Etta McKenna - Story Recording
Homeland Memories

Etta McKenna


Medellin: A couple things- could you please read this into the microphone?

McKenna: So. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this story do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Medellin: Now please state your full name and then spell your last name.

McKenna: My name is Etta McKenna. M c k e n n a

Labarthe: Really quick before you start, do you mind if i take photos of you while you’re…Bring it on. Bring it on, Ok you can start whenever you want.

McKenna: While I’m...while im doing this?

Labarthe: Yeah is that ok? Or..

Carlson: When I - ok i’ll prompt you. So tell us about when you took off in Manila to go to Japan. What happened when you were in Japan?

McKenna: Oh, ok, I left the Philippines via Japan Airlines, and it was in the afternoon, landed in Japan, in the evening-

Medellin: -what year was this?

McKenna: And that was June….June 26, 1977 when I left. And the flight had a stopover in Japan but it was nighttime so the airline booked me at the intercontinental in tokyo. However, the next flight for LA was the next day. In the evening. So the next day i went to the concierge at the hotel and asked if there is a tour of Japan, of the city, because i'll be there the whole day. And they said yes, there is a tour, it's 12 dollars. I had 80 dollars in my pocket, so counted I’d still have 68 left if I took the tour and I took it. The tour was of the city, and it included, I cannot remember, you know, the sights, but the only thing is we had a tea ceremony at the palace in Tokyo and most of - all of the tourists except myself were japanese. They kept on bowing at me, like they thought I was Japanese. But I kept on saying I cannot understand. Our next stop of the tour, our last stop of the tour, was the, at the Ginza market in Tokyo and I was hoping I could buy a camera but the cameras were so expensive. I cannot afford to lose my 68 dollars. So the plane when I was from tokyo, or from Narita to LA, it was delayed. So the continental airlines that is my connecting flight from LA to Chicago already left. And I was still there. And then got really delayed because of immigration. Because they have to get, you know, all your papers and all your documents. So I stayed in LA with my friend otherwise Japan airlines told me that they will book me in a hotel. But I stayed with my friend for the night and then the next day is when I left for LA- for Chicago, from LA. Now, my luggage already went the day before, so when my friend picked me up from the airport here at the pier, asked me “where is your luggage”, and I said “I don't know”. So, but I said, “it's supposed to be continental” so we went to get- i went- we went to the continental area. And then my luggage was still sitting there like next to the, you know, to where they were i guess like putting all luggages that were not picked up. But at least it was there, so i was really happy. And I was in Chicago, ‘77. The first winter I had and the most memorable one was already like January ‘78 of the first winter. And I have a picture of cleaning the car of my friend, cleaning the snow from the car. In my parka, which, my parka was bought from Woolworth because I only have 68 dollars left. Although I had 100 dollars already with my friend because when she visited one time I told her you know, you can have my 100 dollars there. I stayed with her, and she did not charge me at all, not until I found a job. So I stayed with her in her apartment.

Carlson: What was her name?

McKenna: Her name is Agnes Clement. And she is my best friend. And she, she stayed here until last year, when she and her husband decided to move permanently to the Philippines. Anyway, the picture that I had with cleaning the snow off the car was a Monza, Chevy Monza. And it was a small car, with maybe just a front- is that just a front wheel drive? And every time we are in the snow we have to push that car. It was so difficult, yeah. So, the next time I bought, when I bought my own car, I bought a big car. It was my first car, was a Cutlass Supreme. Alright. So, what next?

Carlson: What - So tell us about this photo.

McKenna: Oh the other photo I brought was of my family. In front of our old house. And I was in the picture, I was, it was taken in 1953. I was 6 years old. And our old house was in Mandurriao, Iloilo City in the Philippines. It was part of Panay Island. Now I brought this when I came to the US and this is the only picture left because our house was razed because of termite infestation. It was razed in 1990 by my brother, who built the house in the same lot.

Carlson: You were telling me about, that your two older siblings are a lot older than you. Right?

McKenna: Yeah my two older siblings were born before the war, and the two of us, my brother and I were born after the war. So they were already like, in college when I was still in grade school. But my sister was the one who really like, she was like my, not my mother but she was very strict, she was the one that trained me how to clean the house, and very strict and she would, if there is a little dust in there, on the furniture, you have to clean it because she would.. Check you afterwards. Yeah, if there is still dust.

Medellin: What’s your sister’s name?

McKenna: And my sister is Edna, my name before I got married our last name is Escarrilla. So it is a Spanish name. My brother, our oldest brother is Efrain, and he passed away last...2014.

Medellin: What about your younger brother?

McKenna: My younger brother is actually here. He came with his wife this year and he, his daughter, was the one who petitioned her because her daughter came on her own. She’s a nurse. And she only- he only came 5 years ago after he retired. He didn’t want to come, if he did not- you know- for him it’s difficult to find a job over here, if… for you who are, you're already in your 60s, you know, it's kind of difficult to find a job. So he’s here with his wife and his daughter is married and has another, a son.


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