Dick Hamada
Military Intelligence Service


Many single Filipino workers and only a few Japanese families live in Maite Camp. The majority of Dick’s friends are Filipino.

Waipio Ditch supplies the camp with water; when its flow is interrupted, the ditch provides bucketfuls of opae, or shrimp, for dinner. Beer and okolehao, a ti-root drink, are brewed at home.

Dick enjoys New Year’s in Maite and movies in Kukuihaele. Unable to understand the language, he finds shibai, or Japanese plays, boring.

Maite Camp

[Maite Camp was in between Honokaa and Waipio Valley.] The camp was just predominantly for laborers. In that particular camp that we lived, there were transient Japanese families, but there were only about three or four Japanese families living in our Maite Camp. There were two — Isa and an Ishiki family — living in another camp, but in the same area, subdivided by a highway. They were living in the lower camp; we were living in the upper camp. There were many people passing by our house, and invariably, they would stop by on their return for refreshment. Naturally, when they come, they would bring something, some miyage, a gift, which is usually foodstuff, and we’d share and give them cold water and tea.

[The camp was] mostly Filipinos. Majority of my friends were Filipinos. Consequently, they teach me all the bad words (chuckles). In fact, at one time, there were more Filipino boys that I played with than Japanese. And, they’d go to school with us. Of course, they never did go to Japanese[-language] school, but we did.

When I left that camp to go to McKinley High School [in 1936], there were about fifty Filipino laborers, and most of ’em — in fact, 99 percent of ’em — were single men. They did their own cooking, and we did the laundry for them.

[I ate Filipino food.] One of the Filipino foods is a delicacy or a dessert, they call it suman. This was like mochi [rice cake], made out of mochiko [rice flour], and it’s rolled in banana leaves and it’s baked. It had a lot of oil in it because they used lot of coconut. Today, coconut is not a very [healthy] food. But in those days, we used to consume a lot of that, and also biko, which is the same without the banana leaves. And as far as cooking, I was invited many times to the [Filipino] family and ate with the kids. They’d use a lot of pork, a lot of meat with vegetables. I guess more than the food, the company was the thing they really enjoyed.

Speaking of company, there was a Filipino man that really liked me, he used to come around and play with me a lot, when I was a little boy. When he returned to Philippines, he asked my mother if he could take me with him. In other words, he wanted me for his own and raise me. But my mother said, “No, no, no, cannot do that.” But he was a nice gentleman, and in fact, he had bought me shoes. And till today, I have that shoes. It’s a high-cut shoes, all leather, and I look at it and say “Wow, you mean I used to wear that?” (Chuckles) It brings back memories of some eighty years back.

Community Furo

In Maite Camp, the furo [bath] used to be a community thing. It’s a building and someone would take care of the hot water. It’s a fireplace, and that thing would heat the furo [which had] a copper bottom.

You rinse yourself [with hot water] and then jump in. It used to be about ten-by-ten [feet], made out of redwood, and about almost two-and-a-half to three feet high, and we’d jump in. When we were kids, girls and boys used to go together. We used to tease each other. It was wonderful.

It was a free-for-all. If you there first, you go in first. So, those who were anxious to take a bath in privacy would go early. As long as we had hot water. But that is one thing that we never suffered. We didn’t have to take cold baths.

Later, my father says, it’s so inconvenient walking to the [community] furo, so he built his own for us. We didn’t have electricity then, so we used lantern. We would light the lantern because it’s dark, and we’d take a bath in our own [furo]. I used to do that, make the hot water for the family.

Waipio Ditch

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One thing I remember, our water was not as pure as we have today. The water — we had a ditch, they call that the Waipio Ditch. That ditch was about fifteen to twenty feet wide, made of concrete — or wood, if [the flume] has to cross a gully — and about four to five feet [deep], and it was ice cold. The water flowed all the way down towards Honokaa. We used to consume that. That water was a free-flow to our home. And every now and then, the pipe would get clogged, so my dad used to get his horse, and we used to go up and clean the pipe, because that pipe fed the camp.

My father used to do a lot of smoking. He used to smoke — today, known as the Bull Durham. It has a little sack, and he used to roll his own cigarette. And that bag, my mother would wash it and tie it around the [water] pipe at the outlet. Every now and then, we’d find shrimps in it, and we’d find moss and other debris, which we would clean out.

But that water would get contaminated on a rainy day because all that mud and water would flow into the ditch, and the water would be turned brown. But we still had to consume something, so what we used to do is, on rainy, muddy days, we used to keep the water in a pail, and the debris would sink to the bottom, and we’d just scoop the top of it. But, it was not like today, where you can just open [the faucet] and consume the water.

Every now and then, that ditch needed constructive work. Maybe the flume would break, so they had to repair it. When that happens, they would let us know that the water is going to be shut from a certain period. So, we’d go to the ditch and look for opae, which is shrimp, and we had many buckets full of shrimp. They used to fry it and use that for dinner. So, it was wonderful. Also, in the ditch, were goby, and catfish, namazu. We’d catch that, and that used to make wonderful dinner for my mother. When the time came that they were going to open the valve, they give us a warning. We just scoot out of there.


As far as food was concerned, we were more self-sustaining. And when we bought, it was commodities like shoyu, salt, sugar, that sort of thing that went with it. Like bread, we bought. The bread those days cost only five cents, you know.

The plantation had a store, a large store, where you could go and buy whatever you want. Soda, bread, candy. Also, two Japanese[-owned] stores [in Kukuihaele], the Kaneshiro Store and the Gyotoku Store, and they used to come around with their wagon [loaded with their commodities].

But in those days, no cash was paid. All was in a little notebook, and at the end of the month, they’d come and say, “Oh, you owe me five dollars.” Then you pay. I guess, those days, credit was always there. We were good customers (chuckles). We paid.

Community Activities

In New Year’s, we had a lot of food. We used to pound mochi [rice cake], and we used to distribute some to our friends. The Filipinos, especially. Sometimes they’d come and help us. That was a chore trying to pound that and taking care of that hot thing. It’s amazing how my mother used to be able to make mochi for us with the an [bean jam], you know the black sugar. It was a task but everybody contributed their effort in helping out, though. It was good, we had lot of food, we had lot of fireworks.

Every week, there was a movie held at the Kukuihaele movie theater. It was all silent movies in those days. I remember when I was a kid, my brother and I used to go to the movie. You know, back in the country, we used to take our horse and ride about three miles to the theater. We tied our horse and watched the movie and then ride back. I used to ride with my brother, so I used to ride in the back and hold his belly.

One day, [my brother] wanted to urinate and so he says, “I’m going to get off.” He got off the horse, the rein fell to the ground, and when he was ready to grab it, the horse decided he wanted to go home and made a turn and started trotting, galloping. I hung on to that saddle till just at the main road going up, or going up the cutoff up to my house, which was about two hundred feet up. When he made the turn, and my brother was chasing the horse all the way, right at the turn, the centripetal force forced me off the horse and I fell. And, there was construction going on and there was a big, big rock, about the size of this table. I just landed on the ground before the rock and then I ran into the rock. Amazing, but I didn’t get hurt. But I cried like a baby (chuckles). So we didn’t go show that night. Now, when we got home, oh my brother got a licking because he let the horse run away from him. This is the lesson that he learned. Whenever you get off a horse, you hang onto the rein, that’s how. It was a painful experience for me.

Whenever there was a show, Japanese-type show, you know, stage presentation type [shibai], someone would pass through town pounding their drum and announcing the [show]. No PA system, they used that funnel [megaphone] that announced the movie or show that would be presented at a certain time and let the people know. When the announcement was made, as he passed through, he threw out fliers, wrapped up. We as kids used to go and try and collect as many as we could. That was fun. Sometimes it’s dangerous, too, because there could be cars. Thankfully, there’s not too many cars.

We used to attend the shows, but it was boring because to start with, we didn’t understand the language and certain acts. Performance of certain acts will tell you a certain — there’s a meaning to it, [but] we couldn’t understand that.

Homemade Brew

My mother made homemade beer, brew. And I know she used a lot of hops to make beer. Hops. It’s dried up, looked like a spinach leaf. The hops, she’d dry that, and she’d mix it with her secret ingredient. But I noticed it was not filtered beer. It was fermented first. Through the fermentation, you get alcohol. That alcohol was low, not as strong as today’s. I thought it was about [5] percent alcohol. But nevertheless, that hops makes fermented, produced alcohol and the product was like fruit juice. Kind of fleshy, but my father didn’t have time to wait for filtering of the ingredients in there, and he enjoyed drinking it.

I told you earlier about this [plantation] foreman that used to come around on a horse. He’d go out and check on the laborers working. On his way home, he’d stop by and my mother would offer her drink of home brew, and he enjoyed it. Yeah, she was a knowledgeable and talented woman as far as making things.

Of course, my father used to make his own okolehao with ti root and sugar, and fermented, then filtering it crudely. He used to make the okolehao from this ti root, and I was amazed that a product, an alcohol, can be made with such plentiful food. The ti leaves were all over the place, and it’s just a common thing, not a rare item. And so, alcohol, which derived from the fermented ti root, was a very wonderful thing for a drinker.

Of course, his okolehao was the best. It was very powerful. Every now and then, during a drinking session, the okolehao would spill on the table, and he says, “Watch this,” and then start a fire, and the blue flame would appear. You know it’s pure alcohol, and he used to love that.

[My father] had many, many friends. He spoke the Hawaiian language, he spoke the Filipino [Ilokano] language. And frequently, he used to go to Waipio Valley to visit Hawaiian friends and Japanese living down there. Invariably, he would return home drunk. As soon as he got on the horse, he fell asleep, hanging onto the bridle, and the horse would trot along and bring him home to the stable where our home was. Then he would crawl-walk to home (chuckles). When he did that, we knew he was safe, so everything was forgiven.

Dick Hamada's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Dick Hamada.

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