Waimea played an important part during World War II. The town housed thousands of soldiers destined for and returning from the Pacific Theater. Local residents Alice and Bee Clark helped to establish The Pacific War Memorial Association, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. A small part of what they do is collect oral histories from residents during that period. Here is a short excerpt:
Mrs. Toshiko Iwamasa
interviewed by Jeannie Kaneshiro on August 9, 1995
And at that time they were go-ing to Waimea School?
When the war came, how did their schooling change?
The army took over the schools, most of the schools, and the hotel that was across. They took that over. So the kids were scattered. They had school at any building they could find. In fact, some of them met in the garages, like that. You know, somebody’s big garage, like that.
Every grade went to different
The soldiers were main- ly around in this area, so Wakayama people knew most of them because they used to hang around. Be- cause they had a store, too, eh? Right across the street, in the area called Pu’ukapu. It’s the first part of Pu’ukapu. Pu’ukapu is from that Mormon Church (*presently New Hope Christian Fellowship) right through the homestead.
All the way down towards Mana Road?
More over the other side… Lakeland side.
What ages were your children during the Camp Tarawa period?
My big girl was still in elementary school yet, I think. But then they were home, so they experienced some war time contact with soldiers.
This is Joyce?
Yeah, that was the oldest.
She was about ten years old already.
Yeah, yeah, that’s right.
How old was Wally then?
Wally was born in 1937.
He must have been only six. That’s right. Because my youngest one was still not in school.
That must have been pretty difficult.
Oh, yeah. But civilians, there were not too many, yeah? Those days there were a lot of Marines. We had some soldiers too, but they’re not recognized in this case, yeah?
That whole area?
Yeah. So when they talk about it, it’s still there. I think that’s still the same thing. But there were no soldiers up that side, mainly they were down from here, around here, down (*Iwama- sa home is approximately ¼ mile from present Waimea Police Station, northeast)
What was in this area?
Just barracks for soldiers. Not too many. But in the beginning there were lots, when they first came. See, they just pushed them any- place until they chose down the other side.
So they were here long before the Camp Tarawa actually came up?
No, about the same time. I think the Marines came afterwards because there were not too many people until we saw these Marines coming.
And what were they here to do, though?
We also had Seabees, construction people. But what they did, I don’t know too much because we don’t go into that area, see? So, when you talk about Seabees, they were the engineer group like. So they built up.
Did they build the CCC camp?
Conservation Corps? No, that was civilian. That was before the war, for people who never had jobs. They opened up jobs for that, yeah? If you want to know what the Seabees were building, I’ll go try call my friend in Kohala, he knows lots. Shikasho is his name. He would know. I think he went to the mainland. Alas- ka. He used to work down there. He went into areas that people couldn’t go be- cause he was a plumber. So he set up all the pipe work, you know, construction.
You’re saying, then, the soldiers were already over here, close to where you lived and this was before Camp Tarawa opened. And when the Marines came, the schools were closed and your kids had to meet else- where. How did the community feel? Nobody got upset?
No, they were not. It was just normal, natural, you know.
Was there much contact between the school children and the soldiers?
Not too much, but I under- stand there were some boys who used to sell newspa- per to them. They’d go down to the camp and sell. But my children didn’t do that. And while the soldiers were there, there were not too many playing around, too. Most of the kids stayed home because they cannot; they don’t go outside.
Why was that?
Too many people here, huh? But my kids, anyway, I never allowed my children to go all around all over the place anyway.
The kids must have been excited with all this activity going on – big difference to the town. How did they act?
I don’t know. My kids were normal. I don’t think there was anything special about them because they were always at home. And then, I always had Marines coming because I sew. I’m a seam- stress, so they find out from people, who did this and who did that. So I used to do lots of alterations for them. And, you know, Marines – they like their shirts tight, eh? [laughter] Those are the things that we used to do. I used to do, rather. Actually, I’m a dressmaker. I don’t do it anymore. In fact, some of the nurses, the nurses were under the Army, I sewed uniforms for them.
They could wear uniforms that weren’t Army issue?
We make with the sample that they have. ‘Cause they had some issue.
I heard a story where the sol- diers used to catch rides to go to Honoka’a.
That’s right. Yeah, we used to pick ‘em up. I did pick up some. And then we used to go to Kohala, too. They used to go to Kohala a lot. You know, on liberty.
Yes. I wonder what they were doing on their liberty?
They would want to drink and to look for girls – but it was still country. But Kohala had plantations so there were plenty people there, but it has a changed a lot, though, since the plantation closed. So life is a little different over there. Lot of people moved, same with Honoka’a. We used to go down and watch them when they had their own march- ing, they had a marching parade, eh?
At that time the major stores were Hayashi store –
Hayashi Store was, and then there was a restaurant right next to it. That would be where the Bank of Hawaii is now – same area. Bank of Hawaii – what was in the back? Then the Parker Ranch office was – I can not picture that now. The Parker Ranch office was – had the post of- fice, and their office was that same length. And then, this part, was Hayashi Store and then the store was here, and there was this Parker Ranch restaurant. And they were famous for their stew.
There was Hayashi Store, Chock-In Store, Fukushima Store.
Were there any other main ones?
No, that was the only one. Fukushima Store.
During the war the I. Oda store was already owned by the Wakayamas. And then where their liquor store is now [present Kamuela Liquor Store], that was?
That was a theater there. And I think the Army took over. That’s the reason why there were a lot of soldiers hanging around that area.
Until the Army came, when you went to see a movie, was that silent movies or was there “talkies”?
Hmm, they called that “talk- ies.” But when they took over, all that stopped.
After the Marines left, did they go back to showing movies?
Not too much, no. They used to do – when did they do that? Yeah, they did after that. Now before that it was a theater and they used to do “shibai.” You know, Japa- nese “shibai.” Fund raising kind. The young people or local people. “Shibai.” You know, they act and they had other things. They call nani- wabushi. [ types of Japanese theater – shibai= play, nani- wabushi= one man play]
Who acted in those plays? Oh, some local people here. They should have that kind today. It’s fun, you know.
So all of that stopped during the war, then?
Yeah, yeah. They used to do that before. So when the Army took over, that was it. And then we had tofu, yeah? You know where that old Hiroshi’s garage is? Yeah, had tofu. Ryusakis used to do. That stopped too. Tofu factory. The parents. The mother, I think – Mrs. Ryu- saki.
Why would they have stopped that?
Well, you couldn’t buy beans and things. There were a lot of things you couldn’t buy. And when the Army took over, they wrecked all the stuff that they had. You know, like the usu, and I think that is all gone. [usu= large carved stone receptacle used to pound steamed mochi rice]
For more information, visit the Pacific War Memorial website www.pacificwarmemorial.org.
Waimea Gazette Article – December 2004