As Lahaina Plantation Days 2011 begins, many may be looking forward to the live music, ono grinds and carnival. For me, I’m excited about the cultural and historical exhibits because the history of life on the plantation and my family’s history are one and the same.
My grandfather, Kakukichi Ginoza was born in Okinawa, Japan on June 15th, 1900. In 1915, he immigrated to Hawaii and began work on the sugar plantation. He later tried his hand with farming pineapple but lost everything in the depression and eventually returned to sugar.
On February 2nd, 1931, he married my grandmother, Tazuko Kaneshiro. Grandma was sixteen years old, she had known from the time she was a little girl she would marry Kakukichi. When I was in junior high, I asked my grandma if it was difficult to know who you would marry before you “fell in love”. She told me “you grow to love each other through life’s challenges”. I didn’t understand her response until I saw the film Picture Bride almost fourteen years later.
They settled in Lahaina and had six children; Jeanne, Harold, Janet, my father Edwin, Dennis and the youngest, Karen. The Ginoza family and my great grandfather rented a three bedroom Puukolii camp home for $10 a month, nine people in ~800 to 900 square feet. Their home had running water for a sink and electricity. However, there was no hot water and the outhouses and public baths were located across the street. In the early ’50s the bath houses burned down. My grandma’s brother in laws then built the family an outdoor redwood tub which was heated by firewood.
There was no refrigerator in the early years. The family ate many canned goods, deviled food, tuna and of course, spam. Rice was bought in hundred pound bags and stored in the same canister which was also used to store and ripen other foods. Grandpa grew cabbage, lettuce, green beans, green onions, eggplant, sweet potatoes, okra, mango, orange and papaya. He also grew gobo root which was chopped up and prepared with shoyu and sugar. My uncle Harold started raising chickens. Food could be bought at the plantation store run by Pioneer Mill or you could place an order with the Nagasako or Uyehara store and they would deliver your groceries to your home.
Grandma made most of their clothes on her Singer sewing machine including working through the night to complete my auntie Janet’s May Day queen gown. She learned to pattern cut from her sister Kimiko. Kimiko was a master seamstress who shared her knowledge with others as a sewing instructor.
Both of my grandparents attended school until the sixth grade. Their children attended the plantation grade school which had four teachers for 1st thru the 8th grade. They then completed their secondary education at Lahainaluna High School. My grandmother always expressed to me to how fortunate I was to further my education as she had always wished she had been able to continue. She also impressed upon me the importance of life long learning, whether it be learning a new language, creative pursuits or by reading. My auntie Karen won a statewide letter writing contest, her winning entry in the article below is very telling of what plantation life was like.
My father and his siblings grew up, went to school and eventually all moved off the plantation. Jeanne became a nurse, Harold worked as a agricultural researcher for the USDA, Janet is a small business owner, Dennis a minister while Karen and Edwin both became teachers. Grandpa passed away in 1969 followed by auntie Jeanne in 1971. Dad, mom and I lived in Germany until the early ’70s. When we returned grandma lived with us and then later with her sister Kimiko, she passed away in December of 2009 at Hale Makua. Although she couldn’t hear or see well in the last few years of her life, she continued to read each day and to teach her fellow residents arts and crafts. Even though she didn’t always recognize me, I continued to fly home every few months to visit her, bringing her green tea, manju and of course, a newspaper to read.
This picture was taken in 1968. My grandpa was sick and needed an operation so dad flew home to Maui the day after I was born in Texas. Counterclockwise, starting from the bottom left, my aunties Karen and Jeanne, Grandma, Grandpa, my cousins Guy, Stephanie and Lisa Iwamoto, my auntie Janet, her husband Mot Iwamoto, my dad Edwin, uncle Harold and uncle Dennis.