Monday, December 27, 1999

Courtesy Catharine Pratt Field
Sarah Pratt watches her children, including daughter Catharine,
who is pictured below, playing in a Kaneohe stream at the family's
summer home in Kapunahala. The photo was taken in 1905.

Reflections--A Century of Hawaii Memories
Stories By Rod Ohira


From the barefoot days of plantation life through the Depression, World War II and post-statehood years, memories of the way we were can tell us a lot about ourselves today. Dozens of Hawaii residents, ages 9 to 106, were interviewed for a five-part Star-Bulletin report that begins today. This week, we share their recollections -- a capsule view of life in Hawaii this century.

Today: Memories from residents in their 100s, 90s and 80s, reflecting on life here during the first three decades of the 1900s.

First of five parts


Five Oahu centenarians, whose lives will extend into a third century on New Year's Day 2000, gained an appreciation for education, hard work and close family ties from their years in Hawaii.

Catharine Pratt Field
Catharine Pratt Field

"It's amazing," 101-year-old Catharine Pratt Field said about the prospects of living in three centuries.

"I've seen a lot of changes. The electronic age came about since I was born."

Sada Yamamoto, 106; En Kyau Yap Kong, 103; Tadao Sato, 102, Chuichi Matsuda, 101, and Field were among 70 Hawaii residents, ages 9 and older, interviewed by the Star-Bulletin for a five-part report that begins today.

Through the recollections of 11 different age groups, the report presents a capsule view of life in Hawaii this century.

"I'm thankful I can still think and remember," Field said. "That is what pleases me."

The centenarians featured here recall a time in the early 1900s when "going over the Pali" meant a long walk to Windward Oahu.




An appreciation for education, hard work and close family ties shaped the lives of five Oahu residents, born in the 1890s, who'll be celebrating life in their third century on New Year's Day. Here.



A look at two Hawaii women from immigrant families: one who did what was expected by becoming a homemaker, another who balked at tradition to pursue education and a career. Now in their 90s, neither has any regret about her choices. Here.


Poverty and hard work shaped the lives of two 80- year-olds from big families who grew up during the Depression years knowing what it meant to share food and eat what you could raise. Here.

Memories both
sweet and tart mirror
early years in Hawaii


By Rod Ohira


En Kyau Yap Kong, the daughter of a store merchant from Canton, was born on Maui. Education was not a priority for many immigrant families in the early 1900s, but Kong says her father believed it was important.

"That's how I became a student," said Kong, whose three children all attended college.

She taught school in Makawao and Kalihi-Palama from 1925 to 1942.

"It was a joy being a teacher," Kong said. "I had the pleasure of seeing little children learn to read, write and speak English correctly. I had apt pupils."

Kong taught first to fourth graders and says she had as many as 40 children in a class.

Pulled weeds on plantation

Tadao Sato was 15 years old when he came to Hawaii from Fukushima, Japan, to work on a sugar plantation in Wailuku, Maui.

Since he was small and couldn't speak English, Sato pulled weeds from 5:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week. "No understand English, not much you could do," he said through interpreter Johanna Won.

Sato eventually went to work for stores around the sugar plantation. He never earned enough money to educate himself, but he made sure his children weren't denied.

"I worked hard so my children could go to school," he said.

Sato is proud of the fact that four of his six children graduated from college.

Walking the Pali ridge

Catharine Pratt Field was born in June 1898, the same year her family's summer home "Makaalamihi" was built.

The house was constructed in Honolulu, then dismantled and shipped to Kaneohe, where it was hauled to Kapunahala and reassembled.

Summers at "Makaalamihi," which she says means "the eye of the far-seeing crab," are among Field's fondest childhood memories.

"We walked along telephone ridge over the Pali from Nuuanu to Kaneohe," said Field, a fourth-generation descendant of Dr. Gerritt Judd, who came to the islands from Massachusetts with the early missionaries.

"We raised all our own vegetables at Makaalamihi. In the evening we would watch for my father to come home from work. He was a doctor. You could see the light of his car coming down the Pali."

Field's father, Dr. John Scott Boyd Pratt, was a New York native who worked for the Department of Health. Her family lived in a corner house of Nuuanu Avenue and Judd Street.

Field's appreciation for Hawaii is reflected in some of her poetry, which she can still recite from memory.

"I love the climate, the friendly people and the beauty that surrounds me," said Field, a graduate of Punahou and Smith College in Massachusetts.

Early baseball, golf

Chuichi Matsuda, former owner of an auto body and repair business, was born on Feb. 12, 1898 in Waimanalo, where he learned to play sports.

A Hawaiian teacher taught him to throw a knuckleball while he was in grammar school and he used that pitch successfully in pre-World War II businessmen's baseball leagues.

He and his friends took up golf in the late 1930s and played regularly at Moanalua Golf Course.

"Playing in pasture," he said of the course condition. "No mo tees, used sand and mud (to tee the ball).

"Chinese No. 1," Matsuda says of the top local golfers during his era.

George Matsuda says his father played golf from 1926 to 1988 and won many tournaments. The elder Matsuda was also an accomplished billiards player, his son added.

Matsuda lived in Honolulu and worked for Schuman Carriage, which was then located across from Washington Place. His family would ask him to come home once a month and there was only one way for him to get there.

"I walk to Waimanalo the Pali way," he said.

Train ride to Kahuku

Sada Yamamoto came to Hawaii as a picture bride when she was 19 years old. Before going to Kauai, she took a train to visit her sister in Kahuku.

Yamamoto recalls the train ride took three hours and there were no stops along the way. "You couldn't come back the same day," she said through interpreter Johanna Won.

Her impression of Honolulu was "it was a poor city with no beautiful Japanese homes."

Yamamoto spent most of her life working to make ends meet.

"A woman was expected to work hard," she said. "I worked until I was 82."

Yamamoto, who retired as a housekeeper, had no children.

Her best memory is of hard work. "The most important thing is honesty," she said of the effort she gave to her work.

Work was long
and hard, and school
out of reach


By Rod Ohira


Their duties were defined by tradition long before Sadako Kawamoto and Midori Fujii were born to first-generation immigrant families in Hawaii during the first decade of this century.

"From olden times, girls supposed to work, take care family," said Kawamoto, who was born on Kauai in March 1896. "I didn't have too much education, only sixth grade, because I had to work."

Kawamoto, 95, did what was expected and became a housewife, while Fujii, who turns 95 on Jan. 5, balked at tradition and left home to pursue a nursing career.

Both have no regrets about their decisions.

Making ends meet

Kawamoto raised six children, one of whom was 1952 Olympic gold medal swimmer Evelyn Konno.

Kawamoto was 13 years old when her family moved to Honolulu from Makaweli, Kauai, and settled in Moiliili. By age 18, she was married and living on Hobron Lane.

When her husband suffered a disabling injury, she did laundry to make ends meet.

"Japanese style is don't ask (the government) for help," Kawamoto said. "So I did laundry.

"I used to push baby wagon every day to Waikiki where the haoles lived and asked them for laundry."

Kawamoto says she boiled the dirty clothes before washing everything by hand. She charged 10 to 15 cents.

It was hard work but Kawamoto was determined to give her children the educational opportunities she never had.

"My children, 13 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren are the treasures of my life," she said, reflecting on the rewards of her sacrifices.

Cows grazed in Kahala

Fujii was born in Papaikou, Hawaii, and came to Oahu in 1911. Her family settled near Kahala Beach.

"Mostly there were cows grazing in Kahala, only a few homes near the beach" she said. "Everybody was poor.

"I used to walk barefoot to Liliuokalani School every day. There was nothing but stones and keawe."

After graduating from McKinley High School, Fujii decided she needed more education.

"Girls were normally forced to work, help the family," she said. "But inside me, I wanted more education so I had to leave home and earn money to pay for my own schooling."

Fujii became an operating room technician and worked at several hospitals on Oahu.

First wore shoes at 21

Chisato Nihei, 94, was born in Liliha but grew up in Manoa Valley.

"We were so poor," said Nihei, the daughter of a plant farmer. "I was the eldest of 10 children and my mother was sickly, so I couldn't go to school. I had to stay home and do housework.

"I was always working."

Nihei fondly recalls the wedding gift she received from her father. "He gave me shoes," she said. "I was 21 years old and had never worn shoes before."

Nihei's workday left little time for social activities.

"Life was harder then," she said. "I didn't even go to my first Bon Dance until I was 55 years old. Friends used to invite me, but my father used to scold me when I asked to go.

"Now I dance all the time."

'We all got along'

Mabel Hagen, 94, grew up on Kauai, where her late father, William Kuhlmann, was manager of Koloa Ranch.

"We had such a wonderful life there," Hagen said. "Our huge home was up on a hill and had a tennis court and swimming pool.

"What I liked best about Kauai was going to school with all the different nationalities. We all got along like brothers and sisters. Everybody was the same."

When she was growing up, diseases such as diphtheria were common and often fatal to young children. "We had doctors then, but most families treated their own illnesses," she said. "Medicine has come a long way since then."

Star-Bulletin file photo
In the 1930s, children used to swing from the vines of this
banyan tree at the intersection of Keeaumoku and King
streets. The tree was cut down in October 1967.

They grew up
knowing what
poverty was
all about


By Rod Ohira


George Gusman and Lillian "Grandma" Puha grew up knowing what poverty and hard work were like.

"The Depression years of the 1930s here was a hardship for everyone," said the 82-year-old Gusman, the eldest of 15 children. "You couldn't get anything.

"I was 14 and a full-time employee of Haiku Fruit on Maui, making 10 cents an hour. I was lucky, I had a job."

Gusman says conditions were so bad that plantations couldn't sell their pineapples and would pick and dump the fruit into the ocean so they wouldn't rot.

"Most people were living on what they planted," he said. "We ate sweet potatoes more than anything else.

"Things started getting better around 1938. I joined the Army in 1940 and stayed 20 years. The Depression years made me appreciate hard work and having a job."

Puha, 84, was born in Kalihi and moved to Papakolea in the summer of 1921.

Her family -- the Wrights -- was one of the first to settle in Papakolea. As the third youngest of 13 children, Puha's job was to take care of the house while others work the land.

"Papakolea was a forest, and we had to work hard to clear the land," said Puha, who still lives in her family's Krauss Street home.

Canned foods were available but not an option.

"Everything we ate, we raised," Puha said. "We lived on rain water, vegetables and chickens.

"We made our own butter, guava jelly and bread. There was no such thing as buying.

"I never ate anything out of a can until my brother brought back a can of sardines from Hilo. We shared it."

Other reflections of the Twenties and Thirties:

Artist Joe Pimental's painting of the drive-in saimin
stand he recalls from his childhood.

A saimin drive-in

Hawaii nostalgia artist Joe Pimental, 83, was born in Kahuku but grew up in Pauoa and Punchbowl.

"Spending summers at swimming and playing in Nuuanu Stream and Kapena Falls were the highlights of my young life," Pimental said.

"I also remember a drive-in for saimin where all the waitresses were dressed in kimonos. The place was lit up with lanterns. They would put a board, about 7 feet long, across the car like a table."

Misses that old banyan

Lorretta M. Sato, 83, grew up in Pawaa between what is now Kaheka and Sheridan streets.

"We used to play on Keeaumoku Street near the agriculture station," Sato said. "I used to swing from the banyan tree that was on the corner. I was so sad when they cut the banyan tree down."

Sato says another treat was shopping for new shoes once a year.

"Nuuanu street (mauka) of King Street was where all the shoe shops were," she said. "On Christmas Eve my parents took us there to buy shoes for our present."

Doors were never locked

Crispin "Cris" Mancao, 85, a legendary local senior league baseball pitcher, cannot remember anyone locking their doors when he was growing up in Waipahu's sugar camp.

"They trusted each other," Mancao said. "Nobody is going to steal anything from someone they work with.

"There were a lot of different races, but we learned how to talk each other's language. Like a family. When one guy has a party, everybody came. There was no such thing as an invitation."

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