Variations | Back in the day (2)

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ON April 1, 1983, Marianas Variety reported that a parent had filed a $1.5 million (equivalent to about $3.8 million today) lawsuit against Hopwood Junior High School and the medical officer who attended to her son.

She also sought $500,000 (about $1.2 million today) for her pain and suffering. Her 16-year-old son “died of injuries sustained in a fight on the Hopwood campus on Feb. 17.” Her lawsuit alleged that the school did not provide adequate protection to students, and that the doctor of Dr. Torres Hospital negligently examined and diagnosed her son’s condition. The boy was “struck by another student with a belt buckle as he walked out of a classroom. He was then kicked by two other students.” The victim was rushed to the hospital and was released “after an examination there.” The following day, the boy was flown by a Navy helicopter for emergency medical treatment to Guam. “He died at Guam Memorial Hospital after being in a coma for two days.”

Also on the MV front page: “Water Situation Getting Worse.” The Public Works director said residents and business establishments on Saipan should conserve water during the dry season. “Any leaks in the main water system should be reported to the Public Works Trouble Desk. Repairs should be made in private homes and businesses to prevent any unnecessary waste of our low water supplies.”

Variety likewise reported that war hero Guy Gabaldon had asked the Interior Department to investigate “the dastardly situation” in the CNMI. The islands had two major parties, but Gabaldon said “almost all of the politicians here jump back and forth.” He said the previous Democratic governor’s “right-arm” man was now the current Republican governor’s “right and left arms.” He also complained about the “bunch of alcoholics, incompetents and power-mad individuals” who surrounded the governor. He likewise accused the attorney general, who was from the states, of corruption. Gabaldon said he had received death threats from the Saipan mayor, but the AG offered him no protection. He said “much of the blame for the situation in the Commonwealth lies with ‘ultra liberals’ such as Peace Corps Volunteers and the generosity of ‘Uncle Sam.’ ” Gabaldon asked, “Why do we continue to destroy these people by pampering them?”

At Northern Marianas College, Assistant AG Rex Kosack was the instructor of NMC’s “most popular offering this semester”: an evening course in Personal Law. If I offer you my car to throw a spitball at the teacher, he asked his students, is that a contract? Of course not. “A reasonable person should have understood that such an offer was a joke,” Kosack said.

In Nov. 1982, Variety reported, the Saipan Teachers Association conducted a survey among its members, and the “responses were shared this week” with MV. Over half of the island’s public school teachers responded to the questionnaire, and their top 10 concerns were as follows:

1) Salary

2) Classroom materials

3) Annual leave

4) Facilities

5) Board of Education

6) Teacher training

7) Teacher certification

8) Classrooms

9) Teacher-student ratio

10) Curriculum specialists

“According to [Department of Education] spokesman Bob Coldeen, teachers in the Northern Marianas who have an A.A. degree and no experience earn a beginning annual salary of $7,573 [about $19,500 today]. Beginning teachers with a B.S. degree receive an annual salary of $9,208” (about $23,700 today).

A Naval veteran who served on Saipan in 1946-1947 returned to the island in early 1983, and was disappointed with what he saw. He was particularly upset with the condition of Saipan’s water and American Memorial Park. “There are abandoned and rusted cars along the road,” he said, “litter is everywhere, there is an unsanitary garbage dump polluting the lagoon….”

MV’s Police Patrol news included the following:

• A couple told police that their two minor daughters left their home without their parents’ permission.

• Someone broke into the Agriculture Station in Kagman and stole some young betelnut plants.

• A fireman reported that he heard a gunshot coming from the direction of a residence in San Antonio.

• Police assistance was requested to arrest an individual for drunken and disorderly conduct.

• Traffic accident in Garapan.

• Hit-and-run incident in a hotel parking lot, also in Garapan.

• A two-car accident in Chalan Piao.

• An auto accident in San Jose, near the elementary school.

• A traffic accident at the intersection near the Inter-Continental Hotel.

• An inmate was “missing” from the Corrections compound.

• A woman said “her auntie threw a bowl and a fork at her.”

In an interview, Monsignor Tomas A. Camacho said “the family system, family unity, the family tradition is breaking down.” Asked if TV was a bad influence, the future bishop said, “Definitely. Young minds [in particular] are influenced by what they see. They see something on TV and don’t understand it fully.”

Variety’s editorial was titled “Our Prison is a Disgrace”:

“That another prisoner escaped this week from the Saipan Correctional Facility is a disgrace. Only a few weeks ago two prisoners climbed the fence, and the guard on duty was suspended for his negligence. This time, [a man] convicted of multiple rapes…walked away from the facility while taking out the garbage.”

A letter to the editor took a local commentator to task for stating, “Water shortages and the lack of school books are nothing newsy…. I lived with it since…I was in grammar school.” The letter writer also said that he “hope[s] the people won’t allow a [new] hospital to be built that will become a white elephant because of no money to operate it, nor should they expect [stateside] Americans, who are in a financial bind themselves, to support it.”

Another letter to the editor criticized the Legislature for advancing the salaries of its members and staffers.

Today, many of us complain about “high” utility rates. In 1983, a resident said she wanted to pay her power bill but couldn’t. “In February, after not having received a bill for over two months, I went to the taxation office to inquire as to how much I owed…. I was told that all I owed was for the month of September. When I asked about October, November, December and January I was told that the bills had not been figured out yet for those months thus I could not pay for them.”

Good times.

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