Oral History by: Brian Flint
Date Submitted: December 5, 2011
Listen to Brian Flint’s Interview of David Techaira
Let me introduce to you David Techaira who works as a barber in Hollister, California. Though he lives in the States he was actually born in the Pacific island of Guam in the year 1946. Both he and his wife, Christine, have been happily living in Hollister for over twenty years and been married for thirty.
David’s grandfather could be considered a self made man in a lot of ways. During his life in the Terceira Azores islands, he took a job on the Magellan ship as a hired hand. He jumped ship onto Guam because he saw how much more fertile the soil was. This island was full of fruit and coconut trees while his native island was mostly brush and shrubs. He quickly got into the business of tobacco and coconut growing selling both “cigars and liquors” as David puts it, “everybody around him was buying liquor from him” (David Techaira, Interview). While there, he also married the governor’s daughter, completing his own piece of heaven.
Raymond Techaira, David’s father, lead a very different life then his father; he entered into the United States Navy and served for twenty-one years. His fight against the Japanese, who were threatening much of the Pacific during this time, earned him two purple hearts. David describes his father as “very military-like”, someone who needed order in his home (David Techaira, Interview). David claims that “when you’ve spent twenty-one years in the military, you have to do everything…in a military fashion” (David Techaira, Interview).
After fighting in the Pacific, Raymond Techaira transferred to another station in the States and took his family of his wife and eight kids to Maryland and stayed for about three years. He transferred later to New York City, then again to Chicago, stayed in Texas for five years before finally settling in California and retiring from the navy. The reason for constantly moving from one side of the country to the other was a combination of promotion opportunities and, unfortunately, Raymond’s desire to protect himself and his family from racial segregation in many parts of the country.
“The windows were opening up” for David when his family took him across the United States. He noticed how people of different ethnicities were pressured to stay apart from other racial groups (David Techaira, Interview). He also became aware of how many of the less fortunate families were set on the east side of major cities while the west was home to the upper and middle class families. David mentions “A lot of times, there would be railroad tracks” acting as the main means of division between the two communities (David Techaira, Interview). While his father’s military service allowed David and his family to live on the well-off west side, the Techaira family was still conscious of the inequality of race and class in the cities they lived in. If David’s father felt tensions were escalating in anyway or if he came across a form of prejudice at his station, he would simply apply for a transfer to a different station elsewhere.
Raymond always told his children to respect and to be mindful of what they would say to people of different backgrounds. David remembers his father telling him “don’t …down talk to people because of your different lifestyle…because it will cause a problem” (David Techaira, Interview). It is a lesson David has grown to appreciate though there is at least one moment in his life where he wishes he would have remembered it.
It was when the Techaira family was driving through an under privileged part of town, Raymond had told his kids “We’re going through the south…the poverty areas, don’t say nothing to anybody!” (David Techaira, Interview). When the car stopped at an intersection, David glanced out the window to see a boy about nine years of age sitting on the front porch of a house on the other side of a line a railroad tracks. What struck David as strange was that the boy was enjoying some pieces of fried chicken while outside; something that was not allowed in the Techaira home. Without really thinking about it David rolled down the window and asked the boy “Why don’t you take that chicken inside and eat it in there?” (David Techaira, Interview). David was not trying to mock the kid, just worried about the boy’s food getting dirty. The boy thought David was making fun of him and picked up a rock and threw it at the car. At that moment, Raymond floored the gas peddle and sped out of the intersection as the rock bounced of the back of the vehicle. After a little distance was between them and the boy’s house, David’s father turned to him demanding “what did you say?” (David Techaira, Interview). Today, David looks at the incident as a lesson not to entail the rules he was brought up by onto other people (David Techaira, Interview).
Raymond Techaira, after many years of having his family travel from state to state, eventually retired from navy duty after twenty-one years of service and settled down in San Jose, California. Raymond originally wished to return to Guam, but decided to stay in California after hearing it was getting close to typhoon season on the islands. After deciding to stay in California, Raymond started employment in Agnes State Hospital as a sort of second career. This is where David, with his three sisters and two brothers grew up and attended San Juan High School. Even after they had become adults, most of David’s siblings still live in or around the San Jose area. David makes an effort at least once a year around Christmas time to meet with them all. He wishes to be able to keep in touch with his family more often, but it seems “there are too many miles between us” (David Techaira, Interview).
His mother, however, continued on to Guam and her and Raymond separated during this time. David remembers his mother as a “very sweet, warm hearted” woman who would go out of her way to assist people she knew were in need (David Techaira, Interview). She was the kind of individual who was willing “…to do with less to give to a person who was needy” (David Techaira, Interview). David hopes that he has inherited both of the charitable and compassionate traits he idealized in his mother.
Another major change happened at this point in David’s life; during the early 1960’s, while David was in high school, many of his friends were being drafted into the military. Hostilities between the United States and Vietnam had escalated greatly after the later announced the establishment of its communist government. The United States were already involved in a cold war with the Soviet Union, another communist country, and the establishment of a similar government was met with suspicion. Not helping the situation was the fact Vietnam was a territory once occupied by a former enemy, Japan.
In 1964, David volunteered for military service reasoning he might as well join of his own accord if he was going to be drafted any way. Also, as most of his friends were recruited, David could not help but feel left out. He admits that “because my friends got drafted…I felt empty” (David Techaira, Interview). So it was that David Techaira entered the United States military, he was not yet out of the tenth grade. Today, David looks back at this choice and wishes he at least waited till after he had finished high school before going off to war. “It would have been a lot safer” (David Techaira, Interview).
David’s experience in the Vietnam War was anything but safe; he was constantly behind enemy lines taking shots from fifty-caliber machine guns. The vehicles took most of the hits and David and his crew were able to bring back to base with the photos they needed. One event sticks out among the rest in David’s time serving his country in overseas. When he was a marine, David and his team were making an amphibious landing in a village named Chuli. David slipped into the jungle to avoid enemy fire and was ambushed by a Vietnamese soldier acting dead. The soldier slashed and shot David, but David grabbed his forty-five and “was able to put him to sleep” before he passed out (David Techaira, Interview). Afterwards, David awoke in the base hospital where he learned that the bullet had gone completely through him, missing anything vital. He stayed in the hospital for six months before finishing his tour.
After four long years of serving his country in overseas, David was relieved of his duties and returned home to San Jose in 1968. The first thing David did was finish his last two years of high school through night classes to receive his diploma. He also got a job with a decent paycheck in the FMC. He found out, however, life was changing in San Jose; the city’s population was growing fast and the street ways quickly became congested and crowded. David felt the need to find a calmer place to live like a “cow-town”. David explains, “When I use that phrase, [I mean] like a country-setting”, he wanted an easier and more urban area to call home (David Techaira, Interview). This desire was what pointed David toward the city of Salinas.
While in Salinas, David took a job working for the city as an electrician and kept the position for thirty years. From here on until he became thirty-seven, David was enjoying life as a bachelor. What drove him to consider looking for someone to settle down with was the single thought of “When I have kids, I need to have …a good woman, a wife” (David Techaira, Interview).
It was when he was in this frame of mind when David became acquainted with a woman named Christine. In1981, Dave was having a drink at a bar titled the Disco Depot and he over heard about some dance lessons the club was hosting. David entered the dance area and introduced himself to a woman who was there spending time with her sister and step brother and found himself talking at length with her. While speaking with Christine, he “saw a sparkle in her” and was happy to discover she would be happy to meet up again (David Techaira, Interview).
About a little more then a year after their first meeting, David was having dinner with Christine and her parents when David asked her parents if he could have Christine’s hand in marriage. Her parents looked at each other for a moment and after asking their daughter how she felt about him, gave the couple their blessing. The wedding itself took place at the Salinas Community Center with a Catholic ceremony. The only minor obstacle was Christine having to follow through Catholic penitence before being allowed to marry.
Together, in the thirty plus years of marriage, David and Christine Techaira have had four children. The first was Anthony who, according to his father, is a lot like his grandmother; “an open-hearted, care giving type of person” (David Techaira, Interview). The other three, David Jr., Chrystal, and Jonathan, are very different from their eldest sibling in several ways. They are more reserved and kept more to themselves when they were younger, especially David Jr. David’s advice to his kids was always “you can’t pour your heart out to everybody, you better worry about yourself first” and he has seen how this attitude has helped his kids prosper.
Today, the Techairas work for the local School District as accountants, records clerks, and bus drivers. This choice of careers came naturally as Christine had a steady position as an accountant supervisor for thirty good years. “I think the knowledge of the math…was past on to her kids” guesses David, “but…they were the ones who took the ball and ran with it” (David Techaira, Interview). His daughter, actually is now a mother herself with two children; Liahla Marie, born in 2008 and Justin, who at the time of the interview was an only a few weeks old.
Life seemed to have one more curveball to throw David Techaira. When he was still working for the Salinas electric company, David was mixed up a car accident in a company car. He was forced to retire a little earlier then expected because of his injuries. Fortunately, David had something to fall back on. Before, an uncle had taken David under his wing and showed him the ropes of barbaring. After considering a second career, David thought to himself, “Since he taught me this, I think it would probably be easy for me to transition into this…and make it work for me” (David Techaira, Interview). That is what David Techaira did when he bought the place in Hollister in the mid 1990’s and opened Mr. T’s Haircuts.
I have learned much from my interview with Mr. David Techaira. Not only about the life story of a local barber but quite a lot concerning life in general. The lessons he shared about the tension between the upper class and the poverty-stricken sides of cites are as true today as they were when he was young even if the lines are not always easily outlined by railroad tracks. Being able to see his life from a third person point of view has allowed me to see how one can overcome life’s seemingly endless toss and turns. David survived a bitter war over seas and was able to start a new life when he met Christine. The last lesson during my time with David was an unadorned teaching of the importance of one’s elders. The lesson was harder for David to learn as much as it is stronger to him as it is something he learned from his father.
Back when David was growing up in San Jose, the city was a corrupted place in many ways. The city was known for “Hell’s Angels… coming in, we had Satan Craze, we had the Mexican Mafia” and kids David’s age always seemed to be the ones most drawn into those kinds of worlds (David Techaira, Interview). Having a record in Juvenile Hall was viewed as a right of passage in many circles.
Raymond Techaira was adamant about keeping his family safe from things he did not like. The way he did that involved a trusty thirty-eight caliber pistol. He did not shy away from pulling it out on anyone he did not feel he could trust even if they were people his son considered friends. David would turn to father saying “That is the wrong thing…that could create a problem!” (David Techaira, Interview). That was just the way Raymond kept his son clean. Presently, David admits that his father was right as now all of those kids he knew are dead; killed one way or another.