A Different View
Youth and Early Adulthood
Mill Camp, named for its proximity to the sugar mill, is home to the Yamamotos.
Amy attends Ookala Elementary School. Besides the usual subjects, she learns to knit and to identify musical instruments by sound - skills she retains to this day.
At Laupahoehoe School, Amy notices "cute" upperclassman and office monitor, Shiroku "Whitey" Yamamoto, who regularly delivers papers to her home economics class.
[W]e lived in a camp. We call it "Mill Camp" because it was close to the mill. And it was mostly Japanese families, and Filipino work families - not too many families.
Most of the Filipinos were bachelors, you know, they work there. And so we associated with the Filipino families. In fact, I had a classmate, growing up. And other than that, I would say most of the people there were all Japanese.
[T]here wasn't much entertainment like, because, as you know, no TV. Oh, early days I know I used to play dolls with my neighbors.
Not so much [playing outside], but I guess my mom was kind of strict as to how we associated - not associated - but how we behaved, I guess is the word.
I went to Ookala Elementary School, and then to Laupahoehoe and I graduated from McKinley, my last year in high school, senior year, I was at McKinley.
I went to Japanese[-language] school up to around seventh grade. And that's when the war broke.
[In elementary school,] one of the things that we appreciated was music appreciation. And I think I was in the fifth grade, we had this principal, Mr. Mitsuo, Stanley Mitsuo, and he used to bring his home radio every week and we would listen to classic music, I guess. And, of course, we had to learn what instruments were played at that time.
And a lot of the students didn't care for it, so those students that didn't like to listen to music like that, he would say, "Oh, then why don't you go out and pull the weeds?" (Chuckles) So, we stayed back and we enjoyed it. So even today, when I see orchestra on TV, I tell Whitey, "Oh, that's a saxophone, and that's. . . ." you know, I can identify a lot of the instruments.
And then one year, I had this principal by the name of Watson. Mr. and Mrs. Watson. And Mrs. Watson used to do a lot of knitting, you know, between classes. And so one day I took interest in knitting, and I said, "Gee, you know, I would like to learn how to knit." Because prior to that, I was trying to crochet and things. I like to do handwork.
So Mrs. Watson said, "Oh, if you're really interested, when I go to Hilo on a weekend, I'll bring back some yarns from the craft store with needles." So she got me started on how to knit. And I'm still knitting today, after all these years, and I really enjoy it.
[At Laupahoehoe School,] home economics was one of my favorites because that's where I used to see Mr. Yamamoto [Whitey] walking every morning, and he would look at me and I would look at him. This is my early - I was in the seventh grade and he was ninth grade.
[I met Whitey] when I started seventh grade at Laupahoehoe. And, of course, you know those days, school kids, we don't get introductions and things like that. We only see this fellow and think, "Oh, he's kind of cute," or whatever. And he used to come by every morning to do some monitor work for the office.
We all used to look at him and we'd say, "Oh yeah, he's kind of cute."
So he walks in, and everybody used to tell me, "Hey, here comes your cousin." You know, because we both had the same name, same last name. And he just walks in, and drops a paper, and walks out. And our home economics room was kind of long so it was quite a distance he had to walk. We all used to look at him and we'd say, "Oh yeah, he's kind of cute."
Amy Yamamoto's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Amy Yamamoto.