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ISLAND HISTORY: Keith Smith’s book is all about ‘Plantation Kids’

Keith Smith’s book, “Plantation Kids,” is a comprehensive account of his personal recollections, etched with detail, of the days of his youth while growing up in the plantation town of Kilauea during the 1950s and 1960s, with much historical information weaved into the narrative.

The book is quaintly reminiscent of the adventures of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and is available at the Kaua‘i Museum, Grove Farm Homestead Gift Shop, Kukuiolono Golf Course Pro Shop, and online from the Kaua‘i Historical Society.

This being the summer season, Keith’s chapter on summer work harkens back to the days when nearly all Kaua‘i high schoolers had summer jobs, be that in the cane or pineapple fields, the pineapple canneries, or on small farms and retail outlets and hotels.

This was certainly the case for the teenaged boys of Kilauea.

Keith and his twin brother, Gary, worked two summers as teenagers at Kilauea Sugar Co., where their father, Ernest Smith, was manager.

When Mr. Smith was asked where his two sons might be assigned, he replied, “You place one in the spray gang and the other in seed cutting,” the toughest jobs on the plantation, “and if they can’t cut the mustard you fire them.”

Mr. Smith allowed no favoritism at Kilauea Sugar Co.

As a seed cutter, Keith cut cane stalks into 12-to-16-inch pieces of seed cane and bundled them by hand.

To meet the quota, the men, as well as summer hires, were required to cut and bundle 3,600 pieces of seed cane per day.

Gary did not have it any easier.

He was assigned to the sabidong (herbicide spray) gang.

Keith wrote, “When 7 a.m. start time rolled around, you were expected to have the sabidong tank strapped on your back and ready to fill up with chemical. The tanks weighed 80 pounds fully loaded. You took the tank off your back at 11 o’clock for lunch and had it back on at 11:30 when lunch was over. The tank stayed on your back till pau hana time at 3:30 p.m.”

By doing a man’s work, they became men.
Source: The Garden Island

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