Sugar Cane Plantations
In 1913 my Great Grandfather Man Kum Paik immigrated to Hawaii to work in the infamous sugar cane plantations. He first arrived in Koloa, Kauai. My Great Grandmother came over two years later. They moved to the Big Island where my Great Grandfather worked in the Plantation fields in the Paala plant. After having his first child he moved the family over to Hilo because the school that was around Paala only went up to the sixth grade. He wanted his children to be educated at a high school level so he moved the family over to Hilo.
The offer that my Great Grandfather and many other took was similar to this package which included a fee passage to Honolulu from Korea, subsistence and medical attention during the journey. The contract kept men working for at least three years upon their arrival. The laborers would receive free housing for them as well as their family if applicable. Medical attention and medicine were both offered to the men and their families. The men were also exempt from personal taxes, he and his family enjoyed the personal protection of the laws that existed in the territory of Hawaii, and all of his children who were under the age of 14 were allowed free public education. Men were paid fifteen dollars a month and raised a dollar after completing each year. His wife and children were also allowed to work and the wages were boys got fifty cents per day, girls got thirty five cents per day, and women were paid forty cents per day.
A typical day would start off with a whistle at five o?clock in the morning. The typical day would last for ten hours. The typical sugar cane cutter was paid sixty-seven cents per day. The Caucasian male was paid five sixty-two per day for doing bookkeeping work. Women were forced to wake up at four o?clock in the morning. They started earlier because they had to fix breakfast and lunch for both themselves and their husbands. At five o?clock their husbands or the men would wake up. At six o?clock the women and men would gather at the train or walk to the field. At eleven they would blow the whistle for lunch. At eleven thirty they were put back to work. At four thirty the women would leave and fix supper for their families. At eight o?clock lights would be turned out. Women were also forced to take care of the household, but women were also forced to take care of men that weren?t married yet as well. Some women were forced to do double work because some bachelors didn?t know how to take care of themselves so many wives had to cook for her husband as well as other bachelors.
Plantation life was hard and many families had no choice. Plantation life might have actually been the better choice for many families. My Great Grandfather opened up a Laundromat and had ten healthy children. The plantation job got him to the islands, but it was his hate for the harsh labor conditions that pushed him to find a better job so that he could provide more for his family as well as his grand kids and great grand kids.