by Steven Dugan
This month’s Staff Spotlight focuses on Tracy Gunn, an administrative volunteer who joined the staff in 2018. Tracy grew up in nearby Hacienda Heights, moved to Hawai’i (as she puts it, “I took a little trip to Hawai’i and stayed for 26 years.”), and then recently moved back to the mainland. Tracy and her husband, Jason, still have strong ties to the Hawaiian Islands and visit regularly. We asked Tracy to share with us her memories of Hacienda Heights, especially what has changed since she moved back, how she found out about the Homestead Museum, and what inspired her to volunteer. You’ll also find out what activities she and her husband enjoy together, especially their musical hobby, which we think is pretty cool.
How has the area changed over the years now that you’ve moved back?
I suppose the biggest change I’ve noticed in this area is the growth (population/traffic/development). It seems that urban sprawl is a common theme pretty much anywhere you go (and sadly, Hawai’i is no exception either). Many of the local businesses that I frequented as a “young’n” are no longer in existence. We used to eat breakfast at Coco’s, get ice cream from Swensen’s, Mr. Swiss and Thrifty’s, have pizza parties at Barro’s, eat Mexican food at Casa de Tacos, Casa Escobar and Que Pasa, and I loved eating the French onion soup from the Putter Cup Coffee Shop at the Industry Hills Sheraton. As you can tell, I love to eat and food memories are ultra- nostalgic and easy to recall.
What are some of your first memories of the Homestead?
I wasn’t aware of the Homestead Museum growing up. So, when I recently returned to Hacienda Heights, I was trying to reacquaint myself with the area. I did a Google Maps search and discovered that there was a museum in my vicinity. Say what? I drove over to check it out and expressed my interest in volunteering. So, my first memory was surprise, really, that the Homestead Museum existed right here in the heart of the City of Industry of all places. Beyond that, I was very much charmed by La Casa Nueva and all the beautiful old tiles. I used to make mosaic tile sculptures, so I am always drawn to tiles of all genres.
What influenced your decision to become a volunteer?
I worked at a fine arts museum in Honolulu for over 20 years. It’s a joy and an honor spending time within the walls of a cultural institution. It’s an environment that I am familiar with and fond of and it’s always exciting to share and connect with the communities we serve.
We know that you enjoy visiting museums and historic sites. What are some of your favorites, and why?
My husband and I love to visit national parks. Volcanoes, Yellowstone, Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks are a few of our favorites. When you live on an island, it’s a great feeling to arrive on the mainland and get out on the open road and start exploring a completely different environment. Hiking, sightseeing, and wildlife viewing are magnificent and meaningful to the soul.
What other interests or hobbies do you enjoy?
My favorite hobby is playing Japanese Taiko drums. I have been very lucky to study under one of the most respected Taiko artists in the world, Kenny Endo, at the Taiko Center of the Pacific. We play Kumi Daiko, which is ensemble drumming. Many pieces we play are in the Naname style, which means the drums are on a stand which puts them in a low and slanted position. We play them standing in a deep lunge position with the center of the drum lining up with the center of our core. I play alongside a group of friends that I met about 10 years ago when we all joined the school around the same time. On a recent trip to Honolulu in April, I got to play with my friends on a few occasions. The highlight was playing at the Diamond Head lookout shortly after sunrise for the Hapalua Half Marathon. With the ocean as our backdrop, we played atop the last hill of the race to motivate and encourage the runners for their final stretch of the race. Since moving back to LA I have not joined a Taiko school or group, so my current pastime is watching the Dodgers.