Local author David Penhallow-Scott recalls Pearl Harbor attack, life on Kauai, Oahu during wartime

LIHUE — David Penhallow-Scott remembers his house in Manoa shaking when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

“We thought Diamond Head was erupting,” said Penhallow-Scott, a local author and long-time resident of Kauai. “I went outdoor to play with my friend next door. I heard my mother call. She got a phone call that the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor. We went in, they said to fill up the bathtub, take the cars off the road.”

Penhallow-Scott and his family were under the impression parachuters were coming down in Manoa.

“It was a scary time,” he said. “We didn’t know what was going on.” His mother piled her 7-year-old son, David, and his 4-year-old sister into their car and drove to Punaluu to stay with his aunt.

“The way she drove over the Pali, I think I’d rather have been bombed,” he said.

Martial law and house blackouts were among Penhallow-Scott’s memories of the war.

“In a minute, life can change. People can die on you in an instant. I learned that at that age,” he said. “The lesson is enjoy your life, enjoy every minute you have, live it and be kind to people.”

In 1944, Penhallow-Scott and his family moved to Kauai, where his mother was born. Life on the Garden Isle, he said, was a contrast to Oahu during war time. “I thought it was fun, actually, because we went to Marine Camp where the golf course is,” he said. “The Army, they were good to us kids. I learned how to drive a Jeep at that age. They even gave me a fake license.”

His time in Lihue School included cultivating Victory Gardens with his other classmates. Gardens were planted around the country to prevent food shortages and feed soldiers. “I remember we all had gardens. I had spring greens. It’s where the water board is now in Lihue,” he said. “Once a month, we didn’t go into our classrooms. We worked in the kitchen. We all mopped the floors of our classrooms and cleaned the boards.”

In Kalaheo, Penhallow-Scott and his cousin remembers traveling to an Army base in Kukuiolono. Today, the site serves as a park and golf course.

“We saw (a United Service Organization) show with Bob Hope and Frances Langford,” he said. “It was pretty exciting. The jungle warfare was up in the hills up there.”

Penhallow-Scott said there was good that came from war. “People come together more,” he said. “In Hawaii — all ethnic groups — we became one much more. Neighbors took care of neighbors. We became friendlier and closer. Those cataclysmic events bring us together.”

Kauai residents at the time took precautions in case the enemy landed.

“They had these concrete bunkers and there is still one out in front of Waipouli,” he said. “There’s still a bunker. I always hear if we were invaded, there were plans to move the civilians up in the mountains.”

The war inspired the now Hilo-based author to write several works of fiction, including “Emma Last Dance,” and “Matilda’s Waltz,” plays based on a sugar plantation by Pearl Harbor in 1944.

Hawaii and their lives were changed by war, Penhallow-Scott said.

“We had to be fingerprinted, we had to wear gas masks at school, school was taken over by the engineers, we went to classes in private homes for a while,” he said. “All of a sudden one day you were living a childhood and the next day you were living in a real war.”

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