GREGG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Amanda Stevens and Dr. Denis Teraoka, president of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Club, inventory the more than 1,000 books and board games that will be sold at next weekend's book and bakery sale at the association's Kamoku Street clubhouse across the street from Iolani School.
Club 100 getting back in touch
100th Battalion veterans seek to rekindle their ties to the community
World War II veteran Naoji Yamagata recalls the idea of forming a post-war social club was born while the 100th Battalion Japanese-American soldiers from Hawaii were undergoing infantry training in Wisconsin.
That was in June 1942 following the dark days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) soldiers gave $2 a month from their G.I. pay to the company clerk to be used after the war to purchase a place where they could meet. The allotments were recorded in a "black, bulky leather-bound dues book" which reportedly totaled $50,000 at one point.
The ledger was lost, but in 1945, Club One Puka Puka was dissolved and incorporated as Club 100, which in 1952 purchased three prime Oahu real estate lots totaling 21,600 square feet at 520 Kamoku St. In July of that year the nisei veterans dedicated its $58,350 clubhouse.
Since then, the one-story building across the street from Iolani School has been the scene of countless Christmas parties, wedding receptions, birthday celebrations and more importantly a place where these veterans felt "comfortable and at home."
GREGG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Monique Oda, volunteer dance instructor, works with members of the 100th/442nd Line Dancers during a weekly practice session at Club 100.
The first officers of the Club One Puka Puka were elected with Katsumi Kometani chosen as president; Sakae Takahashi vice president; Andrew Okumura secretary Hideo Yamashita treasurer. Now 100th Battalion veterans -- whose ages range from early 80s to mid-90s -- want to re-kindle the "Cafe One Puka Puka" idea with a community book and bakery fund-raising sale on Oct. 8-9 at its Ala Wai blue clubhouse.
Dr. Denis Teraoka, 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Club president, said "fund-raising isn't the primary goal of the event. We want the community to come and visit with the veterans. This is not only about money, but the hope that community, especially the younger generation, will meet with the veterans. We want to be a part of the community."
The 1,400-member 100th Infantry Battalion was formed in June 1942 and was made up of Japanese Americans. About 500 of the original 100th Battalion members are still alive today.
More than 1,000 "gently used books" have been collected since the beginning of the summer and will go on sale at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at the "blue clubhouse." Veterans and their families will also sell donated bakery goods.
"We plan to have coffee and other refreshments available for free," said Amanda Stevens, who has run Club 100's daily operations for the past three years. 'We want people to feel free to come and talk story."
Stevens said the idea of "Club One Puka Puka" grew out of talk of a book and bakery sale this summer to raise money to fix the clubhouse's roof.
Stevens said the organization needed $40,000 for that job. Publicity over the condition of the clubhouse this summer generated enough funds to cover the cost of the re-roofing, Teraoka said. However, there are other continuing maintenance needs ranging from furniture repairs to replacing aging jalousies and glass windows.
Stevens said the response was "overwhelming."
"Folks are calling in, talking about their fond memories of clubhouse events," Stevens said. "I've received a number of calls from people who have had their baby's first birthday party, or their wedding reception or their teen's graduation party."
Clinton Shiraishi, president of J. Okada Stores in Kauai, sent a $200 check in the memory of Ichiro Okada, who died in 1992 and served in the 100th Battalion.
Shiraishi said his company was founded by Jinkichi and Haruyo Okada, who were the parents of four sons: Ichiro, George, Motonobu and Ford, and one daughter, Fumiko. All four of the Okada brothers volunteered and served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and survived the war.
"Ichiro, who was a lieutenant, was sent as a replacement to join the 100th Battalion after basic training in Camp Shelby, Miss.," wrote Shiraishi who is married to Fumiko Okada. "He was a platoon leader and was wounded twice. The second left him permanently disabled. He was awarded two Purple Heart medals and the Silver Star."
Teraoka, who served in the 100th Battalion from the Anzio campaign to end of the war in Europe, said the only source of revenue which supports the activities of Club 100 is the rental income from an adjoining 23-unit apartment building and donations. Rental income averages $12,000 a month.
Teraoka said a 14-member committee is now reviewing the future of the organization and the clubhouse.
He said that a majority of the 500 veterans and their descendants who were surveyed in July 2004 "overwhelming" were against selling the Ala Wai property.
"The membership has decided to remain the status quo," Teraoka said, "so I hope no one mentions the word 'selling' hereafter. In the remaining golden years, the veterans find it distressing and offensive to hear talk of selling, dissolving and merging, and denying the veterans their undeniable right to use the clubhouse."
Teraoka said "a lot our veterans have lost their wives and don't want to stay at home, so they come here almost every day. They come to be with their buddies. It's become their second home."
Stevens said that families of these aging veterans also find comfort that they can drop off their veterans here. They know they will be safe. Many of them don't have anyone else to relate to, except their wartime buddies. It's a place they can reconnect.
But the veterans also want the clubhouse to be a more integral part of the community, Stevens said.
To that point, the clubhouse is now used by Iolani School's wrestling and judo teams on a regular basis. It is also the site of numerous Ala Wai Elementary School functions whose principal is Charlotte Unni and whose father served in the 100th Battalion.
The clubhouse also is used for various activities each week open to the community, Stevens said.
Monique Oda, a dental hygienist who serves as an assistant dance instructor to the 100th Battalion Line Dancers, said she loves weekly dance classes.