西平 チヨ Chiyo Nishihira

By Levi Clancy for לוי on
updated

▶︎ View related▼︎ Tap to hide
Chiyo ClancyChiyo Clancy. Maine, 2012/06/13.
Chiyo Nishihira was born August 15th 1929 in Teruma, Okinawa, a small countryside village like East Sebago. "Not much."

Her father was Kamado and her mother was Makato. Regarding her father's livelihood, "He make potato grow, rice grow. Father make potatoes and he sell it, to make money." Okinawa's primary crop was sweet potatoes. Her mother died when she was very young; she has no memory of her except her being bedridden and eventually passing away. She has a cloudy recollection that her mother's name was Uto, but is not totally sure; perhaps Uto was a diminutive of Makato. She has no recollection of religion during her childhood, except that perhaps she was made to do certain things. People called her Chico, meaning little bit. "I'm a little girl at that time, girl's name, Chiiico, Chiiico. Chiyo I no answer."

Her father was working all the time, rising at six o'clock in the morning and returning at six o'clock at night.

They had two pigs, a male and a female and they sold the offspring.

The weather was extreme. Okinawa was very hot and there were annual typhoons.

"No electricity, just a fan. Four or five get up. Six working. Soon as dark come home. Now much easier." She fell ill from the sun. "Too much sun, sun stroke. Now everything good in Okinawa." People thought she was going to die but she survived.

"All place close to beach are washed out, then start all over again. Now it is different. Now Okinawa is good." There was no electricity when she was young, but after the war there was. "You use what you got. Always happy. Don't have, make more happier. Don't have worry."

She played sweet, simple games.

She played with marble-like rocks she collected from the beach. Other times the kids would take off their shirts, then hide somebody under the coats and figure out who was under the clothes.

The games she played were mostly kick the tin can and hide and go seek. Her toys included balls, which she juggled.

In her eighties, Chiyo still had vivid memories of Okinawan songs.
http://youtu.be/3-eQEQ8keXAHer father sang just like this. 2:25-2:45 she sang the words
http://youtu.be/rGGIsIHAsgk1:10-1:22 she sang the words.
http://youtu.be/EfmgN7pywRAShe sang from the beginning and said "that good" as soon as it came on. She knew the lyrics very well. "Old Okinawa song. Japanese don't know this. This Okinawa. Very pretty dance too. Awful old song, older than me, I'm almost hundred years old."
http://youtu.be/Q7f9sz6pFhUShe also knew this song.
http://youtu.be/8qq_fnLzobEShe liked this one.
http://youtu.be/V7V-wJYlggcThis is a love song.
http://youtu.be/QbUvmgCJVD8ROWING PART she knew the lyrics
playlistGood music for her.
Chiyo's mother died following a long illness. Chiyo had not started school yet, so she thinks she was about six years old.

Her mother had been sick for a long time and could no longer walk. "Sick for long time. I don't know. Some kinda disease." Her motherb was staying inbed, sleeping, ling there. "Had to be some kinda sickness. I don't know what's all aboutt it at that time. But her sisters and brthers always come around and see, they had to feed her. So I see that's feeding, she had big sisters and brothers, had more money. Mother's side had more money than father's side. Her sisters and brother always come around and see, sometimes take me they house, stay for one week, *points elsewher* they house, stay for one week, *they house* stay for one week. Sugar cane, nobody see me. Not in read. So I go back home." CHiyo would sneak back home thorugh the sugar cane. "All the time cry. How come thye have sister and brother to play with" You dn't have a mother a mother, you odn't have a mother, make me cry. You know how kids is, seven, eight years old. So I tell my aunt. So she come get me, takea home.

My mother sister got a big fmaily so I stay down there." Their houses were near each other, so she went back and froth. "That time really bad. Little kids, eight nine, years old, seven, tell me, you don't have a mothe,r you don't have a mother, so I say so what, they push me." Other kids thought she was a spoiled brat because she didn't have amother, the aunts took good care of her.

Everyobe came to he house to say good bye and then brought her to the cemetery, close family at the front hen workingit way back.

When Chiyo came home She was happy because she was eight years old and didnt know -- she thought it was a party for her mother. Her mother had maybe altogether five siblings. They came along and hugged Chiyo, "Your mother not come home, so be good, nice, listen to your aunts." But Chiyo argued, "My mother come home tomorrow." She didn't understand death. Regarding her mother, Chiyo asked, "How come I don't see? I wanna see." Her auntie told her that she will never see her mother agian, that she's dead, that she won't see again. "I thought at that time I could go see any time."

She lived at her father's house but was raised by her aunts, one from her father's side and one from her late mother's side. "Father's sister raised me, made me grow."

At one point she mentioned her step-grandmother helping raise her. [Susan says she was raised by two ladies.] The woman who raised her was very nice, and spoiled her. If Chiyo didn't want to go to school, she didn't go. Chiyo was not this way with her own children. "I make go, if they say don't want to go don't want spoiled Mary."

Okinawan schoolchildren 1950sArmy photographer: Okinawan schoolchildren, 1950s. (Not photo of Chiyo.)
Chiyo started school when she was about eight years old.

When she was eight years old, on the route to school she saw some kids kick and push a boy off the edge of a high bridge into a river. He died by drowning. All the kids were asked about the drowning, but she did not dare to say anything. "Otherwise kill me. Very tough in Okinawa. That time pretty bad because I no have no mother, my aunts more far away. Sometimes home. Working in the farm all the time. Then sell deikon potato. Whatever pig not eat, I can eat. My aunt come around." They cooked the potatoes, made miso soup, enjoyed soy sauce.

She was especially scared because the same kids who killed the boy picked on her for not having a mother.

She thought the kids were jealous because at school she always had something to eat; she had more than the other kids. She did not have any siblings and nobody was there to protect her (she was also worried about one of her grandchildren being an only child without sibling protection). "That time pretty bad because no have sister or bother. Have aunt, but can only do so much." She would often not even go to school, though she loved reading and was a very good student.

When she did go to school, she would leave very early for school and return very late, escaping detection by taking the long way instead of the short bridge route with no houses along the way. She took the odd routes including going through the sugar cane fields. (She was reprimanded by a farmer who suspected her of stealing the sugar cane.)

Her aunts noticed that something was wrong.

She prayed at the altar in her family's home each day. Her guardians noticed something was wrong because she was praying that she would not die that day. When asked what was the matter, she told about the boy who was killed but refused to name names. Her guardians called together a town meeting about Chiyo being bullied. Her aunt had her cousin walk her to school from then on and the kids treated her better.

Chiyo received a tattoo around age ten.

It was in imitaton of the elders. "Okinawa citizens." It was a statement of distinction, of identity, of separation against the Japanese for people to have these tattoos on their fingers. But she only received a dot. It hurt too much and she stopped.

World War II

American soldiers would come empty out the bones from the burial urns and keep the urns for decorations. When she was with Everett she went to a soldier's home one time and saw an urn or urns kept as decoration, and thought that was interesting. She would hide in the burial cave, and cover the entrance with pine branches; she could see Americans going by -- they see the Americnas, the Americans don't see them.

Okinawa once a year every three years now, have a reunion, go to the cemetery to have great big party. Instead of here going to church, there go pray for thank you, thank you, I still move around, not dead yet, thank you for dead people, still move around. Now I don't know how you do, they changing. My generation to young generation, everything different. Have go to church, all like this. Long time ago not have any church, go to cemetery for church. Once a year I go change flowers, take care of, make sure, clean up, no messed up, nothing, cut all grass, nice and clean outside. I outside. Inside, don't know. War time find out inside because everyone hiding, closed, can open, great big blocks, take two, three men to open a little bit at a time. So they put great big tree to see main highway, that time I don't know I was in cemetery, thought it was just tiny hole to bury [as opposed to the big chamber she was in] people bury, put bones in nice, jar, very pretty, name on it, very pretty. You know American soldiers take jar, empty out bones dump it out on side of road, take jar home. Somebody find American soldier American soldier take home, hiding, in closet, They don't know who is, already dumped out, make mess, Okinawan people put them all in one jar and put them back in cemetery. Interview, 2013

Usually Okinawa cemetery people, family, nowadays different, long time, first generation, second generation, in there, great big cemetery. Little bit, tiny bit hole, like home. After war find out hide in cemetery, in little tiny hole like that, inside like house, with stairs all in there, my father family cemetery, I don't know how many generations in there. They name on it, day on it, I don't know that time what's all about it, so sometime had to explain to me, but I don't pay attention, I don't listen, that time I don't care. Surprised that big, cemetery, little tiny hole like that, go inside [about hole the size of the table] then great big, house, stairs, hundreds, thousands, dead people in there, all the people, all cemetery in there, even the name, worn out, all hardly reading, surprised I went wartime down there, what's this is, what this is, I open, look around -- bones. So that kinda, different, war time, otherwise I know nothing about it. Cemetery hiding, because down in the bottom war, fighting, fighting, guns all the time, dun, dun, dun, that's why I hiding. Wartime. Hide in that place. So American soldiers go by, I can see you, big trucks go by, because pine tree, I hiding, peeking, [looks through pine branches] cemetery, up top, I don't know how many stairs go up, so I nosy, look around, thought cookies was in there, but bones. Don't open next time, don't open, don't look at it, not supposed to. That time I don't know, I nosy, take a peek at it. Just bones. Begin to realize. Never open again. Geez, cemetery about the big size this room, one floor, two floors, I think three -- one, two, three. Whole bottom really old, then next level, next one, like that. Yeah I surprised, very interesting now that I get older. Interview, 2013

She attended school until the war, at which time they closed; then she went back when they reopened after the war.

But it was on a volunteer basis, not required, since for some people it was such a long ways. "Some people can make, some people cannot make." Some people took horses, even horse wagons, to school. She walked, a trip that took two to three hours from one of her aunt's houses. "No horseback. Tough time." Sometimes she would jump on horse-drawn wagons hauling sugar cane and hide to get a ride to school; but if the drivers saw her they would eject her. Waving her hand from side to side, Chiyo said, "Get off, get off, get off."

The American would throw butts of cigarettes along the highway. When she was around twelve or thirteen, she would pick up the butts, collect them and sell them for two or three cents. Then she would use the money to buy a jumbo lollipop; she would have a big jumbo lollipop when other kids had a flat lollipop (about the size of an Eisenhower dollar, touching her index finger to her thumb). "Jumbo lollipop cost two cents, flat lollipop cost one cent." Her father smoked cigarettes by cutting them into small sections and putting the pieces in a pipe so nothing was wasted.

Marriage to Hanashiro

Chiyo's first husband was Hanashiro (family name).

Her father's sister picked out who she was supposed to marry but Chiyo did not want to marry him. She married Mr. Hanashiro instead and her family was very happy. She was seventeen, maybe eighteen, and he was six to eight years older than her. He lived in her town, almost next door. He grew up in Japan. He would invite her out. "Almost live next door. So he come by. You wanna go to movie? You wanna go do this? A whole bunch of girls." He played the sanshin. "Some-thing. Okinawan banjo." He used to do farm work, but not exactly a farmer.

Chiyo married Hanashiro before he left for Japan for a business trip. "He came from Japan, went to Japan to make money, then come back to Okinawa because he belong to Okinawa." When he returned from Japan he was successful. Owned the Nikko Hotel. CHiyo was always home at a big house. He lived almost next door, that "Way big city, way big house, big hotel."

しづ Shizu was born February 24th, 1948.

"First baby all week party. Sanshin, guitar, drum, all like they used to. Second baby just one day."

Life as a divorcée

Okinawan market 1950sArmy photographer: Okinawan market, 1950s. (Not photo of Chiyo.)
He got another woman and Chiyo didn't want that issue. So Chiyo left.

She planned on staying in Okinawa. She bought her own house. It was three rooms, a kitchen, living room and bedroom. There was running water and electricity. The house was in Yomitan, the other side from her father and she had to take the bus to visit him. Her father lived in Teruma. She bought the house to be closer to work. しづ Shizu lived in Yomitan with her.

She worked in a restaurant for the United States servicemen. "I ask what they want, they pick their own food, then they pay."

She was a food server. "Took the bus to work, to the corner. Had to be there at certain time. I miss that, I miss work, too. You miss something, you fired." Mr. Hanashiro had a babysitter who took care of her. "I got a job. I don't need him. I don't need your father, either." [Points to David, my father.]

She had been married to Mr. Hanashiro about two or three years but was divorced about a year. She missed しづ Shizu. The men brought their trays and each server would scoop out a certain dish. "One by one. Potato. Vegetable. Some people collect money."

Marriage to Everett

Everett wouldn't move until she gave him more food.

"I don't give you more food. I get fired." But she gave him another teaspoon. And he waited and gave her a ride home, otherwise she'd have to wait for a taxi. He would take her as far as he could go in the Jeep he drove, driving around other people. Sometimes he would give her ten cents, twenty cents, as a tip. She would buy cigarettes at the commissary's military prices. "At that time one dollar for a carton of cigarettes. I sell them for two dollars. No stranger. My neighbors. Not s'posed to. I go to jail." It was not really illegal but just not allowed.

Everett would play the guitar at parties, events where people danced, and people would pay him. She met Everett at the restaurant and they married in Okinawa. [Susan says that Chiyo would buy and resell cigarettes with the servicemen, and that was how she met Everett; she liked him because he never tried to cheat her.] Their first daughter Mary Nishihira Clancy was born in Okinawa.

Everett paid off the house after he met her. But her family was unhappy when she married an American.
Mary Nishihira Clancy was born January 2nd, 1952.

Leaving Okinawa

Chiyo hesitated two to three times to leave. She couldn't leave because of しづ Shizu.

Chiyo promised she would return in five years to come get Shizu, but the reality of life is so different and she had another several kids. That always bothered her so much because she didn't keep her promise. Fortunately, Shizu's father was well-to-do in business, so Shizu was financially okay. But emotionally, losing her mother must have been challenging. After meeting her, Ritsko noted that しづ Shizu was a very well-rounded person which is unusual in that kind of a situation.

Chiyo and Everett moved to a military base in Virginia.

しづ Shizu lived in Chiyo's home with her, but Mr. Hanashiro wouldn't let Chiyo take しづ Shizu with her. "No let me. Not an American." Then Mr. Hanashiro took しづ Shizu away. "Not too happy. Marry American man."

Chiyo, Everett and Mary traveled via San Francisco to move to a base in Virginia (Something Hill Village, maybe Fort AP Hill). "Virginia was good. ... Then finish service and come to Maine. He bought the house. Old friend used to own the place."

Jean "Jeannie" Estelle Clancy was born October 16th, 1953.
They lived in Redbank, South Portland
David Damon Clancy was born December 23rd, 1954.

Settling in Sebago

Clancy Family 1950sChiyo; Mary; Everett; Jeannie.
Pat Mullen owned some property but disliked the house because it required too much upkeep.

They subdivided the land and built a new house for themselves on the parcel they kept. Everett bought the parcel with the old 19th century home.

Susan Chiyo Clancy was born September 26th, 1956.
John Joseph Clancy was born September 25th, 1959.
1960s Clancy FamilyDavid; Mary; Johnnie; Chiyo; Susan; Jeannie.
Chiyo went to work for local companies.

Chiyo worked for Fairchild, but it was thirty miles to get there; then she worked at Sylvania, which was much closer, only about fifteen miles away. The job was outsourced, but she still gets pensions from both companies.

Life as a widow

Everett passed away in 1974.
Chiyo was officially the sole breadwinner.

Chiyo and Don

Chiyo met Don in about 1978.

Okinawan reunion

Dementia

She fell 2008 June 14 and was in the hospital until July 8th.

Quotes

I show you how to make your own. You know how you make that time? You take soy beans, cook. Cool 'em off, and get moldy, white hair. Grows. I like the mold come, done. Okay. Then take a big kettle, I don't know what it called and crush, nice and soft. Grind it up in a mat made of sugar cane. Put it in a jar. Put whole bunch salt. So much salt. Two or three months. Soy sauce recipe. 2012/06.

When showing her a picture containing Everett, July 2013..
Chiyo: That my boyfriend.
Levi: Yes that's your boyfriend Everett.
Chiyo: How man boyfriend i have?
Levi: Well there's hanashiro, everett, there's don. that's three.
Chiyo: Five.
Levi: Five?
Chiyo: Two more.
Levi: Who?
Chiyo: There's Marc.... and one I keep secret.

Levi: Happy mother's day!
Chiyo: happy baby's day [2014]

Reflections