I’ve recycled this post a couple of times in the past, as it is so appropriate for December 7. I’ve updated it slightly, but it’s otherwise unedited.
December 7, my dad’s birthday. He would have been 103 today. At one time, I thought he might very well live to this age. Instead, he passed away in 2010, shortly before his 97th.
Now that we’re here in Kahala, and walking on Kahala Beach every morning (with other people’s dogs), it seems appropriate to repost this photo of my parents walking the same beach, probably soon after they were married. That was in December 1939, so I’m guessing this was perhaps in 1940 or so. They rented a house for a while on Kealaolu, just past Farmers Road. Then in early 1942, they bought the house where they would live for the rest of their long lives. And we moved back to that property a few months ago after completing major renovations.
In the photo, they’re walking with Kiki, my mother’s dog. That appears to be Black Point in the distance. Familiar territory. And those look like large crab holes in the sand. You don’t see those along that beach any more.
We walk the same stretch of beach these days, at least on some mornings, a sort of continuity that I’m still coming to terms with.
And, of course, December 7 is synonymous with the attack on Pearl Harbor. My parents told of being wakened by a telephone call from my mom’s mother in Waipahu, telling about what she described as the unusually realistic maneuvers underway.
But years later, I found a letter my mother wrote to her sister on December 7.
Here’s what I posted about it a couple of years ago.
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.
The letter was never mailed, and my mom saved the original all those years. At this point, I deeply appreciate her inability to throw things away.
See December 8: Another 75-year old letter written in the dark on the day following the attack on Pearl Harbor.