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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

PEARL'S ASHES: Part 5--Naalehu

I then drove though Kailua-Kona to the southernmost community in the USA:  Naalehu.  My first job after graduating from Stanford in 1962 was with C. Brewer's Hutchinson Sugar Company in this town.  All my close classmates, and these are the same people I almost annually meet in San Francisco, joined the Peace Corps, and I did not want to make $99/month to suffer in a jungle (they went to the Ivory Coast, the Philippines and...don't remember the others, but I'm sure it was a great experience).   Yet, my conscience argued for equivalent deprivation, so I became a trainee at the Honuapu factory for $500/month.

When I joined the sugar industry I thought I was the first of my direct family line of relatives to do so. Most Japanese in Hawaii trace their beginnings to their ancestors being brought to Hawaii to toil in the fields. Turned out I was the second, for my grandfather, Kenjiro, when he helped build the Wanihia Powerhouse in the early 1900's, I later learned, worked for Eleele Plantation, now McBryde Sugar Company.

So here I was in 1962, when this region of the United States, Kau on the Big Island, had no access to radio (in the daytime), nor TV. Even my classmates who joined the Peace Corps could receive radio waves. But then, Hawaii had become a state only three years earlier. Today, C. Brewer is no more and the industry is virtually gone. So much for sustainability, but biomass, it is now turning out, could well provide a promising future for transportation fuel.  What a year, with the Cuban missile crisis and Hydrogen Bombs bursting in view of the state.  This fireball burst over Johnston Island, 800 miles away and tests finally were terminated i 1962.

The manager of Hutch, Bill Baldwin, invited me to a reception of his friends.  Mind you, this was 1962, but I was the only oriental, plus there was another of Filipino extraction.  Just like Stanford, everyone else was caucasian.  Turns out my college experience, not the courses, but the social networking, ideally prepared me for this setting, which helped again when  I joined the University of Hawaii a decade later after graduate school.  Mr. Baldwin mentioned that there was a cute nurse working in the next town, Pahala, and would you like me to arrange for a meeting?   This was Pearl.  We met in September, got married in December and in a few days would have celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.

We moved a few times, but returned to Naalehu for my first non-trainee assignment.  For several years my office mate was Dante Carpenter, who went on to become a State Senator and Mayor of the Big Island.  He now runs the Democratic Party.  The factory superintendent was Ed Lui, Sr.  I worked 10-12 hours a day for 19 straight days, my very uncomfortable starched khaki uniform usually getting soiled with oil and cane juice.  I was the engineer in charge of about ten management staff, who were mostly Japanese, with an average age at least double mine.  I remember one of them telling me that if I kept my nose clean, with my education, in ten to twenty years I had the potential to become the factory superintendent.  In the photo to the left are Ed Lui, Jr, Dante and Donald Okahara taken earlier this year.  You can read about them by clicking on "50 Years Since We Began."  This was the toughest job I ever had, but made the rest of my life a lot easier.

Bill went on to retire, and became U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga's sugar man in D.C.  To my pleasant surprise, when in 1979 (fifteen years later) I was shown to my desk in Sparky's office,  Bill Baldwin was sitting next to me.  My three year period in Congress was my second most challenging.  Everything later at the University of Hawaii was a relative breeze.

While in Naalehu, I looked at the two homes where Pearl and I lived (here above a Christmas photo then), and the settings were just not good enough.  So I dropped her ashes off just outside of Naalehu with a view of the Honuapo area, #5:

The factory was located just left of that pier.  We went fishing there often.  A giant sea bass lived in that area.  I think the people of that region just respected it.  A spearfisherman would have easily made a trophy of it.  I picked  this site because I had a 1967 photo of  her here in her nurse's outfit next to her car, a Hillman Minx:

NEXT:  Halemaumau at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Supertyphoon Pablo (Bopha) slammed Mindanao and killed at least 81.  Reports are the devastation will be a lot worse.  Pablo has weakened some, but is back in the sea and has strengthened to 100 MPH:

Difficult to say at this stage, but the storm should weaken into a tropical storm and strike either Vietnam or Hainan.


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