It’s coming up on 8 a.m. on December 7. In 1941, it was a Sunday. It was my father’s birthday. The night before my parents had been partying. Then their world changed.
I posted the following back in May, soon after finding a letter of my mother’s penned that day. I’m sharing it again today. Read on.
It was in a box of papers uncovered yesterday afternoon as I slogged through another section of a small storeroom at my parents’ home in Kahala. The papers are dirty, faded, and covered with a fine layer of dust and rather old looking termite droppings and other bits of unknown origin. The papers included bits of genealogy, a collection of British newspapers reporting the funeral of King George VI and the coronation of Elizabeth, a carefully tied bundle of Bonnie’s school work from first through third grades, etc., etc. Then there was a small sheet of blue paper, folded in thirds. I immediately recognized my mother’s clear handwriting.
It’s a letter from my mother to her sister, Marguerite, written late on the morning of December 7, 1941, my father’s 28th birthday, as machine gun fire could be heard overhead and puffs of smoke seen in the sky.
The paper is brittle, there’s some old termite damage, but this treasure survived.
I’ve transcribed it below. You can see the original letter here.
Dec. 7, 1941
Something is brewing but we don’t exactly know what the score is. We were awakened by a telephone call from Ma this morning saying that Japanese planes were bombing Pearl Harbor. I had a big head from a party last night so didn’t talk very much. She told John the house was shaking like a leaf. We’ve been sitting here watching the shooting. I wish I were at Waipahu to see more of it. We have to be content with just watching the puffs from the shots.
Every 10 minutes an announcement is made over the radio for people to report for one thing or another. The latest report is total blackout tonight. We still don’t know whether this is real or not. Jimi was called for sea-scout duty early this morning. All ROTC students are getting their equipment. I guess they’ll patrol the streets. One funny thing happened today. We went out to the street to watch them haul cannons. The soldiers were throwing kisses to all the gals along the street.
Guess we’ll have to stay put today. We can’t use the telephone anymore & we can’t drive our cars, so here we are.
11:50 Well, there goes the radio. Station KGMB has been ordered off the air. Governor Poindexter is declaring a state of emergency on station KGU. There come the planes!! Oh, oh, and machine gun fire right above us. I’m getting jittery! Shucks, this letter won’t get to you anyway; might as well quit.