mhs 1975

Mechanics class students of Marianas High School, circa 1975.

ON Feb. 7, 1975, Marianas Variety included a news story regarding the State of the Marianas District message of the district administrator or DistAd, Francisco C. Ada. At the time the NMI was still one of the six districts of the U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The other districts were the Marshall Islands, Palau, Ponape (Pohnpei), Truk (Chuuk) and Yap. The DistAd was an appointee of the American high commissioner who, in turn, was an appointee of the U.S. president.

In his message, the DistAd mentioned “the various improvements” in education, health, tourism, water and power. However, he added, “I shall be remis not to touch on the many problems we all share,” referring to the “continued increase in crime, especially among the youth.” He said “catching the culprit and sending him to jail is  not a conclusive solution and may not be a corrective accomplishment.” He urged the district legislature “to assist us in constructing more recreational facilities and planning more recreational programs to keep our youngsters occupied so that they will not roam the streets.”

In the same issue, MV reported that the Ad-Hoc Committee on Gambling had met with the Trust Territory tourism officer, Mike Ashman, who mentioned Pagan as a possible location for a casino hotel “because of its isolated location.”

One of the two letters to the editor MV published was from a local resident complaining about the state of the island’s public roads. “I am referring to those roads that are ‘stripped off’ all around the villages. This has been the major complaint of motorists for over a year already…. Surely something has to be done before public chaos erupts concerning this matter.” He said whenever secondary roads were repaired, “they [TT Public Works] just spread coral, have the scrapers level it and presto it’s done!!!”  He was also unhappy about “the sewage pumped out of [the Bowling Alley’s] septic tank RIGHT OUT INTO THE LAWN thus worsening the state of the health at this present time.”

As for the other letter to the editor, the author called the members of the Marianas Political Status Commission “a bunch of fools” if they believed that the Covenant with the U.S. would “promote and protect the best interest of the people” of the NMI.  (In a plebiscite held on June 17, 1975, 78.8% of the valid ballots favored the Covenant. Voter turnout was over 93%.)

In other news, “Secretarial School to Graduate 13”:

“A 9-month long, college level, secretarial training program is in its last week here on Saipan. The classes are held each morning from 7:30 to 11:30 in a building behind the Department of Public Safety….

“For the program, the [TT] government awarded the contract to the Honolulu-based Cannon’s International Business College” which sent a teacher to Saipan to conduct the classes.

Out of the many who applied, MV reported, only 25 were chosen “as the appropriated funds for the project were initially only about $16,000 [worth about $80,000 today].” Of the original 25, “only 13 of the class remain as the rest dropped out for various reasons.” The chosen students were high school graduates with some experience as secretary. “All the participants are excused from work each morning, whether they work for the government or for private firms. They receive their salaries while attending classes.”

One of the students told MV that her dream was “to have a permanent college on Saipan which will offer privileges especially to those without scholarships as expenses on travel and board, etc. would be saved.”

In MV’s Feb. 14, 1975 issue, our editorial page included Bonifacio “B.B.” Basilius’s “What They Say” column. “There is a rule of thumb that is perhaps more true here in [the Trust Territory] than anywhere else in the world,” he wrote. “And that is: the farther removed from the seat of government you are, the more you open your mouth.” He then recounted his recent conversation with friends from Truk while having a drink at a bar there.

“What do you think of the Congress [of Micronesia] fellows?” B.B. asked his friends.

“What Congress? That bunch of criminals masquerading as decent folks?” replied F., one of his friends. “I tell you, we are better off without them.”

“You are just saying that,” said S., another friend of B.B., “because the candidates you supported lost in the elections.”

F., however, insisted that the members of Congress were “criminals.”

“You call them criminals!” S. replied. “Let me tell you what a criminal is. Your candidate is getting rich because….”

B.B. said the police raided the bar that night. “According to the manager, two fellows just got up and started a fight for no reason whatsoever.”

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Editor

Zaldy Dandan is the recipient of the Best Editorial Writer Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the CNMI Humanities Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism. His three books are available on amazon.com

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