He was a frail and sickly boy. His rail-thin frame and frequent bouts of illness were causes of deep concern. There were times if his family wondered if he would even live to see his teenage years.
Undeterred, his father made a bold prediction: “If he survives, he will become an important, prosperous and outstanding man, and he will help the rest of our family.”
Clarence T.C. Ching not only survived; he went on to fulfill his father’s remarkable prophecy. In fact, the elder Ching could not have imagined just how “important, prosperous and outstanding” young Clarence would become.
In Clarence’s early years, there was no running water or electricity. Cold water from the stream was poured into a big metal tub, and heated water was added to make the temperature bearable. In the evening, kerosene lamps were lit and hung on hooks from the ceiling.
The family raised their own livestock, caught fish from the streams and harvested vegetables from their gardens. Chickens were kept for both meat and eggs. The family kept very few ducks, however, because the waterfowl would often escape to the rice paddies and eat the rice. When a pig was slaughtered, the entire family feasted on fresh pork for two days, and any leftover meat was salted for later use.
“Even after we moved to Honolulu, our parents would buy our chickens and ducks live,” said Herbert Ching, one of the youngest of Ching Hook and Kam Sing’s eight sons. “They would bring a chicken home, and we would butcher it. I remember that my mother could never bring herself to kill the chicken. It was up to the boys to do it.”
LIFE IN ANAHOLA
STRIKING A DEAL
“Clarence had a liquor license,” said his nephew Raymond Tam, “so besides canned goods, ice cream and soda pop, he also sold beer, wine and other liquor. When World War II came about, there was a big ration on alcohol. No longer could you just go to the store and say, ‘I want a bottle of this and a bottle of that.’ But Sam Damon loved his liquor, and my uncle made sure he got all the liquor he wanted. He would even use other people’s ration coupons! So as you might expect, he and Clarence became very close friends.”
No one is sure of the exact date, but sometime early in January 1957, the two friends happened to be on the same flight from Honolulu to San Francisco. They sat next to each other and began making small talk. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Damon leaned over to Ching and asked, “Do you want to buy the entire ahupua‘a of Moanalua?”
According to people familiar with the story, Ching hesitated for just a moment.
“Sure,” he replied. “How much?”
Damon looked straight at him. “Nine million dollars.”