Moriso Teraoka
100th Infantry Battalion

Father: Shikazo Teraoka

Shikazo works as an electrician in the mill of the Hilo Sugar Company.

A man of few words but strong values and traditions, he is a major influence on Moriso who remembers him as being caring, loving and wise.

Whether it is the desire for a pet goat, the need for fresh milk, or the crisis of a badly cut finger, Shikazo is always there for his children.

[The following text is excerpted from "My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will" by Moriso Teraoka.]

My father was a wise and patient man.

I still remember the time that my younger brother wanted a goat as a pet.

We had sat down for our evening meal at our kitchen table that occupied half of the space of our crowded kitchen. With a food-safe standing against the opposite wall and a two-burner gas stove adjacent to the sink, we siblings sat alongside Father on the table-length benches.

Mother never sat with the rest of the family and always waited until we had finished our meal before she had her supper.

Members of Shikazo Teraoka family outside Wainaku home. Left to right: Matsuyo, Father Shikazo, Yutaka on tricycle, and Moriso on scooter. Hilo, Hawaii. Ca. 1926.
Members of Shikazo Teraoka family outside Wainaku home. Ca. 1926.

Otan, I like one billy goat,” my younger brother asked Father just as we started our supper. I was older by two years and Isamu, my younger brother, was seven years old. “Nani?” Father almost choked over his first mouthful of rice. What is Isamu asking for, a pet goat?

Dooshite?” Father’s reaction to Isamu’s request was, “Why? Let me think about it.” He poured tea into his rice bowl and swirled his chopstick to wash down the last grain of rice, finishing his evening meal.

Father was a loving person.

He always provided for our wants and needs. But this request from Isamu for a billy goat was a bit of a setback for him. He was blindsided.

Isamu, for reasons beyond our comprehension, wanted a billy goat. “I no like rabbit or chicken. I like one billy goat,” he adamantly insisted.

And so for the next few evenings, Isamu would plead, “Otan, you going get me the goat?” Father’s answer was always the same, “I am thinking about it, okay?”

Father was hoping that Isamu would forget about the billy goat and the matter would be solved. But Isamu was persistent.

Every afternoon as soon as Japanese school was over, Isamu would rush home, not stopping at Nakamura Candy Store for a penny’s worth of strawberry flavored ice-cake or a stick candy at Yonemoto Store managed by two sisters. Leaving the rest behind, passing the plantation manager’s mansion on the hillside, and passing the one-mile-to-Hilo concrete marker, Isamu would turn right into our graveled camp road and straight to our house; he hoped a billy goat would be waiting for him.

It came to pass that he could not ask the same question anymore, knowing what the answer was going to be. Only his pleading eyes would tell Father that he was still waiting. I started to feel sympathetic for Isamu’s unfilled request but also for Father’s dire predicament.

Father, after a week, was still in the same dilemma: “How can I solve this nonsense?” This was not the only concern in his mind as his job as the mill’s electrician always demanded the higher priority.

It was a matter of who would knuckle under first.

One morning, Isamu and the rest of us jumped out of bed – wakened by the baying of a billy goat. And as sure as the sun rose from the horizon over Hilo Bay, a goat was munching the California grass behind the kitchen.

Okan, Okan, Otan wen get me my billy goat,” shouted Isamu as he ran out to pet the billy goat. His shout of joy extended over to the neighbor’s classmate; Teruo, Hidekazu and Tadaichi hurriedly came over to see Isamu’s billy goat.

Mother pleaded with Isamu, “Come eat the asa-gohan and go to school,” she said. Isamu was so elated that he just about forgot to eat breakfast.

Father had long gone to work at the sugar mill when the goat was still sleeping tied to the laundry post behind the kitchen.

Isamu couldn’t wait to run home after Japanese school to play with his new pet, “You my billy goat, you know, you my billy goat,” he repeatedly cooed, while gently stroking the beard of the goat. The ever hungry goat kept munching on the California grass.

After about a week, all the grass in the backyard was eaten away, and Isamu had to go down the gulch at the entrance of our camp where a huge ulu tree sheltered an abundance of California grass. Isamu used Father’s sickle, cut armfuls of grass, and none of the brothers helped him. After all, the billy goat was Isamu’s. Water also had to be provided; having a goat was getting to be a chore.

Father saw Isamu’s waning enthusiasm and sensed that it was no fun keeping the goat anymore.

One morning we got up by the crowing of the rooster in the chicken coop but no baying of the billy goat. The grass that was cut the previous day was uneaten.

Isamu felt relieved, no more goat, no need to cut grass.

Okan, what happen to the billy goat?” I suspiciously asked. After all, the goat appeared mysteriously and now disappeared mysteriously.

Otan returned the goats to his Filipino friend last night,” Mother whispered in despair.

“But the man going eat the goat,” I cried.

Shikataganai, it cannot be helped,” Mother replied, turning her back to me.

Father was a level-headed man.

It was a rainy afternoon when I went to the roadside to cut some grass to feed our pet rabbit that we kept in the backyard. I still have the scar on my fourth finger where the sickle sliced into its tip. With blood spurting, I ran home crying that I had cut my finger. Father had just come home from the mill. He calmly wrapped the finger with a piece of clean cloth and took me to the hospital in Hilo town. No one had a car in the camp, and we rode the sampan bus. Father fed the rabbit that evening.

He taught me how to deal with an accident and not to panic.

Father was a caring man.

In the early 1930s most of the students attending our elementary school were from the plantation. We brought lunches from home because seldom could we afford the cost of a school meal. Rice and its condiments was lunch for the Orientals; bread was the usual fare for the Portuguese. We could not afford to buy lunch except on some very rare occasions.

Our lunch usually consisted of a huge rice ball with pickled plum ume in the center, wrapped with a seaweed sheet called nori. Often times, we had to forego nori because there was none in the kitchen cabinet. With the rice ball we had fried eggs, Vienna sausage, or leftover fried fish from the supper of the previous night. A hamburger patty was a luxury. Wrapped with waxed paper and newspaper, the musubi was a symbol of status for us plantation kids.

Along with our lunches, we had to bring a bottle of milk for our mid-morning snack. Most of the parents could hardly afford the luxury of fresh milk. The drink usually consisted of cocoa powder mixed with water and some condensed milk. I still remember how the teachers complained that the students were not getting their proper nourishment. The plantation operated a dairy farm to provide dairy products for their managerial and supervisory staff and for those laborers who could afford to buy fresh milk.

Father was one of the few who saw to it that his children were provided with their daily ration of fresh milk. Mother would often tell us how fortunate we were because of his caring concern.

My father gave my siblings and me his desire of raising healthy children.

Father was a man of his own convictions.

I was in the sixth grade when a zealous Christian organization decided that the students needed Bible training, and we were to be taken to the Hilo Boarding School for a weekly lesson of Christian religion. The organization obtained permission from each child’s parents to attend classes, except for Father.

He believed that the teaching of Christianity was not the school’s prerogative and that his right as a parent was being infringed upon because we were all of the Buddhist faith. Only after it was explained to him that the Bible classes were not to convert anyone to the Christian faith, but given only to broaden the student’s knowledge of another religion did Father allow us to attend those classes.

My father’s legacy was a lesson in persistence in what you believe in.

Father was a conscientious parent.

When the boys in our plantation community turned twelve years old, our summer fun came to an end. We were expected to work in the cane field hoeing weeds from the sapling sugar cane. Many of the girls joined the boys and worked side by side. I spent three summers hoeing in the cane field until I turned fifteen when I went to Lanai to pick pineapple.

Every evening Father would sharpen my hoe to a razor edge for the next day. I inherited Father’s work ethic. He wanted to “tell” me by sharpening my hoe that he knew and recognized how hard I had to work even as a twelve-year-old boy.

Father was a strict man.

During basketball season, we were not allowed to participate in basketball practice sessions during the school week. Friday night was okay and so was Saturday. My brother and I accepted this kind of decision of my father from an early age. We knew where our priorities were. There was a time to play and a time to study.

But Father was also a loving person. My brothers and I had the only basketball besides the one owned by the team. Father bought the ball for us without even being asked. It was always borrowed during the weeknights. I inherited his sense of discipline and to recognize my responsibility to do well in school.

Father was a stubborn man.

When the sugar workers united and formed labor unions, he did not become a member, although he was one of their staunchest supporters.

He joined the ranks by walking the picket line, and donated to the “war chest.” He took his turn and worked in the temporary kitchen to feed the men on the picket line. Since his retirement was fast approaching, he maintained that the union was for those with many more working years ahead.

My father was not afraid to be counted and rallied around the younger labor force of plantation workers.

My father was a man of few words,

especially with his children. Family problems were discussed with Mother in the early morning hour during breakfast.

I still remember the standards of guidance that he expected from his children as we grew up to adulthood. I remember his colloquial expressions. “Atarimai no koto o shite, atarimai no michi o toori nasai,” meaning, “We must do what is right, and we must walk the road of righteousness.”

From these expressions, I learned to weigh the pros and cons of any problems that surfaced in my lifetime and to make decisions that I believe to be the correct ones.

"My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will" was reprinted with the permission of Moriso Teraoka. Photographs courtesy of Moriso Teraoka.

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