Lt. Chung and the Howlies

In the Spring of 1964 i attended IOBC (Infantry Officers Basic Course) at Ft. Benning, Georgia as my first duty assignment after graduating from Texas Tech and being commissioned in January.  Even though most of my fellow students were typical Caucasians, the class included an eclectic mix of American ethnicities.

Like, for example, Lt. Chung from Hawaii, who besides his exotic appearance distinguished himself by pronouncing the name of his native state in the strangest manner [hɐˈwɐiʔi], breaking what i was saying as the final diphthong into two separate sounds with a glottal stop between them.  How was i to know that was the way it was pronounced way out there in the middle of the ocean?

The only Chinese i had ever seen in real life before that were the folks who ran the Ming Tree restaurant in Lubbock, Texas and an exchange student whose path i crossed on campus but with whom i do not recall speaking.  And clearly many of my fellow students back then were similarly inexperienced, so for us Chung was an exotic encounter.

Other students were clearly more familiar with Chinese people and engaged in good natured ethnic banter with him.  Chung was a good sport about it, and laughingly referred to the rest of us as ‘you howlies’, an expression i hadn’t heard but assumed meant that we were howlingly funny…in a jocular way.

And then i went off to Germany for two years of language tales and a little US Army in my spare time.

Several years later, when i was in graduate school, i ran across the Hawaiian pejorative for Caucasians, the equivalent of ‘gringo’, a strange word spelled ‘haole’.  It took a while to sink in that this was what Chung had been calling us and that he’d been giving as good as he took.

Oh, and speaking of exotics, here’s an Aeonium arboreum atropurpureum around the corner on Liberty Street that’s just about to burst:

Aeonium arboreum atropurpureum

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