100th Infantry Battalion
Before the age of 12, Moriso’s summers are full of fun. Vacation always starts with the annual “summer shearing” when Father cuts off all the boys’ hair.
Mornings are spent at summer school, where Moriso learns crafts and plays sports. Afternoons are spent with friends surfing, fishing and getting into mischief.
They also catch fish and bullfrogs to sell to Filipino workers in the camp. They use the money to buy soda water and ice cake from Nakamura Store.
[The following text is excerpted from "My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will" by Moriso Teraoka.]
My “hana batta” summer days.
Oh, those Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer summers of ours in Wainaku Mill Camp. Those early 1930s vacation times are only to be remembered by those who were born and grew up in the sugar plantation camps and those from the surrounding neighborhood of farmers raising vegetables such as araimo, gobo, head cabbage, sweet potato, and pigs for the local market in Hilo. Taniguchi Shoten, Kawamoto Shoten, and Ebesugawa Vegetable Stand were some of the stores in Hilo that sold their produce.
For those of us who were twelve and under, our summer vacation officially started the day after school was over. In preparation for our yearly summer shearing, Father had honed the moving plate of the clipper and polished off any burrs that might cause the stiff black hair of ours to stick to the clipper. But, nevertheless, an occasional “itai, itai” would be yelped out.
Coming home from the sugar mill, Father would call one of us. “Suware, Sit down,” would be his command and with his manually operated hair clipper cut the hair of each of us: Isamu, Tetsuo, and I bolohead. Nishioka-san did the boloheading to his sons, Hidekazu and Teruo. Yukio and Toshio had the luxury of being shorn by their father who owned an electric hair clipper.
Those still in Haaheo Elementary School had the freedom of playing the entire summer. The mornings were spent going to summer school at the Hilo Boarding School. I remember that this was a place where students from the countryside of Naalehu, Pahoa from the south of Hilo and Kamuela were boarded during the school day. I remember seeing a woodworking shop and art classes at the school.
For about four weeks during summer vacation, we spent our morning hours learning craft making, art, singing, and playing intramural sports. One of the most popular craft projects was a shoeshine box. I had mine for a very long time. Another project was a magazine rack. I still remember the tunes of a few patriotic songs from The Golden Book of Favorite Songs like “Hail Columbia,” “Dixie,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which we learned to sing during those memorable summer school days.
Afternoons at Pukihae
After lunch was over, our afternoons were spent at Pukihae where the fresh water stream emptied into Hilo Bay. Pukihae was about a mile away from our Hilo Sugar Company, north of Hilo town and after crossing Wailuku River, which is the northern boundary of Hilo.
To reach Pukihae from our homes, we walked down to the railroad track that ran the length of the Hamakua coast to service all the sugar plantations. The locomotive was turned around at Hakalau for the return trip to Hilo from Monday to Saturday.
We would walk down a foot trail from our camp and down to the railroad track and walk on the track towards Hilo until we reached our swimming pool and playground. Hilo trains ran on the only standard-gauged railway in the entire island chain and perhaps, we were the only bunch of kids in Hawaii who were privileged to walk the tracks. We would walk on the track rails, balancing ourselves and seeing who could stay on the track the longest. We would place our ears on the track to hear the clickety-click sound of an approaching train. If we did, we would wait and see the locomotive approaching and would brace ourselves against the excavated corridor of the railway. Then the train would whoosh by only about three feet away from us.
Whenever we saw Shioshita-san replacing the shoes on the mules that were brought to the blacksmith for shoe replacement, we would always stop to see. The mules never seemed to mind the red-hot metal shoe placed over their hooves for sizing, the scorching hooves smoking and smelling like burnt rubber. It was fascinating to watch Shioshita-san. We would pick up the nails that dropped on the floor. Of course, we did this after the mules left the blacksmith.
We would place the horseshoe nails on top of the track for the iron wheels of the train to run over just to see how flat the nails could get, but then, the nails were never flattened enough to sharpen for knives, and we generally threw them away.
Ah, those small kid days, the train had long passed Pukihae and returned to the roundhouse at Waiakea in Hilo, and we had the railroad all to ourselves. The afternoon sun began to cast a long shadow on the wooden tiles of the railroad track as we started our walk home towards our mill camp.
Our Pukihae is where the fresh water stream emptied into Hilo Bay. Our surfboard was a piece of 1 x 12 wooden board that we would snatch away from the sugar mill wood shop. We would be happy if we rode the waves to shore for five feet. A ten feet ride would make our day.
On the fresh water side of Pukihae, crayfish would be caught and cooked on a bonfire on the rocky shore. We would strip a coconut frond and tie a lasso made from a single strand taken from the husk of a coconut on to the frond. We would go to a motionless place in the pool and bait the rock below with coconut until the crayfish started to feast on the bait. We would guide the lasso behind the tail and around the body of the crayfish, and that is how we caught crayfish at Pukihae. When ulu was in season, we would pick one off the tree, take it to Pukihae, roast the ulu on the bonfire, and eat the charred breadfruit.
Whenever we needed sugar for our cooking of the ulu, we would make a detour from the railroad and to the sugar mill where the raw sugar was being bagged. We would ask whoever was sewing the filled burlap bags. Usually the stitcher would be Adorable Marcos and sometimes Chocolotte Rosario doing the bagging. One of them would get the cone that held the spool of thread that was mounted on the sewing machine, fill the cone with raw sugar coming down from the centrifix, and pass the cone to us. The paper cone was very much like an ice cream cone.
Selling Fish and Frogs
I still remember the Saturday after the morning session of Japanese school was over. We would go up the stream of Pukihae and fish for oopu and sell the slimy fish to the Filipinos in the camp.
At other times we would bait our bamboo poles with a piece of red rag or a petal of the red ginger flower and hook bullfrogs. The frogs had to be skinned before we could sell them to the Filipinos.
I still remember how I used to grab each frog by the head, cut the head half way from the top, rub some salt on the left fingers, and gripping the frog with the right hand, I would pull the skin downward stripping the frog clean. Chopping the hind webbed feet finished the cleaning. The skin and the innards would be dropped in the toilet that continuously carried waste down to the stream.
The Filipinos would give us fifty cents for the frogs. The fifty cents bought us soda water and ice cake from Nakamura Store.
Stealing Rose Apples
Behind the plantation manager’s mansion were several acres of pastureland where the manager kept some cows for his fresh milk. Guarding the cows was a bull, but in the pasture were two huge rose apple trees. The rose apples were the largest and sweetest in the summer time, bull or no bull, we had to have those fruits. Whenever the bull was grazing on the opposite end of the pasture we could sneak into his domain, fill our shirts with the rose apples, and enjoy the fruits of our mischievous adventure.
But one time, we never got close enough to pick the rose apples. We climbed the tree and we were inching our way to the end of the branches where the ripened fruits were just waiting to be enjoyed. Somebody never saw the yellow jacket hive, brushed the nest, and turned the bees into a frenzy. We had to jump down from the tree with the bees in hot pursuit. We nursed our stings and never had a bite of the sweet rose apples that afternoon. Luckily, the bull saw us too late, and we were over the fence before he could reach us.
Getting Stung by Bees
What is a summer without a few bee stings? And this one particular summer day was no exception. While walking the railroad track towards Pukihae, we could not help but notice a line of honeybees disappearing into an opening among the grass growing on the wall of the corridor. “Must be a hive in there,” Hidekazu said.
We had to find out if there actually was a beehive in the opening.
That time I volunteered to find out. I climbed on the backs of several guys and slowly began to probe the area where the bees were entering with a long branch cut from a guava tree. After a few minutes of probing I whispered, “I wen poke the honey comb, I think.”
I pulled the guava stick back and sure enough, I had jabbed the stick into the honeycomb. Everybody wanted a taste of the honey and the wax to chew on. Cautiously and slowly, I began to jab loose pieces of the honey-filled comb and began to lift away the pieces out from the hive. The elation never lasted.
The honeybees had enough of my intrusion. Boy, did they come after me and all the other boys that day. I must have gotten a dozen stings, a cheap price for a mouth full of wild honey. We all sat down on the railroad track and pulled out each other’s stingers while enjoying the sweet honey.
Crossing Wailuku River on a Flume
One adventurous journey that we never talk about except among the summer gang was our walk across the gulch over Wailuku River near Reeds Island behind the Hilo Standard School. If our parents ever found out we would have had a thrashing that would not have been easily forgotten.
You see, that one summer day, we went to cut some bamboo to make fishing poles. Reeds Island grew the tallest and biggest stalks. We got our supply for our needs, I think it was David Ventura who looked up and saw this flume spanning the river gulch. David suggested that we try and walk across the gulch by way of the walkway laid by the workman maintaining the integrity of the structure since this was a shortcut to our mill camp. To minimize the swaying, guy wires were stretched from the flume and anchored to both sides of the gulch.
We scampered up to the top of the gulch on the Reeds Island side; the space on the Wainaku end was a football field length away. Once everyone was on the walkway, there was no turning back. Two hundred feet below the Wailuku River looked like a strand of saimin noodle wiggling towards Hilo Bay. The flume was gently swaying by the wind from Hilo Bay.
“No look down, no look down, look straight ahead,” everybody was giving this encouragement to each other.
“I go first and everybody follow me, okay?” said David. Nobody was going to be chicken and lined up behind him. To be called “yellow” or “scare cat” would have ruined our summer. The sideward swaying of the flume increased as we took our first step towards Wainaku.
For sure the swaying was more pronounced as we reached the center of the gulch. Hidekazu was the first to cry, “I scare.”
David right away shouted without turning around. “Shut up, we halfway now, look straight ahead, no let go the railing, and keep on walking.” What else could we do but listen to him.
“I never going to be stupid and walk on this flume, never again, promise to God,” I gasped out after standing on solid ground on the other side of the gulch.
"My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will" was reprinted with the permission of Moriso Teraoka. Photographs courtesy of Moriso Teraoka.