On July 19, 2009, Florence Miyasaki shot an 88 at The Experience Golf course at Koele Lodge; she was 86 years old. She had no trouble sharing the details of that game with me, or the celebration afterward, but when I asked her about life on Oahu during World War II, her memories were not so easily forthcoming.
It isn’t because Flo’s memory is fading. Her mind is sharp, so are her hearing and her ability to assess people and situations. You can see by her photo, that Flo is young-looking, strong, active, has a sense of style and a great smile. And, somehow you just know that behind that smile is a woman with the constitution of steel.
Florence Aoki Miyasaki was born on April 25, 1923. She grew up in Honolulu, in the McCully neighborhood, in the house where she still lives now. Her parents were nissei Japanese Americans making Flo a World War II third-generation Japanese American.
Flo’s house is just blocks away from the intersection of McCully and King Streets where, on December 7, 1941, American shrapnel landed, destroying one city block of stores and several homes. Three people were killed, and 31 families were left homeless. (One of the houses that burned belonged to a Honolulu Fire Fighter who was fighting the fires at Hickam Field.)
“We were scared,” Flo said. “We could hear and see what was going on.” She said it in a matter-of-fact way. “We were scared,” she repeated. “We knew what was happening.”
A few blocks away on Pumehana Street, fires raged at Lunalilo Elementary School. Lunalilo School was a large two-story wood frame building built in a U-shape. It was designated as a Red Cross First Aid Station in case of emergency. When shrapnel hit, the school there were wounded in the building and Red Cross workers carried them from the building on to the lawn. Among the high school volunteers on duty that day was “Danny” Inouye (Senator Daniel K. Inouye). “Danny was a year behind me at McKinley,” Flo said.
Thankfully, Flo’s house was spared of damage that day