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1 EarlyYears Define swing? Something that makes you tap your foot, feel good, youknow,andsnapyourfingers.Andyoucan feelabeat.Itmakes you—automatic—get up and move around a little bit. To me, that’s what it is. It’s a state of mind, too. —Gabe Baltazar Jr. I was born in Hilo.Wait, but first, I gotta say it. My name is Gabriel Ruiz Baltazar Junior. And sometimes I have a little middle Japanese name which is not on my birth certificate, but they call me Hiroshi, because prior to World War II, I used to go to Japanese school. After American school. These are just some of the small things. But I was born on November 1, 1929, in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. My grandparents on my mother’s side, the Japanese side, came from Kumamoto, Japan, somewhere around 1900.They worked near Hilo, on the‘Ōla‘a sugar plantation , which they call Kea‘au today. And then, when I was born, well, I don’t remember those things because year one, 1930, we moved. The whole family moved over to Honolulu, the capital of Hawai‘i, which is on O‘ahu, the third largest island. The reason, I think, is because my dad was a musician. I guess they wanted to find work in the big city, and so they did. We lived in the Kalihi-Pālama area, by King and Dillingham, just at the beginning of the Pālama area. We were close to the pineapple cannery, the Dole Cannery , what they called Hawaiian Pine. Back then there was a lot of work slicing and canning, so my mother worked part-time and my grandfather worked fulltime . My grandmother, she stayed home, cooked, and looked after everybody. This was around the early ’30s, my growing-up period, before elementary school. I can barely remember that, but when I got to be about four, five years old, I can kind of remember the things they were doing. They were hardworking people. I know that. And the plantation days were still going on. My father was working the dance halls. In 1934, ’35, there were maybe three, four dance halls, that I know of. There may have been more, but those were the ones I knew, because they were right in the area. One was Dance 1 Gabe Sr., Gabe, and Chiyoko, ca. 1931 E a r l y Y e a r s  • 3 Land, on the corner of King and Dillingham. That was upstairs, in that big building . Across the street was another dance hall. During the first ten years of my life, matter of fact, my father was supporting us playing just about every night. He practiced very little at home, but from my earliest days I heard him play, because he used to teach on the side. Students came by, and I’d watch while he’d be teaching the saxophone or clarinet. But I was raised more on the Japanese side, see, because my mother’s parents were living near us, and they took care of us kids. On my father’s side, they were all in the Philippines, so I never got to see them. Only my father. He spent what little time he had with us, but sometimes he’d be on the road. So we never really got into Filipino culture, until later. My mother, she was from the Big Island. She was born in 1907 on the‘Ōla‘a plantation, about fifteen miles outside of Hilo. Her name was Leatrice Chiyoko Haraga, and she was an unusual lady. I got a thing about her, it’s really interesting. But first, somehow, my dad was playing in Hilo, and my mother was in the audience, and they fell in love. She fell in love with him. And they had some funny things, like she threw a bucket of water at him one time. He was on stage and all that, and that’s how they met. Something like that, or that’s what Mom said. I guess Dad wouldn’t look at her, so she threw some water at him. And my father, Gabriel Baltazar Senior, he was born in 1906 in Pasig Rizal, his hometown province in the Philippines. Pasig is a river in Manila, and Pasig Rizal, it’s a known area, like Kaimukī or Kalihi in Hawai‘i. He spokeTagalog, but he never taught us, which is a drag. Even today I’ve got a...


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