The Life of Hiro Mariteragi

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Last Updated 7/29/04

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A Little Background

French Polynesia is a group of islands in the south Pacific that are governed by the French Government. There are five groups of islands in French Polynesia, some of which speak different languages and dialects. This story takes place in two of these groups, the Tuamotu Archipelago, and the Society Islands. The Tuamotu Archipelago is a series of atolls, which are islands that are made mainly of coral, and are usually only about 15 feet above sea level. Atolls are usually rings of small islands with a lagoon in the middle. The people of the Tuamotus call themselves and their language Paumotu.

The polynesians had no written language. Writing was new to them when the Europeans appeared. Up until then, if they needed to remember anything, it simply memorized. So it was with their genealogy. They memorized generation upon generation of ancestors. They used chants and songs to help them. Some polynesian cultures even used string with knots in them to help remember each generation. They could not, however, record the birth or death year, because they didn't have a way of telling time. That came later with the Europeans. Besides, the passage of time meant little to them. After the Europeans came, many of these genealogies were written down into what the natives called "Ancestor Books." It is in one of these ancestor books that we find the origin of the name Mariteragi. Since government records were not kept in French Polynesia until the mid to late 1800's, birth dates are approximate at best. Also, native customs of naming their children were much different from the way Europeans names their children. Polynesians could take a new name at any time, usually when an important event occured. When they were married, they would be given new names, if a close relative dies, they might take a new name, or if they move to a new home, they might take a new name. They had no family names. Hiro's great-great-great-grandfather's name was Kapea. He was born around 1788 on Taenga. He married a woman named Tangihiateporoa. Apparently it was a beautiful bright cloudless day when their first child was born, because they named him Mariterangi. "Mari," or more correctly "Maari," means bright or cloudless, and refers to the sky, "te" means the, and "rangi" means sky. The "ng" is pronounced as in "sing." Sometimes the "ng" is spelled only with a "g". Mariteragi was born around 1811 on Taenga Atoll. He married Tuiariki, and they had six children. By this time, the French had started to keep records, and needed a last name or family name for their records. They started to use the name of the father to be the last name. From then on, Mariteragi's children had his name as their family name. Their sixth child, Kaheke Mariteragi (about 1844), also had six children. Kaheke's fourth child was called Raka Toriki Mariteragi (about 1880). He was Hiro's grandfather, and, as far as we know, was the first of their line to become a member of the Mormon Church, which had a large membership in the Tuamotus at that time. He had nine children. His second child was Hiro's father, Reia Tauapiti Heiau Mariteragi.

Taenga is a beautiful atoll, just north east of Makemo, but not much different than others. It is only 3 or 4 meters above sea level. There are reefs and white sand, with a green-turquoise lagoon in the middle. There are lots of fish and Mother-of-Pearl shells, which grow easily on the rocks in the lagoon. On the land, there are trees and coconut palms. There are lots of birds, and coconut crabs called kaveu.

Hiro's grandfather, Raka Toriki Mariteragi married Tuhiata Moo , and together they traveled around a lot following the Mother-of-Pearl trade, and were living on Taenga Atoll around the turn of the century when Hiro's father was born. Hiro's father's name was Reia Tauapiti Heiau Mariteragi. He was born in 1903 on Taenga. He lived with his family there until he was a teenager, when his family moved to Takapoto atoll.

In Polynesia, it is common for a couple who have many children to give one or more of their children to a childless couple to raise. Tauapiti and his brother were given, for a time, to his aunt Te'ura Tufakai Puia to raise. We don't know how long he lived with them.

In the Society Islands, on the Island of Huahine around the same time, there was a girl named Teorai Turia Hapairai , who, we are told, was born out of wedlock, so she didn't know who her father was. Her mother died in the world flu epidemic of 1918, so Turia was an orphan at around 15 years old. After a while she decided to travel from island to island, seeing the sights, and learning about other people and lands. Apparently she was tired of staying in one place and set out on her own. She eventually ended up on Takapoto Atoll. Tauapiti saw her, and it was love at first sight. They wanted to get married, but Tauapiti's adoptive parents didn't want him to marry someone from Huahine, because she wasn't Paumotu, the native race of the atolls. They got married anyway in about 1925. The adoptive parents were angry, and secretly did some black magic, and hexed them so that none of their children would live. This kind of thing was very common, and very much a part of life in those days.

Their first child was a boy. He died after two days, bleeding to death because his navel would not heal. The second died the same way. There were no doctors on the atolls in those days, and people were pretty much on their own. Turia thought that the next baby should be born on Tahiti, where there were doctors. And when she got pregnant again she told her husband of her plans. He was against her going to Tahiti. He had heard rumors about the hex, but he didn't believe in those things. One day, when he was making copra (dried coconut meat, used for making coconut oils) on the other end of the island, a supply boat came to Takapoto. Turia packed up and got on the boat to go to Tahiti so she could be with the doctors when she had her baby. The boat had to stop at other islands before it would return to Tahiti. As it rounded the other side of the island, Tauapiti saw it and somehow knew that his wife had gotten on the boat. He got in his sail-outrigger canoe and set off to catch up with the schooner. It is difficult to sail an outrigger with only one person. A crew of at least three is needed. Despite this difficulty he followed them all the way to Takaroa. He caught up to her there and tried to convince her to come home with him. She met some Mormon missionaries there, and told them her story. They agreed with her, and they told Tauapiti to go to Tahiti with her. He said couldn't because he didn't have any money or clothes, and didn't have enough time to go home to Takapoto to get any. The boat was leaving soon thereafter and it would be a long time before another boat came. The missionaries, feeling that this was an important and worthy cause, lent him some money and clothes so he could go to Tahiti.

They stopped at Aratika on the way. There happened to be a relative who lived on Aratika. They told him about their problems having children, and that they were going to Tahiti to have their next one. Surprised that they didn't know about it, he told them about the curse, and that as long as they had their children on Tahiti, they would be born without problem. The black magic apparently didn't work at such a great distance, or at least with the help of the doctors, it had no effect.

On December 27, 1929 Hiro's sister was born in Tahiti. Two years later they moved back to Takapoto. Hiro was born on Takapoto on September 22, 1935. He had the same problem as the first two children that died. His navel wouldn't stop bleeding. There was a very large woman on the island named Mama Parutu who knew folk remedies. Frantic, Tauapiti sought her out, and explained the problem. She made a poltice of excrement[?!] and other ingredients, to put on the navel, and along with the prayers of his family, he was saved. Mama Parutu gave Hiro another name, Piri, which means riddle, something that is hidden, and must be found. She thought Piri was something that was lost and found again. She knew a lot of old chants about the islands, and taught him a chant about his name:

Piri o tua, Piri o aro, E hoo taai, E hoo piri.

Which means, "Riddle in back, riddle in front, untie the knot, solve the riddle." Mama Parutu wanted to teach him the old chants and poems, but as a child Hiro wasn't interested in those things. Today he regrets not having learned them as very few people know them now.

Childhood

When he was nine, his family left their homeland to go to Tahiti so they could go to school. Their house wasn't far from the school. He went to school with his sister. He only spoke Paumotu, so his sister had to translate to the teacher.

The school didn't have a bell back then, the school master would whistle for the children to come in. They had to wash their hands before going in class. If their fingernails weren't clean, the teacher would hit the back of their hands with a ruler. If they didn't behave in class, they would make the children kneel down behind the blackboard.

At recess the children would play games. One game they would play was called pere sauvé. It was a form of tag, where there are two teams, lined up parallel to each other. Team one is in the middle of the play area, and team two is at one end. Team two would try to run past team one without getting tagged.

The teaching system was different then than it is now. Children would progress in school until they achieved the Métro, after which they could continue on to a higher level. If a child didn't pass the Métro by the time he was fourteen, he would be dropped from school. The subjects they studied back then were French history and geography, math and French language.

Hiro got his Métro, but didn't continue on for very long. Instead, at sixteen, he started a whole new chapter of his life.

When he was nine years old, World War II had been raging for several years. The Tahitians prepared to go help France fight the Germans. Everyone got ready for their departure. When the boats came and went, it was always a big deal. All the volunteers left their families, wives and children to go to war. There were many people crying at the departure to see their fathers or husbands leaving, perhaps never to return alive.

About one or two months after the war started, there was a famine in Tahiti because the boats stopped coming due to the war. Hiro remembers when the war broke out and the government told all families to go sign up for food vouchers for food rationing. Each family had its vouchers to buy food at the store. Only those that went to the store would get food, so the whole family had to go together. Hiro remembers being on his father's shoulders holding his mother's and sister's hands. They tried to push their way to the store to get their food, each person getting one loaf of bread. The "Chinese" (Tinito) store (stores were called a "Chinese" because they were mostly run by the Chinese) would give bread enough for the number of people at the store. There were some kids that went to the store alone who were smothered by the crowd. There were always crying children. It was pitiful, but it was each man for himself. The vouchers had the type of food written on them, so that a voucher would have the words "bread," "sugar," "butter," etc. They even included tobacco and wine. When food was received on a voucher, the word for that food was cut off. Since Hiro's family is Mormon, they wouldn't use the tobacco or wine, many non-mormons would come and ask for their left-over coupons. They would gladly trade a food for a tobacco or wine. That way they would always have extra rice or sugar, etc.

When Hiro was twelve, he went back to Takapoto for a visit. When he got off the boat, he went looking for Mama Parutu. He called for her from the road, and she called back to him. He missed her a lot, and wanted to see her again. When he got there, he was shocked to see what poor condition she was in. She couldn't walk anymore, and got around on all fours. Her face was very wrinkled. Hiro knew that after he left, he would never see her again alive. So did Mama Parutu. She taught him a poem or chant:

Ngarongaro mua to vaka e farerei faahou, Te ngaro ki raro i Vaiarai, Kore e farerei faahou

Which means:"If we are separated by boat, we might meet again; but if we are separated by death, we'll never meet again." Hiro told her that they would meet again in the here-after.

Adolescence

Hiro Liked to sing and play basketball. In the afternoon at school, he would hear the sound of a basketball bouncing, and wanted to go play. That sound would seem to get louder and louder until school was finally over. Then he would race home to get his basketball. When he was thirteen, he joined the church basketball team SDJ. He was the youngest player on the team. He became very good at shooting from the outside, and was the first person in Tahiti to shoot while jumping in the air. Many times in his life he was chosen to represent Tahiti on their national basketball team.

Hiro loved basketball so much, he would even try to play when he was sick. When he was about fourteen, he got the mumps. There was a very important game, the championship. He had a fever, and one side of his neck was swollen. It hurt him to bend over, and to run. He felt terrible. But the team was counting on him to play, and they needed him because the game was so important. So he played anyway. They won the game, and in celebration the team had a party. They had cold soda, and when Hiro drank some, it hurt his throat, and made him sicker. He went home to bed. The next day there was a big dinner honoring the players. Hiro couldn't go, he couldn't get out of bed. After the dinner the team was to get their picture taken. They all went over to get him to take his picture with the team and the trophy.

One time, when he was about fifteen or sixteen years old, he was going to go play in a basketball game. He was late, and he was rushing to get to the church house to get a ride with the team. He just missed them, and so started to go on his own to the stadium. He was riding a mo-ped. Along the way he met a friend named Tahakura Tahauri, who now lives in Covina, California. He was late, too. It was getting dark, and Tahakura's light didn't work. They were riding as fast as they could, next to each other. Soon they came upon a policeman who was on foot, in the shadows. He stepped out and told them to stop. Hiro knew that riding side by side and riding without a light was against the law, but they were late for a very important game. Both of them panicked. They didn't stop. The policeman ran after them yelling at them to stop. Hiro was wearing the team shirt with "SDJ" written on the back, so the policeman knew exactly where to go. The two boys split up and Tahakura went elsewhere. Hiro got to the match just before it was ready to start. The policeman ran all the way to the stadium, and was very mad. He arrested Hiro and took him away to the police station. He wanted to know who the other boy was, and Hiro told him he didn't know. The policeman became more angry. The game started without him, and when his good friend, Tom Stone, a missionary, heard about it he went to the police station wondering why Hiro had been arrested. No one at the station seemed to know why. Tom called the commissioner, who happened to be a good friend, and the commissioner went to the station, found out what was going on and let Hiro go. When they got back to the game, Hiro looked up in the stands, and there was Tahakura, who had gone home and changed his clothes so he wouldn't be recognized.

At about fifteen years old, he met a chinese girl at church youth activities. Her name is Jacqueline Yune Tsao Thai.

Jacqueline's father came with his mother from China when he was only fourteen years old, his father having died in China. They came to find work at the Atimaono plantation. The boat fare was expensive, and since he was small for his age, his mother registered him as being eleven years old to qualify for the cheaper boat fare. Since he was young, he was sent to school. There he was teased and bullied by the other children, especially the half-castes, who felt they were better. Being small, he found it hard to defend himself, so when the others would threaten violence, he would defend himself by throwing pepper in their faces.

He needed to learn a trade, so he would collect wooden crates and try to make things out of them. Eventually, he went to a carpenter and asked to become an apprentice. He then became a carpenter, which trade he followed the rest of his life.

Jacqueline's maternal grandfather also came from China. He left his wife behind, and because it took so long to get to Tahiti, due to the slow bureaucratic machine, as well as shipping time and costs, he took another wife, who was from Rimatara. With her he had three daughters. [We are not sure what happened to that woman, or whether his original wife from China is Jacqueline's grandmother. This we will have to research.]

Jacqueline is the second oldest child. She first went to "Chinese School", called Kong Ming Tong, where she began to learn to read and write chinese, but after a few years she went to the Vienot Shool, which was run by the Protestant denomination. Her family was Catholic, but not very active. The school demanded that the children go to their church, "Bethel", every Sunday, or they would be punished on Monday. One way Jacqueline tried to get out of going was to tell the teacher that she didn't have a white hat. The Protestants had a strict dress code, in which the women had to wear wide brimmed white hats to church. The teacher would assign a student to lend an extra white hat to Jacqueline. So she would go to their church only to avoid being punished at school.

When Jacqueline was about 12 or 13, her older sister got married, leaving Jacqueline to take her family responsibilities. Her father was frequently gone, looking for work, building houses. He had a small shop at home where he would build furniture to sell. Her mother took in sewing. She would assemble clothing for companies that pre-cut cloth for patterns. Jacqueline and her sisters would help by basting pockets and hems. Because her parents were so busy, many of the houshold duties fell to her, especially after her sister got married. She would wake up early, around 5:00 am, start the wood fire to boil water. Then she would walk to the store or market, buy the daily food and bread, and cook breakfast for the family. Then clean up around the house and yard. By then it was time to go to school.

Jacqueline's best friend at the school was an American girl named Juanita Carver. Her father was in the leadership of the Mormon Church in Tahiti, serving a special "construction" mission to help build the old Fariipiti chapel. Juanita and her sister had bicycles. Jacqueline's family was too poor to afford them, so Jacqueline would go over to the Carver's house before school, and she and Juanita would ride double on her bike. At eleven o'clock, they would ride home for lunch, Jacqueline would walk home from there, eat lunch, the walk back to the Carver's, where Mrs. Carver would have a portion of desert waiting for her. Then they would ride back to school.

The Carver's, being so involved in church activities, often invited Jacqueline to go with them to picnics, games, and other activities. She got to know many of the Mormon kids. It was there that she first met Hiro. Jacqueline's father noticed the time she spent with the Mormons, and told her that it wasn't right that she be with them so much, since she wasn't a member of their church. She took this to mean that if she wanted to continue going with her friends, she should join the church. So she asked Juanita, who asked her father. He said she could join if she wanted to, so the next Sunday she got baptized. She knew nothing of the church's teachings, but wanted to be with her friends.

At that time, the Chinese and Tahitians were prejudiced against each other. The only place they could be together was at church on Sunday or at church activities. Her parents didn't attend church with her. After a while, her parents saw Hiro walking her home from a church activity. To avoid what they thought would be a bad situation for Jacqueline, they arranged for her to marry an older chinese man. She told Hiro about it. They were sad, didn't know what to do. She didn't like the man, he was old and she was only sixteen. Jacqueline thought that maybe after she was married that she would just leave the man and go back to Hiro. Hiro didn't like that idea and he told her "If you marry him I'll not take you back." So Jacqueline decided to go home to tell her parents that she would not marry the older man. Hiro followed behind without being seen, because he knew that her parents would probably kick her out. He waited outside her house and about half hour later she came out crying. "They've kicked me out," she said. She says that they told her, "If that's the way it's going to be, then take your things and go!" Hiro told her to stop crying. "We'll go to my house," he told her. Hiro's father was in the Tuamotus pearl shell diving at that time. When they got to his house, Hiro explained what had happened to his mother. She said "take that girl back." "I can't," Hiro said. "Take her back right now," she said again. "I can't, her parents have kicked her out." She still insisted that he return her to her family. Like most Tahitians, she was also somewhat prejudiced against the Chinese. Hiro couldn't just leave her without a home, and his mother didn't want her there, so he left. He wondered what he was going to do. He was in a dilemma. There they were, suitcases in hand and nowhere to go.

They could not legally marry because they were not old enough. The law at the time said that a couple had to be at least 21 to be married legally.

He had a friend named Auguste, whose mother had a boarding house. It was almost night time and Hiro needed a place to stay. He went to Auguste and asked if his mother would rent them a room. He told him all that had happened, and Auguste went in to ask his mother. His mother felt sorry for them, and gave them a small room. When they went in, there was no furniture in the room. All they had was a borrowed wicker mat. As Jacqueline slept that night, all Hiro could think about was that he needed to get a job. Any job. Just so he could support his new "wife." In the morning, Hiro told Jacqueline what he was going to do. He told her to stay there while he went off to find work. She said, "No! If you go, I'll go too. Don't think that I left home because of you, and then you're going to leave me here by myself while you leave. Where you go, I'll go."

"What are you going to do if I find work," Hiro asked her.

"I'll sit and watch you work," she said.

They looked and looked for work. After asking for work at several places, they came to a business that was putting copra in gunny sacks, and loading it on ships to be sent to France. They needed workers. Hiro was accepted and started working at 60 francs a day. That is about 60 cents. Even for 1951 that wasn't very much. Jacqueline stayed across the road under a tree and watched as he worked. At 11:00, lunch time, he asked his boss for a 30 franc advance on his pay. And explained about his problems. He gave him the 30 francs, and he and Jacqueline went off to buy lunch. It cost 5 francs. The rest he gave to her to save. They started their life together with nothing. Not a penny in their pockets. All through their life together Hiro has been proud of the fact that his wife was able to save their money. He says that if he had married a Tahitian woman, he would probably have nothing right now, because the Tahitians spend everything they earn, without thinking for the future. The Chinese, on the other hand, save every little thing they earn. Jacqueline started from that first day to save their money. Sometimes she would save 10,000 or 20,000 francs (ten or twenty dollars) each week, and Hiro would be amazed, and ask where that money came from. She made him go put it in the bank.

Hiro worked and worked for about two months when his sister went to his apartment and told him that his father had sent a telegram from the islands. He heard of the situation, and felt that even though Hiro had chosen a Chinese girl, he should be supported in his decision. He told his wife to let Hiro and his new "wife" come home and live there. When Hiro tried to pay the rent on the room, the woman who owned it wouldn't take his money. She said that he needed it more than she did.

At this time, Hiro's family lived in the old Mormon chapel at Orovini. The chapel was gutted, then re-partitioned into small boarding rooms. People from the outer islands, mostly the Tuamotus, lived there. It was cramped and crowded. The walls didn't even go all the way to the ceiling, so every sound echoed throughout the entire building. Hiro lived there not only with his own family but others of his extended family as well. They lived there for about a year, while they searched for their own piece of land.

Life at home wasn't always happy. There was always strain between Jacqueline and her mother-in-law. But Jacqueline remained polite and shy. The food they ate was very dull. It mainly consisted of ipo (a kind of heavy dumpling made with flour and coconut milk), fish, corned beef and bread. This is typical of the diet in the Tuamotus, where the ships seldom came with different foods, and vegetables wouldn't grow. When Tauapiti got back, he watched Hiro and Jacqueline at the dinner table for about a week. At the end of the week he took Hiro aside and said, "Look at your wife." Hiro said, "What?" Tauapiti said, "Look at her eat, do you think she's used to this food?" Hiro, being only sixteen and not very observant, hadn't thought about it. To him, every one ate this way, it was all he had ever known. The Paumotu are able to eat fish day after day without getting sick of it. Tauapiti said, "She is used to eating vegetables and rice, she is Chinese." Even though the food was very different from her own, Jacqueline had eaten it anyway, without complaint. Tauapiti told Hiro to go buy a big bag of rice. After that, She would have her rice, while everyone else ate ipo.

Hiro is proud of his wife, for how she was able to teach herself to cook, with no one showing her how. She now cooks a variety of good foods, and had to do so while saving money. She also became an expert seamstress, and could look at a photograph of a dress and sew one just like it.

On December 20, 1951 their first child was born, Fifi Faumea Mariteragi. The next child came about a year or so later, but died when she was eleven months old of dysentery. Her name was Teroro Jacqueline. She died on April 12, 1952. When Teroro died, it really upset Hiro. Up until then, he had been a regular teenage boy. Even though he had a wife and children, he still liked to do the regular teenage things, and didn't really get involved with his family. He didn't help his wife in her times of need. He said that when Teroro died, it cut him like a knife. He realized that he needed to pay more attention to his family, and be more responsible.

On September 10, 1954 Mose was born, and Patricia was born on December 15, 1955. In 1956, when they both finally became old enough, they were legally married.

During this period of his late teen years, Hiro was involved in many activities. He sang in the church choir, and a church sponsored brass band. They traveled to many of the outer islands to give concerts. He played trumpet, and baritone. He loved music, and it was around this time that he learned to direct the choir. The American missionary who directed the choir went home, so there was no one there to do it. Everyone knew Hiro loved to sing, so they voted to make him the director. He thought he knew how, that all he had to do was wave his hands in the air. The first time he tried, though, he made mistakes, and everyone laughed at him. He was so embarrassed. He went home and practiced until he could do it right. He has directed the choir from then on.

Hiro's father, Tauapiti didn't have a regular job, like most people do. He did whatever he could to earn money. He mainly dived for Mother-of-Pearl, which is called Nacre. He would go out to the Tuamotus every year for about four months during the diving season, and earn enough for the rest of the year. Sometimes he would do copra. Copra is dried coconut meat. It is used to make coconut oil for soaps and lotions and foods. He got sick once because of diving for nacre. It was probably pneumonia. He had a hard time breathing. The doctors in Tahiti told him not to dive anymore. Tauapiti told Hiro that they needed to move back out to Tuamotu, because there was no work for them on Tahiti. When Hiro was about 17 or 18, they moved back to Takapoto. His first child, Fifi, was about six months old. They worked copra and ate fish every day. After a while, they heard on the radio that the diving season would open soon on Takapoto.

Hiro's father taught him to dive for nacre. This was a dangerous job, but Hiro learned to do it well. His father wanted to stop, but didn't know what else to do. Diving for nacre was not easy. The Government didn't allow divers to use scuba gear, because they would be able to harvest all of the nacre, and there would not be any left the next season. So the divers had to hold their breath. They could dive down to 120 feet, and could hold their breath for up to four minutes. If they stayed down too long, they could get a condition called taravana, which translates as "craziness." It is caused by not having enough oxygen. At first, it causes the diver to see stars, and his feet and hands would get tingly and cold. It could cause paralysis, dizziness, forgetfulness, and absent-mindedness. Sometimes the diver couldn't speak, and would be in a dream-state. It could also cause permanent brain damage. Hiro dove for nacre for four seasons, until one time when he came up for air, and didn't rest enough between dives. He went down too soon, and fainted for lack of oxygen. The next thing he remembered, his father had pulled him up into the canoe. He decided to quit. Hiro has some short-term memory loss because of taravana. If his wife asks him to go to the store to buy several items and doesn't write it down, he'll forget why he's at the store.

When they went diving, they would make a contract with a chinese merchant to advance them some money. He would get the best nacre as payment. They bought all of their supplies, food, building supplies, tools, fuel, a canoe, motor, etc., and put them all on a ship. The voyage out to the Tuamotus was usually pretty bad. The people all slept on the deck. When the boat tilted, everyone slid to one side, and when it tilted back the other way, they all slid back again. Everyone would get sea sick and vomit. The voyage usually lasted for several days. When ever they passed an island, their spirits would be raised. When they arrived, they would build their house. It was made out of boards, with braided coconut fronds as walls, and with either tin or coconut fronds as a roof. When they left, they would just dismantle the house and burn the fronds, and sell or take the other things home.

Jacqueline stayed at the house and cooked food, did laundry and heated water for Hiro's and Tauapiti's bath. The atolls don't have fresh water. The only source of fresh water is rain, so when it rains everyone runs out and washes their clothes and collects it in barrels placed at the corners of their houses, where the water runs off the roof. People would bathe in the ocean and rinse off with fresh water. Sometimes she would cook food and sell it to the other divers. When the Hiro and his father came home from the diving each day, they chose five to ten of the best shells and gave them to Jacqueline for payment of her labor. These she saved, and ultimately sold to buy their lot of land in Taunoa where they built their house in the early 60's.

The men would dive up to 40 times a day. Hiro and his father would leave at six in the morning, and wouldn't get back until dark. They ate lunch in the canoe. One would stay in the canoe while the other dove. They had a special basket that was weighted and attached to a rope. They would put the nacre in this and when it was full, the one in the canoe would pull it up. They didn't want the other divers to see that they had shells, because then they would all come to that spot and dive. Sometimes they pretended to fish. Fishing attracted sharks, and so no one would dive there. When they went home, they would be so waterlogged, that they would feel like they were full of water. Hiro would go play basketball, or go jogging to get this water out of his skin. He would sweat so much that it would run out of his skin. Then they would go home and bathe with the warm water Jacqueline heated for them. After being in the sea all day, they got cold. Sometimes, even though they were tired, they would go fishing at night, and sell the fish to the other tired divers and their families the next morning.

Each week, they took some nacre to the merchants to be weighed. This would go to pay off the advance from the merchant. The rest they would sell and make a money-order to send back to Tahiti to put in the bank, and so Hiro's mother would have something to live on. The going rate was 100 francs per kilo, about $1.00 per kilo. They would put the nacre edge to edge in a one meter square, then stack them until it was one meter high, and that weighed about 1 metric ton. They would get about fifteen metric tons per season. When the season was over, they settled their account with the merchants, and sold the rest and went back to Tahiti. The trip back to Tahiti was always even worse than the trip to the islands. The ship would be cramped, because of all the people and all the nacre and copra. It smelled bad from the copra and nacre, which made people even more sick. After every trip to the Tuamotus, Jacqueline would always tell Hiro that it was their last trip. She hated the boat trips. But they always went back. They finally stopped when Hiro, while diving, stayed down too long and lost consciousness. His father noticed that the tether rope went slack and hauled him up, saving his life. They decided that this was not a good job for a young father.

During the rest of the year, Hiro worked at different jobs. He painted houses for several years, but that was not steady work. They lived with his parents, his sister and her son, his cousin Kone and his wife and kids, and Kone's niece, Tupuraa. It was very crowded.

Someday, after he retires, Hiro would like to go back to the Tuamotus and live someday. Life is so peaceful there. And now, with all the modern conveniences like solar power and water storage, life is a lot easier. But Jacqueline doesn't want to live there. She would rather be on Tahiti with all her children and grandchildren. Hiro may never get his chance to live there again.

Early Adult Years

After Patricia was born, another daughter was born. Her name is Milela. She was born in the Tuamotus, on Takaroa in 1957. There was no doctor on the island then. While Jacqueline was in labor, a friend said that there was a tourist yacht in the lagoon with an american doctor on board. Hiro went and was able to communicate his needs. Even though they spoke no common language, the doctor was able to teach Hiro how to deliver the baby. Everything went well. Since then he has delivered several of his children, some grandchildren, and even his sister's child.

On September 13, 1958, Lynn Hiro was born. Hiro delivered him at home. He lived until March 12, 1959 when he got dysentery and died.

On January 25, 1960 Roselyne Paia was born. She was born in Pirae, Tahiti at the family house, delivered by her father, because Jacqueline didn't want to go to the hospital. Hiro did everything and took the baby to the hospital for the doctors to check out, and then made the birth certificate. All the doctors were impressed at his ability to deliver babies.


Years later, in 1979, Hiro's daughter Milela was pregnant. She was due very soon, and Hiro was at work at the church school where he drove the bus. He had a nagging feeling that something wasn't right. He thought that something was wrong at home. He tried to ignore it but the feeling kept coming back. So he borrowed the school's scooter and drove home. He walked in and saw Milela's husband Ernest walking out with a suit case. Hiro asked what was happening, and Ernest said that Milela was in labor and they were going to the hospital. Hiro thought he'd better go in and check on her. When he went in to the room, Milela said that she couldn't wait any more. She said that the baby was coming. When Hiro looked, the head was coming out. He made Jacqueline boil water and get clean towels. He delivered the baby with no problems. When Ernest saw some of the blood, though, he fainted.

Hiro was very good at singing and dancing. He was always in charge of the music. Between 1956 and 1978 there were ocean liners stopping by during a cruise. There were two ships in the Matson Lines, the Mariposa and the Monterey. Hiro's church always put on a show for the tourists on the boat. Hiro was always in charge. He had about 80 performers doing singing and dancing. In return, the ship's captain would let the performers watch a movie in the ship's theater and feed them refreshments. Hiro did these shows until the ships were sold to a Japanese firm to become floating restaurants. They had a lot of fun with those shows. They usually lasted about 45 minutes. The choir would sing the French national anthem, some traditional Tahitian songs and then the "Mama Ruau's" (Old ladies) would dance. After them, the Papa Ruau's (old men) would join them. Then the young adults would dance, then the teens, then the small children. Everyone wanted to get on the boat, but not everyone wanted to be in the show. The boat only allowed 80 people on the ship at a time, so they made a rule that only those who participated in the show could go on the ship.

In 1960, Tom Stone, Hiro's old missionary friend came by to visit them. He told Hiro that he ought to find his own house. There were so many people living in his parents house. Tom thought that a family should live in their own home. He told Hiro that there was a parcel of land for sale for 60,000 francs (about $600). Jacqueline had been saving their money from the nacre that she got as her wages. With that money they were able to buy the land. It took four years to build their house. They would build until they ran out of money. When they had enough money to buy building materials, they would work on it. Hiro and his father were the only ones who worked on it most of the time. Hiro was told by a friend to take out a loan to enable him to quickly finish the house, but Hiro's father wisely told him not to, since he didn't have steady work, he might lose it all to forclosure.

The search for work was an on going activity, and in 1962 an opportunity came Tauapiti's way that he couldn't pass up. It wasn't permanent work, but it payed well, for those days. He signed up to be an extra in the Motion Picture "Mutiny on the Bounty," starring Marlon Brando. Hiro recalls that he was payed about 100 tara per day, which translates out to about five dollars. This did not include meals, however. They took take after take of a scene until they got it right. It was tedious, but well worth the extra money. Hiro participated in the choir that sang the theme song "Haere Mai," which was sung by the Mormon and "Sanito" churches, because they had the best choirs. He was not paid for that, but was given a record and souvenir book about the movie.

On November 11, 1962 Carol Anne was born. On February 5, 1964, Liane was born. They moved into their new house in 1965.

On June 13, 1967 Hiro Paul was born. The doctors told Jacqueline that she shouldn't have any more children, that ten was enough. They told her that they could do surgery so that she would not have any more. She told her husband what they said. He was against the surgery. He felt that if God wanted them to have more, and as long as his wife was able (she had never had trouble having babies), then they would have more if they came. They thought they weren't going to have more, until January 19, 1974 they had Heitiare Cyndie Vyona.

A year later on August 1, 1975 Myranda Maite Christiane was born. She was their last child. Hiro is very glad to have had his children, and is proud of them all. Some people criticize him for having so many children. But he wouldn't give any of them up, and feels that his life has been better because of them.

In the 1950's, Turia, Hiro's mother was diagnosed as having diabetes. In the early sixties, as she was getting off a bus, someone stepped on her toe. It got very infected and because of the diabetes it wouldn't heal. She ended up having her leg amputated. By the time she died in 1969 she had had both legs amputated.

Adult Years

In 1966 Hiro got a new job. He heard about a job at the C.E.P. which was the French Nuclear Experimentation Center. They were doing atomic bomb experiments in the far-south Tuamotus on the island of Mururoa. He got his truck driving license and started to drive trucks for them. This was a very good paying job. More than he had ever been paid, about 150,000cfp a month. He worked there until 1971, when they wanted him to go to Mururoa to work on the nuclear projects. He would be down there for three months at a time, away from his family. He wanted to go, because it paid so well. But when he talked to his wife about it, she told him that the children weren't doing well in school, and she needed help with all of them. The C.E.P. had a policy of rotation, which meant that everyone had to take a turn down in Mururoa. He had to go to Mururoa or quit the C.E.P. altogether. He decided to quit his job, and take another job at half the pay, so he could help his wife and children.

He drove the school bus for the church school until 1982 when the school closed. After that he drove a bus for the city of Papeete, to carry workers, school children, and sports teams around. He did this until 1995, when on a boat trip to the Tuamotus to research family lands, the boat rocked while he was standing and he fell and broke his neck. He had surgery on it and had three vertebrae fused together. He wasn't able to drive the bus anymore because he couldn't turn his neck to look for traffic. Since he was so well liked by everyone, and such a good employee, the city didn'twant to just lay him off, so they gave him an easy job collecting parking fees at city hall.

During the summer of 1983 (The seasons are backwards below the equator), there were five hurricanes. One of them hit Tahiti full force. There was a lot of damage. Hiro was busy trying to keep his house together. The house next door lost it's roof, and they were worried that it would fly onto their own house. Hiro had tied ropes over his roof so that it wouldn't blow off the house, but it wasn't enough. In an effort to save the roof, he threw the garden hose over, and he and some others held on to that until the storm ended and saved their house.

Hiro's hobbies during this time were basketball and the choir. He coached basketball for the "SDJ" (Mormon) team after he was too old to play. He even had a girls team on which four of his daughters played. They won the championship that year. All of his children played basketball; some still play. All of their children are married, Hiro and Jacqueline have 33+ grandchildren. Hiro said once, that if he could have his wish, it would be to have a great big house, where all of his children and grandchildren could live, so they would always be together.

Hiro was very active in the  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) and has served as a Bishop, a Patriarch, and, until recently, as a counselor in the presidency of the Tahiti Temple.

All of Hiro's children are very talented, and sing and dance the traditional dances of the islands. The oldest, Fifi, and her husband and all their children dance professionally. One of their sons was in the PBS special "Nomads of the Wind." They also are black pearl farmers. Now days, instead of diving for nacre, they farm it, and culture pearls, much like the Japanese. The pearls of the nacre are black, and much larger than the white pearls of Japan.

Roselyne said about Hiro,"My father taught me a lot of things. Like when I was two years old, he taught me how to dance by putting me on the kitchen table, and while he would play the guitar, I would dance. Newly added photos! He taught me to help people no matter what the circumstances. One day on our way to a basketball practice we saw a man at the side of the street pushing his car which quit working, and even though we were late, for practice, he decided to help the man tow his car to the nearest garage. Another time, in 1993, a friend of mine told me that his parents went vacationing in Tahiti and neighboring Islands for about three weeks. After about two weeks into their vacation his father got very sick and was transported to the hospital on the main Island Tahiti. My friend not knowing what his father had at the time and was worried about him asked me if I could help in any way. I called my dad in Tahiti and told him about these two american tourists, he said to me, "don't say anymore, and consider it done". A couple of days later, my friend called me again and thanked me for sending my dad. He went to visit them and introduced himself and told them "my daughter who is a friend of your son asked me to come." He noticed an ukulele on the table. He picked it up and tuned it and played songs for them, and talked to them. My friend said that his parents thought that it was the highlight of their whole trip.

"He coached the SDJ girl's team for a long time. He was very patient with my imperfections at dribbling the ball. He also has a great love for music. I remember when we had choir practice it started at seven o'clock and ended at nine o'clock every sunday night. When nine o'clock came he would always say 'one last song, ok? I know it's time to go home, but could we sing this song again?' The members of the choir loved him so much that they always let him have his way. The youth of our area loved him too, when he was very sick and was hospitalized, about forty youths came to his hospital room and sang to him. I love my father very much. He had a lot of faith and courage to do all that he did."

Sadly, Hiro passed away on July 29, 2004, after a short struggle with Luekemia.

He will be sorely missed.

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