"You're going to St, Joseph High School and thatʻs final," my father said as I stood by the old ironing board, ironing a blouse, tears stinging my eyes.
I was a ninth grader finishing up at Paauilo Elementary and Intermediate School. Of course I thought I knew what was best for my education: going to the same high school as my friends.
"I want to be with my friends," was all I could barely manage to say as a reason why he should change his mind and let me go to Honokaa High School, the local public school. "St. Joseph is a good school," he said, and that was the end of the argument and my dream of going to Honokaa High School.
To go to St. Joseph's I had to get a uniform - a navy blue jumper, a white blouse and saddle shoes. Ma made the uniform and the blouse. We went to Hilo to buy the shoes, and then I was ready for school.
I lived in the country, a small town called Kukaiau, 32 miles from Hilo. The Fujimoto-owned school bus - a big bright yellow orange - stopped on the main road to pick us up at about 6 am. I used to have dreams about missing that bus. The bus began carrying students in Honokaa. I knew at least three students on the bus: Gary and Maurice Miranda and Celeste Paquette - who also went to Paauilo School.
It took an hour for the bus to get to Hilo, and that provided useful time to study. I remember my first day of 10th grade. I didn't know many people. At lunchtime, three of the 10th grade girls invited me to join them. I must have looked a bit lost because one asked, "Are you new here?" And when I said yes, she said, "Join us for lunch" in a matter of fact and friendly way. That was great because I didn't know where lunch was!!
It turned out lunch was in an old army barracks - the kind with ceiling and walls shaped like a half moon that had fallen from the sky. It was noisy, and I was glad to have new friends to sit with. My three new friends were Christine Correa, Gaylien Mendes and Bridget LeeLoy. We became close companions during our three years of high school.
I remember bits and pieces of those high school years: Mrs. Montgomery's excellent Spanish class. It was Sister Mary Estherʻs biology class which inspired me to major in biology. And who can forget Mr. Lee's English class where we read A Tale of Two Cities and had to draw the characters from the novel's description.
One memory that also stands out is friendliness. Everyone was friendly and there were no cliques.
I also remember studying a lot. Sometimes I'd have so many thoughts running thru my head, that I had a hard time sleeping. This lead to physical exhaustion and I just had to lay down and rest for several days.
My father told me that was "mental fatigue," and that happened in the military too. He worked as a medic in Billings Hospital, an orthopedic hospital for wounded soldiers in Indiana during WWII. "Too much thinking makes your body tired just like being sick," he said. "It's a real thing."
Fifty years have passed in a flash, and my 50th high school reunion is this Friday! I'm in the last season of my life! What have I learned? I am very grateful that my father made the decision for me to go to St. Joseph's High School.
I learned a lot there about spirit: the joy of learning, teamwork, community service, holding fast to your principles, working hard and doing the best you can while also getting enough rest to harmonize your activities.
To this day, I still love Spanish, biology and enjoy writing. Meditation and hula have become core practices that keep me grounded and balanced.
I give my heartfelt thanks and blessings to my parents and family, St. Joseph High School, my teachers, classmates, and all the people who helped me along this remarkable journey of my life.
June Kaililani Ryushin Tanoue
Kumu Hula and Sensei