Newsflash

Texas Textbooks

Back in May, the Texas State Board of Education held a public hearing on proposed changes to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills social studies curriculum standards. During the hearing, five Houston-area residents — Donna Cole, Glen Gondo, Dr. Abbie Grubb, Sandra Tanamachi and Linda Toyota — testified to the importance of including the Japanese American experience during World War II. As a result, Texas students will now learn about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Executive Order 9066 which led to the internment of Japanese Americans. 

Every 10 years, the SBOE reviews the TEKS curriculum standards for each area of study. Since Texas is the second largest buyer of textbooks in the nation (after California), national publishers often use the TEKS standards to determine the information to include in their books. Hence, Texas became the focus of a national debate after the proposed changes to the TEKS social studies curriculum were announced in March. The partisan SBOE, comprised of 10 Republicans and five Democrats, was viewed by some states as too conservative in its interpretation of history. The California Senate went so far as to pass legislation stating they would not approve any textbooks, which used the TEKS standards. Within Texas, the Texas Education Agency received tens of thousands of letters and comments about the proposed changes and 206 registrants to testify at the May 19 hearing before the final vote on May 21. Cole, Gondo, Dr. Grubb, Tanamachi and Toyota represented the concerns of the Japanese American community.

Cole said, “I really didn’t know if our testimony was going to change anything; but it was worth a shot. All I knew is that we had to go do it.”

The previous curriculum included mention of the Japanese American internment after Pearl Harbor. However, the board intended to change the wording to equate the internment of Germans and Italians with that of the Japanese in an attempt to eliminate racial bias. According to Dr. Grubb, a historian whose dissertation was on the 442nd RCT, that equation is inaccurate. 

In a written release, Dr. Grubb explained, “Executive Order 9066 allowed for the illegal removal and confinement of over 110,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans from the West Coast as a result of racism, not military necessity. In contrast, the internment of Italian, German and Japanese Americans by the Department of Justice and FBI was based on a centuries-old law allowing non-citizens of an enemy nation to be confined legally and with a right to a trial.”  

In addition, no amendment included the all-volunteer Japanese American 442nd RCT, which would become the most decorated unit of its size and length of service in military history or the Military Intelligence Service linguists who risked their lives to gather information for the U.S.Of the five representatives addressing these issues, four were personally affected by the events following Pearl Harbor. While Dr. Grubb provided credibility as the historian, the rest punctuated their testimony with personal accounts and losses.  

Cole said, “All of us had different experiences. Linda’s family was interred, so was Glen Gondo’s family. Glen’s family was actually sent to the horse stables in Santa Ana; and his aunt lost her life because she became ill from the unsanitary conditions. We were living in Colorado, so we were not interred. though my father was in the 442.”

Toyota said, “My dad and his three brothers were in the 442, and we lost an uncle in the war. My dad’s mom had a stroke a week after Pearl Harbor. They didn’t know if it was due to the stress.”

Cole, representing the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, spoke first about the importance of the Japanese American story and the role of the 442nd RCT and MIS in its history. Her comments served as a general introduction about why the group was testifying.In a subsequent interview, Cole revealed another reason she felt the testimony was so vital: so it would never happen again because, on 9-11, it almost had.

At an Asian Pacific Heritage Dinner, Cole heard Norman Mineta speak about the events following the attacks. He was the Secretary of the Department of Transportation who grounded the planes on 9-11. In a meeting in the White House basement, while the heads of state were trying to decide what to do next, a suggestion was made to start bringing in Muslims from heavily concentrated areas. 

He stood up and said, “You can’t do that. I was 10 years old when you did that to the Japanese Americans.”

Cole said, “I thought, ‘Oh, my God. Did God put him there for that reason? He was meant to be in that place at that time because who knows, we might have rounded up all the Muslims.’ So, that was another reason we wanted to make sure it was in the books, so that it doesn’t happen to anybody ever again.”

Dr. Grubb, representing the Go for Broke National Education Foundation, gave the historical context of the Japanese American internment and EO 9066. Gondo spoke next for the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, as well as the Japanese American Citizens League. His testimony highlighted the various Japanese American divisions, which liberated German death camps at the end of the war. 

Toyota, also representing the Japanese American Citizens League, reemphasized the difference of the Japanese internment camps from the German and Italian experience. She spoke of the rescue of the Texas Lost Battalion and her father’s service with the 442nd RTC. Toyota then read from the “Japanese American Creed,” written at the beginning of the war to demonstrate the commitment of Americans of Japanese ancestry to the U.S.

Finally, Tanamachi, an elementary school teacher representing the Japanese American Veteran’s Association, reinforced the prior testimony about the importance of including the 442nd RTC and MIS linguists in the curriculum. 

Though not all of their proposed amendments passed, the group is content they contributed to changing the lessons Texas students will learn about Japanese Americans during WWII.

The five continue to work on different initiatives to ensure the men of the 442nd RTC are honored and the history of all Japanese Americans is remembered. In addition to trying to raise funds for a memorial for the 442nd RTC in Houston, they are working to secure a Congressional Gold Medal and commemorative stamp. Dr. Grubb is working for Go For Broke and the Harris County Department of Education to train and provide supplemental information to teachers. They hope to continue the training around the state. 

For more information about the history of the 442nd RCT and to view oral histories, visit www.goforbroke.org.


Nikki Rosenberg is a staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.

Archway Gallery

Archway Gallery, started by a group of women as an opportunity to advance their careers, has become a long-standing fixture in Houston’s art community. In March 1976, a trio of local female artists —  Marianne Hornbuckle, Stephanie Nadolski and Janet Hassinger — wanted a permanent place to display their work. It was early in their careers, each building resumes, showing at juried shows, art league shows and outdoor art festivals. 

“At some point, we thought, we could do better than this,” Hornbuckle said.

She and Nadolski liked the idea of a cooperative gallery, where each member-artist’s work would be on display year-round and prominently featured once a year. This would also prove more profitable than showing at commercial galleries, which take up to 50 percent commission on each work sold. Artist Hilary Page was taking classes at the Jung Center, knew of an empty room there that was spacious and well lit and negotiated a space with the director of the center. With a vision and a space to hang, the trio gathered a group of ladies — many who knew each other from the local street show scene — to form a core group of member-artists.

This new group, including June Adler, Roberta Cooper, Judy Bush and Mary Bush, set to work right away with Nadolski as director. They chose a name, Archway Gallery, for the arches in the Jung Center’s architecture. To get started, they contacted several successful cooperatives around the country and used their guidelines to determine Archway’s rules of operation. 

Archway Gallery’s first show, featuring 12 member-artists, was held in May 1976. Many of the first artists were involved in the Watercolor Art Society of Houston. Almost 35 years later, Archway Gallery is home to Houston’s largest cooperative of local artists. From painting and sculpture to pottery and wood, art in every medium of every style is on display. The recent move to a 4,000-square-foot space on Dunlavy allowed Archway to double its membership, now representing 30 artists. Director John Slaby says each artist has a vested interest in making the gallery a success. It still functions as a cooperative; each member has one vote, and decisions are made by majority opinion. Each artist chooses which works will be on display and sets her own prices. The gallery receives minimal commission on each work sold. Each artist works in the gallery one day per month. So, each artist can be prominently featured regularly. The group comes together to change the gallery each month. Having work on display constantly continues to be the draw to potential member-artists.

“You can spend a lot of time just hunting for places to show and shows to be in,” said Cookie Wells, who has been a member-artist for nearly 17 years. 

“When I was invited to submit an application, I jumped at it. At least I would have a place to have my work on display all the time,” said Wells.

It is also the reason many artists stay with the gallery. Several others have been members more than 10 years, including painters Margaret Scott Bock, Marsha Harris, John Slaby, Jim N. Hill, Shirl Riccetti, ceramist Vorakit Chinooksowong and sculptor Andrea Wilkinson. Slaby and Wells agree Archway Gallery is a nurturing community of passionate, enthusiastic artists. Bock, a member-artist for 30 years, said many get their feet wet at Archway Gallery and move on to other places. Ultimately, other galleries and career opportunities called away each of the founding members.

“What is uncommon about Archway Gallery, and remarkable, is that as people have come and gone, they have been replaced by others,” says Liz Spencer, a member-artist. “The business hasn’t stopped when principal artists have left.”

In addition to artist transitions, the gallery has had many homes and directors. In 1980, the gallery moved from the Jung Center into a rented space in Rice Village. It was during this transition that many of the founding members left the gallery. Bock and Ann Hartley were named co-directors and moved the gallery to a small house at Montrose and Missouri, where it would stay until 1993.The gallery then moved to the River Oaks Shopping Center on West Gray. In 2008, forced to move, they relocated to their current space on Dunlavy.

The new space has brought new opportunities to make the community aware of the gallery. In July, Archway Gallery held its second juried open competition benefiting the Houston Humane Society. In August, Archway gallery will host Picasso’s by Paws, benefiting Houston’s SNAP. Archway Readers, a monthly program that allows writers to come in and read their work, is in its 13th year.

“I’m very proud [Archway] is still there,” says Hornbuckle, who now lives and works in Santa Fe. “It’s a credit to the people who put in time and energy to make it work, dealt with the ebb and flow of membership, change of location and all of those things.”

For more information about the artists or a schedule of coming shows and special events, visit www.archwaygallery.com. 

Kim James is a staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.

Women in Retail

Jan ForresterThe past couple of years have been difficult for every industry. The retail sector was particularly affected by the economic downturn. While many businesses did not survive, others flourished in this economy. To ascertain how Houston businesses were faring Houston Woman Magazine interviewed four local women in various areas of the retail sector. We discovered surprising information about the industry, the results of the tumultuous economy and the women themselves.

The women’s reasons for entering retail were as diverse as their areas of expertise. Sandra Burnett-Walls, who opened Floors, Etc. in 1992, said, “I was a widow looking for a career change. I felt there was a need for a professional flooring company.” Jan Forrester started JD Designs, 13 years ago. 

“I ended up in retail by mistake,” she said. “I thought I was joining a fashion brand for teens, but when I got there I found out I was being hired as a sales person in fashion. Eventually, this position led me into the field of jewelry design, and now I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I think many of us get into retail because we enjoy people and enjoy helping them. Also, besides nursing and teaching, retail was the only other job option for women for many years.”

About four years ago, Beverly Poerschke opened It’s All About You, a clothing and accessory store on Memorial Drive. Previously, she was the owner of another boutique inside the loop.

She said, “Years ago, I went into retail because my mother-in-law and I wanted a creative outlet for our talents. We originally started making flower arrangements and pillows. Then we started making jewelry and wanted to have clothes to go with our jewelry. There was no conscious plan, we just evolved over time.”

In 1992, Pamela Wright and her husband, Jack, bought a pawn shop and re-named it Wright Pawn and Jewelry. Pamela became heavily involved with the buying and selling aspect of the shop because, in her own words, “I love jewelry; I love selling jewelry to people; and I love to make jewelry that’s special for people. So, it was a natural fit.”

As varied as their reasons for entering retail, so are their experiences as women. While women dominate certain retail sectors, men are more prevalent in others.

Burnett-Walls said, “There are very few women in my part of the flooring industry: installation of hardwood floors, sand/finish. There are probably many women in the actual retail portion where they are selling carpet and pre-finished flooring.”

Forrester said, “In the jewelry industry, especially, there are a greater number of women in managerial positions, and this number has been constantly increasing in the past 20 to 30 years.”

Poerschke said, “There are definitely more women on the retail side, but more men are on the wholesale side.”
Though Wright sells and designs jewelry, as well, she said, “There are more men in the pawn business. However, our pawn shop clientele is mostly women.” 

All of these enterprising women say they have had to adjust to the recent economic environment. In Houston, Hurricane Ike and the economic storm hit at virtually the same time. Since then, businesses have been trying hard to rebuild.

Burnett-Walls’s flooring business was also affected by the decline in the housing market. She said, “The economy has certainly affected sales. The housing industry has very few ‘spec’ homes; most of the sales are from remodels or custom homes.”

Forrester said, “My biggest years in business were 2007 and 2008. Then, starting with Hurricane Ike through 2009, business dropped, making it the most difficult year I’ve had in the 30-plus years I’ve been in business. But, 2010, has been a breath of fresh air. Even though I’m not back to where I was before, at least I’m sleeping at night, and business is on a steady upward slope.”

Poerschke said, “Sales have certainly been affected by the recession. I have to be very careful not to overbuy.”

Like most discount and resale stores, Wright’s business was positively affected by the recession. She said, “Our sales have increased, probably tripled. We have two sides to the business, the loan side and the buy/sell part of the business. In the latter, we’re buying used merchandise, and turning around and selling it at a discount to the public. So, the woman who wants to carry a designer handbag or wear a designer piece of jewelry, she’s buying it on a secondary market after someone else has already paid retail and worn it for a season. We’re able to stretch people’s dollars, so our sales are great.”

In order to keep doing well or get through hard times, the women look forward and change business strategies accordingly. 

Burnett-Walls revealed, “We are working on our marketing plan, considering changing our logo to update it and improving our website.”

Forrester builds her business by being involved in the community and speaking to groups about jewelry. She also meets with customers one-on-one, presenting a powerpoint of her work. 

She said, “The way I look at business is that everyone is a potential client. If they aren’t my client yet, it’s because they haven’t gotten to know me yet.”

Poerschke takes a similar approach. She said, “In my buying I try to bring unique items that are different from everyone else. I also donate parties in the store to nonprofit organizations. I set up booths at country clubs in the area to show off merchandise from the store.”

Wright is expanding her store into the space next door. She said, “The larger our storage area and vault size, the more items we can bring in on loan, and the more money we can lend to the people of Houston. Coupled with that, our showroom will be larger, so it will allow us to put more items out for sale to increase our sales.”

Regardless of the recession or the economic climate, trends and business change over time. In recent times, each of the women’s business and clients tastes have changed. 

In her industry, Burnett-Walls said, “More people are getting rid of carpet and installing hardwoods or laminate flooring.”

While Forrester is expanding her online presence, her main focus is still her customers’ needs.She said, “My niche is not only custom design but also the re-designing of existing pieces not worn (or liked) into wonderful pieces my clients love!”

Poerschke expressed a sentiment felt by many business owners when she said, “The biggest change I’ve seen in recent years is the total lack of credit for small business. Suppliers want to be paid up front. Credit card companies want to charge enormous interest rates and tons of fees. To make it these days you need your own personal money tree growing in your backyard.”

According to Wright, you may have the money in your jewelry box. She said, “With the rise in gold and silver markets, more people are selling their unwanted jewelry, coin collections, sterling silver they inherited or got as wedding gifts and no longer use. They are turning those into cash so they can do things like pay for healthcare, rent, children’s tuition or a mortgage.” 

For Wright, not being able to loan as much as a customer needs is one of the most difficult aspects of her job. However, the other women had other insights into the most demanding parts of retail.

Burnett-Walls said, “Follow through after the sale, making sure installation and service are 100 percent up to standard.”

In addition to the credit crunch, Poerschke said, “The sale mentality that has been created by bigger stores that constantly have everything on sale! No wants to buy anything unless it is on sale, plus they want an additional 20 percent off and free gift wrapping, and me to carry it to their car and drive them home!”

On the retail side of her business, Wright said, “It’s probably knowing what to stock, keeping up with the trends and knowing what women are interested in.”The one area where all the women agree and have the same opinion is the advice they have for others looking to go into retail.

Burnett-Walls said, “Know your product; enjoy people and remember the customer is always right.”

Forrester responded, “Find a product or industry you’re very excited about. You won’t want to go to work everyday if you’re not excited about it. You have to go out there; get involved, and get to know people.”

Poerschke advised, “Anyone going into retail: You have to love people; love what you are selling, and have lots of money!!!”

Wright said, “You need to know your products and focus on what you love, so your love comes through the things you carry. Whatever you do, be friendly to your customers and treat them fairly, because it’s all about long-term relationships.”

Wright continued, “The smartest thing we ever did was to buy the building. One of the reasons our business is doing so well is that we own our property, so we’re not paying rent to someone else. We own both buildings, and we made that investment early on. That’s good advice for anybody: if you can, purchase the property where your store is because that rent can go back in your business and reduce your overhead.”

In a difficult time for the economy and retail, each of these women’s businesses survived because they were willing to adapt. Though their experiences were unique, each used her business acumen and personal touch to continue to grow and thrive.

Lauren's Garden

Laurens GardenLauren’s Garden, a tribute garden in Market Square Park, was dedicated recently in memory of Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas and all those who were lost on September 11, 2001. Named after the only Houstonian aboard United Airlines Flight 93, the tranquil garden offers a serene setting for contemplation and reflection.

The garden is a gift to the city from the Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas Foundation, established by Barbara and Lawrence Catuzzi in honor of their daughter. The design exemplifies Lauren's love of the outdoors. Falling water accentuates the garden and plants will bloom sequentially year-round with colors that complement the Malou Flato benches, including the yellow Forty Heroes Roses that were bred in memory of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93. Those lost at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 are further remembered through stones of various sizes – nearly 2,900 – set in the fountain designed for the garden by Lauren Griffith.

"We are honored to have Lauren's Garden be a part of Market Square Park," said Bob Eury, executive director of the Downtown District. "It is not only rich in beauty and art, but is a peaceful reminder of the many fine Americans lost on that tragic day."

When viewed from Congress Avenue, the garden is shadowed by the Chase tower rising in the background, reminding visitors of their vulnerability and strength. The three granite walls in the fountain represent each of the September 11 crash sites – New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

Lauren's Garden is also home to Ketria Bastian Scott's cast bronze statue. Comprised of two vine-like tendrils growing from the fountain and reaching toward each other as a young tendril emerges, the sculpture was modeled after Bristlecone Pines, trees which are thought to live up to 5,000 years – longer than any other single organism. While two elements reach out toward each other in a gesture of endurance, strength and hope, the third vine growing in the granite medallion symbolizes resilience.

Key West

Key West Before I visited Key West I had the mistaken notion that the city was a part of the United States. After a day shopping Duval Street and an evening watching the sunset from Mallory Pier, I realized the degree of my mistake. I was 150 miles from Miami, and 90 miles from Havana. I was 45 miles south of the Tropic of Cancer. I was in the Conch Republic.

Normality assumes a different definition the farther one travels south of the mainland. Normal for Key West has been hard to define since before John Simonton, an Alabama businessman, paid Spain $2,000 for the island in 1822. Only mosquitoes and pirates inhabited the forsaken speck of land and, of the two, malaria was the lesser health threat. The West India Anti-Pirate Squadron chased out the pirates by 1830, leaving the island in the domain of rum-runners and wreckers, people who lived off the ships that regularly crashed on the shallow reefs. Tourists had to wait until 1912 when Henry Flagler’s railroad reached the southernmost point of the continent.

Tonight at Mallory Pier, as though it’s an unexpected occurrence, people cheer as the sun slips into the crimson sea. Technicolor clouds frame the horizon, discordant drum and guitar cords drift above the hubbub like gulls sailing overhead, and people elbow their way past jugglers, Tarot card readers, portrait artists, and self-proclaimed gurus. Mallory Pier, more famous for its sunsets than the Grand Canyon, is not the place for a tourist to blend in with the locals. But, I don’t particularly want to blend in with a drop-out stock broker with tie-died hair.

After my first day in Margaritaville, I’m not sure who owns the island, the crazies with cameras or the crazies with the Florida license plates. But twice, I was given the opportunity to own a piece of paradise myself. Time-share condo salesmen stalk tourists like barracudas after a school of sardines.

Just as seeing the sunset on Mallory Pier is obligatory, shopping Duval Street is the required introduction to the Key West scene. After strolling the first block, I realized that there is no way to walk down the crowded street and maintain a shred of dignity. But if I wanted dignity, I would have bought a ticket to Williamsburg, not the Conch Republic.

Key West has never been known for attracting, encouraging, or even condoning, a dignified image. Pirates and smugglers aren’t dignified; neither are tee-shirts with lewd messages, street vendors blowing conch horns, corner musicians emulating Jimmy Buffet, or bars that start filling shortly after breakfast. Where else could the mayor protest the military by water skiing to Cuba (a six-hour trip), and no one thinking it a particularly odd thing to do?

But for what Key West lacks in dignity, it compensates with style. It is the only town I know that can absorb a million tourists a year and maintain its identity. Duval Street is a study of Key West kitsch. Unlike most coastal tourist towns or the mega-theme parks in Orlando, Key West has turned tacky into authenticity. This town isn’t about to take anything seriously, much less itself. And it imparts the same carefree, accepting attitude to its visitors. If you can’t be laid back on a subtropical island, stay home and read the Wall Street Journal.

What endears Key West to conchs (locals) and tourists alike is the sense of place that permeates every street in the town. Key West has roots that reach back in history and give permanence to what would otherwise be a one-night-stand tourist town. The elegant architecture of 100-year-old homes, some converted into intimate hotels, towering kapok trees and luxuriant tropical gardens, and the salubrious days and balmy nights transport visitors into a separate reality, which is what vacationing is all about.

I make my first pilgrimage into Key West’s rich historical heritage when I step into Ernest Hemingway’s home. I previously visited Sloppy Joe’s bar, where Papa was apt to spent his afternoons after a heavy morning of writing. Now, I’m seeing where he wrote 70 percent of his life’s works, including For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.

Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline, filled the 19th century, Spanish Colonial house with furnishings and memorabilia from his travels in Spain, Africa and Cuba and with his famous polydactyl cats. He kept 50 of them, all with more than five toes, and all named after famous movie stars and celebrities Hemingway knew. Forty- two of the descendants still loll around the grounds and on the catwalk, which connects the house to Hemingway’s study. Feline lovers can buy a kitten, but the waiting list is five years long. Literary lovers can sit in the Nobel Prize winner’s airy upstairs room and imagine the clatter of his manual typewriter, then go downstairs and see the urinal he brought home from his favorite downtown bar to use as a cat watering trough. Tacky? No, pure Key West.

The Conch Train is the best way to see the historic sights of the town. Once again I swallow my dignity and board one of the decorated cars. A jeep disguised as a miniature train engine pulls the tram, while a narrator fills the trip with a blend of interesting history and senseless trivia. Somehow even the corny jokes seem appropriate here.
We drive down streets lined with palm trees and bougainvilleas, past the Audubon House Museum (in which Audubon never stayed), past Truman’s Little White House (which the President loved to visit), and old Fort Zachary Taylor, which captured 1,500   Confederate ships. This is like a Disneyworld ride, except the people passing on bikes with dogs in their baskets are real, not robotic figures.

The tram rolls slowly through the streets, but nobody appears to notice something as mundane as a tiny locomotive cruising their neighborhood. I feel as if I’m in the Twilight Zone between Oz and Wonderland where Alice and Dorothy are discussing who’s more interesting, the tourists or the locals. But the conchs are too busy enjoying each other to pay much attention to the tourists. Maybe Key West’s best kept secret is that the tiny island is big enough for everybody.

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