Our Neighborhood People
by Mr. Mukai
We used to play "Kalapio" a stick game where you have two sticks. One was shaved pointed on the two ends, the other stick was used to whack it in the air, the player who whacked the pointed stick the farthest was the winner. We played Hide and Seek with all different age groups and nationalities, we would divide the teams fairly mixing young and older kids together.
"All of us boys would go swimming in Kanaka pond naked. It was near the railroad track. When the trains went by, we would all jump up from the shallow waters, raise our arms and yell, "HERE!" We were about fourth to sixth grade at the time.
On the plantation, we were paid 10 cents an hour. I was young but I went out to work, I would cut grass and pull weeds. There were many people by that time who owned land and who raised sugar cane to sell to the larger plantations. I got paid $25 - $30 a month. My dad got $60 a month working on the railroad.
Here is Mr. Mukai who lives across the street from our school, he is showing us his black and white album, it was neat to see how people dressed and how the town looked back then. It was especially neat to see how young Mr. Mukai was.
When I got to work on one of the plantations, the Filipinos and others by that time were able to become lunas or foremen too. Some Filipinos would hit the people with the sticks if they goofed off.
Food: I remember that for lunch and morning, we would have miso soup and rice. We made fire in the house to cook. Our refrigerator was a big box, we would buy big blocks of ice to keep the foods cold. We didn't have ice cream as children, shaved ice cost, 5 cents.
The plantation camps were divided by ethnic groups, there was the Japanese Camp, Portuguese Camp, Filipino Camp, Chinese Camp and other camps. We lived in the Mixed Race Camp. My mother was a picture bride. Her mother had told her, "Do you really want to go to Hawaii, if so remember once you go that is it." My mother made her decision, she came to Hawaii and when she arrived she was the last person to be standing on the boat looking down at the people. She tried to match the picture with the faces below, but finally everyone was gone and there were only three men standing and talking together. She went down and showed the picture to them asking, "Have you seen this man?" One of them said, "That is me."
My mother was so angry to be fooled like that. But she remembered her decision when she last spoke to her mother in Japan. She went home with him and they were married. She worked hard and bore several children. He turned to squandering the money so she decided to leave him.
She married a Filipino man and had two children from him. They lived in the Mixed Camp section of the plantation. One day, I was still a young girl at the time, I was standing in line at a bank. This man comes up to me and says, "I'm your father."
I went home quickly and my mother told me the story. I was surprised. I didn't know that she was married previously. I asked her, "Why did you lie to me?"
As I got older, I helped my sisters get their education and now they have very good jobs in the community, my last sister wanted to be a nurse. So, I helped to support her through her education. I always wanted to be a teacher but couldn't afford the tuition to make it. In those days the elder sibling was very important. They brought their pay check home to their parents and helped to send their younger brothers and sisters off to school to get a better life. The Japanese like many of the other races strongly stressed education. My husband who is Portuguese says that his culture thinks differently. It is having large areas of land that is important, because the more land you have, you will never starve. That is why here in Hawaii, you will see many acreses owned by the Portuguese people.
My father and mother worked on the plantation. The most useful tools in the fields were the hoe and the sickle. In summer when we all worked, we were made 35 cents a day.
I played cowboy and Indians, marbles and slingshot too. I went
to Kalanianaole School hated English but I liked the rest of the subjects.
I graduated in 1939.
When it was summer time, I made my own shave ice. For extra treats we
bought candy which was 10 cents. At home I took care of the chickens. We chopped
firewood for cooking, because we had no electric stove.
Clothing was our main problem. We did not have enough money to afford
clothes. When I go to town, I get to wear my nice clothes otherwise for school
and at home I would have to wear my patched ones.
Mrs. Ethel Yoshiyama was born in Hawaii as a second-generation Japanese immigrant. She would rise each morning at 4’clock to go to work. She suffered a lot of hardships but also had a lot of fun. She and her friends loved to play beanbags, marbles, and jump rope. All of the girls and boys played together from the camp, regardless of one’s ancestry (Japanese, Chinese or Filipino).
There was also a plantation store where all of the people could buy lots of goodies and other provision. A 100 pound bag of rice was only $3.00 and the meat was only $0.25-$0.50. Mrs. Yoshiyama, however, loved the coconut candy that was only 5 cents per bag. This may seem like very inexpensive now but it was a lot back then. A train ride was only 30 cents, one way was 10 cents and then to return was only 20 cents more. A bottle of Coca Cola was only 5 cents.
There was no electricity and therefore wood was used to warm their houses and cook their food. There were no gas stoves like there are now.
All of the money didn’t just appear, it had to be earned and Mrs. Yoshiyama did her part every day. Every Sunday Mrs. Yoshiyama would poison 100 yards of sugar cane and then cut them down. She would also wash clothes, cook, plant seeds and do many other chores. She had a hard life but a fun one as well.
They didn’t have washing machines back then in the sugar days. They had to “handwash” and iron their clothes with their “charocoal iron. They had to use, ivory soap to wash their body, and to make shampoo, the ivory soap was boiled to a liquid. That is how we washed our hair. Girls, and boys had to wear clothes that they didn’t want to wear, clothes were handed down from generation to generation.
In the good old days, we children played marbles, dodge ball, jump rope, and other games for fun. Everyone slept on the floor with a mattress and used shreds of old clothes for pillow stuffings. Another pillow stuffing was, corn husk., after we shuck the corn, the wrappings were washed and dried and put into our pillows. We never wasted a thing, there was always something that could be salvaged.
rag cloth and plastic bread wrappers were cut into neat rectangle strips.
They were used as hair curlers, and the girls would wake up with
pleasant memory was, buying the Milk Nickel ice-cream, if you were lucky when you got to the stick, imprinted on the
stick would be, “Get a free Milk Nickel.”
That meant you could go back to the store and get a free one in exchange
for the stick.
A pleasant memory was, buying the Milk Nickel ice-cream, if you were lucky when you got to the stick, imprinted on the stick would be, “Get a free Milk Nickel.” That meant you could go back to the store and get a free one in exchange for the stick.
I have Hawaiian and Chinese blood. Every ethnic group had their own way of curing diseases and cuts. Whether we grew our own herbs or had our spiritualists do treatment on us. The Hawaiians believe that the ocean is one of our main healers. My parents would send us down to the beach whenever we had a cut. I remember going for a good swim in the ocean and by the next day, there was no sign of a wound at all! It was just amazing. There were other medicines that grew like weeds around the camp, some things tasted horrible, but we had to take it. But, they worked. We all learned from each culture how to take care of our health.
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