Honolulu Chapter of the American Rosie the Riveter Association
I remember her telling me back in grade school that her family was struggling after her father died when she was about 10 years old, and the world was recovering from the Great Recession. Her eldest brother Tadasuke took over the small farm and did his best to provide for the family of 7. Ella was the second youngest of 6 children. They were struggling and she remembers that in high school Tad had her sit in the kitchen and told her that he couldn’t afford to send her to college. Her older sister Sadako told her to take business classes such as shorthand and that was probably why she got the job at the US Army PX during WWII and immediately got a position as the personal secretary for the personnel manager for the Dole Pineapple Plantation on Lanai when she got married and moved there from Hilo.
They had to walk several miles round trip from Alae to Hilo Intermediate and Hilo High School. The soles of their shoes had holes and they would use cardboard to extend the life of the shoes. She said it was a mess when it rained and that was daily in Hilo. A classmate of hers was from an affluent family and one day that friend was scuffing her shoes on the curb so she could get new shoes. Ella was aghast.
I always remember my mom wearing the Otafuku brand slip on shoes with heels. They always looked uncomfortable and unstable, but she said they were not. We were afraid that those shoes would cause her to fall and be injured.
On a trip to Las Vegas about 10-15 years ago we were at the Coach outlet and decided to get her shoes that were safer and fashionable. She objected but finally okayed to get a pair. Ella was always frugal to put her 5 kids through college and did not care (or know what was “Coach”) about designer brands like Coach, LV etc.
She found this style of Coach shoes to be really comfortable and started to get compliments on the rest of that trip and when she returned to Hilo. She liked them so much that Donna and Kim gave her the same style and it became her fashion statement although if you ask her, she still doesn’t know or care what is Coach. It became her trademark and even got compliments during a recent visit to Queens Hospital ER. I even did some minor repairs on one of the pairs but did not need cardboard. LOL
Story told by Richard Fujie.
Our dear Ella has since passed as of this publication. Please see this link...
Ella Fujie, Lanai 1943
Photo of Ella taken around the time of her 100th birthday.