Teishoku #3 was my mother’s favorite.
With the meal came the anticipated stop and discussion with Mrs Teshima, proprietress of the place. Mrs Teshima is now gone, but the memory of her gracious hospitality and her ability to remember the family and life experiences of her customers will live forever.
To tell the story of Shizuko (Mary) Teshima and her restaurant, Teshima’s, we need to step back a few years … a lot of years.
In the early-1900s her father, Goichi Hanato, emigrated from Hiroshima, along with her mother, Kiku Morishima, in a picture bride marriage (1905.) Shizuko (Mary) was born June 24, 1907 in a Kona coffee field, not far from where Teshima’s restaurant is today.
Her father was an industrious man who tried his hand at many jobs; among other things, milked cows and made butter. He got a farm in Honalo and opened a store. He and his wife made tofu at home and delivered it by horse and wagon to their customers. (Kona Historical Society)
A few years after arriving in Hawaiʻi, Goichi Hanato opened a general store, tofu factory and taxi service.
During World War I, Shizuko attended Konawaena Elementary School. As a teenager having only an eighth grade education, Shizuko worked at her father’s general store. It was there that she met Fumio (Harry) Teshima, an islander who worked as a mechanic for the Captain Cook Coffee Company.
Shizuko’s father wrote to his family back in Hiroshima Japan to ask about fiancée Fumio’s farmer family/reputation – the response was favorable, so Fumio was allowed to marry Shizuko. (Narimatsu) In 1926 they were married, and in 1929 the couple opened a store and called it F Teshima Store.
While her husband worked at Captain Cook Coffee Company and earned a cash salary, Shizuko worked in the store and started raising their family of five children. She did sewing at night with a gas lamp to make extra cash, earning a dollar for trousers and seventy-five cents a shirt.
“To begin with I had the store. It was kinda boring, and I wanted to do something to keep me real busy. So, I decided …to run up to the church (when) they had classes in cooking. So, I said, oh, I must like this work. I started with an ice cream parlor at first ‘cause I had general merchandise.”
“People, when they came to buy something, wanted to eat, and that’s how I got into food, too. I had two tables, one dozen ice cream spoons, one bamboo ice cream scoop, and the glasses….We made our own ice cream. Our ice used to come from Hilo.”
“We bought 100 lbs. and we packed it in the coffee skins, in the box, and we made ice cream the night before after we closed the store. In the morning it was ready and we packed it in ice with salt, but there was no electricity anyway, so we did it the hard way.” (Kona Historical Society)
Around 1940, Mary purchased a fountain so Kona kids could have ice cream sodas, as well. When World War II started, life changed.
The store became a popular saimin stand before serving libations and food to soldiers stationed nearby. The store expanded into a hamburger stand, before it was launched a Japanese family restaurant.
Suddenly, Kona was filled with hungry, thirsty US servicemen who showed up at F Teshima Store with money in their pockets, looking for drinks at the horse shoe bar and hot off the stove hamburgers.
“Homesick boys, only 18 or 19,” she said, “but they were all very nice.” These WWII soldiers, who couldn’t pronounce her name, gave her the name Mary. (Winther) (Relatives and good friends called her Grandma; we, always, respectfully, called her Mrs Teshima.)
When the war was over, the family made a smart decision in 1957 to tear down the old store and build a restaurant. (Kona Historical Society) What was the general store evolved into a 230-seat restaurant. (Her husband Fumio (Harry) Teshima died April 20, 1997.)
In 2009, Shizuko “Mary” Teshima was recipient of the Women’s Hall of Fame award, given by the Hawaiʻi County Committee on the Status of Women.
On October 22, 2013, “Mary” “Grandma” “Mrs Teshima” died at the age of 106 (she worked for 83-years at her Honalo landmark.) She had five children, 17 grandchildren, 27 great grandchildren and 16 great-great grandchildren.