Post 84—”K-V-Z (zee ya real soon!)”*

larryontv

The control room at the TV studio.

Larry looked around his office at the KVZK television studio for the last time. His desk was clean, waiting for the next supervisor to stack his own pile of projects and To Do lists. The honorary Sanitation and Hygiene toilet seat had been removed from the wall and was now on a boat somewhere on its way back to the mainland along with their other household goods. It was difficult to imagine how it was going to fit into the decor of his next office, but he was determined that it would.

Where that office would be was still unclear. He was leaving the island without having lined up a new position, although he felt confident that something would come along. One thing was certain; he was not going back to the Detroit Board of Education. It was time for a new adventure.

As he walked through the hallways, he thought about those first few weeks on the island when the ETV program was slowly taking shape. At times it had felt like they were making up the curriculum as they went along, probably because they were. There had been so many problems they hadn’t anticipated, from humidity-induced equipment failures to unanticipated departures by freaked-out teachers. The hurricane hadn’t helped much, either. At one point they had been producing 188 programs per week, an insane schedule that had taken its toll on the administrators and teachers alike. And yet the program had flourished, frequently held together by nothing more than the dedication of a staff who fervently believed that what they were doing was making a difference.

It was difficult to measure the success of the program because there had been no real way to collect data, and even if there had been, there was simply no time. Because the Samoans had little proficiency in English to begin with, standard tests that were given to stateside students were useless. But Larry had visited the villages where the consolidated schools were thriving and engaged in long, enthusiastic conversations with students in all grades. Their ability to chatter about all kinds of subjects had convinced him that they were doing something right.

But there were rumblings of trouble in the program. The new ETV system that started in 1964 had been the baby of then Governor H. Rex Lee. The new governor, Owen Aspinall, had been appointed in 1967, and the past year had shown that he wasn’t nearly as enamored of the project as Lee had been. Larry hated to think that everything they had worked so hard for could be derailed by politics. It was infuriating for everyone involved to think the ETV program might not be able to continue, but mostly it seemed unfair to the Samoan students who had embraced the system and learned so well.

Whatever happened, Larry’s active participation in the great educational television experiment was over. The odds that he would have the opportunity to be involved in something so special again were slim. He didn’t even have a job right now. But this island and these people were always going to be a part of him; he knew that for sure. He was taking his lavalava with him.

Larry and I got a big laugh out of the comment about the pile of money we had saved. It’s more than we could have managed at home but it isn’t a very impressive pile. But even if we had lost money, I wouldn’t have had the last four years be any different; it was all worth it . . . The kids are independent as heck and I’m afraid you all might disapprove a bit, but they sure are prepared for the world. . . I’m still sad about leaving but looking forward to a change. It’s time and probably if we stayed, things would start going sour.

Jean

* The title comes from a song parody performed in The Samoan Fales, sung to the tune of “The Mickey Mouse Club” –  “K-V-Z (zee ya real soon!), Z-K-Y (Why? Because we like you!)”

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