My Family in American Samoa
on the eve of the Second World War
by John Fuhring


More scenes from Samoa and the Naval Base at Pago Pago


This was the Naval Hospital where Dr. Fuhring practiced.  


A view of the hospital from a boat.


You can believe that my dad spent a lot of time here.


I understand that this building is still standing and still in use.  The huge Marconi Tower behind it is long gone.


According to the note on the back of the photo, the building on the left is the enlisted men's barracks.  To the right of that is the bank and the two on the right are stores.  One store was owned by a German and the other by a Japanese both of whom had married Samoan woman and had grown children.  I wonder what happened to the Japanese guy after the war started?



If a traveler was really rich and really in a hurry, there were other means of transportation besides an ocean liner.  Of course there were no airports and all the customs and immigration offices would be at the waterfront so seaplanes were necessary.  What an adventure it must have been to fly to remote places and land on the bays of these exotic destinations.
Notice that the Marconi Tower is in the background behind the right tip of the seaplane.




This is a wonderful aerial shot of about 1/3 of the Naval Station showing the Cathedral, the Marconi Tower and some of the buildings.



Another aerial view showing another part of the Station from another angle.  The wonderful Pago Pago bay is formed from the crater of an ancient volcano that exploded to create a small caldera.




The Pago Pago Cathedral.
I believe that this was first built by German Catholic Missionaries before WW 1.  In recent pictures I've seen, the church looks very much the same today.  Note one of the legs of the Navy's Marconi tower to the right.



Sadie Thompson's hotel.
The author Somerset Maugham wrote the play (made into a movie) "Rain" here when he lived on Samoa.  The movie came out just before my parents arrived and I wonder if they saw it.  I understand this hotel is unchanged and still in business and is the worst place to stay on the island.



I'm not sure if High Chief  Tiulefano was in office or his successor
who visited my parents.  That lava lava he is wearing is made out of bark
pounded thin as cloth and then elaborately painted.  Only chiefs were
allowed to wear it.  As a child, I remember that we used to have a section of it




This scene of Samoans selling their handmade goods was taken on the 'malie' or village common.  The man with the stripes on his lava lava and the cap is a member of the native guard, the 'Fita Fita' who acted as the police and were being trained to support the U.S. military.  I assume that no such scene exists today as all goods of this sort now comes from China.



On the back of this picture there is a note telling that this is a typical scene of the way people dressed  away from the Naval Station.  On the Station Samoans were required to wear clothes.  The costume she is wearing is a red lava lava with a white floral design and a white scarf tied around her waist.


     This photo was taken at the edge of the ocean at a village away from the Naval Station. The Samoans didn't know that their bodies were "sinful" because the gentle and deep respect Brother Henry had for the Samoans and their customs hadn't been replaced by the horrid, hateful preachings of the 'Christian' Fundamentalists that were to come later.  No, these people knew nothing of "Man's Depravity" and "Original Sin" and the hellish teachings of "eternal punishment in the fires of hell" and the "need for salvation" until the wicked Calvinists brain-washed them into believing in all that superstitious nonsense.   I understand that on today's Samoa, people are not allowed to be seen in bathing suits except on certain beaches.



Notice the elaborate tattoos.  Tattoos marked a man's status and social standing.



Samoan children with flowers in their hair carrying wild bananas.  I assume everything comes packaged
in the supermarkets now.


I wonder if these kind of elaborate native rituals where kids get to dress up
as cultural heroes and figures from the past are still practiced or if everybody just
goes home and watches re-runs on TV like we do.

     The next page will show pictures of the officer's quarters where my parents and sisters lived.
Please go on to page 6 of this story

If you entered this story from the outside,

Please go to the beginning

When you have finished with the last page, I would appreciate reading your comments
Please sign my guestbook before leaving

For further adventures and stories, please go to 
My Website's Home Page