Sunday, March 4, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, March 4, 2001

Hawai'i Ways, Hawai'i Days
Grandpa's spirit remains alive in us all

By Glenda Chung Hinchey

When his twin sons misbehaved, he would tie them to a post, back to back, just as the cowboys did to the outlaws in the movies. He left them like that for an hour, forbidding anyone to feed them. However, their elder sister, who was in charge of the kitchen, sneakily fed them sandwiches when Grandpa wasn’t looking.

The twins often went to the movie theater with their father, who insisted to the teller that his sons were so small they could easily fit into one seat, and therefore he would pay for only one ticket for the two of them. Amazingly, he got his way. Of course, once inside, the twins sat in separate seats.

Grandpa was very authoritative, absolutely "the lord of the manor," who was feared and respected. Never hen-pecked, he ruled the roost.

Because he was the foreman of a sugar cane field, he believed he had to preserve his reputation so he demanded that his children stay away from cock fights.

One daughter disobeyed him with almost dire consequences. As Aunty Rose watched the cocks fight, she heard Grandpa clear his throat and, looking up, she saw him glaring at her. She fled and hid under their house all day, finally coming out at dinner time. Grandpa was waiting for her.

"Helen," he said to her sister, "get a big stick." Aunty Helen returned with a short, narrow stick.

"No!" Grandpa scolded, "I want a bigger stick." Many minutes passed, and Grandpa waited impatiently.

Finally, Aunty Helen returned, dragging a huge log. When he saw that, Grandpa burst into laughter and Aunty Rose was permitted to have dinner without being punished.

As Grandpa’s 10 children grew and his personal wealth increased, his expectations of his sons were heightened. He proudly financed their college education. One son became a dentist, another an accountant and the third a teacher.

The morning after his twin sons returned from college on the Mainland, Grandpa rushed to their bedroom, and shouted, "Get up! We have plumbing problems. You have to fix the plumbing."

Uncle Harold groggily replied, "What? We know nothing about plumbing."

His father yelled, "Of course you do! What did I send you to college for?"

Although a strict disciplinarian toward his children, Grandpa was very gentle toward his grandchildren. Whenever I visited, he would ask for a kiss and then say, "Oh . . . so sweet."

I remember him reading the Korean-language newspapers from North Korea, his home country, and teasing my Grandmother about her pidgin Korean, which she had learned in South Korea, her home country. He always felt that northerners were smarter than southerners.

Considering he arrived in Hawaii penniless, it is astounding that he was able to become a plantation foreman, then owner of several apartment buildings and parcels of land.

Because of his large family, he had to send half of his children to live in a house in Wahiawa, while he and Grandma cared for the younger children in Waimanalo. Despite this situation, the children became responsible adults and not one got into trouble with the law.

Yes, Grandpa was quite a character. At every family reunion, he is always the topic of conversation, and this column is my attempt to put oral history into writing.

Toward the end of his life, Alzheimer’s disease took its toll. I frequently visited him in the nursing home, softly speaking to this shell of a man who stared at me in vacant silence. Once proud and strong, then beaten by Alzheimer’s, Grandpa has nevertheless left his impact on all of us to this very day.

Glenda Chung Hinchey lives in Honolulu.

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