Ray Nosaka
100th Infantry Battalion, B Company

Youth in Palama

Palama, home to the laboring class, is known to be rough. Young residents, reputed to be bad, are feared.

Ray gains respect as a boxer. He also participates in rough-and-tumble barefoot football with the Nishikiya Ramblers.

When Ray develops a relationship with a girl of Korean ancestry, the ethnic tension between Japanese and Koreans surfaces in the families' objections.

[The other families in Palama] were mostly laborers and things like that. But my dad was on the - well, I'm not bragging or anything - but he was on the higher up, yeah.

They always meet my house, at the front, before we walk to - we want to save few dollars, so we walked to McKinley High School. That was about three miles, you know, three, four miles. They always used to gather at my place and then we go together.

Only part of them go Japanese[-language] school. Because some of them, the parents, they don't care. But my dad, somehow he wants me to go learn Japanese. And I'm a poor learner (laughs).

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I would say [Palama] was one of those places where all the hoodlums come. Those days, Kalihi, Kaka'ako, and Palama was the worst districts you could find. Just like that, you say you come from Palama, they don't want part of you. 'Cause when we went to outside islands to play football, after the football, we get social, you know.

Nishikiya Football Team, Hilo, Hawaii

The girls are afraid of us because we come from Palama. Just the word "Palama." They don't ask us, "You all right?" No. They just shy away from you. Yet they making social for us so that we could be friendly, but they're afraid of us as soon as they heard, "Eh, you from Palama." Oh boy, that's Hell's Acre over here.

But, like anything else, no matter what the bad district is, there's good ones and there's some smart ones, too. But that area is a rough area. You ask your old-timers who come from Palama, oh, the Palama or Kaka'ako, bad district. You know, so you might as well tell them someplace else. You tell them Palama, oh boy, they afraid of you or they don't respect you, or something like that.

Even those days, used to get Palama Theatre. But before the Palama Theatre was built, they used to have a theater with no roof. They called it "Old Shack." And then we used to go and see movies over there. You can see the big rats running around and all things like that. No safety. Rain, you got to bring umbrella to watch the movie because no roof. Finally, they built a new Palama Theatre. Now, it's not like that. It's nice, though, but it's not a Palama Theatre like it used to be.

Palama Settlement Interisland Play Day

There's Holly Bakery. They used to get. It's run by Japanese bakers and all that. But that's right where the Auld Lane starts from King Street. Now, you don't see that anymore, yeah. But that's where, one day, I brought my friend and then I stole a pie. And the pie was so hot, ho, I couldn't hold it. I run outside, dump the pie down. We used to be rascals.

I think almost 100 percent were Japanese we used to go out with, yeah. Because we have to stay together. Because those Hawaiian guys, big guys, always pick on us.

Race Relations

Even if it's Palama, there's racial [discrimination] between Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. Your father don't want you associating with the girls. They're part of the same thing. And I had a Korean girlfriend.

But those days, Koreans don't like Japanese. Japanese don't like Korean. It was like that. When they say "hate," they really hate them, you know. When my girlfriend died, she was in St. Francis Hospital. I wait by the grass. And then when I see all the family leave, then I used to go up. This nun over there told me that, "Every time you come, she's so cheerful." Three days later, she was transferred to Queen's Hospital. I don't know what the reason was that they transfer, I never did find out. And she's calling my name, she was dying already. She calling my name, my Japanese name, so she thought maybe nobody would know. That's what the girls told me. And then she passed away. Even the funeral, the parents and the brothers, they don't call me to go there.


[W]e used to have a Ke Alii Hi-Y. All from Palama side. And I was one of the presidents.

And the funny thing is, my teacher still remembers me. Miss Leong, from grammar school, then she went to Kaimuki Intermediate School. You know, when she asked a question from the history, if I don't know, you know what I tell her? "I'm so sorry, I'm still concentrating." So the students all laugh. I say those things like that. Instead of saying, "I don't know," I tell, "Oh, I'm still concentrating." (Chuckles)

But all these things that happen, I make mistakes, I try to learn more. And then after I got married, I change a little bit. Because when you start getting children, your responsibility changes. You sacrifice so much for the kids. You don't want them to be like me. I want them to succeed in their academics. So at least all my children went to the university here.

Palama Settlement Swim Meet

Those days, used to get barefoot football. After school, you go and train. And then swimming. And then I used to play basketball. Any sports that's open, I used to try to compete. I'm not the best but at least I try. And some, I succeeded. Like boxing, I succeeded a little bit.


I became a boxing [runner up in golden glove boxing] in San Francisco. But other than that, I'm not the best. [At Camp Shelby, I joined the boxing team. That's when I won the boxing flyweight title.]

Ray Nosaka, flyweight open champion, Camp Shelby

[T]his guy, Mr. Tanaka, he used to have one painting shop outside Auld Lane. He came and says, "Hey Riyoso, put this glove on." Then he call one more guy, "Put this glove on." He say, "Okay, box." I had no training but somehow, I hit him and he got beat, and he stopped, fell down, and he start crying, see. Then Mr. Tanaka say, "Raymond, from tomorrow, you come to my paint shop. There's a bag over there and you go train over there."

Just like that. He thought I had the potential or something. But anyway, I'm glad I learned because people start respecting you in my Palama district. If you don't know some kind of self-defense, they give you a good licking. So when they saw me, I went to athletics, they respected me. That's how I learned that respect from sports. Sports is a fun thing. If you do a little bit good, they kind of respect you.

[My team was] Nishikiya. It's a name, I don't know where it originated but it's from Palama. But the name came popular. I don't regret playing with them. Of course, we had some differences sometimes. When you pull out, you pull out the wrong place and things like that.

Football game between Nishikiya and Lincoln Wreckers, Hilo, Hawaii

[W]e played against - it used to be by weight, see. Hundred-thirty pounds, hundred-fifty pounds and then unlimited weight. All different weights, everything is by weight. So if the guy challenge you, you got to go on the scale before you play, make sure it's on a hundred-twenty pound or hundred-thirty pound. Strictly by weight.

[T]hey played at Palama Field. Every Sunday they play at Palama Field. So, from Palama Settlement all the sports people congregate over there. Some of them came good. They used to get Junior Olympics that came from Palama. They furnished a lot of good athletes from Palama.

And used to get dentist over there for poor people. . .over there, too. But they weren't that strict. If you can't afford it, you just go and they fix your teeth. But even the dentist trainees, yeah, they're not the experienced ones. So they might work the wrong place.

Ray Nosaka's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Ray Nosaka and Palama Settlement Archives.

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