Post 27 — The School Year Begins

girls in shiftsWhile Larry was off saving the Samoan population one toilet at a time, Jean was once more in charge of keeping the homefront on track. School had started for the three older girls, and this caused a flurry of activity as the household goods were still on a boat somewhere. Three outfits apiece were problematic when one had to go to school five days a week and there was no washing machine on the premises.

Last June, the girls had completed third, fifth and seventh grade at St. Peter’s School without a clue to the fact that they would be starting fourth, sixth and eighth wearing flip-flops. The demure navy plaid uniforms of their parochial education had been replaced with sleeveless cotton dresses imprinted with gigantic red hibiscus and lime green banana leaves.

The girls started school this week and all seem to be very happy with their classes. They are learning French along with the necessities. The classes are a lovely size, 16 in Chris’s, 19 in Lynn’s and 21 in Kathy’s. They go in by bus, which incidentally is never on time and will be eating in the high school cafeteria for 25 cents a week. All the T.V. personnel eat there, too.

The necklaces I sent are made of strung shells and are called ulas; our girls like them and are wearing them to school with the new Samoan print shifts I made them on a borrowed sewing machine. I let them select their own patterns and oy, what a choice. The Polish blood really rushed to the fore. They are throwing off their inhibitions like mad. 


The United States took possession of American Samoa in 1900, but the territory was pretty much ignored by the mainland until World War II when its location in the Pacific made it a handy refueling stop for the Navy. Although the island never saw actual combat, in 1945 the military personnel stationed there outnumbered the native Samoans. Most of the armed forces were sent home after the war, leaving a few concrete beach bunkers, some old shell casings and a variety of wooden buildings that had been constructed for housing and offices.

The Dependent’s School was a former Army barrack that had been reconfigured into a cluster of classrooms. Instead of lockers stuffed with spit-shined boots, the louvered storage areas now held kid-signed books whose pages could be torn for spit balls. The barracks had been built on different levels and a short flight of steps separated each classroom, which were assigned to individual grades. The school sat just off the harbor near the docks in between two residential areas. One was a stretch of homes where most of the medical community lived and was therefore known as Penicillin Row. The other section was called Centipede Row, and if the naming convention held true, was probably not a good place to go barefoot.

Chrissie walked slowly up the steps of the building that had a sign with Fourth Grade printed on it. The steps and floor were all painted the same battleship gray, as if in tribute to the room’s former military use. A mismatched jumble of tables, chairs and books were scattered about and children milled around in confusion, laughing as they tried to figure out where they were supposed to sit. No one seemed to be in charge, and this only added to her consternation, for school in her mind was about lining up, sitting down and shutting up.

A diminutive man wearing shorts and a shirt with lobsters printed on it was in the middle of the group with his back to her, asking people their names. Chrissie assumed that he was an aide or a janitor, because she couldn’t believe that anyone dressed like that could be qualified to shape young minds. He turned a pair of piercing blue eyes covered with wire rimmed glasses toward her and said “Talofa! Welcome to fourth grade! What’s your name?”

For some reason, she couldn’t remember. All of her preconceived notions of what a teacher should be went swooping out the window like a great black and white stork equipped with a red pen and a ruler. She finally managed to stammer out a few syllables and was rewarded with a dazzling smile and a worksheet to fill out. The teacher wrote his name on the board and launched into an enthusiastic speech about what a great year they we’re going to have together and now everyone should take out their fraction worksheets. On the line where it said Name, she dreamily printed “Mrs. Chrissie Regula.”

Chrissie actually likes school. She is in the first reading group and is doing very well. Now I don’t know if that indicates lower standards or just a sudden spurt of intelligence and interest. But she has really been giving her all and is crazy about her teacher. Sex really works wonders. The teacher is a man incidentally, in case you were wondering what was going on.

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3 Comments to “Post 27 — The School Year Begins”

  1. Chris,

    Really love your Samoan Letters. They bring back some really fond memories.
    A couple of letters back you mentioned the 40KW transmitter on Alava. When I was there in 1965 to 67, there were 6 10KW transmitters on Alava. As an engineer, I worked up there for a while and really, sometimes, the cable car ride up.

    Ron Manning


    • Hi Ron,

      Do you mean that there were 6 transmitters instead of one? I blame my source for this misinformation, which is of course my dad. As a teacher (not an engineer), it’s possible that he had no idea what was going on on top of Mt. Alava, even though he must have visited. Who knows how much stuff they might have made up when they were writing letters home?! My family has always been very good at saying things with authority, even when they have no idea what they are talking about (witness this blook).

      Thanks for the info,


      • Hi Chris;

        An easy mistake to make for the folks “in front of the camera”. Yes, there were 6 10K GE transmitters.
        up on Alava.

        Your Dad, Larry, probably knew that, but its no big deal to forget details at our “mature” age.

        Ron Manning


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