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Interview with Ben Ho

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Ben Ho was born in 1936 in Hawaii. Ben was in the Marine Corps and later worked for Univac. He is the brother of singer Don Ho. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Early life - family history - living in Hawaii during World War II - different languages spoken at home - his career in the Marine Corps - working for Univac - meeting his wife - being a brother to the famous singer Don Ho - living in New York, Los Angeles, London, and finally Minnesota - not experiencing racism in the Marine Corps, and experience racism working for Univac - his children - growing up Mormon in Hawaii - Hawaiian traditions and how his family kept very few of them - being involved in Hawaiian issues, particularly the Hawaiian Situation - being on the water in Hawaii and Minnesota.

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Asian American & Pacific Islander
Oral History Project
Narrator: Ben Ho Interviewer: David Zander

BEN HO
Narrator

DAVID ZANDER
Interviewer

Cover design: Kim Jackson Copyright © 2012 by Minnesota Historical Society All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy and recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Oral History Office, Minnesota Historical Society, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102.

THE MINNESOTA ASIAN COMMUNITIES ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
The Asian population of Minnesota has grown dramatically since 1980, and in particular during the period from 1990 to the present. The Asian community is one of the largest and most diverse in the state, and is particularly noteworthy because its growth has been spread across such a wide spectrum of ethnic groups. The Minnesota Historical Society and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans formed a partnership to create a series of projects of oral history interviews with Asian community leaders. The projects are intended to help chronicle the history, successes, challenges, and contributions of this diverse and highly important group of Minnesotans. During the past twenty years the Minnesota Historical Society has successfully worked with many immigrant communities in the state to ensure that the stories of their arrival, settlement, and adjustment to life in Minnesota becomes part of the historical record. While the Society has worked with the Asian Indian, Tibetan, Cambodian and Hmong communities in the recent past, the current project includes interviews with members of the Vietnamese, Filipino, Lao and Korean communities, with more planned for the future. These new projects have created an expanded record that that better represents the Asian community and its importance to the state. The project could not have succeeded without the efforts of a remarkable group of advisors who helped frame the topics for discussion, and the narrators who shared their inspiring stories in each interview. We are deeply grateful for their interest and their commitment to the cause of history.

James E. Fogerty Minnesota Historical Society

Kao Ly Ilean Her Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans

 

Ben Ho with his wife Mary on their 49th wedding anniversary, Pepin, Wisconsin, 2011.

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Ben’s home town. Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii.

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Ben’s father, upper left with his siblings.

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Tutu and Cousins, 1922.

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Ben’s parent’s wedding photo, 1927.

Ben’s parents in 1948. 14

 

Ben (lower right) and family at Kamehameha School, 1949.

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Ben Ho, U.S. Marine Corps, 1st MAA Missle Battalion, China Lake, California, 1955.

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Ben (front, 2nd from left), Univac computer class, St Paul, MN, 1958.

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Ben and Mary’s, Wedding, 1962.

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Ben, Martin and Tutu Ho, Hawaii 1963.

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Family on Mom's 80th birthday, Hawaii 1992.

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Ben and Mary’s home in Fridley, Minnesota since 1965.

Family: Martin (back right) the lawyer, sworn in to the bar at the Minnesota Supreme Court, 1998. 28

Mary, Ben and Martin, South Africa, 2005.

Luau chef Ben & family, 2008.

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Paris, 2010.

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Mary, Ben and Doris (sister), San Diego, California, 2009.

Cullen (grand nephew), San Diego, California, 2009.

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Ben eating a lutefisk dinner, Farmington, Minnesota, 2011.

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Ben and Mary with Senator Akaka, Washington, D.C. 2012 Senator Daniel Akaka and Jennifer Ho (left) Deputy Director, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), President Obama Administration, Washington, D.C. 2012.

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THE INTERVIEW
 

   

Ben Ho Narrator David Zander Interviewer March 15, 2012 Minnesota History Center Saint Paul, Minnesota

Ben Ho Mary Ho David Zander

- BH - MH - DZ

DZ: So this is David interviewing Mr. Ben Ho and we are at the Minnesota History Center, Thursday, March 15th. Ben welcome, I’m so glad that you could come. Please give me your full name and tell me when and where you were born. BH: Well, I have my name in Hawaii. And my birth name is Benedict Ho, but the family name is Dickie Boy. And there have been years since we’ve used that word, so on the mainland I am known as Ben. Because the reason for that is when I joined the Marine Corps, I didn’t think Dickie Boy was going to work out. [Chuckles] DZ: Dickie Boy was that a family nick name? BH: Yes, my brother was called Sonny Boy; my older sister was called Jimmy. And another brother called Babe. So we all have our nicknames, it’s a Hawaiian thing. DZ: When were you born? And where in Hawaii exactly? BH: 1936. On Halloween in 1936. I was born in Kaneohe, which is over the mountain from Honolulu, and which is a little town. And basically there were maybe about two thousand people on that side of the island at the time. And today there’s over a hundred thousand on that side of the island. And my family owned a bar and restaurant there. Known as Honey’s, this is my mother’s nickname. And my father’s nickname was Pappy, or Pops. And so they ran that bar during the war. And they did quite well with the shortage of supplies. DZ: And the bar was in Kaneohe, this small town. BH: It was a local bar. But we had a lot of service men during the war that came. And of course the attraction was probably the local girls; there was a Navy base across the bay.

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BH: And there was a lot of competition between the locals and then the service people at that time. So and it was always, always an adventure, you know, growing up there in that period. DZ: Did you help in the bar? BH: Yes, we cleaned up the yard. The front. And we helped them mop the floors. And lots of Clorox, lots of Clorox. DZ: [Laughs] BH: But that was our choice. We had all the choice. And I helped the cook. As I grew up, I helped to cook some of the food outside. On a big steamer. . . with wood. That was fun to do when I was younger, and helped to do some of the chores that were required. But going back and growing up, that was basically, you know, pretty normal in the islands. No shoes. And half of the time, no shirt, too. Except when you went to school. And so growing up, I went to my grade school in the country. . . and eventually went to a high school in Honolulu, because my mother had opened up a restaurant on that side of the island. And I was working there and going to school for a while, but then I decided to leave school because I had lost my interest. And I joined the Marine Corps. DZ: How old were you when you joined the Marine Corps? BH: I was seventeen. And because I wasn’t doing well in school and lost my interest in schooling, so the Marine Corps was a boon. I got two years of schooling in the Marine Corps to become electronics. In electronics. And that started my computer career. DZ: Let’s backtrack a little bit. You’ve mentioned brothers and sisters. How big was your family and where were you? Youngest, Middle, oldest. . .? BH: I am the youngest boy in the family….the oldest is my sister who now lives in San Diego with her daughter and the family there. So then next came my brother Don, who became the entertainer in Waikiki. And then there were a couple of early deaths. Debra and Junior, that’s the only names that we have for them. And my brother. . . next was my brother Everett. We called him Babe. And he was killed in Korea. I think it was 1951. And Dennis. And he’s older than I am. That would make him about seventy. MH: Thirteen months older. And he passed away a few years ago. BH: And then my sister, the youngest, is a year younger than I am. Keala was her name. Juliet Keala. And she died six, seven years ago… So there are only two of us left right now. DZ: And you had mentioned that your grandfather was Chinese. Tell me about your grandparents. 43

BH: My grandfather came over from China, Canton, China with three or four of his brothers. And he married a Hawaiian woman. And started this. . . our clan. On that side of the island. And the other brothers all stayed with Chinese wives and they started their own businesses. In the city. DZ: When do you think your grandfather had come from China? BH: I would say around 1910. Is what I am guessing at, at that period. On my mother’s side, my grandfather came to Hawaii in 1893; I think it was, on a schooner from Madeira. There were a whole bunch of Portuguese that had come over, because they were having famine or some problem in Madeira. At the time. It was just a part of Portugal. The islands of Madeira. Two thousand miles from Portugal. Way down. I’m trying to think of the name of the capital. The capital of Madeira. DZ: So your mother, your mother’s line is from Portuguese Madeira. . . BH: The Silvas. The Silva side of the family. DZ: So where does the name Ho come from? BH: My grandfather is Chinese, pure Chinese. So it’s a Chinese. . . With the four Chinese brothers from Canton… and he was an excellent cook. DZ: Do you think it’s been Anglicized? BH: Well. . . no. . . like my grandfather’s name was George. [Chuckles] That was his. . . English name. And frankly, I don’t know his Chinese name. And one of the brothers, we only knew him as grand-uncle. And the other one was Uncle Willie who owned a Chinese restaurant and a service station in. . . in or off of. . . up the hill from Pearl Harbor. And the other one, the other brother owned a market in. . . right off close to Waikiki then. DZ: What are your first memories? BH: My first memory is that in December 7th [1941]. I was out in the yard playing, and apparently the Japanese planes had attacked the Navy base on our side of the island before it went over the mountain and attacked Pearl Harbor. So I saw these planes going overhead and my mother heard the commotion.

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So just came out and grabbed me and took me inside. [Chuckles] That was the end of. . That adventure. And then all the years of the war. . . my father was an air raid warden. And he’d have to go around the neighborhood and get people to shutter their windows or block their windows like with blankets. DZ: Blackout. BH: To keep the lights out. Probably the same thing then in England. DZ: Yes. BH: And so that was his job. And they’d have these air raids and we’d have to go and. . . and there was a place. . Between the mountains. . . the hill and the building that we would use for shelter. And in fact, right behind the bar, ah. . . my dad dug a big hole in the ground and covered it up, and that was our bomb shelter. DZ: Air shelter. BH: And of course we had a huge victory garden that the family kept. For food for us and for the restaurant. DZ: So you were about five then? BH: Five when the war started. And that’s my only memory of the war. And all the servicemen. Whenever you went to town and the ship came in, all you ever saw was a sea of white. With the sailor hats going down the street. . Whenever a carrier came in, it was just overcrowded. DZ: I’m going to ask you a funny question, because it’s come up with the Samoan. And ah. . . can you swim, Ben? BH: Oh, yes. I swim. I swim pretty good. I’ve enjoyed the river, trying to swim in the river here. DZ: How far were you from the ocean where you lived in this small town? BH: Well, we were up the hill from the bay. And we went and swam in that bay a lot. Because we had a neighbor who was on the water. They had a pier. In fact, that’s where I was taught how to swim, because my father threw me in. [Chuckles.] And my brothers were in the water to make sure that I didn’t drown! [Laughs] DZ: Like teaching a puppy. Throw them in. BH: Yes. And I don’t know how old I was. . . but I must have been pretty young at the time. 45

But I do remember we’d go crabbing. We’d like to take nets out and. . . at that time the crabs were just scrumptious. Now there’s no crabs at all. Because it’s just totally polluted. And hammerhead sharks and stingrays and all the other fish that you find in the Pacific. DZ: Tell me about school. Did you like school? BH: Well, I would say early on I enjoyed it. And then I loved maths, I enjoyed math. And I enjoyed social sciences. What I didn’t like was Shakespeare and things like that, but English was very difficult to deal with, because we never spoke English when we were not in school. DZ: What were you speaking at home? BH: Well, sort of a Pidgin English at that time and. . . And if you didn’t. . . if you tried to speak English you were sort of an outcast. [Chuckles] And that, you know it’s just peer pressures. Its classical peer pressures. DZ: How about Chinese? Had any Chinese survived? BH: Not in our family….my mother spoke Hawaiian to her Hawaiian friends. And that’s the only time I heard her speak Hawaiian. And my father never spoke Chinese. And my grandfather, to my knowledge never spoke Chinese to. . . when at the family gatherings. DZ: So going into the Marine Corps was very significant for you. And you got good training. And this began your career. When you were fourteen, fifteen, what did you think about a career? BH: Well, one of the first things they did at McKinley was they gave you an aptitude test of some kind. And the results of that were I was destined to become either a preacher or an auto mechanic. [Laughing] And neither of them looked great to me! At the time. But the other course was to, you know; become involved in the tourist industry. Either, being a waiter or being a café owner or whatever. And I guess my mother tried to nudge me on by opening that restaurant up in Waikiki. But I had. . . for some reason, I had no interest in that. And probably because my interests were elsewhere at the time, I guess. DZ: And so in to the Marine Corps Screening. They tracked you towards auto mechanics? BH: Well, here’s the surprising thing about joining up, they had assembled a half of a company of Hawaiians to go to San Diego. And then the other half of the company was from Colorado. So we had a mixed group, so it helped to make it competitive in some ways. And the other surprising thing is that they gave another test. . . . I got my GED there to get that out of the way. Then they do an IQ test and I ended up with a 120, so that qualified me for the electronics schooling. DZ: Excellent.

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BH: But again, you have a problem with the other people, you know, who are trying to deal with this guy that’s smarter than they are. So that was a problem for a person who didn’t finish schooling, I did quite well, I think. But then it was two years of training. And then two years in the Mojave Desert. And that was a disappointment, actually, because I joined the Marine Corps to see the world. And ended up in the Mojave Desert. DZ: Oh, so you never got to travel? BH: No. We ended up at a research center up in China Lake, which is in the north end of the Mojave Desert in the Naval Research Center, which was developing this new missile battalion for the Marine Corps. DZ: Was it nuclear weapons? BH: No, it was the terrier missile that we transposed from a terrier missile carrier that the Navy used on their ships at the time. It’s a ground to air, a huge gun air missile. So they converted to be on the launch pad. For the Marine Corps. And that the marines had to haul around, brute force. And so then after the system was approved, then they moved us down to Twenty-Nine Palms to do the final testing and setting up, getting ready to go to Indochina at the time. Because that was with Sputnik happening at that. . . during that period, things were getting a little nervous again. DZ: This was in the 1950s, mid-1950s? BH: Yes. This was 1954 to 1958. DZ: A big question now. How did you meet your wife? BH: [Laughs] Well, after I left the Marine Corps, I went back to Hawaii. My brother (Don Ho) was running the bar at that time, because my mom and dad were getting up in age. And Don was just about getting his musical group together. This is in end of 1957, 1958. In fact. . . [laughs] in fact, after I got mustering out pay, he wanted me to invest in the business, and I thought that wasn’t a very good idea. And so I went to Los Angeles with a friend, looking for a job, because there were no computer jobs in Hawaii. This was in 1958. . . There were none. The only job that I was able to interview for was with the pineapple cannery, and they wanted somebody to feed the machine punch cards. And that’s not what I did. So fortunately, it took a month, almost a month. We went to Los Angeles and got an apartment, and bought a hundred pound bag of rice. And I told Brian, Brian Gallagher, a friend of mine that went with me. I said, “When the rice runs out, I go back to Hawaii!” [Laughs] So as long as I had rice, we would be fine. But just before the rice ran out, I interviewed for a job with Univac. And there were two hundred and fifty people interviewing that day. And they hired four. And I felt, indeed, fortunate. Because it was the 1958 recession at that time. And so I felt very fortunate in that. And they gave me a plane ticket to fly to Saint 47

Paul. And my first exposure to cold weather. This was March. And so the first thing I did was go down to Wabasha and get myself a top coat. [Laughs] BH: And so I worked at Univac. But I was sent to New York City, First National City Bank after my training here, and I was at First National City Bank. Then after being there for about a year, I was offered a job back here with what they call the national technical support group that traveled all over the world. Fixing whatever was wrong with the computers. As they were installed or during operations. So I started traveling from that point. But then I got tired of that. And I went to Hawaii. Went back home and I left Univac. And I went back home and I kind of had a life of Riley there for a while. [Chuckles] Well, this was my early twenties. I was twentytwo, twenty-three. And then, after about a year and a half, or a year, a friend at Univac was in Japan and he stopped in Hawaii. And my mother was in the kitchen cooking, and he said, “Ben, looks like you need a job.” And my mother came flying out and saying, “Take him! Take him!” DZ: [Laughs] BH: And so within two months, I was back in Saint Paul with Univac. [Chuckles] because they were looking for people who knew how to fix computers. And I guess I was one of them. And then when I came back, and this was around 1961, when I came back we were on Ford Parkway, the office was at the bottom of Ford Parkway just where the river was. And there was a restaurant next door called Coleman’s. And one of the few times when five of us would be in town at the same time, we’d always get together and go out for dinner. And Coleman’s had a rumpus room where they had Stewardess Night. DZ: [Laughs] BH: Where the stewardesses paid a dollar and eighty-five cents for a meal. And so the guys would show up, and the girls would show up. And that’s where I met my wife, with five other girls. DZ: Stewardesses from the airport? BH: No, they were just girls that came and took advantage of the Stewardess Night. They wanted anybody there, because they figured the way to do business is get the women in there and the guys will follow. [Chuckles] So it was a good plan. And we got to know the piano player who played there; he was a very close friend of ours over the years. So I met Mary and we were married in. . . MH: I’m not going to help you! [Chuckles] BH: We were married within a year! And we met just after Saint Patrick’s Day and we were married in August. . . DZ: Your wife, Mary, was she from Minnesota? 48

BH: She grew up in Brooklyn Center, right? Yes, and we stayed close to that area. We’ve always been within ten minutes of Brooklyn Center. DZ: So Mary had grown up in Minnesota and you met at Coleman’s on Ford Parkway. Is it still there? BH: It burned down. It burned down years ago. DZ: Was that near where the Ford Plant was? BH: Yes, right across the street from the Ford Plant. MH: Haskell’s, the liquor store, is in that lot now. DZ: Was Univac headquartered here? BH: No, actually it was headquartered in Bluebell. But they had a large commercial and defense division here. In Bluebell, Pennsylvania. DZ: Bluebell, Pennsylvania, okay. Honeywell was here, Control Data was here. And it seemed for a while that Minnesota was a center. BH: Yes, and Seagate was here. And so quite a few of the spinoffs. There were a lot of spinoffs. Just before I left for Hawaii, they were forming Control Data at two dollars a share. And when I came back, it was at ninety. [Laughs] So that was that, you know. It was an easier bubble to deal with because it wasn’t as speculative as the other bubbles we’ve seen DZ: Is Univac still around? BH: It’s now called Unisys. It made a couple of name changes along the way. I don’t think there’s any presence here. I think they’ve sold off most of it. And they’ve had quite a few plants in town. They had six of them at least. But they are all gone now, because they sold off the military to Lockheed Beretta, I think, which is down in Eagan. And the commercial division was just shut down and moved out east. But they don’t build those big mainframes like they used to. DZ: You must get asked this next question a lot: what is it like having a brother who is famous? [Chuckles] What was that like growing up? BH: Well, it was fun, actually. I mean, we traveled. . .whenever he came to the mainland, I always managed to find a way to go wherever he was entertaining, and I saw him develop from. . . from the rowdy days. . . [Laughs] And then settle into having a lounge [act], you know. So. . . but he was always fun. It was always fun. 49

DZ: So he was older than you by a couple years. You’re the younger brother? BH: Yes, he was seven years older. DZ: And was he very influenced by the family business of bars, restaurants? BH: Well, he was always interested in music. Because I remember when he was in high school he and his buddies would come around and that’s always a Hawaiian thing is to get interested in music, because someday they’d be able to get up to Waikiki and do something there. And it was through running the family business that. . . The story my dad tells …is Dad suggested that he put a group together, but that’s his story. [Laughs] DZ: [Laughs] BH: And it was the nature of the business. To get customers in. you had to have music. You had to have a lot of noise, and especially on the weekends because that’s when the revenue is. The weekdays, it’s just quiet. But he always loved music, and he kept bringing friends in and developing the group. And quite a few of them went off on their own and had their own careers as a result of that. But I guess getting hooked up with the people like Nancy Sinatra. And Doris Duke. [Chuckles] I think helped his career a lot. Because Nancy was able to get him to record for Reprise Records at the time when Frank owned it. DZ: Did Don have a nickname as a boy? BH: Yes. Yes, we called him Sonny Boy… these are Hawaiian names they get. I always called him. . . even when. . . even after .everybody’s calling him Don, that’s the only way I know him. I’ve seen him at the Royal Box at New York City. We’ve seen him at the Parker House in San Francisco, we’ve seen him at Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, The Sands in Las Vegas. In Las Vegas when Howard Hughes was staying up in the top floor. And a month or two before Frank Sinatra punched out the maître d’ or something else like that, but it was always an adventure to go to any of his shows out there. MH: Honey, tell the story about your parents coming with him and your mother taking over the kitchen. BH: Oh, yes. My mother would go to Las Vegas when he’d bring her out. And her favorite dish that everybody loved was her Portuguese Pipi beef stew. And so they’d give her the kitchen! And she’d, you know, cook up for the whole gang. And anytime she went anywhere, she always 50

had to cook. So that was part of the fun. We’d been to Vegas when my parents were there, too, so that was fun. It’s being just treated so well. Oh, but one time we were at, I think it was The Sands, or maybe the Ambassador, and I’m trying to find my wife and I can’t find her, and then all of a sudden I find her sitting on the floor visiting with Roger Miller. And, you know, things like that. I mean, it’s just wonderful memories of all of the things like that. . . DZ: Tell us who Roger Miller was. MH: He was a songwriter and performer. King of the Road. King of the Road was his famous song. BH: You know. Those are the things that you run into. All kinds of different people. MH: One time we were invited to a party in Vegas, and Robert Goulet opened the door! BH: Oh, yes. [Chuckles] We were invited to a private home in Las Vegas and the doorbell rang, and it’s Robert Goulet holding a dog. A little white dog. “Does this dog belong here? It shouldn’t be running around loose.” [Laughs] No, and she said it was the neighbor’s. So he went over to the neighbors and knocked on the door! [Laughing] and told them the dog should not be running around loose. So. . . DZ: And who was Robert Goulet? MH: Singer, Robert Goulet. Broadway star and in London. DZ: You have lived in London. Tell me about that. BH: Well, I had an assignment, right after we got married. . . in 1963. . . we were married in 1962. And I had an assignment to go to Japan to install a computer for the Japanese national railway, and that computer was going to be used to control the bullet train. The first bullet train. And that was being installed in Japan. So on the way I dropped Mary off in Hawaii to visit with the family. . . Because they were up for the wedding, my mother and my sister were up for the wedding. So she had met them. But that was a nice chance for her to go and stay with them in Hawaii. And we had a young child, Martin, at the time. So she ended up going and stayed with my sister who had a place up in the hills there while I was in Japan. And then the next big assignment was going to London to install the computer for British European Airways. It was called BEA at the time.

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And that was a very nice assignment, because we stayed in a flat out in Kew, which was a lovely, lovely place. And then the last stop was Richmond, where Mary did her shopping in Richmond and I took the Underground to . . Was it Earl’s Court? Where the British Air Terminal was. And it was a huge building. One floor was the computer, the center part. And then above that was another huge floor with all the terminals that the agents were going to use. And the story that we like to tell about that one is that when the head of the airways came in, Lord Whoever came in to inspect or review. And then the head of this programming department who was an old friend of ours, he was upstairs with him and showing him how the terminals work. And push this, the light goes on there, and push that and the light goes on there. And now how you make a reservation and the Lord Whoever said, “I bet you have a Chinaman downstairs pushing on the buttons.” [Laughs] So they came downstairs, and here I am at the console! [Laughs] Oh, yes, that was a story from BEA. DZ: How long were you living at Kew? BH: Oh, about four months. Four, five, six months. MH: From July to March. Nine months. BH: Another story, Mary, my wife, would go to Harrods, a very prestigious department store in London. And one Christmas she went there to buy a lobster. MH: Christmas. A Christmas lobster. BH: And of course the merchant said “That’s very dear.” [Meaning lobster is expensive, insinuating they could not afford to buy one]. . . [Chuckles] And another story was with Barclay’s Bank. When we first got there we wanted to go in and open up a checking account. So he took us into this conference room and sat us down. MH: We wanted to open a Joint Account. BH: And I said we wanted a joint account. And he said, “Do you know that she can run off with the money!?” [Laughs] Right in front of her! [Laughing] Oh, yes. It was astounding! DZ: When you were in the military and maybe in Univac at the beginning, did you ever experience any racism? BH: Not in the Marine Corps, because the whole motor pool were black, for some reason. And the blacks had that section of the Marine Corps. And I guess because I became a corporal and eventually a buck sergeant, within the first two years. It was just unusual. And well, I was spit and polish. [Chuckles] I’m basically that, you know. DZ: You behaved yourself!

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BH: They called me “Gung Ho.” [Laughs] Back then. That was another thing I had to live with. He says, “Hey, come here, Gung!” But when I was with Univac. It took years before they sent me down below the Mason-Dixon Line. And when we put in the computer for Eastern Airlines, which was in Charlotte, North Carolina. That was one of my first ventures below the Mason-Dixon Line. And apparently whoever was in charge of the computer section there came in and said, “What is he doing here?” [Chuckles] And the answer to that is if he’s not here, it’s not going to work. [Laughs] Because I had an essential piece of equipment that tied the two mainframes together. And I was the only one that knew anything about that piece of equipment. So they were stuck with me, unfortunately, to their chagrin. But it didn’t bother me at all. And that was oh, maybe the only encounter that I guess I’ve had in thirty years, with my fellow workers, I never had a problem in that regard. Because they were from all over. We had Harry Wong, he ended up in Australia, I think, became a manager there. DZ: Two questions: Tell me about your children, your own family here in Minnesota. How many children do you have? BH: Well, we have three. And they’re all doing very well. The oldest is Martin, he will be fortynine, going on fifty. And he’s an attorney, specializing in mediation, which he enjoys tremendously. And that’s the other reason why I’m still here in Minnesota, we’re still here is because three of our children are here. Jennifer is with the Obama Administration and. . . Let’s see if I can get this right. …the Interregional Council on Homelessness. . . on ending homelessness. And because she was director of a group here in the Cities for ten years that helped to implement or plan the dealing with ending homelessness here in Minnesota. I’m sure they’re still active. And basically what they do is they coordinate all the different agencies when one client needs assistance. They’ll coordinate all the different agencies to help to get that client back into the mainstream. This is admirable. And so in March she was asked to come to Washington as a deputy director. And basically her bosses are the Cabinet members. And she’s gotten close to the Vice President and other leading officials. DZ: Did she go to college in Minnesota? BH: No. She went to college in Bryn Mawr. Two of our children went to Bryn Mawr. The third is Jake. He’s a homeopath. Homeopathy. Don’t ask me to explain that. [Laughs] And a lot of the pharmaceutical side of it, which is very complex. In the remedies or whatever they call that for homeopathy. So they all have their careers, and they’re all happy with what they’re doing, so that makes it much easier, too. DZ: Jake, the son in homeopathy, does he live here? 53

BH: Yes. He lives here. Actually, Jennifer lives here, too, but she’s just on, basically, assignment. She’s just got herself an apartment in Washington. Crazy, the prices. DZ: I wanted to ask you about religion growing up in your family. What religions were there? BH: [Chuckles] My mother was a Catholic. My father’s mother was a Mormon. And I assume that’s how come my grandfather got the name George, but then, coming over, they all converted. They changed their names because I don’t think George is Biblical. I was baptized a Catholic. I don’t recall any Catholic services. But then I do recall going to a Mormon church because of my father’s side of the family. And for some reason we stopped when I was around fourteen. DZ: So was there a Mormon church in Honolulu? BH: In Kaneohe, in fact, the head of the Mormon Church was the principal of the grade school. So we had double scrutiny. [Chuckles] So to speak. And it was quite active on that side of the island. In fact, quite a few of our friends were Mormon on that side of the island. But then when I joined the Marine Corps, I went to some Catholic Church services to try to figure out what Latin was all about. [Chuckles] And that made it difficult. But I gave it a good go. But eventually, after I met Mary, we started going to a Lutheran church here. And so then I married a Lutheran and have been a Lutheran ever since, which is a fine religion. And I think much more intellectual than others. You know, they try to make you think a lot harder. DZ: How about old, traditional Hawaiian beliefs, festivals? Was that part of your family life in any way? BH: [Sighs] Very little. In fact, the only time that there was anything Hawaiian going on is when there was a family luau. And there’s music and the dancing and. . . MH: Food. BH: Basically the gatherings were not (cultural) in that regard. You know, Hawaiian history was not taught to the extent that we understand it today. And I didn’t realize that at the time the Hawaiians had had a problem with being annexed. And then I was even more surprised that they had a problem with statehood. [Chuckles] And so being a minority in that regard, their aspirations were just pushed aside. DZ: It sounds like you had been very concerned and interested in Hawaiian issues. Tell me about that. BH: Well, things came to a head in 1993 when Congress passed and President Clinton signed the apology resolution. And which carries no weight at all, but it promised to do something about the Hawaiian situation. The biggest problem is trying to figure out what to do with the land, what to do with the revenues from Hawaii. But Hawaiians on the mainland are detached. It’s very hard to 54

get anybody on the mainland interested in Hawaiian issues in Hawaii. Because, you know, same old problem, they ask how does it benefit me if Hawaiians should get independence, or whatever they want to call it, at this point. DZ: When you said the Hawaiian situation, what is the Hawaiian situation? What is the situation for Hawaiians? BH: Well, the Hawaiian situation is about the same as the Indian situation. [Chuckles] Limbo. The Hawaiians have been in limbo for over a hundred years as to how they can take possession of what they once had. And I can see that, the reason for wanting to self-govern. And because, number one, they’re only getting less than twenty percent of the revenues of any of the properties the Hawaiian economy generates the airport and various other pieces of property. And there’s a lot of property there that could be developed that’s just stuck in this government entity. And so whether they go the Indian route or they go another route, it has to be decided at some point. So now they’re taking a third roll. They’ve had previous roll calls. Less than forty-five thousand people signed up on that. Of the four hundred and fifty thousand Hawaiians. Split between Hawaii and almost evenly in the islands and in the other forty-nine states. DZ: Historically, there was a queen and she became dispossessed. BH: Yes, she was. . . Supposedly, under the guise that she was drafting a new constitution. That was supposedly, you know, to the benefit of the people. But there were businessmen there who had sugar interests. That needed to gain control of the islands with the help, unknown to us at the time, or even through what we were taught in high school, through the help of the United States government and the Congress. And the other problem was the Spanish American War. The US government needed an outpost in the Pacific. And Pearl Harbor was one of the concessions from the people who took over as a part of annexing the islands. DZ: And this was all taking place when? BH: 1893. And so when the queen was detained. She traveled to Washington to try to appeal, with petitions from thousands of Hawaiians. Of what was left, and then that’s the other problem, eighty percent of the population was decimated by disease. Measles and influenza, no different than the Aztecs and the Indians here. So that’s history. So, you know, the question is where do we go from here? And in fact I have an appointment with Senator Akaka next week Friday. And I’m trying just to discuss that because he’s retiring from the Senate. And the question is, you know, he’s eighty-three going on eighty-four. And whether or not he’s going to totally retire or become involved when he gets back there. DZ: Politically, is there a group that you belong to that is trying to do advocacy? BH: Well, we have formed a group here off and on. We call it United Hawaii. And basically to try to discuss how the fifteen hundred Hawaiians in Minnesota. . . How we should get involved to be sure that they know that we’re here! [Chuckles] That it seems like that all the focus has 55

been on the west coast because that’s the high population And Las Vegas, with the highest concentration of Hawaiians. And I have heard no inklings of an outreach on this new roll call. Except for one statement made by the executive director. DZ: Fifteen hundred. I didn’t realize the local Hawaiian community was that large. I think the Samoans say they are five hundred. So do you work with any Congress people, like Betty McCollum or Amy Klobuchar? BH: No, because there would be no interest in Hawaiian issues. [Chuckles] From this point. DZ: But it’s fifteen hundred voters. BH: Yes. But it’s very loose knit. I hate to say this, but it’s kind of like herding cats. [Chuckles] DZ: So how many Hawaiians would you say there are on the mainland? BH: Half of four hundred and fifty thousand would be what, two hundred and twenty-five thousand. DZ: That’s a lot. That’s a large group. I was fascinated, by how the Samoans gather down in Las Vegas to support the rugby team. The Samoan National Rugby Team plays the New Zealand team there, and this year they won! [Chuckles] But last year New Zealanders won. Faamati said it becomes really a rallying point for all the Samoans around the rugby games. And I asked her “When you’re in the bleachers, are there any chants?” Because I was thinking of the strong warlike Maori and the Tonga chants. And she said, “Oh, yes!” [Laughs] BH: When we were in Sienna, Italy, there was a rugby game going on. You could not take a nap or anything, when there was a rugby game going on. Or if you were on the Underground [Subway] going somewhere and all of a sudden the game was over. It just came packed with all the fans. It’s all either a great mood or a bad mood. Rugby’s quite popular. Football is not as crazy here. DZ: Are there other things I haven’t asked about that you would like to be in your story? BH: You’ve been very thorough …. Well, you’ve done this before. And I can’t think of anything else that I might be able to volunteer at this point. But I have brought a book. You might want to glance at. . . It might have some pictures of the family in there and this is a book on my brother’s life. The life of Don Ho. It has a lot of pictures in there. DZ: (Reads the inscription) Dear Dickie and Mary. BH: My brother married his director. She handled all his affairs just before he died. And so she was instrumental in making sure that this book got done and the DVD got done by KGMB. 56

DZ: Are you mentioned in the book? MH: There should be a picture of us in here. Look at the family pictures. DZ: We’re looking at a book on Don Ho’s life. Don is Ben Ho’s brother. And it’s a source of family pictures for this interview. BH: Here’s the family picture in here. And I have a copy of this that you can have. And I can email that to you. I have it. . . DZ: So who’s this person in uniform? BH: That’s my brother’s wife, Melva Ray, his first wife. She’s a cadet. And he was a commander. In the ROTC. And this is my oldest sister, Doris. That’s her husband from Tennessee with her first child. And here is a picture of my mother, and my dad. And this is my brother Don there. And that’s my youngest sister Keala. And. . . this is Dennis. This is Babe. This is the one who got killed in Korea. And that’s me. DZ: Oh, wonderful. So the whole family gathered at the Kamehameha campus. 1949. And all the names. We would love to have that included. BH: I think there might be a picture of me in here. I’m trying to remember if I’m in here or not. Here’s my interview. This is the interview that they made with me. . . I can get these pages copied for you then. DZ: What I do in these interviews, I can put an appendix, so we could put this in as an appendix. BH: (Points to his Hawaiian shirt) Well, in fact, I was wearing this outfit then. . . and during the interview. But I don’t know if I’m in the book or not. . . I know I’m on the DVD. DZ: Tell me about what you are wearing today. You’re wearing strands of beads and traditional aloha shirt. BH: The reason I’m wearing these is that these were handed out after my brother’s funeral. And they took his ashes out on canoes. To outside of offshore Waikiki. But I made it very clear that I’m not riding in a canoe. DZ: [Laughs] BH: [Laughs.] So they hired a catamaran. And so the older people went out on a catamaran. And the younger folks went out in canoes. DZ: And you said no to taking a canoe because of the effort or for safety? BH: Well, number one, a canoe is not sea-worthy. And when in a ten-foot swell. . . [Chuckles] 57

DZ: Catamarans are more stable. BH: Yes. And we’ve done a lot of boating in Minnesota, so we know. We know the water. And in fact when the canoes came in, three of my children were swamped. Burial at sea is quite common now. DZ: We’re looking at a photo of Don Ho’s burial at sea. It shows many boats, including a catamaran, out on the water. And they are scattering the ashes of Don Ho. We were talking earlier about this as a burial ritual. There’s very little land on the volcanic island. So tell me about the queen and the bones. . . BH: Well, the queen was incarcerated in the palace for a year. And annexation didn’t take place until about 1904. So it was a lot of years of agony for her. And I’m not sure at what point she died. It has always been my contention that if it was a king those men would not be alive. [Chuckles] But they took advantage of the fact that the queen was in power. At the time. That’s my thinking. Not many would agree, but. . . DZ: So burials at sea happen frequently then like this? BH: Oh, yes. A lot. But then there’s quite a few on land as well. MH: We are going to be buried on land in Hawaii. BH: In the national cemetery, because I qualify for that. Through Marine service. As being a Marine. .And a very nice view. It is in my hometown, by the way. There are two cemeteries there in Hawaii. One is on Punchbowl, which is a volcano, a crater for. . . inactive volcano overlooking Honolulu. And the other one is high ground in Kaneohe. Where we plan to be interned. So that’s the plan for now. DZ: Well, I want to thank you both very much. This has been really fascinating.

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