Following my mother’s passing last Tuesday, the oldest living graduate of Kamehameha is now believed to be Janet Hopkins Richards, of San Diego, who is also the last surviving member of of my mother’s Kamehameha School for Girls Class of 1931.
My sister, Bonnie, was on the phone to her just hours after my mother’s death to share the news.
Richards wrote a beautiful essay (“Remember when“) for the 70th reunion of the class back in 2001.
She wrote, in part:
Sharing in the upkeep of the school was probably the major teaching method for building good and industrious students. With tuition at $50, who could complain? The jobs rotated about every six weeks. There were tables to be set, silver and napkins carefully placed (and much as I hated it, to this day I fold the dinner napkins as I was taught), dishes to be washed in a commercial machine, potatoes and carrots to be peeled, linen to be ironed, the housemother’s room to be straightened, the halls and public rooms to be swept and dusted, and yes, the main staircase, too. It descend- ed three floors landing on the first floor in two separate symmetrically designed flights. Those stairs were swept with dustpan and brush. A modest sign on the wall above the fifth step read “There are no elevators in the house of success.”
In a personal note to my mother at the time, another class member, Tamar Mookini Tavares, reminisced about their years at Kamehameha.
The “elevator” I remember was the dumb-waiter carrying “foot stuff,” especially poi, from the ground floor to the kitchen, and at times a “love note” found its way to the intended “girlfriend”…. It was quite a trick to retrieve the note before Nui, the cook, found it. Remember him? He used to like to touch your behind. How I hated him.
Tamar was married to Freddy Tavares, a steel guitar great. Check out his biography among the “legends of steel guitar.”
My mother also attended their 80th class reunion in 2011. She was the only one from the class in attendance. My sister described the reunion experience in her blog.
A reunion is very different when there are so few to reunite. Bonnie wrote:
Mother said several times, almost wistfully, “All these people, and I don’t see anyone I know.” This is a relatively new problem for her. She’s always been able to connect with someone in a crowd. Despite its growth and influx of residents, Honolulu is still, socially, a very small town. As the only person from your class in attendance, it was inevitable that there would not be many seated at her table. But someone was there — Mikihala, class of ’36, who was Mother’s little sister when Miki entered Kamehameha. Classes of ’41 and ’46 were at the table behind us. Then the school president, Mike Chun, stopped to greet her. “You worked for the Rentons?” she asked. “My daughter-in-law is a Renton. And aren’t you related to the Mossmans?” Yes, his wife is a Mossman. She a granddaughter of a friend of Mother’s. It wasn’t such a group of strangers after all.
That’s Hawaii. Still a small town in big city guise.