it’s not personal at all. It’s about the project, and applying what skills you have, and knowledge of the people, to support a project.

 

Back when you got your master’s degree in higher education and educational counseling, far cry from going to well-connected individuals and making your case. And when you said relentless, it is relentless.

 

M-hm.

 

You’re always looking for reaching the next level to fulfill a dream.

 

Right.

 

But it must have been a beating, too, for you.

 

Well, you just have to be convinced of the value. I like fundraising, but it is tiring at times. As I said, it’s relentless. You have to love what you’re doing, and you have to be convinced that the goal is reachable, or that you can make sure you can get there. You just sort of don’t stop. So, you’re very patient, but persevering.

 

But you always believed you could get it done.

 

I always believed we could get it done.

 

Did it ever get easier? I mean, you raised the money, you restored this theater.

 

I’ll tell you what got easier. What got easier was, people didn’t now say, You can’t do it.

 

If you knew all that you would have to do before you did it, you might not do it.

 

That’s true. If you thought too hard, you thought, Well, maybe I can do something else. But I was doing what I loved, and I love the joy of making it happen. So, I love the joy that the theater is built, and also it’s beautiful. And so, I wish it well in its future.

  

 Sarah Richards retired from her role as president of the Hawaii Theatre Center in 2014. In 2015, she was named the Hawaii Arts Alliance Alfred Preiss Honoree for her advocacy and achievement in arts and arts education in Hawaii. Mahalo to Sarah Richards of Honolulu for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, 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.

 

And after twenty-four years at the Hawaii Theatre Center, you decided to retire.

 

It was time. It was time, right, for the theater too, you know, and to focus on having new people in, and take it to a new level. But also, I was wanting to do something else. I’d done this for a while. So, what I did is, I joined the Garden Club. I learned about gardening. I hadn’t been a gardener before. And I spend more time with the Hawaii Opera Theater, and I joined the board at Mission Houses Museum, with this interest in history. So, I’ve found there’s plenty to do.

 

[END]

 

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