Chito Isonaga
A Different View

Youth

Chito watches the store while her parents have dinner. She washes diapers for her baby sister and work clothes for her brothers who work in the sugarcane fields.

One summer Chito and her high school friends work at the Kauai Pineapple Company. She picks debris from the cut pineapple. Although it is tiring, smelly, hard work at only five or ten cents an hour, she is rewarded with her earnings, which she is allowed to deposit into a bank account.

Chores

I used to go out and take care of the store while [my parents] were having dinner, but that’s about it. When my sister was [an infant] — I was a freshman in high school — I remember washing her diapers.

Isonaga Store (Interior). Subjects Not Known. Kauai.
Isonaga Store (Interior). Subjects Not Known. Kauai.

I remember washing Herbert’s and my brother’s trousers. You know, they go and work in the cane field and it would rain. They would go out to work at 4:00 [A.M.] and by the time we were having breakfast they would come home because it was raining too hard. (Laughs) And their pants was [muddied] — and boiling that, I remember that. But, another lady that lived in the neighborhood used to come and help me.

Every summer I used to go to sewing school. I used to hate to sew clothes. I think, during the whole summer, I sewed just one dress.

Work

One year I went to work in the [Kauai Pineapple Company] cannery. I remember, one summer I went. The following summer I wanted to go and I tried to sneak out, but Mom [objected] — I couldn’t go the second year.

[My job was] picking the debris from the [cut pineapple] — I wasn’t way up there [in the company hierarchy]; I was way down there. At first it was rough because the smell. But then, later on, I got used to it. Sometimes you work from early morning until about 9:00 [P.M.] when it was the high[-volume] season. I think you made only about five or ten cents an hour.

Young women work in the pineapple cannery
Young women work in the pineapple cannery.

The high school girls [worked at the cannery]. It wasn’t fun, but the money that you got at the end of the month was sort of exciting. I remember, once, I promised Herbert that I would give him ten cents when I got paid. When it came time to giving, I don’t think I gave him because it was really hard work. (Laughs)

I had a bank account. The money was ours to put in the bank. I don’t remember spending, but that was our savings.

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And remember in the old days, the manager of the store [i.e., bank] used to come about once a week to Koloa grammar school and we used to make our payments [deposits] there, grammar school. That’s when I started to have a bank account.

Chito Isonaga's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Chito Isonaga.

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