|Da Day JFK Died|
|Written by Bill Kapaku Jr.|
Another one of those often times asked questions in my life, besides when I graduated from high school, has been, "Eh, you rememba wat you was doing da day JFK died?" Remember? In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that day will "live in infamy" with me.
I was sitting in my third grade class in Nanaikapono Elementary School that fateful November morning. My teacher, Mrs. Balicanta, was a short, fiery Filipino woman. Although she was small in stature, she had a very loud voice. How loud was it? Her voice was almost as loud as Frank Fasi's white double-knit, polyester suits and shoes.
Mrs. B ruled our class with an iron fist. She was a stern disciplinarian and did not put up with any nonsense from a bunch of hardheaded kids. Plus, she was also married to the vice-principal, which carried an added element of fear. When all means of getting our attention had failed, she always had the ace in the bag with, "I going tell your muddah and faddah!" In those days teachers actually went to your home to discuss things with parents. Imagine 30 Hawaiian kids cringing in fear of their lives everyday with that threat hanging over their heads?
Anyway, Mrs. B was called away to the principal's office that morning and when she returned she was virtually in tears. She announced to the class that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. A hush fell over the class. Me? I was trying to figure out "assassinated" meant? My pea brain quickly guessed that he must have been killed or something because more people started whimpering. So I turned to my best friend Harry and in a giggling whisper told him, "Brah, I going find that guy who wen kill da president and I going put a hurts on him too."
All of a sudden there came this horrid shriek, "WILLIAM!!!" and then twenty questions. "Why are you laughing? What's so funny? Have you no remorse? What kind of monster are you? ... blah, blah, blah." I sheepishly answered, "Hah? I nevah do nothing. No was me." But that wasn't true. So Mrs. B ordered me out of the classroom and had me face the wall to ponder all the sins I had committed. I then heard her announce to the rest of my classmates that no one was to play with me, talk to me, or sit with me during lunch. Then, I had a clearer idea of how Isaac K. felt getting paddled in front of the class by the principal for allegedly stealing sixteen cents in the first grade. Man, I felt like I had just committed a major crime.
Now you have to understand that up until that time, school for me was a complete blur. I figure that if I ever had to look up the definition of SCHOOL in the dictionary, it would probably read: Recess, Lunch, and go home. I had no clue about reading, math, or anything else that filled the in-between times of my day. For me, it was eat, drink, and be merry ... sometimes not in that order.
So I spent the rest of the day looking at the outside wall, being angry at the world for my plight, and having my so-called "friends" laughing at me. My real buddies, though, quietly slipped some extra milk and cookies at lunch to help ease my pain. I couldn't wait for the day to end. Soon the bell rang and I took off for home.
When I got there, I turned on our black and white TV and the only thing on was church music blasting away. Every channel (all three) had church services, church music, and/or a picture of Jesus being played. I thought I was going to die because TV in those days was on a one week delayed basis. That meant I was going to have to endure two whole weeks without Captain Honolulu. I was sure glad when things returned to normal about a week later and that my life would go on as well.
Several years later while I was attending Kamehameha, I had the good fortune of returning home to Nanaikapono's annual PTA bazaar. I mingled around the various booths, throngs of people, and bumped into Mr. and Mrs. B with their newborn baby. She asked me how I was doing and congratulated me on getting into Kamehameha. I remember that she was awfully quiet and demure; unlike the person whom I had known before.
It was at that time that I realized that we both had changed. I was a little taller and less in awe of this imposing figure. I had matured and saw the world a little more differently than I did in 1963. I learned that Mrs. B, and others like her, wanted us Hawaiians to learn and get ahead. She drove us hard so that we would have a better future and that for all intents and purposes, she loved and cared for us all. She was a true professional and a woman full of aloha.
Mahalo Mrs. B ... because like JFK, you made a difference in my life.
William L. Kapaku Jr. was born and raised on Homestead land in Nanakuli, Oahu. He graduated from Kamehameha High School in 1973. He is a US Army Major (retired) living in Korea. He now works as a Department of the Army Civilian serving as an Installation Manager of a 3000 man installation in Uijongbu City, Korea.