Interview with Sao Tran

Dublin Core

Title

Interview with Sao Tran

Date

2019-01-07

Format

audio

Identifier

2019oh007_btba_006

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Betsy Brody

Interviewee

Sao Tran

OHMS Object Text

5.4 Interview with Sao Tran, January 7, 2019 2019oh007_btba_006 1:04:02 ohbtba Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans btba001 Vietnamese in North Texas Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans Sao Tran Betsy Brody mp3 oh-audio-dig-tran_S_20190107.mp3 1:|15(1)|22(1)|31(2)|41(5)|49(13)|56(11)|66(3)|88(10)|98(12)|109(8)|121(9)|132(8)|140(12)|151(10)|159(10)|172(10)|182(9)|194(3)|205(1)|215(11)|225(10)|236(7)|249(10)|261(13)|270(2)|280(10)|291(6)|301(12)|310(6)|321(4)|332(11)|351(5)|361(6)|373(9)|383(1)|394(4)|406(3)|415(12)|422(5)|436(7)|444(8)|453(11)|462(9)|472(2)|481(13)|491(10)|501(13)|513(7)|525(2)|535(8)|545(9)|552(12)|563(9)|570(9)|592(9)|601(6)|611(2)|619(8)|629(11)|639(10)|649(10) 0 https://betsybrody.aviaryplatform.com/embed/media/114143 Aviary audio 1 Introduction/Overview of Tran's story BRODY: This is Betsy Brody. Today is January 7, 2019. I am interviewing, for the first time, Mr. Sao 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. Alright, Mr. Tran, I’m so happy that you could join me here today and we could record this interview. To start with, could you tell me a little bit about your life in Vietnam, what you your work was and what you were doing as the Vietnam War wound down? |00:00:36| TRAN: Well, when I become the working, I do school teacher for one year and, as you know, teacher didn’t pay that much back home. And then I left the teaching job, I go work for the US consulate general office, but the branch office in the Hội An. That’s part of the historical city now, Hội An, Quảng Nam. I worked there as a interpreter and translator, and then I become office manager and then I got transferred to Danang in—well, this in 1972. So I start in Hội An, 1967, and transfer to Danang, 1972 as the position of admin specialist. Then I stay there until ’75, the company—my country fall to the communist side, so we got evacuated. But before we got evacuated outside of Vietnam we go through Saigon, it one of the most north of Vietnam, and from there we flew to Guam and to Camp Pendleton, and then sponsored by St. Pius X [Catholic Parish] in East Texas. So we came here— BRODY: In Texas. So when you finally made it to Texas— TRAN: —I believe, June, 1975. Camp Pendleton ; Danang ; Guam ; Hoi An ; Quang Nam ; Saigon ; St. Pius X ; U.S. Consulate General 135 Evacuation from Vietnam/Separation from and reunion with family BRODY: So the evacuation itself—so you had to make your way to Saigon first? TRAN: Yes, that’s right. The thing and what happened is it—I think in March, should be in early March, I send my family to Saigon, and then I stay there about a couple of weeks, because I had to stay behind to help with the local employee. I told you that I was administration specialist, I had to help my local employee for evacuation. So I stayed there until most of them left, and then I have take the last flight, flew out from Danang to Saigon, and from Saigon I stayed one month, and then again I involve the evacuation, so I send my family out two day ahead. I stayed back to help all the local employee evacuation with their family. Then I flew out—American officer said, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll locate your family.” However, that what they say, but not exactly happen. Two days later, after my family left the Vietnam, I flew out, and, like, we flew through Guam, which is naval base. Meanwhile, I don’t know where my family by that time. BRODY: Oh my gosh. You must have been so worried. TRAN: Yeah. I was very worried. BRODY: How many people were—how many of your family members had you sent ahead? TRAN: Yeah, the—in total, my family is ten, including me. We have four kid, one brother, two sister, and mother. So ten people. BRODY: Okay. And your wife, of course? TRAN: And my wife. Really, I was confused and worried when I was in Guam, and I look all over, I talk with all kind of US official to try and locate my family, but nobody knew. So two day later, somehow because the Subic Bay’s refugee camp is full, because most of Vietnamese go out through Philippine, it closer. So it’s full, they had—so what they do from in that island(??), they send my family to the Guam from Philippine. So where I was, Sunday morning I wake up and walk around the camp, I catch my oldest son lie on the cot in military tent. That is where we get reunited. evacuation ; Guam ; naval base ; Saigon ; separation from family 299 Flying to Camp Pendleton/Sponsorship in Texas And then later, about two days later, we process paperwork and flew to Camp Pendleton in California. And we stay there about thirty day or so, and then we find a sponsor, I think somewhere in June 1975, we found—original sponsor was the University of Plano. And I think the president of the Plano University by that time, Dorothy Morris. That’s very little university, Plano, and I think a few years later they phase out, it’s sold. I stay in Plano University for group—with other people, maybe sixty people. That only temp advisor. They had to go out and look for permanent—I’m sorry, temporary sponsor. They had to go out and look for permanent sponsor. So there, the St. Pius X jump in and sponsor our family, because the family is so big, ten people, and nobody can sign with that big, because so big for them to carry that responsibility. So finally, St. Pius X took over and then we move from Plano to east Dallas, which where the St. Pius X church located BRODY: Yes. So what was that—how did that feel for you, when you got that news that St. Pius church was going to sponsor your family? TRAN: A matter of fact, it’s very happy that we sponsored by the church because nobody really want to carry that big responsibility except the church, because they’re a group of people. They have manpower, they have resource to help us. So they go out and look for house, put our need to live, they find familiar food for us to eat, and then I find a job. (laughs) Camp Pendleton ; Dorothy Morris ; East Dallas ; food ; housing ; sponsorship ; St. Pius X ; University of Plano https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_New_Arrivals Operation New Arrivals Wikipedia page 435 Initial employment in Dallas BRODY: Oh, what was your job? What job did you find? TRAN: The first job I found is the—they call computer operator, but that was the—in those days it’s mainframe, not PC [personal computer] nowadays. And the main job is to work in the tape library. BRODY: The tape library? TRAN: Library, yeah, and the big twenty-four-hundred feet—the big one, big tape. When they call the number on the drive, you go into a library, you get the number, hang it on, and when it dismount, you take it up, put it back in the library. It is simple, but it’s basically the heavy, physical work, because you walk all day long with heavy tape, a lot of that big, heavy tape. (laughs) BRODY: So that’s pretty different than what you were doing in Vietnam. TRAN: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Having office with people. BRODY: Yeah, you were working in an office and administration in Vietnam. How did that—how was the transition for you, or what were you—what did you feel in finding that job? Were you happy when you found the computer job? TRAN: Well, I can’t feel(??) happy or not ; I had to have something to eat for the kid, you know, the family. So I think it’s fine at the beginning. It’s hard, but it’s okay. BRODY: Yeah. You survived and provided for your family, right? TRAN: Yeah, it’s—I think they pay about three dollar and quarter an hour. BRODY: Right. This is still 1975? TRAN: Yeah. computer operator ; employment ; jobs ; tape library 526 Details about being reunited with family in Guam BRODY: Yes. So I want to go back real quick. I mean, the story that you told about finding your family by accident in Guam is pretty astonishing. What was the moment like? Did you see them, or did they see you? TRAN: The thing, by that time the Red Cross, they give you a tent, I think only a single-person tent. If you have family they give you a big tent. I had a little tent. And then I wake up real early in the morning, probably about five, six o’clock, and I keep walking around the area, just don’t know what to do. And I walk by a big tent, military, it’s canvas, and I saw my son lying on the couch, military couch. He slept— BRODY: He was sleeping. He was just sleeping. TRAN: Yeah, and suddenly I found them, family, yeah. Basically, like miracle, you know? BRODY: Sounds like it, and they must have been so relieved as well. TRAN: Yeah, they do. Yeah, and they said—well, two days later we process the paper through the immigration service and we flew to— BRODY: Camp Pendleton. TRAN: —to San Diego. Is that San Diego? Camp Pendleton, yeah. BRODY: Yes, yes, near San Diego. Camp Pendleton ; Guam ; Red Cross ; reunion with family ; San Diego ; separation from family 603 Sponsorship by St. Pius X/Experiences with shopping and cooking BRODY: So—okay, so back to east Dallas, then. So the sponsor was the church that sponsored your family. Were there any specific people that were sponsoring you, or just the church in general? TRAN: I think that by that time they passed aside our family to what they call Men’s Club, the Men’s Club. And they had the Men’s Club work closely with us to try to help us through the—find food, find house, and thing like that, get try to settle in the area, get familiar with the custom and try to help. Some of my family didn’t—most of my—all of my family don’t speak English except me, and so they helped teaching English and do a health check, whatever. And it really hard for me by that time because, like I said, nobody speak English except me. So I had to buy groceries, I had—everything, I had to do it ; everything. BRODY: It’s all on your shoulders there. TRAN: Except cooking. They do cooking. BRODY: They did the cooking. What were some of the most challenging things about, for example, buying groceries? Obviously, time, but was it—what were some of the biggest surprises that you experienced when you were shopping for your family? TRAN: Well the thing that surprising because they didn’t—back in Vietnam, they don’t price stuff like we do here. So easy, very easy to do shopping here rather than back home. Back home, they don’t know price and they can tell you price, you have to keep negotiate, negotiate, and that’s when you buy ten item, take about two or three hour before you get through ten item (Brody laughs) because you keep barking back and forth. (both laugh) Over here, you see price, whether you like or not, that’s all—they don’t change the price. BRODY: It seems straightforward, yes. TRAN: Yes. Ten dollar is ten dollar. It’s easier. BRODY: Yes. So the Men’s Club, the people in the Men’s Club ; were there particular leaders in that group that kind of took you along and showed you how to do the things? TRAN: Yeah, the Men’s Club, I think the president of Men’s Club by that time, Mr. Travis Harmon. Travis Harmon, he’s president, he worked very closely with us—of course, you have other members helping with, but he the main guy. We need anything, we call him, he help. But we try to limit how have had to call because anything we can do, we try to do ourselves, because the big family like that, you can call and you don’t want to bother them. food ; housing ; Men's Club ; shopping ; sponsors ; sponsorship ; St. Pius X 769 Schooling for the children BRODY: Right. So the household, you were the only one who spoke English, and yet you had all the kids. How did you navigate getting them into school and having them enrolled and working on their schoolwork? TRAN: Yeah, at first at the early—I think a couple of lady in the parish help us through process to register kid in school. And then after that, we had the walk from our home to the school because it not too far away. I want to say about mile and a half. BRODY: Okay. Not too far at all. TRAN: Yeah. However, we came from hot weather country, and in the morning here, even in, let’s say, spring, it still very cold. So my wife had to bring the kid to walk to school and come back. And that’s cold for her. BRODY: That’s cold—it’s cold for her, for sure. The kids get used to it, I guess. TRAN: Yeah, but they got used very quickly. BRODY: Yes. Is it different having kids in school in Vietnam versus in the United States? What were some of the key differences? TRAN: Oh yeah, it different. Much different. We come from the country not quite wealthy a lot, and the wealthy in our country, so the life of the school is different, the class different. Over here, school feed kid. They supply everything in public school, book and everything. We didn’t have to buy anything. And we make low income, we fill out application, ask for the lunch exempt, reducing, whatever, but they have to do something back home. Back home they have to walk home and eat lunch and come back. education ; educational systems ; English ; language ; school ; weather 894 Experiences at work at Sun Oil/Friendship with American coworkers BRODY: Right, it’s very different, yes. When you were working, did you experience any—did you interact very much with other Americans, or were you primarily with other Vietnamese refugees? What was your work experience like? TRAN: The working—I work strictly with all American, no Vietnamese around at all because that really an oil company, what they call Sun Oil Company, and their headquarter is in—I want to say in Philadelphia, Northeast. But they have the data center in Oklahoma—Tulsa, Oklahoma. They relocate data center from Tulsa to Dallas, and I think on Empire Central [Drive] and I-30 [Interstate 30], right. Because they just relocate, they need manpower. A lot of low, low-class employees. (laughs) They don’t want to come here, they want to fool around with. So they had vacant. That’s why they hired me tape, pick the tape, put on tape right and dismount and put it back in. That’s all we had to do. BRODY: That’s all you had to do, yes. TRAN: Sometimes we have the time to clean the tape drive, we put the tape back in the library by the number. Make sure you put in proper number so next time you can locate. BRODY: Right, easily. TRAN: Sometimes it’s part of misfound, take a half day to look for it. (both laugh) BRODY: That must be frustrating. So your other coworkers were mostly Americans, other than your brother? TRAN: Yeah, that’s right. Only my brother. But we in different shift. |00:16:40| BRODY: Right, so—oh right, different shifts. So what was it—were you friendly with the other Americans? TRAN: Oh yeah, they were good, it’s fine. BRODY: So tell me about your—what that was like, your work environment and your relationships. TRAN: It very good, because the thing is, the—I think the first year we came to that data center, one of the tape hanger, he’s a senior in the group. And he was actually a marine who come from—return from Vietnam. And he said, “Sao, I want to give you something.” I said, “What do you want me give?” “I give you a car.” BRODY: He gave you a car? TRAN: Yeah, he had Volkswagen, you know, the old Beetle? He gave me the Beetle Volkswagen. And by that time, he lived in Lewisville. So we go out to Lewisville, pick up the Volkswagen, and I drive for about two or three years. It’s a very good car. And by the time me and my family get bigger, so I had to buy some station wagon. Then I gave that Volkswagen to somebody else. I didn’t sell, you know? BRODY: Wow. So that’s very generous— TRAN: Yeah, it is. BRODY: —he just—why do you think he gave you the Volkswagen? TRAN: He said he’d love to help us, because he came from Vietnam. He had returned from Vietnam, rather. And he’d love to help us. And not only that, but the first Christmas, the data center, I think they collect money to help us buy the—for a TV set, black and white, and buy a whole bunch of food for us and feed one of the lunch before Christmas. So I brought the TV home for the kids and look at—they watch it. BRODY: Oh wow, they must have been thrilled. TRAN: Yeah, it’s small, about twelve inch, but it’s good. BRODY: Yes, that’s great. So that sounds like it was a very welcoming experience, your whole experience. TRAN: Yeah, it was, it was. BRODY: Were you worried that—as you were coming, you know, making your way to Texas with the different stops that you made, were you—what were some of your thoughts as you were coming over here? Were you worried that it wasn’t going to be welcoming or that it might be hard? TRAN: At first I do, I did. But after I contact with people around me, I feel very comfortable with and they like, I ask for help if I need to, and they were ready to help us anytime we need. But like I said, I tried not to ask so much. I chose to limit myself. car ; Christmas ; data center ; employment ; friendships ; generosity ; gifts ; jobs ; kindness ; Sun Oil ; Sun Oil Company ; tape library ; television ; TV ; Volkswagon 1167 Relationships at St. Pius X Catholic Church BRODY: That’s good, that’s good. So the—your main interaction was with the workplace and the church, it sounds like. TRAN: Church, main thing, you’re right. BRODY: So tell me more about your relationships at St. Pius X. TRAN: Well, with St. Pius X, I had made contact with the pastor of that church and everything related to the Vietnamese, he’d call upon me, because I’m the guy who would speak English, the rest of them speak somewhat, not very well. BRODY: That’s Monsignor? TRAN: Yeah. So any problem with the Vietnamese or they need some help and they talk with this pastor or whoever in the parish office and they don’t understand, they call me. They always call me. (laughs) BRODY: So you knew what was going on in the community because you were helping— TRAN: Yeah, it’s like I could relay back to them easier. I think the original group who came to St. Pius X by that time is ten family. But I’m the guy who come first. The first family. BRODY: You were the first family. TRAN: And they had rented house for us, it’s $175 a month. Three bedroom, only one bath for ten people. (laughs) BRODY: Wow. (laughs) That must’ve been crowded. TRAN: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, we stayed there a couple of year. Or course, the first few months, they pay the rent but after that we had to pick up the bill. BRODY: But by then you’ve got your job and— TRAN: Yeah, I’ve got that job. Then I go to school, came to school and then advance. English ; housing ; language ; Monsignor Weinzapel ; St. Pius X http://www.texascatholic.com/2016/01/04/obituary-msgr-thomas-w-weinzapfel/ Obituary for Monsignor Thomas Weinzapfel 1266 Going back to school while working full-time BRODY: So while you were still working you went back to school? TRAN: Yeah, I have to go full time, full-time school and full-time job. BRODY: Where did you go to school? TRAN: First school is because I work on computer, that’s what I told you, at the library. I went to the school by, at that time called the Texas Institute. They trained data processor, trained data processor. And I went—let me think—about a year and graduate, still couldn’t find any job other than the same job. Then I went to El Centro Community College. I graduated in three semester. (laughs) BRODY: Wow, that’s fast. You must’ve been studying fast. TRAN: Yeah, three semester. I go for—remember, I work full time too. Then by that time, it improve. However, I continue to go the other school, really not intend to get degree, but intend to learn more stuff so I can improve my skill, not only in technology but also in social activity, things like that. So I went to, let’s see, East Texas [Baptist University] and also go to Dallas University—no, no, it’s at Dallas Baptist University. BRODY: Dallas Baptist? TRAN: Dallas Baptist University. That was very close to—I think it was Grand Prairie, somewhere in there. BRODY: What did you study? TRAN: Oh, studied—let’s see, I forgot what it is. It’s a long time, don’t remember, but the main thing is more or less just little social study. I remember, I took one course with the teacher, communication course, they called it Looking In and Looking Out, I could remember that. (laughs) But just the main thing, but I already have the associate degree from El Centro, so I think that all I need. BRODY: Right, right. But you wanted to learn more and to socialize more. Were your classmates—did you interact very much with your classmates, or were you— TRAN: Oh yeah, same thing you and I here. Of course, I still have accent, but at least I communicated. BRODY: Yes, absolutely. So you had some friends that you knew there. TRAN: Yeah, uh-hm. Sure. BRODY: Are you still in touch with any of those friends? TRAN: Say again? BRODY: Are you still in touch with any of those friends from that time? TRAN: No. It’s been a long time, you’re talking. BRODY: It was a long time ago, yes. TRAN: About forty years now. Associates Degree ; communication ; Dallas Baptist University ; data processing ; education ; El Centro Community College ; employment ; school ; Texas Institute ; work 1424 Tran's leadership in the establishment of St. Peter's Vietnamese Catholic Church in Dallas BRODY: Yeah, absolutely. So I wanted to go back. About the church, were you very involved with the Catholic Church when you were still in Vietnam, or was that something that developed once you got here? TRAN: No. I was a Catholic in Vietnam, but I didn’t really involve to church activity until 1975 when I move here. BRODY: Right, when you got here. TRAN: And not only that, I’m the guy who bought the church for Vietnamese, now the Vietnamese—St. Peter Vietnamese Catholic Church. BRODY: Wait, so you built the church—you helped— TRAN: No. We bought it from— BRODY: You bought the church? TRAN: Yeah. We bought it from Reinhardt Bible Church, which [St. Peter Vietnamese Catholic Church] is located on Garland Road and Fuller [Drive]—Garland Road and, I think, Fuller? Oh, [North] Buckner [Boulevard]. Rather easier is, Buckner and Garland Road. And now they still have it. They still meet there in that church. BRODY: Yeah, it’s still there. So the Vietnamese community at St. Pius X in the 1970s, it was growing. So you were the first families, but—first family, and then there came ten more—many more families? TRAN: And it grew quickly because like I said previously, ten families original. Then after that, just go up, and jump up, because I can sponsor somebody else, somebody else sponsor for somebody else, so it’s changing and exponent. BRODY: Right, it grew fast. TRAN: And then we used St. Pius X four PM Sunday Mass. Only one mass. We also used the school for Sunday School in the afternoon. BRODY: In Vietnamese? TRAN: In Vietnamese, yes. And then, I think, in 1995, the community decided to buy their own church. And by that time, we turned from Washington, D.C. after we attend my grandson graduation, and the group of Vietnamese from the community come over to our home and said, “You need to be leader to look for church for us.” And I asked them, “How much money you guys have?” They said “Ninety thousand.” I said, “Ninety thousand, tell me buy a church?” (both laugh) But I think it over and said, “Okay, I’ll buy it. I’ll do it.” And we have—I form a sixteen-member committee to go out and look for church, fundraising, everything else. We bought the church in eighteen months Catholic Church ; Catholicism ; fundraising ; Reinhardt Baptist Church ; religion ; St. Peter's Vietnamese Catholic Church ; St. Pius X https://www.stpetervndal.org/ Website of St. Peter Vietnamese Catholic Church in Dallas 1583 Traditions and activities of Vietnamese Catholic community in Dallas BRODY: So that community had a lot of cohesion and a desire to stick together, then, and to form their own church. Earlier, as that community was forming, what types of activities and—you know, you mentioned the Mass at four PM and the Sunday School—did you do any—do you remember any other types of traditions and things that happened within that community? TRAN: Well, you mean talking about St. Pius X, right? BRODY: Yes. TRAN: Yeah. The thing beside that, not that much except that maybe when we have the Vietnamese festival in mid-autumn or the Vietnamese new year, they use the facility for the celebrate. And also, I think in May, normally, it’s the month of Mother Mary. So we have the procession, all kind of thing, you know. But when we move to the new church, which is located on Garland Road and near the Buckner, we can have more activity then. BRODY: Yeah, tell me about those activities. What do you remember? TRAN: The—I stay a member of that church, but because I’m living too far away, so I go to church here in Richardson. Once in a while I went out there. My name is still there. (laughs) Then when we moved to have a new church we have a new pastor, we have all kind of activity: teaching Sunday school, all the activity, a woman club, a man club, and Boy Scout and all kinds of stuff. It’s a regular—same with American church. BRODY: Yes, but you replicated everything for the Vietnamese community. TRAN: Yeah, that’s right. Um-hm. Buckner ; Catholic Church ; celebrations ; festivals ; Garland Road ; Mass ; processions ; Sunday School ; traditions ; Vietnamese festival ; Vietnamese New Year 1696 Thoughts about &quot ; Americanization&quot ; /Role of language and culture BRODY: So, like the children that grew up in the Vietnamese Catholic church there, what are you impressions of them? Some people say when the second generation is being raised in another country that they may lose some of their culture. What are your observations about that? BRODY: Right, right. So what do you think are the challenges for the grandkids, for example, having grown, you know, been born here and raised in English? So in trying to preserve the culture and to think about the religion, culture, those types of things, what are the biggest challenges for people who come as refugees, who are immigrants, to try to find that balance? TRAN: Well, it really hard to balance, because the kid born and raised in here, they go to school here, they spend most of their daytime at the school, they’re communicating with the local people here, American kids. So it’s very hard to pull them back, you know? Just some, but basically to me, exception ; not normal, exception. All my grandkid, they speak very little Vietnamese. They just Americanized almost hundred percent. They eat American food, very few, sometimes they eat some Vietnamese food, but only certain items they eat, not like us, we eat everything. BRODY: Right. That’s a common challenge for (both talking). TRAN: Yeah, that’s right. It’s very hard to maintain that—that what we call the tapestry here. You know, people coming in, blending into society, and that’s it. No exception. TRAN: Well, I agree with that, because seeing here, thing that I’d like to mention to you that—when I buy that church for them, I think we probably used about max thirty years. So you have all the age, people phase out and kids kept growing up, they adapt to a new culture and they can blend into society complete, but it’s really not that—that not true anymore. BRODY: That’s not what happened? TRAN: No, it’s not. Of course, it Americanized somewhat, but it still continue to work with the church, come to the church and enjoy all kind of activity, except it not a hundred percent. It phase out somewhat, but I see it still going. BRODY: That’s great. Are there new families coming in still? TRAN: Oh yeah, sure, yeah. They tend to go to the church every Sunday, and they also involve to other activity, but the Sundays are the main thing. Like you said, some Vietnamese kids don’t even speak Vietnamese anymore. BRODY: That’s true. So how do you feel— TRAN: Because the problem with the parent, they don’t speak Vietnamese at home. Some of them, they’re afraid the kid don’t speak English, so they try to work with the kid at home, and soon the kid forget the Vietnamese. My family, all my kids speak English and also Vietnamese. But they cannot write Vietnamese, they cannot read. But they speak very well. I speak Vietnamese at home with my wife, my mother, so they get along with it. But I don’t know about next generation, about my grandkid. That’s different story. BRODY: Right, right. So what do you think are the challenges for the grandkids, for example, having grown, you know, been born here and raised in English? So in trying to preserve the culture and to think about the religion, culture, those types of things, what are the biggest challenges for people who come as refugees, who are immigrants, to try to find that balance? TRAN: Well, it really hard to balance, because the kid born and raised in here, they go to school here, they spend most of their daytime at the school, they’re communicating with the local people here, American kids. So it’s very hard to pull them back, you know? Just some, but basically to me, exception ; not normal, exception. All my grandkid, they speak very little Vietnamese. They just Americanized almost hundred percent. They eat American food, very few, sometimes they eat some Vietnamese food, but only certain items they eat, not like us, we eat everything. BRODY: Right. That’s a common challenge for (both talking). TRAN: Yeah, that’s right. It’s very hard to maintain that—that what we call the tapestry here. You know, people coming in, blending into society, and that’s it. No exception. BRODY: Right. So what to you are the—you know, even in the time that you initially first came, what were some of the key pieces of Vietnamese culture and lifestyle that you wanted to make sure that you carried on, even though you were in a new place? TRAN: Well, the thing is, the way the family of Vietnamese is, they try to have the hierarchy ; grandparent, parent, kid. But it not in here. We try to do that, but I doubt that we can maintain it long term. BRODY: Here in the United States? TRAN: Yes. BRODY: Why? TRAN: Well, because—(laughs) it’s Americanized. They different story, different culture. And I can’t say bad or good, but it’s culture. We can’t change the culture. BRODY: Right. You’re in a new place and— TRAN: Yeah. And back home, we have—the first person had to learn how to become good human being first, before technology, before everything, but first. The second in there is the train, your education and talent, it varies and so on, so on. The people lacking good character, it couldn’t be good people. So that’s the—it’s different with Vietnamese, they main thing differently. I don’t know good or bad, but that the way we go. BRODY: The different mindset, it sounds like, that you’re saying. So as—go ahead, I’m sorry. TRAN: Yeah, let me say just one example. One of my last daughter get married last year. And she asked me for the list of the people she will invite. And I gave her the list, but I forgot one important thing: that I had to put my name on the outside label. So when she get pick up the list, guest list, and got the invitation, she put her and her husband address on the envelope and invitation inside. She mail out—and some people don’t even know, recognize her. See what I’m saying? BRODY: Right. TRAN: They don’t do that in Vietnam. They don’t do that, period. BRODY: From the father. TRAN: Because some of my relative, they even don’t know her name, because she young. She is young. And I have to call every single one and apologize for her, I said I don’t intend to do that, just forgive us for that. I call every one of them. BRODY: Yeah, you called every single one? TRAN: (laughs) Every single one. BRODY: Because it was a cultural misunderstanding? TRAN: Yeah. The younger one, no problem, with her brother and sister, cousin. Shouldn’t been a problem, but the people who are, like, my age or above, I had to call. Some of them, they were open. They said, “Don’t worry about it.” But they do come. BRODY: But they came? That’s good. TRAN: Yeah, they came. (laughs) BRODY: Yeah, once they understood, right? That’s an interesting—an interesting story because your— TRAN: Now, in our country they cannot do that, period. BRODY: Right. That would not happen, right? TRAN: It would not happen back home. adaptation ; Americanization ; assimilation ; cultural differences ; culture ; English ; food ; language ; misunderstandings ; Vietnamese language 2125 Thoughts about social class BRODY: That makes me think—this is not the same subject at all, but I wanted to ask you about your thoughts about social class. When you came here to the United States, we talked about how your job was quite different than what you had been doing in Vietnam, but did you have—do you remember anything about your observations about the differences in the United States regarding social class? TRAN: You mean the poor, rich, middle class, so on, so forth? BRODY: Yes. TRAN: Yeah. The United States, I want to say it’s a—we don’t see that that much here. You go outside on the street, you see people walking around, you don’t know who rich or who not. They dress somewhat the same. They drive almost similar vehicle, you know? Even maybe older a few years, but not much different. Back home, social class is very clear. If you own a car, you’re the top of the class. You walk, then you low class. (both laugh) BRODY: So it’s very easy to tell, right? TRAN: And the way you dress, old clothes, new clothes, people ride bicycle compared to motorcycle, compared to vehicle, so— BRODY: There’s a hierarchy. TRAN: Yeah, hierarchy. And now we’re here, and you can’t tell that much. You have billion dollar, I don’t have, but I think you and I is almost the same. Same level. BRODY: Right. Why do you think that is? TRAN: It is the graded you here. They don’t look at the people because they don’t expect people be that person rich, or poor. BRODY: It’s just based on the person. TRAN: Yeah. BRODY: So did you feel like in your getting to the United States, did you move from one social class to another? Or were you kind of the same? TRAN: It not only social class, but because I didn’t move that much—except I do get some better position in later life but I don’t think that a different social class. I make enough money to feed the family, brought the kid up and something like that. I’m not rich because I’m not—if you want to be rich in this society you have to do business, not to work for somebody, and get rich—it don’t work that way. BRODY: Right. So that wasn’t much of a factor in your thinking? TRAN: That’s true, yeah. hierarchy ; inequality ; poverty ; social class ; social mobility ; wealth 2279 Parenting/Experiences with education system BRODY: Yeah, or your experience. So you had four kids come with you from Vietnam, and then they were in school here. What are some of—you talked a little bit about some of the differences between the schools, you know, serving lunch here and things like that. How about the academics? What were your experiences with teachers and with your kids as they were going to school? TRAN: They different, too. Very, very different. On the same subject, after the four kid came here, we had two more coming here. BRODY: Oh, okay, two more that were born here? TRAN: Two daughters, yes. And the one who came in ’75, we had second daughter in ’76. Then ten year later we have another one girl—’86, so ten year apart. And all married and got out. BRODY: Oh, congratulations. (laughs) TRAN: The oldest one fifty, I think he fifty on January the ninth, a couple of more day. He’s fifty. The youngest one, she thirty-three. Thirty-three in April. Tax day, she born on tax day. BRODY: On tax day. (laughs) TRAN: Right. She not here ; she’s in Maryland. BRODY: In Maryland, I see. So school-wise, were the—was the transition for your kids smooth into the school system? What were some challenges, if there were any? TRAN: You mean the— BRODY: The kids in the school, or dealing with teachers or academics. TRAN: Oh, I think they got along very well. They had no problem whatsoever. Through interacting with all the American kid, no problem at all. Matter of fact, the first six month after my first son get in first grade, in a public school in east Dallas, the principal recognize him as a good citizen. So it’s only six month. BRODY: Six months, he was a good citizen. TRAN: Very quickly, you know? BRODY: Yes, yes, that’s great. TRAN: The teacher love him, he do so well in school even. And somehow, they pick up English very quickly. BRODY: Yes, kids do, right? How about you? Speaking of language learning, you already were quite good at English but you, you know, had to transition into all the things that you had to do here. academics ; children ; education ; English ; parenting ; school system ; schools ; teachers 2411 Learning American customs and culture BRODY: Yes, kids do, right? How about you? Speaking of language learning, you already were quite good at English but you, you know, had to transition into all the things that you had to do here. TRAN: Yeah, that’s right. BRODY: What were some of the ways that you tried to improve your English or work on that? TRAN: (laughs) Yeah, just read paper and watch television, you know. I probably went to school too. But it’s hard. I mean, the thing of the culture, custom, those are hard to get used to— BRODY: Even more than language? TRAN: —it take a long time. But other than that, I don’t think English ever was a problem with. I mean— BRODY: What were some of the customs that were confusing to you? TRAN: (laughs) Oh, yeah. Let me see. The customs, you know, one of the only—the holiday, the Christmas Day? Yeah. We had to have a very good in the decoration and Christmas tree and gifts and parties, so on, so forth. We had very little back home. We had so much food here ; as a matter of fact, over-full. It’s too much. BRODY: Right. Too much food? (laughs) TRAN: And we had little back home. (laughs) Over-gifts, you know? Some of my grandkid had, maybe, twenty gift. Back home? Zero. BRODY: Zero gifts. (laughs) TRAN: Yeah. (laughs) So the culture is different. But they—I mean, even they don’t have anything, but they do behave themselves. BRODY: That’s interesting. So yeah, the holidays are different here. So did the Men’s Club at St. Pius or your neighbors or people at work or school, is that the main way that you learned about American customs? TRAN: That’s true, yeah. That’s true. By interacting with people from church and other organization, at work. I think they do train. Workshop is the main thing, because you be in there eight-hour a day. But it didn’t take that much long for me to learn to get around and accustomed to the custom, and so—and, you know, it’s hard to start a new life with my age—at thirty-two, by that time—to start over. BRODY: Yeah. You really did. TRAN: It got difficult, very, very difficult, because I have a big family too. BRODY: Yep. A lot of responsibility and a lot to learn all at once. Christmas ; culture ; customs ; English ; food ; gifts ; holidays ; language ; television 2584 Role of Tran's mother in the family's life BRODY: So your mother was here with you, you said, as well. Did she live in the same house? TRAN: She used to stay with us from ’75 until, I think—I want to say until ’88. Then she moved to stay with my sister. My sister, by that time, she married, she had a couple kid, so she bought a house and my mother move over there and we stay up here by ourselves, and the last kid, which is now thirty-two, thirty-three years old, we put in daycare. It was two years of age. At St. Pius X school, they have daycare. BRODY: They have daycare there. So you guys stayed in that community, you didn’t move. TRAN: Right. We stayed in that community until—let’s see, 1998. Then we moved out to Richardson twenty years ago. daycare ; grandmother ; intergenerational households ; mother 2651 Memories of Monsignor Weinzapfel at St. Pius X Catholic Church BRODY: Okay. In that—the pastor at St. Pius X was Monsignor Weinzapfel, is that right? TRAN: Yes. BRODY: Tell me about your memories of him. I’ve heard he was very involved with the Vietnamese community. TRAN: Oh yeah, he’s a (laughs) very good person. He very active with the helping Vietnamese to settle. He let us use a lot of facility that we need for our activity, including the church, and didn’t charge us that much, you know. It was a collection during Mass and give some back to him. He always helped the Vietnamese in way that’s try to settle down in this area, and I really was good friends with him. BRODY: You were good friends with him? TRAN: Yeah. Anything he need for Vietnamese, he call me. He said—anybody confusing, he said, “Call Sao.” ___________(??), but sometime later, when we moved to Richardson, we did invite him to come over to have supper with us and things like that. BRODY: Oh, that’s nice. Why was he so interested, do you think, in helping the Vietnamese community settle down here? TRAN: Well, I think that one thing that normally the Catholics try to do that, work with refugees, but I think the group of Vietnamese were the first group he deal with. By that time, he about midfifties, still fairly young. So sometimes he rode a bicycle from church to our home and I was at work and my wife, my mother, and the kid at home, except the one in school. He just speak English and none of my [family] member speak English. So he call over, said, “Let’s say a prayer.” So my people say in Vietnamese, he say in English. (laughs) Then he bless and ride bicycle, go home. (Brody laughs) He’s a funny guy. BRODY: (laughs) So he was a flexible guy as far as prayers go and language, too. That’s a great story. Catholic Church ; English ; English language ; flexibility ; friendships ; Monsignor Weinzapfel ; refugees ; St. Pius X ; Vietnamese language ; Vietnamese refugees 2791 Reflections on discrimination and racism BRODY: So I wanted to ask you, on a different note, your family or you, do you remember any experiences of discrimination or racism as you were trying to settle here? TRAN: I don’t think so, no. BRODY: Not at all? That’s good. Why do you think that it went so smoothly, in that regard, for your family? TRAN: Well, I probably—basically, the reason we didn’t run into the discrimination problem, like you’re just saying, basically, is just lucky, you know? BRODY: Hm, yeah, lucky. TRAN: Just lucky, you get lucky. They could deal with a group, don’t have this kind of problem. That’s the only thing I can say, because we have—I see people dealing with that, but we’re not in that. So very hard to recognize discrimination. BRODY: Well, that’s fortunate that you did not experience it ; that’s good. Do you have much interaction, back then, with other groups that are discriminated against in the community? African Americans or— TRAN: No, I don’t have that opportunity. I even involved to a lot of activities that help the Vietnamese in the area. I also join the—what they call—Rotary Club. I was vice president, White Rock Rotary Club. BRODY: Oh, good. What kind of activities did the White Rock Rotary Club do? TRAN: You mean the— BRODY: What did you do with them? What was your— TRAN: Oh, we have other activity. We go out, help people, and thing like that, basically. The Rotary Club ; I think you know that club, right? BRODY: Yes, I know the Rotary Club, yes. driscrimination ; racism ; White Rock Rotary Club 2904 Tran's role as a leader in the early Vietnamese community in Dallas BRODY: So going back to the—you were such a leader in the St. Pius community and the Vietnamese community, and people came to you with questions and the church came to you with questions if there were things that people were going through. What were some of the sorts of problems that you were faced with sometimes when they asked you for your help? TRAN: Well, the thing is sometimes they—you mean dealing with my people who had some problem? Well, the thing is, sometimes they, sadly, would more expectation than it should be, and they should know my capacity is limit, you know. So sometimes they asked a little bit more than I can do. BRODY: What were the kind of things that they were asking for help with? TRAN: Well, the thing sometimes they’d get me to bring kid to the hospital, but I got busy with other stuff, you know? And I can understand. I mean, most people didn’t speak English by that time. But I couldn’t cover everything. I do help that a lot, but only so much I can do. BRODY: Yeah. So sometimes you were asked to do a lot of things— TRAN: Yeah, family have work, so on and so forth. (laughs) BRODY: School, right. So your capacity was limited. TRAN: Yeah, was limit. I wanted to do more, but it’s hard. So I think one family that, he came here with his wife and no kids, left all the kid behind, and he speak no English whatsoever. And so I think by the time he work for Bishop Lynch High School—Catholic high school, down further to the road. I’m not sure you know that high school or not. Bishop Lynch. BRODY: Bishop Lynch High School? TRAN: Yeah, high school. And work there at as a janitor. You know, the _________(??) And every time they had a problem they call me. The sister who in charge that school call me too, so they’re trying to phase out the problem, you know? | BRODY: Yeah, so you’re trying to do your job, to take care of your family and still help. TRAN: But I do help a lot of people, except that only so much I can do. BRODY: Absolutely. Well, the community grew so much, also. I would imagine that there were so—over time, more and more people who had things that they needed help with. (laughs) TRAN: Oh yeah, that’s right, yeah. What I’m saying is only the beginning of that first—maybe first two year or so. After that, you know, they got a lot of young kid who speak English and learn more English, they get used to the life in United States, so they don’t ask for help that much anymore. BRODY: Right, right, because they have other people to turn to as well. So you had your hands full at the beginning, right? (laughs) TRAN: Yeah. It phased out in about a couple of year. I had to raise my family and put kid in school. (laughs) Bishop Lynch high school ; English ; English language ; help ; hospital ; language ; leadership ; problems ; schools ; Vietnamese community 3081 American citizenship and identity BRODY: So, your kids—when—this is a question that we’ve kind of talked about a little bit already, but when you think about yourself and your—did you become an American citizen eventually? TRAN: Yes. In order to become American citizen we have to stay in the United States five years. And then you got the—I think, got green card, and then take another five year to apply for citizenship. So we all become citizenship in, I want to say, probably 1986. And only me, my wife, and the rest of the kids, they automatically come in, become citizens. BRODY: The kids, right? So when you think of yourself now after you’ve gotten the American citizenship, what does it mean to you to be American? Or do you think of yourself as American? Do you think of yourself as Vietnamese, Vietnamese American? TRAN: Oh, it’s mixed. It’s mixed feelings. BRODY: Yeah? Tell me about your feelings about that? TRAN: Well, I’m very happy to become American citizenship, because that’s the goal, to stay here permanently. And if I can stay here without citizenship, you cannot quite well. So I’m very happy with it, and I’d like to tell you another story, becoming citizenship. When I grant first citizenship, my company throw a party. I think about sixty people come over and enjoy it—a reception, rather. And we all—they all happy. But they ask me to make a speech, and I didn’t prepare for it. And I tell people, “Lady and gentlemen, I’m very happy to become American citizenship. But when I first come here, I don’t have nothing. But you took me in, give me your country, give me the church to practice, give me job, and give me friendship.” Some of the women cried. (laughs) BRODY: That sounds beautiful. That’s beautiful, and you didn’t prepare. (laughs) TRAN: Not even at all. BRODY: That was from the heart. Right. So your mixed feelings about both of those things. TRAN: Yeah, mixed feelings. I still bleed all(??) Vietnamese, but I still like to become American citizenship. BRODY: Yeah, and this is—your life has been here at this point, so—and your family. TRAN: I haven’t been back home yet. BRODY: Really? You haven’t been back? TRAN: Yeah, the thing is—the thing I—all my brother, sister, my mother here, my wife here, my kids here. My wife only have one brother here. The rest of her brother, they’re back home. We do communicate once in a while, we would call them, talk with them and thing like that. But that’s—I think she have one, two, three, she have four brother— BRODY: Back there? TRAN: Yeah. She’s only girl in the family. BRODY: And she’s the only one who came here too. American citizenship ; American identity ; citizenship ; coworkers ; friendship ; green card ; identity ; naturalized citizen ; naturalizing ; party ; reception ; US citizenship ; Vietnam ; Vietnamese identity 3305 Tran discusses his wife's work experience in Texas Did she work after she came here? TRAN: Oh she work at—let’s see. When she give the first daughter here, 1976, she worked—at ’78, she started work. Because I myself, I am unable to cover everything, because my salary is still very low by that. And she go work for some company doing some electronic work, like assembly, put things together. She work until the year 2000, she left the workforce. BRODY: Wow. So she had her own— TRAN: Yeah. She’d stay home, take care of the kids and so on, so forth. BRODY: Yes, that’s interesting. TRAN: Take care of the kids, and take care grandkid. BRODY: And grandkids again. (laughs) A mom’s work is never done. assembly work ; childcare ; children ; employment ; jobs ; motherhood ; women ; work 3368 Thoughts about politics So with—in terms of politics, have you been involved in politics here in the United States? TRAN: No. All we do is go voting, that’s about it. BRODY: Just vote. Well, that’s an involvement— TRAN: No activity BRODY: Are there differences that you’ve observed or were you particularly involved in Vietnam with politics? TRAN: No, in Vietnam I don’t involve in politic at all, but over here I do vote. That’s all. political engagement ; poltics ; vote ; voting 3393 Tran reflects on his life, family, and accomplishments BRODY: Yeah. So when you think about yourself and your identity and all of the experiences that you’ve had in your life, what are some of the thoughts that you reflect on about, you know, as you look back on your life? TRAN: Well, I look at my life. I have these friend that say that I really accomplished that much. It happens a lot, because you change from life of Vietnam to United States and get used to here, and set up the family and raise them in a well-mannered—all of my kid went to school and a lot of them graduate school. I think only one didn’t have a graduate degree. Five of them— BRODY: That’s pretty impressive, yeah. Did you tell them that was an expectation? TRAN: No, they go to school and just encourage them, but I never tell them, “You have to do this,” no. Matter of fact, I have two medical doctors, two lawyer, and one teacher, and one business. BRODY: Wow. That’s an impressive family. TRAN: Yeah. And they all kids, they marry to five doctors. So end up five doctor in my family. No, marry three doctor, then that’s two and three together, make five doctor, and two lawyer. BRODY: Wow. You’ve got it covered. (laughs) TRAN: Yeah. (laughs) BRODY: So you never told them, “I expect—” TRAN: No. I don’t want to change them. “You have to become this.” Sometimes I try to talk them, encourage them, but I don’t force them. I don’t force them to—certain people forcing kid learn certain subject, but I don’t do that as a trait(??). The same thing with when they get married. Of course, I like the person for those who marry, but I cannot tell them, “You have to marry this.” That’s the line. They make mistake, they learn from. But can you imagine if you tell the kid, “You’ve got to marry this poor girl or this boy,” and five year later they don’t work out very well, who really carry the responsibility? So I don’t want to do that. They’re on their own. Not only that, when they marry, they on their own. I don’t stick my nose in their family. That is the way it should be. They make mistake, they pay for it. I keep telling kid today, tomorrow you decide to go buy helicopter, go buy it if you can pay for it. But I won’t stop you. (laughs) BRODY: Right. So a wise father. (laughs) TRAN: Yeah. (laughs) It’s true. I would never call and said, “What are you doing?” No. I call and say hello and things like that. Otherwise, I can’t survive with that many kids. accomplishments ; education ; encouragement ; family ; fatherhood ; parenting ; success 3587 Changes in the Vietnamese community in Dallas/Reflections on diversity and American culture BRODY: So I want to go back just briefly to talk about the Vietnamese community in Dallas. In terms of your own perceptions, the community as it’s changed from the 1970s to today, what is the—what are some of the characteristics of the Vietnamese community in Dallas? TRAN: Well, it’s very hard to say, but I mean it’s kind of mixed bag, you know, a lot of people. It truly good, move to forward, but some people left behind. So you can tie those together, and to me, if people move forward they seem very good, you know? They seem very good, they seem get along well, they do act as good people, American people as well. But some people left behind because they don’t have enough education to adapt, adapt the new culture. So they’re left behind, they leave the _____ for not bring a light(??). BRODY: So there’s a difference even within— TRAN: But not that many, okay? Them different. BRODY: Do you feel like the community is unified in terms of how they interact with the larger society? TRAN: They do, but not hundred percent, you know? It’s always a crack here and there. BRODY: Yeah. Are there differences in terms of people belonging to different religions— TRAN: Different religion, different education level, different knowledge, it is complete different. BRODY: Yeah, that’s interesting, especially because the larger community in this area has gotten very diverse and a lot of different groups not— TRAN: Oh yeah. BRODY: I think in 1975 it wasn’t as diverse, so the Vietnamese were the first. TRAN: That’s true, because it’s so many ethnic group come in after ’75 besides Vietnamese, you know? Middle East and Chinese and Indian and Australia, all kind. It once can be Europe, whatever. It’s a big culture. BRODY: Yeah. It’s very different now than it was when you first arrived. TRAN: Oh, yes. It is difficult, but it’s good for United States. That’s the way United States should be. That’s the way—it produce a lot good people, because they mix blood, mix culture. You look at people in Europe, they so pure. So therefore, it’s tougher for them to deal with. Over here it mix. They bring all kind of culture in, bring all kind of language in. I don’t know how many languages the people in the United States they speak. BRODY: Right. Many many. TRAN: It’s over the hundreds. BRODY: Yeah. So immigration is a key part of— TRAN: Oh yeah, there’s no doubt about that. The reason make United States strong is because the mixed culture. If you look at the—if you look more, lean toward the interior you see all the, like, chicken. When they mix blood, chicken strong and big. But they pure blood, it’s skinny. (both laugh) That’s one way to explore the thinking, you know? BRODY: So some diversity, right? TRAN: Yeah. You need that. adaptation ; community ; culture ; Dallas ; difference ; diversity ; education ; immigration ; language ; languages ; religion ; unity ; Vietnamese community Baylor University Institute for Oral History Sao Tran Oral History Memoir Interview Number 1 Interviewed by Betsy T. Brody January 7, 2019 Richardson, Texas Project -- Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans: The Making of the Vietnamese Community in North Texas BRODY: This is Betsy Brody. Today is January 7, 2019. I am interviewing, for the first time, Mr. Sao 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. Alright, Mr. Tran, I&#039 ; m so happy that you could join me here today and we could record this interview. To start with, could you tell me a little bit about your life in Vietnam, what you your work was and what you were doing as the Vietnam War wound down? |00:00:36| TRAN: Well, when I become the working, I do school teacher for one year and, as you know, teacher didn&#039 ; t pay that much back home. And then I left the teaching job, I go work for the US consulate general office, but the branch office in the Hội An. That&#039 ; s part of the historical city now, Hội An, Quảng Nam. I worked there as a interpreter and translator, and then I become office manager and then I got transferred to Danang in-- well, this in 1972. So I start in Hội An, 1967, and transfer to Danang, 1972 as the position of admin specialist. Then I stay there until &#039 ; 75, the company--my country fall to the communist side, so we got evacuated. But before we got evacuated outside of Vietnam we go through Saigon, it one of the most north of Vietnam, and from there we flew to Guam and to Camp Pendleton, and then sponsored by St. Pius X [Catholic Parish] in East Texas. So we came here-- BRODY: In Texas. So when you finally made it to Texas-- TRAN: --I believe, June, 1975. |00:02:10| BRODY: So the evacuation itself--so you had to make your way to Saigon first? TRAN: Yes, that&#039 ; s right. The thing and what happened is it--I think in March, should be in early March, I send my family to Saigon, and then I stay there about a couple of weeks, because I had to stay behind to help with the local employee. I told you that I was administration specialist, I had to help my local employee for evacuation. So I stayed there until most of them left, and then I have take the last flight, flew out from Danang to Saigon, and from Saigon I stayed one month, and then again I involve the evacuation, so I send my family out two day ahead. I stayed back to help all the local employee evacuation with their family. Then I flew out--American officer said, &quot ; Don&#039 ; t worry about it, we&#039 ; ll locate your family.&quot ; However, that what they say, but not exactly happen. Two days later, after my family left the Vietnam, I flew out, and, like, we flew through Guam, which is naval base. Meanwhile, I don&#039 ; t know where my family by that time. BRODY: Oh my gosh. You must have been so worried. TRAN: Yeah. I was very worried. BRODY: How many people were--how many of your family members had you sent ahead? TRAN: Yeah, the--in total, my family is ten, including me. We have four kid, one brother, two sister, and mother. So ten people. BRODY: Okay. And your wife, of course? TRAN: And my wife. Really, I was confused and worried when I was in Guam, and I look all over, I talk with all kind of US official to try and locate my family, but nobody knew. So two day later, somehow because the Subic Bay&#039 ; s refugee camp is full, because most of Vietnamese go out through Philippine, it closer. So it&#039 ; s full, they had--so what they do from in that island(??), they send my family to the Guam from Philippine. So where I was, Sunday morning I wake up and walk around the camp, I catch my oldest son lie on the cot in military tent. That is where we get reunited. And then later, about two days later, we process paperwork and flew to Camp Pendleton in California. And we stay there about thirty day or so, and then we find a sponsor, I think somewhere in June 1975, we found--original sponsor was the University of Plano. And I think the president of the Plano University by that time, Dorothy Morris. That&#039 ; s very little university, Plano, and I think a few years later they phase out, it&#039 ; s sold. I stay in Plano University for group-- with other people, maybe sixty people. That only temp advisor. They had to go out and look for permanent--I&#039 ; m sorry, temporary sponsor. They had to go out and look for permanent sponsor. So there, the St. Pius X jump in and sponsor our family, because the family is so big, ten people, and nobody can sign with that big, because so big for them to carry that responsibility. So finally, St. Pius X took over and then we move from Plano to east Dallas, which where the St. Pius X church located. |00:06:33| BRODY: Yes. So what was that--how did that feel for you, when you got that news that St. Pius church was going to sponsor your family? TRAN: A matter of fact, it&#039 ; s very happy that we sponsored by the church because nobody really want to carry that big responsibility except the church, because they&#039 ; re a group of people. They have manpower, they have resource to help us. So they go out and look for house, put our need to live, they find familiar food for us to eat, and then I find a job. (laughs) |00:07:11| BRODY: Oh, what was your job? What job did you find? TRAN: The first job I found is the--they call computer operator, but that was the--in those days it&#039 ; s mainframe, not PC [personal computer] nowadays. And the main job is to work in the tape library. BRODY: The tape library? TRAN: Library, yeah, and the big twenty-four-hundred feet--the big one, big tape. When they call the number on the drive, you go into a library, you get the number, hang it on, and when it dismount, you take it up, put it back in the library. It is simple, but it&#039 ; s basically the heavy, physical work, because you walk all day long with heavy tape, a lot of that big, heavy tape. (laughs) BRODY: So that&#039 ; s pretty different than what you were doing in Vietnam. TRAN: Yeah, yeah, that&#039 ; s right. Having office with people. BRODY: Yeah, you were working in an office and administration in Vietnam. How did that--how was the transition for you, or what were you--what did you feel in finding that job? Were you happy when you found the computer job? TRAN: Well, I can&#039 ; t feel(??) happy or not ; I had to have something to eat for the kid, you know, the family. So I think it&#039 ; s fine at the beginning. It&#039 ; s hard, but it&#039 ; s okay. BRODY: Yeah. You survived and provided for your family, right? TRAN: Yeah, it&#039 ; s--I think they pay about three dollar and quarter an hour. BRODY: Right. This is still 1975? TRAN: Yeah. |00:08:44| BRODY: Yes. So I want to go back real quick. I mean, the story that you told about finding your family by accident in Guam is pretty astonishing. What was the moment like? Did you see them, or did they see you? TRAN: The thing, by that time the Red Cross, they give you a tent, I think only a single- person tent. If you have family they give you a big tent. I had a little tent. And then I wake up real early in the morning, probably about five, six o&#039 ; clock, and I keep walking around the area, just don&#039 ; t know what to do. And I walk by a big tent, military, it&#039 ; s canvas, and I saw my son lying on the couch, military couch. He slept-- BRODY: He was sleeping. He was just sleeping. TRAN: Yeah, and suddenly I found them, family, yeah. Basically, like miracle, you know? BRODY: Sounds like it, and they must have been so relieved as well. TRAN: Yeah, they do. Yeah, and they said--well, two days later we process the paper through the immigration service and we flew to-- BRODY: Camp Pendleton. TRAN: --to San Diego. Is that San Diego? Camp Pendleton, yeah. |00:09:57| BRODY: Yes, yes, near San Diego. So--okay, so back to east Dallas, then. So the sponsor was the church that sponsored your family. Were there any specific people that were sponsoring you, or just the church in general? TRAN: I think that by that time they passed aside our family to what they call Men&#039 ; s Club, the Men&#039 ; s Club. And they had the Men&#039 ; s Club work closely with us to try to help us through the--find food, find house, and thing like that, get try to settle in the area, get familiar with the custom and try to help. Some of my family didn&#039 ; t--most of my--all of my family don&#039 ; t speak English except me, and so they helped teaching English and do a health check, whatever. And it really hard for me by that time because, like I said, nobody speak English except me. So I had to buy groceries, I had--everything, I had to do it ; everything. BRODY: It&#039 ; s all on your shoulders there. TRAN: Except cooking. They do cooking. |00:11:05| BRODY: They did the cooking. What were some of the most challenging things about, for example, buying groceries? Obviously, time, but was it--what were some of the biggest surprises that you experienced when you were shopping for your family? TRAN: Well the thing that surprising because they didn&#039 ; t--back in Vietnam, they don&#039 ; t price stuff like we do here. So easy, very easy to do shopping here rather than back home. Back home, they don&#039 ; t know price and they can tell you price, you have to keep negotiate, negotiate, and that&#039 ; s when you buy ten item, take about two or three hour before you get through ten item (Brody laughs) because you keep barking back and forth. (both laugh) Over here, you see price, whether you like or not, that&#039 ; s all--they don&#039 ; t change the price. BRODY: It seems straightforward, yes. TRAN: Yes. Ten dollar is ten dollar. It&#039 ; s easier. BRODY: Yes. So the Men&#039 ; s Club, the people in the Men&#039 ; s Club ; were there particular leaders in that group that kind of took you along and showed you how to do the things? TRAN: Yeah, the Men&#039 ; s Club, I think the president of Men&#039 ; s Club by that time, Mr. Travis Harmon. Travis Harmon, he&#039 ; s president, he worked very closely with us--of course, you have other members helping with, but he the main guy. We need anything, we call him, he help. But we try to limit how have had to call because anything we can do, we try to do ourselves, because the big family like that, you can call and you don&#039 ; t want to bother them. |00:12:45| BRODY: Right. So the household, you were the only one who spoke English, and yet you had all the kids. How did you navigate getting them into school and having them enrolled and working on their schoolwork? TRAN: Yeah, at first at the early--I think a couple of lady in the parish help us through process to register kid in school. And then after that, we had the walk from our home to the school because it not too far away. I want to say about mile and a half. BRODY: Okay. Not too far at all. TRAN: Yeah. However, we came from hot weather country, and in the morning here, even in, let&#039 ; s say, spring, it still very cold. So my wife had to bring the kid to walk to school and come back. And that&#039 ; s cold for her. BRODY: That&#039 ; s cold--it&#039 ; s cold for her, for sure. The kids get used to it, I guess. TRAN: Yeah, but they got used very quickly. |00:13:58| BRODY: Yes. Is it different having kids in school in Vietnam versus in the United States? What were some of the key differences? TRAN: Oh yeah, it different. Much different. We come from the country not quite wealthy a lot, and the wealthy in our country, so the life of the school is different, the class different. Over here, school feed kid. They supply everything in public school, book and everything. We didn&#039 ; t have to buy anything. And we make low income, we fill out application, ask for the lunch exempt, reducing, whatever, but they have to do something back home. Back home they have to walk home and eat lunch and come back. |00:14:46| BRODY: Right, it&#039 ; s very different, yes. When you were working, did you experience any--did you interact very much with other Americans, or were you primarily with other Vietnamese refugees? What was your work experience like? TRAN: The working--I work strictly with all American, no Vietnamese around at all because that really an oil company, what they call Sun Oil Company, and their headquarter is in--I want to say in Philadelphia, Northeast. But they have the data center in Oklahoma--Tulsa, Oklahoma. They relocate data center from Tulsa to Dallas, and I think on Empire Central [Drive] and I-30 [Interstate 30], right. Because they just relocate, they need manpower. A lot of low, low-class employees. (laughs) They don&#039 ; t want to come here, they want to fool around with. So they had vacant. That&#039 ; s why they hired me and my brother, both. No need to train, anything, just only group of number, hang the tape, pick the tape, put on tape right and dismount and put it back in. That&#039 ; s all we had to do. BRODY: That&#039 ; s all you had to do, yes. TRAN: Sometimes we have the time to clean the tape drive, we put the tape back in the library by the number. Make sure you put in proper number so next time you can locate. BRODY: Right, easily. TRAN: Sometimes it&#039 ; s part of misfound, take a half day to look for it. (both laugh) BRODY: That must be frustrating. So your other coworkers were mostly Americans, other than your brother? TRAN: Yeah, that&#039 ; s right. Only my brother. But we in different shift. |00:16:40| BRODY: Right, so--oh right, different shifts. So what was it--were you friendly with the other Americans? TRAN: Oh yeah, they were good, it&#039 ; s fine. BRODY: So tell me about your--what that was like, your work environment and your relationships. TRAN: It very good, because the thing is, the--I think the first year we came to that data center, one of the tape hanger, he&#039 ; s a senior in the group. And he was actually a marine who come from--return from Vietnam. And he said, &quot ; Sao, I want to give you something.&quot ; I said, &quot ; What do you want me give?&quot ; &quot ; I give you a car.&quot ; BRODY: He gave you a car? TRAN: Yeah, he had Volkswagen, you know, the old Beetle? He gave me the Beetle Volkswagen. And by that time, he lived in Lewisville. So we go out to Lewisville, pick up the Volkswagen, and I drive for about two or three years. It&#039 ; s a very good car. And by the time me and my family get bigger, so I had to buy some station wagon. Then I gave that Volkswagen to somebody else. I didn&#039 ; t sell, you know? BRODY: Wow. So that&#039 ; s very generous-- TRAN: Yeah, it is. |00:17:54| BRODY: --he just--why do you think he gave you the Volkswagen? TRAN: He said he&#039 ; d love to help us, because he came from Vietnam. He had returned from Vietnam, rather. And he&#039 ; d love to help us. And not only that, but the first Christmas, the data center, I think they collect money to help us buy the--for a TV set, black and white, and buy a whole bunch of food for us and feed one of the lunch before Christmas. So I brought the TV home for the kids and look at--they watch it. BRODY: Oh wow, they must have been thrilled. TRAN: Yeah, it&#039 ; s small, about twelve inch, but it&#039 ; s good. BRODY: Yes, that&#039 ; s great. So that sounds like it was a very welcoming experience, your whole experience. TRAN: Yeah, it was, it was. BRODY: Were you worried that--as you were coming, you know, making your way to Texas with the different stops that you made, were you--what were some of your thoughts as you were coming over here? Were you worried that it wasn&#039 ; t going to be welcoming or that it might be hard? TRAN: At first I do, I did. But after I contact with people around me, I feel very comfortable with and they like, I ask for help if I need to, and they were ready to help us anytime we need. But like I said, I tried not to ask so much. I chose to limit myself. BRODY: That&#039 ; s good, that&#039 ; s good. So the--your main interaction was with the workplace and the church, it sounds like. TRAN: Church, main thing, you&#039 ; re right. |00:19:33| BRODY: So tell me more about your relationships at St. Pius X. TRAN: Well, with St. Pius X, I had made contact with the pastor of that church and everything related to the Vietnamese, he&#039 ; d call upon me, because I&#039 ; m the guy who would speak English, the rest of them speak somewhat, not very well. BRODY: That&#039 ; s Monsignor? TRAN: Yeah. So any problem with the Vietnamese or they need some help and they talk with this pastor or whoever in the parish office and they don&#039 ; t understand, they call me. They always call me. (laughs) BRODY: So you knew what was going on in the community because you were helping-- TRAN: Yeah, it&#039 ; s like I could relay back to them easier. I think the original group who came to St. Pius X by that time is ten family. But I&#039 ; m the guy who come first. The first family. BRODY: You were the first family. |00:20:33| TRAN: And they had rented house for us, it&#039 ; s $175 a month. Three bedroom, only one bath for ten people. (laughs) BRODY: Wow. (laughs) That must&#039 ; ve been crowded. TRAN: Yeah, that&#039 ; s true. Yeah, we stayed there a couple of year. Or course, the first few months, they pay the rent but after that we had to pick up the bill. BRODY: But by then you&#039 ; ve got your job and-- TRAN: Yeah, I&#039 ; ve got that job. Then I go to school, came to school and then advance. BRODY: So while you were still working you went back to school? TRAN: Yeah, I have to go full time, full-time school and full-time job. |00:21:10| BRODY: Where did you go to school? TRAN: First school is because I work on computer, that&#039 ; s what I told you, at the library. I went to the school by, at that time called the Texas Institute. They trained data processor, trained data processor. And I went--let me think--about a year and graduate, still couldn&#039 ; t find any job other than the same job. Then I went to El Centro Community College. I graduated in three semester. (laughs) BRODY: Wow, that&#039 ; s fast. You must&#039 ; ve been studying fast. TRAN: Yeah, three semester. I go for--remember, I work full time too. Then by that time, it improve. However, I continue to go the other school, really not intend to get degree, but intend to learn more stuff so I can improve my skill, not only in technology but also in social activity, things like that. So I went to, let&#039 ; s see, East Texas [Baptist University] and also go to Dallas University--no, no, it&#039 ; s at Dallas Baptist University. BRODY: Dallas Baptist? TRAN: Dallas Baptist University. That was very close to--I think it was Grand Prairie, somewhere in there. |00:22:36| BRODY: What did you study? TRAN: Oh, studied--let&#039 ; s see, I forgot what it is. It&#039 ; s a long time, don&#039 ; t remember, but the main thing is more or less just little social study. I remember, I took one course with the teacher, communication course, they called it Looking In and Looking Out, I could remember that. (laughs) But just the main thing, but I already have the associate degree from El Centro, so I think that all I need. BRODY: Right, right. But you wanted to learn more and to socialize more. Were your classmates--did you interact very much with your classmates, or were you-- TRAN: Oh yeah, same thing you and I here. Of course, I still have accent, but at least I communicated. BRODY: Yes, absolutely. So you had some friends that you knew there. TRAN: Yeah, uh-hm. Sure. BRODY: Are you still in touch with any of those friends? TRAN: Say again? BRODY: Are you still in touch with any of those friends from that time? TRAN: No. It&#039 ; s been a long time, you&#039 ; re talking. BRODY: It was a long time ago, yes. TRAN: About forty years now. |00:23:36| BRODY: Yeah, absolutely. So I wanted to go back. About the church, were you very involved with the Catholic Church when you were still in Vietnam, or was that something that developed once you got here? TRAN: No. I was a Catholic in Vietnam, but I didn&#039 ; t really involve to church activity until 1975 when I move here. BRODY: Right, when you got here. |00:24:01| TRAN: And not only that, I&#039 ; m the guy who bought the church for Vietnamese, now the Vietnamese--St. Peter Vietnamese Catholic Church. BRODY: Wait, so you built the church--you helped-- TRAN: No. We bought it from-- BRODY: You bought the church? TRAN: Yeah. We bought it from Reinhardt Bible Church, which [St. Peter Vietnamese Catholic Church] is located on Garland Road and Fuller [Drive]--Garland Road and, I think, Fuller? Oh, [North] Buckner [Boulevard]. Rather easier is, Buckner and Garland Road. And now they still have it. They still meet there in that church. BRODY: Yeah, it&#039 ; s still there. So the Vietnamese community at St. Pius X in the 1970s, it was growing. So you were the first families, but--first family, and then there came ten more--many more families? TRAN: And it grew quickly because like I said previously, ten families original. Then after that, just go up, and jump up, because I can sponsor somebody else, somebody else sponsor for somebody else, so it&#039 ; s changing and exponent. BRODY: Right, it grew fast. TRAN: And then we used St. Pius X four PM Sunday Mass. Only one mass. We also used the school for Sunday School in the afternoon. BRODY: In Vietnamese? TRAN: In Vietnamese, yes. And then, I think, in 1995, the community decided to buy their own church. And by that time, we turned from Washington, D.C. after we attend my grandson graduation, and the group of Vietnamese from the community come over to our home and said, &quot ; You need to be leader to look for church for us.&quot ; And I asked them, &quot ; How much money you guys have?&quot ; They said &quot ; Ninety thousand.&quot ; I said, &quot ; Ninety thousand, tell me buy a church?&quot ; (both laugh) But I think it over and said, &quot ; Okay, I&#039 ; ll buy it. I&#039 ; ll do it.&quot ; And we have--I form a sixteen-member committee to go out and look for church, fundraising, everything else. We bought the church in eighteen months. BRODY: Wow, that&#039 ; s amazing. So that community had a lot of cohesion and a desire to stick together, then, and to form their own church. Earlier, as that community was forming, what types of activities and--you know, you mentioned the Mass at four PM and the Sunday School--did you do any--do you remember any other types of traditions and things that happened within that community? TRAN: Well, you mean talking about St. Pius X, right? BRODY: Yes. TRAN: Yeah. The thing beside that, not that much except that maybe when we have the Vietnamese festival in mid-autumn or the Vietnamese new year, they use the facility for the celebrate. And also, I think in May, normally, it&#039 ; s the month of Mother Mary. So we have the procession, all kind of thing, you know. But when we move to the new church, which is located on Garland Road and near the Buckner, we can have more activity then. |00:27:29| BRODY: Yeah, tell me about those activities. What do you remember? TRAN: The--I stay a member of that church, but because I&#039 ; m living too far away, so I go to church here in Richardson. Once in a while I went out there. My name is still there. (laughs) Then when we moved to have a new church we have a new pastor, we have all kind of activity: teaching Sunday school, all the activity, a woman club, a man club, and Boy Scout and all kinds of stuff. It&#039 ; s a regular--same with American church. BRODY: Yes, but you replicated everything for the Vietnamese community. TRAN: Yeah, that&#039 ; s right. Um-hm. BRODY: So, like the children that grew up in the Vietnamese Catholic church there, what are you impressions of them? Some people say when the second generation is being raised in another country that they may lose some of their culture. What are your observations about that? TRAN: Well, I agree with that, because seeing here, thing that I&#039 ; d like to mention to you that--when I buy that church for them, I think we probably used about max thirty years. So you have all the age, people phase out and kids kept growing up, they adapt to a new culture and they can blend into society complete, but it&#039 ; s really not that--that not true anymore. BRODY: That&#039 ; s not what happened? TRAN: No, it&#039 ; s not. Of course, it Americanized somewhat, but it still continue to work with the church, come to the church and enjoy all kind of activity, except it not a hundred percent. It phase out somewhat, but I see it still going. |00:29:18| BRODY: That&#039 ; s great. Are there new families coming in still? TRAN: Oh yeah, sure, yeah. They tend to go to the church every Sunday, and they also involve to other activity, but the Sundays are the main thing. Like you said, some Vietnamese kids don&#039 ; t even speak Vietnamese anymore. BRODY: That&#039 ; s true. So how do you feel-- TRAN: Because the problem with the parent, they don&#039 ; t speak Vietnamese at home. Some of them, they&#039 ; re afraid the kid don&#039 ; t speak English, so they try to work with the kid at home, and soon the kid forget the Vietnamese. My family, all my kids speak English and also Vietnamese. But they cannot write Vietnamese, they cannot read. But they speak very well. I speak Vietnamese at home with my wife, my mother, so they get along with it. But I don&#039 ; t know about next generation, about my grandkid. That&#039 ; s different story. |00:30:32| BRODY: Right, right. So what do you think are the challenges for the grandkids, for example, having grown, you know, been born here and raised in English? So in trying to preserve the culture and to think about the religion, culture, those types of things, what are the biggest challenges for people who come as refugees, who are immigrants, to try to find that balance? TRAN: Well, it really hard to balance, because the kid born and raised in here, they go to school here, they spend most of their daytime at the school, they&#039 ; re communicating with the local people here, American kids. So it&#039 ; s very hard to pull them back, you know? Just some, but basically to me, exception ; not normal, exception. All my grandkid, they speak very little Vietnamese. They just Americanized almost hundred percent. They eat American food, very few, sometimes they eat some Vietnamese food, but only certain items they eat, not like us, we eat everything. BRODY: Right. That&#039 ; s a common challenge for (both talking). TRAN: Yeah, that&#039 ; s right. It&#039 ; s very hard to maintain that--that what we call the tapestry here. You know, people coming in, blending into society, and that&#039 ; s it. No exception. |00:31:52| BRODY: Right. So what to you are the--you know, even in the time that you initially first came, what were some of the key pieces of Vietnamese culture and lifestyle that you wanted to make sure that you carried on, even though you were in a new place? TRAN: Well, the thing is, the way the family of Vietnamese is, they try to have the hierarchy ; grandparent, parent, kid. But it not in here. We try to do that, but I doubt that we can maintain it long term. BRODY: Here in the United States? TRAN: Yes. BRODY: Why? TRAN: Well, because--(laughs) it&#039 ; s Americanized. They different story, different culture. And I can&#039 ; t say bad or good, but it&#039 ; s culture. We can&#039 ; t change the culture. BRODY: Right. You&#039 ; re in a new place and-- TRAN: Yeah. And back home, we have--the first person had to learn how to become good human being first, before technology, before everything, but first. The second in there is the train, your education and talent, it varies and so on, so on. The people lacking good character, it couldn&#039 ; t be good people. So that&#039 ; s the--it&#039 ; s different with Vietnamese, they main thing differently. I don&#039 ; t know good or bad, but that the way we go. BRODY: The different mindset, it sounds like, that you&#039 ; re saying. So as--go ahead, I&#039 ; m sorry. |00:33:28| TRAN: Yeah, let me say just one example. One of my last daughter get married last year. And she asked me for the list of the people she will invite. And I gave her the list, but I forgot one important thing: that I had to put my name on the outside label. So when she get pick up the list, guest list, and got the invitation, she put her and her husband address on the envelope and invitation inside. She mail out--and some people don&#039 ; t even know, recognize her. See what I&#039 ; m saying? BRODY: Right. TRAN: They don&#039 ; t do that in Vietnam. They don&#039 ; t do that, period. BRODY: From the father. TRAN: Because some of my relative, they even don&#039 ; t know her name, because she young. She is young. And I have to call every single one and apologize for her, I said I don&#039 ; t intend to do that, just forgive us for that. I call every one of them. BRODY: Yeah, you called every single one? TRAN: (laughs) Every single one. BRODY: Because it was a cultural misunderstanding? TRAN: Yeah. The younger one, no problem, with her brother and sister, cousin. Shouldn&#039 ; t been a problem, but the people who are, like, my age or above, I had to call. Some of them, they were open. They said, &quot ; Don&#039 ; t worry about it.&quot ; But they do come. BRODY: But they came? That&#039 ; s good. TRAN: Yeah, they came. (laughs) BRODY: Yeah, once they understood, right? That&#039 ; s an interesting--an interesting story because your-- TRAN: Now, in our country they cannot do that, period. BRODY: Right. That would not happen, right? TRAN: It would not happen back home. |00:35:22| BRODY: That makes me think--this is not the same subject at all, but I wanted to ask you about your thoughts about social class. When you came here to the United States, we talked about how your job was quite different than what you had been doing in Vietnam, but did you have--do you remember anything about your observations about the differences in the United States regarding social class? TRAN: You mean the poor, rich, middle class, so on, so forth? BRODY: Yes. TRAN: Yeah. The United States, I want to say it&#039 ; s a--we don&#039 ; t see that that much here. You go outside on the street, you see people walking around, you don&#039 ; t know who rich or who not. They dress somewhat the same. They drive almost similar vehicle, you know? Even maybe older a few years, but not much different. Back home, social class is very clear. If you own a car, you&#039 ; re the top of the class. You walk, then you low class. (both laugh) BRODY: So it&#039 ; s very easy to tell, right? TRAN: And the way you dress, old clothes, new clothes, people ride bicycle compared to motorcycle, compared to vehicle, so-- BRODY: There&#039 ; s a hierarchy. TRAN: Yeah, hierarchy. And now we&#039 ; re here, and you can&#039 ; t tell that much. You have billion dollar, I don&#039 ; t have, but I think you and I is almost the same. Same level. |00:36:58| BRODY: Right. Why do you think that is? TRAN: It is the graded you here. They don&#039 ; t look at the people because they don&#039 ; t expect people be that person rich, or poor. BRODY: It&#039 ; s just based on the person. TRAN: Yeah. BRODY: So did you feel like in your getting to the United States, did you move from one social class to another? Or were you kind of the same? TRAN: It not only social class, but because I didn&#039 ; t move that much--except I do get some better position in later life but I don&#039 ; t think that a different social class. I make enough money to feed the family, brought the kid up and something like that. I&#039 ; m not rich because I&#039 ; m not--if you want to be rich in this society you have to do business, not to work for somebody, and get rich--it don&#039 ; t work that way. BRODY: Right. So that wasn&#039 ; t much of a factor in your thinking? TRAN: That&#039 ; s true, yeah. |00:37:54| BRODY: Yeah, or your experience. So you had four kids come with you from Vietnam, and then they were in school here. What are some of--you talked a little bit about some of the differences between the schools, you know, serving lunch here and things like that. How about the academics? What were your experiences with teachers and with your kids as they were going to school? TRAN: They different, too. Very, very different. On the same subject, after the four kid came here, we had two more coming here. BRODY: Oh, okay, two more that were born here? TRAN: Two daughters, yes. And the one who came in &#039 ; 75, we had second daughter in &#039 ; 76. Then ten year later we have another one girl--&#039 ; 86, so ten year apart. And all married and got out. BRODY: Oh, congratulations. (laughs) TRAN: The oldest one fifty, I think he fifty on January the ninth, a couple of more day. He&#039 ; s fifty. The youngest one, she thirty-three. Thirty-three in April. Tax day, she born on tax day. BRODY: On tax day. (laughs) TRAN: Right. She not here ; she&#039 ; s in Maryland. |00:39:04| BRODY: In Maryland, I see. So school-wise, were the--was the transition for your kids smooth into the school system? What were some challenges, if there were any? TRAN: You mean the-- BRODY: The kids in the school, or dealing with teachers or academics. TRAN: Oh, I think they got along very well. They had no problem whatsoever. Through interacting with all the American kid, no problem at all. Matter of fact, the first six month after my first son get in first grade, in a public school in east Dallas, the principal recognize him as a good citizen. So it&#039 ; s only six month. BRODY: Six months, he was a good citizen. TRAN: Very quickly, you know? BRODY: Yes, yes, that&#039 ; s great. TRAN: The teacher love him, he do so well in school even. And somehow, they pick up English very quickly. |00:40:07| BRODY: Yes, kids do, right? How about you? Speaking of language learning, you already were quite good at English but you, you know, had to transition into all the things that you had to do here. TRAN: Yeah, that&#039 ; s right. BRODY: What were some of the ways that you tried to improve your English or work on that? TRAN: (laughs) Yeah, just read paper and watch television, you know. I probably went to school too. But it&#039 ; s hard. I mean, the thing of the culture, custom, those are hard to get used to-- BRODY: Even more than language? TRAN: --it take a long time. But other than that, I don&#039 ; t think English ever was a problem with. I mean-- |00:40:49| BRODY: What were some of the customs that were confusing to you? TRAN: (laughs) Oh, yeah. Let me see. The customs, you know, one of the only--the holiday, the Christmas Day? Yeah. We had to have a very good in the decoration and Christmas tree and gifts and parties, so on, so forth. We had very little back home. We had so much food here ; as a matter of fact, over-full. It&#039 ; s too much. BRODY: Right. Too much food? (laughs) TRAN: And we had little back home. (laughs) Over-gifts, you know? Some of my grandkid had, maybe, twenty gift. Back home? Zero. BRODY: Zero gifts. (laughs) TRAN: Yeah. (laughs) So the culture is different. But they--I mean, even they don&#039 ; t have anything, but they do behave themselves. |00:41:54| BRODY: That&#039 ; s interesting. So yeah, the holidays are different here. So did the Men&#039 ; s Club at St. Pius or your neighbors or people at work or school, is that the main way that you learned about American customs? TRAN: That&#039 ; s true, yeah. That&#039 ; s true. By interacting with people from church and other organization, at work. I think they do train. Workshop is the main thing, because you be in there eight-hour a day. But it didn&#039 ; t take that much long for me to learn to get around and accustomed to the custom, and so--and, you know, it&#039 ; s hard to start a new life with my age--at thirty-two, by that time--to start over. BRODY: Yeah. You really did. TRAN: It got difficult, very, very difficult, because I have a big family too. BRODY: Yep. A lot of responsibility and a lot to learn all at once. So your mother was here with you, you said, as well. Did she live in the same house? TRAN: She used to stay with us from &#039 ; 75 until, I think--I want to say until &#039 ; 88. Then she moved to stay with my sister. My sister, by that time, she married, she had a couple kid, so she bought a house and my mother move over there and we stay up here by ourselves, and the last kid, which is now thirty-two, thirty-three years old, we put in daycare. It was two years of age. At St. Pius X school, they have daycare. BRODY: They have daycare there. So you guys stayed in that community, you didn&#039 ; t move. TRAN: Right. We stayed in that community until--let&#039 ; s see, 1998. Then we moved out to Richardson twenty years ago. |00:44:11| BRODY: Okay. In that--the pastor at St. Pius X was Monsignor Weinzapfel, is that right? TRAN: Yes. BRODY: Tell me about your memories of him. I&#039 ; ve heard he was very involved with the Vietnamese community. TRAN: Oh yeah, he&#039 ; s a (laughs) very good person. He very active with the helping Vietnamese to settle. He let us use a lot of facility that we need for our activity, including the church, and didn&#039 ; t charge us that much, you know. It was a collection during Mass and give some back to him. He always helped the Vietnamese in way that&#039 ; s try to settle down in this area, and I really was good friends with him. BRODY: You were good friends with him? TRAN: Yeah. Anything he need for Vietnamese, he call me. He said--anybody confusing, he said, &quot ; Call Sao.&quot ; (??), but sometime later, when we moved to Richardson, we did invite him to come over to have supper with us and things like that. |00:45:19| BRODY: Oh, that&#039 ; s nice. Why was he so interested, do you think, in helping the Vietnamese community settle down here? TRAN: Well, I think that one thing that normally the Catholics try to do that, work with refugees, but I think the group of Vietnamese were the first group he deal with. By that time, he about midfifties, still fairly young. So sometimes he rode a bicycle from church to our home and I was at work and my wife, my mother, and the kid at home, except the one in school. He just speak English and none of my [family] member speak English. So he call over, said, &quot ; Let&#039 ; s say a prayer.&quot ; So my people say in Vietnamese, he say in English. (laughs) Then he bless and ride bicycle, go home. (Brody laughs) He&#039 ; s a funny guy. |00:46:18| BRODY: (laughs) So he was a flexible guy as far as prayers go and language, too. That&#039 ; s a great story. So I wanted to ask you, on a different note, did your family or you, do you remember any experiences of discrimination or racism as you were trying to settle here? TRAN: I don&#039 ; t think so, no. BRODY: Not at all? That&#039 ; s good. Why do you think that it went so smoothly, in that regard, for your family? TRAN: Well, I probably--basically, the reason we didn&#039 ; t run into the discrimination problem, like you&#039 ; re just saying, basically, is just lucky, you know? BRODY: Hm, yeah, lucky. TRAN: Just lucky, you get lucky. They could deal with a group, don&#039 ; t have this kind of problem. That&#039 ; s the only thing I can say, because we have--I see people dealing with that, but we&#039 ; re not in that. So very hard to recognize discrimination. |00:47:22| BRODY: Well, that&#039 ; s fortunate that you did not experience it ; that&#039 ; s good. Do you have much interaction, back then, with other groups that are discriminated against in the community? African Americans or-- TRAN: No, I don&#039 ; t have that opportunity. I even involved to a lot of activities that help the Vietnamese in the area. I also join the--what they call--Rotary Club. I was vice president, White Rock Rotary Club. BRODY: Oh, good. What kind of activities did the White Rock Rotary Club do? TRAN: You mean the-- BRODY: What did you do with them? What was your-- TRAN: Oh, we have other activity. We go out, help people, and thing like that, basically. The Rotary Club ; I think you know that club, right? |00:48:22| BRODY: Yes, I know the Rotary Club, yes. So going back to the--you were such a leader in the St. Pius community and the Vietnamese community, and people came to you with questions and the church came to you with questions if there were things that people were going through. What were some of the sorts of problems that you were faced with sometimes when they asked you for your help? TRAN: Well, the thing is sometimes they--you mean dealing with my people who had some problem? Well, the thing is, sometimes they, sadly, would more expectation than it should be, and they should know my capacity is limit, you know. So sometimes they asked a little bit more than I can do. BRODY: What were the kind of things that they were asking for help with? TRAN: Well, the thing sometimes they&#039 ; d get me to bring kid to the hospital, but I got busy with other stuff, you know? And I can understand. I mean, most people didn&#039 ; t speak English by that time. But I couldn&#039 ; t cover everything. I do help that a lot, but only so much I can do. BRODY: Yeah. So sometimes you were asked to do a lot of things-- TRAN: Yeah, family have work, so on and so forth. (laughs) BRODY: School, right. So your capacity was limited. TRAN: Yeah, was limit. I wanted to do more, but it&#039 ; s hard. So I think one family that, he came here with his wife and no kids, left all the kid behind, and he speak no English whatsoever. And so I think by the time he work for Bishop Lynch High School-- Catholic high school, down further to the road. I&#039 ; m not sure you know that high school or not. Bishop Lynch. BRODY: Bishop Lynch High School? TRAN: Yeah, high school. And work there at as a janitor. You know, the (??) And every time they had a problem they call me. The sister who in charge that school call me too, so they&#039 ; re trying to phase out the problem, you know? |00:50:25| BRODY: Yeah, so you&#039 ; re trying to do your job, to take care of your family and still help. TRAN: But I do help a lot of people, except that only so much I can do. BRODY: Absolutely. Well, the community grew so much, also. I would imagine that there were so--over time, more and more people who had things that they needed help with. (laughs) TRAN: Oh yeah, that&#039 ; s right, yeah. What I&#039 ; m saying is only the beginning of that first-- maybe first two year or so. After that, you know, they got a lot of young kid who speak English and learn more English, they get used to the life in United States, so they don&#039 ; t ask for help that much anymore. BRODY: Right, right, because they have other people to turn to as well. So you had your hands full at the beginning, right? (laughs) TRAN: Yeah. It phased out in about a couple of year. I had to raise my family and put kid in school. (laughs) |00:51:21| BRODY: So, your kids--when--this is a question that we&#039 ; ve kind of talked about a little bit already, but when you think about yourself and your--did you become an American citizen eventually? TRAN: Yes. In order to become American citizen we have to stay in the United States five years. And then you got the--I think, got green card, and then take another five year to apply for citizenship. So we all become citizenship in, I want to say, probably 1986. And only me, my wife, and the rest of the kids, they automatically come in, become citizens. |00:52:19| BRODY: The kids, right? So when you think of yourself now after you&#039 ; ve gotten the American citizenship, what does it mean to you to be American? Or do you think of yourself as American? Do you think of yourself as Vietnamese, Vietnamese American? TRAN: Oh, it&#039 ; s mixed. It&#039 ; s mixed feelings. BRODY: Yeah? Tell me about your feelings about that? TRAN: Well, I&#039 ; m very happy to become American citizenship, because that&#039 ; s the goal, to stay here permanently. And if I can stay here without citizenship, you cannot quite well. So I&#039 ; m very happy with it, and I&#039 ; d like to tell you another story, becoming citizenship. When I grant first citizenship, my company throw a party. I think about sixty people come over and enjoy it--a reception, rather. And we all--they all happy. But they ask me to make a speech, and I didn&#039 ; t prepare for it. And I tell people, &quot ; Lady and gentlemen, I&#039 ; m very happy to become American citizenship. But when I first come here, I don&#039 ; t have nothing. But you took me in, give me your country, give me the church to practice, give me job, and give me friendship.&quot ; Some of the women cried. (laughs) |00:53:51| BRODY: That sounds beautiful. That&#039 ; s beautiful, and you didn&#039 ; t prepare. (laughs) TRAN: Not even at all. BRODY: That was from the heart. Right. So your mixed feelings about both of those things. TRAN: Yeah, mixed feelings. I still bleed all(??) Vietnamese, but I still like to become American citizenship. BRODY: Yeah, and this is--your life has been here at this point, so--and your family. |00:54:13| TRAN: I haven&#039 ; t been back home yet. BRODY: Really? You haven&#039 ; t been back? TRAN: Yeah, the thing is--the thing I--all my brother, sister, my mother here, my wife here, my kids here. My wife only have one brother here. The rest of her brother, they&#039 ; re back home. We do communicate once in a while, we would call them, talk with them and thing like that. But that&#039 ; s--I think she have one, two, three, she have four brother-- BRODY: Back there? TRAN: Yeah. She&#039 ; s only girl in the family. BRODY: And she&#039 ; s the only one who came here too. Did she work after she came here? TRAN: Oh she work at--let&#039 ; s see. When she give the first daughter here, 1976, she worked--at &#039 ; 78, she started work. Because I myself, I am unable to cover everything, because my salary is still very low by that. And she go work for some company doing some electronic work, like assembly, put things together. She work until the year 2000, she left the workforce. BRODY: Wow. So she had her own-- TRAN: Yeah. She&#039 ; d stay home, take care of the kids and so on, so forth. BRODY: Yes, that&#039 ; s interesting. TRAN: Take care of the kids, and take care grandkid. |00:56:02| BRODY: And grandkids again. (laughs) A mom&#039 ; s work is never done. So with--in terms of politics, have you been involved in politics here in the United States? TRAN: No. All we do is go voting, that&#039 ; s about it. BRODY: Just vote. Well, that&#039 ; s an involvement-- TRAN: No activity. BRODY: Are there differences that you&#039 ; ve observed or were you particularly involved in Vietnam with politics? TRAN: No, in Vietnam I don&#039 ; t involve in politic at all, but over here I do vote. That&#039 ; s all. |00:56:28| BRODY: Yeah. So when you think about yourself and your identity and all of the experiences that you&#039 ; ve had in your life, what are some of the thoughts that you reflect on about, you know, as you look back on your life? TRAN: Well, I look at my life. I have these friend that say that I really accomplished that much. It happens a lot, because you change from life of Vietnam to United States and get used to here, and set up the family and raise them in a well-mannered--all of my kid went to school and a lot of them graduate school. I think only one didn&#039 ; t have a graduate degree. Five of them-- BRODY: That&#039 ; s pretty impressive, yeah. Did you tell them that was an expectation? TRAN: No, they go to school and just encourage them, but I never tell them, &quot ; You have to do this,&quot ; no. Matter of fact, I have two medical doctors, two lawyer, and one teacher, and one business. BRODY: Wow. That&#039 ; s an impressive family. TRAN: Yeah. And they all kids, they marry to five doctors. So end up five doctor in my family. No, marry three doctor, then that&#039 ; s two and three together, make five doctor, and two lawyer. BRODY: Wow. You&#039 ; ve got it covered. (laughs) TRAN: Yeah. (laughs) |00:57:59| BRODY: So you never told them, &quot ; I expect--&quot ; TRAN: No. I don&#039 ; t want to change them. &quot ; You have to become this.&quot ; Sometimes I try to talk them, encourage them, but I don&#039 ; t force them. I don&#039 ; t force them to--certain people forcing kid learn certain subject, but I don&#039 ; t do that as a trait(??). The same thing with when they get married. Of course, I like the person for those who marry, but I cannot tell them, &quot ; You have to marry this.&quot ; That&#039 ; s the line. They make mistake, they learn from. But can you imagine if you tell the kid, &quot ; You&#039 ; ve got to marry this poor girl or this boy,&quot ; and five year later they don&#039 ; t work out very well, who really carry the responsibility? So I don&#039 ; t want to do that. They&#039 ; re on their own. Not only that, when they marry, they on their own. I don&#039 ; t stick my nose in their family. That is the way it should be. They make mistake, they pay for it. I keep telling kid today, tomorrow you decide to go buy helicopter, go buy it if you can pay for it. But I won&#039 ; t stop you. (laughs) BRODY: Right. So a wise father. (laughs) TRAN: Yeah. (laughs) It&#039 ; s true. I would never call and said, &quot ; What are you doing?&quot ; No. I call and say hello and things like that. Otherwise, I can&#039 ; t survive with that many kids. |00:59:40| BRODY: (laughs) That&#039 ; s funny. So I want to go back just briefly to talk about the Vietnamese community in Dallas. In terms of your own perceptions, the community as it&#039 ; s changed from the 1970s to today, what is the--what are some of the characteristics of the Vietnamese community in Dallas? TRAN: Well, it&#039 ; s very hard to say, but I mean it&#039 ; s kind of mixed bag, you know, a lot of people. It truly good, move to forward, but some people left behind. So you can tie those together, and to me, if people move forward they seem very good, you know? They seem very good, they seem get along well, they do act as good people, American people as well. But some people left behind because they don&#039 ; t have enough education to adapt, adapt the new culture. So they&#039 ; re left behind, they leave the for not bring a light(??). BRODY: So there&#039 ; s a difference even within-- TRAN: But not that many, okay? Them different. |01:01:02| BRODY: Do you feel like the community is unified in terms of how they interact with the larger society? TRAN: They do, but not hundred percent, you know? It&#039 ; s always a crack here and there. BRODY: Yeah. Are there differences in terms of people belonging to different religions-- TRAN: Different religion, different education level, different knowledge, it is complete different. BRODY: Yeah, that&#039 ; s interesting, especially because the larger community in this area has gotten very diverse and a lot of different groups not-- TRAN: Oh yeah. BRODY: I think in 1975 it wasn&#039 ; t as diverse, so the Vietnamese were the first. TRAN: That&#039 ; s true, because it&#039 ; s so many ethnic group come in after &#039 ; 75 besides Vietnamese, you know? Middle East and Chinese and Indian and Australia, all kind. It once can be Europe, whatever. It&#039 ; s a big culture. BRODY: Yeah. It&#039 ; s very different now than it was when you first arrived. |01:02:14| TRAN: Oh, yes. It is difficult, but it&#039 ; s good for United States. That&#039 ; s the way United States should be. That&#039 ; s the way--it produce a lot good people, because they mix blood, mix culture. You look at people in Europe, they so pure. So therefore, it&#039 ; s tougher for them to deal with. Over here it mix. They bring all kind of culture in, bring all kind of language in. I don&#039 ; t know how many languages the people in the United States they speak. BRODY: Right. Many many. TRAN: It&#039 ; s over the hundreds. BRODY: Yeah. So immigration is a key part of-- TRAN: Oh yeah, there&#039 ; s no doubt about that. The reason make United States strong is because the mixed culture. If you look at the--if you look more, lean toward the interior you see all the, like, chicken. When they mix blood, chicken strong and big. But they pure blood, it&#039 ; s skinny. (both laugh) That&#039 ; s one way to explore the thinking, you know? BRODY: So some diversity, right? TRAN: Yeah. You need that. |01:03:31| BRODY: I guess I&#039 ; ve kind of asked you all the questions I was going to, but I wonder if there&#039 ; s anything that I didn&#039 ; t ask you that you&#039 ; d like to share ; a story or your thoughts about-- TRAN: I think you asked--I&#039 ; m okay with almost everything. If later on you need, just call me. BRODY: Okay, I will. Well, I really appreciate your time and enjoyed hearing your stories. And I think it&#039 ; s an important story and I&#039 ; m glad to help you tell it. TRAN: I don&#039 ; t know how much I help you but I do it my best, you know. BRODY: It was wonderful, thank you very much. 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 Sao Tran,” Becoming Texans Becoming Americans, accessed February 5, 2023, https://becomingtexansbecomingamericans.org/items/show/61.