Norman Harris: Man With a Tale of Two Cities
The Signal | Wednesday, February 14, 1968
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When Valencia Valley's most prominent businessmen gather tomorrow noon at their regularly scheduled Chamber of Commerce luncheon, one of those who may appear out of place will be a rather shy, retiring young man named Norman Harris who sweats a lot when he gets nervous.
In a very important way, Harris, a Newhall-bom youth who earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at only 26 years of age, will be the man of the hour.
Tomorrow his home town will be accepting a proclamation from the South Korean town of Chun-an [aka Cheonan], making Newhall her official "sister city." In turn, the Newhall-Saugus-Valencia Chamber of Commerce will be making note of the fact that such a relationship exists by the ceremonies that will take place in the Valencia Clubhouse.
Congressman Edwin Reinecke has been invited to the ceremonies. So have county supervisor Warren M. Dorn and State Senator John L. Harmer.
Whether these men will show up has not yet been confirmed.
But beyond almost any doubt, Chong Chul Kim, a senator of the Republic of Korea, will. He is scheduled to present the proclamation and a scrap book detailing the history of Newhall's first and very own sister city.
Basically, whatever is said and done tomorrow will be all in homage of Norman Harris.
For it is due to him that the entire ceremony will be taking place, indeed that Newhall now has a sister city at all.
It was four years ago that Harris and a friend of his he met on a summer job in Los Angeles first started talking about making their two home towns sister cities.
The friend was Chong S. Kim, a brother of Senator Kim, who lives in Los Angeles and works as a chemist. The Kims' home town is Chun-an. The Korean family had made their lives and fortunes in chemicals.
"The talk was pretty nebulous all those years," Harris said. "But when I told him I was going to go on a three-month trip to the Far East, he suggested now was the time."
Kim first sent off a cable to his influential brother and later followed it up with a letter. By the time Harris arrived in Chun-an last November, everything was ready to go.
A high school auditorium in the town about 80 miles south of the capital, Seoul, was pressed into service. Press and television turned out in droves to cover the big event.
The governor, mayor and Senator Kim himself attended the ceremonies there. So did about 300 citizens. They were presented with a hand-lettered proclamation from Newhall done by The Signal's own society editor, Bobbie Trueblood.
Still, Newhall didn't know about it.
One of the problems Harris found on returning with the proclamation of friendship towards Newhall, hand-lettered in Korean, was who in Newhall should accept it.
Newhall, after all, is not really a city.
First he contacted the Newhall-Saugus-Valencia Chamber of Commerce, next County Supervisor Warren M. Dorn, who comes about as close as anybody to being Newhall's local government, and finally a letter to the League of Cities in Washington, D.C., keepers of the records of official sister cities.
Although the league has not yet replied, tomorrow the ceremonies should be enough to make it all official.
Chun-an, a town of some 78,000 population, most of them engaged in agriculture — namely the growing of rice — will be Newhall's sister city.
The big question, as Harris sees it, is what Newhall will do for that relationship.
Officially, being a sister city means little more than the fact that two towns in different nations have declared that bonds of friendship and goodwill exist between thorn.
Chun-an is geographically very much like Newhall, except that it gets colder. It also, like Newhall, is a place that needs lots of development.
There are some important differences, too. Chun-an has a history that goes back thousands of years. A few of its buildings are nearly that old, except that most were destroyed in the Korean War.
The area is just now beginning to get some industry, very much like Newhall.
Also like Newhall, Chun-an las no high-rise. The buildings are almost all single and two stories high.
But the one big difference is in the people. They are much poorer than residents of Newhall.
It is here that Harris hopes the relationship will blossom into something more than the exchanging of scrolls.
"A sister city program can be what you make of it," Harris explains.
And what Harris wants to make of it are such things as donating books to Chun-an so the people there can learn to read in English, exchanging pen-pal letters, and biggest of all, the possibility of setting up a foreign student exchange program.
Tomorrow the ceremony will take place. And the day after, Harris hopes, the beginning of a life-long relationship will start, one as good as the best of marriages.