Bill’s family came to Hawai’i from China in 1921. They settled on the worst farmland on O’ahu. Bill remembers running through parched sugar cane fields as a boy.
Saturday mornings, Bill drove the family’s Model-T to Honolulu. The back seat was loaded with papayas, coconuts, and sugar beets to sell at Waikiki hotels. Kitchen managers weighed and thumped the fruit, then counted four or five dollars into Bill’s hand. Sometimes 25 cents was added to pay for gas for the trip home.
Bill remembers Mother, Father, and Uncle drinking tea by candlelight late into the evening; talking quietly or, more often, sitting in silence.
“Go to bed, son,” Mother chided gently when Bill padded into the kitchen.
Ten years passed. Bill’s family sold the farm and opened Lock’s Bait & Beer on the North Shore. Hawaii was a territory then. Nobody cared about fishing licenses.
At sunrise, locals lined up to buy bait and beer on credit. Bill recalls seeing men and women standing by the shoreline, straw-hatted, throwing nets in the ocean.
If opah refused to bite, fishermen couldn’t pay. Nobody minded. Locals settled up when fish cooperated.
“We did things differently then,” he says.
Trish Saunders writes poems from Honolulu, Hawaii.