Pearl Harbor

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Daniel Martinez

 

As Chief Historian at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Daniel Martinez has heard the stories from the survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and shares those stories with Park visitors.  In this conversation with Leslie Wilcox, you’ll hear how his connection with that infamous event goes deeper than his role as an historian.

 

Daniel Martinez Audio

 

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Transcript

 

When we were on these trips back East, with my dad being in the space industry, we stopped at Gettysburg. And this park ranger came out with his Smokey the Bear hat. This park ranger gave a talk, and then he went in and he got in a Civil War uniform and came out with a musket, and fired it. And I said, That’s for me.

 

So, you truly intended to do that when you grew up?

 

I just said, That’s for me, but I didn’t know how I was gonna get there. But that whole idea of working in a national park like Gettysburg, it was just like, How do I do this?

 

Daniel Marinez has been captivated by military history since childhood, and he followed his passion. Today, he’s Chief Historian at the World War II Valor In the Pacific National Monument, which preserves and interprets the stories of the Pacific war, including the events at Pearl Harbor. Daniel Martinez, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Daniel Martinez has been the Chief Historian at Pearl Harbor since 1989, where he keeps history alive for the many visitors from around the world who come to see where World War II began for America. History has always been an important part of Daniel’s life, starting from his youth growing up in California. His German and Mexican grandparents shared stories of their lives, which started him on the path that would later lead him to become an historian.

 

Oh; without a doubt, my grandfather. My grandfather taught me how to fish, and I found out he was at Pearl Harbor, and he had this interest in the American West, and he was a miner. On my grandfather and grandmother’s side, in particular on my grandmother’s side, they grew up in Boise, Idaho, they were first immigrants to come in the late 1870s, became gold miners. And then later, one was a sheriff. And so, we had all of that. So, on both sides of the family. My father’s was more humble. My grandfather came from Mexico, from the area of Guadalajara, and emigrated here legally through the Southern Pacific Railroad. He was one of the workers. And that’s how my dad ended up being born in Lone Pine, California, one of nine children. And my love for railroad and that history, especially I’m a big Southern Pacific fan, came from that. And then, my dad was in the Navy, and my dad served in the Korean War. My Aunt Jo was the first one on my mother’s side to take me to a library when I was five years old, and picked up my first book, which was Custer’s Last Stand. There were always these influences on reading and going to places where events happened.

 

When you say, you know, history really imbued your family, you had a sense of that, did you say that to yourself? You know, history is important to me. Or was that not a known specialization or concept?

 

If my mom was alive, she’d probably have more of a description of it. Because when I was little, I had toy soldiers, and I would recreate battles. I would read books, I would be actively involved in watching films on history. I think it was just something that was instinctively there, and thank God my family endorsed it, and not only that, took me to a number of historic places that were like these deviations off the road. And so, I don’t know; I think my rudder was fixed, and I was headed that way.

 

You know, you’re cross-cultural; Mexican, German.

 

Yeah; and know, the difficult part was that I didn’t realize this, because even I grew up in a world that was not as judgmental. And here in Hawai‘i, even less. But it was called interracial marriage. And that’s what my parents’ marriage was, and they ran off and got married.

 

Because their family wouldn’t support the match?

 

Oh, no; on both sides. You know, my grandfather on the Mexican side was hoping that my dad was gonna marry a Mexican girl, and I know for a fact on my mother’s side, they wished the same. But love overcomes a lot, and they ran off and got married. And then, when I came along, all was forgiven, and the families were joined. And so, my grandfather, who was so opposed to this on my mom’s side, became so close to my dad that he was like a second father.

 

Did you ever have the sensation of having to pick one, you know, racial background over the other?

 

You know, I didn’t have a choice; the last name was Martinez. And I went to a Catholic high school and I went through a little bit of hazing of that. And I had a cousin named Paul Gomez, who was a scholar and a great guy, and he just said, Hey, just roll with it. Just roll with it; don’t be upset over it, just be proud of it. And I always have been. And when I came to Hawai‘i, one of the things that touched me a great deal was the acceptance of peoples here.

 

People always want to know what you are, even if they’re not prejudiced against you.

 

Right.

 

They want to know.

 

I tell them I’m sort of—

 

You’re hapa.

 

Hapa; you know, and then they get that. And so, I’m very proud of our German-English background, especially what my uh, grandparents on that side did.

 

When your grandfather moved to Hawai‘i, why? He was a miner.

 

Yeah; the thing was that there was a company, a big company, and everybody knew it at the time, called Morrison-Knudsen. And it was located in Boise, Idaho. And they were rounding up all of these miners and construction workers. They had been given contracts to build military bases throughout the Pacific; Wake Island, Midway, all over. My grandfather was in his thirties at the time, so he was relatively mature. And he had just remarried, and he saw this opportunity, so they wanted this work. They needed tunnelers, they needed people that knew how to work with dynamite; my grandfather.

What they were going to build was twenty of these that are basically twenty stories deep as well. And I forget the circumference, but it’s close to seventy-five yards in circumference. And these tanks were gonna be literally blasted out of the lava rock on Red Hill, and then they would use like an iron basket around it, and then gunnite that, and then use cement and build it. Now, they built these things, you know, kind of bottom up, and many men fell. And when you fall in there, even despite there’s water, it doesn’t come out well when you’re falling eight or nine stories. you know, over two hundred feet. And so, my grandfather worked on that, and then my mother came over in ’41, early ’41, went to school, living the dream as I say. That’s what I often say, living the dream here in Hawai‘i. And then, you know, went to school.

 

Wait a minute. Going back to those storage tanks. So, your father is working with people who are dying.

 

Yes; this whole thing that they were doing was secret. They tried to keep it as secret as possible. I don’t know how they did that, but they just didn’t want people talking about it.

 

But there was dynamite going off in Red Hill.

 

Yeah; but it was like a rumble, ‘cause it’s underneath the ground. And they were taking all the tailings, and they were not pulling them out of there; they were spilling them into the valley there. And you can still see some of those tailings where cement factory is now today.

 

So, he would go back, and he couldn’t even tell your grandmother.

 

He’d just say they were doing tunneling.

 

Was he there throughout the entire twenty tanks?

 

Yes, he was. Yeah.

 

How long did that take?

 

It took almost ‘til 1944. And you see, my family, my mom and her sisters, a baby and my Aunt Janelle [PHONETIC], who went to Roosevelt High School, they were sent back on, I think, the Mariposa, and went back to San Francisco. From there, they went back to Boise and waited, and then my grandfather returned and he needed to find work, and he knew that the war effort needed talc, and he knew where talc was. And so, he went there, and he established his family there, and opened a talc mine in the White Mountains. And my mom went to Lone Pine High School, and met one Rudy Martinez.

 

For the next six years after he graduated from college, Daniel Martinez taught high school in the winter, and during the summer he worked for the National Parks Service as a seasonal ranger at the Little Big Horn Battlefield. The Parks Service offered him a fulltime position at the USS Arizona Memorial, which he readily accepted. Although his grandparents had told him stories about living in Hawai‘i during the war, he was unprepared for what awaited him.

 

Although I lived in California, my friends used to go to Hawai‘i in the summers, I never did. And I came here for the first time, you know, in 1985 with fourteen boxes and my girlfriend. And we were there at the airport, and we didn’t know what we were in for. But it was quite an experience adjusting to Hawai‘i. Because there wasn’t a lot of stores that we have now, and it was expensive, and I was very low grade. So, we worked some little second jobs, and things like that, to make it, make my way through.

 

Where did you live when you first arrived?

 

I lived in Aiea. And I lived right above the high school, and I didn’t have a car then, so I walked to work, and then later got established, and life changed and evolved. And I was adopted, ‘cause my girlfriend couldn’t hack it; she went home. I came home, and I had like a Dear John letter. And the family that I stayed with, I lived on the lower end of of a home. So, it was like a little ohana. And they were just really, you know, shocked that I had a Dear John, and they were so consoling. But I couldn’t afford it anymore, so Clinton Kane, who was a park ranger at the memorial, said, Come with me. And he took care of me, and I ended up living in Waimanalo with another Japanese American fellow who worked for Hawaiian Tel. And I learned to be Hawaiian. I ate food that I thought I could never eat, did things that I never thought I could do. I learned how to body board at Makapuu. And that was … thrilling. [CHUCKLE]

 

And the food teaches you a lot about history of the islands, too.

 

It does. I never quite caught onto opihi, but I gave it a good attempt. But I started to fall in love with some of the Hawaiian foods. And if I can digress, a simple story of this kind of generosity and culture here that was unknown to me was that, where we lived, we lived close to the mountain in Waimanalo. So, when it rained, the roof was metal, and it was just a racket. But you get used to it. And then, when we would go fishing or anything, the fish that we got, we would drop off to some of the neighbors who had their farms there. And the next day, there would be vegetables or fruits left there. And it just the kind of warmth and generosity that … didn’t see that in Los Angeles.

 

When you said your girlfriend couldn’t hack it, did you consider saying, Okay, this is really complex for me and I don’t think I’m gonna do it?

 

No; ‘cause I had fallen in love with the story of the USS Arizona Memorial, and the fact that both sides of my family were at Pearl Harbor. And I had fallen in love with the ethics of the National Parks Service. There was just no turning back for me. And I was told that if I wanted to be a permanent ranger, because I had come here for that reason, that I needed to go to the law enforcement academy. And I did so; I left here, I went to Santa Rosa, California and went to the sheriff’s academy there and became a law enforcement ranger for the National Parks Service. And on the day of graduation, I got a call from the chief ranger, and he hired me. And that was the beginning of that career, and it was one of those magical moments that I had arrived.

 

You know, most times, when people do go into history, it’s with the idea of teaching it. Getting advanced degrees so they can teach it at the college or higher ed level.

 

Right.

 

But that was not your course, and you remained employed in it continuously.

 

Yeah. You know, the bottom line is that we that engage in this, whether we work in a museum or work for the National Parks or State Parks, we’re public historians that have a history field, and we deal with the public. And that in itself defines that we are educators almost at every moment. Because when people come to the national parks, or like to our site, they’re there to experience it, and we’re there to inform and illustrate why the site is important, and how it fit into the national past.

 

And at a place like Pearl Harbor, you get more material that you can vet from listening to people.

 

Right. And we have a story beyond the tragic events of December 7th. Now, we’re a World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. It includes all of the Pacific war.

 

You know, one of the things I used to love about going to Pearl Harbor, even when I was a young adult, was getting to talk to people, volunteers, who had actually been at Pearl Harbor when the bombing occurred.

 

Yeah.

 

Men who had experienced it. Are there any volunteers now who do that? They must be in their nineties.

 

Yeah, there are. There’s one who was a young man. I believe his name is Robert Lee. He lived right in in at Halawa Landing. His home was on the edge of Pearl Harbor, right there in that kind of Aiea Bay right there, and he watched the attack from his second story, on Battleship Row.

 

Wow.

 

But we’re talking about individuals in their nineties, and that is our fading resource.

 

Because before, the survivors would walk you around briskly.

 

I know; don’t you miss those days?

 

And tell you this, and tell you that. But they must have more limited circumference these days.

 

Well, I was a volunteer and the parks coordinator in 1987, 88. And I had over twenty-five Pearl Harbor survivors that volunteered through the week. And it’s just amazing that we have seen since that time, you know, the passing of a generation. There’s also the other group that’s right here, the civilian eyewitnesses, and those that worked at Pearl Harbor or the airfields, or at home. The biggest connection we made with the civilian community here, and I’m very proud of it because it was a movement to make sure all of the casualties recorded, were the civilian casualties. And at the time, to get those records was very difficult, because they were held by the Health Department here. Mayor Fasi, God bless him, he paved the way for us to get their records. They didn’t want to release them to us. We got all the civilian records, death records.

 

Of the civilians who were killed, I think it came out later that much of that was from friendly fire.

 

Right.

 

Honolulu was defending itself.

 

We found out two things, that it was actually forty-eight civilians. Later, we’d find one more, forty-nine civilians were killed in the attack. Most of them, almost eighty-five, eighty-six percent killed by friendly fire, and the definition of friendly fire, which is a strange term for it, was that as we were firing up at the planes, the shells were either not being fused properly, or faulty, and they were landing all over Honolulu, Waikiki area. And when that happened, many of the people believed they were being bombed. Remember, the planes were still flying over. That’s what my mother remembers; the houses being bombed and it was friendly fire coming down.

 

You know, there are so many myths about Pearl Harbor, including some I grew up with. Some of them were dispelled after I attended school in Hawai‘i. And I know of them was, you know, the Japanese planes didn’t come through Kolekole Pass to get to Pearl Harbor.

 

I know.

 

I thought that for years, and I’d drive by those mountains and think, Oh, that’s right where the planes came in.

 

Yeah.

 

No.

 

That myth had some truth to it. And that’s one of the things I found out in doing some of the research about, was eyewitnesses watching the attack, in particular on Wheeler and Schofield, in that area, saw the planes. But the planes were turning at the base of the mountains, not flying through it. And the Japanese were always kind of, when I interviewed them, Why do they think we would do that? Because the main strike force flew down from Kaena Point, all the way, and turned over Makakilo, and then broke up in their attacks at Hickam and Pearl Harbor, and Ewa. One group came down the center of the island over Haleiwa, and moved up and attacked Wheeler Field, but they circled around. And so, film kind of endorsed that; the book and film From Here to Eternity somewhat endorsed that myth. Then tour guides caught onto it, and then it became part of the story, and they took people out there to Kolekole Pass. Now, the pass itself is historic, but the film Tora! Tora! Tora!, you see them flying right through the pass. So, Hollywood in many, many ways instills and certifies, and embosses some of our myths.

 

So, something that happened all those decades ago is still a moving target in terms of learning about it and memorializing it.

 

I’ll tell you, Leslie; the more you know, the less you know. And that’s been my case. You know, everybody says, Oh, you’re one of the experts on Pearl Harbor. And you know, I think what I could say safely is, I know where to find it, but it’s just an evolution still occurring. So, long after I leave my position, there’ll be someone that will find more history and more angles of that. And that’s been my case. Every time I go to work, there’s going to be something that’s new.

 

Teaching visitors about history is an important part of Daniel Martinez’s job. But there are other aspects of his work that go beyond uncovering new facts and correcting misconceptions. There is the ongoing story of the consequences and the lessons of that even today continue to inform us and affect our lives.

 

One of the things that I’ve been blessed with is, I’m the interment officer for what takes place on the Arizona. To see how the Navy, or in the case if it’s a Marine, how they honor and work with us on that ceremony, and when the families come there, and I take the urn down, and the family members are with me, and then I turn that urn over to the family member that’s appointed by the rest to do that, and then that person gives it to the diver … that is a moment.

 

You’ve gotten to meet so many of the survivors of Pearl Harbor attack. And you know, many have come over the years, some have volunteered here, some have moved here. And you’ve conducted oral history interviews with a lot of them. So, I just wonder; for those who went through those horrific times, I mean, they saw their fellow soldiers and other professionals, they saw such terrible carnage. What were their lives like after surviving this?

 

After the war, no matter what horrific circumstance they went through, whether they witnessed people being killed, or wounded themselves, or nearly killed themselves, they wanted to move on with their lives. Think about it; many of them were young. I did my first oral history with my grandfather, and he agreed to do it, but he wasn’t wild about it. And I couldn’t understand it. So, I started the interview and I had a little recording machine, you know, and microphone. And I get into the whole Pearl Harbor stuff, and he gets up in the interview and walks away. And he said, That’s it, that’s it; that’s all. And my grandmother, you can hear in the background saying, No, no, go back. You know. He got up, I think, three times and walked away. It wasn’t ‘til I started doing oral history interviews on my own in the late 80s that I understood what I was dealing with. He had never told anybody about it. And he had seen a young Hawaiian boy that worked on his crew wounded. He had to dive for cover, because he was in the area of Merry Point Landing. That was ground zero for the torpedo attack; they flew right up that channel. And so, he was seeing things and remembering things that he had not talked about. And as a result, he was reliving it.

 

I see.

 

And I didn’t know that. And so, I couldn’t understand at that time, and it took several years for me to get from the university here that I was going into an area of his remembrance that was extremely difficult, and he was reliving it. And he remembered the Arizona exploding, but he didn’t know it was the Arizona; he just saw a ship explode and the concussion rocked them there. And he remembered that he stayed there as a Navy federal worker, pulling bodies out of Aiea Bay and placing them on the landing in Aiea for identification, and never got over how young the faces were. And he remembered going through a darkened and panicked Downtown Honolulu, and seeing people and behavior that he never had seen before. People were frightened, and they were scared, and they were running lights, and they were driving up to the sidewalks. And he just said it was crazy. And nobody remembers or really talks about that, but it indeed happened. And so, when he got home late at night, we were now under martial law and it was blackout. And they huddled in their home in Kaimuki, like so many others did, not knowing what the next day would bring, sensing there would be Japanese soldiers in their front yard. And that was just the beginning of the martial law experience in Hawai‘i that, fortunately for my family, they were lucky enough to leave, although sadly, and be in a place where there was a lot more freedom. So, for the people of Hawai‘i, I mean, they’re often not really congratulated for their own sustainability and courage and effort in the war effort, just sustaining themselves under martial law. And so, the one thing that my grandfather witnessed that he couldn’t believe also was, and I tell the story now to a lot of visitors, is that after the attack, suddenly the workers that were of Japanese ancestry were being attacked and called names by local people that worked on the project. Which just seems crazy. But it was crazy. And so, it got to such a point there were fights, and the inability for crews to work together, and ethnic groups from Hawai‘i now even that had been their friends were no longer their friends. So, the crews were segregated; there was a Japanese American crew. This went on for several months, and then as feeling subsided—

 

Yeah; fear is a terrible thing. It drives bad behavior.

 

We see it. Yeah; and it drove some bad behavior. But it was one of those untold stories that he mentions on his interview, and in doing so, gave me glimpse of the kind of fear, as you say, sustained itself in the weeks and months after Pearl Harbor.

 

We learn the human experience of history and war through the testimonies of witnesses and survivors. Daniel Martinez’s passion for gathering and perpetuating these stories keeps them alive, so we can heal from the emotional wounds of the past and understand history. Mahalo to Daniel Martinez of Kapolei for teaching us through stories. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I remember we were making a film about Pearl Harbor on September 11, 2001. We were in Washington, D.C., not more than fifteen miles away from the Pentagon. And these suits come in, and he leans over and said, We just got Pearl Harbored in New York. And that’s going on while we’re having …

 

While you are remembering Pearl Harbor.

 

While we’re remembering Pearl Harbor. We were ushered out; we could see the smoke coming up from the Pentagon.

 

Did you stay in the building?

 

They kept us there, and they moved us into the cafeteria lobby area, and we watched the second plane go in. It was profound, because we were scheduled to fly that day on Flight 77, the plane that went into the Pentagon. But the reservation was changed. It’s never been lost on me that I had a second chance in life, and … so, September 11th is, I guess, my touch with a Pearl Harbor-like event.

 

[END]

 

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Journey Home to the USS Arizona

 

One of the few crew members from the USS Arizona who survived the Pearl Harbor attack, Raymond Haerry Sr., passed away at the age of 94 on September 27, 2016. This documentary follows Haerry’s family as they travel from New Jersey to O‘ahu to place his ashes aboard the sunken battleship.

 

NHK World Documentary
Road to Redemption

NHK Documentary: Road to Redemption

 

This film tells the story of two men who stood on opposite sides of the front line in World War II. Mitsuo Fuchida was the chief commander of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Jacob DeShazer, a U.S. Army Air Force corporal, dropped incendiary bombs on Nagoya in a revenge raid. After the war, both became devout Christians and embarked on missions in each other’s homeland. They eventually met – and forged a bond.

 

HIKI NŌ
Episode #820

 

TOP STORY

 

Students from Aliamanu Middle School on O‘ahu tell the story of Jimmy Lee, an eighty-six year old O‘ahu resident who witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor when he was an eleven-year-old boy. Images of the planes and the bombing are etched in Lee’s memory. Even today, when Lee looks up at the sky in the Pearl Harbor area he can “see the planes and hear the bombing.” Lee uses his vivid memories to teach school children about the event that launched the U.S. into World War II and changed his life forever. He also volunteers as a guide for the National Park Service to share his vivid memories with visitors.

 

ALSO FEATURED:

 

–Students from Waiakea High School in the Hilo area of Hawai‘i Island tell the story of an athlete whose most formidable opponent is his own case of Type 1 Diabetes.

 

–Students from Montessori School of Maui in Makawao show us how to make a stress ball out of balloons.

 

–Students from Kalani High School in East Honolulu follow a piano teacher’s long journey to fulfilling her life’s purpose.

 

–Students from Island School on Kaua‘i find out how foreign exchange students at their school compare life in Germany to life in Hawai‘i.

 

–Students from Ke Kula Ni‘ihau O Kekaha Public Charter School on Kaua‘i tell the story of how their new principal – a native of Ni‘ihau – finally agreed to take on the responsibility of running their school.

 

This program encores Saturday, June 3, at 12:00 pm and Sunday, June 4, at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.

 


LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Sam Kamaka Jr. and Fred Kamaka Sr.

 

Meet second-generation owners of Kamaka Hawaii, Sam and Fred Kamaka. Now celebrating 100 years in business, Kamaka Hawaii has been the ‘ukulele crafter of choice for artists around the world.

 

From a young age, Sam and Fred, now 94 and 92 years old, walked the halls of their father’s ‘ukulele factory. However, that the brothers would inherit the family business was far from certain. After witnessing the attack on Pearl Harbor, then being drafted to serve during World War II, the two brothers pursued their own education and career paths, taking them far from Hawai‘i and the ‘ukulele factory.

 

Life changed directions overnight for Sam, joined later by his brother, and the two have dutifully worked to perfect their craft and “take care of the customer,” as their father used to say. Now, having passed the torch to their own sons, the brothers reflect on their journey.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, May 3, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, May 7, at 4:00 pm.

 

Sam Kamaka Jr. and Fred Kamaka Sr. Audio

 

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Transcript

 

SAM:   [UKULELE] My dog has fleas.

 

FRED:  The sound is still there.

 

SAM:   [CHUCKLE]

 

FRED:  The dog with fleas.

 

Four simple strings playing a ditty we all grew up with. Many players and fans of the ukulele find happiness through this small instrument. Two brothers, whose name is synonymous with quality ukulele have also found happiness by continuing their father’s legacy, and staying close to each other and their families. Samuel Kamaka, Jr. and Frederick Kamaka, Sr., coming up on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro once said: There’s something about the ukulele that just makes you smile; it brings out the child in all of us. You can still see the child in two brothers in their nineties, Sam Kamaka and Fred Kamaka. They took over the ukulele business from their father, Samuel Kamaka, Sr. They remember a childhood of family and fun, and always, the music of the ukulele.

 

Sam, what’s your earliest memory of life? Where were you, what were you doing?

 

SAM:   My earliest … memory of life was playing on the streets in Kaimuki with our neighbor boys on Elizabeth Avenue. My families lived there early in the 20s, and they used to have kalua pig in those days, and the area had parties.

 

FRED:  Most of us lived together with musicians and family members. It’s only about two square blocks, and we all played together, and so, we grew up to know all our cousins.

 

How did it happen that musicians were living at the same place a family of ukulele makers were living? How did that happen?

 

FRED:  I don’t know, but when we were born, this is where we lived.

 

And then, I noticed you moved in 1929, which was the time when the Depression hit. You moved from Kaimuki. How come?

 

FRED:  I think Papa was interested in—he was always interested in floriculture and other things, because he grew up on Maui, and he wanted to get somewhere away from the crowdedness of the Kaimuki.

 

SAM:   Kaimuki.

 

SAM:   So, we bought the land in Kaneohe. It was two and … two acres, at least.

 

And you’re still there; right?

 

SAM:   We’re still there.

 

FRED:  Right.

 

And the street name is Halekou.

 

SAM:   Halekou.

 

And it was created from Halekou bushes.

 

SAM:   Yeah.

 

How interesting.

 

SAM:   We had a dairy down below, and I remember going there to milk cows in the morning just to learn something.

 

Did you like that as much as Kaimuki as little kids? More chores.

 

SAM:   It was different.

 

FRED:  Yeah. There was a big difference, of course. We have to say, we had a couple horses. And in the afternoons, see, with the dairies, the cattle were grazing at the base of the pali. It was all graze. And as kids, at about, what, four o’clock in the afternoon, we have to round up the cattle, get ‘em moving.

 

SAM:   They all came home. Over their—

 

FRED:  They all knew where they were supposed to go.

 

SAM:   –special trail. Had a special trail, and they all come back.

 

FRED:  You got just ‘em started, and they get to a certain fencepost, and all the ones for this dairy would—they all knew exactly which dairy they belonged to. Whether it was to Texeira Dairies, the Moniz Dairy, or the Souza’s Dairy.

 

Amazing how many dairies there used to be.

 

FRED:  Oh, yeah. It was all agriculture on that side of the island. It’s all changed. It’s all wall-to-wall houses now.

 

Sam Kamaka and Fred Kamaka watched as their father, Samuel Kamaka, Sr., grew flowers, and grew a business making ukulele. Whether he was tinkering with the sound of his ukulele, or growing beautiful Bird of Paradise flowers, Sam, Sr. was an innovator and a perfectionist. He developed an ukulele with a larger, rounder body, which became his iconic Kamaka Pineapple ukulele. He found ways to keep his business alive during the Depression, and he introduced his sons, Sam and Fred, to the family business.

 

FRED:  So, my father, he did a lot of things. And we wished he would stick to one thing, but you know, he kept us going for different things. On the weekends, we had to go with him to Waianae, or we had to stay in Kaneohe to get this thing fixed up.

 

SAM:   Every morning, our front yard was filled with the Bird of Paradise, the orange ones. And our station wagon going in to school would be loaded with flowers, and he’d have to deliver it at Fort Street. And another place was the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, he would take the flowers.

 

I heard that your dad had you start working in the factory at a very young age; elementary school age.

 

FRED:  Well, the thing about it is, when we moved to Kaneohe, Sam was in school, and my mother was teaching at Liholiho School on Maunaloa and 9th Avenue. It was called Cummings School at the time, and then became Liholiho later on. And Sam was attending school. When we moved to Kaneohe, I was only four years of age, and they weren’t going to leave me at home to burn the house down, a brand new house. So, I had to go with my father to work. And I got interested because the factory was being run like the Industrial Revolution, with a central shaft with belts going to this. And I got interested in wanting to do that. But my father would never let me touch, because you could really damage your hands or—

 

SAM:   You could lose a finger.

 

FRED:  –cut off fingers, like Sam said. And I had one of the workmen, he said, But you don’t tell your father, and he showed me how to do it. And he told me, if you put it on, if it grabs, don’t hold onto the sticks. You let it go immediately, because it’ll pull you into the machine. But I learned to do it. And then, my father finally found me putting it on, and he said, Well, make sure you do it safely.

 

What about you, Sam? What did you like to do in the factory?

 

SAM:   You know, I didn’t do too much. I was up front, or upstairs rolling strings, being safe.

 

Oh, so you weren’t engaged, really, at all in the factory at an early age.

 

SAM:   No, no; not that much.

 

And your mother passed away at a young age; thirty-six.

 

FRED:  Our mother, besides being a schoolteacher, was a kumu, hula teacher. She died from cancer. She died actually, three days after my birthday. My birthday’s on the 16th of September, and she died the 19th of September, 1936.

 

SAM:   Before she left, I remember her calling me into her bedroom, and telling me to keep the ukulele factory.

 

Another vivid memory both Sam Kamaka and Fred Kamaka witnessed, the bombing of Pearl Harbor; Fred as a student at the Kamehameha Schools, and Sam as a worker at Honolulu Harbor. Before Sam and Fred started working fulltime in the family business, they pursued careers outside of the ukulele factory. Sam, at the behest of his father, went to school in the Pacific Northwest to study entomology. Fred attended college with the idea of joining the FBI. And while their pasts had nothing to do with the ukulele, their father certainly continued to influence their lives.

 

You both had serious lives away from the factory when you went to school.

 

SAM:   Uh-huh.

 

I mean, you did become an entomologist; you studied for it at a high level.

 

SAM:   My dad sent me off to Washington State to study.

 

Bugs.

 

SAM:   Because around us, we had so many families with animals.

 

And you were on your way to a doctorate.

 

SAM:   Yes. That was with the study of the insecticide; it’s the translocation through its sap called phosphoramide.

 

And meanwhile, your brother was interested in a very different kind of instrument—guns.

 

FRED:  Right. Well, when we grew up, see, my father actually, he had guns because he had served in the National Guard. And because I got really interested in it, I joined the rifle team in high school at St. Louis at first, and then at Kamehameha. I remember once the war started, he told my brother and I; he said, If the government ever calls you to serve, I want you to go. I don’t want you reneging, so to speak. And he was proud of us when we got drafted, that we went in the service. He said, Do for your country.

 

And for you, Fred, it became a career.

 

FRED:  Yeah.

 

Before your ukulele career.

 

FRED:  Yeah; he was happy that when he died, I was a first lieutenant, by then.

 

And you became a lieutenant colonel. And meanwhile, you were going to become a scientist because of your early training getting rid of the bugs in the greenhouse in Kaneohe.

 

SAM:   Right. When I was drafted, I sent to Guadalcanal because of my operating skills at the pier. So, we did only two years, but we had to clean with local boys. I can’t remember all of them, but we cleaned out the forest and everything. Went on to this big tanker and they all disappeared out in the ocean someplace.

 

In so many family businesses in Hawaii, the children are encouraged to pursue higher education and professions that their parents could never have for themselves, resulting in mom and pop businesses reaching a dead-end. For Sam Kamaka and Fred Kamaka, there was no question they would uphold the Kamaka family business, if they were needed.

 

Your father’s impact on you is really clear in your growing up days.

 

FRED:    Yeah. He was a good businessman. And when he died, the business, you know, there was money available in the only two banks in Honolulu to run the business, and he was able to do that.

 

SAM:   Yeah; you were still in Korea then.

 

FRED:  Yeah. He had the factory. It was still there, but he had released his workers six months, because a he didn’t know whether we would take it over. But he had kept the business as Kamaka & Sons. And we stayed Kamaka & Sons until ’68, when we turned it to Kamaka Hawaii.

 

So, Sam was the first to come back and take the reins.

 

SAM:   In ’53, I was called home because my dad was dying from cancer. And the night he passed away … on his bed, he asked me to call Father Benito. And right away, I knew what was going to happen. So, Father Benito knew what was going to happen too, so Father Benito brought in a communion. As soon the communion touched my dad’s lips, he closed his eyes and passed away. Then from then on, it was my job … to restore the ukulele factory.

 

And you hadn’t had the hands-on with him.

 

SAM:   No.

 

You were off doing other things. And so, how did you find out the intricacies and the ins and outs?

 

SAM:   Well, the first thing I did was, go down to the Ala Moana area and checked with two ukulele makers. They were two gentlemen that were making ukuleles. One was Ah Tau Kam and another one. And a lot of it was being done by hand, and then they referred me to the Kumalae boys. And I checked their equipment. They went, You want to make ukuleles? They kinda semi-retired their business. And then, I met this fellow, George Gilmore. He was a guitar maker. I learned a lot from him, and reviewing my dad’s old ukuleles. That was the beginning of what I had to do.

 

Excavation and research.

 

Yeah.

 

And then, at what point did Fred come back into the picture?

 

SAM:   When he came back, he was an officer at the …

 

FRED:  [INDISTINCT]

 

SAM:   You were at that base in Waikiki.

 

DeRussy?

 

SAM:   Yeah, Fort DeRussy.

 

You had twenty years in. Were you planning on retiring?

 

FRED:  Right; I had twenty years and traveled all over, saw Second World War, Korea, and Vietnam. And I knew I would always come home, and Sam knew that I would eventually. So, when I did come home, we just had turned the company into Kamaka, Incorporated. The first couple years was tough, because we had we had quit making ukuleles in Japan, and this meant that we had to re-do how we did things. And we renovated in the first year. It was during the renovation of the back to make it more workable. After the Olympics in Japan, they went crazy for Hawaiian things. For instance, like now, they have more hula halaus in Japan than they have in Hawaii. And they were crazy for the instruments. But now, of course, they’re all making instruments around the world. But our product was the one name that they remembered from all the years. Our name is similar to a Japanese name, Kamaka versus Tanaka. So, the relationship is there; they always remember us. And some people have come into the shop and said, Are you Japanese? I said, No, we’re Hawaiian.

 

FRED:  It was a simple instrument. From the beginning, it became the most popular instrument to be made and played in Hawaii. The hotbed of ukulele making and playing has always been, from the beginning, Hawaii. This machine, computerized, will take five of these, come up with the neck I showed in the front; five in one hour. Now, once this is done, you put the body together; next station. We’ll go up there now. Come in.

 

FRED:  Now, this is the hardest part for me when I grew up. Right here. We take the tape off, put a light coat of Danish oil. We put the bridge on, label. Okay.

 

That’s Fred Kamaka conducting the Kamaka Hawaii factory tour in September of 2016, just after his ninety-second birthday. While his older brother Sam doesn’t visit the shop as much as he used to, Fred continues to tell the story of Kamaka Ukulele. When the brothers were still both working at the shop, they would ride together to and from work at the Kamaka Ukulele factory. From their childhood growing up in Kaimuki and Kaneohe, through their time upholding the standards that their father established, Sam and Fred have stayed close and supported one another, both as brothers and as business partners.

 

You know, let’s talk about your relationship. You’re about three years apart?

 

SAM:   Two.

 

FRED:  Little over two years.

 

SAM:   Two years; yeah.

 

You know, when boys, any children are about two years apart, they tend to knock heads; right? Or they can be close, but there’s also a lot of friction. In your case?

 

FRED:  No, we … well, of course, as little kids, we probably …

 

FRED:  You know, we played sports together.

 

SAM:   Yeah

 

FRED:  No; but we kinda backed each other up when things got rough. I remember he coming to my rescue for quite a number of times when I got into trouble.

 

What kind of trouble?

 

FRED:  Well, you know …

 

SAM:   He wasn’t a real good surfer, and a swimmer. And I loved it, ‘cause I built surfboards at the shop.

 

FRED:  Well, see, I got teased a lot. I got teased a lot because of my middle name, Ku. And if you take Portuguese meaning of Ku, means cu-zing.

 

Yes.

 

And yet, Ku is such a proud Hawaiian name.

 

FRED:  It is, you know.

 

God of war.

 

FRED:  God of war, plus the overall god, Ku.

 

But you’re right. It was a Portuguese word for the rear end.

 

FRED:  Right. So, uh, but that’s not the way they treated my name. And I would get into fights.   Don’t tease me.

 

And Big Brother would come calling?

 

FRED:  Oh, he would have to come and rescue me. Yeah.

 

Have you ever had an argument? I mean, you must have had arguments. I mean, I know, you saved him as his big brother, but …

 

SAM:   I can’t remember an argument.

 

Is that right?

 

SAM:   Yeah.

 

‘Cause you’re so close in age.

 

SAM:   Yeah.

 

FRED:  No, we …

 

Maybe that’s the secret of life; don’t argue.

 

SAM:   Yeah.

 

FRED:  Now, it’s the old things; don’t make waves.  I remember that terminology. Oh, we’ve had some differences of opinion, but you know, when you ride together in, and you ride home together, you know, you better take care of each other.

 

Your family seems like it’s just been accomplished for a long time.

 

SAM:   Yes.

 

You know, basically working on its business, on its craft, on its happiness.

 

SAM:   Uh-huh.

 

It just seems like, I mean, for an outsider, maybe it’s too good to be true. Could it have been this happy and this blessed?

 

SAM:   We inherited something.

 

FRED:  We’ve been lucky.

 

SAM:   Yeah.

 

FRED: And … we thank the Lord above for keeping us here this long, ‘cause we’ve been able to see what has happened with the company, and what has happened with our family. And we’re very grateful for the one opportunity that we’ve been here this long. We never thought we would actually get here, because our parents died when they were so young. And here we are, thirty years longer than my father. And we’re still here. We’re very grateful to the Lord above uh, the benefit we’ve had.

 

SAM:   It’s amazing; I didn’t expect to be here at ninety-four, ‘cause my parents all went in their fifties, you know. And here I am. So, the ukulele must be a blessing.

 

At the time of this conversation in August of 2016, Kamaka Hawaii was celebrating its 100th year in business, and Sam and Fred were living simple, happy lives. Their sons and grandsons have brought 21st century technology into making Kamaka ukulele, and dedication to excellence and the strong ties of family are still key ingredients in the cheerful tones of every ukulele they make. Mahalo piha to Samuel Kamaka, Jr. and Frederick Kamaka, Sr. of Kaneohe, Oahu for sharing their story with us. And mahalo to you, for joining us. For Long Story Short and PBS Hawaii, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

When I grow too old to dream, I’ll have you to remember. When I grow too old to dream, your love will live in my heart. So kiss me my sweet, and don’t ever go. So when I grow too old to dream, your love will live in my heart.

 

Wow. Thank you.

 

FRED:  You were supposed to sing in German.

 

[END]

 


PEARL HARBOR
Into the Arizona + USS Oklahoma – The Final Story

 

Pearl Harbor – Into the Arizona

Tues., Dec. 6, 8:00 pm

 

On the eve of the 75th anniversary, join the first expedition to explore inside the USS Arizona since the date that will live in infamy, as state-of-the- art imaging technology reveals the aftermath and incredible story of the Pearl Harbor attack.

 

 

USS Oklahoma – The Final Story

Tues., Dec. 6, 9:00 pm

 

Explore what happened to the USS Oklahoma, the only battleship to capsize during the Pearl Harbor attack. Examine new details about what may have caused the ship to overturn and hear stories from Oklahoma survivors and families of those lost.

 

PBS Hawai‘i to commemorate Pearl Harbor anniversary with special programming

PBS Hawaii

 

HONOLULU, HI – PBS Hawai‘i is dedicating its primetime schedule the week of Dec. 4 to documentaries and television specials related to Pearl Harbor. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that catapulted the United States into World War II.

 

The lineup begins Sunday, Dec. 4 at 7:00 pm with the local broadcast premiere of Remember Pearl Harbor, a nationally distributed public television documentary presented by PBS Hawai‘i, and produced by filmmaker Tim Gray and the World War II Foundation. The film, narrated by actor Tom Selleck, features stories from veterans and citizens who witnessed the attack on the American Pacific Fleet.

 

PEARL HARBOR: USS Oklahoma - The Final Story

The battleship USS Arizona sinks after the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Photo: National Archives

 

Dec. 4 also marks the local broadcast premiere of Road to Redemption, a documentary from NHK World. Two men from opposite sides of the WWII front line meet decades later – and form a bond.

 

On Tuesday, Dec. 6, PBS Hawai‘i presents a new episode of its weekly oral history program, Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox. Featured is Jimmy Lee, a local resident who witnessed the attack as a child.

 

Here is the complete schedule for Pearl Harbor-related programming:

 

Remember Pearl Harbor

Premieres Sunday, Dec. 4 at 7:00 pm // Encores Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 8:00 pm

Narrated by actor Tom Selleck, this documentary chronicles the personal stories of veterans and citizens who witnessed the surprise attack by the Japanese on the American Pacific Fleet on December 7, 1941. Using archival footage and photos, the documentary shows in detail the bombings on O‘ahu, along with the fiery explosion of the USS Arizona, the sinking of the USS Oklahoma, and the attacks on Hickam Field, as well as on other parts of O‘ahu.

 

NHK World Documentary – Road to Redemption

Premieres Sunday, Dec. 4 at 8:30 pm // Encores Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 9:30 pm

This NHK World documentary tells the story of two men who stood on opposite sides of the front line in World War II. Mitsuo Fuchida was the chief commander of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Jacob DeShazer, a U.S. Army Air Force corporal, dropped incendiary bombs on Nagoya in a revenge raid. After the war, both became devout Christians and embarked on missions in each other’s homeland. They eventually met – and forged a bond.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox – Jimmy Lee

Premieres Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 pm // Encores Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 11:00 pm

Jimmy Lee was only 11 years old on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. Watching the bombs drop from his family’s farm, Jimmy couldn’t begin to imagine how his world would change, or what his simple childhood would become after Hawai‘i declared martial law.

 

Pearl Harbor – Into the Arizona

Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 8:00 pm (originally aired Nov. 2016)

Join the first expedition to explore the inside of the USS Arizona since the “date that will live in infamy,” as state-of-the-art imaging technology reveals the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack.

 

Pearl Harbor – USS Oklahoma – The Final Story

Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 9:00 pm (originally aired Nov. 2016)

Explore what happened to the USS Oklahoma, the only battleship to capsize during the Pearl Harbor attack. Examine new details about what may have caused the ship to overturn and hear stories from Oklahoma survivors and families of those lost.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox – Daniel Martinez

Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 10:30 pm (originally aired Dec. 2014)

As Chief Historian at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Daniel Martinez has heard stories from the survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and shares those stories with Park visitors. In this conversation, hear how his connection with that infamous event goes deeper than his role as a historian.

 

For questions regarding this press release:

Contact: Liberty Peralta

Email: lperalta@pbshawaii.org

Phone: 808.462.5030

 

PBS Hawai‘i is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and Hawai‘i’s sole member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). We advance learning and discovery through storytelling that profoundly touches people’s lives. We bring the world to Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i to the world. pbshawaii.org | facebook.com/pbshawaii | @pbshawaii

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