Archive for December, 2015

December 24, 2015

Post 81 —The sun is shining, the grass is green, the orange and palm trees sway . . .

The Broquet family in 1968

The Broquet family in 1968

Chrissie carefully peeled the paper back from the linoleum block she had carved and inspected the printed image. It was a palm tree with a Christmas ornament hanging from a frond and she had smeared the ink while removing it. Again. Sighing, she crumpled up the paper and tossed it on the pile. Earlier that morning, she had confidently told her mother that she could easily print out forty of the images to be used as Christmas cards. Four hours later, she had done six of them. She went to find her mother to tell her that the family would really appreciate a Christmas letter instead. It was so much more personal.

December 1968

Manuia Le Kirisimasi!

It seems unbelievable but we are in the midst of our fourth Christmas season here in the South Seas. This year is much, much different from that first lonely one when we missed the family, snow and a piney-smelling tree. Even Christmas shopping seemed appealing compared to the panic of the possibility that the Sear’s order wouldn’t be on the boat that came in just before December 25th.

Many changes have occurred since our first Christmas here, both in the island and in our family.

We now get three planes in a week instead of the single anxiously awaited jet that used to come in at the crack of dawn every Sunday. The Samoan boys seem to have adopted sports shirts and long pants instead of the wildly patterned lava lavas. A wrap-around skirt, which is essentially what a lava lava is, may sound peculiar for a male but these kids didn’t lose one ounce of masculinity, even though they were wrapped up in a pink and yellow print.  The puletasi, the native dress the women wear, is now mostly seen on the older women. It is a short dress with an ankle length lava lava  worn underneath. The younger girls still wear the tops but are most likely to have shorts on under it.

We have a new warehouse and enlarged dock area, a new modern hotel, three tennis courts, several parks being developed, regular and more varied food supplies and more tourists and strangers invading “our” island. While most of the cars were once the small Japanese models, bigger and heavier stateside cars are now being imported. Oddly enough, it is the Samoans who have the big cars and the palagis have the small ones. This makes for exciting driving conditions since there is only one road from one end of the island to the other.

The stores all have names on them now, no more wondering which wooden building is which. Shopping still has the nightmarish aspect of a poorly organized scavenger hunt. One shops according to what one sees, not what one wants! Many good friends have left and while it is painful for a while, we keep in touch and are pretty certain we’ll be running into them again somewhere.

Larry has had a busy and frantic year administering to the needs of the principals and their families that are situated in each of the twenty-four Consolidated schools scattered among the villages all over the island. In addition to the endless paperwork, he rides over mountains in a jeep to the remote schools and over the ocean in a motor launch for 75 miles to the even more remote ones. Good thing he is a good sailor because it is a bouncy crossing.

I am in my second year as Assistant Supervisor of Materials and Productions. I have one of the longest titles in the building! Our office handles, correlates, prints and distributes all of the materials that go out to the schools. One of my duties for a while was to drive a tremendous pick-up truck. I was very proud of my accomplishment and was all set to apply to the Teamsters Union.

The girls, whether it is the sun and rain or would have happened anyway, have sprouted and matured beautifully. Kathy is a sophisticated sixteen and a half, Carolyn is an independent fourteen and Chris is a happy twelve. The maturing process really worked on Chrissie. She is referred to as the “best developed girl in the seventh grade.” There must be some distinction there because she smiles modestly whenever it is mentioned. Karen, our baby, is a long-legged eight and a half. All the girls go barefoot most of the time, are doing well in school and are as happy as most adolescents can be, although they itch to see the big city and bright lights.

We are planning to attend midnight mass as we did the first year. We know most of the people now, and palm trees swaying, the lights shimmering on Pago harbor and Christmas lights from the fales scattered all over the side of the mountain no longer seems strange or exotic. We are all very happy and contented and our initial “daring” adventure has subsided into a pleasant way of life. I hope our friends and relatives have an equally happy Christmas and we are looking forward to seeing many of you next summer.

Jean, Larry and Girls

December 17, 2015

Post 80— LB, LBJ and KVZK (Part 2)

The motorcade heads toward the school dedication.

The motorcade heads toward the school dedication.

(The journal kept by the Presidential secretary continues:)

12:15 PM: Traditional presentation of Samoan gifts to the President and Mrs. Johnson.
[Margin note:] The weather seemed to get much warmer, and the President wiped his forehead several times. The President received: a roast pig, tapa cloths, miniature outrigger canoes and the supreme ula—one made from the red fruit-seeds of the pandanas tree. The single most prestigious gift to be given to President and Mrs. Johnson was a Samoan fine mat (took nearly two years to make).

The President then went several yards to the rear of the platform to a round grass hut with open sides. At one end of this native girls in native dress were kneeling and began singing as the President entered. At the other end, to which the President went, was a bar. The President paused here and had a drink of water.

12:21 PM: To motorcade. A truck of photographers led, then the President’s car, a red Impala convertible with the President and Governor Lee sitting on the rear seat. Mrs. Johnson followed the Secret Service cars in a light blue Mustang convertible with Mrs. Lee beside her.

12:23 PM: Motorcade moving. Along the way to the school there were people scattered on either side of the road way waving and saying “Talofa.” Small thatched huts could be seen, the obvious homes of some of the native population. Along the way the motorcade passed a band, groups of Boy Scouts, and other uniformed groups. (The police of American Samoa were dressed in red skirts with white shirts, red fez. ) The route was 1.3 miles to one of American Samoa’s new consolidated (ETV) schools for dedication by Mrs. Johnson. The new name of the school is Manulele Tausala Consolidated School, which translates roughly into “Lady Bird Consolidated School.”

The new Lady Bird Consolidated School.

The new Lady Bird Consolidated School.

12:32 PM: Out of the cars. The President and Mrs. Johnson paused to be photographed by a sign written in flowers growing in a special flower bed. The red floral arrangement spelled out the name of the school.

Mrs. Johnson cut the floral ribbon to officially dedicate Manulele Tausala Consolidated School. The children of the school, dressed in black skirts and white shirts were gathered on either side, forming a line for the official party to walk through.

The President and Mrs. Johnson then began a visit of the classrooms. They observed six channels of educational television broadcasting for grades one through 12. They went into one room of small children, greeted the teacher,  posed for pictures, and watched the children learning a language from the television teacher.

12:53 PM: The school children sang their school song— very melodic. Mrs. Johnson responding by thanking them again.

12:56 p: Motorcade departing. Once again people lined the route, waving, smiling, singing.

1:04 PM: Arrive at airport. The crowd sang the Samoan farewell song, “Tofa Mai Feleni” (“Goodbye My Friend”). The President and Mrs. Johnson were given more leis.

1:15 PM: Air Force One off. President to his bedroom to change from his clothes for he was so warm. He remarked how beautiful the island was.

Departed Pago Pago, American Samoa. Wheels up for Ohakea, New Zealand.

[Margin note:] The temperatures had been in the 90s in Pago Pago and the President and Mrs. J. were warm and uncomfortable. They went immediately to the bedroom which had been kept cool in their absence, changed into pajamas and got into bed for takeoff.

Back at the TV studio, enthusiasm was beginning to flag. The teachers had been in a state of readiness for hours, but there had been no sign of the President. The visit to KVZK had been planned for after the Lady Bird School dedication, but word got back that the President’s entourage was running late. No one dared eat lunch or leave the building for fear of missing the visit, and the teachers were hungry and cranky when word finally came in that Air Force One was not headed toward them but on its way to New Zealand.

The disappointment in the studio was palpable, and some teachers felt angry that they had skipped the dedication in order to stand by in the studio. Regardless of personal politics, a Presidential visit did not happen every day and many of them had been thrilled with the idea of giving him a tour. They had also been in the only air-conditioned building on the island all day and had no idea that the sweaty President just wanted to get back in his temperature-controlled airplane, put on his pajamas and brush his teeth to get the taste of kava out of his mouth.

Larry looked around at his tidy office and sighed. He had really wanted to meet the President. He got up and hung the toilet seat back on the wall.

(Photographs supplied by Farida Sweezey and Dave Gillmore)

For an important disclosure note, see The Word of the Day.

December 17, 2015

Post 79 — LB, LBJ, and KVZK (Part 1)

President Johnson in American Samoa.

President Johnson in American Samoa.

The whole island was sparkling with anticipation. Crews had been cleaning and planting for weeks, and even the rocks lining the flower beds had been given a fresh coat of paint. The marching band had finally finished plaiting their palm frond vests and had cleaned out their spit valves, an important note since the tubas rusted faster than the cars. This was the most exciting thing that had happened to Samoa since the hurricane.

KVZK was buzzing, with all four TV studios operating at the highest level. Six channels were on the air broadcasting school lessons and every single teacher was wearing shoes, even though they were only being shot from the waist up.

Larry paced nervously around his office, stopping for a moment to re-arrange the papers on his desk. He wanted to look busy but efficient, like someone who could handle teaching a variety of subjects and supervising a department in a culture that had been completely foreign to him just a few short years ago. It was important to the program that he look as professional as possible. He paused for a moment before the object hanging on the wall: it was a toilet seat that his coworkers had presented to him after he had finished the Health and Sanitation curriculum. It occurred to him that this was not exactly helping his image.

Seven miles away, the sun was blazing as the silver jet touched down at Pago Pago International Airport. The tropics usually settle comfortably in the low eighties with a cool breeze, but on this particular October 18, the temperature was hovering around 93 degrees. A tall, beefy man in a dark suit appeared in the open door at the top of the exit ramp, and the humidity smacked him in the face with no regard for his title or rank.

The band broke out with “Hail to the Chief” as the sweating leader of the free world became the first sitting president to set foot in American Samoa. Lyndon Baines Johnson was greeted heartily by Governor H. Rex Lee, and worked his way through a reception line of many chiefs and their wives. They shook hands with President and Mrs. Johnson, piling shell ulas around their necks until the weight nearly pulled Lady Bird over. LBJ’s face was turning red as streams of water poured down his temples, but somehow Lady Bird’s hair remained perfect.

Lady Bird is dressed appropriately for the heat, while her husband the President wears a wool suit.

Lady Bird is dressed appropriately for the heat, while her husband the President wears a wool suit.

(The following are excerpts from a journal kept by Presidential secretaries Walt W. Rostow and Marvin Watson – Special Assts. to the Pres.)

11:22 AM [time change]: Arrived Pago, Pago International Airport, American Samoa. 

[Margin note: The weather was warm and very sunny. Samoa gives the  impression of being an island paradise —rich verdant vegetation, browned, barefoot people, and the sound of the surf in the background.]

 [It was a very colorful scene— the band was attired in bright blue print shirts and white trousers with some kind of leaves over the shirts. The native chiefs and their wives had on brightly colored skirts and leis and many had grass shawl-like articles over their shoulders. A sign at the foot of the ramp on the fence read “Talofa! President L. B. Johnson” and had a picture of the president on it. Talofa means hello!]

11:40 AM: To the platform. There was a very warm welcome by the group gathered. Grass and straw were tossed in the air, drums beat, cheers and applause.

11:50 AM:  President and Mrs. Johnson standing as the President was presented a piece of wood by one of the Chiefs—it was unfinished wood (this was a single dried kava root— a high gift—resembling drift wood).

11:51 AM: Royal ‘Ava Ceremony, conducted by Talking Chief Pele. This was very colorful as the natives danced, chanted, and took cups of liquid to the dignitaries on the platform (the President, Mrs. Johnson, Governor and Mrs. Lee).

[Margin note: This ceremony is the supreme honor to be bestowed on a visitor. Samoan chiefs prepare the ‘ava drink from the pulverized root of the ‘ava tree. Juice is bitter in taste. (Ceremony has some parallel to ‘smoking the peace pipe.’)]

[During this it was very warm, and the President was noticeably hot, often wiping forehead with his handkerchief. He also seemed just a bit ill at ease—this was tribal ceremony, and one had the feeling of not knowing what was going to happen next.]

11:56 AM: Governor Lee introduced the President.

12:00 AM: REMARKS* by the President. There were three applauses during the speech and a very warm reception afterwards in which the natives threw straw and grass in the air. 

“I am very proud that I could be here with you today.

I can assure you that the people of the United States share my pride in what American Samoa has done to prove that destiny is really what we make it.

This island—with a population of only 22,000—has become the symbol of what many large nations may achieve for their people. It has become a showplace for progress, and a proving ground of methods to improve the lives of our fellow human beings.

And, along the way, American Samoa has taken the term “self-help” out of the bureaucrats’ dictionary and made it a living language for their people.

You have recognized that education is the tidal force of our century, driving all else ahead of it.

I am told that the pilot program of education which you have started may point the way to learning breakthroughs throughout the Pacific islands and Southeast Asia. Samoan children are learning twice as fast as they once did, and retaining what they learn. Surely from among them, one day, will come scientists and writers to give their talents to Samoa, to America, and to the world.

One requirement for good and universal education is an inexpensive and readily available means of teaching children . . .  Unhappily, the world has only a fraction of the teachers that it needs. Samoa has met this problem through educational television—which was pioneered here by your outstanding Governor, Rex Lee.

. . . It is truly a remarkable experiment. This technique—which you are helping now to improve—has the power to spread the light of knowledge like wildfire, to spread it all across the wide areas of our earth.

An American editor, who used to have nothing to say about what we were doing in Samoa, recently wrote, “Somewhere on earth there may be a more spectacular example of revolutionary change in an area and its people, but in years of roving the world’s far corners, I have not seen it.”

Go to Part 2

*Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: “Remarks Upon Arrival at Tafuna International Airport, Pago Pago, American Samoa.,” October 18, 1966. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. 

(all LBJ information comes from