Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sue Kobatake Isonaga

I took it for granted that I would go to high school and college. Reading Sue Isonaga's story highlighted how different things were in the 1930s and just how much I had taken education for granted.

Shizue "Sue" Isonaga is born in 1921 in Lahaina, Maui. She is the third of four children born to Gitaro and Toyo Kobatake.

Her mother is widowed when Sue is four years old. After her mother re-marries, three children are born. Sue's stepfather, Tomosaburo Uda, works at Pioneer Mill Company. He passes away when she is fifteen years old.

In Sue's words:

"When my stepfather died, I was still fifteen. I was finishing my eighth-grade class and I wanted to go to high school in the worst sort of way. But since my brothers, my older brother had to leave school, there was no way I could go. But I would say I was a good student and I just really wanted to [go to high school].

I think it broke my mother’s heart because she couldn’t do it, you know, allow us to go.

I wanted to go to school but I couldn’t go to school. I think I must’ve cried so much, I felt maybe if I cried long enough, my mother will give in but she never did. Because she said, “The two boys, enough.” You know, there, and besides, they needed me. So, I just accepted that.

[I would have gone to] Lahainaluna [High School]. I don’t know [the cost]. Public school, you know. There were some boarders who boarded from out-of-town and stayed there but they worked in the dairy or worked in the print shop or worked in the cafeteria, to make up for the tuition.

Well, [it was] not really cost, but, no salary, no money to bring home. You know, it would be on the family income. But then, there were many families like mine. Lot of children, so no income, so we have to all go out to work.

My brother just below me, he was able to go to high school and so did the rest, go to high school and finish. One brother went into trade school, so they all had their chance to go to school.

It was just, I was the point that couldn’t go."

Read the rest of Sue's Story: http://nisei.hawaii.edu/page/sue.html

Note: The lei that Sue is wearing in the photo is made out of CREPE PAPER!!! She said that they couldn't wear it outdoors because if it rained, the color would run and stain their clothes.

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