Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.
The novel, which is now available as a printed softcover book, opens with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Georgia and Japan.
“How is your father’s recuperation coming along?” asked Charles Hemenway as he carried his coffee cup from his desk to a chair facing a low, ivory-inlaid mahogany table with carved elephant legs. Sitting across from him on a matching leather-upholstered chair, Takeshi leaned over and stirred two spoons of sugar into his creamed coffee. He had arrived 15 minutes early for the weekly Committee for Interracial Unity’s 2 o’clock meeting. He hoped his anxiety did not show.
“Actually, the operation was postponed. Dr. Hornsby caught the flu. It’s been rescheduled for Saturday,” Takeshi said, fidgeting. He had been rehearsing his forthcoming request.
“Sir, you were gracious enough to offer help . . . . You said if there was anything you could do that I shouldn’t hesitate to ask . . .”
Hemenway turned on his grandfatherly smile. “Yes, I remember, and I meant it, Taka.” He took a sip of his pure black coffee.
Taka’s nerves throttled back. “It’s Sachiko. She’s in her senior year at McKinley. My parents are returning to Waimea, but there’s no high school there.”
“Yes, sweet girl. I remember meeting her last month when she was waiting for you after our meeting.”
“I need help finding a haole family that she can stay with,” Takeshi continued. “Mom could find her a home with one of our parishioners . . .” His poised tone trailed off.
“But your mother wants Sachiko to improve her English,” continued Hemenway.
Takeshi flashed a grateful smile.
“Your mother is right.” Hemenway paused. He was just about to add, “As a matter of fact, I have a candidate who needs to be exposed to an Americanized Japanese,” but held back at the last minute, thinking he should talk to his arriving nominee first.
There was a soft tap on the office door and in walked Wai Ching. He greeted everyone and then walked over to the Sunbeam Coffee Master on a credenza. As he poured himself a cup, school administrator Shigeo Yoshida, tall and full-voiced amongst his soft-spoken and shorter compatriots, stormed through the door, his eyes on fire. He grabbed a sheaf of notes from his hand-tooled satchel which he plopped on the ground before yanking back a chair, sitting down, and then retrieving and slapping the papers on the table. He leaned back and placed his hands on the chair’s grooved arms like a pope ready to have his ring kissed.
“You have our breathless attention,” deadpanned Wai Ching, handing Shigeo a cup of black coffee and placing his own, with sugar and cream, on the table as he took his seat.
“What a wonderful week,” said Yoshida, sarcasm ripping through his voice. “Hoover announces he is sending a G-man to reopen the FBI office, and at the Bishop Museum, Stokes gives a speech claiming the Japanese have been planning to take over Hawai‘i since the last days of the Hawaiian Kingdom. If that’s not enough, the same congressman who called me to testify on behalf of statehood now refuses to take the Hawaiian statehood bill out of committee for a floor vote. Some old fogey from Alabama did a body count and claimed that in 10 years, there’d be enough of us . . .” Yoshida thumped his chest, “to elect a Jap to Congress.”
Everybody waited for another rejoinder, but Yoshida sat back in his chair.
As if waiting for his cue off-stage, a voice boomed into the room. “My meeting with the police chief lasted longer than expected.” Upon entering, John Burns turned a serious face to the Sunbeam. He took a step toward it and then stopped. “No, I’m coffee’d out.” Burns, the only permanent member of the Interracial Committee who did not carry a briefcase, took a seat and pulled out his spiral notepad from his ink-stained shirt pocket.
At 30, Burns was a lanky, street-smart cop from the tough, ethnically mixed neighborhood of Kalihi in Honolulu. His Army sergeant father had abandoned his family in 1913 after being dishonorably discharged for stealing. A troubled child at 16, Burns was sent to live with an uncle in Kansas. Two years later, he joined the Army. His drinking and refusal to buckle under military authority led to an honorable discharge after one year. He returned to Hawai‘i and at the ripe old age of 21 graduated from St. Louis High School. He attended the University of Hawai‘i for a year and then bounced around a series of jobs before being accepted into the post-Massie trial police force in 1934.
“We can stop speculating why Hoover’s reopening the FBI office,” Burns said. “This new field agent, Robert Shivers, is being sent to prepare for transporting our entire Japanese community to Moloka‘i the moment war breaks out.”
Yoshida and Takeshi immediately exchanged alarmed glances at Burns’ announcement. The others could almost hear the two young men thinking: What will happen to my parents?
“The Patton report recommended interning only Japanese leaders,” blurted out Takeshi, who normally kept quiet at these meetings.
Burns eyed Taka. “FDR claims that the only way to make sure there isn’t one disloyal Jap threatening our security is to intern them all.”
The news did not change Wai Ching’s placid expression. “We expected this all along. Our committee’s purpose has been validated. Now we must work with greater urgency,” he said, looking at Hemenway.
“Charles, is it time to bring the military into our committee?”
“Army intelligence is on board,” said Hemenway. “Last Tuesday, on the golf course with the Army chief, we agreed on a middle-ranking officer as a low-profile liaison. In addition, he is recommending creating a separate Nisei unit.”
Shigeo sneered, his eyes narrowing. “Is this an echo or what! The Army tried that two years ago and Washington came back with ‘Reduce the number of Nisei in the Territorial Guard.’”
Hemenway cleared his throat. “Within months of their arrival, almost every senior Army officer, regardless of his prior prejudices, comes around to the idea that a wartime Hawai‘i needs its Japanese citizens. Most realize that loyalty suspicions are overblown. Farrington,” he said, referring to Hawai‘i’s non-voting Congressional delegate, “told me that Hoover argued with FDR against internment. Let’s move on to . . . changing minds.” He stopped short of looking at Yoshida and added, “Starting with our own.”
Yoshida pulled out a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes from his suit pocket and tapped it on the edge of the table. “I meant no disrespect. Nevertheless, this FBI directive, the assignment of this Shivers agent . . .” Pronouncing the name to rhyme with “givers.”
“Enough for today,” said Hemenway. “I’ll be going to the airport tomorrow afternoon to meet Shivers . . . . Our mission over the next months is to make sure that Special Agent Shivers sees the real Hawai‘i.”
To be continued . . .