Memories Shared by Emi Uemura, Hakalau Up Camp, 1940s and 1950s
SPECIAL PLACE IN MY HEART
One location that holds a special and dear place in my heart is Hakalau. It is 13 miles north of Hilo where sugar cane used to dominate the whole region. There were no Nintendos or Game Boys or any video games. Instead we used our imaginations. We always found something amusing to do, whether going fishing, swimming or picking guavas and creating anything that involved fun. We learned from one another. When we picked guavas, we crawled under the barbed wire fence pasture land. We would rush to the guava trees and climb before some big cows came our way. We always believed we'd be safe if we didn't wear red clothes when we expected to meet up with the cows. If the cows were under the guava tree, we would throw the green guavas to chase them away. If this did not work, the boys would climb down and start chasing the cows away. When it was safe, we girls would climb down and run to the barbed wire fence with guavas filling the front of our stretch out T-shirts. We would take them home for our Mom to make guava jelly or juice. We always hoped no guavas would get smashed in our shirts or we usually smelled of guavas till we changed our clothes.
Mom would wash the guavas and slice them in quarters before we put them in a big pot of boiling water on the kerosene stove. She stirred the pot to prevent scorching. While it was cooking, you could smell the sticky guava syrup. The boiled fruit and liquid were poured into a cheese cloth bag so the juice would drop out and separate from the pulp. She would squeeze the bag and the first clear juice was made into jelly. The pulp juice that collected at the end we were allowed to drink. This was the best guava juice for it was very concentrated, instead of the store bought guava juice that is thin and flavored artificially.
April 23, 1998
As we were growing up in the plantation of Hakalau, on the weekend after our chore was done the boys would cut bamboo and prepare the fishing pole with suji and the hooks. We girls would go to the garden and dig up the worms and put them in a can. Once the can was half full, we would go home and meet the boys.
After lunch, we would go down to the river (gulch) near Hakalau Mill and go fishing. While walking the steep step going to the mill, someone would press the trolley button so that the trolley would go down to the mill empty. We would jump on the trolley and get off before it reached the end of the line. This way the workers can't scold us for riding the trolley.
Once we reached down to the mill, we would walk to 2nd river and find the best fishing spot. Usually, we girls would sit on the roadside and do our fishing while the boys would walk along the river bank. Before the boys went off to find the best spot, they would put the worms on the hooks for us girls. In the meantime, we placed the fishing line near the rocks and tried to catch opu or gori. If I remember correctly, we would pull the fishing pole up and down to tease the fish. Once it was caught, we would get excited and call the boys to take it off the line. We had prepared a guava stick that
was shaped like a long hook. With the long end of the stick, we passed the stick through the gill of the fish and put it back in the river to keep it alive.
When it was time to go home, we would take the guava stick full of opu and gori and sell them to Filipino single men for 50 cents or a dollar depending on the catch. With the sale, we would split the money among us. With the money from the sale of the fish, we would go to the movies the next day at Hakalau Theater for 10 cents during the matinee feature and buy soda, I think, for 5 cents and a candy bar.
Even with the sales, we still can't get rich.
NEW YEAR'S CELEBRATION
Getting ready for New Year's day was a big production in every household in the camp. Maybe two weeks before the end of the year, my father and Mr. Frank Souza would slaughter a pig for the holiday. Mr. Souza usually comes about eight o'clock in the morning to the pig pen about a mile from my home. My dad would get up early and prepare for the slaughter. He would clean the pen and start the fire for the hot water. He set the table and my brother had to dig a hole for the guts of the pig. My dad did not like kids when the pig was being slaughter but Mr. Souza's family was there to help out. He would take the blood and other parts of the inside for his use. Once this done, then we would help out by carrying a pot of hot water so that they could shave off the hair from the pig. The pig was all cleaned and ready to be carried to our home where my dad cuts it into sections. He took orders around the neighborhood to see if they wanted to buy pork. Some did and others he would give them as gift for we were not wealthy. With this supplemented income, he would buy materials, so that my mother could sew clothes for the New Year.
A week before New Year's, we would start to do Spring cleaning. The girls would clean the house and the boys the yard.
On the weekend before New Year's, my uncle and aunty from Waiakea (we always use a geography name after we said uncle or aunt, e.g., Uncle from Kona, or Honoluiu Aunty never the first name of the person) would come early in the morning like 5:00 a.m. While my dad would start the fire to get ready for the mochi tsuki? He would wash the rice and measure and put the mochi rice in the box over the copper 10 gallon can to steam. About seven in the morning the first batch is ready for pounding. My other relatives would arrive In time for the pounding of the mochi rice. This was taken place under the house of my grandfather's home since it had a high ceiling. The first batch was put into the usu or stoned well which my father made from a huge rock and chiseled into shape of a well in the center.
The Uncle from Down Camp and Waikea would mash the mochi rice with a mallet (looks like a hammer made out of a guava branch which was about 6 inches in diameter and a branch that was about 2 to 3 inches in diameter for the handle). After that my cousins (the boys) would start pounding the mochi rice and my father would be stirring the mochi rice. The pounding must have a rhythm or they would pound my father's hand. Meanwhile, my Mom and aunties are waiting for the mochi. When my dad thought it is the right consistency, he would carry the hot mochi onto the table and my Mother would do the cutting. She would first cut the mochi in a shape perfect round for the alter which we could not touch especially when we had our pmp. The reason is that our bad blood is going out of our system and that the first batch was an offering to the Lord Buddha and should not be handle by anyone who has their period. It's their belief and should be respected, we got away from this duties.
When lunch came the ladies would do the cooking and we had to do the clean up. In the mean time, we would put either mochi, araimo or sweet potato in the fire place. When it's ready, it had a brunt crust or koge and it tasted ono.
On New Year' s Eve, my dad had the honor of putting the kazari-mochi on the altar, on the safe and the living room of my grandfather's home and ours. Mom will be prepping for the New Year's food. She would make the sushi, awayuki, kanten and other food.
While Mom and my sister were doing the cooking, we kids would be playing with fireworks.
My dad always told us that girls must be home by midnight. We had all kinds of fireworks and never thought of causing any fire in the camp. We would listen for the church bell at midnight and start the fire works. My mom had some noodles at midnight and then we went to sleep. One New Year's day, we would get up and take a bath before we put on our new clothes to go to church. We had to wait for my grandparents to come from next door before we could eat our ozoni and other goodie in the morning and we had to say "Ake mashite o me de to gozai masu mata rei ne one gai itashi masu" (I not sure) or "Happy New Year" and with my friends would say "Happy New Year put your ear." Than off to church and greet the members with wishing them "Happy New Year." After the sermon Mrs. Mamiya would serve tea and cookies to the kids and sake to the adults.
At home my mother and sister were preparing for lunch. We had a long table where everyone sat on the long bench waiting for our grandparents. Lunch consisted of sushi, chicken, roast pork, soda, black beans, kazunoko, namasu, etc. After we had our fill, we went to other homes to stuff ourselves and we all went to the theater to see a matinee show. Usually, it was a cowboy show like Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, etc. After the matinee, we continued visiting and eating. When we got home late in the afternoon was time to clean up the day's dishes. During the day, we could not hold a broom or mop for there is a saying "that you will sweep all your fortune away"'.
April 23, 1998
CHRISTMAS ON THE PLANTATION
Growing up in a plantation town like Hakalau and going to a country school is quite different from going to school in the city.
When the Christmas holidays were getting close, the public schools would get ready for the big event of the year. The intermediate class would do a Christmas play. Just three weeks before the Christmas play, the teachers would select a few to do the action while others would be in the chorus singing Christmas carols.
The day of the program, the community merchants and the plantation management would donate cases of oranges, apples, candies, raisins and nuts which were later packed by student volunteers. It was organized like a chain gang. One person would open the brown package while others would put one orange, one apple, a handful of nuts and candies, and a branch of raisins in while the other students would count how many packages were packed and then box the packages by grade level. Once the goodies were packed, we all went home to get ready for the big event of the evening.
The program would start about 7 p.m. , and the parents, guests and student body would be arriving at the school gym from as early as 6 p.m. The program lasted until about 10 p.m. After that the audience would sing "Here Comes Santa" or "You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry," and we would stand in line by grades to receive the goodies. If the student did not get the goodies, it was given to them the next day at school or the parents would take it home that evening .
After that, we all walked home from the Christmas program. Some kids were carried home by their parents because they were asleep. It was about a mile that we walked home. The older group of kids would try to make the young ones scared and say something like "There's obake (ghost) near by." We would scream and run all the way home.