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Thao and Ellis Edwards

Thao and Ellis Edwards

A Couple's Journey Through Vietnam's Turbulent Times

As Told By: Thao and Ellis Edwards

The transcript is an interview between Thao Thị Phương Edwards and Ellis Duncan Edwards, discussing their backgrounds and experiences in Vietnam during wartime, particularly around the time of the Vietnam War. Thao Thị Phương Edwards was born in Nam Định, North Vietnam, in 1951, while Ellis Duncan Edwards was born in Oklahoma City. Thao Thị Phương Edwards describes her childhood in Vietnam and her family's migration to Saigon due to the division of Vietnam into North and South. She recalls experiencing curfews and the Tet Offensive during her teenage years.

The couple met in Vietnam in 1971, and Ellis Duncan Edwards later returned to Vietnam in 1975 to help Thao Thị Phương Edwards and her family leave the country as the situation became increasingly dire with the advance of communist forces. Ellis Duncan Edwards had planned to use a C-130 aircraft to evacuate people, but ultimately they left via a U.S. military aircraft from Tân Sơn Nhất Airport.

They share their plans for evacuation, including Ellis Duncan Edwards' attempt to purchase an aircraft for evacuation and his encounter with the American ambassador's refusal to allow Vietnamese citizens to leave. The interview also touches on their relationship and experiences in rebuilding their lives in Oklahoma after the war.


  • My Name is Thao and Ellis Edwards
  • I am based in Oklahoma City, OK
  • Text 1

    Text 2

    Text 1

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  • Departure Location: Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Departure Year: 1975
  • Camp 1: Philippines
  • Camp 2: Guam (United States)
  • Camp 3: Camp Pendleton, California (United States)
  • Resettlement Location: Monterrey, CA, USA
  • Text 2

    My Story

    00:00 / 01:04

    Thao Edwards [00:00:00] My name a full name is Thảo Thị Phương Edwards. 

    Interviewer [00:00:09] And you, sir? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:00:12] Ellis Duncan Edwards. 

    Interviewer [00:00:13] Okay, and where were you born in cô Thảo?

    Thao Edwards [00:00:17] I was born in Nam Định, north Vietnam, in 1951. 

    Interviewer [00:00:23] Okay. And you, Mr. Ellis? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:00:25] Right here in Oklahoma city. 

    Interviewer [00:00:27] Cô Thảo, what do you remember most about your childhood in Vietnam? Do you have any memories? 

    Interviewer [00:01:34] Did you grow up in a big family? 

    Thao Edwards [00:01:37] Oh, my family's big. Is. I have four older sister. I mean, two older sister. Two younger sister and then two younger brothers. 

    Interviewer [00:01:55] Okay, so seven. 

    Thao Edwards [00:01:58] Seven. 

    Interviewer [00:01:58] Seven total. 

    Thao Edwards [00:01:59] Yeah. 

    Interviewer [00:01:59] So you're in the middle. 

    Thao Edwards [00:02:01] Yeah. I'm the third in the family. Yeah, yeah. 

    Interviewer [00:02:05] What about you, Mr. Edwards? You come from a big family? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:02:08] I had three, two sisters and a brother that died. And I don't think of it, but I just. Medium family. 

    Interviewer [00:02:25] How did the two of you meet? 

    Thao Edwards [00:02:28] We met in Vietnam in 1971. Right? '

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:02:38] 71

    Thao Edwards [00:02:39] Yeah. 

    Interviewer [00:02:41] How? 

    Thao Edwards [00:02:42] I worked, I worked for Vietnam Airlines international and like ground hostess. So we met, at the airport, and I consider him like a passenger, so. In 1975, he came in April of '75 and helped to rescue his friends and you know me to come to the United States. 

    Interviewer [00:03:26] So let's talk a little bit about, life in Vietnam, because. May I ask, when you were born, what year? 

    Thao Edwards [00:03:34] I was born in 1951. 

    Interviewer [00:03:36] 1951. So by the time the war was happening, the 60s and 70s, you were a teenager. 

    Thao Edwards [00:03:44] Yes, but I were born in 1951. And then 1954, we move. 

    [00:03:53] Oh, okay. 

    Thao Edwards [00:03:54] You know. The. Vietnam were divided by two and two Navy agreements, so we'd be able to, go to Saigon. Moved to Saigon when I were two year and a half. 

    Interviewer [00:04:16] So your family migrated to the south?

    Thao Edwards [00:04:19] Yeah, to the south. And then so again in 1975. 

    Interviewer [00:04:25] To America? 

    Thao Edwards [00:04:26] To America. 

    Interviewer [00:04:29] So when you're. Before your family migrated to America in 1975. Do you have any vivid memories of what living in wartime was like in Vietnam as a teenager? 

    Thao Edwards [00:04:45] Because I live in Saigon, the capital. 

    Interviewer [00:04:48] You didn't feel it as much? 

    Thao Edwards [00:04:49] We didn't feel. You know, directly. Like people live in the rural area because. But one time, you know, when I work at the airport. And then the communists attack showering the airport. You know. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:05:20] And the Tet Offensive. 

    Interviewer [00:05:22] Tet Offensive?

    Thao Edwards [00:05:22] And then the Tet Offensive. Yeah, 1968. Yeah. Tet Offensive. You know, we can see that the VC take, get into the, in Saigon, some some area. And then we have the. What is that, giới nghiêm I thought, you know, people cannot get out of the house. You know, have this

    Interviewer [00:06:07]  like, a curfew. 

    Thao Edwards [00:06:07] Curfew. Yeah. Curfew time. And then so at those time and we look on the TV and we see. So we experien you. So close. The war is really. So close. 

    Interviewer [00:06:27] Do you. So in 1971 when you met you're how old? Maybe 20? Did I get that right? 

    Thao Edwards [00:06:36] Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah 20. 

    Interviewer [00:06:37] And were any of your family members had to go to war or impacted by the war? Like your father or your brother? Your brother was younger?

    Thao Edwards [00:06:48] No, my brother was young so. 

    Interviewer [00:06:52] But not your father anything?

    Thao Edwards [00:06:54] My father is was old so. 

    Interviewer [00:06:59] So tell me about, when you left. What was the country like? What were you feeling? Why did you leave? How did you leave? 

    Thao Edwards [00:07:13] I know that, when we lost, you know, like, this Ban Mê Thuột and then all that stuff. And then later on, I think when we lost. The communists took Cambodia. And we know that, you know, that we probably won't win the war. So at that time, you know, we really, you know, scare had to leave with Communist. Because our parent experience with the communists in the North. So we we know that, we won't. Will be a hard time to live with the communists  so by any means we try to get out of the country. 

    Interviewer [00:08:17] So tell me how it happened. What happened? 

    Thao Edwards [00:08:20] So. I think in on April, maybe tenth or something. Yeah, yeah. He came to Saigon. 

    Interviewer [00:08:32] April 10th? 

    Thao Edwards [00:08:33] Yeah. 

    Interviewer [00:08:34] So you from the US? 

    Thao Edwards [00:08:35] Yeah. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:08:36] Yeah. So. 

    Interviewer [00:08:37] And people were trying to leave, right? Did they think you were crazy to come back? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:08:41] Probably. 

    Thao Edwards [00:08:42] Yeah. And even he dare to go to Củ Chi (district) where the, you know. 

    Interviewer [00:08:49] The tunnels.

    [00:08:49] The tunnel. Near near. At that time. You know, we don't know that the communists have the tunnel, but we know that. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:08:58] I didn't. 

    Thao Edwards [00:08:58] Right there. Yeah. The communists a lot. 

    Interviewer [00:09:01] Yes. 

    Thao Edwards [00:09:01] But he dared to go there because he used to use to station in near Củ Chi. So he go there and and meet the his. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:09:16] Oh yeah, my counterpart, the last advise. 

    Interviewer [00:09:19] Your counterpart?

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:09:23] I used to be an advisor. 

    Interviewer [00:09:25] An advisor. To the military? To the? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:09:28] Yes. 

    Interviewer [00:09:31] And so you flew back to Saigon. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:09:34] I flew back as a reservist. So basically, as a civilian. I flew back on my own. 

    Thao Edwards [00:09:46] But before that. You know, we. He planned. Lot of thing like bye bye. Do you get the airplane or something? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:10:01] Yeah, I bought a C-130. 

    Interviewer [00:10:06] Okay. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:10:08] Through some other military people. I. Yes, I couldnt really but it. Legally, but. 

    Interviewer [00:10:18] You bought it anyways. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:10:21] I buy. $28,000. 

    Interviewer [00:10:23] Wow. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:10:24] For the probably $3 million airplane at that time. 

    Interviewer [00:10:30] How many did it fit? How many will fit it? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:10:35] About three hundred something on it. On. I loved that part. We never use that one. 

    Thao Edwards [00:10:43] That was the plan. But you know. 

    Interviewer [00:10:46] Oh, that was the plan. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:10:48] And then I went to Củ Chi. He was Củ Chi district chief. And he's in charge of everything under the county, the district. And I got him to give me a whole row of marriage certificates. and I married all these people. 

    Interviewer [00:11:21] Everybody that you took. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:11:24] I married every one of every family I took. Just some other people that were at the airport. Who needed it. 

    Interviewer [00:11:42] So when you. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:11:44] Know. 

    Interviewer [00:11:45] What's that? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:11:45] They're illegal marriages, they. 

    Interviewer [00:11:48] They're all legal marriages? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:11:50] No, they were illegal. 

    Interviewer [00:11:54] So when you met in '71, you were both friends? 

    Thao Edwards [00:12:00] No. That's, you know, that's like, the, not really friend, but, you know, he like me. And then he wanted to get married, but at that time, I'm not ready. And then we this, you know, this, the my friends say, you know this. We are treat him like one of the passengers. So you know. 

    Interviewer [00:12:30] But he came back in '75 so that was like four year later. Yeah. But you kept in touch throughout or. 

    Thao Edwards [00:12:38] Yes. Yeah. 

    Interviewer [00:12:40] Okay. So how many people. So the plan was you bought this plane. For 80,000. Probably not. 

    Thao Edwards [00:12:50] No, not 80,000. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:12:53] 28,000. 

    Interviewer [00:12:53] More than? 

    Thao Edwards [00:12:54] No, no 28. 

    Interviewer [00:12:56] Oh, 28. 28 okay. But it was a military. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:13:02] The Vietnamese Siwa 

    Interviewer [00:13:03] Okay. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:13:04] 130. 

    Interviewer [00:13:05] So you came back as a civilian? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:13:07] Yeah. 

    Interviewer [00:13:08] And was the plane here or you flew?

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:13:11] The plane. 

    Thao Edwards [00:13:13] Later on. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:13:15] The Vietnamese Air Force plane. 

    Interviewer [00:13:16] Okay. 

    Thao Edwards [00:13:17] But, you know, the plane later is. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:13:20] You couldn't sell the plane legally either. 

    Interviewer [00:13:24] Okay. 

    Thao Edwards [00:13:25] That is, the. That's the plan. And then, you know, with the time, you know, it's changing, minute by minute. So after president to resign, we left the next day. So we been able to go to Tân Sơn Nhất Airport and get in the military. You know, U.S. military air. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:14:01] So I didn't use the other plane. 

    Thao Edwards [00:14:03] Yeah. 

    Interviewer [00:14:04] Okay. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:14:05] My other plan. The Americans wouldn't let any Vietnamese leave. 

    Interviewer [00:14:12] The Americans. I'm sorry, could you repeat? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:14:14] The American ambassador would not let any Vietnamese leave. 

    Interviewer [00:14:20] Oh, leave. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:14:22] So why I got that C130. Thought we land on the highway. Put all these people in it and throw them out at Thailand. Parachute them in and I got all these parachutes. 

    Thao Edwards [00:14:40] But at that time he. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:14:42] But I didn't have to do that. 

    Thao Edwards [00:14:44] So he went with one of his friend, American friend. So both of them went to Vietnam. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:14:55] Somewhere that you had parachute all these people. 

    Interviewer [00:15:01] That was plan B. 

    Thao Edwards [00:15:02] Yeah. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:15:04] Well I had a plan. We had to leave on plane. Maybe with that or, we went to  Tân Sơn Nhất and they were letting a few people leave. And we, while I jammed up some orders. Okay. We were. We were on team with General Alfred E. Neuman. Which is a comic book character and. And. We were advisors to Congressmen Laughingstock and conversly senator, or I can't remeber what name we made up for the senator. And. Well, we got VA to attend to that. We tried to join an official group. And the Vietnamese captain wouldn't  let us in. And a had another pretty violent argue with him and this American command sergeant major. Walked over there and looked these papers. Any American would know that Alfred E. Neuman was a comic book character. And by these names that that wasn't real. But you looked at these word and told the Vietnamese captain. I'm not gonna go by a passport with this. And you do what you want. But the people really know people. And if I were you, a little bit. Not sure. Got to go. Find ambassador or the president or anybody else there. I just drop by and hope they let us in. 

    Interviewer [00:17:39] Tell me your memory of that day. 

    Thao Edwards [00:17:48] AndI guess I this, you know. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:17:52] Scared. 

    Thao Edwards [00:17:53] Scared. Scared and then that feel lucky that I'd be able to, to get out because a guy like. Even I don't have experience with the Communist, but I'm just scared that I have to live with the communist. 

    Interviewer [00:18:19] Did your family go with you? 

    Thao Edwards [00:18:21] Yeah, yeah. Lucky. Lucky, that no. 

    Interviewer [00:18:25] Everyone?

    Thao Edwards [00:18:26] Everyone in my family. My mom and my brother and sister. They be able to go that day so that really good.

    Interviewer [00:18:36] Did you have a chance to say goodbye to any friends? 

    Thao Edwards [00:18:41] Oh. I don't have a chance to, you know. 

    Interviewer [00:18:50] Did you tell anybody what the plan was? You probably didn't. Right. 

    Thao Edwards [00:18:56] I didn't,. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:18:58] This is all happening.

    Interviewer [00:18:59] And in real time

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:19:01]  Pretty fast. 

    Thao Edwards [00:19:00] Yeah. We this we just don't. You know, it's happened real fast, and then. So I don't have time to tell, you know. Friends. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:19:13] The situation. Yeah. It's changing so much. That's why I didn't use the plane and we payed for those. But it would have been dangerous. 

    Interviewer [00:19:28] What did you pack with you? 

    Thao Edwards [00:19:31] This, this some clothes. And then. And then. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:19:37] Well, I would tell her they told me if I can only bring one grocery sack. 

    Interviewer [00:19:44] Per person? Yeah. So you just brought a change of clothes? 

    Thao Edwards [00:19:48] It's some some clothes. And then we we. See. At first, we didn't know that my family can go too. But they would come and then maybe say goodbye. But time change every minute so they be able to go. So this bring some clothes and then maybe have some gold or something they can bring you know there. 

    Interviewer [00:20:23] Did you take many like photos or birth certificates or anything? 

    Thao Edwards [00:20:28] I didn't have a birth certificate. And then, you know, with some photo. And then I thought later on, we can have. 

    Interviewer [00:20:42] So tell me what happened next. So everybody. A lot. There were hundreds, right? I mean, this was happening in real time. Hundreds of people trying to flee. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:20:53] Yeah, but a lot of people didn't know. 

    Interviewer [00:20:55] Yeah, you didn't know. So. So they all got on this plane. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:20:59] And there were so many people. They sat on the floor. If I didn't have to seat for a lot of people. And I put a cargo strap across where all people sit is the seat belt across. Wow. I sat on the floor. I mean I'll say what 30 kids. Carry 300 people. 

    Thao Edwards [00:21:29] I don't know how many people there were. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:21:31] There were 300. 

    Interviewer [00:21:32] 300. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:21:33] Maybe 311 or so.

    Thao Edwards [00:21:38] Yeah. They call the manifest of who have the name. 

    Interviewer [00:21:45] So they had a roll call. 

    Thao Edwards [00:21:47] Roll call. You know who. Name. And then come in. 

    Interviewer [00:21:51] Yeah. And you were lucky that your family got your list. 

    Thao Edwards [00:21:53] Yeah. 

    Interviewer [00:21:54] Yeah. Did when you were on that plane, did you think you would ever have a chance to come back to Vietnam? Like what? You thought it was the final goodbye? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:22:04] Yeah, like 28 years before we could write a letter to people. 

    Thao Edwards [00:22:10] At that time. You know, I don't think you had a chance to come back. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:22:13] You had to write a letter to somebody in France or somewhere. You had to mail it. 

    Interviewer [00:22:22] To, to write a letter. 

    Thao Edwards [00:22:24] To be able to write a letter to Vietnam, we had to write through France. 

    Interviewer [00:22:30] And then they would. 

    Thao Edwards [00:22:31] Then they will and, you know. Because France, have connection mail with Vietnam 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:22:39] Or might be some other country. 

    Thao Edwards [00:22:40] Yeah. Not the United States. Yeah. Until, you know, later on, we have the normal the relationship with Vietnam. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:22:50] 1990 or something

    Interviewer [00:22:51] Yes. So you're on that plane. Where did you land? When you were on that plane in April. 

    Thao Edwards [00:23:00] We land first in the Philippines. Right? 

    Interviewer [00:23:04] In Philippines. 

    Thao Edwards [00:23:07] Clark Air Base. Okay. And then later on, go to Guam. Right? 

    Interviewer [00:23:12] Guam. Processing center. 

    Thao Edwards [00:23:15] Mhm. Guam and then

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:23:15]  We're the first people in Guam at the Korean War at this base. 

    Interviewer [00:23:22] Wow. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:23:24] Yeah you had. The toilet didn't work. We all worked on things and all that. 

    Thao Edwards [00:23:32] And then. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:23:33] And I went into the barbed wire fence right and this brave guard tried to stop me. And I said, I am American I can go wherever I want to. 

    Thao Edwards [00:23:52] And then at the Guam, we go to. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:23:58] We went. 

    Thao Edwards [00:24:00] Camp Pendleton. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:24:01] Yeah. In Guam, this lady is with the state department. Said I could maybe married all these people by your. And I said, well, I didn't marry them all at the same time. They were different minutes. And. I said, well, I'll tell you what you send them back. You send them back. I knew she couldn't do that. 

    Thao Edwards [00:24:37] And then, we from for Camp Pendleton. So we go to Monterrey, where my. 

    Interviewer [00:24:50] California? Monterey, California

    Thao Edwards [00:24:52] Monterey, California. My uncle.

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:24:54]  But were willing to drive us there for days. In San Francisco. They bussed us out to Camp Pendleton. 

    Thao Edwards [00:25:04] Oh. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:25:05] We were there. Three days and they let us out. I rented a car and drove. 

    Thao Edwards [00:25:14] To Monterey. 

    Interviewer [00:25:16] Where you had family. Yeah, yeah. So tell me, when you first stepped foot into the United States, what were your first impressions? What did you think? How did you feel? 

    Thao Edwards [00:25:31] I feel, you know, I'm so thankful that can be in a free country. And we know that, you know, America. They're the land of opportunity. So no matter what, if we don't bring anything. We can make, you know, life here. You know, still. Still so sad that. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:26:06] Must've been pretty hectic. 

    Thao Edwards [00:26:06] Had to leave. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:26:08] They were numb. 

    Thao Edwards [00:26:10] A lot of people behind. You know. But I mean, you know, so that's like. You know like, find freedom to find a freedom country. We have to do that. 

    Interviewer [00:26:29] What surprised you the most about America? When you first arrived? 

    Thao Edwards [00:26:35] What? 

    Interviewer [00:26:35] What surprised you the most? Was it the people, the weather, the food? What? Do you remember your first experience? The first few days?

    Thao Edwards [00:27:00] Oh, I don't. I don't know what's surprise me. I mean. 

    Interviewer [00:27:06] Ngạc nnhiên(surprised).

    Thao Edwards [00:27:06] Yeah I know. 

    Interviewer [00:27:07] Yeah. You don't know what surprised you? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:27:13] Oh wait I know, McDonald's.

    Interviewer [00:27:16] Someone once told me that they walked into the supermarket and they couldn't believe how big it was.

    Thao Edwards [00:27:20] Yeah, how big it were and then come. 

    Interviewer [00:27:25] And. Or the weather? Was it cold for you or? 

    Thao Edwards [00:27:30] No, California nice. We know. We know California beautiful and nice weather compared to Vietnam. Yeah. We love the, you know, California weather. 

    Interviewer [00:27:45] Yeah. So how did you end up in Oklahoma? Was it because you're from here? 

    Thao Edwards [00:27:48] Yeah. 

    Interviewer [00:27:49] Mr. Edwards was from here. 

    Thao Edwards [00:27:50] Yeah. 

    Interviewer [00:27:51] So how long did it take you to then move to Oklahoma? Because you were in Monterey, California. 

    Thao Edwards [00:27:58] Yeah, Monterey. Maybe.

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:28:00] A year.  

    Thao Edwards [00:28:00]  Yeah. Yeah, probably eight months. 

    Interviewer [00:28:07] Okay. And did you stay with her in California? 

    Thao Edwards [00:28:11] No, no. 

    Interviewer [00:28:13] He flew back. 

    Thao Edwards [00:28:14] Yeah, he flew back. And then. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:28:16] I flew back and forth. 

    Interviewer [00:28:18] From Oklahoma to California. Okay. So when you moved to Oklahoma, what was that like for you? Did your family move with you? 

    Thao Edwards [00:28:28] No. 

    Interviewer [00:28:29] Okay. 

    Thao Edwards [00:28:30] My family stay in California.

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:28:33] One sister came here and worked for a little bit.  

    Thao Edwards [00:28:35] Yeah. Only one sister. 

    [00:28:38] Might be three or six months.

    Thao Edwards [00:28:41] Only one of my sister came here live with us and worked for about maybe six months. And then. But winter time came. So it's happened that you is so have the snow. And so she go back to California and never come back the come back visit. 

    Interviewer [00:29:06] How has Oklahoma City changed the Vietnamese community? Like, how have you seen it changed from when you first moved here till today? 

    Thao Edwards [00:29:16] Yeah, a lot of people come here and then, you know. and. 

    Interviewer [00:29:23] So when you came to Oklahoma, it must have been 1976. 

    Thao Edwards [00:29:27] Yeah. 

    Interviewer [00:29:28] How many? Like, were there a lot of Vietnamese people or how many families were here? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:29:33] A lot. 

    Thao Edwards [00:29:34] In 1976. Quite a few, but, you know, but still. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:29:44] There weren't even Vietnamese store.  

    Interviewer [00:29:45] There wasn't any Vietnamese shops or. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:29:47] No, no. 

    Thao Edwards [00:29:48] No, no. And then later on. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:29:52] There'd be a guy marry, married the Vietnamese. 

    Thao Edwards [00:29:54] Later on. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:29:54] TV shows, so a large TV and you could buy nước mắm at his shop. 

    Interviewer [00:30:04] Okay. So may I ask. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:30:06] Like I went on there when it first opened. It was a little bitty thing on 23rd Street. Then moved it, built the bale up there and they built the big Cao. 

    Interviewer [00:30:24] So now its expanded a lot. 

    Thao Edwards [00:30:26] Yeah. But the, you know Cao Nguyen before its just a Vietnamese couple bought the small shop and then later on the second owner, you know, bought it and then expanded to big, big like that. 

    Interviewer [00:30:47] So when you moved here, the both of you got married. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:30:50] Yes. 

    Thao Edwards [00:30:50] Yeah, '77. 

    Interviewer [00:30:52] And, did you feel that there was any discrimination because you were a mixed couple? Did you experience any of that? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:31:00] I did. 

    Interviewer [00:31:01] You did, tell me. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:31:03] Well, I experience that. Partly from the Vietnamese, but. Back at. On the Classon where they do that or. Want to build that by 20 years before. And a whole bunch of veterans, American veterans, would go to the city hall and demonstrated against. There was a lot. And unhappiness with Vietnamese. In fact, I think. Now it's like totally different. And. When I came back from the. People spit on me.  You know, when I was in uniform. And call me a baby killer. Well, that will still the environment at first. And then pretty quickly change from that bad to the Vietnamese have changed Oklahoma City so much. And throughout America really. They've made our schools better. But it's just a whole different environment. Very few people now would know about how what is was. 

    Thao Edwards [00:33:08] For me, I don't. I don't feel that much. I don't know, but I don't feel that much. 

    Interviewer [00:33:22] Have you been back to Vietnam? 

    Thao Edwards [00:33:26] Yeah. Three times. 

    Interviewer [00:33:28] When was the first time you went back? 

    Thao Edwards [00:33:32] The first time I went back. 

    [00:33:33] Can you lean me back? 

    [00:33:33] I think 2001? 2001. 

    Interviewer [00:33:41] Do you remember how you felt when you first went back? You okay? Can I help anything? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:33:50] Yeah. 

    Thao Edwards [00:33:51] No, he. He.

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:33:52]  My back. I broke my back.

    Thao Edwards [00:33:55] So, he wanted to. Can he do this? 

    Interviewer [00:33:58] Yes. That's fine. 

    Thao Edwards [00:33:59] Yeah. So. Okay. 

    Interviewer [00:34:02] I just might pull this a little bit. Is that okay? 

    Thao Edwards [00:34:05] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Okay. Thank you. 

    Interviewer [00:34:13] So tell me, when you first went back to Vietnam for the first time, how did you feel? 

    Thao Edwards [00:34:18] So, let's see. When I went back to Vietnam the first time, I went back with my older sister, in. I think that. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:34:35] And John. 

    Thao Edwards [00:34:37] Oh, and my son. And my son. So, I really glad that I'd be able to, you know, show my son that, you know. 

    Interviewer [00:34:50] The country? 

    Thao Edwards [00:34:50] The country. 

    [00:34:51] How old was your son at the time? 

    Thao Edwards [00:34:56] Let's see. I think. 

    Interviewer [00:35:02] Maybe like 20. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:35:03] No 

    Interviewer [00:35:05] Younger or older? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:35:06] Younger.

    Thao Edwards [00:35:07] No. Let's see. Maybe. So. I think. Let's see. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:35:22] Was he college yet? 

    Thao Edwards [00:35:26] I think he. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:35:27] Might be. 

    Thao Edwards [00:35:28] He that. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:35:29] He might've been 20. 

    Thao Edwards [00:35:31] He might be 20. 

    Interviewer [00:35:32] Okay. Yeah. So it was you and your son. Did. Mr. Edwards go to? 

    Thao Edwards [00:35:35] My sister too. 

    Interviewer [00:35:40] Okay. Yeah. 

    Thao Edwards [00:35:41] Three of us. 

    Interviewer [00:35:42] Were you nervous going back? I mean it had been such a long time.

    Thao Edwards [00:35:45] Yeah. But see, I go back with my sister and my son, so I feel pretty safe, pretty good. 

    Interviewer [00:35:59] Had the country changed a lot for you? From what you remembered it? 

    Thao Edwards [00:36:04] Yeah, yeah. It changed. 

    Interviewer [00:36:06] Were you surprised by the changes? 

    Thao Edwards [00:36:10] They build more houses and then, you know. So the traffic is really I mean. Busy. And then. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:36:25] Our son came from Nepal. He went on a Habitat for Humanity. And then met her in Saigon. 

    Interviewer [00:36:36] They met you in Saigon? 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:36:38] Yeah. I mean, or. 

    Interviewer [00:36:40] Was it emotional for you that first day arriving in Vietnam? Like, did you cry? Were you happy? Were you numb? 

    Thao Edwards [00:36:52] Oh, I'm happy, but, you know. But I'm. I'm glad that I be able to come back after so many years and then. But still so sad that, you know, still communists until now, you know. 

    Interviewer [00:37:11] So do your children know your story of how you left Vietnam? 

    Thao Edwards [00:37:15] Yeah. 

    Interviewer [00:37:16] The children know it. Do you have grandchildren? 

    Thao Edwards [00:37:18] Yeah. We. Even my granddaughter, she. Last year, she make a movie. The deal about how we, you know, become. See my husband got into the military hall of fame. Yeah. 

    [00:37:45] Oh, congratulations.  

    [00:37:46] Yeah. So she make the movies about Vietnam. So that's.

    Interviewer [00:37:52] Your granddaughter? 

    Thao Edwards [00:37:53] Granddaughter. 

    [00:37:54] How old? 

    [00:37:54] Twelve. 

    Interviewer [00:37:54] Wow. You must have been so proud. 

    Thao Edwards [00:37:58] Yeah. So. 

    Interviewer [00:37:59] Yeah. And do they speak Vietnamese? 

    Thao Edwards [00:38:02] I'm sorry, they don't. They don't. 

    Interviewer [00:38:05] That's okay. My children don't speak Vietnamese very well. It's hard. 

    Thao Edwards [00:38:09] See when my son, you know. He usually at the school go with grandparents and then grandparents speak English so and then go to school speak English. So I'm sorry that. 

    Interviewer [00:38:29] When you think about sharing your story and preserving these stories for younger generations, what do you hope the younger generations will take away? Like, what do you hope they might learn from listening to stories like yours? And so many other, refugees and immigrants have come to this country. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:38:54] While I am not afraid of my home. 

    Thao Edwards [00:39:02] Learn that you. We got the. Live in the freedom country. We need to, work our best, you know? And, do for the country and then help other people. You know, specially, you know, people less lucky than we are so. We can have a good life by, you know, do good for all the people. So since I came here, I help, we help a lot of people. So right now I'm helping one of the girl that's had no, no job. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:40:07] She doesn't have. 

    Thao Edwards [00:40:07] Loss. Lost.

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:40:10]  Has nothing. 

    Thao Edwards [00:40:12] Had no thing. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:40:15] Just the clothes on her back all she had. 

    Thao Edwards [00:40:16] And then, because she doesn't know the way of life in the United State. So she lost the custody of her son. Yeah. And she doesn't have a place to stay. Doesn't have any family. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:40:40] She got married yound and then divorced her. 

    Thao Edwards [00:40:41] And then so. We just. 

    Interviewer [00:40:44] You try to help. 

    Thao Edwards [00:40:46] Took him. Yeah. Took her in. And then. And then, let her stay at our house. And then take her, find her job and take her to go to work. Yeah. So right now that what we doing. Doing. Help a lot of people. You know, we been helping Vietnamese student. Came from Vietnam and then stay at our house. You know, and, and we have one. One girl when she came here, when she eight years old and then stayed with us for a while, and then because of him she went to Brown University and got to PHD, and now she married and live in California and then and then really be a great success.

    Interviewer [00:41:59] Aw, I love that. So we're coming to the end of the interview. I just have one more question. Tell me in 1 or 2 sentence what you love about Oklahoma City and the Vietnamese community here. 

    Thao Edwards [00:42:16] We love Oklahoma City because, you know, in Oklahoma City, I think, you know, people are very, very friendly, you know, and I feel that this is like my birth country, you know. I live here for 48 years. And I love the Oklahoman and I love Oklahoma City. 

    Interviewer [00:42:56] And this is Mr. Edwards birth city. 

    Thao Edwards [00:43:00] Yes. 

    Interviewer [00:43:01] Is there anything else that you would like to share before we end the interview? 

    Thao Edwards [00:43:06] You want to say yes or. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:43:09] My grandfather was in the Lane Run. So before Oklahoma, my dad were born in Oklahoma territory, right here before statehood. 

    Interviewer [00:43:26] So multi-generational here for you. 

    Ellis Duncan Edwards [00:43:31] My father was born. So. My grandfather brought the nuns here. They founded Saint Anthony's, way back. Brought them here, they were from his hometown. It's just a young place. So still have a lot. It's so different from than then. And the Vietnamese have really made this a better place. 

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