Kaua‘i businessman Dennis Esaki grew up on a farm during the 1950s

Kaua‘i surveyor Dennis Esaki recently reminisced about growing up on his father’s farm at Aliomanu back in the “good old days” of the 1950s.

Dennis recalled that there was no phone or electricity service there, so his father, Taketsugi, would crank up his generator for electric power as needed.

Elsewhere, the Esaki washing machine ran with a motorcycle-type, kick-start gasoline engine, and there was a wood-burning furo for bathing.

Since he was needed on the farm, Dennis had no time for sports, surfing and so forth, like other kids.

Instead, he and his brother, Paul, worked with their parents and grandparents in the fields all day on weekends, during school vacations, and on holidays — and genuine responsibility came very early in life.

Once, when Dennis was only in the 4th grade at Anahola School, he helped plant two cases of highly-explosive dynamite with his father, older sister, Merle, and Paul, in a swamp.

“We blew out a wide, long ditch with it. My dad thought nothing of it.”

Dennis also remembered simple delights.

“We made much of our own toys. A flute made out of hollow papaya stems and buffalo grass, wooden yo yos and tops, and whips from hau tree bark.”

And, grandpa Buhachi and grandma Hashi Esaki would take him to watch samurai movies on Thursdays at the Roxy Theater in Kapa‘a, and when he visited their house in the mornings and said “ohayo gozaimasu” for “good morning,” grandma Esaki gave him candy.

Fishing put food on the table.

Many a time, he and his dad, uncle Tetsuo, uncle Shoji Kato, his brother Paul, and his dad’s friend Seiji Ouye would go night diving.

At Anahola School, the Esaki kids would sometimes bring a gallon can of chicken eggs to class, and one of them would get a free lunch in return.

Dennis also noted that “In the school office was a paddle-shaped stick called the ‘board of education,’ and they used it, too. For the longest time that is what I thought the actual Board of Education was.”

Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com


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