Post 71 — Highs and Lows

Larry on TV in a village classroom.

Larry on TV in a village classroom.

Larry sat on the front steps of the house, waiting for dinner. Man, he was tired. He thought about going back in for his cigarettes but then decided against it. The last bill from the general store showed he had been buying far more Winstons than he thought, and he should probably think about cutting back.

A young Samoan boy walked past the house, paused, then waved and shouted “Hi, Larry.” He walked up and said he was from the village of Ili’ili and was just visiting in town. Larry had never quite gotten used to being recognized on the island but he had to admit it was flattering.

The boy was thrilled to meet one of his teachers in person and began a long complimentary monologue on how much the TV program had done for him. “I have learned more in the past two years than I ever have in school!” he declared. His English was very good and he gave credit to the Oral English programs that ran daily. He also said he thought the Hygiene program had been great for keeping the villages clean, although many of the kids found it hard to convince their elders to follow the guidelines.

“We realized we probably wouldn’t be able to reach the parents,” Larry explained, “but we hoped that the kids would pass it on down to their kids.”

The boy nodded and shook his hand, and then headed off toward the malai in town for a football game. Larry went in the house to find his cigarettes.

April 17, 1966 

“George Pittman is back . . . George is the language specialist from Australia who designed the English curriculum. About a week ago, I conducted a testing program with him to see how the Oral English program is fairing. Pat L. and I tested a group of kids from a TV school and George tested kids from village schools which haven’t started TV yet. The kids from the TV school were so far ahead in English speaking and comprehension that even George was amazed. He told me he felt this program would work, but he didn’t realize how quickly and how well it would take effect.

We haven’t gotten much done at the studio this week, even though the whole staff worked while school was out for spring vacation. Vernon Bronson is back after a year’s absence and he’s raising hell because he feels the project has been deviating from his master plan. We’ve been snowed under with meetings, discussions, and re-organization. Actually, the elementary section has been operating smoothly, but the high school program has been receiving a great deal of criticism about not meeting the needs of Samoan kids. The long break after the hurricane enabled us to get several weeks ahead in our taping schedule and Bronson is angry about this because he feels we should be doing programs one day and sending them out the next day so we can keep modifying as we go along. Unfortunately when you’re sending out about 175 programs per week, that cushion gives you a nice feeling of security. “

Larry

Jean wandered through the wards full of hospital beds, looking for her husband. Larry had been admitted yesterday after feeling light-headed at the TV studio. Weeks of worrying about the program and sleeping badly had finally caught up with him. He had gone to the doctor for a quick visit and had been checked in immediately, after being given an ultimatum: he could walk in on Friday or be carried in next week. His last experience at the hospital had been over a year ago when he had hurt his back and Jean had called for an ambulance; two men had arrived with a pick-up truck to take him into town. So walking in was definitely preferred.

The doctor believed that he had completely exhausted himself and simply needed to stop everything and rest. Vitamins, sleeping pills and no cameras in his face were prescribed, and the cure seemed to be working. Apart from the times when the nurses turned on all the lights during the night to make the roaches scatter from the pillows, he had been sleeping soundly and had even had time to read a bit. Tests had been completed and the results showed that he was in fine health, just very, very tired.

Jean finally found her husband’s bed in the large room and saw that he was napping. His color was better, although he was still pretty pale by comparison, being the only palagi in the ward. She found a chair and pulled it up next to the bed, waiting for him to wake up. The room was cool and quiet, with ceiling fans set at a drowsy speed. Her eyes slowly closed and as she drifted off, she wondered what she would have to do to get admitted, too. This was so much nicer than home.

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