Ray Nosaka
100th Infantry Battalion, B Company

Raymond Riyoso Nosaka

Raymond Riyoso Nosaka, second of five children, is born in 1916 to Magoichi and Tsune Nosaka in the Palama district of Honolulu.

Magoichi is a general building contractor from Yamaguchi-ken. Tsune is a dance and music teacher from Hiroshima-ken.

Nosaka Camp includes: their residence, contractor's base, rental property, and gas station. In the 1920s, fire engulfs the gas pump, ignites dynamite, and destroys home and livelihood.

[I was born in] 1916. . .in Palama, Honolulu.

[There were] five [children]. And then my mother's side, they had two, Hideo and Chizuko. And one adopted one, so the family came big.

Ray Nosaka and family

I'm actually, if you don't count my half-sister, I'm the number two. And my older brother was Charles Katsunosuke. I was a very shy person, very quiet because my older brothers made sure that I don't say too much or something.

Anyway, I was always - they call it otonashii [quiet] in Japanese - and I was brought up always quiet. Even when we were in Kalakaua Intermediate School, my brother was very popular. The girls used to just grab him like this. [Hug him] And sometimes they'd grab me and I'd say, "Oh, I'm the wrong person." He was very popular but I was always behind, I don't say anything.

Mother

[My mother's name is] Tsune. [S]he comes from Hiroshima in Japan.

[S]he was an odori [dance] and samisen teacher. And after that, my dad sent her to Japan to learn how to make those wedding hair. And she came back and then she taught how to make those. Because in the olden days, they used to have false kind, you know, when you get married, you just stick it on.

Japanese woman holding a samisen

[My mother] was a widow and she had two children [when she married my father]. And I had one adopted older sister. It happened some years back. The way I heard it, this man came to my house and just left her, and he didn't come back for her. And then she grew to be just like my own family, my older sister.

Father

[My father's name is] Magoichi Nosaka. [He] comes from Yamaguchi.

He was a general building contractor. Those days, we're not in a plantation but they call it Nosaka Camp, Okada Camp, Wong Camp. They used the word "camp" but it's not a camp, it's just a building with rental homes, yeah.

[Located] right in Auld Lane and used to get the Kambara Store, Wong Store, Okada Store, Kam Store. Small little place had a lot of stores.

We had two two-story buildings. One story was for us and the basement was rented out. And then across us, had two homes where they can rent upstairs, downstairs; upstairs, downstairs. In addition to that, he has his contracting business, so he had a warehouse there.

And in those days, there's no law where you can have safety. In his office, he had dynamite sticks just piled up like this. There's no law.

But today, you cannot do that. But those days. . .That's why when my house had fire, the things start exploding all over. Some homes get all holes like that because the thing just keeps going like that.

And we used to have horse right in there, we have chickens. Because in those days, have horse wagon, too, see, besides trucks. They have this kind of trucks and then the horse used to pull 'em. So we had horse, too, we had chickens and we had a gas station, you know, for pump. In those days, used to pump.

And my mother, she's only about four feet eight, but she drives a Model-A Ford. But she used to drive, I don't know how she does it.

So [my father] used to have a lot of leased land over there. So I used to follow him, he collect rents. He takes me all over the place. Like in Ford Island, all the tennis courts were made by my dad. And then he takes me there, too. So I used to wait and go hook fish over there. Just waiting for him.

Later on, [my father] got a service station in Kapahulu. Nosaka Service Station. Because my oldest half-brother took over the place in Kapahulu.

[My father] built roads, like in - they used to call it "Kane'ohe Pupule [crazy, insane] House." He made all the roads over there [at the Territorial Hospital]. He used to take me around and I used to think, "How come this guy [a patient] working on a hill?" It's a little off. But those days, wasn't strict, they [patients] can go anywhere they want. And he made all the roads over there.

And he built some, like that Kalihi Mortuary. He built that. That's why, when I was a kid, I used to watch what they were doing because he goes and checks - when he goes and builds a place, I used to see what they do.

That's why when my dad died. . .they had a big funeral over there. But I still remember when I was a kid, I used to watch what they do. They just cremate the child and take the coffin. And then in the back, there's a place, they just make it nice again and resell it again. Because all the Japanese people usually cremate the body. So they don't keep it at all, you know.

And you take, like, from Hanauma Bay all the way to the Blowhole, my dad, he built that road. That's when they used to have mountains, he used to get dynamite - man, dynamite the road. One of the dynamite-men died at work, that's what I was told. So the road from there to Blowhole was built by [my father].

[H]e had about thirty workers. Big gang, he used to have. I still remember when I was a kid, ho, the people report about six o'clock in the morning and gather where they're going to go work.

Fire

And when my house had a fire, just like the Chicago one. My older brother was there and this man was about - it was about five-thirty - Kawakami family, his Model-T got out of gas, so they push it to the gas pump. And my older brother was holding the lantern like this because it was getting dark. And the gasoline splash and then the big fire. And all the whole Nosaka Camp went to ashes.

And till today, that's the biggest fire in Palama. The whole camp. Everybody. . .And then all kind [of] places get holes in the roof because of the dynamite, you know.

I was about, must be about eight. And then I saw my dog - we always have dogs, about four dogs - I saw the pup, I grabbed the pup from upstairs, I ran outside. And all my family is all split, we don't know how to get together. We all ran away. This Higashi Hongwanji used to get, you know, over there [Banyan Street], by Palama. They kept us for six months until the house was built again. So, they helped us quite a bit.

[N]obody was hurt. I don't see how. And the way I heard it, the firemen came, they ran out of water. It just happened like that, and then it gets worse and worse, and then all the whole camp, down to ashes. And at that time, was payday, so he had a lot of coins and all that. People would come and pick up all whatever they can find. Because those days, five cents was five cents, you know (chuckles) it's not like now.

[W]ell, my dad is - I guess he must be an entrepreneur. Because he came back and he start rebuilding the home. And then he start getting all those trucks and all that together again. Buy all that equipment, yeah, concrete mixer and all that. So he tried to recoup but it was kind of hard so he started going down and down.

But by the time, we're not so bad because we came older already. We can go on our own. But [my father] believes in education. He wants us to go school.

But my older brother, he likes to play music. So he goes, those days, Phillips Commercial School was the best in Hawaii. He goes there just to play music, he doesn't study. He didn't even go high school. From there, from ninth grade, he went straight to the commercial school. And he only play over there, play music and things like that.

Home

[My friends] always meet at my house. All the gang, like my good friends, all meet at my house, about eight or ten, always meet at my house before we went to McKinley High School walk. Or when we get social thing, gathering, they always meet at my house, the same gang. We talk it up and then we go to social dance again. So I named our club Cavaliers Club.

Ray Nosaka, age 15

[I]t's a rooming house. But we have separate rooms. Two stories, all like that. So we used to have Hawaiian here, one Samoan living here and then my room is way on the corner, this side. My sister's room is way on this side. Had about five lined up like this, all rooms. Get one bathroom.

Downstairs, where my father and mother stay - and on this side, has a bar. You know, drinking bar. This side get Koide Store. It's a grocery store. Upstairs is a tea house. So my mother used to play samisen for the tea house.

My father, he was slowing down already, so he didn't do too much contracting business. But I guess he got income from the Koide Store and for the rental. Those days, the car was Nash. Nash, Studebaker. You don't hear that anymore.

Ray Nosaka's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Ray Nosaka and Library of Congress.

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