100th Infantry Battalion
Stanley Masaharu Akita
Stanley Masaharu Akita is born in 1923 in the plantation town of Honomu on the island of Hawaii.
He is the eldest of three boys and three girls. Stanley and his siblings are sansei (third generation).
Stanley's paternal grandfather works for the plantation and, with foresight, purchases property. Stanley's mother, Yoshie Akita, runs the family store, which is built on the property. His father, Alexander Kiyoichi Akita, is a teacher.
[I was born in] nineteen twenty-three. A real old one. (Chuckles) I'm one of the oldest sansei around in Hawaii. Not very many people my age are sansei.
I was born in the plantation town of Honomu. In fact, I was born through a midwife.
Those days, my father used to tell me, "You'd never go to the hospital to give birth. That shows that you're a weak lady." All the tough ones stay home and have a baby through midwife. So I guess it was kind of shameful to have to go to the hospital to give birth. Then the situation changed and then everybody goes to the hospital today.
Being the Eldest Child
The Japanese style of being raised, the eldest take care of the parents. I've heard of that and read about those things but never felt that I'd be in that situation. Probably I was really spoiled on that part.
My three sisters, we were pretty close. [It was me and then] three girls. And then my first brother came fourteen years later and the second brother came sixteen years later.
[I was the only son for a long time]. In fact, my younger brother just retired. He's so young. (Chuckles) I'm eighty-two and he just retired so he's in his sixties.
My brother and I, sixteen years apart. When we came back from the army, we didn't know each other. The youngest one was just born when I left, 43. The other one was born, was two years older I think, so 41 he was born. So by the time I came back, we really had no brother-brother relationship. We were like next door neighbor's kids like that.
[We mostly spoke English at home.] Never Japanese, which was a very regretful thing. Today, thinking back, how I hoped that my parents spoke Japanese to us. Look at my two daughters, Japanese is completely a foreign language to them. Maybe they can understand a few words but as far as speaking, it's a no-no. We should have talked, knew Japanese while they were young around the house, which we were incapable of doing in those days.
My father's father. Had foresight enough to buy property from this Hawaiian guy. My grandfather, as I was growing up, worked for the sugar plantation. I don't know what his title was but he was the person that fixes saddles and reins for the mules and horses. I used to go to his shop and fool around with the leather goods. He used to run the shop by himself.
My grandfather on my father's side was from Yamaguchi, Japan. And my mother's [family] was from Hiroshima.
It just so happened, my two grandfathers, one on my mother's side and one on my father's side, are real quiet gentlemen as far as Japanese old men is concerned.
They don't say much. Probably only because my two grandmothers were matriarchs. So they were the boss to me. Noticing how they act, you know, in the family.
They were the law. But they stay ghost-like. I think in most Oriental families, the mother is the matriarch of the family. If you really look at the old families, the mother had a lot of say. In fact, they don't say much but what little they say counts.
Mother: Yoshie Akita
My mother came from a place called Papaikou, which is about halfway between Hilo and Honomu. They had a family of five or six also. She had two brothers and three sisters.
My mother, to me, was a very good businesswoman. My mother ran the store [that was built on land bought by Grandfather]. I thought she was very enterprising to the extent that she knew exactly what to do to make money.
Father: Alexander Kiyoichi Akita
My father's name was Alexander Kiyoichi. And I remember, whenever he's got the time, he'd take me and about five of my friends down to the ocean and just play around the ocean and on the tidal pools, catching the small fishes.
[My dad] used to help coach the baseball team. He was also a first sergeant in the national guard in the old days. So every now and then, they have a guard session once a week. So my mom used to take us to the ballpark, where the harbor is and we lay a blanket and sit down while my dad did his work as a first sergeant.
My dad went to Hakalau School to teach. [He studied at Territorial Normal and Training School].
He used to be a sportsman enough that he also liked to go hunting. He used to go hunting with the principal of his school, a fellow named [Eugene S.] Capellas. Whenever he goes hunting, I was old enough to go with them but I couldn't shoot because I didn't have a gun. So what I did was carry water jug for them. We used to go up towards Keamuku, which is halfway between Kamuela and Kona. We used to park the car and go down hunt. We'd go early Friday or Saturday morning and hunt for pigs, goats. We come back to the car, put the meat in the car and then go down and hunt for pigs.
So we used to come home with wild pork and goat. I notice that the goat is a very good-eating animal. It may not sound good, like eating a pet. But when smoked or jerked, the goat meat is very tasty.
[My dad] was a well-known ball player. During those days, the plantation along the Hamakua Coast all had their own team. They called that the C. Brewer League. That's run by C. Brewer [and Co.] plantation. And my dad used to play, was a shortstop. He was well known among the players from all the plantations. My uncle was another one, he's my dad's kid brother [Jack], was a good player.
When I was in the real young age, we lived in a plantation home, big enough to have my father, my mother and three kids (me and my two sisters) in a section of the house. And my grandmother had a room, my grandfather had a room. Plus, I had three uncles living in that same house. So, every time I think back to those days, I kind of wondered where my three uncles slept. Because the only area is the parlor and another spare room I can think of.
It was strictly Japanese style. When evening come, we spread out that shikibuton [sleeping mat] on the floor. There's no bed. And we lie on the so-called "extra thick blanket-like mat [shikibuton]" and we put the futon [thick bedquilt] over us and slept. And I know my grandmother had a spring-type bed and my grandfather had a bed. Only two persons had beds. The rest, I don't know where they slept.
To me, it was a very huge house where we had a kitchen with a table in it that could seat about ten people. Of course, we had a big family. Also in that kitchen, we had a typical kerosene stove. On the corner, they had a wooden fire stove with a chimney that goes up to the ceiling, comes out above the roof. That's where they used to cook those big pots of soup and whatnot.
Stanley Akita's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Stanley Akita.