tough

NATURE
Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem

 

This “thug of the savannah” is one the most fearless animals in the world, renowned for its ability to confront grown lions, castrate charging buffalo and shrug off the toxic defenses of stinging bees, scorpions and snakes. Little is known about its behavior in the wild or why it is so aggressive. This film follows badger specialists in South Africa who take on these masters of mayhem in ways that must be seen to be believed.

 

GLOBE TREKKER
Antarctica

 

Trekker Zay Harding’s epic adventure in Antarctica begins with sea kayaking and penguin watching in Paradise Harbor. He sails to historic Port Lockrov where he observes the work of Ukrainian biologists, unsuccessfully attempts to climb the treacherous Mount Scott and meets with U.S. scientists at Palmer station where he learns about the effects of global warming and the plight of the Adelie penguin.

 

GLOBE TREKKER
Tough Trains: Siberia

 

Trekker Zay Harding boards the infamous “Ice Train” for a wintry trip to the far north of Siberia, deep inside the Arctic Circle on the world’s northernmost railway line. His journey takes him through Tobolksk to the gas fields of Novy Urengoy and follows the abandoned route of Stalin’s “Railway of Death.” He visits a Communist gulag and camps overnight with the Nenet nomadic tribe.

 

Virtuosity:
The Cliburn

 

Every four years, a group of the finest young pianists takes the stage at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. The pressure on these artists is overwhelming, because the stakes are so high: prize money, concert bookings, a recording contract, a career. At the heart of this story is the courage it takes for a 20-year-old to go onstage alone before 2,000 people, and hundreds of thousands more online, and play a unique interpretation of one of the most difficult pieces ever written for the piano. The competition requires not only a transcendent musical ability, but a mental toughness that must sustain the soloist through three straight weeks of performance. The Cliburn becomes as much a test of character as a musical proving ground.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Clarissa Chun

 

Original air date: Tues., May 8, 2012

 

Long before winning an Olympic bronze medal in wrestling, Clarissa Chun started competing in judo at age 7. By the time she took up wrestling at Roosevelt High School, Clarissa was unfazed about grappling with both boys and girls. Clarissa talks to Leslie Wilcox about her experiences in what she calls a “fun but gruesome” sport — one that until recently faced an uncertain Olympic future.

 

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Gearing up for that match, you would have thought I was crazy, ‘cause I was hitting myself, pulling my hair. I was like, no one’s gonna beat me up but myself. So, I just gotta go out there and compete and have fun doing it. I’m not gonna let her beat me up.

 

Wrestling is traditionally a man’s sport, but a woman from Hawaii is breaking down barriers with international success in the sport of female wrestling. Olympic bronze medalist Clarissa Chun, next, on Long Story Short.

 

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

 

From a young age, Clarissa dreamed about competing in the Olympics, but not as a wrestler. Growing up on Oahu, Chun was a five – time national judo champion, and competed on her high school swim team. As fate would have it, women’s wrestling became a sanctioned sport in Hawaii high school athletics in 1998. Drawing on her judo background, Clarissa tried out for the wrestling team at Roosevelt High School in Honolulu. It was a move that would alter the course of her life.

 

Really, it was my sophomore year, after swimming State tournament. I don’t know; I always thought that I could do more in swimming. But at four – eleven, I was just, ah, okay, not getting to where —

 

You didn’t have Michael Phelps sized feet or anything like that?

 

No, I didn’t have his —

 

Flippers.

 

Yeah. So, I was like, oh, I love my swimming team. It was really hard for me to be — I don’t know, ‘cause I’m competitive. I want to be better, I want to do more. And I had friends who did judo, and a lot of them were wrestlers, and come out for wrestling. And I was like, I’ll try it. And it was a nice transition, judo to —

 

Judo helped you a lot, I imagine.

 

Yeah; it helped me a lot. I remember not really learning — I learned takedowns and stuff, but never really used it. [CHUCKLE] ‘Cause I would just throw people. Then when I started, it was against guys. It was the first —

 

There wasn’t a girls wrestling team?

 

That was the first year they had girls wrestling, but it was just me and another girl, so we didn’t make a full lineup. And they allowed females to wrestle guys during dual meets.

 

What was it like joining the boys wrestling team?

 

It was all right. It was nothing to me, really, ‘cause I grew up doing judo.

 

It might have been new to the boys who wrestled.

 

Yeah; to the boys. To the boys, it was.

 

‘Cause either way, I can see a certain mindset where they’d say, one, I don’t want to beat a girl.

 

Yeah.

 

And two, I don’t want to be beaten by a girl.

 

Yeah. So, at first, I think there was hesitation for some of the guys on the team. But I mean, we trained every day together; they get over it real fast. [CHUCKLE]

 

Is that right?

 

Yeah. Then it’s like —

 

There wasn’t some lingering, Oh, why does it have to be around her?

 

Yeah. No, it was like, I had a great team, so I can’t complain. I can’t say that I had much struggle there.

 

No resistance?

 

Yeah. My team would get a kick out of it if I’d win. [CHUCKLE] ‘Cause it’s like, yeah! [CHUCKLE] Poor guy and whatnot. And even still, I’ll see some of my old teammates, and they’re like, Oh, I bet those guys feel different now, like oh, it’s not so bad losing to a Olympian now. [CHUCKLE]

 

Well, when you would face off with each other, did you do any psychological stuff?

 

No.

 

No? No trash talking?

 

No; I’m not good at stuff like that. I’m not.

 

It’s all straight – on competition?

 

Yeah. I don’t know if it comes from my judo background, or just my culture in general that it’s just, I’ve always respected my opponents. I never trash talk.

 

Throughout her long journey from Oahu to Beijing and to London, Clarissa Chun’s family has always been a huge influence in her life. She says that sibling rivalry with her older brother Shaun helped push her to compete in athletics at a young age.

 

Your mom and your dad have been so supportive of you. Do you get your competitive fire from them?

 

No; I don’t know where I get it from. [CHUCKLE] They’re so easygoing.   I mean, yeah, my dad’s super laid back, kinda softs – spoken kinda guy. And my mom’s complete opposite, very talkative. Maybe I get it from her. I don’t know. I probably get it from both in some way or another. But yeah, she’s the one that always goes and goes. She would be the one that would drop us off, pick us up and run all over the place.

 

Sort of a whatever it takes mindset, which is what an athlete has too.

 

Right; right.

 

You’ve mentioned your brother; three years older than you, Shaun.

 

M – hm.

 

What part has he played in your sports career? Because I believe athletically he did encourage you.

 

Oh, yeah.   It didn’t just start and stop at judo. Even growing up, when we were doing judo, he was bigger than me, he would always pick on me. We’d fight a lot.

 

Physically?

 

Physically and just play tricks on me. I don’t know, just be the big prankster brother that he was. [CHUCKLE] But yeah, and still to this day. Well, before I made the decision, when I went off to college, he was like, Why not take the scholarship and try wrestling? ‘Cause I was kind of at a crossroads. I’m like, Missouri? I don’t know. And he said, If you don’t like it, you can always come back and go judo or whatever route you want. And so he kinda helped guide me to that decision.

 

I heard somebody describe wrestling once. I think it was a collegiate level wrester saying, It’s the tactical manipulation of your opponent to take control, normally through pain.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Would you agree?

 

Yeah. When you’re on the mat competing, it may sound dirty to say that you want to cause pain to your opponent. But at that level, I feel like … I mean at that level, there’s so many different styles of wrestlers. You can be the tactical and strategic and fluid, you can be the brute and abrasive. I remember, I think, one time I was in Russia, and I felt like I got punched in the eye during my match. And I’m like, Whoa, where did that come from? Like, how? And I was just thrown off for a second. And it just got me off focus like that. And any time you can — not saying that I’ve ever punched anyone in the eye or anything during a match, but whatever her strategy was, it worked. In the wrestling world against females, it gets pretty intense sometimes.

 

You mean, when females oppose females?

 

Yeah. It almost seems worse, ‘cause it becomes kind like, claws come out, hair gets pulled. Which is why I chop my hair off. And I even got bit my first round at the Olympics.

 

What do people know you as, do you think? I mean, everyone has ways of pigeonholing or just have some kind of short description.

 

Yeah.

 

What’s yours?

 

Well, I’ve heard people say that I’m quick, I move fast. There’s a move that they like.

 

What’s it called?

 

I don’t even know what it’s called. Actually, I learned it off watching video from the Russians. The men Russian video. Yeah; so just playing around with that with a friend in practice.

 

What do you do?

 

I just attack with my legs, rather than my arms. ‘Cause it’s a little bit of judo in a sense, but it’s not really a judo technique. Most takedowns, people would expect that I would shoot with my arms, not with my legs.

 

So where are you kicking them?

 

Behind their leg, and I’m wrapping around them, and then bringing my arm behind to secure it in a sense. So, yeah, it’s a little funky, people would say.

 

So, you just mentioned the word funky. So, I’ve just got to ask you; it’s probably really trivial and unimportant. But I know I’ve met women who’ve said they would never consider going into the man’s sport of wrestling at the time.

 

Uh – huh.

 

Because of the stinky factor.

 

Yeah; it can get gross. [CHUCKLE]   The mats; yeah, it gets funky. And the smell, in each country or region, they have a certain funk to themselves too. But I don’t know, I guess it’s just one of those — it may bother us for a split second, like, Oh, gosh, that’s horrible.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You know.

 

That’s another of those gruesome things.

 

Yeah. One of those gruesome things.

 

Clarissa Chun attended Missouri Valley College on a wrestling scholarship. In 2002, women’s wrestling became an official Olympic sport, and Chun set her sights on Olympic competition. In 2008, she qualified for Team USA and competed in the Olympic Games in Beijing.

 

I think a lot of folks in Hawaii know what it’s like when you have to go from JV to Varsity in high school, and then you decide if you’re gonna go collegiate, and a lot of people — No, I’m out of there, I’m not gonna perform at that level. And then, of course, you went beyond that.

 

Yeah.

 

What’s different about the Olympic level?

 

Oh …

 

The highest level of the sport.

 

Oh, man. I think … and in every aspect, there’s discipline. In high school, you had to be disciplined about schoolwork along with practice. Being at practice and giving it your all in practice. And it carried over into college. And then at the Olympic level, it was even more focused. This is what I do every day; I wake up, I train. Gotta make sure I eat right to fuel my body for practices, to recover from practices. And making sure I do all the right things, meaning sleeping at a decent time. When I was in high school, I was a terrible eater. I would eat all kinds of junk food; li hing mui, everything and anything. And I wasn’t really the greatest at sleeping. I’d get home late and sleep late, and wake up early ‘cause I live so far. I don’t know; at the Olympic level, especially the year before, it just seems the energy becomes more intense ‘cause everyone wants it. Everyone wants that spot. And for women’s wrestling, there’s only four.

 

Okay; you walked away from the 2008 Olympics empty – handed. You came in fifth.

 

I know; it was terrible.

 

But next time, you won the Bronze. Did you notice anything that allowed you intensify or do something different?

 

Differently; yeah. Well, in 2008, it was my first Olympics. But at the same time, when I lost in the semis, I couldn’t get over it. That match was done but I still kept thinking about that match. I was emotionally … I was on an emotional rollercoaster.

 

But you had lost before and gotten over losses.

 

Yeah.

 

But this was different?

 

‘Cause it was the Olympics. In 2008, I was like, I should be going for Gold. I could have done — I regretted not giving even a little bit more in my semifinals match. Then my coach told me, That’s in the past, fight for third. You’re still fighting for a medal. And so, I’d be upset that I wasn’t in the Gold Medal match, I’d be sad for myself that I wasn’t in the Gold match. I’d be angry and like, I’m gonna beat up the next person I gotta wrestle. So I was on a rollercoaster ride.

 

After her fifth – place finish in the 2008 Olympic Games, Clarissa Chun refocused her training beyond the physical aspects of wrestling. In 2012, she qualified again for Team USA and returned to the Olympic Games, this time in London.

 

And I remember before the 2012 Olympics, I sought out a sports psychologist consistently. I’ve worked with sports psychologists before in the past, but it was sporadic. It was more that I had to find my weaknesses, and then work on them. On and off the mat.

 

How do you do mental training? I want to learn some of that.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

How do you do that?

 

Breathing techniques or concentration drills, or … let’s see, meditation.

 

And that’s all about controlling your thoughts.

 

Yeah.

 

So that they’re positive in terms of what you need to do.

 

M – hm; yup. Yup. So, it’s just like visualization. A lot of that.

 

What do you visualize?

 

Getting my hand raised.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Hearing the National Anthem.

 

So, it’s not this —

 

No. [CHUCKLE]

 

— boom, takedown.

 

Well, sometimes.

 

It’s more like, Hello, everyone.

 

Yeah. No, no, no.

 

Gold star winner.

 

No, no. [CHUCKLE] They just raise their hand.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Like brute style, right? Gladiator. [CHUCKLE] But sometimes it is technique. Feeling the mat, your surroundings, hearing he cheers and the crowd. It’s very detailed.

 

But you have to be able to do that when you need to.

 

Yeah. It’s kinda like zoning in, being in the moment. In 2012, when I lost, I felt that well, I gotta keep winning to … basically fight for my medal. My emotions were more focused. I contained emotions, as far as I didn’t go on a rollercoaster ride.

 

How could you do it the next Olympics, when you hadn’t done it the first one? What did you learn in between?

 

Just … letting it go, I guess. Letting that match go. I couldn’t let go of it in 2008; and ’12, I could. I just focused on the match in front of me. And preparing for my Bronze medal match, that one was tough, because it was the female that beat me in 2008 for the Bronze. So I was like, Oh … I had to be mentally tough, and physically tough.

 

I thought I read something about how at some point during that match or the series of matches, you looked at the podium and you remembered you didn’t get to go up there the last time.

 

Oh, yeah. It was my match against Poland, the girl who bit me. They were setting up the podium behind her.   And I had to beat her in order to go into the medal round.

 

I see.

 

So, her back was towards the podium, and I was facing it. So, I kinda passed her. I already had lost the first period to her, and before the second period I kinda glimpsed past her and I was like don’t let this slip through kinda thing. I want to get on there, and I’m so close. And that’s when I did my painful front headlock throw on her, [CHUCKLE] and then pinned her. And I was like, Yay! Okay; next. [CHUCKLE]

 

I understand you had quite a crowd from Hawaii cheering for you.

 

Yeah.

 

How many people came?

 

I think thirty – eight. Yeah.

 

Who were they?

 

My family. My mom, dad, brother, my judo family. So, my old judo sensei and my judo teammates, my high school friends. Even some of my swimming friends that I swam with at Rooselvelt came. My high school wrestling coach and his brother and his family came out. So, I was just very blessed to have such a good solid cheering crowd.

 

Absolutely.

 

M – hm; yeah.

 

 

Clarissa Chun has competed in a host of other national and international wrestling competitions beyond the Olympics. In 2012, she also won a gold medal at the Pan Am Games. Over the years, the sport has taken a physical toll on her, but don’t expect this champion to tap out any time soon.

 

We sent a little questionnaire to you, just asking you for basic information before you came. And I was so amused by what you said about wrestling. You said it’s a fun, if gruesome sport.

 

Yeah.

 

Gruesome?

 

Yeah. [CHUCKLE]

 

Are you talking about injuries?

 

Everything. Just training and injuries. I feel you’re lucky if you can walk away injury – free. Meaning, just come out with no injuries at all. Luckier if you can walk away without any surgery to be done. And I know some friends who’ve walked away from the sport without having to get surgeries, but injuries are —

 

So, you’ve had at least three surgeries.   Four?

 

Three on my shoulder, two on my knee.

 

Two on your knees.

 

One on my elbow. [CHUCKLE]

 

Were those breaks? What kind of injuries?

 

Two of them were cleanups, and the rest were tears.

 

Cleanup from what?

 

So, my elbow had bone spurs floating around. So, just go in, take those out. Knee was ACL, and then the cleanup was, just shaving of — it would get frayed and get locked up, and they would just clean the bone up.

 

Same shoulder?

 

Yeah. Well, three shoulder surgeries. So, there’s two on one side, and one on the other. And those were all tearing. Yeah.

 

You must be very good at handling pain.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Have you always had a high threshold for pain?

 

I think so. Yeah, I think so. That’s the only time my family gets concerned. Each time I get a surgery, they’re like, How much longer are you gonna do this? Are you sure you want to continue?

 

Athletes generally have short competitive careers. Now in her thirties, Clarissa Chun knows that the 2016 Olympic Games could be her last run at Olympic Gold.

 

And the third time around in the Olympics for you —

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I wonder if that means you’ll have further increase in control and awareness.

 

I hope so.

 

And ability to focus on just that.

 

Oh, yeah. I can’t wait for that moment to click. It’s like an everyday thing when I’m in training. Sports psychology is … mental training is just as crucial as physical training. It’s something that I practiced and trained every week.

 

Have you thought about what, after that?

 

Oh … I have. I’m just not sure. I even thought about that prior to making this journey to 2016. ‘Cause it was like, Oh, should I go into coaching? There’s this program in New York called Beat the Streets for inner city New York kids. Teach them wrestling. And there’s a wrestling club in New Jersey was well. I thought about that. I’ve had people come up to me and ask me if I want to be a coach or an assistant coach at a college program. I wish we had no expiration date on an athletic career.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I wish I could go ‘til the end of time. But it’s just one of those — I’m at my career in my life where I am like, the older age of competing.

 

In your early thirties.

 

Yeah. And I’ve even known some who competed in their late thirties.

 

You mentioned mixed martial arts a bit ago.

 

M – hm.

 

Which is pretty much anything goes.

 

Yeah.

 

Would you ever feel comfortable doing something like that?

 

I don’t know. I get offers, and I get asked a lot. ‘Cause a lot of my friends who were wrestlers are doing it now. A lot of the top guys who compete in MMA were top level wrestlers, and they try to get me to go to that side. [CHUCKLE] I call it the dark side. No, I’m just joking. [CHUCKLE]

 

But it has some appeal to you?

 

Yeah.

 

Because you like to compete.

 

Yeah.

 

And that’s anything goes.

 

Yeah.

 

You can bring out your whole arsenal.

 

Yeah. It’s funny, ‘cause when I talked to my mom and dad about it, and even my brother, but more my mom and dad, and the look on their face; they’re like, Ooh. ‘Cause that’s a whole kind of different beast to them. ‘Cause wrestling, there’s still rules.

 

Exactly.

 

In MMA, there’s rules, but a lot less rules. You’re getting kicked in the face, hit in the face, punched, whatever. You’re getting choked out, someone’s trying to rip your arms off, or break your knees, your ankles, whatever. And I mean, when I think about it that way, I’m like, Whoo! [CHUCKLE]

 

Especially when you see them making big body, tan – ta – ra before.

 

Yeah.

 

And they say, I’m gonna kill that guy.

 

Yeah.

 

You think, Wow, you know, actually, they could.

 

Yeah. [CHUCKLE] They’re beasts, right?

 

Is there anything you regret giving up or sacrificing for this Olympic dream?

 

No. I enjoy every moment of the Olympics, from making the team to even after making the team. Or even after the Olympics is done. After my first Olympic experience, I was like, What winter sport can I do? [CHUCKLE] Because I want to go to every single Olympics, and I absolutely love the spirit of it. I love how each country can come together. I love how each sport can come together within each country. I don’t know, I just love everything about it.

 

Women’s freestyle wrestling Olympic Bronze Medalist Clarissa Chun recently signed with a new coach in the hopes of expanding her wrestling repertoire. When we talked with her, she was preparing to return to the U.S. mainland to begin another round of training. Expect to see Clarissa Chun go for the Gold in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Mahalo to Clarissa Chun for sharing her story with us, and mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. 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’m looking forward to the six o’clock morning practices sometimes. It’s just I’m ready for that routine, I’m ready to get back in shape and start doing what I love. I mean, I’m enjoying my time at home, but it’s just each day goes by, I think, How can I better myself for 2016?

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Victor Marx


 

As a young boy growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana, Victor Marx was beaten, electrocuted, and tortured by his stepfather. By the time he graduated from high school, he was “using drugs, fighting and stealing.” It took the discipline of the United States Marine Corps and faith in God to help him recover from his traumatic childhood. Today, Victor Marx dedicates himself to helping troubled and abused youth and traumatized war veterans.

 

Victor Marx Audio

 

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You know, most people who are victimized as a young kid will feel an X on them, ‘cause it doesn’t stop. It’s typically not an incident. And for me, the instability of fourteen schools, seventeen different homes, all the different stepfathers coming in. You know, one’s a murdered, one was in prison. I mean, just the craziness of it, you believe, that becomes normal as a kid. Again, you can’t process as right. But for me, I will say this. I never wanted to give up, because I just kept thinking, When I’m older, when I’m older, I’m gonna have a good life.

 

Victor Marx survived the upheaval and abuse he suffered during his youth, growing up to become an excellent shooter in the U.S. Marine Corps, a martial arts master, and a weapons instructor. Now, he uses his lethal skills to heal troubled youth. Victor Marx, 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. Victor Marx is known for many things, including his seventh-degree black belt in Keichu-do karate and Jiu-jitsu, fourth-degree black belt in weapons, and a record time in fastest gun disarm. A resident of California, and the founder and president of All Things Possible Ministries, the Louisiana-born Marx once operated a martial arts business in Honolulu at the Ward Warehouse. At the time of our conversation in 2015, Marx travels around the world, offering hope to young people who are suffering from abuse. Before he was able to become an inspiration to others, though, he had to first recover from the severe trauma of his own childhood. In a way, it started even before he was born, in Lafayette, Louisiana.

 

I was born in the 60s, and I had three siblings already. My mother, who was young, she had her first child at sixteen. Their marriage didn’t make it, and they were divorced when I was born. My father actually became a drug dealer and a pimp. And the night that I was conceived, he actually put a gun to her head. Didn’t claim me when she was pregnant. He actually told her, That ain’t mine. Didn’t call me a kid; he said, That ain’t mine. Because she had gotten into other relationships already. And the next man she married we call Mr. K in the book. You know, this wasn’t like some drug dealer on a street corner. This was an educated man who had served in the military, who had been in counterintelligence.

 

So, he seemed like a respectable man.

 

Correct. And at the time, he actually even owned a bookstore, a college bookstore. Hemmingway was one of his favorite reads. And you know, my mother—I think she was twenty-two at the time, four children. You know, she’s thinking, Ah, okay. But something intuitively knew he was kinda messed up.

 

He was horrifying. He would torture you.

 

Yes. Yeah. Yeah; you know, there was perversion, but there was also intentional, what the experts would say, torture. You know, being electrocuted, being dunked in a tub until I would pass out. I remember waking up on the cold bathroom floor to him breathing into my mouth. And I’m sputtering. And he just said, Boy, don’t ever forget I’m the one that gives you life. And those are what I call lies based on reality. And until you really come to exchange those out for what the truth is, a person will remain really hamstrung by what’s happened in his childhood, ‘cause that’s implanted into you, becomes part of your fabric. ‘Cause as kid, all you can process is … I wasn’t breathing, I am now, he was the one dunking me in the tub, holding me in. I guess he does give me life. Actually, I thought he was my biological dad. I wasn’t told, you know. But I want to share this publicly. He wanted to seal to what he had done to me. And the way of protecting themselves, abusers will always use fear. Fear of death, or whatnot. And he actually had brought me to a house one night out in the country, early morning. It was a little wooden house, and there was single light in it. There was another guy, and there was a hole in the floor. It was wooden floor. And then a hole had been dug. And I thought at that point, This is when I’m gonna die. And you know, fear is a different thing. When you’ve experienced terror for a while, your mind associates. There’s no fight left in you. You just yield. And for him, he was having a conversation with man. And I remember hearing the guy say, I don’t want to do this anymore. And my stepfather was a very good communicator. He made him relax. He said, Oh, I understand. When the guy relaxed, he hit him. He cracked him and knocked him unconscious. And he was a fighter. But when he drops, he handcuffs him and he drags him up to this hole, pulls him up on his knees, handcuffed. And he pulls out a pistol, his pistol. He said, Come here, boy. And then, he put the gun in my hand said, You’re gonna shoot this man. And he raised my hand. And the guy is semi-conscious, and he sees what’s going on. Because I think he thought this was what was gonna happen to me, and now it’s happening to him. And you know, I have the pistol to the back of his head, and I remember trying to pull the trigger, and I couldn’t. And I don’t know if it was the pounds per square inch. You know, I was seven. But I’m squeezing, and I can’t pull it. And I feel his hand come over and grab my wrist, and then his right hand comes around and he slips his finger over mine, and he presses until the revolver goes off. When it fired, it hit the guy in the back of his head, and it killed him. And then, you know, he pushed his body into the hole. And then he told me, Boy, you know, this is your first kill.

 

Wow.

 

And he buried him, and he took that pistol and wrapped it in a handkerchief. And he said, If you ever tell anyone what I’ve done to you, it doesn’t matter how old you get, he said, I’ll tell the police that you killed this man, and I have the pistol with your fingerprint on it. And he said, They’ll electrocute you. And I knew what electrocution was, ‘cause he’d done it a few times. And so, it sealed and instilled in me a fear where I never talked about that ‘til I was an adult.

 

What a horrible thing. And your mother didn’t know this, any of this stuff was happening?

 

She did not know.

 

Victor Marx acknowledges he can’t substantiate this account. He said he as a kid did not know the location, the body was never found, and the crime was not reported. Marx’s mother finally escaped from her marriage to Mr. K, but she continued to marry men who were abusive to her children. By the time he finished high school, Victor Marx had already been in trouble with the law. Rather than go to jail, he made a decision that took his life in an entirely new direction.

 

You didn’t join the Marines ‘cause you wanted to.

 

Well, yeah; it was … again, at that point in my life, I’d just graduated high school. Hallelujah. But I was spiraling, using drugs, fighting, and stealing. And again, for me, stealing was my way to say, This world owes me, and they’re gonna start paying me back. And every opportunity that I could take advantage, I would. But I got caught, and I was looking at being sentenced because of my stealing and getting in trouble. So, my best option at that point was to join the United States Marine Corps. And I did, and that’s what really kept me from going to jail, ‘cause they would have prosecuted me. And the Corps was a very good thing for me, ‘cause, one, it was structured, disciplined, and it showed me that life isn’t about being fair. So just, you know, suck it up, buttercup, and time to do the deal. And it worked for me tremendously. And I really like the Marine Corps. Never loved it, but I liked it. So much, I put ink on my shoulder. And you know what? They were able to teach me skillsets I didn’t have before, which gave me a level of confidence, including starting to train in the martial arts, shooting. You know, I hunted as a little kid, but when they taught me how to put ten rounds into a target of a man from five hundred and forty-six yards without a scope—

 

Wow.

 

–that gave me a skillset that, you know, felt good. And again, there was there, ‘cause you know, I’m training, martial arts, karate, jujitsu, kempo, judo, anything I could, boxing. ‘Cause I said, If I can’t beat a man this way, I’ll beat him this way, ‘cause I never want to get hurt again. So, that was kinda my driver.

 

And you did well. But you didn’t want to stay in; you left after, what, three years?

 

Yeah; I did one term of enlistment. And I had actually got in trouble while I was in, which I was facing, you know, brig time. Again, there was a pattern. ‘Cause you can only do things for so long, but your character and your baby’s gonna tell on you. And I was in trouble, was facing some stuff. And actually, this was when my biological dad came back into my life, which is really the redemptive aspect of this whole deal. You know, really, an absentee father all my life. At that point, I’m twenty. But really engaged me, apologized for not being a father. Which blew me away. He wanted to call me son in a letter, which made me mad, ‘cause I thought, You don’t have a right to call me son. But he told me had a spiritual encounter that really changed his life, and it’s not about perfection, but the direction of his life had changed. So much so that he said, Why don’t you come visit me?   And the Marine Corps actually let me go visit him, ‘cause they knew the circumstances, you know, I’d never known him. And they just said, You come back to face your court martial. I said, Okay. I said, I’ll be back. And I went, and it was interesting getting to really spend time with him in depth.

 

This was the pimp. This was the guy who held a gun to your mother’s head.

 

Yeah; yeah.

 

The guy who wouldn’t claim you.

 

Yeah; by all means, he was a loser. He was a loser as a father, and had justified his own absentee. And so here he is; his life, I can tell is different. And okay, not perfect, but different. He cared about me, and I knew he wanted to make a new start. So, I gave him an opportunity, and it was really through seeing his faith of a life change that, you know, really impacted me so much that I had a life change through faith. And you know, I told him; I said, Well, I’m going back to face court martial. What should I do? And I had developed an elaborate lie—it was a pretty good lie, to try to get me out of it. Which it wouldn’t have, but your mind thinks it will. I’ll never forget; he looked at me and he said, Son … learn from me. Just tell the truth. ‘Cause a lie, you gotta keep it going. And I was like, Okay. I went back, and I actually told them the truth. You know, I didn’t fight it; I said, I’m guilty. You know, I told them; I said, I was gonna lie. You know, I said, but here’s the truth. I did this, this, and I deserve my punishment. And they were actually so taken back, because my nickname, my handle on the Marine Corps was Thumper.

 

‘Cause you were a hothead?

 

I was a hothead. I tell people it was because I like the little Bambi bunny.

 

 

 

You know, in the movie, the little bunny, Thumper. But it’s because I liked to thump people back then. And so, they were all shocked, and I’ll never forget the commanding officer who presided over it, he said, Well, this is a shock. And he goes, You are gonna pay the price for the crime, you’re breaking the code of military justice. He said, But I’m gonna suspend the sentence; you won’t have to do brig time, but I’m keeping you to your barracks. Which was unbelievable. And it really was the first time in my life, first time, that I thought, Telling the truth is a better way to go.

 

And was your dad for real? Had he really had a conversion?

 

He did.

 

He changed?

 

He did. Which, it stuck all the years until his passing. You know, twenty-something years. And again, I’m grateful that coming to faith or you know, finding a higher power, it’s not about perfection. But the direction of your life changes. And you know what? It not only worked for him, it worked for me.

 

Victor Marx’s acceptance of his father didn’t turn his life around immediately. He would still have to come to terms with the trauma of his childhood before he could start to put it behind him. And his newfound faith would play an important role in his healing.

 

I can see you saying, Why did God allow all that to happen to me? Why couldn’t He have kept me from some of it and distribute it equally?

 

Right. You know what? That is such a great question, and one that anybody who’s suffered, it’s an honest question.

 

Right. It’s the old, Why me?, question.

 

Yeah.

 

A variation of.

 

Right. And for me, it came in a dramatic form where, you know … because you know, I’d been to church as kid, and those things. You know, Jesus loves all the little children of the world. And I’m like, Yeah. No, I believed that, ‘cause He’s good, so He loves all the kids, just not me. That’s how you start to process it as a kid, because bad things happen. And I’ll never forget when it changed for me. And it was actually a counseling appointment, as a result of it. This old country boy counselor, boot-wearing Texas guy. And he was just like, Hey. But he had all kinda degrees on his wall, so he knew what he was doing. He just said, Well, you know, where was God in all this? If He’s so loving, and He can stop evil, why did He allow it to happen to you? He said, Why don’t you ask Him? And I remember telling him, You need to shut up. That you need to just stand down; that’s not a question I need to ask God. And he’s like, Why not? Because … and this is real, and it’s deep, but people who’ve been … people who over a lifetime or a number of years have experienced disappointment and failure again, and again, and again, and you assign it to God, you know, Why don’t you give me a better break, why don’t you give me better parents, I mean, I’m stuck in hell, or whatever it is … to ask God that question, for me, I’d rather have a false hope than not have … the right answer, and have my hope dashed forever. And people in their heart know if they’re living off of false hope. Well, He’s—oh, and it’s okay. But the reality is in your heart; you’re just too scared.

 

Well, I can also see you having a really difficult time with this, because if God is your Heavenly Father … you know, the fatherhood record was really bad on this Earth.

 

Exactly. And it is hard not to assign that. I remember when someone first told me, Oh, God is your Heavenly Father. It was so offensive to me. I thought … uh, negative. You’re kidding me? But in my mind, I thought, Well, He must be some sadistic, crazy, unloving God. Maybe somebody else. You know, I’m the stepchild. You know, I’m getting the leftovers. But what changed my life and the lie that I believed is, I finally asked God that question.

 

What were the circumstances of asking Him?

 

I was in a counseling appointment, and I just said, God, where were you? You know, Jesus, if you’re so loving and you love the kids, what about me? Why did you allow it to happen to me? I’ll never forget, I remember my eyes were closed, and I saw the room, a room where a lot of abuse had happened. And I saw it so clearly, and I saw my stepfather, had a beer in his hand, he had a belt wrapped around his hand. He was getting ready to, you know, beat me with it. He had me lay down on the bed in my underwear; he would just—you know. And I saw everything so clearly. And then, I saw what I knew to be an image of Christ, a spiritual being appearing. And I thought, Okay, great; now turn and touch my stepfather’s heart and blow it out, kill him right now. That’s what I wanted, remembering this. But it would have been the truth. It would have been my own fantasy. The reality of what really happened to me was, right before he got ready to hit me, my stepfather is rearing back, I’m grabbing the sheets. ‘Cause the way he would hit you, he would hit you, bam [SLAP], and then he would wait. He’d wait ‘til all your little muscles relaxed from being tense in anticipation, you relax, and boom [SLAP], he’d hit you again. And he’d do it slow, until you gave up, ‘til there was no more fight in you. And right before he hit me, this image of Christ turned, kneeled, and placed his body on top of mine and sunk into mine so that He would take the greatest part of the beating for me, to allow me to survive. And I knew, if that’s a God who loves me and will share my suffering, that’s a God I can trust. I think God’s heart breaks for all the injustices that happen, all the evil. That’s not what He wants; it’s never what He’s assigning to children. You know, it’s the choice of evil people making horrible choices.

 

Victor Marx turned his skill in martial arts into a business, and he started teaching karate. He met Aileen, another believer, and a nationally recognized fitness instructor. She was at the leading edge of fitness kickboxing. And soon, they began working together, opening their own gym after they were married. An invitation from a youth pastor in Honolulu to teach a Christian karate school brought Marx and his growing family to the islands. Despite all the good things happening in his life, he still could not shake the horrors of his past.

 

I like that martial arts, good martial arts, does have a way to teach a person a code of honor, and understand the impact you can make on someone. So, I’ve used it for good. When we had our martial arts center here underneath, you know, the Spaghetti Factory at the Ward Warehouse as one of our locations, we had so many people come in to fight me because I’m this Haole from the mainland, and you know, what are you doing here? And, you know, some things got physical, which changed some people’s minds or hurt some people’s feelings, because they tried to get physical. But I made more friends. You know, I was able to use my words, not necessarily my fists or chokes, or cracking somebody. But it gives you a level of confidence that in a situation. You know, I’m looking at young guy who’s like, Oh, you’re so good. I’m thinking, Oh, my gosh.

 

You sound like you speak Pidgin. You’ve got that inflection.

 

Hey, we were here long enough. My children were raised here, my first three. When we went back to the mainland, I’ll never forget; my son’s out playing in the yard. He comes back, he’s playing with kids there. He goes, Dad; he said, there’s so many White kids here.

 

I said, Come here. I said, You are white. And he’s like, Oh, oh! So, you know, he got his Pidgin, still talks Pidgin. So, I love the islands. I have a little home here. We consider this home. We spent so many years here, through good and bad times.

 

How many years here?

 

We were here ’95 to ’01.

 

And you say some of them weren’t good years?

 

No. I mean, I had challenges emotionally that people didn’t know about.

 

Ah …

 

Right? It was part of my healing. You know, in martial arts, in many ways, I’ve reached the pinnacle. At least for myself. Here in Hawaii, huge student enrollment, you know, large staff. I mean, we were making an impact. ‘Cause after we got over the few things, people realized, Oh, you care about our keiki. And then, training adults. Yeah. And you know, we brought the fitness kickboxing here; it was just great. It was a great time. But I was having emotional problems hidden, and I would never tell anybody. Nobody knew that I was at Queen’s in an observation room, because I had horrible thoughts about hurting myself, or other people. You know. But I chose in that moment to go, I’m so unstable at this moment. You know. We lived at the top of Tantalus, you know, and man, I was having bad thoughts about, Oh, I have a good insurance policy, and I’m causing so much pain for my wife, you know, through my behavior, and all this. I’m like, you know, Maybe I should just end it, let her take the money and go. And I tell people, when someone wants to commit suicide, it’s not always just a rash deal. Sometimes it seems like a logical answer. I tell folks, it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Don’t give up; get help. And I did, particularly that night by driving down, checking myself into Queen’s, and I’m glad I did.

 

So, you’re saying that when you accepted God, accepted Jesus into your life, it wasn’t like it took away all your pain and problems.

 

No. It took away my past sin, because that’s what He promises, to lift the burden; that’s what the scriptures say. But it didn’t take away the challenges I would have because of my past. But the greatest thing is, He promised me He would redeem it. And I love redemption. You know, redemption is when somebody drinks a soda, throws the can side of the road, someone else comes by and says, Eh, this trash to you, but it’s money to me. And that’s what God did for me; He picked me up. He said, Other people consider you trash; I’ll redeem your life, watch what I do. And again, sometimes the greatest faith is just never giving up.

 

Do you have flashbacks?

 

Seldom anymore, because of the counseling and therapy I’ve gone through. But I still feel deeply. And what I’m glad about now is, my suffering has been turned. That purpose; I’ve learned the purpose. There is a purpose in the pain, is to help others who are still suffering, you give them hope. And that’s what I feel like I’m called to do.

 

Through their All Things Possible Ministries, Victor and Aileen Marx have dedicated themselves to advocating for youth who are troubled and abused. They help people, including war veterans who’ve suffered trauma, and they travel around the world to facilitate the rescue of children who’ve been abducted and trafficked. Mahalo to Victor Marx, now of Marietta, California, for sharing your stories with us. And mahalo to you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. 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.

 

My story is one of redemption. ‘Cause a lot of people experience abuse and injustice in their life, but I’m pretty happy to share. That’s why we do it so much. And actually, I didn’t do it ‘til later in life. I was in my late thirties before I started telling my story.

 

Is that because you didn’t want everyone to know the gory details?

 

Yes. You know, I stayed away from it because, really, in a lot of ways, I hadn’t healed from some of the trauma of the past. So, you use coping mechanisms, whether it’s excelling at a certain thing or staying away from other things so you don’t get triggered, or never wanting to revisit any of that. I kinda used all of ‘em in that way to protect myself. But when I took time and really trusted that the process of going through healing and counseling would make the greater difference in my life, it’s turned out really good, not only for me, but helping others.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Catherine Payne

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Catherine Payne

 

Original air date: Tues., May 17, 2011

 

Creating Stability for Hawaii’s Teenagers

 

In this edition of Long Story Short, Leslie Wilcox introduces us to Catherine Payne, who recenly retired after a long careeer as one of Hawaii’s most respected educators. After spending her childhood moving from place to place with her Navy pilot father, Payne spent her adult life working to create stability for Hawaii teenagers – including many who lacked adults they could depend on. During a career that spanned more than 35 years, she worked as a teacher, vice principal and principal, never taking on the easy jobs. Instead, she led some of the toughest schools on Oahu and nurtured students with not only academic, but languages, socio-economic and behavioral challenges.

 

Catherine Payne Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Farrington has to be a school, and the others schools that I worked in also, that does more than just provide education. We have to take care of many other aspects of the students’ lives. I just saw people that were really willing to do that.

 

Coming up next on Long Story Short, a woman who grew up in a close, stable family, and who devoted her career to young people in need of stability and support. Just ahead, this story of award-winning principal, Catherine Payne.

 

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

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. In this edition of Long Story Short, we’ll get to know retired public school principal, Catherine Payne. She always wanted to teach, and she wasn’t satisfied with educating Hawaii’s middleclass students. She wanted to work with the young people who needed her attention the most. Starting with her first official teaching job in the 1970s, Payne took on some of the toughest assignments Hawaii’s public school system had to offer. As a principal, she steered thousands of students and teachers through tumultuous middle and high school years. In her thirty-five-plus-year career with the DOE, Catherine Payne was recognized by her peers and by national education groups as one of the stars of Hawaii’s public schools. This educator spent her own childhood on the move as part of a military family.

 

What was it like, moving again, and again, and again, as a youngster?

 

Well, I think what was stable about my life was my family. And so, as we moved, and we always drove, my mother always had lots of books for me to read. It was just a time when our family was always together. We would move in the summers most of the time, and get up at—this was before air conditioning in cars, so we’d get up at two or three in the morning and drive until noon, and we’d stop at a motel with a swimming pool. My father did mental arithmetic as we were driving along, so it was just really delightful. And that was the time when I was an only child, before my sister came along.

 

But you must have made some good friends, and then having to pull yourself away.

 

I think it wasn’t hard for me until I was a teenager. And it just was our way of life, and we moved, and we sometimes moved—I went to three different first grades. We moved a lot. I think I learned to get along with all kinds of people. And it really helped me as a teacher, because I was used to being flexible, and just adjusting to whatever circumstances we had. My parents modeled that, because they also had to leave their friends and move, and make new relationships. And yet, they stayed in touch with people. And so whenever we moved, we were always seeing old friends, and family that were all over the country. So it I had a whole world that was my neighborhood.

 

I’m surprised that there was never, until high school … rebellion or resistance, or unhappiness, or disappointment.

 

I’m sure there probably was some of that. [CHUCKLE]   My parents were fairly strict in what they expected of me. And yet, it was also a very loving and interesting life, too. My mother was alone most of the time, because my dad … because of his career, he was gone about half the time. It was just a very calm upbringing. I didn’t have siblings to fight with until I was thirteen when my sister came along, and we didn’t fight too much ‘cause she was just a baby.

 

What did your father do? Where was he off to?

 

Well, he was a career Navy man, and he was on ships a lot, because he was a pilot. And so, he was flying with squadrons. And I remember so many memories in my life were just getting ready to meet the ship, or say goodbye to the ship, and sending tapes. But he was always sort of far away. He was in Vietnam, and then when he came to Hawaii, he was home. By then, he was living at home with the family, and that was I think, at a time when we really got to know my father as a teenager.

 

Because he was gone that much.

 

He was gone quite a lot. And then, I was in boarding school my last two years also, because during those two years, they moved three times, and the last time was to Hawaii.

 

How did you get to Hawaii? Was it through one of your father’s assignments?

 

Yes. Hawaii was his last tour of duty with the Navy, and they moved over. We thought it would just be one year, and then he extended into a different job. And I had started college at the University of California up at Davis, and I thought, I should just spend a year in Hawaii, because it’s an opportunity I won’t ever have again. So I came here during my sophomore year, and never looked back. They actually stayed and retired here, and then in the late 80s, retired again to Texas. But I was firmly planted here.

 

What made you stay? What was it?

 

I just loved the cultural diversity. I made very good friends right away, and I just felt like this was a good place to be. But I knew that if I couldn’t find a teaching job in Hawaii—and when I graduated in the mid-70s, it was very difficult—my plan was to leave, because I knew I had to go somewhere and be a teacher.

 

Why did you know you had to be a teacher?

 

[CHUCKLE] I always knew I was gonna be a teacher, from the time I was a very little girl.

 

Do you remember anything that prompted that?

 

I think I was surrounded by teachers in my family. My grandmother had been a teacher, I had aunts and uncles who had been teachers. And as a reader, I loved so many stories about teachers. I read about teachers in the 18th century, and the 19th century, and teachers that did heroic things in the ghetto, and I just thought, that’s for me. I felt like the right place for me would be to teach in an area where kids were struggling. I did my student teaching at Kalani, and I loved it. I had a wonderful experience. But I felt my calling was either on the neighbor islands or in the country. And I was so fortunate to be hired in Nanakuli, and that’s where I stayed for nine years as a teacher.

 

Why the more marginalized kids?

 

I’m not exactly sure, because it certainly wasn’t my life growing up. But it was my life through what I read, and the kinds of people I admired were doing things like that. I thought about joining the Peace Corps, I thought about joining Vista. I came of age in the 60s, when that was a consciousness, and I just felt like I had something to give, to help. And the right things just happened along my path to make that happen.

 

Even for all your travels, you led a fairly sheltered existence in a stable family environment. What was it like getting to know some very tough situations in family in Nanakuli?

 

The main experience of Nanakuli for me was the welcoming aloha from the Hawaiian community. They taught me so much. The children there, from the little ones to the high school students, were just so delightful, and so eager to participate in life, and to learn. And the struggles that the families had were part of it, but it wasn’t the main focus of their existence. There was so much good that they had to share. It was kind of interesting, because I became the advisor for the Hawaiian Club in my second year. And the students and I thought that was pretty funny. We traveled to the neighbor islands, we did dances and performances, and they would introduce me to their kupuna. And I just fell in love. That was what gave me the foundation for the rest of my career.

 

And yet, the struggles were very much a part of who your students were.

 

They were. And I really saw my place. Part of it was to help them to see that they could lift themselves above that, and that education was the way for that to happen. Many, many of my students, who I am still in touch with, have gone on to do great things. They’ve become teachers, they’ve become doctors, they’ve become lawyers, or they’ve become wonderful family members that have stayed in the community and are still helping. Some are teachers at Nanakuli High School.

 

With a calling for teaching, you later went into administration. What was that like? ‘Cause it really does seem like two very different job requirements.

 

Yes. And it wasn’t ever my career goal to be an administrator. But what happened through my time at Nanakuli and through the principals that I had there, were opportunities to be a teacher leader. They saw something in me, before I saw it in myself. And that taught me that in the role of a leader, that’s part of your job, is to see things in your teachers and in the people who work for you, that they may not have discovered yet, and give them opportunities develop that side of themselves. So I kind of just was eased into administration. And my principal asked me to consider going through the training program, and I did. And then Waianae High School opened up as an opportunity for me to be a vice principal, and that just seemed like another good place for me to go.

 

Isn’t the vice principal usually the one who dispenses discipline?

 

Discipline is part of the role, but it’s really relationships and helping the students to know that you’re there for them, and you have expectations, and you really just want to help make their school experience positive.

 

So somehow, they knew that even though you were disciplining them, that you cared about them?

 

I believe they did. It’s not just the kids that you’re responsible for when you’re an administrator. You have to take care of the adults. Teachers need to feel supported, and they need to feel energized by the administrators. The Waianae teachers were just … they also taught me so much about relationships and caring, and how to take care of kids.

 

And yet, from the outer world, I mean, outside Waianae, Nanakuli, there are a lot of perceptions of the place as being scary and bad, and very, very troubled.

 

Yeah. In every school that I’ve worked in, that’s been a perception that people have had. Because when I taught in Nanakuli, and Waianae, and then Olomana and Farrington, people would always say, Oh, my goodness, it must be so hard there, you have all these difficulties. When you’re in that school, that’s not what you feel the most. It’s supporting these people, the teachers and the students, and helping them to see a vision that is higher than maybe what they had imagined for themselves.

 

Catherine Payne served at Waianae High School just two and a half years, until a new daunting assignment came her way, the job of principal of Olomana School in Kailua. Olomana is actually several schools for young people who aren’t making it in regular school. They have academic, social, or mental health challenges. Some have landed in juvenile detention or corrections. It’s a school for at risk and delinquent youngsters, young people essentially, a school of last resort.

 

It just fit again with my real conviction that we have to take care of these students while they’re still in school, and help them to find a different path. Because if we don’t do that, the cost to society, and to them as individuals, is gonna be really, really great. The teachers that were at Olomana inspired me so much, because they were teachers that would see a little bit of goodness in every child, and try to make that little bit grow, and grow. Kids need to have some adult in their life that they know cares about them. So it really requires a special person to be a counselor or a teacher, or an aide in a school like Olomana, or Nanakuli, or Waianae, or Farrington. Because you’re working with kids who may not have that in their personal life, in their family life. So we have to be willing to go that extra step.

 

Now, some would say, Oh, if only we’d caught them earlier. What can you do with seventh through twelve grades? What works?

 

What works is giving them hope. And I think for many children, even at the age of twelve and thirteen, they’ve started to lose hope. They see their parents in trouble, they see their siblings and their cousins. So it’s finding that little crack that you can get into, and give them hope. And we created different programs for the kids that stayed with us, where graduation could be a hope. And for so many kids who are in the dropout mentality, just thinking of graduation as a possibility changed their whole being. And we began to recognize these students, we had graduation ceremonies when they completed their requirements. These were kids that never, ever dreamed of graduation. And that’s so important for these kids.

 

Did you ever get physically threatened?

 

At Waianae, I did have an incident where perhaps I was a little too green, but there was a student who was intoxicated. And I was out patrolling the campus, and she went into the boys’ bathroom, so I just sort of followed her in to get her to come back out. And she did assault me, and tore my sweater, I remember. And she was arrested, and we did go to court. I wasn’t really hurt.

 

Did it make you gun shy, though?

 

No, it didn’t. ‘Cause I knew I wasn’t gonna be hurt seriously by her, and security came pretty quickly, so I just sort of stood my ground. The funny thing that happened shortly after that, I went to Olomana, where she then was. [CHUCKLE] And so, we met up again and made friends. But that was the only time.

 

When you’re dealing with such a troubled population, do you feel like your work will never be done, or you can never do enough?

 

Absolutely. You can’t ever do enough. You just do what you can do. We talk about planting seeds all the time. You’re planting seeds that may not germinate for quite a while, but you still keep doing it, never giving up.

 

In 1995, after ten years at Olomana, Catherine Payne accepted the job that would come to define her career, principal of Governor Wallace Rider Farrington High School. At the time, it was the largest high school in the State, with about twenty-five hundred students, including many immigrants just learning English.

 

As principal, you may be the top person at the school, but it doesn’t mean you’re in control, because there are so many factors and constituencies. What’s that like, when you have to maintain order, but you really don’t have all of the authority to do so?

 

I think one of the things that all principals realize is that you never know how your day is going to be. People that try to help us with organizing our time, and they talk about scheduling all these things, they really have no idea what a principal does. Because you don’t know, when you walk into the office, who’s gonna be standing there that needs to have some support. A principal of a large school, as Farrington was, cannot do it by himself for herself.

 

Twenty-five hundred students, staff of three hundred. Where do you find all the time to take care of all of these things, accreditation, and all of the things that are part of the job?

 

If you really sit down and list all the things, which I didn’t do until I was ready to retire, ‘cause I was doing it for the next principal, it’s just overwhelming. You can’t imagine doing all of that. And yet, when you’re in that day-to-day living of it, you just do it. You don’t do much else in your life, but you do that.

 

At times in the campus life of Farrington, gangs have been worse or better. I don’t know what it was like when you first arrived there.

 

Well, when I first got there, we were actually coming out of a really tough period with gangs. There had been an incident where a student was quite severely beaten the previous year.

 

I remember stabbings in the parking lot at the time.

 

Yeah. There had been a shooting. The late 80s and the early 90s were really, really rough times. Adult Friends for Youth helped us, the YMCA on campus helped us. We have so many partners in the community that, while we did have incidents where gangs kind of would burst forth at different times, it never felt out of control. We have social workers on campus that actually have a peace council made up of different gang members that would talk about their problems before it escalated into conflict. So just different ways of working with the students, not to eliminate that social phenomena that is pretty much ingrained in the community.

 

There was that notable period where Hawaii’s governor, chief of police, and city prosecutor were all Farrington grads. Keith Kaneshiro in his previous incarnation as prosecutor, Mike Nakamura, police chief, and Ben Cayetano as governor.

 

And they’ve all given back to Farrington. Ben Cayetano came and taught a class.

 

What was the class about?

 

He taught a class, and it was a political science type of group, similar to what he was teaching at the University. He wanted to give back and experience our students, and so he came and kind of co-taught the class with a teacher. Just an incredible opportunity for our students to experience him, and his wealth knowledge. I think it also opened his eyes a little bit to how challenging it is to be a teacher.   [CHUCKLE] This school is not just Farrington, or just for the immediate group of students. This belongs to the community, it belongs to alumni, and they need to continue to support it. And they have.

 

Do you think principals need to be educators? Can you just have a master of business degree?

 

I think a principal needs to be an educator. I think it would be great if you had a partner in the school that was a business manager, so that they could take care of whether the bills were being paid on time, and the budget. You have a fifteen-million-dollar budget that you’re dealing with, and I often wished I had some business background for that. But great educators have a passion for what they do, which is education. And if you are missing that reason for being in a school, that passion for helping children grow, then I think you’re missing a piece of what is essential as a leader of education.

 

Along the way, did you see some really special interactions between people that perhaps changed others’ lives?

 

It changed my life, watching teachers that so inspire me. What really would inspire me was when you would see something that was a problem or a tragedy, or some kind of situation with our students, and then to see how the staff would just coalesce to make that situation better. We had some suicides at Farrington, we had some other deaths of students, or deaths of students’ family members, and how does the school come together to support those that are left. We had a student once who was the oldest in his family, he was a junior at the time. And he had siblings at the middle school and the elementary school, and his mother had just given birth and had cancer, and died within days after giving birth. His father had to keep his job, and there wasn’t anyone in the family who could take care of this infant. And so, our eleventh grade student was going to have to drop out of school to take care of the infant. And his counselor found out about it, and the first thing that happened—‘cause it was at Christmas too, is they did a huge drive to support the family, and gathering supplies for the baby, and Christmas gifts for the younger siblings. And then, over the Christmas holidays, trying to figure out how we could have this child still come to school, and take care of the baby at the same time. And at that time, we had a childcare program for infants for our pregnant girls, and for the girls that had given birth. It was a contracted program, but we were able to get them to agree that even though it wasn’t his baby, he could bring his younger brother at six weeks, and come to school with his baby brother. And he was able to go ahead and graduate, because of that. It’s one of the things that makes Farrington so special, is that we don’t want anybody to fall through the cracks.

 

I can tell you are a believer, you’re an idealist, and yet, you have to be pragmatic to do your job and to be an educator. How do you reconcile the two?

 

Well, you never lose your idealism, because that’s what gave me the hope to keep going. But, there is the reality of the day-to-day operations, and how you keep the school running, and all the different people that depend on the leaders to take care of things. And that’s just a balancing act that I think any leader of an organization has to manage. I believe that a good leader doesn’t feel like they have to have all the power. They really have to give it away and empower others. And that’s how a system continues when you’re not there. And that was my goal. I used to tell them even years before I retired that if the school didn’t continue on and grow, and get better after I left, it meant that I wasn’t a very good leader.

 

Why did you retire?

 

I was actually out of school for about three months, because I was ill. And during that time, I think it gave me moments of reflection where I began to think about what other things that I wanted to do, and also know that maybe I didn’t have quite the energy to keep up that pace that’s required at Farrington. And Farrington deserves somebody that had that. I was there fifteen years, so who’s gonna do the next fifteen? And it just felt like it was the time to step back. It was hard. [CHUCKLE] I knew it was the right thing to do, but I’m still feeling connected to Farrington, and I think I probably always will. That’s the school where I’ve spent the most time of my life.

 

Are you good at doing less?

 

Not really. [CHUCKLE] I definitely want to keep my mind busy, and I want to keep involved in education. I think up until my last day on Earth, that’ll be what I’m most concerned and involved with. I have tried to step back, and see things in a different perspective. And I think that’s how I’m looking at the whole educational system now, is more from the balcony, instead of right in the middle of the fray. I know times are very hard right now, and I hope people will be patient with public education and public educators, because it’s just a really tough time. And the people who are working in those schools, in all our schools, are trying really hard to do a good job. It’s tough.

 

In retirement, do you have a different view of the job of principal? Have you shifted in your outlook at all?

 

I think, as I look at it now, it’s even harder than a year ago when I was there. It’s a very, very difficult and challenging time for public educators. And my heart goes out to all of them.

 

Have you talked with some of your former students to find out what it was, if they knew of any particular thing that was done that kind of turned things over for them?

 

The students that I still hear from, they just remember the teachers that were kind to them, and teachers that continued to believe in them and tell them, you know, you can do this, you’re gonna be okay. Maybe that’s what inspired them, when they were twenty-five or thirty, to go back to school. You just never know how you influence a child. I had a student come up to me recently in the shopping center out at Kahala Mall, who came running up, and he was an adult now, and he had been at Olomana. He recognized me, and he just wanted me to know that he was doing well. And he was in his mid-thirties, he introduced me to his wife, he has a family, he has a good job. And he just said, I remember you, and you helped us, and I just want you to know I’m okay now. And that’s what we live for. [CHUCKLE]

 

Catherine Payne retired in 2010, after fifteen years at Farrington and more than thirty-five in Hawaii’s public schools. She intends to stay active in education and community service. Whatever she does next, Catherine Payne remains a role model for Hawaii educators. Her work will live on in the teachers she has mentored and inspired, and in former students who are succeeding beyond expectations because they had a teacher or principal who believed they could. For Long Story Short, and PBS Hawaii, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.

 

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

 

When they become difficult, it’s still being that same—coming back and saying, I’m still here for you. You can be obnoxious and you can swear at me, and I’m not gonna write you off. I’m still gonna be here for you. And that takes a special kind of adult that can do that.