Interview with Son Truong, 1989-07-23

Material Information

Interview with Son Truong, 1989-07-23
Truong, Son ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Escambia County Oral History Collection ( local )
Spatial Coverage:
Escambia County (Fla.) -- History.


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

Record Information

Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Escambia County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:
Resource Identifier:
ESC 012 Son Truong 7-23-1989 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )


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Interviewer: Ha Truong
Interviewee: Son Truong

Since the interviewer and the narrator share a common last name, H:
will be used to represent the interviewer and T: will represent the

My name is Ha Truong, and I am conducting an oral history interview
with my brother Son Truong in Norman Hall on the University of
Florida campus. Today is July 23, 1989.

H: Good morning, Son. How are you today?

T: Fine.

H: Would you please state your full name?

T: I am Son Minh Truong.

H: Where were you born?

T: I was born in Rach Gia, Vietnam.

H: When were you born?

T: I was born, according to my mother[he) birth certificates are
still in Vietnam], on October 10, 1972.

H: What are your parents' full names?

T: My mother's name is Ton Nu Tu Hoanh, and my father's name is
Sanh Minh Truong.

H: Do you know where they were born?

T: My father was born in China, but I do not know in what city. My
mother, I think, was born in Rach Gia.

H: Please think back when you were in Vietnam as a little child.
Do you remember whether you attended school or not?

T: Yes, I remember.

H: Were you scared by school at all as a young child? I know you

Ldid not really want to go to school? Could you tell me why?

T: I was always afraid of leaving, being alone by myself. I
always wanted to be with somebody. Going to school was a new
thing,\new way of life.
H: Did you always want your older sister around?

T: Yes, because she was around most of the time.


H: At what level did you go to school?

T: It was similar to a first grade. There was no kindergarten.

H: How long did you go to school?

T: [I went to school] for about a week, and then my parents took me
out of school.

H: Why?

T: I told them I did not want to go there.

H: Do you remember what the teachers were like?

T: They were really nice. When I was in first grade, if you felt
like you did not want to go to school anymore, then they would
try to get you to stay in school with cookies and candy.

H: Do you remember any of their names? Did you have any favorite

T: No.

H: What were some of their restrictions, such as dress codes?

T: You would have to wear a white shirt, and navy blue skirt if you
were a girl, and slacks if you were a boy.

H: Did they make you keep your papers straight, and you could not
lean or fall asleep? Do you remember anything like that?

T: No, I do not because I was not in school that long. In the
beginning they did not start teaching.

H: Then what did you do at the beginning?

T: I do not remember.

H: How big were the classrooms?

T: They [classrooms] are not as big as the classrooms here. They
are about two-thirds the size.

H: How many children were in each classroom?

T: I do not remember.

H: Did you give your teacher a lot of respect?

T: Yes, because she was an adult, and that was the custom.

H: Were there any chalkboards? Was it furnished like a American


T: Yes, there was a chalkboard, but it was not furnished like an
American classroom. The desks were different.

H: In what way?

T: There was one row of desks, and students would sit in them.

H: What were the chairs like?

T: I do not remember.

H: Was there a clock in the room?

T: I did not see one.

H: Do you remember what your house looked like?

T: Yes. It was three or four stories high. Downstairs there was a
kitchen and a living room. Upstairs were the bedrooms. My uncle
lived on the second floor, and I think I lived on the third

H: What did the outside look like? Was it made out of brick?

T: Yes, it was a brick house. There were others houses around,
too, and they were about the same as ours.

H: Did you live in a city, a village, or the country?

T: It was not like a city. It was really suburban.

H: Were the houses close together or were they spread out?

T: It varies within the area. Where we lived, they were close.

H: Do you remember how many rooms there were in the house?

T: I do not remember.

H: Was there a television in the house?

T: Yes, it was downstairs. There were too many of us to watch it.
It was black and white.

H: Did you think, at that time, that the house was furnished well?

T: Well, yes.

H: What was in the living room?

T: The altar, a couch, I think, and a table.

H: What was the altar for?

T: It was for religious purposes, such as praying and special



H: Do you remember what was on the altar?

T: No.

H: Did your family have a radio in the house? Any tape players?

T: No.

H: Did the family have a car?

T: We had a motorcycle, but we sold it.

H: What did you do when you were not at school?

T: I was mainly playing around the house and with the neighbor's

H: What did you do at school? Did a person visit with you, and
then you had orange juice before you went to class?

T: No. I recall getting off the bus and walking straight to class.

H: What color were they? Were they American school buses?

T: I do not remember what color they were, but I think it was like
an American school bus.

H: Was it long, big,etc.?

T: No, it was like a minibus.

H: How did you make friends?

T: I did not make any friends at school.

H: How did you make your other friends, the ones you played with at

T: They were living next door, so I just met and played with them.

H: Did you make any close friends?

T: No, not close friends.

H: What did your father do for a living?

T: He was a shrimper, and he was not home a lot.

H: What do you mean by not home a lot? Did he go for weeks?

T: Yes, he sometimes went for a week and sometimes three weeks.

H: Was it unpredictable when he would come home?


T: Yes.

H: Do you remember how your mother got in touch with him?

T: No, I do not remember. I guess she called him on a CB
[citizens band].

H: So, there was a CB in the house?

T: No, not in the house. She would go to the dock.

H: Where was the dock?

T: I do not remember. I did not go with my [father].

H: Did he own the boat or did he work on it?

T: Yes, he owned the boat. He owned three [boats].

H: Could you describe them?

T: I did not see them.

H: What did your mother do for a living?

T: She was mainly a house wife.

H: She cooked, she cleaned, and she sewed?

T: Yes.

H: How many sisters and brothers did you have then?

T: I had two brothers and five sisters.

H: Could you give me their names in chronological order from the
oldest to the youngest?

T: The oldest is Hung Truong, then Linh, then Anh, then My Linh,
then Ha Truong, then Chi Truong, then Dung Truong.

H: Now you have another brother.

T: Yes. His name is Tuan Truong. He is nine years old.

H: Where was he born?

T: He was born here in Florida, in Pensacola, and he was born on
March 26, 1980.

H: You said girls had to wear white shirts and skirts and boys had
to wear navy blue slacks. Was that [dress type] required at all
times, everyday when you went to school.


T: Yes. That was all I saw everyday I went to school.

H: Did you eat at school?

T: No. You went home for about an hour or so to eat lunch, then
you went back to school.

H: How long did school usually last?

T: I do not remember that because I did not stay in school
for the whole day.

H: Did you go to school on the weekends?

T: I did not know what a weekend was.

H: Did you not go to school on Saturday ?

T: I do not know.

H: Did you remember any of the other rules your teachers had?

T: No ink on your on your hand.

H: What was the punishment for that?

T: They would hit you with the ruler on one hand. You could not
get dirt on your clothes, such as your shirt They had strict
rules like that.

H: You could not slump down in your chairs.

T: You also could not dirty up your assignment.

H: You could not crumple up the assignment either. You said that
the students had to wear uniforms--did you only have one

T: I think we had a set, because one uniform for a week would sure
be .

H: dirty? At home was there a washer or did you have to hand

T: My mother and sister had to hand wash.

H: You did not have any maids?

T: Not really a maid, but we had a woman who was more like a
little helper. She was paid, like a hired hand.

H: Do you remember her name?

T: No.


H: Who else lived in the house with you?

T: My grandmother, my uncle, and my grandfather.

H: Could you give their names?

T: My uncle's name is Thanh Lien Truong. My aunt also lived in the
house, and her name was Hue. I do not remember my grandfather's
name, and my grandmother's name is Ly Thi Truong.

H: What factors forced your parents into seeking a way of leaving

T: Well, they did not want to follow under communistic rule. It
was after the war.

H: Did they have any personal experiences with the Communists?

T: Yes. My mother experienced some. My dad did not tell me
anything about it.

H: Was this before they got married?

T: I think so.

H: You said she experienced some .

T: It was when the French were trying to take over [the First
Indochina War]. It was not during the Vietnam War.

H: Could you describe what your mother went through? Was she

T: Yes. [She was] trained for the army. It was sort of like a
minor recruit.

H: What did she do?

T: [It is] like what the Marines do here. [She had to] run and
crawl under wires, diving, and shooting guns.

H: Did she have any other experiences?

T: They taught the whole village what to do when there was a bomb

H: What were they to do?

T: If they were out in the fields, they would grab some bushes and
just cover themselves. Then they will look like the vegetation,

H: Were they taught guerrilla warfare?

T: No, not guerrilla warfare.


H: Then were they taught to defend themselves?

T: Yes, especially if it is in self-defense.

H: So it does not matter who comes in? Did they just attack the
people who came in, whether they were American or French?

T: No, they knew who to attack.

H: How would they know?

T: By the way they spoke or the way they dressed.

H: What was the difference?

T: The Americans looked white. They could not distinguish the
North Vietnamese [from the South Vietnamese], but they could
tell by their accents, the way they spoke the Vietnamese.

H: They did not dress any differently, did they North

T: No, but, the Americans were dressed differently in their army

H: You were talking about the French.

T: The French, I do not know about that.

H: Who were they taught to attack?

T: No. They were not taught to attack. They were taught to
defend, to just stay away, to survive.

H: So it did not matter who came, just protect yourself. Did your
mother talk about her experiences of when they [the Communists]
came to her house, and took over.

T: They had a prisoner with them, and they made my mother take him
water and food.

H: Is that all she did or was she punished for doing wrong deeds?

T: No. She was not punished because they were mainly paying
attention to the prisoner and not the people living in the house.

H: These people, who invaded your mother's house, were they

T: Yes, they were.

H: Did she [mother] tell you of how the Communists ran the house?

T: They did not want anybody going out of the house. She [mother]


lived in the woods, in the jungle, and they did not want
anybody going to the city. They kept everybody there.

H: Who else lived there?

T: Her mother, her father, her brothers, and her sisters.

H: Did she refer to what the Communists did to babies?

T: She said sometimes they would take the prisoners, kill them,
use their meat, cook it, and then make other people eat their
meat. Sometimes they would sell the meat.

H: Who would buy it?

T: They would say it was like pork or beef.

H: So the people would not know it. Did they take children and
turn them into Communists by brainwashing them?

T: Not down in the South, but I guess [they did] in the North.

H: The North was more communistic than the South was. Where did
your father live at this time?

T: I think he lived in China.

H: Did your mother go to school?

T: Yes she went to school until around the seventh grade. Then she
had to stay home and take care of her mother and her father.

H: Were they sick or was it because they were old?

T: A little bit of both, but maybe because they were old.

H: What about her sisters and brothers? Why did they not have to
quit school also?

T: The girls did, but the guys kept on going if they wanted to.

H: How many males were there in the family?

T: I think there were four, and there were three females.

H: How did they [your parents] get in contact with anybody who
would know how to get over here?

T: They received advice from my uncle, but he did not come to
America. He went to Australia.

H: Which uncle?

T: The uncle on my dad's side.


H: How did he get any information on how to get over to Australia?

T: He left a long time before we did.

H: Do you recall in what year?

T: No.

H: Did your parents have any American connections?

T: No, but they had a supporter, who said he would help us out when
we came to the United States.

H: Who was this supporter?

T: Father Mooney.

H: Of the Catholic Church?

T: Yes.

H: Do you know why he decided to help? Maybe for religious

T: He was a priest, so I guess so. He just wanted to help us out.

H: Where did you go first [from Vietnam? Did you just come
straight to America?

T: No. We went to Malaysia, and I remember going to Hong Kong.
Then we flew all the way here [United States].

H: From Vietnam to Malaysia, was it by boat?

T: Yes. It was by one of my dad's shrimping boats.

H: Do you remember the boat? On the boat, where did you sleep at

T: I slept where they stored the shrimp.

H: Was it cold down there?

T: No. They removed all the ice.

H: What did it smell like?

T: It smelled like fish and shrimp, but it was tolerable.

H: Where did you eat and what did you eat?

T: I do not remember where I ate or what I ate.

H: Did your parents get a lot of supplies and store them on the
boat before they left?


T: No. I think they left unexpectedly.

H: Do you remember going through mud in your parent's arms?

T: Yes. We got through the mud, and we got to his rowboat. Then
we rowed out to my dad's shrimping boat.

H: Was it not rather dangerous since it was against the law?

T: Yes, that is why we did it at night.

H: Were you scared or did you even know what was going on?

T: No, I was not scared. I did not know what was happening.

H: Did you have an older sister and an older brother who

T: Yes, they remembered, but they did not tell me.

H: Were you carried or did you walk through the mud?

T: I was carried by my uncle, on my mother's side.

H: All of you went to the fishing boat. Who was on the fishing
boat? Was it your mother's family and your father's family?

T: No. It was my dad's brother, my mother's bother, my dad's
sister, his mother, and the little kids.

H: Did your uncles or aunt have any children?

T: No, none of them were married.

H: How did your parents get married? Were they arranged [to get

T: Yes. They did not get married until a couple of years after
they met each other.

H: Did they date or did their parents just say, "Meet this person
because you will be marrying him." Was it really prearranged?

T: Yes.

H: How did your grandparents get to know each other?

T: I do not know, but I guess they did when they [my parents] were
really young.

H: Do you remember a little episode that happened in the house when
your oldest brother was really scared. He did not want to
be spanked so he jumped the stairs?


T: No, he jumped from one building to the other.

H: He did not get hurt at all?

T: No.

H: Why was he running away?

T: Because he was scared. He was not running away.

H: Did he do something?

T: Yes, he jumped across, and somebody looked up and saw him. My
mother got so scared. He did not get a spanking, because my
grandmother was afraid; he was the first born.

H: Was your father very strict with him?

T: Yes. He [father] said only girls cry at the most little things.

H: Did your older sisters and brother learn Chinese?

T: Yes. My mother learned French when she was in school. My dad

also learned French. The [teachers] also taught English.

H: Do you remember any more episodes of family life?

T: The adults would feed us. Then we would go off and play. We
would come back, and they would bathe us.

H: Did you get really dirty playing in the mud?

T: I played around the house most of the time and not the mud.

H: You played games like hopscotch.

T: Yes, and this game with the sticks. I do not quite remember,
but you would flip it up, and you would hit it to see whose went
the farthest.

H: Were you using chopsticks?

T: No. It was just two normal sticks.

H: Were you very good at it?

T: I played it a lot. I do not remember.

H: Did you play any constructive games, such as word games?

T: No.

H: You also did not watch a lot of television, did you?


T: No, I did not. I just remember looking at the television once.

H: Do you remember what you saw?

T: No.

H: Were there any American shows on television?

T: I do not think so.

H: So you really did not understand it because you were so little?

T: Yes.

H: Your parents rowed over, and they are on the fishing boat
now. Did your parents bring a lot of money or was it totally
unexpected and they had to rush out and grab the children?

T: No, we had to rush out. They took whatever they thought they
needed. They knew if they were stopped by the patrols that
everything valuable would be taken.

H: So they did not take any jewelry?

T: Right, unless they hid it.

H: Your parents did not carry a lot to valuables?

T: No.

H: They had supplies enough to feed the family.

T: Until they got to Malaysia.

H: When you all were going there, were you all attacked by pirates?

T: Yes, we had to stay down there, [in the bottom where the shrimp
was kept], and we could not come up. They [pirates] looked
over the boat, and all they took was the binoculars.

H: Did they dump any food?

T: I do not know. I was not up there [on the boat deck].

H: Did you get seasick a lot?

T: Yes, I got seasick everyday, until they took me up on deck.
That was when we were near Malaysia.

H: So you had to stay down there all that time--to eat and sleep.

T: Yes.

H: What about using the rest room?


T: There was not one.

H: What did you do?

T: You just went [deposited waste] there [on the inside of the
boat]. It really, really stunk, but the trip was not that
long. It took from one to two days to get to Malaysia.

H: Who else was on the boat, besides you? Was one of your
father's friends [on the boat]?

T: Yes, somebody who worked on the boat.

H: When you came to Malaysia, were you inspected?

T: No, but we had to get papers.

H: Was there not a time when you all did not have any food or
supplies left, and your uncle took his Rolex watch and
refurnished the boat with supplies?

T: I think we were docked outside [because they--Malaysian
Government did not allow them to come in yet]. He [uncle] swam
in, and he got us food. Then he swam out.

H: He swam so he was very in shape?

T: He was trained in the army.

H: Do you have another uncle, who was in the Vietnam Conflict, and
did he not die?

T: I do not think he died in the army.

H: When did he die? Did he not get shot?

T: I do not remember.

H: When you came to Malaysia, were you inspected?

T: I do not know. I think that they probably did, but I was not
there. I was asleep.

H: Did you see troops or soldiers?

T: No, I did not.

H: How long did you stay in Malaysia?

T: [We stayed for] a couple of months.

H: How old were you?

T: I was about five.


H: So this was around 1978?

T: Yes, we left in 1978. We got here [the United States] in
January, 1979, so we did not stay a year.

H: What did you do while you were in Malaysia?

T: Basically, swam on the beach. The beach was not dirty at the
time we were there, but became very dirty, when we left.

H: Did you play with other children?

T: No. I saw other children, but I did not play with them.

H: During the months that you were in Malaysia, you did not see any

T: No.

H: Were your parents there to get papers to come over to America?

T: They stopped there just to get away from what was happening in

H: Malaysia, at that point, was not influenced by the Communists?

T: No, and it was not being attacked.

H: Is Malaysia an island off the coast of Vietnam?

T: Not [an island] off the coast, but a couple miles away.

H: Did your sisters and brothers continue school?

T: There [in Malaysia] no.

H: They just stopped then?

T: Yes, they just stopped.

H: So what did they do?

T: My sister learned English, and my brother went and helped
my dad with whatever.

H: How old was he [brother]?

T: He was twelve.

H: What about your other two sisters?

T: They helped my mother. They went and got the water and cooked.

H: What about the clothing? Did your mother make the clothing?


T: Not when we were in Malaysia.

H: Did you buy it?

T: We took it from Vietnam.

H: Did you run out at any time and have to make new clothing?

T: No.

H: At this point, did you even know what an American was?

T: No, I never saw one. I had never seen a Frenchman either.

H: Were Malaysians very similar to Vietnamese?

T: Their skin color was a lot darker. A spoke a bit differently.

H: Do you remember where you stayed in Malaysia?

T: I do not think it was a big island [land mass, not island]. We
lived in something similar to a shack.

H: Did you live in a residential area with a lot of houses?

T: No, we lived on the beach.

H: How did you get this house? Did you buy it?

T: There were other people living there, so they [Malaysian
Government] said,"You live here." When we went to the island,
they [Malaysia Government] just pointed to the house and said,
"You stay in this house."

H: You said there was another family there. Did they have

T: I do not know.

H: Was there a bathroom?

T: No, there was a little bathroom, but it was outside of the

H: Did it have a tub or a shower?

T: No.

H: How did you bathe?

T: I bathed in the beach.

H: What kind of food did you eat--what you ate in Vietnam or
something different?


T: We ate the same thing.

H: Did you have to go to the market in the city [to get food]?

T: We had to boat to the big island for food.

H: Did you have to call them [Malaysian Government] to get
permission to take the boat over?

T: I do not know. I did not go.

H: You spent most of your time on Malaysia just swimming and
playing. Did you eat coconuts?

T: Yes. We climbed up the trees. People climbed up the trees
and would chop down the coconuts.

H: You were about five. Do you recall anything else?

T: No.

H: Any family episodes?

T: No, I was not around my family a lot. I was by myself playing.

H: How old were your parents when you were born?

T: I do not remember.

H: Was your father not born in 1932?

T: No, I think it was earlier.

H: Is your mother in her forties?

T: Near her fifties.

H: So at that time your mother was in her thirties, and your
father was in his forties.

T: Yes.

H: So they were pretty old. Your father was still shrimping. Was
this the only source of money?

T: Yes.

H: It was profitable in Vietnam. Was it profitable in Malaysia?

T: I do not think it was as profitable.

H: Why?

T: The shrimp was not there. There was not enough.


H: You were living with your family at this time. How did you get
a chance to go to Hong Kong?

T: I do not remember how we got a chance [to go]. We just went to
Hong Kong for a day. Then we flew out.

H: Was all of your family together? Was everybody still going to
Hong Kong?

T: No. We separated. My uncle, my dad's brother, and his sister,
and his mother, my sister Ha, and my other sister Anh.

H: Do you know why? Too many people?

T: Yes. I think they did not have the papers for them yet.

H: Why would they not have the papers yet?

T: They lost the papers, I think. Anh had to stay because she had
to watch my grandmother.

H: She was not very old was she?

T: No. She was about eight.

H: Was your grandmother sick?

T: No. She [Anh] just helped my aunt take care of my grandmother.

H: Do you know what they did while they were in Malaysia?

T: No.

H: I remember that they [Malaysian Government] gave out bread. Do
you remember?

T: Yes. I do not know what day it was. They were on a boat, and
they would just toss it.

H: Was it good bread? Was it sweet bread?

T: Yes. It was yellow on the inside.

H: Did you use to go running out there and try to grab some?

T: I did not run out there, but I was there a lot.

H: Were there a lot of people?

T: No, they were not piled up there.

H: How did you all get over to Hong Kong?

T: I do not remember how because I was asleep when they did it.


H: It must have been by boat or something similar. Why Hong Kong?

T: I do not know. It had a big airport.

H: Do you remember what you did while you were in Hong Kong?

T: I stayed in this little hotel, and my mother went shopping.

H: You did not get to go out and see the sites.

T: I just stayed in the hotel room.

H: Did you meet anybody while you were in the hotel?

T: No. I was in my hotel room the whole time.

H: Were you sleeping? What about your other sisters and brothers,
like the older ones?

T: I did not see them around. I do not know what they did.

H: How did your family get a chance to come over to America from
Hong Kong?

T: We flew.

H: Did you meet someone who took you all to the airport?

T: Yes, we did.

H: Was Father Mooney in this transaction at the time?

T: No, not here. I think we had a guide who helped us get to the

H: Did you have to pay him?

T: No, he was just helping us.

H: Did your father know him?

T: I think he did, but I am not sure.

H: Do you remember which airline you rode on?

T: I do not even remember getting on the airplane.

H: Were you asleep throughout the whole plane ride?

T: No, I woke up during the ride.

H: Did you get air sickness? Did you throw-up?

T: Yes, I think everybody threw-up.


H: Was the plane big?

T: Yes.

H: What did you do while you were on the plane? Did you just sit
there for hours?

T: Yes, and I sleep most of the time.

H: What was the date on which you came [to the United States]?

T: It was January [1979].

H: Where did you live at that time?

T: [We lived] in Pensacola, specifically off of South Ninth
Avenue right by the end of the road.

H: What about your uncle on your mother's side? Did he come with
you all?

T: No.

H: When were you all separated?

T: I do not remember, but somehow he got to Chicago.

H: Then it [separation] must have been in Hong Kong.

T: Yes.

H: Do you know why?

T: No.

H: Do you know how he made it over to the United States? Did he go
to school?

T: No, I think he learned some English. I do not think it was from
school though. He got a job working in a factory.

H: Did you make any friends when you came over here?

T: Yes. His name was Sam, and he lived next to us. He was our
neighbor, and I just played with him.

H: Was he your best friend at that time?

T: He was my only friend at that time. Then I went to school.

H: How did you become friends with him when you did not speak

T: His mom was helping us. She was very nice. I played with
him, but I did not speak English.


H: How did you two communicate?

T: We were kids who did not speak to each other when we played.

H: What games did you play? Maybe marbles?

T: Yes.

H: How did you get the marbles?

T: He had them.

H: You were not going to school yet, because school did not start
until August. What did you do other than play with Sam? Did
you help around the house any?

T: No. They [females of the family] cleaned up the house.

H: You did not read?

T: No, I did not know how to read. Nobody was there to teach.

H: What was your first impression of Americans, when you got off
the plane and saw these pale and white [people]?

T: I did not have any impression. I was young, and I did not
really care.

H: Was it noisy when you first got off the plane?

T: Yes, it was very noisy.

H: Did you have any trouble getting out of the Pensacola airport,
because it is so small?

T: No.

H: Did you feel lost or confused?

T: No, I think I was asleep, and someone took me out.

H: So you did not even know you were in a new country, a different

T: I remember landing.

H: How long did you live in the house on South Ninth Avenue?

T: [We lived in the house] for about a year.

H: What did your father do then?

T: He was helping somebody on a shrimping boat.


H: Was he working on it?

T: Yes, but it was not here in Pensacola. It was in Biloxi.

H: How did he get over to Biloxi?

T: He had friends here who referred him [to people in Biloxi].

H: What did your mother do? Did she take up a job?

T: No, she was helping around the house.

H: Then you had not lived with another family, right?

T: Yes.

H: So it was just the family and the grandmother.

T: No, the grandmother did not come yet.

H: Your mother's mother did not come?

T: No.

H: Why did she stay in Vietnam?

T: I do not think she was ready to leave yet.

H: Was your other grandmother not ready to leave yet until someone
convinced her?

T: Yes, my aunt did.

H: How?

T: I do not know.

H: You did not go to school. You played all day. What did your
other brothers and sisters do? Did they do the same thing or
did they play with you?

T: Yes, but they were away from me. I was not around them.

H: So you were a loner?

T: No, I was playing with Sam.

H: How did you know his name?

T: Just by being around him a lot.

H: Did your older sisters or brother attempt English? Did your
oldest sister know how to speak some English?

T: Yes, but she took it for a month [in Vietnam].


H: Did she learn some more?

T: I do not know. I do not remember hearing her speak English.

H: Think about the house. How big was it? How many rooms were
there? There was a bathroom this time, so you could bathe?

T: Yes. There was also a living room, and there was a kitchen
which entered right into the living room. There were two

H: Two bedrooms for eight people? How did you all split the rooms?

T: The girls slept in one room, and the younger son slept with the
mother in the same room. My older brother and I slept on the
couch in the living room. It was a pull-out bed.

H: Was this house really old?

T: Yes.

H: Was there a time when someone threw something and broke the

T: Someone threw a rock or something and broke the window.

H: Do you know why? Was this intentional?

T: I guess they were playing, but this was in a bad

H: You did not do too well because you were not American?

T: That is right.

H: Did they just not like foreigners?

T: I do not know.

H: You said this was a bad neighborhood, what did you mean? Were
there a lot of fights?

T: Yes, and you would hear policemen a lot.

H: Did you see any of the fights?

T: No.

H: What kind of people lived in this neighborhood? Whites only or

T: Blacks and some whites.

H: Basically, was this a poor neighborhood? At this point did


you know Father Mooney?

T: Yes, because he came over sometime in January [1979], and
brought us presents and gifts and a Panasonic television, which
we still have.

H: Do you remember the first thing you watched on television?

T: The first thing, when I turned it on was wrestling. I remember
it was a Saturday, too.

H: Were you very shocked? Wow! What is this--wrestling? Why
are they fighting?

T: No, I was just curious about how the images were projected upon
the screen. I did not know what wrestling was so I just sat
there and watched it.

H: I guess you did not understand since they were speaking in

T: Yes.

H: Did you have a radio then? Did he [Father Mooney] bring a

T: No.

H: Did you ever get in trouble for little things you did? Such as
fooling around with things and breaking them?

T: No. I do not remember because those were up very high.

H: You said you had an altar in Vietnam. Did you have one in

T: I do not remember seeing one.

H: Then what about over here [in the United States]? Was it one
of the first things your family just had to put in?

T: No. I do not remember seeing one. We did not live there that

H: What did your two younger siblings do over here [in the United
States in early 1979]? One was one or two, and the other one
was three. Did they just hang around you?

T: Yes. The oldest sister watched them.

H: She did a lot of baby-sitting?

T: Yes.

H: Did you think this very fun, what you did everyday?


T: It was fun for me.

H: Do you remember the day or night when someone threw a rock
through the window? Did you even know? Were you asleep?

T: I was asleep, but I found out in the morning.

H: What did you think? Were you scared?

T: I was wondering why they would do it to us.

H: You had no idea why these people were different. They did
not speak the same language, and they were not even the same

T: Yes, I was scared.

H: You were scared? Why? Did you think they could really hurt
[your family]?

T: No, they were different.

H: That was why you were mainly scared?

T: Yes.

H: How did you know they were different? You did not see them.

T: Not these people [particularly].

H: Just the people around your neighborhood?

T: Yes.

H: When you got acquainted, when you made friends with Sam, were
you still scared?

T: No, because I remember going over to his house, knocking on the
door, and asking for him.

H: When was this?

T: [It was] before I went to school. Then when I started school we

H: You all moved? Do you know why?

T: No.

H: Did you know what was happening then?

T: No.

H: How did your two sisters, your grandmother, your uncle, and


your aunt come over here [United States]?

T: I do not remember. I do not know because I did not hear
anything from anyone.

H: Did you even know that they were coming?

T: I knew that they were coming. [They went to] Minnesota, then to
California, and then to Pensacola.

H: Did they just go over to Malaysia and then fly here [United
States]--your two sisters ?

T: No.

H: How did they fly over to the U.S., to Minnesota?

T: I do not know.

H: Are you sure that it was not from Malaysia?

T: I do not think that there was an airport there.

H: Where did they stay in Minnesota? Do you know?

T: No. I did not even know they were here until they were here in

H: Did you even know you had more relatives yet?

T: I knew that, but I did not know that they were here in the U.S.
until they got to Pensacola.

H: Were they not staying with a family who was sponsoring them in

T: Yes.

H: Do you know why they went over to Minnesota, then to California,
and then here to Pensacola?

T: I do not know.

H: What were your feelings when they came over?

T: I do not know what my feelings were.

H: Were you excited or were you indifferent towards the situation?

T: I do not know how I felt.

H: How did the rest of your family feel?

T: They were happy.


H: How did the rest of your family get back to the house from the
airport? Did you all have a car?

T: No. We did not have a car yet. They got to Pensacola after we

H: Was it not while you were moving to another house?

T: I remember seeing my aunt in the new house. That is when I saw

H: Why did the family decide to move?

T: My mom was afraid of that neighborhood. She was still scared
[from earlier incident].

H: Did Father Mooney help you out again in this situation?

T: Yes. He got us the house.

H: Where was this house?

T: It was on 219 West Romana Street.

H: Could describe the neighborhood? Was it a quiet one?

T: Yes, it was quiet. It was very quiet. Old people lived there.

H: How did you get acquainted with some of them [neighbors]?
Did you even get acquainted?

T: Not me, but my sister did.

H: How?

T: I do not know.

H: Did she just go over there and start talking?

T: No. I think she [neighbor] said "Hi" to her from across the
street and then just started talking.

H: Well, you would think with this being a new neighborhood, that
they [neighbors] would come over and introduce you to the

T: No, it was a new neighborhood.

H: Do you know if they were maybe frightened by new people, by

T: No. They felt like they should be friendly to everyone.

H: When you finally moved into that new house, was it any bigger
than the old house?


T: Yes, it was a lot bigger. The kitchen was bigger. The dining
room was bigger. There were more bedrooms.

H: How many more?

T: One more.

H: To accommodate how many more people? Five?

T: Yes.

H: Did everyone stay in the same house?

T: Yes, for a while. Then my grandmother and my aunt got their
own house.

H: How did they get another house? Where was this house?

T: This house was on 255 North "C" Street. I think Father Mooney
got that house.

H: Did your uncle stay in that house?

T: Yes, for a little while, and then he went to Biloxi and worked

H: He decided to stay there, did he not?

T: Yes.

H: But he did not get very established. Did he get a house in

T: No, he did not get a house. He stayed with friends a lot.

H: Did you make new friends when you came to this neighborhood?

T: After a while I did.

H: You picked up some English, too.

T: Yes. Well, I learned some English when I was in school in
kindergarten, and then we moved to Ninth Avenue.

H: When did the rest of the family come here [U.S.]?

T: Late 1979.

H: It was before school started, was it not?

T: Yes.

H: Do you remember being taught anything by your father? Did he
teach you pre-math?


T: No, not before I went to school. But when I got to the first
grade, he did.

H: Did you ever go to your aunt's house and stay for the day?

T: Yes, on the weekends.

H: Do you know why?

T: Just to have some fun and help my grandmother.

H: Did you enjoy doing this? Did you learn anything?

T: I learned a lot of customs.

H: Such as .

T: To give respect to the adults, what to do, and helping those
around us.

H: Did you have an altar in your house now?

T: Yes.

H: Where?

T: I do not remember where it was, but I remember there was an

H: Did your parents think it was very important to have this

T: Yes.

H: What was on top of the altar?

T: A picture of my grandfather, my dad's father.

H: What about your mother's father? Do you know why his picture
was not on the altar.

T: [That is] because my dad told my mother not to put one up.

H: And your mother had nothing to do with it?

T: Yes.

H: I see. This shows that females are subordinate to males in the
Vietnamese culture?

T: Yes. The male had control--what to say.

H: You did make new friends?


T: No. I had not met any yet. I had not seen any.

H: What about your other sisters and brothers? What did they do?
What did you do? You did not have anyone to talk to or to play

T: [I played] with my brothers and sisters.

H: What did you usually play?

T: Hopscotch, kickball, and marbles.

H: What was your favorite game?

T: [It was] marbles.

H: Were you very good at it?

T: I could beat a lot of people.

H: You must have played a lot then. Did you enjoy playing marbles
with your sisters and brother?

T: Yes, but I played with them, and I beat them a lot.

H: No competition.

T: Yes. It was not really marbles that we played a lot. It was
more like kickball and softball.

H: Going back to the house, was it furnished much better than the
other one?

T: Yes.

H: In what way?

T: There was air-conditioning. There was a lot more space. We
had more beds. We had a big kitchen and bathroom.

H: What did your sisters and brothers do--the older ones?

T: My brother stayed with my aunt at her house.

H: Do you know why?

T: There was nobody there to help my grandmother out, and so he
went there. My sisters, basically, helped my mom with cooking
and cleaning. We had a washing machine by then.

H: You did not have to handwash your clothes anymore?

T: No, we did not.

H: Did you get dirty a lot?


T: Yes.

H: Did you ever get in trouble for getting dirty?

T: No, not a lot. When I got dirty, it was just my hands and my
feet. I just washed them. My clothes did not get dirty.

H: Did you have a radio by now?

T: Yes.

H: Do you remember one time when the cassette player broke?

T: No.

H: Did your mother get mad?

T: I do not remember. I did not break it.

H: Do you remember when she lined up the children, just the little
ones, and then she asked, "Who broke this?" None of the
children said anything, and she finally said that whoever broke
it better tell her or that person would be in very big trouble.
Someone confessed.

T: No. I knew we had a radio.

H: What about your aunt's house? [Was it] very big?

T: No, it was not that big. [It had] two bedrooms, a bathroom,
a living room, and kitchen. That was it.

H: Was the neighborhood better, or was it worse than the one on
Ninth Avenue?

T: It was not as bad as the one on Ninth Avenue, but it was not as
good as the one on Romana Street.

H: Did you talk to your sisters and brothers a lot, or did you
just play all of the time?

T: We just played all of the time.

H: Did have fights, sibling rivalry?

T: Yes, we had a lot of those.

H: In what way?

T: Such as fighting over little things. They were like little kid

H: First day of school, what was your immediate impression when you
got to that school and saw all these little children?


T: I was scared. I did not know what to do, where to go, or who
to see, but the teacher there was nice.

H: Do you remember her name?

T: This is the first grade, and her name was Ms. Edwards.

H: So you did not go to kindergarten?

T: I did when we were living on Ninth Avenue.

H: How could you? It was in January.

T: I caught them [while school was still in]. I went in a couple
of months before school was out. That is how I learned some
English. I had two Vietnamese friends who taught me.

H: Do you remember their names?

T: No.

H: You said you went to kindergarten when you lived on Ninth
Avenue. What was your impression when you first went to

T: The teacher was nice. I do not know what her name was. She
introduced me to the two Vietnamese guys. You just played with
all the other kids. This was before Easter, and I remember
we had an Easter egg hunt.

H: What school was this? Can you give me the title of the school?

T: No.

H: When you went to first grade, was that a different school?

T: Yes. It was Hallmark Elementary.

H: Did you adapt very quickly, or were you still scared and wanted
your sister?

T: No, [I was not scared]. I adapted quickly because I knew I
would make friends just like in kindergarten.

H: Now that you are in school, all your other older sisters and
brother also went to school. Your younger sister ,too, right?

T: Yes, in kindergarten.

H: Did your older sisters and brother go to A. A. Dixon?

T: Yes, that was from the fourth to the sixth grade.

H: So Hallmark ended with the third grade?


T: Yes.

H: [How did you get to school?] Did you walk to school, or did you
take a bus?

T: We took a bus. We waited on the corner two blocks down [from
where we lived].

H: What was your first impression when you walked on that bus the
first day and you saw strangers, different people--black,

T: Well, I was not scared because I had seen them in school in
kindergarten. I just did what they did, and I just went in and
sat down on the seat. Some of the kids looked like it was their
first day, too.

H: Did you start talking, or did you just stay silent?

T: I stayed silent. I was scared.

H: You were scared to talk to them?

T: No.

H: Why you scared of them?

T: I just was scared. I did not want to hang around anybody.

H: When the bus unloaded, what did you do? Did you just follow
everybody else and do what they did?

T: Yes. Basically, I think the teacher was out there waiting for
her class.

H: At this time did you know your name, your address, your phone
number, and the little things that you were supposed to know?

T: Yes, because my dad taught me that before I went to school.

H: What did you do the first day [in school]? Did you just get
acquainted with other children?

T: Yes.

H: How did you make friends?

T: Basically, from the games. It depended on what game I

H: What games did you play?

T: Marbles was my game. Then I met this guy (I forgot his
name) who was pretty good, and I played with him.


H: Did you beat him?

T: We were like equals.

H: What did you do other than play games? Did you learn more

T: Yes, we read. We learned the alphabet, and [we did] a little
bit of math. I knew most of the math because my dad had taught
me in advance [before I had started school].

H: Did you feel good because you already knew the math, that you
did not have to worry about the math, and that you were smarter
than the other children [in that subject]?

T: No, I did not feel that way because I could not read. I had to
work at that.

H: Did the other children know how to read?

T: No.

H: So you felt like you fitted in, right?

T: Yes, I fitted right in with everybody.

H: I guess you had your daily nap in the hours of school.

T: Yes.

H: Did you enjoy that?

T: No, I never slept.

H: What did you do?

T: I could not sleep. I just laid there. I never slept during
nap time.

H: How did you make your first friend? Do you remember who your
first friend was at Hallmark?

T: Yes, I know who he was, but I do not recall his name.

H: Was he black, white, or Oriental?

T: He was an Asian. The funny thing is he was in my kindergarten

H: The same one you had met earlier.

T: Yes.

H: Did you two do a lot of things together?


T: No, because I was at home a lot. In school he was in a
different class, and we did not do a lot of things together.

H: I know at Hallmark they had a music class. Each day you would
go [and sing]. Did you go and join the music class?

T: No, not when I was in first grade.

H: Did you do it any other time? Maybe in the second or the third?

T: In the fourth we did.

H: What did you do when you came home? Did you tell your parents
about how your day went?

T: No.

H: What did you do?

T: I just put my books down, got something to eat, and then went
and played.

H: How did you feel that this was different? These teachers did
not spank you or hit your hands just because you have some ink
on yourself or just because you do not sit upright?

T: I thought it was better here.

H: [They were] more lenient?

T: Yes.

H: What about the dress code?

T: You could wear whatever you wanted.

H: Did the other children make fun of you?

T: Yes, they made fun of my name.

H: What do you mean? Were they being mean, or were they just

T: [They were just] making fun [of me]. Yes, just teasing me.

H: Did you really hate this?

T: I did, but then I got used to it. It was a common thing.

H: Why did they make fun of your name?

T: I do not know. I guess it was just something to do.

H: Did you help your parents around the house?


T: No, not when I was in the first grade. I did when I got to the
fourth grade.

H: By this time you were picking up English. How do you think
you fitted in now?

T: I got more acquainted with people because I could speak the
language now.

H: Did you feel you were American then?

T: No, I did not feel I was American.

H: Did you want to be an American?

T: No, I do not feel like I am an American now.

H: Did you want to be an American then?

T: No, I did not want to be an American because I felt I was
different from everybody else. I felt like an individual, not
like I was trying to be anybody else.

H: Did you make new friends? Did another family move in?

T: Yes, right across the street.

H: Did you make friends with their children?

T: Yes, I went over to play.

H: What were the children's' names?

T: The oldest son was Tom, and the younger one was Jerry.

H: Like Tom and Jerry, the cat and mouse?

T: Yes, they were like Tom and Jerry.

H: Did they get along?

T: No. Tom was always picking on Jerry.

H: How did you even make friends with these children?

T: They went to the same school. Tom was in my grade, and then I
met him. He played with us a lot.

H: Did you two get along well?

T: Yes, I got along well with him, but sometimes he made me mad?

H: What did you do? Did you just stay mad at each other?


T: Yes, I stayed mad at him.

H: Did you fight?

T: No, I did not fight.

H: How long did this friendship last?

T: Until he moved. I used to go to his house and play.

H: Did you get a dog?

T: We had a cat.

H: Did you have a couple of cats which died?

T: Yes, they died.

H: Start with the first cat.

T: It had four kittens.

H: What happened to the four kittens?

T: Two just left, and the other two died.

H: How did the other two die?

T: One was killed by a dog, and I do not know how the other one

H: Did you have a kitten?

T: Yes.

H: Which one was it?

T: The one that died with a dog bite.

H: Were you sad? Did you really like this kitten?

T: Yes, it was the first pet I had.

H: Did you take it out for a walk and play with it?

T: I played a lot with it. I petted it.

H: Then did the family get a dog?

T: Yes, a girl gave my older brother the dog.

H: What was the name of the dog?

T: Her name was Tiny because she was small.


H: You were getting used to this house.

T: Yes, we lived there for four years.

H: Then you moved?

T: We moved to where we are living now, which is 311 Fairfax Drive.

H: Did you like this house more in any way?

T: No, it was smaller. But it had four bedrooms. The kitchen was
smaller, and the living room was smaller. The neighborhood was
not as good.

H: Because it was more rowdy?

T: Loud. People were not quiet.

H: Did you get along with these people, such as with the other
children, when you first arrived at this neighborhood?

T: No, by this time I was in the fifth grade.

H: Your family already had a car, right?

T: Yes, we had two cars.

H: Did you feel more American because you had adjusted to the
culture, customs, and traditions?

T: The American culture and custom did not [interest me]. I did
not want to be an American.

H: It did not appeal to you?

T: Yes, [it did not appeal to me].

H: Why not?

T: The American way of life was not for me because what of is
happening in the U.S. right now, like [protest on political
issues such as abortion and flag burning].

H: You did not like it because you felt that .

T: the American custom was not what I wanted .

H: to be apart of.

T: Yes.

H: Which school did you go to next?

T: Brown Barge Elementary.


H: How long did you go to this school?

T: For about a year.

H: What grade level was this?

T: It was the fifth.

H: Which school did you go to after that?

T: I transferred to Workman Middle School.

H: Why?

T: My dad wanted me to be in a better school.

H: You were learning a lot of English by now.

T: Yes, I could speak it about average.

H: When were you a child and you had to say the Pledge of
Allegiance, did you even know who or what God was?

T: No.

H: Did you mind?

T: No, I did not mind saying it, but I did not know what the
purpose was.

H: As you grew older did you wonder why you were saying it?

T: Yes, I still do now.

H: Why do you feel that way?

T: Everybody does not have to say it. The teachers make you say

H: When did you really start thinking about this?

T: During the eighth grade.

H: Was it just because you were not American?

T: Yes.

H: Did you believe in God?

T: No, it is not because of God, but I felt that the pledge of
allegiance was like a way of maybe brainwashing foreign people.
It was a way to get power.

H: Was this because of your experience or your knowledge of the
Communists? Were you correlating the two?


T: Yes.

H: In your eyes what did Americans seem like?

T: They were nice until they wanted something. When they wanted
something, they would do anything to get it.

H: Did you have any personal experiences with this?

T: No, not really.

H: You just created this image in your mind of an American--
untrustworthy, selfish, inhumane, and things like that?

T: Yes.

H: Do you still feel that way?

T: Not all of what you said, but some of it.

H: Which parts of it?

T: They are still greedy. Some are inhumane. Lots want power over
others. They want to control people.

H: By the time you went to middle school, were you very American in
the way you spoke and did things?

T: People say I have an accent, and my traditions are different.

H: In what way?

T: They go out on Friday nights. I just stay home.

H: How did that make you feel? Did you want to go out on Friday night

T: No, I did not care.

H: Then, now, or both?

T: I did not care then.

H: What about now?

T: Now, I do not want to do anything Friday night.

H: What school do you go to now?

T: I go to Booker T. Washington High School.

H: How is your family life now?

T: Now, it is okay.


H: Is your family close?

T: Yes, [it is] a lot closer than what it used to be.

H: Why?

T: I guess because I grew up. I did not know a lot of things [as
a child].

H: So you were not being a loner anymore?

T: No.

H: Was it also because your grandmother died?

T: Yes.

H: How did your father feel [about her dying]?

T: He was sad.

H: Was he angry?

T: He was angered when you did not do what he asked you during
that time.

H: Did he take it out on the children?

T: Yes.

H: Was he like that when your aunt died?

T: No, that was different.

H: In what way?

T: He did not get easily angered. He was calm, but he was sad.
It hurt him a lot.

H: How did you feel when your grandmother died?

T: It hurt me a lot, too, because I was with my grandmother a lot.

H: How did you see her death? Did you see it as maybe she was not
really dead?

T: Yes, that is how saw it. She was reincarnated.

H: Maybe you will meet her again sometime?

T: Yes.

H: How do you feel now? You know more now than you did then.

T: I figure death is something that is unpredictable. You do not


know when it is going to happen. Nobody ever will.

H: How did you feel when your aunt died?

T: The same way I felt when my grandmother died.

H: After experiencing death [of a close relative], did you still
think she was not dead?

T: Yes.

H: Did your feelings change later on?

T: No.

H: Do you still feel like she has not really died, so to speak?

T: Yes.

H: What do you mean by she has not really died?

T: Reincarnation.

H: Was your family deeply hurt?

T: Yes, they were. Everybody in the family was.

H: How has your family adapted? What do you do that is like
the American culture?

T: Well, we do a lot of different things. It varies within the
individual or how they have adapted.

H: Such as?

T: Myself, I picked up tennis.

H: What about your parents? Do they want you to follow the

T: Yes, they want the Vietnamese language spoken in the house so
that it will go on.

H: Do you speak Vietnamese while you are in the house?

T: Sometimes.

H: What about the rest of your family? Are they more American or

T: The older ones are more American. They get out a lot. The
younger ones, since they were young when they got here [U.S.],
are very American.

H: If you had the chance, would you go back to Vietnam?


T: Yes.

H: And live there?

T: Yes.

H: Why?

T: Because it was my home. I just want to go back.

H: If you had the chance now you would go back to Vietnam--and no
more tennis?

T: No more tennis, and I would go back.

H: Are you saying the Vietnamese way is better than the American

T: Yes. Even though it is not as advanced, I would go back.

H: Do you think your parents would?

T: I think they would.

H: Thank you for the interview.

T: You are welcome.