Janet Matsumoto
A Different View

Life After the War

In Honolulu, Janet assists the war effort by issuing liquor ration cards at city hall.

After high school graduation, she works for various businesses.

In 1947, she marries Hichiro Matsumoto. The couple rents a place at government-run Halawa Housing, popular with veterans.

Janet helps care for her mother-in-law and raises two children in a home built by Hichiro. An office worker for many years, she retires from state employment in 1983.

Hawaiian Pineapple Company

When I was staying at my aunty’s house, only one summer I went [to work at the Hawaiian Pineapple Company]. I was waiting all summer for them to call me. They didn’t call me until August. By the time I went, I worked only two weeks and they started laying off.

I worked only two weeks, trimming. Ho, my finger used to get all stiff like that. After two weeks, no job. I was sick for about one week. My aunty said, “More better you no work.”

Young women work in the pineapple cannery

After Graduation

[I did] mostly office work. During the war, McKinley used to be only half a day because St. Louis [School] students used to come take the afternoon class, see. So they asked us if we wanted to take those jobs, help with the [war effort].

We were sent to city hall, issuing liquor ration [cards]. I used to work over there, at the city hall, until you graduate, though.

My first job was, oh, what did I do now? Somebody asked me if I wanted to work at Love’s Bakery. I was there only for a little while, only about six months. [I worked with] the machine that the cookies come out [from], and then you have to pack and all that stuff.

After that, I got a job at Young Laundry, in the office. Then, from there — my sister was working at Hind-Clarke. She was working over there, so had opening, she asked me if I wanted to go there.

Aina Haina, yeah. Those days, used to be Aina Haina. And then after that, they merged. Dairymen’s bought out the Hind-Clarke. So I continued working at Dairymen’s until I got married.

Dairymen's Association, war bonds

Marriage to Hichiro Matsumoto (1947)

[Hichiro] was my neighbor. After we came out over here, we stayed at my aunty’s house for about two weeks but her place was so small that my father’s friend offered for us to stay at his place. We were living over there for about six months. And in the meantime, my father found a house at Kapahulu. So we moved over there, I remember it was after my graduation. Sometime in late June we moved over there.

We moved to Kapahulu, Lukepane [Avenue] and they were living right across my house. Of course, my father, he was renting.

Those days, already I was working at Hind-Clarke, so I had to walk up to King Street to catch the bus. And [Hichiro] was working as a fireman. So sometimes he used to walk up with me, and then we start talking, and then that’s how we met.

I knew [he was a veteran]. [W]hen they were shipped out, my mother went go over to give them senbetsu [a farewell gift]. And then I remember, he wrote to my parents to thank [them] for [the gift].

[Hichiro’s] mother was living right across. And my mother used to, every time, visit. All I remember is, my mother used to say, “Ho, ano Matsumoto sannin mo,” three of them went overseas. I knew they were overseas but I never did write to him or anything like that. ’Cause I figured, I told my sister, “I don’t know him.”

Sometimes I used to walk up with [Hichiro] to the bus stop, that’s all. And then we started to go out [19]47 of January. The first time, he took me to — those days, used to have March of Dimes dancing. With one dollar, you can go to all the nightclubs. His brother’s wife, she’s the one I think went hustle, so four of us went to that March of Dimes.

[We were married] November [19]47. So no more one-year courtship. [Keith was born 1948] Yeah, nine months later.

First Home

Kapahulu and Harding [Avenues], had a duplex house. One of his brothers got married in September of that same year, so he was renting the other duplex. When we got married, this side was open, so we moved in over there. It was a brand-new duplex house. So, we stayed there until [19]48.

Halawa Housing

[19]48, December, we moved to Halawa Housing. Keith was only a few months. And two years, we stayed at Halawa Housing.

All the veterans [were living there]. He applied — those days, was Hawaii Housing Authority. We wanted to get into Manoa Housing, but it was all filled, so the only place available was at Halawa Housing. When he came home and he said, “Oh, we going to move to Halawa Housing.”

I said, “What? Way down the country?” (Laughter) I said, “Oh, too far.” But he said, “Well, cannot help” because Manoa Housing no more room. So we moved over there. And was so cheap. How much was our rental? Thirty-something dollars.

[I]t was way bigger than Manoa Housing. The living room was quite big. And then the kitchen was small, but right next to the kitchen, in the living room, we put our dining table. And then we had one bedroom and bathroom, that’s all.

[W]e didn’t have a community. We didn’t have those days. I mean, we were on our own, like. We seemed to know only our, next door.

[W]hile we were at Halawa Housing, this - Dairymen’s, I used to work - the boss called me if I wanted to come back to work. And by then already, Keith was going to be two years old, see, so I said okay. So I went back to work, and then my sister was living Halawa Housing, too, but a little further down. So she used to babysit for me. And I was working there until we moved here. [19] 50, yeah.

Caring for Mother-in-Law

December, we moved over here. Keith was already two years old. When we moved here, his mother was already invalid. In fact, before we got married, she had a stroke. So when I got married to him, he tell me, “You get married to me, you got to watch my mother.” And you know, you young, you say, “Oh, okay.” (Laughter)

When we built this house, it was understood that she was going to — you see, when she had the stroke, she was in the hospital, and when she was going to be released from the hospital, the doctor talked to all the family. Those days, I wasn’t married yet, but talked to the family, and say that for one person to take care is going to be really a burden.

He suggested everybody share and then take care. And at that time, had only the two oldest brothers and then the sister. Only three of them were married. The rest of the three boys, below, was all single yet. So, until we get married, the three houses she used to go, rotate.

So as soon as we got married and we built this house, it was understood that she has to come here. So we moved in December, and January they were going to send her over, but oh, my house was a mess because before he moved in the furniture, he treated the tansu [chest of drawers] and everything, so the clothes was all on the floor. So I put away all the stuff. She came to live with us in February. I had to quit my job and stay home for two-and-a-half months.

And then, we used to take turns. It was just like once a year she would come. Every time when it’s my turn, I have to quit my job and take care of her. And as soon as she goes to the next house, then I have to look for a job (chuckles). So I worked quite a bit. After I quit the Dairymen’s, and she came to live with us, and then after she left, I had a job at Foodland, in the office. Then when my turn came, I have to quit the job again, and then I worked at Hawaii Visitors Bureau. And then I stayed there until the next time when she came to live with us. I change job all over the place.

And then in the meantime, Coleen came along, so I stayed home after that. Coleen was born [19]52, the mother lived till 1957. She passed away 1957. Until then, we all took turns. When she moved, I tell you, the bedding all have to go. Because she was completely paralyzed. Her right side was all no use, so we had to bathe her, bring the food to her. Of course, she got used to eating with her left hand. We crank up the bed, and then they made a table for her, and then she eat with herself with the left hand. The only thing is, we have to take the bedpan.

[A]fter that — [19]57 she died — I stayed home and then I started to babysit. I babysat until 1964 or [19]65. By then, already Coleen was kind of old, so I didn’t have to stay home.

Work

This lady that used to live up here, she used to work for University [of Hawaii], she asked me if I wanted a job. I said, “Yeah, I don’t mind working.”

She said, during the summer, especially, just before the school starts, the bookstore would be busy. The students come and buy books like that, so she said they’re hiring so if I want to work.

I said, “Yeah, okay,” so I started to work university bookstore. But only for the short session until the school — after the school starts, then not too busy so they let you go. And then when the new semester comes up again, they would call me. And then after that, by then, the kids were big so I started to work for Cooke Trust.

I was working there, and then eventually, First Hawaiian Bank took over. You know, because Cooke Trust used to handle only the trusts for the rich people. When First Hawaiian Bank took over, we all moved to the First Hawaiian Bank. Now it’s a Pioneer Plaza. So I worked over there — I mean, when we moved over to First Hawaiian Bank, I was there for about four years, 1969,

I remember, I developed ulcers and the doctor told me quit the work. Too stressful. So I quit, and then, I stayed home for one whole year. Then it got cured, so I went back to work. I went to First Hawaiian Bank to apply but I told them I don’t want any trust division. So they send me to King Street branch, and I was there for about three months. And in the meantime, I applied for the state. I took a state test and they called me if I wanted to [work]. So I quit the bank and I went to the state.

[T]hose days it was called Department of Planning and Economic Development. But now, it’s not called like that though. It’s called DBEDT [Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism]. Like our time, was DPED, used to call, because department of planning, yeah.

I retired at the end of [19]83. But, you know, I went into the state job kind of late, so I didn’t have too much years of employment. I stayed there only about twelve years. But with my sick leave and all, it came up to about thirteen years.

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

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