BY RAY SMITH – Every December 7, the American media reports on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Thousands of remembrances.
For Kauai residents, there is another significant day – April 1, 1942 – which was Easter Sunday. That was the day the first Regular U.S. Army units here to help defend our fair island. To our relief, it was no April Fools.
Not long ago, I had my own memory-jogger of this event. While browsing in the Hawaiiana section of a bookstore in Honolulu, I bought a used copy of “And Blow Not The Trumpet” written by Stanley D. Porteus and published by Pacific Books in 1947. Its 304 pages are primarily about how the Territory of Hawaii’s civilians coped during wartime, including an entire chapter devoted to Kauai.
Several nights later, reading chapter 12 in bed (“Pakiki Na Kanaka Kauai”—translated “Tough are the men of Kauai”) I let out a yell startling my spouse: “I’m in here!” (meaning mentioned in the book). So how could an unknown grammar school boy in short pants surface in a serious history on WW2?
“But soon there came to the people of Kauai the greatest possible lift to their spirits, the arrival of two regiments of the 27th Division under General Anderson, on Easter Sunday 1942. The men and women of the island felt no longer left to themselves. To GIs from New York State, this island in the Pacific was as foreign as the Philippines or New Guinea. The people seemed to be of all breeds and colors but equally unintelligible. Even the whites didn’t know north from south, but uttered some strange gibberish about ‘mauka’ and ‘makai’. No wonder that when one group came in to Honolulu and saw an armed Japanese home guard watching the Hawaiian Electric power house, one of them yelled: ‘Hell, boys, let’s go home. They’ve taken the place.’
“(Of course the unintelligibility was not all one on side. One white child, the son of a former missionary to China, was completely mystified. ‘Father,’ he said, those men from Brooklyn speak the strangest pidgin you ever heard.’”
Yeah, that was me all right, the 9-year old son of Rev. Howard A. Smith, pastor of Koloa Union Church, and his wife, Gertrude, former missionaries to China, whose family arrived on Kauai on inter-island steamer in September 1941 after a year on Oahu.
Do I remember saying it? (No.) Or how Dr. Porteus, a professor at the University of Hawaii, heard it?
Most likely used as a humorous sermon illustration by my dad from his pulpit and repeated by the many soldiers training in Koloa who attended his services. Or when I actually uttered that phrase? Probably the day the GIs arrived.
Were you here that day? I can visualize that exciting moment as if it were yesterday. The trucks driving into Koloa that quiet weekend morning after church, about two companies kicking up the dust as they rolled onto the grounds of Dr. A. H. Waterhouse’s estate (today the site of Koloa Missionary Church and a residential subdivision), the makai portion of which had been cleared of shrubs and small trees.
There was still the remnant of a cement tennis court, which the troops soon fixed up for volleyball. Rows of wooden barracks had been hammered together to house several hundred of the raw former National Guardsmen from New York State. Our church’s Parish Hall was commandeered for the “duration” to serve as the mess hall for successive units that were shuttled in and out of Koloa until late 1944 for their jungle and assault training. Two big latrines had been dug, and washhouses built, immediately on the other side of the 4-foot high stonewall, which separated our parsonage from the new Army camp. (How’d your Moms like this view 35 yards from your front door for several years? I never heard mine complain.)
Well, as those soldiers piled down after their drive from Nawiliwili—sweating and parched in their uniforms and packs in the humidity, confined by their officers to the immediate area—they spotted we wide-eyed barefooted kids: “Hey, yourse, can you get us some PINEAPPLE juice? We’re in Hawaiyaa (sic) ain’t we?”
Pulling out coins and bills from their pockets, groups crowded around we Koloa school fourth-graders (including my next-door neighbor Bobby Cortezan) and began placing orders. For the next two hours, until Usa Store up the street ran out of cans of juice and bottles of soda pop, we ran a shuttle service back and forth. From miscounted change and tips I netted over $10—equivalent to ten months of allowance at my going rate a 25 cents a week.
Back home, unaware of the real significance of the arrival of armed forces on Kauai for the first time, I showed my fistful of money to my parents and jubilantly likely uttered a version of that fateful sentence which showed up in print to rekindle, decades later, one transplanted kama’aina’s memories of how the 31,000 men, women and children on Kauai rallied to support their country in its time of crisis.
Ray Smith was a Koloa resident and 1950 graduate of Kauai High School. He now lives in Wheaton, IL and returns to Kauai often.