Interview with Bac Tran

Dublin Core

Title

Interview with Bac Tran

Date

2018-11-05

Format

audio

Identifier

2018oh006_btba_005

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Betsy Brody

Interviewee

Bac Tran

OHMS Object Text

5.4 Interview with Bac Tran, November 5, 2018 2018oh006_btba_005 1:23:45 ohbtba Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans btba001 Vietnamese in North Texas Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans Bac Tran Betsy Brody mp3 oh-audio-dig-tran_b_20181105.mp3 1:|14(5)|21(11)|28(17)|36(13)|43(4)|52(2)|59(6)|68(12)|78(7)|83(9)|92(10)|98(11)|106(14)|115(1)|122(1)|129(7)|138(1)|148(6)|155(7)|162(11)|171(9)|180(6)|188(13)|195(2)|204(4)|212(2)|221(7)|231(6)|240(5)|247(8)|257(2)|262(10)|273(11)|280(11)|286(13)|293(6)|300(1)|308(10)|316(3)|324(3)|330(2)|337(1)|345(1)|353(2)|361(16)|370(1)|379(8)|388(8)|395(1)|403(12)|412(4)|419(3)|428(1)|433(12)|441(9)|449(8)|456(13)|465(6)|473(12)|481(8)|491(5)|497(7)|506(1)|514(4)|523(6)|532(1)|540(5)|547(7)|554(8)|562(6)|570(1)|576(12)|584(1)|592(13)|599(14)|608(1)|615(8)|623(3)|629(9)|637(1)|644(2)|650(1)|657(11)|657(12)|657(13)|657(14)|657(15) 0 https://betsybrody.aviaryplatform.com/embed/media/114142 Aviary audio 0 Introduction BRODY: This is Betsy Brody. Today is November 5, 2018. I’m interviewing, for the first time, Mr. Bac Tran. This interview is taking place in my office in Richardson, Texas. This interview is sponsored by the Baylor University Institute for Oral History, and is part of the Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans project. All right, good morning, Mr. Tran. TRAN: Good morning. BRODY: I’m so excited to talk to you today. Brody begins the interview and introduces Mr. Bac Tran and the Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans project. 26 Leaving Vietnam Let’s start out, just—if you could tell me a little bit about your life in Vietnam. TRAN: Yes. In Vietnam I was a high school teacher. I had been teaching the chemistry and biology. And then in April 1975 when the south of Vietnam was about to collapse and everybody was panicked, I was originated from the north. I was born as a Catholic and with anti-communists, so I had more reason to fear to live under the control of the communists. But it happened that my brother was working for US embassy at the time, and they allow every US embassy employee family to get out of the country, and I was a member of his family. That’s why I came over here. BRODY: So because of your brother’s connections and his work for the US embassy, his whole family—so how many members of the family were evacuated through that? TRAN: Yes, his family has four children, he and his wife. That’s six, and my mother, my two sisters, and me. The sisters and me, we’re all single, that’s why we were regarded as a member of his family. BRODY: Okay, so he was responsible for all of you as well as your mother and his own family. So were you living in Saigon at that time? TRAN: I was in the Saigon at the time. Actually, I was a high school teacher in the central of Vietnam, and by the time the communists almost took over that area, so I escaped and ran to the south, and I get on the Vietnam navy ship, and they took us to the south of Vietnam and put us in a refugee camp in Phú Quốc. It’s in the south of Vietnam. BRODY: Okay, so you came from central Vietnam, fleeing to south Vietnam and were in a refugee camp. TRAN: Yes, and then my brother went to Phú Quốc, went to that island, looked for me, and took me back to the capital of Vietnam. BRODY: Wow, what was that day like? Did you know he was coming for you? TRAN: No. That is in around April, April fifteenth. So we were living in Saigon for a couple of weeks, and then my brother is in charge for the evacuation of his employees out of the country. And so he stayed behind, but I and my—and his family and my sisters and my mother, we all got out of the country on April 25. BRODY: April 25, 1975. Mr. Bac Tran discuses his job and life in Vietnam as well as his family's evacuation out of Vietnam. Catholicism ; Communism ; escape from Vietnam ; Fall of Saigon ; religion ; US Embassy ; Vietnam ; Vietnam War 252 Journey to the United States started to be under intense artillery bombardment. And we reunited with my brother at Guam island a few days after that. And then we were flown to US and stayed in Camp Pendleton, a marine base, for more than a month. Then through the USCC, a voluntary agency, we were sponsored by the University of Plano, now a defunct university, and we came to Dallas in July 1975. BRODY: Okay, so the first place that you went was Guam, or the Philippines, then— TRAN: Philippines, then Guam. BRODY: Then Camp Pendleton. TRAN: Then Camp Pendleton, yeah. BRODY: And were you all together the whole time? TRAN: Yeah, we all together. We reunited with my brother in Guam. |00:05:39| BRODY: So tell me—I mean, how did you feel when you were in Guam and before he got there? What was the feeling in the family? TRAN: We was—when we came to the Philippines, staying in the navy base, I was so fearful because I don’t know if my brother will be able to reunite with us or not, because he was still in Saigon. BRODY: Right. It must have been scary. TRAN: Yeah, it is very scary. But we have no choice. After staying there for a few days, then they start to fly us to the Guam. But it’s just like a miracle. We were so tired and we slept in the camp in the tent, and then in the morning, I suddenly saw my brother walking in. He’s looking for us also, he walk around and walk around, and then he saw us and he walk in the camp. BRODY: Were you so surprised? TRAN: Yeah, we so surprised and so happy. |00:06:56| BRODY: So happy. And how was it with having four small children with your group? Was that difficult? TRAN: It was difficult because at that time when we were still in the Subic Bay, the US navy base, the youngest one, my youngest nephew, he was sick. And at the time, if any kids got sick severely, they have to take the kid out from us and they take him, put him into the hospital. BRODY: So you were separated from— TRAN: Yeah, and we were so scared, but fortunately my nephew got well after that— BRODY: And they were able to reunite you. TRAN: —and recovered after that, so that—yeah, he was not separated from us. BRODY: Good, that’s good. So Camp Pendleton, you were there for— TRAN: Yeah, Camp Pendleton. We was there from May until June, more than a month, about a month and twenty days or something like that, because we were big family. And you know that in the US, the Americans only have smaller family, they cannot afford to sponsor that big family. BRODY: So during your time in Camp Pendleton you were working to try to find a sponsor for the whole family? TRAN: The Department of Immigration together with the voluntary agency they called the VolAgs [Voluntary Agency], it’s nine voluntary agencies, including in that is USCC [United States Catholic Conference], for instance, and the HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society] is a Jewish agency, et cetera. They work together and look for the sponsors. It’s strange, and we’re just like—suddenly we got into the United States, completely different environment for us, and Tran recounts his experiences and hardships from traveling to the United States from Guam and the Philippines. Camp Pendleton ; Dallas ; Guam ; Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society ; HIAS ; leaving Vietnam ; Phillippines ; refugee camp ; refugees ; Subic Bay ; Texas ; United States Catholic Conference ; University of Plano ; USCC ; VolAgs 553 Adjusting to life in the United States And we arrived to the Philippines and stay in the US navy base for several days. And my brother left Saigon on April twenty-seventh, and he was pretty lucky, because on April twenty-eighth the Tan Son Nhut, the only airport in the capital, BRODY: What was the most different thing for you? TRAN: The most different thing is the culture. We want—like, in Vietnam, we normally want to live together as community. And when we go over here, even one Vietnamese priest, he’s very well-educated, he graduated from German, he also—even that, he always ask us to pray so that we can stay together. Yeah, but over here, the—I think the—over here we really have the experience with the immigration, because through the course of history all the immigration from all over the world goes over here, so the department— immigration departments and the voluntary agencies, they’re very experienced about how to deal with the immigrants. So instead of put us together in one place, they distribute us throughout the country, okay. And that—secondly, when we come over here, the very first feeling that we have is: this is peaceful country. In our country is the war all the time. BRODY: It’s very different. TRAN: Yeah, the thirty, forty years, yeah. So this country—when we first got into the airport and they ship us to the base, we look through and we see, “Huh, the society is very peaceful.” BRODY: Right. No conflict that you could see. TRAN: No conflict yeah, yeah, you can see it. |00:11:19| BRODY: So how did that make you feel? TRAN: Me feel—we don’t—the first feeling we have is we really enjoy the environment, and people treat us very kindly. But also we just, as I said, we just kind of feel numb. We were not prepared to come over here. Yeah, we were not prepared. BRODY: You weren’t planning, or it wasn’t part of your plan. TRAN: Yeah. But we panic and we feel numb and we don’t—it’s just like we got—we don’t have maps, something like that. We’re disoriented. BRODY: Yeah, disoriented. TRAN: Yeah, completely. BRODY: And numb. Tran describes his initial reaction to the differences between living in the United States and Vietnam. 752 Finding a Sponsor But you wanted to have the one sponsor to take all of you, and that was challenging, but ultimately you found— TRAN: Yeah, it was challenging and we keep waiting. Every day, we keep waiting, we’re waiting, and finally they call us and let us know that we have a sponsor. But the sponsor we have over here is the University of Plano. They only sponsor for the transition time. |00:13:11| BRODY: Okay, so University of Plano transitioned your family for just the transition? TRAN: And then from there they will find out a permanent sponsor. We came to the—we are the first largest group who came to Dallas. BRODY: Right, your family. TRAN: Yeah, who came to Dallas. And we were living in Plano, but we must move out of the campus before the school year. BRODY: Oh I see, so this was happening in July? TRAN: The school year sometime by the August, and they start somewhere around by August, or something like that. Tran recalls the challenges of finding a sponsor for his entire family. Dallas ; Plano ; sponsor ; sponsorship ; Texas ; University of Plano 834 Finding Work In America Hunt Oil Company, they move their data centers to Dallas from Philadelphia and Tulsa. So they build a huge big data center over at the Empire Central [Drive] and Stemmons [Freeway], in north Dallas. So they need the helpers, and my brother and I, we got the job. Talking about jobs is funny thing, is when we were living in the campus, there are a couple employees from the human resource, from the Department of Human Resource. They help us to look for the job. But you know, most of the Vietnamese refugees, we couldn’t speak English or couldn’t speak English very well. So it’s fairly difficult to look for a job. BRODY: Yes. TRAN: I remember a man, his name is—I don’t remember his full name, but his name was Mr. Vano. He always look for a job for us and we only end up with the $2.10 an hour, that’s the minimum wage at the time. BRODY: So, minimum wage job. TRAN: And we jokingly call him as Mr. Two-Ten. (laughs) BRODY: Mr. Two-Ten. (laughs) That’s really funny. TRAN: Mr. Two-Ten because—but he’s very nice, he’s very nice. He even invite us to his home sometimes. BRODY: So was he an American? TRAN: Yeah, he’s an American. BRODY: And he was just interested in helping Vietnamese get jobs. TRAN: Yeah, look for us to get a job, yeah. But unfortunately we don’t speak—we didn’t speak English very well. We didn’t have skills that the company needed, so we had him as Two-Ten, and (laughs) we call him as Mr. Two-Ten. |00:16:32| BRODY: (laughs) That’s very funny. So that entry into the job market—you know, how did you get the job at Sun Oil Company? TRAN: Yeah, at Sun Oil—because at that time, as I said, the data center, the Sun Oil just build—Sun Oil just build their data center over the Stemmons in north Dallas. And they need some helpers with no previous experience required. BRODY: Oh, good. TRAN: Yeah. So all we do—even the name is as a computer operator—but we come over here, we got in and they have a huge room with all the tape drives. So the tape drive we would normally call them tape number. All we do is see one, two, three, four, five, six. So we go to the tape library and pick the tape and mount. That’s all they need us to do. BRODY: Right. So you didn’t need a lot of English? TRAN: Yeah, no need a lot of English. BRODY: Great. So did you enjoy that job? TRAN: Well, we so happy. We—I know that the job is at the entry level, but at least it give us an opportunity to go back to school and learn the new skills and learn English. And also, at least it give us something to move on with our lives. BRODY: Absolutely. |00:18:05| TRAN: And if you go back, about 1975 and, if I remember correctly, there’s somewhere around when they do the—maybe about 30, 36 percent of the Americans that in favor with the Vietnam immigration. BRODY: Right, so not a lot of— TRAN: Because at the time, the war is over, so they don’t feel very good about the war. So only 30 percent of the Americans favor it. But as we said, as I said, we just wanted to move on with our life. So we got the job, whatever job they give to us, and we tried to work very hard. We go back to the school, learn English, and learn the new skills so that we can live, so that we can become the independent in our life. |00:19:24| Tran describes his first job in the United States working as a computer operator. employment ; English ; Hunt Oil Company ; jobs ; Sun Oil Company 1166 Going back to school So I remember I—in August the third, I got the job as computer operator. |00:14:05| BRODY: Where were you working? TRAN: I start to work as—at the—for the Sun Oil Company. At that time, Sun Oil BRODY: Right. Tell me about going back to school. Where did you go back to school? TRAN: I—(unintelligible) and you know, as I go back with little bit but here, it’s only 36 percent of the Americans favor Vietnamese immigration. But after a while, the local people in Dallas were—through the newspaper and everything they published about our new groups, how we—and people started to like us more and more. They’re more friendly with us. And I think that’s because we started to work—we just work, we work hard, and we go back to school and study the new skill and ______ so that we move on with our life. In my case, I went back to the El Centro [College] first to learn English. BRODY: Right, to a community college. TRAN: Yeah, in community college. And then I go back to the UTD [University of Texas–Dallas] to study information systems, or the course, information system. Because I graduate in Vietnam with a BS degree, and I spend a couple more years in the oceanography institute to study about marine biology. But I came over here, I couldn’t find a job, so I work as a computer operator. So I had to start—at the time, we have to take whatever they offer us, and then we improve our skill by going back to school. So I have to learn data processing, information systems. BRODY: So that’s a big change from marine biology, but— TRAN: Yeah. It took me five years, and I became the programmer analyst in 1980. BRODY: Great. TRAN: Yeah, and 1990 I become the database administrator, and then until I retired in 2016. BRODY: Well, congratulations on your retirement. |00:21:42| TRAN: Yeah. So not only for the job but for us, the education is—we really emphasize on the education, it’s important for us. If we want to have a good future, we have to go back to the school. And that how in Vietnam, that how it’s going in Vietnam, and over here, the same thing. We came over here, we really pushed the kid through the school system. BRODY: Yes, and yourselves as well, it sounds like. TRAN: Yeah. And the school over here, I think it’s—I used to tell my children that okay, in Vietnam, it’s fairly difficult to go through successfully in the school. I think about 4 or 5 percent of these student can graduate from the school back—I’m talking about before 1975. But even when you graduate from the school, I don’t think the student know much as the student over here. Over here they learn more, they have more knowledge than us in Vietnam. But the reason because it’s fairly difficult in Vietnam because there is no regulations, no rules, no guidelines in school as we do over here. So we relied much on the teachers favor or tolerance, okay? Like for instance, if I got sick on the exam day, no makeup. I fail. That’s it. As over here, it’s different. It’s more tolerant. So we get over here, when we go back to school, we feel fairly easy. People want—I mean the teacher, professors, instructors just want us to pass the course. They don’t intend to give a problem, to create the obstacles for us. BRODY: So you worked hard and were able to succeed. TRAN: Yeah. So if you work hard, you have opportunities. Tran recalls his return to collage in the United States in order to gain new skills to have a better opportunity for better jobs. community college ; education ; El Centro Community College ; refugees ; University of Texas at Dallas ; UTD 1456 Sponsored Stay at the University of Plano BRODY: So, you mentioned earlier that when you first came, the University of Plano housed you for that transition period, and you mentioned—did you stay on campus? TRAN: Yeah, we are living in the campus, and a lot of volunteer— BRODY: Where was that campus? Do you remember where that campus was? TRAN: The campus is in northwest Dallas, I think—it’s—(turning pages) it’s in northwest Dallas, it’s somewhere around on the—I believe that is somewhere around in the farm road, they call Farm Road 544. BRODY: Okay. So, sort of in Plano? TRAN: Yeah, in Plano, and yeah, it’s close to—yeah, in Plano. Yeah. BRODY: Okay, so they sponsored you and you lived on their campus. What were the accommodations like during that time? Was it a dorm or— TRAN: It’s in the dorm, and then the people start to donate food, and the volunteers throughout the Richardson, Plano, they got in and tried to teach us English. BRODY: Okay. So were those volunteers from church groups or a city? TRAN: From a church group, and from—yeah, normally from the church group. BRODY: From the church group. So they taught you English and donated things? |00:25:54| TRAN: Yeah, and donate, all that. But talking about, why is it different, that societies are so different? I remember one days in our group—we had about three or four people—one American lady, one volunteer, she drove us around the city—I think it was for—I forgot the reason why, but we got in her car and she drove us somewhere. And at the stop sign the streets are completely quiet and no people around there, at the stop sign, she stops. That’s a rule, okay? But one of—(laughs) a man behind me is like, “Why don’t you go, why do you have to stop? Nobody over here.” (Brody laughs) So she turns around and she says, “You crazy.” (laughs) BRODY: That’s funny. So she was following the rules— TRAN: Yeah, she’s following the rules and the man, he doesn’t think that there’s a rule that we need to stop. BRODY: Right. So how would that have been in Vietnam? Is that— TRAN: In Vietnam, back through the old days, we don’t follow very—the rules very strictly, yeah. Tran explains the living conditions and accommodations of living on the University of Plano's campus. Including additional support from a church group. church ; cultural differences ; Dallas ; Plano ; Texas ; University of Plano ; volunteers 1638 Adjusting to American Culture and Cultural Misunderstandings BRODY: Cartoons? (laughs) |00:28:20| TRAN: I really like that, cartoons, even I was twenty-six years old, but I still like the cartoons. (Brody laughs) So I asked one of my—one of the coworkers, “Do you like to watch toon-car?” He doesn’t know what I mean a “toon-car.” But I mean, in English, we call it cartoon, but in Vietnamese language, sometimes kind of reversed ; like a blue horse, we call here—we translate into Vietnam, call it horse blue. BRODY: Okay, so it reverses. TRAN: So that language is fairly difficult for us. BRODY: Of course. TRAN: Yeah, so—and the culture also creates some misunderstanding or confusion also. It’s like, in Vietnam, if you want to hire your employee to work on in some special cases, time, like a weekend or something like that, normally they think that, okay, we ask the employees, “I would like you to work tomorrow, I request you” or “I would like you to work tomorrow.” Over here people are simple. Our coworkers just simply say, “Hey, you want overtime tomorrow?” We translate, we interpret that as the way they look down on us. Brody: Oh. TRAN: So it’s a different. It’s different. BRODY: Yeah, so that’s different. |00:30:02| TRAN: Okay, so in Vietnam, normally a manager or supervisor sit on the chair, call the employee in, and normally they talk it’s like really, you know, official ways. But over here, the supervisor, their legs, their feet on the table and talk. But we interpret as the way they look down on us. So it’s some kind of— BRODY: Oh, so it’s about respect kind of feeling? TRAN: Yeah, about respect. So it’s—the culture sometimes creates that very— BRODY: Yeah, some misunderstandings. TRAN: —kind of misunderstanding each other, yeah. BRODY: Do you remember any times where a misunderstanding caused trouble for you personally? |00:30:59| TRAN: No, I don’t think, but my—this is not relating to the refugees, Vietnamese refugees in Dallas, but I remember in my wife’s side, we have my wife’s uncle. He escaped from Vietnam and the way the—an officer over there, an Asian, I think an Asian, spoke to him and with the—with his foot on the table, on the dash, and my wife’s uncle interpret that look down at us, okay? So he get mad. So he didn’t want to go to the United States. Instead he end up going to the French. BRODY: He went to France. (laughs) TRAN: —with the French, and now he still staying in the French. BRODY: Really? Wow. TRAN: Because when he was living in the refugee camp, he has three sisters in the US. So he actually can request—can ask to get over here, yeah. BRODY: But instead he chose to go to France. TRAN: Yeah, so, you know, that sometime for us over here, we think that that’s a normal way to deal with the people. But in the different countries, they interpret it a different way. BRODY: They interpret it differently, that’s really interesting. Thank you for sharing that story. Tran explains the cultural differences he noticed after moving to the United States specifically in language, and he recalls the misunderstandings that the cultural differences caused. cartoons ; cultural differences ; English ; language differences ; misunderstandings ; refugees ; respect 1960 Sponsored Housing from St. Pius X So when the school year started for the University of Plano, you had to move off of campus. How did you— |00:32:48| TRAN: Yeah. We—I found a job in August the third, and one week later—no, no, I think—one week before that, one week before that we got sponsored by the St. Pius X. BRODY: Oh, St. Pius X, yes. TRAN: And we move out of the St. Pius X—we move out of the campus to this. And the St. Pius X—the pastor at the time was Monsignor Weinzapfel, he rent a three-bedroom house, and so he—nearby the church. BRODY: Near the church? TRAN: Near the church, and then— BRODY: East Dallas? TRAN: Yeah, in Dallas. And we moved to there. We have ten people living in a threebedroom house with only one bathroom. One bathroom. BRODY: Wow, so that’s pretty crowded. TRAN: Yeah, very crowded, especially very difficult in the morning. BRODY: Absolutely. TRAN: Kids need to go to school, and sometimes we need to go to work, and so fairly difficult. But we happy. I think Monsignor Weinzapfel and the president of the Men’s Club at the time, Mr. Harmon, they very helpful. They visit us very frequent and to make sure that we have all what we need. We really appreciate the St. Pius X, that they open their church for us to use. We—our Vietnamese Catholic group was—at that time, Father Peter Phan, he’s the chaplain, and he used—every Sunday we celebrate Mass, we say the Mass at the St. Pius X. BRODY: Right, they gave you the space. |00:35:24| TRAN: They use—we use the St. Pius X facility until 1996 when we bought our own church. So they are very generous to us. BRODY: Very generous. Was Father Peter a refugee as well? TRAN: Yes, Father Peter Phan is—I believe that Dallas Morning News or Dallas Times Herald, there is an article about him, long time ago and I forgot. Father Peter Phan, when we were living in the campus at the University of Plano, the Plano city has summer work, the program for us. And all the Vietnamese refugees who want to go to work for the city of Plano, it’s divided into two group—because Father Peter Phan, he speak English very well, he’s a professor now at Georgetown—and he’s a head of one group. And my brother is the head of another group. Every morning the bus stopped by and picked them up, picked people up and put out on the street, especially on the highway to collect the trash around the city. BRODY: Okay, so cleaning up the highway. TRAN: Yeah, clean up on the highway, you know, the trash. And Father Peter Phan, he’s our chaplain from 1975 to 1978, so he have to go to Rome to present his PhD. BRODY: In Rome? TRAN: Yeah, in Rome. He teaches in Rome, and he went back and he become the professor, then teaching UD [University of Dallas] for a while and go to Washington, and now he’s a professor. And when he got the second degree, second PhD degree in philosophy or something like that, and I think there was an article in Dallas Morning News or Dallas Time Herald, I forgot. And they said a guy who collect the trash now have two PhD degrees. BRODY: Wow, that’s amazing, that’s amazing. |00:38:02| Tran describes the housing and help provided by their new sponsor St. Pius X and he recalls his experiences with Father Peter Phan. Catholic Church ; church ; Father Peter Phan ; housing ; Monsignor Weinzapfel ; St. Pius X 2284 Building the Vietnamese Community in Texas TRAN: Yeah. But anyway, St. Pius X, go back, and St. Pius X is our spiritual foundation. So we really up to shape. Without them helping us, without Monsignor Weinzapfel as a pastor of St. Pius X support us, without Dallas Diocese support us, I don’t know how we are looking—how we look as a community, a Vietnamese community, today. With the support from them, I think, in 1993 we split into three different Vietnamese Catholic church. One is St. Peter in Dallas, and Mother of Perpetual Help in Garland, and St. Joseph in Carrollton. Especially Mother of Perpetual Help in Garland, right now we have 1,800 families. BRODY: Wow, that’s huge. TRAN: So we’re talking about somewhere around eight thousand people. BRODY: So the community has really grown. TRAN: Yeah. I think, but we start at the St. Pius X. Tran explains the growth of the Vietnamese community starting from St. Pius X. Dallas Diocese ; Monsignor Weinzapfel ; Mother of Perpetual Vietnamese Catholic Church ; refugees ; St. Joseph's Vietnamese Catholic Church ; St. Peter Vietnamese Catholic Church ; St. Pius X 2370 Support from Monsignor Weinzapfel BRODY: Yeah. Let me go back to that time. So at St. Pius X, Monsignor Weinzapfel, what kind of man was he and why was he so supportive, do you think, of the Vietnamese refugees? What was he like? |00:39:44| TRAN: I think—he’s originated from German, so his parents living in the rural area somewhere south of Dallas. So I believe that he really particularly have sympathy with the refugees, not only the Vietnamese but many people also. I think he sponsored many foreigners, including one of the Indians priests—at the time I was living over there he still a priest but later on he become a bishop. Monsignor Weinzapfel, he’s very good, he’s—and for the Vietnamese, he’s—I mean, he’s ready to help us. I remember once—he tried to do everything to make our life as easy—as smooth—as easy as possible—and I remember one time, my mother, of course, she couldn’t speak English, she came over here, she has no formal education. Monsignor Weinzapfel said, “Well, you can do confession with me. You just speak Vietnamese, and I speak English for the— BRODY: Confession? TRAN: Yeah, “for the confession. God will understand, don’t worry about that.” BRODY: That’s wonderful. TRAN: So he’s very easygoing. And I, at first, I tell you—I might misunderstand him, the way he treat us. Well, when he just sponsored us and we just arrived at the St. Pius X, living in that three-bedroom house. And he told a guy to stop by and show me how to drive the motorcycle, and he want to buy the motorcycle so that I can drive back and forth to work. And you know that from the St. Pius X, go to Stemmons, maybe about thirty minute, forty minute of driving on the highway. How can I drive the motorcycle? BRODY: (laughs) So that was his idea? TRAN: Yeah. I think that’s not good idea, so why you treat us that way? But, I mean, just only a little bit confusing the first time. So later on, when I understand him, he’s the guy who can go out and do the sport or fly airplane and everything. So to him— BRODY: That’s not a big deal. TRAN: —that’s not a big deal to him. And I keep good relationship with him until he die in 2016. I used to visit him, and I believe I don’t surprise when in 2016 when he pass away, the Dallas Morning News announced that the iconic priest just passed away. BRODY: Right, so he was recognized— TRAN: So everybody respect him. |00:43:39| BRODY: —in the community. So you’ve talked about your Catholic faith and that that was really important. TRAN: Yeah. It’s very important to us. Tran talks about his relationship with Monsignor Weinzapfel and the support he provided to the community. Catholic Church ; Catholicism ; faith ; kindness ; Monsignor Weinzapfel ; motorcycle ; refugees ; religion ; St. Pius X 2630 Mass at St. Pius X BRODY: Can you tell—take me back to those four o’clock masses that you had at the— that you were celebrating at St. Pius X. What was the environment, what did it feel like, what do you remember that experience every week being like? TRAN: Yeah, the—we really valued the Mass at four o’clock at St. Pius, especially the first several years. The Vietnamese Catholics from everywhere around the Dallas— sometimes Carollton, sometimes somewhere—they always tried to go to the four o’clock Mass. And some of the time when we go to four o’clock Mass—because I was living very close to the church so they stop by and visit or talk maybe at least about an hour before they go to the church. We, at the time, the St. Pius X and the Mass is a very good opportunity for us to meet each another. BRODY: To connect? TRAN: After a week of working—yeah, to keep connecting. So secondly, the four o’clock Mass always celebrate in Vietnamese, and that will help us a lot. Most of our people, we just don’t understand very well English, English very well. So we could go to the English Mass sometime—we don’t get lost throughout the Mass, but at the sermons we just don’t understand. BRODY: Was there a Vietnamese choir? TRAN: Yeah, there’s a Vietnamese choir. The funny thing is for Vietnamese, wherever they—the Vietnamese Catholic, whatever church, they always have a big choir or multiple choirs. You can imagine the Mother of Perpetual Help in Garland, they have four or five choirs. BRODY: Wow. TRAN: Each Mass, they have a different choir. And in St. Pius X at the time, the choir is maybe twenty, thirty people easily. BRODY: Were you in the choir? TRAN: I’m not in the choir. (Brody laughs) I don’t sing very well. (Brody laughs) But the Monsignor Weinzapfel, he’s very surprised, he said, “Wow, the Vietnamese love to sing.” BRODY: Love to sing. TRAN: Yeah. And I think that at one time the Vietnamese choir even go to cathedral or some place to sing also. BRODY: Do they sing in Vietnamese? TRAN: In Vietnamese, yeah. And that is—and secondly, at the same parish we have the Monsignor Weinzapfel allow us to use some classroom so that we can teach the Vietnamese. BRODY: Language class? TRAN: Wherever we go, we always try to teach the kid Vietnamese. And I believe—I think that at the time I was a teacher, I tried to teach kid the Vietnamese also. |00:47:13| Tran descries his experiences at the four o'clock Mass and its importance to the Vietnamese community in Dallas. Catholic Church ; Catholic mass ; choir ; community ; language ; language learning ; Mass ; Monsignor Weinzapfel ; St, Pius X ; Vietnamese choir ; Vietnamese language 2834 Maintaining the Vietnamese Culture BRODY: Well, on that subject of language, why was it important to the Vietnamese community to keep teaching the children Vietnamese? TRAN: Yeah, first of all, so that we can—we hope when the kids grow up they be able to read Vietnamese. If they can read the Vietnamese they understand us more, they understand the Vietnamese culture, custom, more, okay? Then also to us, we still have Vietnam, okay? So we think that with teaching our Vietnamese, our kids Vietnamese, one day they can communicate—for the reason of communication. And it turned out that I— here is my philosophy about the Vietnamese language: I think when the kid go back to— even they born over here, we’d rather teach them the Vietnamese because when they go to the school they speak English anyway. So for them, the English is still the primary language. And it turn out that, like, my daughter, we always speak—my children also, especially right now my daughter is a good example—they speak Vietnamese, they can read the Vietnamese. So my daughter right now, she’s a medical doctor, she’s a doctor. So she practice in Wylie. After two year, year or two, right now more and more of her clients are Vietnamese. BRODY: Oh, I see, serving the community. TRAN: Yeah, in Vietnamese, she helps answer. So even the practice, mainly owned by the American couple, but they have more clients. BRODY: That are Vietnamese. That’s interesting. TRAN: They start to go to see my daughter. Even right now she has the limit, the upper limit is two thousand patient. That’s the max, because each day one doctor should take about twenty, twenty-five patient. But lately, some Vietnamese ask her so she have to go back and ask the managers if she can receive more patient or not. And now my daughters and my children, they enjoy the Vietnamese music. The culture is the—that they have an opportunity to learn the culture. BRODY: Yeah, that’s interesting. So— TRAN: And to me, then you’ll—not only Vietnamese. If I know something in some other language, I would like to teach my kids because the more languages you know, the better off you are. |00:50:39| BRODY: Sure. Absolutely. It helps, it’s an asset, it sounds like, for your daughter. Tran explains his reasoning for teaching his children Vietnamese and its benefits in the community as well as carrying on the Vietnamese culture. children ; culture ; customs ; English ; language ; Vietnamese language 3047 Self Identity Well, thinking also about that, knowing the language, knowing English, knowing Vietnamese, how do you think of yourself in terms of—are you American, are you Vietnamese American, are you Vietnamese? How do you think of your own identity? TRAN: Oh. My—you know that—here’s the thing—I still believe that even—I still believe that I am a Vietnamese, yeah. Let’s put it this way: I read English more than I read in Vietnamese. Everything I read, most of the stuff I read is English. But when I pray, I pray in Vietnamese. BRODY: I see. TRAN: Because that is from the deepest level, it’s my— BRODY: Your soul. TRAN: It’s from my soul, my heart. So if you born as an American, you can speak French, you can speak German, you can speak anything, but whenever you hear—to go deep into your soul, you’re still thinking in English. Yeah, that’s in—yeah. |00:52:16| Tran describes how he sees himself and his own identity. American identity ; English ; faith ; identity ; language ; Vietnamese ; Vietnamese Americans 3137 Contributing to the Community BRODY: That’s an interesting perspective. So you’re still very religious and involved in the church still? TRAN: Now I’m retired, I’m not involved anymore, but I go to the church regularly and practice the faith. |00:52:37| BRODY: During those times, the Vietnamese communities that you said came together before and during that four o’clock Mass, were there other cultural things that you did or celebrations that were particular to the Vietnamese community in the St. Pius church? TRAN: At hindsight, the Mass and the Vietnamese class, that class, and that’s what my focus on the teaching Vietnamese. So my brother, he’s very active in the communities also. But I work in a different area. Like, I have contributed to the Vietnamese magazines, but not for the Catholic, for everybody. Yeah, something like that. BRODY: What kind of articles were you contributing? TRAN: Normally we go back with the—I specialize in Vietnamese poetry. BRODY: Poetry? TRAN: Yeah, most of my focus on—at the time, we didn’t have much books in Vietnamese. We left the country with empty hands. We didn’t have anything. Normally we relied on our memories. BRODY: To remember the stories. TRAN: Yeah, remember a story here and there and try to put together some magazine, and contribute and share with the people. BRODY: Yeah, that’s true, you did— TRAN: And my brother, he’s involved very much, in very deep in the Catholic communities. You might want to interview him, ask him, yeah. |00:54:52| BRODY: Yeah, I think I would love to. Tran discusses his involvement with the church and his contribution of poetry to the community. culture ; memory ; poetry ; Vietnamese community ; Vietnamese language 3293 Experiences as a Vietnamese Student When you were in El Centro Community College and UT–Dallas studying, what was it like to be a student and a newly arrived Vietnamese refugee at that time? TRAN: Yeah, that’s what I—first of all, when I go to the school, it’s fairly difficult for me to understand what teacher—because, yeah, he’s supposed to try to teach me. But secondly, I feel that over here instructors or the teacher, they want us to be success. And when I went to El Centro or UTD, I’m very good at the science and technology course. But in the liberal courses I’m not very good, because I couldn’t read English very well at the time. But over here the—I have to believe that the—we have very good education systems. Yeah, good education system. And the oriental people, when they came over here, we, as I said, we really emphasize about the education. So many of us, they make some progress, success. |00:56:30| BRODY: Did you interact very much with American students of different—other races? TRAN: Not very much, but we don’t isolate ourselves. We try to— BRODY: Try to interact. TRAN: Yeah, interact with them. BRODY: What were the main barriers to— TRAN: It’s still—the main barrier is still the language and the culture. So the reason we don’t interact very much is because, as I said, the culture is—even I’m living here more than forty years, okay? There’s some time I want to say something and I have to be aware about that because something we don’t think that is serious, but to the other people—like, for instance, to American, we say something, they think that it’s not good. BRODY: So it’s back to the misunderstanding. TRAN: Yeah, it’s not good. So creating more confusion. So I have—I mean, working for forty-one years, but in the last few years, I have the meeting all the time with people, with employee, but when I say something I make sure to say something that is very clear. So (laughs)— BRODY: Yeah, you don’t want any misunderstandings. TRAN: Yeah. |00:58:07| Tran explains his experience as a newly arrived immigrant student including his struggles and interactions with other students. community college ; culture ; education ; El Centro Community College ; English language ; friendships ; langauge ; misunderstandings ; professors ; school ; teachers 3484 Interaction with different races ...don’t know why, but when we came over here, people really were friendly to us. Like the folks—when we started to work for Sun Oil, about a month or so, this guy, his name is Bill Boucher, he specialized in the history. His major is history. But he was a marine, and he came to my country. And he said when he come back over here, he think about the Vietnam War and he cried so often and drink—get drunk all the time. So when he met us he talk to us and treat us very friendly, and he give us the—when me and my brother, after a while working together and then they split into the different shifts, so we need one more car. So he in the process of divorce his wife, but he still thinking very well— thinking about us very much. So he give us his car, his Volkswagen. BRODY: Wow. That’s generous. TRAN: So I don’t—if the people treat me that way, how can they say—yeah. And then I know another guy, he’s a black. He’s big—I forgot his name—he’s really big. And I’m a small guy, so at the time we monitor the tape drive, every night we pull all the tape that we don’t use anymore, then we clean it up, we call it the scratch tape. And my arm is just about four or five tapes, that’s big enough—that’s enough. But for him, ten or fifteen. (Brody laughs) He always help me to— BRODY: To carry. TRAN: Yeah, to carry all the tape. He’s really—I met many people that they treat us very well. And I met a guy when we’re still living in campus at the University of Plano, there was a salesman. He sells the compressor. So one day stopped by the campus and took me and my brother to his home for meals. BRODY: Oh, that’s nice. |01:00:58| TRAN: And then he give us $100. And he told us one thing: “I don’t require you to do anything for me, but if some day you have opportunity, you need to help other people.” And I have an experience when I was working at the Sun Oil as a data controller—that’s the next level from the computer operator. The next level is programmer analyst. There was a manager, she was a pilot, World War II pilot. And somehow, she really liked me and she fought with the other managers. “Oh, I like Bac,” she didn’t care when she get mad, she spoke loudly. She want me to—she want to move me up to the—to give me— BRODY: The promotion. TRAN: —to give me that position, yeah. And finally she got the position for me. BRODY: That’s great. TRAN: So, I mean, not only that, but many other examples. I only _______ about the good people. So that’s why I think including Monsignor Weinzapfel. So I think I met so many, many Good Samaritans. So I don’t know, I don’t have much experience about the discrimination. BRODY: Right. Well that’s good. TRAN: Yeah. Including not only the white, but the black, and everybody treat me real nice. And so I—the first Christmas, the people in the data centers of the Sun Oil company, they put together, give and donate a lot of food, a lot of stuff, and they give to my brother and me. But we stack up one Volkswagen, full of one Volkswagen. BRODY: Wow, you got full of donations. TRAN: Yeah. So I—all I have—of course I have some bad experience, but not very much, but that not because American or non-American, that’s a human being. Wherever you go on the world, you still run into the good people and the bad people, all the time. So I don’t regard as the discrimination. |01:03:50| BRODY: I understand, that’s great. Tran describes experiences of hospitality he encountered upon his immigration to the United States. car ; Christmas ; discrimination ; kindness ; Monsignor Weinzapfel ; Vietnam veterans ; Vietnam War ; Volswagen 3832 Housing Process After St. Pius X So in terms of after—initially you guys were all living in the house near St. Pius X. How did the process go, did you stay there for a long time? TRAN: We stayed there about a couple years. But, I mean, that first month Monsignor Weinzapfel, he got money from USCC, okay? So he paid the rent for us. BRODY: From Catholic Charities [USA]? TRAN: Yeah, Charities. Paid the rent for us. I think at that time fairly cheap rent, may not be very expensive, but he paid the rent for us until the fund was out. We have ten people, so they assigned for us about $3,000. So he paid until they ran out, so he assumed the financial responsibility. So we’re there, stay about two years, then we bought another house, bigger house, but nearby in the same zip code. BRODY: Did the whole family stay together? TRAN: Yeah, the whole family stay together. That’s our custom, we stay together until my sister got married, so she move out. Until I marry, move out, and then until—yeah. Everybody, we stay that way. Because we stay together so we save a lot of money, and that’s why we can afford the house. I don’t know the next wave of immigration, but the very first wave of immigration, we always want to live independently. And that’s why it surprise a lot to the local peoples in our areas. We don’t demand and we have a very minimal needs for our life. One funny thing is—or funny story is when they took us from Guam island, they flew to the US and they had to stop the airplane, had to stop at Hawaii airport for a few hours. My mother, at the time, she was about fifty-three years old. But when she stay at night, she stay in that airport, she lay down on the carpet on the floor. She said, “I can stay over here. I feel comfortable enough.” (Brody laughs) We don’t have a lot of demand when we came over here. We’re living together until we got marriage than we move out. Like I said, me, I got marriage in 1982, move out. |01:06:44| Tran discusses living conditions of their house after moving out of church provided housing. customs ; extended family ; family ; housing ; marriage ; Monsignor Weinzapfel ; St. Pius X 4004 Building a Family in the United States BRODY: How did you meet your wife? TRAN: I meet my wife at—my wife is actually—my friend actually working together with my wife in the Wichita, Kansas. They work in an airplane manufacturer. He got wedding, in his wedding, I attend his wedding party and I met my wife over there and so from there we make friend and we know each other and then— BRODY: Get married. That’s a nice story. |01:07:26| TRAN: We got marriage, and—as I go back, as I said, I really—we really emphasize on the education. Not only for ourselves, but for our children also, and that’s why we can sacrifice heavily, sacrifice everything for the education of the kids. And like—I send all my kids—I have two sons and two daughters—send them to Baylor. BRODY: They all went to Baylor? TRAN: The first one, my son, at the time in 2001, 2002, he started to go to the Baylor. It’s about $18,000 a year for room and board. And my youngest daughters started to go the Baylor in 2011. It’s about $50,000 a year. BRODY: Wow, that’s a dramatic— TRAN: Yeah. We sacrifice everything for the kids. So sometime some people in my company at the time—I was working with Hunt Oil. He said, “Bac Tran, he just helped the Baylor to build a building.” BRODY: (laughs) They should name a building after you. TRAN: (laughs) Yeah. They don’t realize that we really sacrifice for the education, and that’s why you can see many kids are very successful right now. That tradition is rooted in the Vietnamese culture. It’s a long time, and still going on right now, not only abroad but in Vietnam also. I normally go onto YouTube and watch some shows, you know, that some Vietnamese parents, they are farmers, they are fishermen, they have nothing, but they sacrifice everything for their daughter or for their son so that they can move up to become the actress, to become the singer or everything. They can spend almost most of their fortunes. BRODY: Right, so that the family and education— TRAN: Yeah, family, education. That’s the culture. It’s different from here also. Over here, they sacrifice for the kids, but not to that level. They have to save for themselves also, okay. It’s a different cultures. I’m not saying that who is better, but it’s just a different cultures. |01:10:33| Tran discusses how he started and raised a family in the United States, and the sacrifices he had to make. Baylor University ; children ; education ; Kansas ; Marriage ; values ; Vietnamese culture 4234 Future of the Vietnamese Culture in the United States BRODY: So tell me about the Vietnamese community here. Do you see that same culture transitioning and staying solid here in Texas, here in the United States? Those same traditions and values, are they being passed down and carried on in the younger generations? TRAN: The younger generation, of course, they’re more Americanized, and that’s why you have to believe in the education. Like, my children, we only speak in Vietnamese, and sometimes even right now I send them a Snapchat just, like, this morning with the text written in Vietnamese. They understand, but they feel more comfortable speaking English with each another. Even Yen is my niece, she feels more comfortable with the English, okay? Not only language but I think the culture or the way of thinking, lifestyle, learning, probably they feel more comfortable. And the change—we have to accept the changes. We cannot stop the changes, that’s the realities. And that’s why the Chinese, they very wise, they have a book written six thousand years ago, we call the Book of Changes. If you don’t change, we have to live and if we want to live, we want to survive, we have to change. But we have to keep our roots, and that’s why I want my children know how to speak Vietnamese, know how to enjoy the Vietnamese food, other Vietnamese cultures, yeah. But we have to change. BRODY: Yeah. How, in your family, have you cooked together, taught your children how to cook Vietnamese food? What role have those kind of traditions played in your family? TRAN: Yeah, my wife is very good about that. But my children, they know how to make some Vietnamese dishes but not as my wife expect. She’s a very good chef. |01:13:32| Tran explains what he believes to be the future of the Vietnamese culture in Dallas, and its inevitable changes. American identity ; Book of Changes ; cooking ; culture ; Englsh language ; food ; Vietnamese community ; Vietnamese language 4411 State of the Vietnamese community in Dallas today BRODY: Yes, that’s a good compliment. Are you very involved in the larger Vietnamese community in Dallas? TRAN: Not at this time— BRODY: Not right now? TRAN: Yeah, not right now. BRODY: What is your impression of that community? Is it a unified community, or are there a lot of differences, or is it just very big? TRAN: It’s—we still connect to each anothers, but it’s not solid, not cohesive like in the past. In the past we always find the opportunity to meet each another, but right now, we—yeah. BRODY: Why do you think that is? TRAN: That’s what I’m saying, it’s just change. Everything is changing, even in Vietnam. You know that we have a custom in the New Year, okay, we spend fifteen days to celebrate New Year, big festival. We go out and meet and visit each another. But now, in these—over here, we don’t do that anymore, but in Vietnam, they start to abandon that custom also. BRODY: Really? TRAN: Yeah. And things—I mean, in Vietnam we have the—back to the old days, very strictly, we don’t live together before we got marriage. We carry out that custom to over here, but now people over here, the young people, they don’t care about that. But we don’t criticize them because in Vietnam they’re doing the same thing. BRODY: Right, the same pattern. TRAN: Yeah, the same pattern. It’s everywhere in the world. BRODY: Just modern life. TRAN: Modern life. People used to blame on the—online or the communication here that is spreading. Sometime I think about that also, but I think back to the old days. Why— back to the old day, the science and technology was not very advanced, we don’t have that mass communication. Why, back to the old day, in the fifth century BC we start to have some kind of religious leaders, started to go out, you see the movement, like Buddha. And then you go back to the China, you will see the Confucius. It’s the same. They don’t communicate together, but that like, go—when the human being go through that point of the history, they start to see the similar things. The philosophy started to change. So I know it’s—everything is change. But if we can keep our roots, maybe better. |01:17:05| Tran contrasts the modern Vietnamese community to the past community. celebrations ; culture ; Dallas ; New Years ; Vietnamese community 4624 Involvement in Politics BRODY: Yeah, the roots. Are you involved in politics in either—or keep up with politics in either the United States or Vietnam? Are you interested in— TRAN: I’m interested in current events, but I mean—political events. I’ve been reading, but I don’t involve into it, because I—like, tomorrow, we go out and vote. I identify by myself as an independent voter. I don’t want to belong to either, but I just vote on the issues it depend on. BRODY: In what way do you think your life experiences—both before you came here, your refugee experience and then your life here as an American—inform your view on different—you know, in politics? TRAN: We left Vietnam, we are the first group of people who—first, 130,000 people who left Vietnam. Most of us left Vietnam for the political reason. So we don’t come over here for financial or economic reasons, because we didn’t accept the communists. As I said, I was originally from north of Vietnam. So all my father took us from north of Vietnam to south of Vietnam in 1954 when I was five years old. And I am a Catholic with a root of anti-communist, and I still believe that communist is not good as of today, as of this moment ; I still don’t believe the communist is good. So we came over here with a political reason. And we think in the United States we have democracy—even right now, of course, in any society you still have a lot of issue, you still have a lot of things to be improved. But this country have a very good systems, if people is aware about that and try to improve upon that. But in these days I can sometime (unintelligible)—everything Democrats say, then the Republicans say, “Not good, no good.” And everything Republicans say, Democrats say, “No good.” And that’s why you go back to the Gospel, many times Jesus Christ perform the miracles to cure the deaf. I think if we don’t listen to each other I don’t know how can we improve our societies. BRODY: That’s a really good point. TRAN: But we still have a very good system. I still believe in that. And when you believe through the systems you can do better things for our societies. In the last ten years, I work as a database administrator for Hunt Oil. I never request to have merit. I don’t demand much, but my manager—he retired three years before me—he know that. I still got a very good merit ; I don’t demand it. So I truly believe that when we trust the system and we do the work, we do the best we can, we can improve the system. The political system over here is still good. I still trust that and that’s why I came over here. If we are living under the communist, it’s terrible. And many well-educated Vietnamese people that came over here, they started to criticize the south government back before 1975. They write book, they write article, but they didn’t realize that they build up their education, they got their degree, they move up in the society in south of Vietnam. They didn’t move up and they don’t get the degree from the north of Vietnam. So, I mean, it’s the same thing over here. If we believe to our system, we can improve it. |01:22:40| Tran gives his opinion on the political system in the United States and how it contrasts politics in Vietnam. American politics ; Catholicism ; Communism ; Culture ; democracy ; politics ; Poltiics ; refugees ; religion ; Roots ; Vietnamese politics 4960 Being American BRODY: Thank you. My last question for you is one that, I’m curious—to you, what does it mean to be an American? Whether it’s yourself or your kids or grandkids, when someone says “I’m American,” in a few words, what does that mean to you? TRAN: I’m proud to be an American. Even deep into my heart, I still thinking I’m a Vietnamese, but I’m proud to be an American. American stands for freedom, independence, and that’s what I’m looking for. BRODY: That’s great. Well, thank you very much. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you’d like to comment on? TRAN: I think you asked me all—yeah, I think that’s all I can contribute. (laughs) BRODY: Oh, thank you, it’s been wonderful to talk to you, and thank you very much for sharing your story. It’s been a pleasure, thank you for having this conversation. TRAN: Thank you. Tran explains what being American means to him. American ; American identity ; freedom Baylor University Institute for Oral History Bac Tran Oral History Memoir Interview Number 1 Interviewed by Betsy T. Brody November 5, 2018 Richardson, Texas Project -- Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans: The Making of the Vietnamese Community in North Texas BRODY: This is Betsy Brody. Today is November 5, 2018. I&#039 ; m interviewing, for the first time, Mr. Bac Tran. This interview is taking place in my office in Richardson, Texas. This interview is sponsored by the Baylor University Institute for Oral History, and is part of the Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans project. All right, good morning, Mr. Tran. TRAN: Good morning. BRODY: I&#039 ; m so excited to talk to you today. Let&#039 ; s start out, just--if you could tell me a little bit about your life in Vietnam. |00:00:27| TRAN: Yes. In Vietnam I was a high school teacher. I had been teaching the chemistry and biology. And then in April 1975 when the south of Vietnam was about to collapse and everybody was panicked, I was originated from the north. I was born as a Catholic and with anti-communists, so I had more reason to fear to live under the control of the communists. But it happened that my brother was working for US embassy at the time, and they allow every US embassy employee family to get out of the country, and I was a member of his family. That&#039 ; s why I came over here. BRODY: So because of your brother&#039 ; s connections and his work for the US embassy, his whole family--so how many members of the family were evacuated through that? TRAN: Yes, his family has four children, he and his wife. That&#039 ; s six, and my mother, my two sisters, and me. The sisters and me, we&#039 ; re all single, that&#039 ; s why we were regarded as a member of his family. BRODY: Okay, so he was responsible for all of you as well as your mother and his own family. So were you living in Saigon at that time? TRAN: I was in the Saigon at the time. Actually, I was a high school teacher in the central of Vietnam, and by the time the communists almost took over that area, so I escaped and ran to the south, and I get on the Vietnam navy ship, and they took us to the south of Vietnam and put us in a refugee camp in Phú Quốc. It&#039 ; s in the south of Vietnam. BRODY: Okay, so you came from central Vietnam, fleeing to south Vietnam and were in a refugee camp. TRAN: Yes, and then my brother went to Phú Quốc, went to that island, looked for me, and took me back to the capital of Vietnam. BRODY: Wow, what was that day like? Did you know he was coming for you? TRAN: No. That is in around April, April fifteenth. So we were living in Saigon for a couple of weeks, and then my brother is in charge for the evacuation of his employees out of the country. And so he stayed behind, but I and my--and his family and my sisters and my mother, we all got out of the country on April 25. BRODY: April 25, 1975. |00:04:08| TRAN: In 1975. And we arrived to the Philippines and stay in the US navy base for several days. And my brother left Saigon on April twenty-seventh, and he was pretty lucky, because on April twenty-eighth the Tan Son Nhut, the only airport in the capital, started to be under intense artillery bombardment. And we reunited with my brother at Guam island a few days after that. And then we were flown to US and stayed in Camp Pendleton, a marine base, for more than a month. Then through the USCC, a voluntary agency, we were sponsored by the University of Plano, now a defunct university, and we came to Dallas in July 1975. BRODY: Okay, so the first place that you went was Guam, or the Philippines, then-- TRAN: Philippines, then Guam. BRODY: Then Camp Pendleton. TRAN: Then Camp Pendleton, yeah. BRODY: And were you all together the whole time? TRAN: Yeah, we all together. We reunited with my brother in Guam. |00:05:39| BRODY: So tell me--I mean, how did you feel when you were in Guam and before he got there? What was the feeling in the family? TRAN: We was--when we came to the Philippines, staying in the navy base, I was so fearful because I don&#039 ; t know if my brother will be able to reunite with us or not, because he was still in Saigon. BRODY: Right. It must have been scary. TRAN: Yeah, it is very scary. But we have no choice. After staying there for a few days, then they start to fly us to the Guam. But it&#039 ; s just like a miracle. We were so tired and we slept in the camp in the tent, and then in the morning, I suddenly saw my brother walking in. He&#039 ; s looking for us also, he walk around and walk around, and then he saw us and he walk in the camp. BRODY: Were you so surprised? TRAN: Yeah, we so surprised and so happy. |00:06:56| BRODY: So happy. And how was it with having four small children with your group? Was that difficult? TRAN: It was difficult because at that time when we were still in the Subic Bay, the US navy base, the youngest one, my youngest nephew, he was sick. And at the time, if any kids got sick severely, they have to take the kid out from us and they take him, put him into the hospital. BRODY: So you were separated from-- TRAN: Yeah, and we were so scared, but fortunately my nephew got well after that-- BRODY: And they were able to reunite you. TRAN: --and recovered after that, so that--yeah, he was not separated from us. BRODY: Good, that&#039 ; s good. So Camp Pendleton, you were there for-- TRAN: Yeah, Camp Pendleton. We was there from May until June, more than a month, about a month and twenty days or something like that, because we were big family. And you know that in the US, the Americans only have smaller family, they cannot afford to sponsor that big family. BRODY: So during your time in Camp Pendleton you were working to try to find a sponsor for the whole family? TRAN: The Department of Immigration together with the voluntary agency they called the VolAgs [Voluntary Agency], it&#039 ; s nine voluntary agencies, including in that is USCC [United States Catholic Conference], for instance, and the HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society] is a Jewish agency, et cetera. They work together and look for the sponsors. It&#039 ; s strange, and we&#039 ; re just like--suddenly we got into the United States, completely different environment for us, and-- |00:09:11| BRODY: What was the most different thing for you? TRAN: The most different thing is the culture. We want--like, in Vietnam, we normally want to live together as community. And when we go over here, even one Vietnamese priest, he&#039 ; s very well-educated, he graduated from German, he also--even that, he always ask us to pray so that we can stay together. Yeah, but over here, the--I think the--over here we really have the experience with the immigration, because through the course of history all the immigration from all over the world goes over here, so the department-- immigration departments and the voluntary agencies, they&#039 ; re very experienced about how to deal with the immigrants. So instead of put us together in one place, they distribute us throughout the country, okay. And that--secondly, when we come over here, the very first feeling that we have is: this is peaceful country. In our country is the war all the time. BRODY: It&#039 ; s very different. TRAN: Yeah, the thirty, forty years, yeah. So this country--when we first got into the airport and they ship us to the base, we look through and we see, &quot ; Huh, the society is very peaceful.&quot ; BRODY: Right. No conflict that you could see. TRAN: No conflict yeah, yeah, you can see it. |00:11:19| BRODY: So how did that make you feel? TRAN: Me feel--we don&#039 ; t--the first feeling we have is we really enjoy the environment, and people treat us very kindly. But also we just, as I said, we just kind of feel numb. We were not prepared to come over here. Yeah, we were not prepared. BRODY: You weren&#039 ; t planning, or it wasn&#039 ; t part of your plan. TRAN: Yeah. But we panic and we feel numb and we don&#039 ; t--it&#039 ; s just like we got--we don&#039 ; t have maps, something like that. We&#039 ; re disoriented. BRODY: Yeah, disoriented. TRAN: Yeah, completely. BRODY: And numb. But you wanted to have the one sponsor to take all of you, and that was challenging, but ultimately you found-- TRAN: Yeah, it was challenging and we keep waiting. Every day, we keep waiting, we&#039 ; re waiting, and finally they call us and let us know that we have a sponsor. But the sponsor we have over here is the University of Plano. They only sponsor for the transition time. |00:13:11| BRODY: Okay, so University of Plano transitioned your family for just the transition? TRAN: And then from there they will find out a permanent sponsor. We came to the--we are the first largest group who came to Dallas. BRODY: Right, your family. TRAN: Yeah, who came to Dallas. And we were living in Plano, but we must move out of the campus before the school year. BRODY: Oh I see, so this was happening in July? TRAN: The school year sometime by the August, and they start somewhere around by August, or something like that. So I remember I--in August the third, I got the job as computer operator. |00:14:05| BRODY: Where were you working? TRAN: I start to work as--at the--for the Sun Oil Company. At that time, Sun Oil Company, they move their data centers to Dallas from Philadelphia and Tulsa. So they build a huge big data center over at the Empire Central [Drive] and Stemmons [Freeway], in north Dallas. So they need the helpers, and my brother and I, we got the job. Talking about jobs is funny thing, is when we were living in the campus, there are a couple employees from the human resource, from the Department of Human Resource. They help us to look for the job. But you know, most of the Vietnamese refugees, we couldn&#039 ; t speak English or couldn&#039 ; t speak English very well. So it&#039 ; s fairly difficult to look for a job. BRODY: Yes. TRAN: I remember a man, his name is--I don&#039 ; t remember his full name, but his name was Mr. Vano. He always look for a job for us and we only end up with the $2.10 an hour, that&#039 ; s the minimum wage at the time. BRODY: So, minimum wage job. TRAN: And we jokingly call him as Mr. Two-Ten. (laughs) BRODY: Mr. Two-Ten. (laughs) That&#039 ; s really funny. TRAN: Mr. Two-Ten because--but he&#039 ; s very nice, he&#039 ; s very nice. He even invite us to his home sometimes. BRODY: So was he an American? TRAN: Yeah, he&#039 ; s an American. BRODY: And he was just interested in helping Vietnamese get jobs. TRAN: Yeah, look for us to get a job, yeah. But unfortunately we don&#039 ; t speak--we didn&#039 ; t speak English very well. We didn&#039 ; t have skills that the company needed, so we had him as Two-Ten, and (laughs) we call him as Mr. Two-Ten. |00:16:32| BRODY: (laughs) That&#039 ; s very funny. So that entry into the job market--you know, how did you get the job at Sun Oil Company? TRAN: Yeah, at Sun Oil--because at that time, as I said, the data center, the Sun Oil just build--Sun Oil just build their data center over the Stemmons in north Dallas. And they need some helpers with no previous experience required. BRODY: Oh, good. TRAN: Yeah. So all we do--even the name is as a computer operator--but we come over here, we got in and they have a huge room with all the tape drives. So the tape drive we would normally call them tape number. All we do is see one, two, three, four, five, six. So we go to the tape library and pick the tape and mount. That&#039 ; s all they need us to do. BRODY: Right. So you didn&#039 ; t need a lot of English? TRAN: Yeah, no need a lot of English. BRODY: Great. So did you enjoy that job? TRAN: Well, we so happy. We--I know that the job is at the entry level, but at least it give us an opportunity to go back to school and learn the new skills and learn English. And also, at least it give us something to move on with our lives. BRODY: Absolutely. |00:18:05| TRAN: And if you go back, about 1975 and, if I remember correctly, there&#039 ; s somewhere around when they do the--maybe about 30, 36 percent of the Americans that in favor with the Vietnam immigration. BRODY: Right, so not a lot of-- TRAN: Because at the time, the war is over, so they don&#039 ; t feel very good about the war. So only 30 percent of the Americans favor it. But as we said, as I said, we just wanted to move on with our life. So we got the job, whatever job they give to us, and we tried to work very hard. We go back to the school, learn English, and learn the new skills so that we can live, so that we can become the independent in our life. |00:19:24| BRODY: Right. Tell me about going back to school. Where did you go back to school? TRAN: I--(unintelligible) and you know, as I go back with little bit but here, it&#039 ; s only 36 percent of the Americans favor Vietnamese immigration. But after a while, the local people in Dallas were--through the newspaper and everything they published about our new groups, how we--and people started to like us more and more. They&#039 ; re more friendly with us. And I think that&#039 ; s because we started to work--we just work, we work hard, and we go back to school and study the new skill and so that we move on with our life. In my case, I went back to the El Centro [College] first to learn English. BRODY: Right, to a community college. TRAN: Yeah, in community college. And then I go back to the UTD [University of Texas--Dallas] to study information systems, or the course, information system. Because I graduate in Vietnam with a BS degree, and I spend a couple more years in the oceanography institute to study about marine biology. But I came over here, I couldn&#039 ; t find a job, so I work as a computer operator. So I had to start--at the time, we have to take whatever they offer us, and then we improve our skill by going back to school. So I have to learn data processing, information systems. BRODY: So that&#039 ; s a big change from marine biology, but-- TRAN: Yeah. It took me five years, and I became the programmer analyst in 1980. BRODY: Great. TRAN: Yeah, and 1990 I become the database administrator, and then until I retired in 2016. BRODY: Well, congratulations on your retirement. |00:21:42| TRAN: Yeah. So not only for the job but for us, the education is--we really emphasize on the education, it&#039 ; s important for us. If we want to have a good future, we have to go back to the school. And that how in Vietnam, that how it&#039 ; s going in Vietnam, and over here, the same thing. We came over here, we really pushed the kid through the school system. BRODY: Yes, and yourselves as well, it sounds like. TRAN: Yeah. And the school over here, I think it&#039 ; s--I used to tell my children that okay, in Vietnam, it&#039 ; s fairly difficult to go through successfully in the school. I think about 4 or 5 percent of these student can graduate from the school back--I&#039 ; m talking about before 1975. But even when you graduate from the school, I don&#039 ; t think the student know much as the student over here. Over here they learn more, they have more knowledge than us in Vietnam. But the reason because it&#039 ; s fairly difficult in Vietnam because there is no regulations, no rules, no guidelines in school as we do over here. So we relied much on the teachers favor or tolerance, okay? Like for instance, if I got sick on the exam day, no makeup. I fail. That&#039 ; s it. As over here, it&#039 ; s different. It&#039 ; s more tolerant. So we get over here, when we go back to school, we feel fairly easy. People want--I mean the teacher, professors, instructors just want us to pass the course. They don&#039 ; t intend to give a problem, to create the obstacles for us. BRODY: So you worked hard and were able to succeed. TRAN: Yeah. So if you work hard, you have opportunities. |00:24:17| BRODY: So, you mentioned earlier that when you first came, the University of Plano housed you for that transition period, and you mentioned--did you stay on campus? TRAN: Yeah, we are living in the campus, and a lot of volunteer-- BRODY: Where was that campus? Do you remember where that campus was? TRAN: The campus is in northwest Dallas, I think--it&#039 ; s--(turning pages) it&#039 ; s in northwest Dallas, it&#039 ; s somewhere around on the--I believe that is somewhere around in the farm road, they call Farm Road 544. BRODY: Okay. So, sort of in Plano? TRAN: Yeah, in Plano, and yeah, it&#039 ; s close to--yeah, in Plano. Yeah. BRODY: Okay, so they sponsored you and you lived on their campus. What were the accommodations like during that time? Was it a dorm or-- TRAN: It&#039 ; s in the dorm, and then the people start to donate food, and the volunteers throughout the Richardson, Plano, they got in and tried to teach us English. BRODY: Okay. So were those volunteers from church groups or a city? TRAN: From a church group, and from--yeah, normally from the church group. BRODY: From the church group. So they taught you English and donated things? |00:25:54| TRAN: Yeah, and donate, all that. But talking about, why is it different, that societies are so different? I remember one days in our group--we had about three or four people--one American lady, one volunteer, she drove us around the city--I think it was for--I forgot the reason why, but we got in her car and she drove us somewhere. And at the stop sign the streets are completely quiet and no people around there, at the stop sign, she stops. That&#039 ; s a rule, okay? But one of--(laughs) a man behind me is like, &quot ; Why don&#039 ; t you go, why do you have to stop? Nobody over here.&quot ; (Brody laughs) So she turns around and she says, &quot ; You crazy.&quot ; (laughs) BRODY: That&#039 ; s funny. So she was following the rules-- TRAN: Yeah, she&#039 ; s following the rules and the man, he doesn&#039 ; t think that there&#039 ; s a rule that we need to stop. BRODY: Right. So how would that have been in Vietnam? Is that-- TRAN: In Vietnam, back through the old days, we don&#039 ; t follow very--the rules very strictly, yeah. BRODY: So, are there--that&#039 ; s interesting. So the following of rules was a cultural difference that you noticed right away. TRAN: Yeah, yeah. BRODY: Did that--I mean, that&#039 ; s traffic, but were there other examples that you observed of differences in the culture? TRAN: Not only the culture, but also in language. It&#039 ; s fairly difficult. So when we got over here, in my family only my brother and I could speak English a little bit, not much at the time. So we both go out to do the shopping, do the grocery. And then the--talking about the language, one night when I was still working as a computer operator--at the time I really liked to watch the show about the cartoons. BRODY: Cartoons? (laughs) |00:28:20| TRAN: I really like that, cartoons, even I was twenty-six years old, but I still like the cartoons. (Brody laughs) So I asked one of my--one of the coworkers, &quot ; Do you like to watch toon-car?&quot ; He doesn&#039 ; t know what I mean a &quot ; toon-car.&quot ; But I mean, in English, we call it cartoon, but in Vietnamese language, sometimes kind of reversed ; like a blue horse, we call here--we translate into Vietnam, call it horse blue. BRODY: Okay, so it reverses. TRAN: So that language is fairly difficult for us. BRODY: Of course. TRAN: Yeah, so--and the culture also creates some misunderstanding or confusion also. It&#039 ; s like, in Vietnam, if you want to hire your employee to work on in some special cases, time, like a weekend or something like that, normally they think that, okay, we ask the employees, &quot ; I would like you to work tomorrow, I request you&quot ; or &quot ; I would like you to work tomorrow.&quot ; Over here people are simple. Our coworkers just simply say, &quot ; Hey, you want overtime tomorrow?&quot ; We translate, we interpret that as the way they look down on us. Brody: Oh. TRAN: So it&#039 ; s a different. It&#039 ; s different. BRODY: Yeah, so that&#039 ; s different. |00:30:02| TRAN: Okay, so in Vietnam, normally a manager or supervisor sit on the chair, call the employee in, and normally they talk it&#039 ; s like really, you know, official ways. But over here, the supervisor, their legs, their feet on the table and talk. But we interpret as the way they look down on us. So it&#039 ; s some kind of-- BRODY: Oh, so it&#039 ; s about respect kind of feeling? TRAN: Yeah, about respect. So it&#039 ; s--the culture sometimes creates that very-- BRODY: Yeah, some misunderstandings. TRAN: --kind of misunderstanding each other, yeah. BRODY: Do you remember any times where a misunderstanding caused trouble for you personally? |00:30:59| TRAN: No, I don&#039 ; t think, but my--this is not relating to the refugees, Vietnamese refugees in Dallas, but I remember in my wife&#039 ; s side, we have my wife&#039 ; s uncle. He escaped from Vietnam and the way the--an officer over there, an Asian, I think an Asian, spoke to him and with the--with his foot on the table, on the dash, and my wife&#039 ; s uncle interpret that look down at us, okay? So he get mad. So he didn&#039 ; t want to go to the United States. Instead he end up going to the French. BRODY: He went to France. (laughs) TRAN: --with the French, and now he still staying in the French. BRODY: Really? Wow. TRAN: Because when he was living in the refugee camp, he has three sisters in the US. So he actually can request--can ask to get over here, yeah. BRODY: But instead he chose to go to France. TRAN: Yeah, so, you know, that sometime for us over here, we think that that&#039 ; s a normal way to deal with the people. But in the different countries, they interpret it a different way. BRODY: They interpret it differently, that&#039 ; s really interesting. Thank you for sharing that story. So when the school year started for the University of Plano, you had to move off of campus. How did you-- |00:32:48| TRAN: Yeah. We--I found a job in August the third, and one week later--no, no, I think--one week before that, one week before that we got sponsored by the St. Pius X. BRODY: Oh, St. Pius X, yes. TRAN: And we move out of the St. Pius X--we move out of the campus to this. And the St. Pius X--the pastor at the time was Monsignor Weinzapfel, he rent a three-bedroom house, and so he--nearby the church. BRODY: Near the church? TRAN: Near the church, and then-- BRODY: East Dallas? TRAN: Yeah, in Dallas. And we moved to there. We have ten people living in a three- bedroom house with only one bathroom. One bathroom. BRODY: Wow, so that&#039 ; s pretty crowded. TRAN: Yeah, very crowded, especially very difficult in the morning. BRODY: Absolutely. TRAN: Kids need to go to school, and sometimes we need to go to work, and so fairly difficult. But we happy. I think Monsignor Weinzapfel and the president of the Men&#039 ; s Club at the time, Mr. Harmon, they very helpful. They visit us very frequent and to make sure that we have all what we need. We really appreciate the St. Pius X, that they open their church for us to use. We--our Vietnamese Catholic group was--at that time, Father Peter Phan, he&#039 ; s the chaplain, and he used--every Sunday we celebrate Mass, we say the Mass at the St. Pius X. BRODY: Right, they gave you the space. |00:35:24| TRAN: They use--we use the St. Pius X facility until 1996 when we bought our own church. So they are very generous to us. BRODY: Very generous. Was Father Peter a refugee as well? TRAN: Yes, Father Peter Phan is--I believe that Dallas Morning News or Dallas Times Herald, there is an article about him, long time ago and I forgot. Father Peter Phan, when we were living in the campus at the University of Plano, the Plano city has summer work, the program for us. And all the Vietnamese refugees who want to go to work for the city of Plano, it&#039 ; s divided into two group--because Father Peter Phan, he speak English very well, he&#039 ; s a professor now at Georgetown--and he&#039 ; s a head of one group. And my brother is the head of another group. Every morning the bus stopped by and picked them up, picked people up and put out on the street, especially on the highway to collect the trash around the city. BRODY: Okay, so cleaning up the highway. TRAN: Yeah, clean up on the highway, you know, the trash. And Father Peter Phan, he&#039 ; s our chaplain from 1975 to 1978, so he have to go to Rome to present his PhD. BRODY: In Rome? TRAN: Yeah, in Rome. He teaches in Rome, and he went back and he become the professor, then teaching UD [University of Dallas] for a while and go to Washington, and now he&#039 ; s a professor. And when he got the second degree, second PhD degree in philosophy or something like that, and I think there was an article in Dallas Morning News or Dallas Time Herald, I forgot. And they said a guy who collect the trash now have two PhD degrees. BRODY: Wow, that&#039 ; s amazing, that&#039 ; s amazing. |00:38:02| TRAN: Yeah. But anyway, St. Pius X, go back, and St. Pius X is our spiritual foundation. So we really up to shape. Without them helping us, without Monsignor Weinzapfel as a pastor of St. Pius X support us, without Dallas Diocese support us, I don&#039 ; t know how we are looking--how we look as a community, a Vietnamese community, today. With the support from them, I think, in 1993 we split into three different Vietnamese Catholic church. One is St. Peter in Dallas, and Mother of Perpetual Help in Garland, and St. Joseph in Carrollton. Especially Mother of Perpetual Help in Garland, right now we have 1,800 families. BRODY: Wow, that&#039 ; s huge. TRAN: So we&#039 ; re talking about somewhere around eight thousand people. BRODY: So the community has really grown. TRAN: Yeah. I think, but we start at the St. Pius X. BRODY: Yeah. Let me go back to that time. So at St. Pius X, Monsignor Weinzapfel, what kind of man was he and why was he so supportive, do you think, of the Vietnamese refugees? What was he like? |00:39:44| TRAN: I think--he&#039 ; s originated from German, so his parents living in the rural area somewhere south of Dallas. So I believe that he really particularly have sympathy with the refugees, not only the Vietnamese but many people also. I think he sponsored many foreigners, including one of the Indians priests--at the time I was living over there he still a priest but later on he become a bishop. Monsignor Weinzapfel, he&#039 ; s very good, he&#039 ; s--and for the Vietnamese, he&#039 ; s--I mean, he&#039 ; s ready to help us. I remember once--he tried to do everything to make our life as easy--as smooth--as easy as possible--and I remember one time, my mother, of course, she couldn&#039 ; t speak English, she came over here, she has no formal education. Monsignor Weinzapfel said, &quot ; Well, you can do confession with me. You just speak Vietnamese, and I speak English for the-- BRODY: Confession? TRAN: Yeah, &quot ; for the confession. God will understand, don&#039 ; t worry about that.&quot ; BRODY: That&#039 ; s wonderful. TRAN: So he&#039 ; s very easygoing. And I, at first, I tell you--I might misunderstand him, the way he treat us. Well, when he just sponsored us and we just arrived at the St. Pius X, living in that three-bedroom house. And he told a guy to stop by and show me how to drive the motorcycle, and he want to buy the motorcycle so that I can drive back and forth to work. And you know that from the St. Pius X, go to Stemmons, maybe about thirty minute, forty minute of driving on the highway. How can I drive the motorcycle? BRODY: (laughs) So that was his idea? TRAN: Yeah. I think that&#039 ; s not good idea, so why you treat us that way? But, I mean, just only a little bit confusing the first time. So later on, when I understand him, he&#039 ; s the guy who can go out and do the sport or fly airplane and everything. So to him-- BRODY: That&#039 ; s not a big deal. TRAN: --that&#039 ; s not a big deal to him. And I keep good relationship with him until he die in 2016. I used to visit him, and I believe I don&#039 ; t surprise when in 2016 when he pass away, the Dallas Morning News announced that the iconic priest just passed away. BRODY: Right, so he was recognized-- TRAN: So everybody respect him. |00:43:39| BRODY: --in the community. So you&#039 ; ve talked about your Catholic faith and that that was really important. TRAN: Yeah. It&#039 ; s very important to us. BRODY: Can you tell--take me back to those four o&#039 ; clock masses that you had at the-- that you were celebrating at St. Pius X. What was the environment, what did it feel like, what do you remember that experience every week being like? TRAN: Yeah, the--we really valued the Mass at four o&#039 ; clock at St. Pius, especially the first several years. The Vietnamese Catholics from everywhere around the Dallas-- sometimes Carollton, sometimes somewhere--they always tried to go to the four o&#039 ; clock Mass. And some of the time when we go to four o&#039 ; clock Mass--because I was living very close to the church so they stop by and visit or talk maybe at least about an hour before they go to the church. We, at the time, the St. Pius X and the Mass is a very good opportunity for us to meet each another. BRODY: To connect? TRAN: After a week of working--yeah, to keep connecting. So secondly, the four o&#039 ; clock Mass always celebrate in Vietnamese, and that will help us a lot. Most of our people, we just don&#039 ; t understand very well English, English very well. So we could go to the English Mass sometime--we don&#039 ; t get lost throughout the Mass, but at the sermons we just don&#039 ; t understand. BRODY: Was there a Vietnamese choir? TRAN: Yeah, there&#039 ; s a Vietnamese choir. The funny thing is for Vietnamese, wherever they--the Vietnamese Catholic, whatever church, they always have a big choir or multiple choirs. You can imagine the Mother of Perpetual Help in Garland, they have four or five choirs. BRODY: Wow. TRAN: Each Mass, they have a different choir. And in St. Pius X at the time, the choir is maybe twenty, thirty people easily. BRODY: Were you in the choir? TRAN: I&#039 ; m not in the choir. (Brody laughs) I don&#039 ; t sing very well. (Brody laughs) But the Monsignor Weinzapfel, he&#039 ; s very surprised, he said, &quot ; Wow, the Vietnamese love to sing.&quot ; BRODY: Love to sing. TRAN: Yeah. And I think that at one time the Vietnamese choir even go to cathedral or some place to sing also. BRODY: Do they sing in Vietnamese? TRAN: In Vietnamese, yeah. And that is--and secondly, at the same parish we have the Monsignor Weinzapfel allow us to use some classroom so that we can teach the Vietnamese. BRODY: Language class? TRAN: Wherever we go, we always try to teach the kid Vietnamese. And I believe--I think that at the time I was a teacher, I tried to teach kid the Vietnamese also. |00:47:13| BRODY: Well, on that subject of language, why was it important to the Vietnamese community to keep teaching the children Vietnamese? TRAN: Yeah, first of all, so that we can--we hope when the kids grow up they be able to read Vietnamese. If they can read the Vietnamese they understand us more, they understand the Vietnamese culture, custom, more, okay? Then also to us, we still have Vietnam, okay? So we think that with teaching our Vietnamese, our kids Vietnamese, one day they can communicate--for the reason of communication. And it turned out that I-- here is my philosophy about the Vietnamese language: I think when the kid go back to-- even they born over here, we&#039 ; d rather teach them the Vietnamese because when they go to the school they speak English anyway. So for them, the English is still the primary language. And it turn out that, like, my daughter, we always speak--my children also, especially right now my daughter is a good example--they speak Vietnamese, they can read the Vietnamese. So my daughter right now, she&#039 ; s a medical doctor, she&#039 ; s a doctor. So she practice in Wylie. After two year, year or two, right now more and more of her clients are Vietnamese. BRODY: Oh, I see, serving the community. TRAN: Yeah, in Vietnamese, she helps answer. So even the practice, mainly owned by the American couple, but they have more clients. BRODY: That are Vietnamese. That&#039 ; s interesting. TRAN: They start to go to see my daughter. Even right now she has the limit, the upper limit is two thousand patient. That&#039 ; s the max, because each day one doctor should take about twenty, twenty-five patient. But lately, some Vietnamese ask her so she have to go back and ask the managers if she can receive more patient or not. And now my daughters and my children, they enjoy the Vietnamese music. The culture is the--that they have an opportunity to learn the culture. BRODY: Yeah, that&#039 ; s interesting. So-- TRAN: And to me, then you&#039 ; ll--not only Vietnamese. If I know something in some other language, I would like to teach my kids because the more languages you know, the better off you are. |00:50:39| BRODY: Sure. Absolutely. It helps, it&#039 ; s an asset, it sounds like, for your daughter. Well, thinking also about that, knowing the language, knowing English, knowing Vietnamese, how do you think of yourself in terms of--are you American, are you Vietnamese American, are you Vietnamese? How do you think of your own identity? TRAN: Oh. My--you know that--here&#039 ; s the thing--I still believe that even--I still believe that I am a Vietnamese, yeah. Let&#039 ; s put it this way: I read English more than I read in Vietnamese. Everything I read, most of the stuff I read is English. But when I pray, I pray in Vietnamese. BRODY: I see. TRAN: Because that is from the deepest level, it&#039 ; s my-- BRODY: Your soul. TRAN: It&#039 ; s from my soul, my heart. So if you born as an American, you can speak French, you can speak German, you can speak anything, but whenever you hear--to go deep into your soul, you&#039 ; re still thinking in English. Yeah, that&#039 ; s in--yeah. |00:52:16| BRODY: That&#039 ; s an interesting perspective. So you&#039 ; re still very religious and involved in the church still? TRAN: Now I&#039 ; m retired, I&#039 ; m not involved anymore, but I go to the church regularly and practice the faith. |00:52:37| BRODY: During those times, the Vietnamese communities that you said came together before and during that four o&#039 ; clock Mass, were there other cultural things that you did or celebrations that were particular to the Vietnamese community in the St. Pius church? TRAN: At hindsight, the Mass and the Vietnamese class, that class, and that&#039 ; s what my focus on the teaching Vietnamese. So my brother, he&#039 ; s very active in the communities also. But I work in a different area. Like, I have contributed to the Vietnamese magazines, but not for the Catholic, for everybody. Yeah, something like that. BRODY: What kind of articles were you contributing? TRAN: Normally we go back with the--I specialize in Vietnamese poetry. BRODY: Poetry? TRAN: Yeah, most of my focus on--at the time, we didn&#039 ; t have much books in Vietnamese. We left the country with empty hands. We didn&#039 ; t have anything. Normally we relied on our memories. BRODY: To remember the stories. TRAN: Yeah, remember a story here and there and try to put together some magazine, and contribute and share with the people. BRODY: Yeah, that&#039 ; s true, you did-- TRAN: And my brother, he&#039 ; s involved very much, in very deep in the Catholic communities. You might want to interview him, ask him, yeah. |00:54:52| BRODY: Yeah, I think I would love to. When you were in El Centro Community College and UT--Dallas studying, what was it like to be a student and a newly arrived Vietnamese refugee at that time? TRAN: Yeah, that&#039 ; s what I--first of all, when I go to the school, it&#039 ; s fairly difficult for me to understand what teacher--because, yeah, he&#039 ; s supposed to try to teach me. But secondly, I feel that over here instructors or the teacher, they want us to be success. And when I went to El Centro or UTD, I&#039 ; m very good at the science and technology course. But in the liberal courses I&#039 ; m not very good, because I couldn&#039 ; t read English very well at the time. But over here the--I have to believe that the--we have very good education systems. Yeah, good education system. And the oriental people, when they came over here, we, as I said, we really emphasize about the education. So many of us, they make some progress, success. |00:56:30| BRODY: Did you interact very much with American students of different--other races? TRAN: Not very much, but we don&#039 ; t isolate ourselves. We try to-- BRODY: Try to interact. TRAN: Yeah, interact with them. BRODY: What were the main barriers to-- TRAN: It&#039 ; s still--the main barrier is still the language and the culture. So the reason we don&#039 ; t interact very much is because, as I said, the culture is--even I&#039 ; m living here more than forty years, okay? There&#039 ; s some time I want to say something and I have to be aware about that because something we don&#039 ; t think that is serious, but to the other people--like, for instance, to American, we say something, they think that it&#039 ; s not good. BRODY: So it&#039 ; s back to the misunderstanding. TRAN: Yeah, it&#039 ; s not good. So creating more confusion. So I have--I mean, working for forty-one years, but in the last few years, I have the meeting all the time with people, with employee, but when I say something I make sure to say something that is very clear. So (laughs)-- BRODY: Yeah, you don&#039 ; t want any misunderstandings. TRAN: Yeah. |00:58:07| BRODY: Kind of on a related subject in terms of misunderstanding, have you experienced much in the way of discrimination? Some people say there was some discrimination during those times. Did you experience anything like that? TRAN: I don&#039 ; t have that much experience, probably because the working environment. I don&#039 ; t know why, but when we came over here, people really were friendly to us. Like the folks--when we started to work for Sun Oil, about a month or so, this guy, his name is Bill Boucher, he specialized in the history. His major is history. But he was a marine, and he came to my country. And he said when he come back over here, he think about the Vietnam War and he cried so often and drink--get drunk all the time. So when he met us he talk to us and treat us very friendly, and he give us the--when me and my brother, after a while working together and then they split into the different shifts, so we need one more car. So he in the process of divorce his wife, but he still thinking very well-- thinking about us very much. So he give us his car, his Volkswagen. BRODY: Wow. That&#039 ; s generous. TRAN: So I don&#039 ; t--if the people treat me that way, how can they say--yeah. And then I know another guy, he&#039 ; s a black. He&#039 ; s big--I forgot his name--he&#039 ; s really big. And I&#039 ; m a small guy, so at the time we monitor the tape drive, every night we pull all the tape that we don&#039 ; t use anymore, then we clean it up, we call it the scratch tape. And my arm is just about four or five tapes, that&#039 ; s big enough--that&#039 ; s enough. But for him, ten or fifteen. (Brody laughs) He always help me to-- BRODY: To carry. TRAN: Yeah, to carry all the tape. He&#039 ; s really--I met many people that they treat us very well. And I met a guy when we&#039 ; re still living in campus at the University of Plano, there was a salesman. He sells the compressor. So one day stopped by the campus and took me and my brother to his home for meals. BRODY: Oh, that&#039 ; s nice. |01:00:58| TRAN: And then he give us $100. And he told us one thing: &quot ; I don&#039 ; t require you to do anything for me, but if some day you have opportunity, you need to help other people.&quot ; And I have an experience when I was working at the Sun Oil as a data controller--that&#039 ; s the next level from the computer operator. The next level is programmer analyst. There was a manager, she was a pilot, World War II pilot. And somehow, she really liked me and she fought with the other managers. &quot ; Oh, I like Bac,&quot ; she didn&#039 ; t care when she get mad, she spoke loudly. She want me to--she want to move me up to the--to give me-- BRODY: The promotion. TRAN: --to give me that position, yeah. And finally she got the position for me. BRODY: That&#039 ; s great. TRAN: So, I mean, not only that, but many other examples. I only about the good people. So that&#039 ; s why I think including Monsignor Weinzapfel. So I think I met so many, many Good Samaritans. So I don&#039 ; t know, I don&#039 ; t have much experience about the discrimination. BRODY: Right. Well that&#039 ; s good. TRAN: Yeah. Including not only the white, but the black, and everybody treat me real nice. And so I--the first Christmas, the people in the data centers of the Sun Oil company, they put together, give and donate a lot of food, a lot of stuff, and they give to my brother and me. But we stack up one Volkswagen, full of one Volkswagen. BRODY: Wow, you got full of donations. TRAN: Yeah. So I--all I have--of course I have some bad experience, but not very much, but that not because American or non-American, that&#039 ; s a human being. Wherever you go on the world, you still run into the good people and the bad people, all the time. So I don&#039 ; t regard as the discrimination. |01:03:50| BRODY: I understand, that&#039 ; s great. So in terms of after--initially you guys were all living in the house near St. Pius X. How did the process go, did you stay there for a long time? TRAN: We stayed there about a couple years. But, I mean, that first month Monsignor Weinzapfel, he got money from USCC, okay? So he paid the rent for us. BRODY: From Catholic Charities [USA]? TRAN: Yeah, Charities. Paid the rent for us. I think at that time fairly cheap rent, may not be very expensive, but he paid the rent for us until the fund was out. We have ten people, so they assigned for us about $3,000. So he paid until they ran out, so he assumed the financial responsibility. So we&#039 ; re there, stay about two years, then we bought another house, bigger house, but nearby in the same zip code. BRODY: Did the whole family stay together? TRAN: Yeah, the whole family stay together. That&#039 ; s our custom, we stay together until my sister got married, so she move out. Until I marry, move out, and then until--yeah. Everybody, we stay that way. Because we stay together so we save a lot of money, and that&#039 ; s why we can afford the house. I don&#039 ; t know the next wave of immigration, but the very first wave of immigration, we always want to live independently. And that&#039 ; s why it surprise a lot to the local peoples in our areas. We don&#039 ; t demand and we have a very minimal needs for our life. One funny thing is--or funny story is when they took us from Guam island, they flew to the US and they had to stop the airplane, had to stop at Hawaii airport for a few hours. My mother, at the time, she was about fifty-three years old. But when she stay at night, she stay in that airport, she lay down on the carpet on the floor. She said, &quot ; I can stay over here. I feel comfortable enough.&quot ; (Brody laughs) We don&#039 ; t have a lot of demand when we came over here. We&#039 ; re living together until we got marriage than we move out. Like I said, me, I got marriage in 1982, move out. |01:06:44| BRODY: How did you meet your wife? TRAN: I meet my wife at--my wife is actually--my friend actually working together with my wife in the Wichita, Kansas. They work in an airplane manufacturer. He got wedding, in his wedding, I attend his wedding party and I met my wife over there and so from there we make friend and we know each other and then-- BRODY: Get married. That&#039 ; s a nice story. |01:07:26| TRAN: We got marriage, and--as I go back, as I said, I really--we really emphasize on the education. Not only for ourselves, but for our children also, and that&#039 ; s why we can sacrifice heavily, sacrifice everything for the education of the kids. And like--I send all my kids--I have two sons and two daughters--send them to Baylor. BRODY: They all went to Baylor? TRAN: The first one, my son, at the time in 2001, 2002, he started to go to the Baylor. It&#039 ; s about $18,000 a year for room and board. And my youngest daughters started to go the Baylor in 2011. It&#039 ; s about $50,000 a year. BRODY: Wow, that&#039 ; s a dramatic-- TRAN: Yeah. We sacrifice everything for the kids. So sometime some people in my company at the time--I was working with Hunt Oil. He said, &quot ; Bac Tran, he just helped the Baylor to build a building.&quot ; BRODY: (laughs) They should name a building after you. TRAN: (laughs) Yeah. They don&#039 ; t realize that we really sacrifice for the education, and that&#039 ; s why you can see many kids are very successful right now. That tradition is rooted in the Vietnamese culture. It&#039 ; s a long time, and still going on right now, not only abroad but in Vietnam also. I normally go onto YouTube and watch some shows, you know, that some Vietnamese parents, they are farmers, they are fishermen, they have nothing, but they sacrifice everything for their daughter or for their son so that they can move up to become the actress, to become the singer or everything. They can spend almost most of their fortunes. BRODY: Right, so that the family and education-- TRAN: Yeah, family, education. That&#039 ; s the culture. It&#039 ; s different from here also. Over here, they sacrifice for the kids, but not to that level. They have to save for themselves also, okay. It&#039 ; s a different cultures. I&#039 ; m not saying that who is better, but it&#039 ; s just a different cultures. |01:10:33| BRODY: So tell me about the Vietnamese community here. Do you see that same culture transitioning and staying solid here in Texas, here in the United States? Those same traditions and values, are they being passed down and carried on in the younger generations? TRAN: The younger generation, of course, they&#039 ; re more Americanized, and that&#039 ; s why you have to believe in the education. Like, my children, we only speak in Vietnamese, and sometimes even right now I send them a Snapchat just, like, this morning with the text written in Vietnamese. They understand, but they feel more comfortable speaking English with each another. Even Yen is my niece, she feels more comfortable with the English, okay? Not only language but I think the culture or the way of thinking, lifestyle, learning, probably they feel more comfortable. And the change--we have to accept the changes. We cannot stop the changes, that&#039 ; s the realities. And that&#039 ; s why the Chinese, they very wise, they have a book written six thousand years ago, we call the Book of Changes. If you don&#039 ; t change, we have to live and if we want to live, we want to survive, we have to change. But we have to keep our roots, and that&#039 ; s why I want my children know how to speak Vietnamese, know how to enjoy the Vietnamese food, other Vietnamese cultures, yeah. But we have to change. BRODY: Yeah. How, in your family, have you cooked together, taught your children how to cook Vietnamese food? What role have those kind of traditions played in your family? TRAN: Yeah, my wife is very good about that. But my children, they know how to make some Vietnamese dishes but not as my wife expect. She&#039 ; s a very good chef. |01:13:32| BRODY: Yes, that&#039 ; s a good compliment. Are you very involved in the larger Vietnamese community in Dallas? TRAN: Not at this time-- BRODY: Not right now? TRAN: Yeah, not right now. BRODY: What is your impression of that community? Is it a unified community, or are there a lot of differences, or is it just very big? TRAN: It&#039 ; s--we still connect to each anothers, but it&#039 ; s not solid, not cohesive like in the past. In the past we always find the opportunity to meet each another, but right now, we--yeah. BRODY: Why do you think that is? TRAN: That&#039 ; s what I&#039 ; m saying, it&#039 ; s just change. Everything is changing, even in Vietnam. You know that we have a custom in the New Year, okay, we spend fifteen days to celebrate New Year, big festival. We go out and meet and visit each another. But now, in these--over here, we don&#039 ; t do that anymore, but in Vietnam, they start to abandon that custom also. BRODY: Really? TRAN: Yeah. And things--I mean, in Vietnam we have the--back to the old days, very strictly, we don&#039 ; t live together before we got marriage. We carry out that custom to over here, but now people over here, the young people, they don&#039 ; t care about that. But we don&#039 ; t criticize them because in Vietnam they&#039 ; re doing the same thing. BRODY: Right, the same pattern. TRAN: Yeah, the same pattern. It&#039 ; s everywhere in the world. BRODY: Just modern life. TRAN: Modern life. People used to blame on the--online or the communication here that is spreading. Sometime I think about that also, but I think back to the old days. Why-- back to the old day, the science and technology was not very advanced, we don&#039 ; t have that mass communication. Why, back to the old day, in the fifth century BC we start to have some kind of religious leaders, started to go out, you see the movement, like Buddha. And then you go back to the China, you will see the Confucius. It&#039 ; s the same. They don&#039 ; t communicate together, but that like, go--when the human being go through that point of the history, they start to see the similar things. The philosophy started to change. So I know it&#039 ; s--everything is change. But if we can keep our roots, maybe better. |01:17:05| BRODY: Yeah, the roots. Are you involved in politics in either--or keep up with politics in either the United States or Vietnam? Are you interested in-- TRAN: I&#039 ; m interested in current events, but I mean--political events. I&#039 ; ve been reading, but I don&#039 ; t involve into it, because I--like, tomorrow, we go out and vote. I identify by myself as an independent voter. I don&#039 ; t want to belong to either, but I just vote on the issues it depend on. BRODY: In what way do you think your life experiences--both before you came here, your refugee experience and then your life here as an American--inform your view on different--you know, in politics? TRAN: We left Vietnam, we are the first group of people who--first, 130,000 people who left Vietnam. Most of us left Vietnam for the political reason. So we don&#039 ; t come over here for financial or economic reasons, because we didn&#039 ; t accept the communists. As I said, I was originally from north of Vietnam. So all my father took us from north of Vietnam to south of Vietnam in 1954 when I was five years old. And I am a Catholic with a root of anti-communist, and I still believe that communist is not good as of today, as of this moment ; I still don&#039 ; t believe the communist is good. So we came over here with a political reason. And we think in the United States we have democracy--even right now, of course, in any society you still have a lot of issue, you still have a lot of things to be improved. But this country have a very good systems, if people is aware about that and try to improve upon that. But in these days I can sometime (unintelligible)--everything Democrats say, then the Republicans say, &quot ; Not good, no good.&quot ; And everything Republicans say, Democrats say, &quot ; No good.&quot ; And that&#039 ; s why you go back to the Gospel, many times Jesus Christ perform the miracles to cure the deaf. I think if we don&#039 ; t listen to each other I don&#039 ; t know how can we improve our societies. BRODY: That&#039 ; s a really good point. TRAN: But we still have a very good system. I still believe in that. And when you believe through the systems you can do better things for our societies. In the last ten years, I work as a database administrator for Hunt Oil. I never request to have merit. I don&#039 ; t demand much, but my manager--he retired three years before me--he know that. I still got a very good merit ; I don&#039 ; t demand it. So I truly believe that when we trust the system and we do the work, we do the best we can, we can improve the system. The political system over here is still good. I still trust that and that&#039 ; s why I came over here. If we are living under the communist, it&#039 ; s terrible. And many well-educated Vietnamese people that came over here, they started to criticize the south government back before 1975. They write book, they write article, but they didn&#039 ; t realize that they build up their education, they got their degree, they move up in the society in south of Vietnam. They didn&#039 ; t move up and they don&#039 ; t get the degree from the north of Vietnam. So, I mean, it&#039 ; s the same thing over here. If we believe to our system, we can improve it. |01:22:40| BRODY: Thank you. My last question for you is one that, I&#039 ; m curious--to you, what does it mean to be an American? Whether it&#039 ; s yourself or your kids or grandkids, when someone says &quot ; I&#039 ; m American,&quot ; in a few words, what does that mean to you? TRAN: I&#039 ; m proud to be an American. Even deep into my heart, I still thinking I&#039 ; m a Vietnamese, but I&#039 ; m proud to be an American. American stands for freedom, independence, and that&#039 ; s what I&#039 ; m looking for. BRODY: That&#039 ; s great. Well, thank you very much. Is there anything that I didn&#039 ; t ask you that you&#039 ; d like to comment on? TRAN: I think you asked me all--yeah, I think that&#039 ; s all I can contribute. (laughs) BRODY: Oh, thank you, it&#039 ; s been wonderful to talk to you, and thank you very much for sharing your story. It&#039 ; s been a pleasure, thank you for having this conversation. TRAN: Thank you. end of interview All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. audio Interviews may be reproduced with permission from the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. 0

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“Interview with Bac Tran,” Becoming Texans Becoming Americans, accessed February 5, 2023, http://becomingtexansbecomingamericans.org/items/show/59.