Janet Matsumoto
A Different View


Janet completes the ninth grade at Maunaloa School; and tenth grade at Maunaloa Japanese-language School.

Janet moves to Honolulu where she attends Farrington High School and McKinley High School. She also continues Japanese-language classes.

In her senior year, she is a schoolgirl boarder, cleaning house and babysitting for room, board, and pay.

Maunaloa School

[Maunaloa School] was just one long school [building] with all the rooms. And then I think it was from first grade to ninth grade.

Janet Segawa Matsumoto and sister Mary, Maunaloa School

Plantation [kids went to that school]. We had Japanese, and Filipinos, and few Portuguese, and part-Hawaiian. Not too much Hawaiian because Hoolehua was the Hawaiian homestead. So mostly Japanese and Filipino. And few Chinese because the store was owned by Chinese.

See, only at [Maunaloa] school we used to mingle around. But other than that, we just kept to ourselves. Because the camp was all separate, yeah, they had the Filipino camp and the Japanese camp.

I remember we had two different principals. One was Mr. O’Neil, James O’Neil. And then after him came Mr. Bachman. I kind of forgot who my teacher was (chuckles). I cannot remember.

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My school days. . . . Well — you know that the school was surrounded by all pineapple field. So, between English school and Japanese[-language] school, we had time. So what we used to do was, go into the pineapple field, pick pineapple, and we come out and just bust the da kine, the pineapple, and then just throw away all the meat, and then scoop up the juice only (laughs). And then you know the center, the core, later on we used to chew that. Oh, we had a lot of pineapples around.

Japanese-Language School

Otani-sensei [teacher][ran the school]. I don’t know at what grade we were, but later on, he left us, and then Takashima-sensei came to take over. Otani-sensei, he moved his family to Honolulu and then he went to the Mainland because he wanted to be a Episcopal reverend. So he went to someplace in Illinois, Evanston, to study ministry. So that’s why Takashima-sensei took over, he and his wife.

Janet Segawa Matsumoto, Japanese-language school

I’m kind of shame to tell but I went twelve years [of Japanese-language school]. Japanese[-language] school, I was one [year] ahead than my English school. So English school, they had only till ninth grade, see, so I finished my tenth grade in Molokai. So when I told my father that I wanted to come to Honolulu to go to high school, he told me, “Okay, you can go.”

So I told him, “Then I don’t have to go to Japanese[-language] school because I finished my tenth grade.” He said, “No. If you go Honolulu, you continue Japanese[-language] school.” So I had to go.

I don’t know [what I learned from going to Japanese[-language] school. At that time, I didn’t want to go so . . .to me, I didn’t learn anything. But I don’t know. Like at Tachikawa, it was really a girls’ school, yeah. So you learn the flower arrangement, and chanoyu [tea ceremony], all those things. Like saiho, sewing.

I think English school was better for me. I think we had more fun in English school. We had Girl Scouts and 4-H clubs. And we used the school cafeteria, we make jelly, and jams, and all those things, yeah. We had a lot of fun.

When Mr. Bachman became principal, he used to have dance, social dance at the school. And I remember one event, we were going to have a Halloween dance, and when that day came, the wife came and told us that, oh, Mr. Bachman has to go Honolulu for business, so he won’t be coming to the dance. So we were all disappointed. But that night, when we all went there, here we see one man dressed in a long dress with a paper bag over his head, and that was Mr. Bachman. Was really funny.

Farrington High School

The place where we lived, high school was just Molokai High [School] and Molokai High was more towards Kaunakakai. Between Kaunakakai and Hoolehua. The plantation would not furnish bus or anything like that. So all the kids that [lived in] Maunaloa, the boys usually go to Lahainaluna [School]. They have a dorm over there, so the boys used to go to Lahainaluna and then the girls come out to Honolulu.

[Lahainaluna] was only boys those days. Well, I don’t know if they had co-ed or what but I know the boys used to go there. The girls usually used to go to Honolulu.

From my class, I know, two of my girlfriends came to Honolulu besides me. The rest, I don’t know, some of them, they just didn’t continue. But we had such a small group. And the Filipino girls, I don’t know what they did.

So when I came out [to Honolulu], they let me stay at — you know Otani-sensei, the wife was over here, so I boarded over there. And she used to live at Palama, so I had to go Farrington [High School].

Janet Segawa Matsumoto, 10th grade, Farrington High School

[L]iving with [the schoolteacher] was not too bad because two of my friends, they were a little older than me, but they were staying there, too, from Molokai. And they didn’t go school but they helped her with the sewing. She used to sew for people. And then they came out to learn more about sewing, so they came out and stayed with her and then helped her with the sewing.

I was the only one that went to school from there. So three of us were living with the family. She had three boys, the Otani-sensei no wife. She had three boys, so they were little.

Soto Mission

I went Farrington the first year, sophomore year, and then my parents put me into Soto Mission. You know, that Japanese[-language] school?

I used to walk to [Farrington high] school every day from Palama, yeah. You know, right by that Banyan Street? From there, I used to walk up. And the thing is, my mother just give me so much allowance. And those days, the inarizushi [cone sushi] was five cents for two, eh. Palama had plenty okazuya [delicatessen], yeah, so I used to buy two inarizushi and then walk to school.

And then, I have to catch the bus to go to Soto Mission, yeah, so I used to go to Soto Mission.

McKinley High School / Tachikawa School

Then after sophomore year at Farrington, when I was going to be a junior, my parents told me to stay with my aunty at Kahala, so I had to change to McKinley High School. At the same time, my parents put me into Tachikawa [Japanese-language school]. So I went only one year each, Tachikawa and Soto Mission.

Janet Segawa Matsumoto, McKinley High School

And can I tell you something? You know my graduation, to think that now, those graduates get so many leis. When I graduated from McKinley, my mother was already eight months pregnant and my father was working, and my brothers were all young yet. So only my sister and I, we caught the bus, and I graduated, and she gave me one lei only. And then after the graduation, she and I caught the bus, we went back home (laughs).

That’s why my sister keeps telling me, “Ho, come to think, your graduation, you only had one lei, yeah.”

Janet Segawa Matsumoto, McKinley High School

Cleaning Haole Houses

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Junior year [of McKinley], I stayed at my aunty’s house. That summer, after my junior year, my aunty used to go to all these haole houses for do weekly work, yeah. And one of these houses that she used to go, she asked the lady if she wanted everyday help. And the lady said, yeah, she doesn’t mind because she had a little boy.

So my aunty told me to work for them. And I really enjoyed it because they used to live on Kalanianaole Highway, near the golf course, right in front of the ocean, yeah.

The couple had only one small boy, so she wanted me to help take care of the boy, and then help her with the cooking, and then laundry.

During the summer, I stayed there. And when school started, she asked me if I can stay there, and then go to school. So I said, “Oh, okay.” It was a good arrangement.

I stayed there my senior year. And in the morning, I have breakfast and then I used to go school, come home, and do the dishes, and then help the lady with the evening cooking. And the family was really nice. The man used to work at Honolulu Ironworks and the lady was just a housewife. And the boy was only about three or four years old. Rascal boy, but. They were really a nice people.

[Working in a haole house as a schoolgirl] wasn’t bad. As soon as I come home, I go in the kitchen and do the dishes. And then take care of the little boy. They go out sometimes, so. And then nighttime — you know those days, by the garage, they have a small room. I was living in there. So at least I can study nighttime. And on weekends, I take care of the little boy and do a little bit of housework like that.

I never did have [after-school activities]. Sometimes when the lady goes shopping, she used to take me along. And I feel so shame because she has the convertible. Drive down, marketing and all that, help her. [T]hose days, you don’t ride convertible, yeah (chuckles).

I just stayed at the house and weekends, usually I babysit. And that couple, every weekend, they used to go to Royal Hawaiian Hotel for dancing. Ooh, the lady used to dress up. And the husband buy her lei and they used to go to Royal Hawaiian. I don’t know if they were considered society people or what but she was really nice.

Dancing at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel

I think when I was going to school — chee, I can’t remember whether it was five dollars a week or, wait now. No, five dollars a month. Something like that. And then during the summer, I was getting more. About, twenty or thirty dollars a month or something. But when school started, she kept me on. I mean, you get free meals, and free room like that.

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[D]innertime, I’ll help her with the cooking, she tells me what to do, yeah. And then I have to set the table, have it all ready, and then when it’s ready for eating, she’ll ring the bell, yeah. The husband and her sitting, she’ll ring the bell, then I have to bring in the food, main dish. And then whenever she needs something, then she rings the bell again. And I go back in the kitchen and I start eating my own food (laughs). But, I really like the food because something different, yeah, haole style.

I learned a lot though. Roasting and then all the side dishes: vegetables, gravy, like that. And even breakfast, too. You know, we never used to make white sauce with chipped, beef. I learned how to do that and they used to have that for breakfast, and omelet. But I used to enjoy the food.

Now days, I don’t want to cook (laughs). As you grow older, you don’t want to — I wish I could stay the kind place where I don’t have to cook.

Janet Matsumoto's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Janet Matsumoto and Honolulu Star Bulletin.

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