Amy Yamamoto
A Different View

Home Front

In the summer of 1943, Amy is one of many students recruited by Hawaiian Pineapple Company to work at its cannery in Honolulu.

She remains in Honolulu to complete her senior year at McKinley High School. At the Nash household, she does light housework, laundry, and meal preparation in exchange for room, board, and pay.

Amy, who exchanges letters with Whitey, worries about him after he and others in the 442nd RCT are deployed.

Working at the Pineapple Cannery

Yeah, well, during the summer of [19]43. . .a lot of the plantations, as well as the pineapple cannery, were real shorthanded, so they recruited students from the islands to come to Honolulu and work for the Hawaiian Pineapple [Company].

High school girls employed to assist with pineapple crops
High school girls employed to assist with pineapple crops

So I just signed up, and I was one of the students that came, and we worked the whole summer at the cannery. And we roomed at Mid-Pacific Institute. And after the summer was over, they all went back to the Big Island, but I stayed back, and I continued my high school with McKinley High, which was my senior year.

[My work at the pineapple plant was] trimming, if you know what that is. You know, your pineapples will come on the conveyor belt. And, well, it’s really tedious work because there’s four people working on one side of the pineapple. We used to say, “Oh, they shoving five pineapples.” So one person has to pick up extra pine[apple], which was very hard at the beginning. But you get used to. So I did trimming.

Young women work in the pineapple cannery
Young women work in the pineapple cannery

And then the following year, I worked two more summers, I think it was, and I worked in the cafeteria. And that was good because we used to have special privilege of eating foods that the managers used to eat at the cafeteria. Because I used to be, I guess you can call a waitress. And we used to take orders and wait on the presidents.

Young women eat in the cannery cafeteria
Young women eat in the cannery cafeteria

And one of the persons that used to come through the luncheon, lunch there, was Mr. [Neal] Blaisdell. He was one of the nicest people that I used to wait on. So all the workers there worked in the cafeteria, we used to eat the same kind of food that they ate, whereas the cafeteria people, people going to the cafeteria, ate the regular cafeteria food. So everybody used to say, “Eh, you guys are lucky, privileged, you know.”

Working for the Nash Family

[I came out to Honolulu because] I just wanted, I guess, a change. But my girlfriend, who was my neighbor from the Big Island, had moved to Honolulu, and she was Hideko Nishihira. Used to work for this family in Wilhelmina Rise, and they were an English couple by the name of Edgar and Mary Nash. And so Hideko said, “Oh, if you want to work for them for your room and board, and go to McKinley,” she said, “Why don’t you do that.”

So it was an instant thought that I said, “Oh, maybe I should do that.” So, I called home and my folks said I could do that. So that was my first year here in Honolulu, living up on the heights, working for an English family, which was very nice because I learned a lot from them.

I didn’t find [living in Honolulu during the war years] very difficult or anything like that. Because, actually, I would go to school during the day and I’d be home by certain hours to help the family. And they treated me real nice, too. So I was very fortunate.

And the Nashes had two sons: one in the navy and one in the coast guard. So every so often, when they would come home, then they would invite their friends, and those were the nights that I had to work extra hard. But Mr. Nash was really nice. Every so often he says, “You know, we’re lucky to have you,” and all that. So I had a lot of compliments from them, too.

[I did] light housework, and a few laundries, and in the evening I would help her with her dinners. But they ate very light and bland food so it wasn’t that difficult. In fact, that’s where I learned how to eat lamb, because English people love lamb. So the son would call and say, “Oh, we’re in.” You know, the one in the coast guard and the navy. So she would take out this leg of lamb from the freezer and try to cook that. So dinner’s never ready before nine. But those were the hard days for me, yeah, but I got along all right.

[Besides room and board,] they paid me every two weeks, fifteen dollars. So that carried my bus fare to school. And my lunch, they would let me take lunch from home. And then, of course, my kozukai [spending money] for the weekend.

Free Time

I used to have Saturday, late Saturdays, and Sunday off. And then she let me have Thursday afternoon off. So from school, I would go and visit Hideko’s family because they had a saimin stand on Fort Street. I guess — I don’t know if you remember Princess Theater? Hideko’s family used to run a saimin stand there. So Thursdays I would run to Hideko’s place and visit with them. That was really nice.

Fort Street Mall, Honolulu, Hawaii
Fort Street Mall, Honolulu, Hawaii

Oh, my girlfriend — there was another family that moved to Honolulu from Ookala, and her name was Miyoko Miyashiro. So Miyoko and I were really close, and on Sundays we would meet, and we used to go to movies, or sometimes hang around Waikiki. Not so much the boys, but (chuckles).

Waikiki Beach behind barbed wire fence, Honolulu, Hawaii
Waikiki Beach behind barbed wire fence, Honolulu, Hawaii

I had an account at Bank of Hawaii (chuckles) because, you know, when you working for the cannery, they don’t give you the whole paycheck. They’ll save some money for you to be able to take home after the summer work. So I think I had like maybe close to three hundred dollars, I think, in my bank. And so I had that, and then my folks, every so often, would send me money. And I felt I never did use all the fifteen dollars every two weeks that the Nashes paid me (laughs). Because those days, you know, a dollar went a long way. It’s not like now.

McKinley High School

Well, when I went [to McKinley], aside from Hideko, I hardly knew anybody. So I walked into this classroom, which I couldn’t find the classroom, so there was this fellow that helped me. He was a student there, and we became very good friends. He was a year younger than me — he lives on the Mainland now. And then we had a few other boys in my class that helped me a lot. Mostly the boys helped me a lot more than the girls (chuckles). So I had a really nice time going to school there.

Air raid practice at McKinley High School, Honolulu, Hawaii
Air raid practice at McKinley High School, Honolulu, Hawaii

News of Whitey

I was in Laupahoehoe School [when I heard Whitey had joined up]. I think was a junior then. But he was in Hilo, working, as you know. So, of course, we didn’t really correspond that much. He would write to me, maybe once a week from Camp Shelby. And I really appreciated it in the later years because he takes so long to write a page of letter. And, you know, every Monday I would receive one letter. And later, he told me that he sits hours and hours to write his letters.

Shiroku
Shiroku "Whitey" Yamamoto writes letter home

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[A]ll of us were just worried about them in the front line and not get too seriously hurt, or whatever. But [Whitey] used to write and he’d say he’s a jeep driver, so I used to feel a little bit eased, thinking that at least he’s not on his feet running up and down the hill, all this and that. But to a certain extent, I guess I did worry.

Amy Yamamoto's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Amy Yamamoto.

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