Halatono Netane

With Chris Jones

Halatono NetaneEuless, Texas was first settled in about 1867 as a small farming community in North Central Texas. The City is located midway between Dallas and Fort Worth Texas, just west of DFW International Airport. It was incorporated in 1953 and at the time of the 2000 U.S. Census had a population of 46,005. The City of Euless encompasses approximately 16.3 square miles. (42.1 KM2)

Halatono Netane was born in Tonga and migrated to the United States in 1959. She and her husband moved to Euless, Texas in 1971 and were the first of a large number of Tongans to settle here.

Chris Jones – At the time of this interview, Chris Jones was a Euless resident and a member of the Euless Historical Preservation Committee.

Interview

Note to the Reader:
*Words enclosed in (parenthesis and in italicized) are added for clarification.

Halatono Netane: They (Sione & Tevita Havea, two brothers who may have been the first two Tongans in the area) were at UTA and he got his degree. He go back and be a minister in the Methodist Church in Tonga. When he went back to Tonga, I was already living in Salt Lake City, Utah. We moved here when they first opened DFW Airport. My husband (Siupeli Netane) was working there, I was working there too. He was working for American Airlines and I was working for Dobbs House. They (Dobbs House) served the food to the airline. I was a supervisor for Dobbs then we went on vacation to Tonga and when we came back, they told me that I have to wait for another week or two. So, I came and apply at DFW Airport Board. They hire me over there to work at the toll booth. Then there was an opening for me to apply for training people to work the toll booths. I got the job and then I trained people to work at the toll booths at the business center at DFW Airport until I retired. I worked at DFW Airport for almost eighteen years and I retired three years ago. I still like to work. I’ll be sixty-six years old on the 20th, this Friday.

Chris Jones: Happy birthday.

Halatono Netane: Thank you. So while we were here (in the 70’s), there wasn’t any Tongan people here. We flew to California and bring lots of our relatives. We brought them here to find them a job. So they came over and some of them went to work at Sky Chefs (airline catering company) and some of them, they work at DFW Airport restaurant, or training or stuff like that. Me and my husband used to live on Main Street, across the street from the apartment by the Methodist Church (Tongan First United Methodist Church) on Main Street pass the Euless school (South Euless Elementary School). I remember when we were first here, the freeway (Hwy. 183) there was like a farm with cows and pigs and stuff like that. They fix it up but when we first came here, Euless was a little tiny town. We lived in Grapevine for about a month and a week and then we moved to Euless. I told him (Mr. Netane) that we move to Euless so we can be close to work at the airport.

Chris Jones: But you and your husband were the first two of the Tongan Community here in Euless, is that correct?

Halatono Netane: Yes.

Chris Jones: What year would that have been, 1972, do you think?

Halatono Netane: I think we came here in seventy-one, I remember seventy-one we came here. My husband and I, when we first moved here, we didn’t even find no Tongan here at all except those students that were here from Tonga. They went to UTA for school. They are relatives of mine on my mother’s side. Every weekend when we finished work, we always go there and bring them to my house. We used to rent on Main Street across from the Tongan First United Methodist Church. We stayed there for like four years and then we bought us a home on 504 Martin Lane. My husband passed away in '93, January.

Chris Jones: Martin Lane, right over there?

Halatono Netane: Right. He (Mr. Netane) passed away in 1993 in January. I’ve been staying with my kids at home until they all got married. My daughter stayed with me, then she graduated. She and her husband stay here in Euless.

Chris Jones: When would you say the majority of the Tongan Community arrived? After you got here? Was it soon after that or was it several years later?

Halatono Netane: It was soon after we got here. On weekends we’d go and bring some people here and some people drove (from other States) over here because we told them there were a lot of jobs here in Texas. In California, they have to go far for work, but over here they can work at the airport or in different places, but very close to live in Euless and go to work. That’s the reason why lots of people came over here and the more they get over here; they bring more of their relatives and people here to Euless.

Chris Jones: When did you make the jump from Tonga to California?

Halatono Netane: I came from Tonga I think, it was 1959. My two brothers came and go to school in Idaho. They came by boat to Canada and by train from Canada to Idaho. They go to school there and finish their two year college in Rick’s College. It used to be Rick’s College but now, they call it BYU, the Mormon College. My two brothers, they went to Utah State University in Logan, Utah, and when he graduated he bring me to America for his graduation. I haven’t married at that time, I still go to school. After graduation, I stay with my brother until I get married to my husband. I live in Salt Lake and my husband used to work and live in California. After our marriage in Salt Lake City, then we decided to go back to California for his job with American Airlines. After that, his supervisor wants him to come over here and work with him when they open DFW Airport. I remember when we first came to live here in Euless. That time, the other side of the street, they use it now to park those buses over there (north side of Hwy. 183 between south airport entrance and the Hwy. 360 ramp) but those airplanes used to land over there.

Chris Jones: The Old Greater Southwest Airport?

Halatono Netane: Yes, yes.

Chris Jones: Okay.

Halatono Netane: And so after the opening of the airport, I was working for Dobbs and my husband still worked for American Airlines. He retired from there, he worked twenty-eight years and I was working eighteen years before I retired from the DFW Airport. Before that I was working with Dobbs and then for the DFW Airport Board. I was still working over there (Dobbs) but they offer us to retire at sixty years old or older. They want us to retire so they can hire other people, so I told them, “I’m not gonna retire, I gonna stay with them." But I was already sixty-three and then they say, “If you stay with us, after one year you’re gonna be out,” and I say, “That’s not fair (laughter).” I went over to social security and they tell me, I got the point there; I can stay on there and retire from them. So I retired from there.

Chris Jones: Can you tell me anything about the (Tongan) Community like you just did a while ago about where American Airlines was? Like when you first moved here, at the Old Greater Southwest Airport? I envision that a lot of the area was kind of country at the time.

Halatono Netane: Yes, I remember that it was countryside there. We always barbeque pigs and stuff like that. I remember we get pigs at that time for like, ten dollars or fifteen dollars for a live pig. My husband and some of my people, they just went across the street where the freeway is now. They had lots of cows and pigs and so we went and buy pigs and take care of them in the farm. They clean it over there, you know in the farm. Now, I say, “Euless is grown so fast.” So many people and plus my people too. They came from areas like Seattle, Florida, Sacramento and Los Angeles, San Francisco. Most of them work for the airlines so they can go back to Tonga you know, it’s cheap.

Chris Jones: That makes sense.

Halatono Netane: We are Mormon, me and my husband. But before I marry my husband, I was Methodist. We grew up Methodist, so when I came here I go to the Methodist Church on Main Street. Over the years more Tongans came and I looked at the people, they came from different churches. On Sundays, they don’t go to church; they came over to my house. My husband put a pool table in my backyard, so they came and play there and barbeque and stuff like that on Sundays. I told my husband, “I want them to go to church.” So, I went and talked to the minister (of the First United Methodist Church of Euless) and see if we can have a little room over there so we can have a communicate church in Tongan language. I remember that there is an old man, like my husband, he was older, only two people were older, him and my husband. The rest were young kids, most of them were not married. Some were married but their wife not here. We had to talk about the Community and pick the name for the church. The older guy, his name is Sione Haisila. We did not want to call it Methodist. We call it the Fakatahataha Church, meaning together. Get together you know, because there were Catholic people, Mormon people and different churches. So, that’s when we first start to put up the Community. The minister at First United Euless gave us a room every Sunday.

Chris Jones: At this Methodist Church (First United Methodist Church of Euless) right here?

Halatono Netane: Right, it’s on north Main Street. So me and my husband, we talk about it, and we make the guy, he’s still alive, his name is Haisila. Haisila is the first Minister of the church here, but Haisila came later though. Some people were already here when Haisila came. He came a few years after they were already here. So, we made Haisila the Minister of the Method…of our Community Church. We do it (perform the rites) like Methodist Church and I was the secretary, we also collect money every Sunday so we can give it to the Methodist Church Minister for our community. And since then, more people came and around Christmas we got together and celebrate (holy week, first week of the New Year) like we do back in Tonga. Still more and more people came. Haisila came from a different church, and when the real Methodist people came from Tonga, they don’t want him to be the head of the Methodist Church, so I say, “Well, I don’t know, you guys do what ever you wanna do. I belong to my husband and we belong to the Mormon Church,” so we went to Hurst where the Mormon Church was. Only me and my husband went and the rest of them were from other churches. When we still attended the Methodist (Fakatahataha Church) at 10 o’clock, it was all full of people; boys, girls, women and men, in there. We say our prayer and everything in Tongan, but it was so funny, when the minister used to say, “Okay we need somebody to say the closing prayer,” the young people, they walk out the door, most of them were still teenagers and didn’t want to say prayer. But then every time when they came over to my house I used to say, “You guys try to stop drinking and smoking (liken to irresponsible or immature behavior), work for your wife and kids.” My husband have a big heart, but me, sometime I just get upset but I still love my people no matter what.

Chris Jones: What was your address on Main Street, when you first moved here?

Halatono Netane: It was 910 South Main Street, Euless. We rented that house and we stayed there for about four years.

Chris Jones: Is it this side (north) or that side (south) of the fire station (Fire Station #3)?

Halatono Netane: There used to be a roller skate rink across the street.

Chris Jones: Oh yes.

Halatono Netane: There used to be a roller skate place a long time ago.

Chris Jones: Okay.

Halatono Netane: But the house is right across from there. They have lots of trees up. It’s still there. They just remodel the house but it still stay the same.

Chris Jones: Okay. You’re further south than I was thinking, I understand.

Halatono Netane: Yah, and then there’s a street and then the Tongan First United Methodist Church. There’s a house at the corner and the second house (north of the corner house) that’s where me and my husband use to rent to live.

Chris Jones: Okay.

Halatono Netane: That’s the house we lived at when we first move here, but, since then, lots of Tongan people move here, almost cover Euless.

Chris Jones: Yes. I don’t know how large the community is but appears to be a fairly good size.

Halatono Netane: Yah, lots of people here. So, I always tell them, they have to celebrate every year the first Tongan Church here in Euless. They did it the first time when we opened the Methodist Church (Fakatahataha Church). There were lots of people and Haisila always read the history of how they first opened the Community Church here in Euless. When people come here, they go to Dallas and live, but they like to move back to Euless because it’s more people (Tongan) in Euless than Dallas. But few Tongans I know live in Carrolton, Dallas or Fort Worth. More live here in Euless.

Chris Jones: I have to ask you about that. I’ve been told that this is one of the largest Tongan Communities in the United States. Is that correct or do you know?

Halatono Netane: I really don’t know, I know they grow so quick here in Euless. I thought Los Angeles, San Francisco or Salt Lake City got more people there. I thought that those three cities have lots more people then here, but Euless it’s almost got the same amount of people here. Most people came from different States, they come from Tonga and live in California or Utah or Washington before they move up here to Texas.

Chris Jones: Where in the South Pacific is Tonga?

Halatono Netane: It’s, near where Fiji is…it's right under the equator and very close to New Zealand and Australia and Fiji and Samoa. There are 150 islands (actual 169) scattered all over in the South Pacific, but the three big main islands are called Tongatapu, Ha’apai and Vava’u.

Chris Jones: You said there’s a total of hundred and fifty (actual 169) islands, but the majority of the people are on three?

Halatono Netane: Yes, three big main islands but they’re small. Those little islands have only one like town but they all live in there. The three main islands, Tongatapu, is the biggest island; it’s where the King and Queen live, and…

Chris Jones: It’s a monarchy?

Halatono Netane: Yes, and same with Ha’apai and Vava’u. Me and my husband, we came from Vava’u, it’s the second big island. They have lots of mountain over there, but Tongatapu it’s kind of a flat island. When they have hurricane, the water go wipe up one side and down the other.

Chris Jones: Oh, I can see that.

Halatono Netane: That’s the reason why I ended up here; because my two brothers came to go school. They went by air mail steamer from Tonga to Vancouver, Canada. Then they take the bus from there to Idaho. At that time, my brother had eight kids and his wife still with us in Tonga. Before he graduate, he worked and go school and brought his wife and kids and me to Logan, Utah. When he graduated he didn’t go back to Tonga. He wanted to go back and teach in Liahona College (Mormon school) in Tonga, but they didn’t give…I guess my brother didn’t want to go back because they couldn’t give the American pay (wage). They wanted him to be the head of teaching in Liahona but he said, “No, I rather stay here and have my kids raise up, go school in Logan.”

Chris Jones: When was the last time you went back?

Halatono Netane: Last time I was back was in '92.

Chris Jones: So it’s been a while?

Halatono Netane: It was quite a while, yah, but I been traveling here in the United States. When my husband passed away, the company gave me his benefit for flying so I go visit my relatives here in America. I don’t go as often (to Tonga) I don’t want to be flying since I have my kids and I take care of them. I have two kids and my husband had four by the first marriage. Whenever we have something, we get together with them, his kids and my kids.

Chris Jones: When you first moved to Euless how far north and south did the City go? Can you tell me that?

Halatono Netane: Euless, the roller skate is the farthest south and the church. They were the only one. I remember my bishop used to live on Main Street where the water tank is at (indicating North Main Street). Back then, they hadn’t build no houses. There was nothing over there but trees.

Chris Jones: Did your children all go to high school here?

Halatono Netane: Yes, they all go Trinity High School here, yes. They all start at South Main (South Euless Elementary School) and Euless Junior High then to Trinity High School.

Chris Jones: When did your last one finish at Trinity?

Halatono Netane: Ana Netane finished four years ago, 2004.

Chris Jones: Can you think of anything that would be important that we need to capture for the history of the Tongan Community here that we haven’t talked about already?

Halatono Netane: Yes. Most of the Tongans, they know that me and my husband were the first to move up here. We bring them here, but like I said, my cousin (Amanaki Havea) came over and went to Utah for school. He finish and he go back to Tonga. He bring his older son (Tevita Havea) to go to school at UTA (actual Texas Christian University). He finish his school and he go back to Tonga. They’re all Ministers of the (Methodist) Church and President of the Methodist Church. The sons came and go to school here in UTA and TCU and finish. My cousin (Amanaki Havea) used to come from Tonga, people in the Methodist Church, they kind of upset cause they want him to come to their home when he visited, but he’d call me from Tonga and say he wants to come here and stay with me and my husband. We were Mormon. He still said, “I want to come stay with you cause you guys were like parents to my children and you helped them out when they were in school.” Now, when the Methodist people came to visit him in my house, my husband would go get the ashtray for Amanaki and his visitors to smoke in the house. Now, we not allowed to smoke in the house but it’s alright with my husband. Amanaki says, “No, this house is a Mormon house, nobody smoke in this house.” So I told him, “Man, I’m glad you not smoke in my house (laughter) because if you smoke inside and the people come inside to visit you, they have to smoke inside too. Sometime Haisila say, “Do you remember when we came over and your husband get all the ashtrays then the President stand up and walk outside to smoke?” And I say, “Yah, I remember.” Another thing, about being Tonga, the first cousin, third and fourth cousins and relatives like that, we know each other back home. They like brothers and sisters. When they get over here they still do the same thing, but the kids that are born here in America, they just disagree with it. They say, “Mom, why we have so many relatives," but I say to them, “We raise up in Tonga. We have to respect our relative, no matter what. On my mom’s side or my dad’s side and we all know everybody from all over.” It’s too small in Tonga not to know each other. When they came over here to America, they still have to stick together. So sometime I told my husband, I says, “Well, we came from a little tiny island and we need to learn something here in America. We need to go American, and do and learn more,” when I come from Tonga here then I have to learn American. Also in Tonga we never see no poor people in Tonga. Maybe like you think that we poor, but to me in my heart, mom and dad stay home and take care of their kids, take them to school, Dad go out and farm and bring the food home, get some fish, go out fishing provide food. You know, I told my husband, the way I look at it, even though my people been here for almost forty something years in America, we never forget our own. I will say we were poor materialistically, but the poor that I see here in America is not like poor in Tonga. Here in America, I see people go stay out in the street and pick garbage and find something to eat and stuff. But that’s why I think it’s hard for us to leave our Tongan custom, loving each other and share wealth, food, etc. For example, my brother or my sister’s kids when they come home, my mom stay and cook rice or cake or something for the grand kids to eat. When they finish eating, then mom will eat whatever left over. We’re very close back home, but when we came over here its hard for my people to live those kind of Tongan life. Another thing I remember, me and my husband, we have the store, we run for about almost four years.

Chris Jones: Where was that?

Halatono Netane: Do you know where Polynesian Store is? Right here on Vine Street, no Martha (southeast corner of Hwy. 10 and Martha).

Chris Jones: Oh, yes.

Halatono Netane: In that little street, after that Laundromat. Me and my husband had the store there.

Chris Jones: Grocery store?

Halatono Netane: Yes, grocery store. We bring the food and stuff from Miami. My little brother lived there and we got the Tongan food, African, Mexican, we all almost eat the same kind a food. My husband go work and I stay in the store and when he come back, I go work in the afternoon. We run that store until my husband got sick and I told him, “I guess we need to close the store and take care of your sickness. We don’t need to do many work like that, that’s not fair, not right”. So we close our store and sell it to Bishop Hola. I then had to take care of my husband for almost five years before he die.

Chris Jones: So you sold the store about when?

Halatono Netane: I think about, 1990.

Chris Jones: It opened about when?

Halatono Netane: 1986, and lots of Tongan people came over and buy the food. People used to go to Arlington to the Japanese food store and buy food, but for yams and sweet potato and stuff we eat back home, they didn’t have it. Tongan Community store, Japanese store and African stores, they sell almost the same thing that we eat.

Chris Jones: I didn’t recall a Polynesian store now that’s open.

Halatono Netane: Yeah, it’s open, over at the corner on Martha Street, across the street from Race Trac. It says, Polynesian Market.

Chris Jones: Oh yes, but then with what you just said, I’ve noticed there’s at least one African Store here that caters also to the Tongan Community, is that correct? Did I understand you correctly?

Halatono Netane: The African Store is on South Main Street beside the Free Church of Tonga.

Chris Jones: I know.

Halatono Netane: Um hum, they usually go there. There’s also a Laos Store right across Jack in the Box (northeast corner of Main & Airport Freeway), in that little corner over there?

Chris Jones: Yes, I remember that now.

Halatono Netane: When one store is missing something, they have to go to another store. It’s very close in Euless.

Chris Jones: That’s interesting. I didn’t know that.

Halatono Netane: So, I don’t have very many information for you I know the Tongan people. Some of them still live in Arlington, Fort Worth, Hurst and Bedford, but Euless is the main thing. I don’t know why, but no body likes to go outside Euless. The problem is that I figured out, because the Churches are here in Euless. You know, there’s Wesleyan Church, Haisila’s Church and Methodist Church, Mormon Church. Mormon Church, I remember when we had to raise money to give to the Mormon in order for them to build our church house here, when I came in, the Mormon, they all push us over there. I remember there used to be a big Safeway, I think, the oldest store that time.

Chris Jones: Well there was a Safeway down here on Ector Drive (northeast corner of Ector and Hwy. 10).

Halatono Netane: Yah, that’s what I’m talking about. So we used to have our raise fund over there. We dancing and raise the fund and money there for people. It wasn’t that many people here then and Paula Katoa, I guess you know Paula Katoa?

Chris Jones: No.

Halatono Netane: He came from Salt Lake City. He used to be a yard (landscaping) man over there. He moved in to Euless later; there was already lots of people here but he bring lots a people too from Salt Lake and his family came. They used to do yard work here, I remember they had to pick up the freeway, pick up the trash, garbage whatever that is. When he come over here there were a lot of people from California that already came here. When we get our church I look at how my people came up here (to Texas) we had only well, we call it Palangi (white people.) we only had two Wards in our church, one for the Palangi people and one for the Tongan people. Now the Tongan people, they sit in the church house from the front to the back seat, it’s too small, so our Stake decided to divide the people for two Wards, right now one is going in the morning and when they come out, the other one going in, in the afternoon.

Chris Jones: Okay, that’s up here behind Albertsons?

Halatono Netane: Behind Albertson, and then what the Stake did, they divided the Wards down Hwy. 10.

Chris Jones: Um hum.

Halatono Netane: They come down east to west and go through Hwy. 10. This side here (north) they go to 3rd Ward. This side here (south), Arlington and Fort Worth, they go to the 2nd Ward. After a while, then we start arguing because the people came from Tonga can’t speak English. They like to understand the church in Tongan language and so we decided to give it to the Stake and see what the Stake want it to be. To me, my opinion when I first came over here, I don’t want to loss our language. My opinion about my kids, I teach them at home in Tongan and when they go to school they speak English. Now, I understand, now they more English than Tongan. I told them, “Don’t ever lose your language, when you go back to Tonga, I want you to know Tongan. Go there and know our language so you gonna speak back in Tongan." My kids, they pretty good in Tongan I told them how Tongan tradition is when they have a funeral, wedding or something. They take their choice, whatever they want. My son married an American. My daughter marry a Tongan and they still don’t understand much Tongan. Last night they came over to my house they want me to explain how they grow up. I had a video when they were young, I have them look at the video and I say, “You guys teach your kids so when they grow up they see how things were. Teach your kids so they know who they are." At my church, they let the kids speak in English. It’s hard for them to give a talk or something in Tongan, so they allow them to speak in English. But then the bishop always wants the parents to raise up the kids not to lose our language, I like it that way. In Tonga, we can speak English, Samoan, Fijian, Maori, we don’t speak very well but we understand some. I say, I’m glad when I go to people and they talk to me, “Hello, how are you?” I talk back to them in their language; understand a little bit of their language.

Chris Jones: (chuckle) Okay.

Halatono Netane: I was shock when Ofa called me.

Chris Jones: Ofa “Mary” Faiva-Siale, yes.

Halatono Netane: Yeah, she call me and she say, “I heard you and Siupeli were the first Tongans to come to Texas.” I say, “Yah, but when we came to Euless there’s not a lot of people in Euless. I know Euless used to be a farmer town. They have a cow and all bushes and look country, look like, Texas farm. I lived next door to Frank Douglas, he use to be on City Council. He lived at 504 Martin Lane next door to me, he passed away last month. They move out few years ago to the country cause he says, Euless is getting bigger. She tell me her husband passed away. All of those people, most of them are elderly people and I love all my neighbors, they all white people. We have to get to know one another and once in a while, have a get together so when we meet everybody, we know who they are in the street. When we first came, we see people we don’t know, they just in and out of the house. They didn’t say hello, but now when everybody pass by, they’re like a family. I guess that’s all the information I can tell you.

Chris Jones: Thank you for your time.

Interview conducted at the Euless Library, May 8, 2007.

This narrative history was produced through the efforts of The Euless Historical Preservation Committee with assistance from the staff of the City of Euless Parks and Community Services Department. - February 2009