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Father's Day and Frugality

June 16, 2013 - Ray Tsuchiyama

My friend T., whose father is my father’s Maui High School classmate (’37), invited my spouse C. and I to a 9-hole golf afternoon. We eagerly responded and met him with his friend A. at the Waiehu Golf Course on a Saturday afternoon. We were delighted at the brilliant sunny weather, since we had two rain-outs in early May (we also had one great day with wind-surfers and kite-surfers passing by the beach along Hole Number 6).

After losing several balls, but learning much (T. had a game whereby A. and he had only 5 clubs to choose from during the entire course), T. invited us to dinner at Tante’s Restaurant at the Maui Seaside Hotel along West Ka’ahumanu Avenue.

During dinner with T. and his spouse N., he told us that his father Y. had passed away in 2005 – the same year as my father. However, although our fathers were both graduates of the ’37 Class, my father was about 4 years older, since my father returned from Japan back to Maui in the early 1930s.

During World War II Y. was a member of the Honolulu Police Department and returned to Maui to become a probation officer. On Maui of the 1950s and 1960s, Y. met every truant on Maui, and was a well-known figure to turn wayward Maui youth around.

Even as late as a few years ago, T. was stopped at Ala Moana Center in Honolulu by a man who asked if he was Y.’s son. When T. responded "Yes", the stranger explained that he was a now a contributing member of society with a good job but he had been on a different, self-destructive path as a youth on Maui. He even taunted Y. to send him to prison, and Y., ever a disciplined individual, responded “OK”. After a short period in a Maui prison, the youth rebel had learned a valuable lesson and never did anything that would send him to jail again (he would later move to Honolulu and so never could thank T.’s father for sending him to jail, but welcomed the chance to say so to his son).

I said to T. perhaps Maui is much more law-abiding place thanks to his father.

On another topic during a dinner of Furikake Salmon (my spouse C. and I were taken by the sweet potato – purplish in color – salad, sweet and tasty), T. talked about the mountains of “stuff” that was in the house when his father passed away. He said that Y. even kept the McDonald hamburger bags to re-use.

I also thought of my own father, who rarely bought any new clothes, wore the same shoes, and re-used many things. If you remained on Maui during World War II, there were very few “things” that were transported to Hawai'i, except for military supplies or the barest of necessities. Even a chocolate bar or a bottle of Coca-Cola was a wondrous treat, from a wondrous land across the ocean. Clothes were mended, construction tools kept polished and in working condition, car engines were stripped and re-built with parts from cars that were smashed along Hana Highway. It was a time of self-reliance on Maui.

See: Maui News Blog: Necessity as the Mother of Invention and Sustainability

Instead of huge purchases and huge trash, all milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles were returned to the store, and the bottles would be sent back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. This was real recycling. Up to the early 1950s there were small bottling plants on Maui linked to each community, but transportation costs came steadily down (along with the container shipping), so there came a day when a ton of carrots imported from the Mainland was equivalent in cost to a ton of fertilizer, so imports soared without a corresponding huge rise in costs (in fact, prices for meat and vegetables are lower now, given time and inflation, than ever before) – which made the population rise easier throughout Hawai'i, the world’s most isolated heavily-populated string of islands.

Nowadays people grumble about electric bills, yet it would be challenging for families with babies to abandon disposable diapers and wash diapers by hand, and then dry them on a line – absolute real-time use of wind and solar power.

Up to several decades ago, the norm was one television set and one radio in the house -- not a TV and clock/radio/CD player/i-pod docking station in every room of the house. Again, people complain about electric bills, but who held a pistol to the head of a Maui resident and screamed at him to buy more TV sets, PC’s, Laptops, and Playstations – and operate all of them at once?

There are many sustainable actions to go “green”, yet nobody wants to return to a pre-washing machine, pre-microwave, pre-Internet, pre-multiple TV screen age. We want to be tethered to Mainland sports and entertainment yet live on the beach in Kihei. Kind of like having your cake and eating it.


Article Comments



Jun-17-13 12:10 PM

Like many I was born on Maui. I've lived and worked across Japan and the West Coast. Over the years I returned to the island to visit and enjoy.

Maui no ka oi!


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