Kenneth Hagino
1399th Engineer Construction Battalion

Kenneth Hagino

Kenneth Hagino is born in 1921 in Wainaku on the island of Hawaii. He is the second son of nine children born to Fusa and Keisaburo Hagino, both from Niigata-ken.

Fusa runs the household and works on the family farm.

Keisaburo is employed as a stevedore at Hilo Harbor. An International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union member, he takes part in the August 1, 1938 incident known as the Hilo Massacre. He is one of 50 demonstrators wounded on that day.

I was born in Hilo, in Wainaku, 1921.

We had nine brothers and sisters in the family. And my parents made eleven all together. I was the second boy in the family. We had seven boys and two girls.

Father: Keisaburo Hagino

I would say that he was really a hardworking father. He thought about the family, you know, since we had a big family.

I heard that I was born in a candy factory. He had a candy store. But I don't remember that much because born there, and after two, three years you move to another place so my memory is not that sharp regarding the candy store.

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After the candy store, we moved to Puueo which is across the Wailuku River. That's the main river in Hilo. And there, he started to work down the pier. And I can tell you, even after we moved to Wainaku, he was still working at the pier.

Those days the union was strong. In fact, one time the pier workers went on a strike. And these Japanese men are really hardheaded. The police sits there, says, "Don't move." But my father and the others moved. He got shot. He had about two, three bullets in his body.

Union demonstators approach first police line, Hilo Massacre, 1938

I remember going to the hospital to visit him. But the union, they really took care, because all those that participated in that, they brought food for the family. The union did that. So at least I can say, at least the union, in times of need, they help you out.

I was just going to high school [when my father was shot]. So about [19]37, [19]38 because I graduated in [19]39.

Unionists carry a fallen member to safety, Hilo Massacre, 1938

My father was actually busy because he used to work as a stevedore at the pier. And at least I gave him credit for being a hardworking parent because, well, he thought about the family. And while he was working at the pier, he didn't have much time to do the work in the gardens. So the family had to do that.

In fact my father took care of the family and he was a businessman. He used to be the secretary of the association, the kumiai.

So he used to be good in writing. I don't know, maybe I might not have inherited some of that. But the thing is, he loved to drink (laughs). He used to bring one or two, the same people that work at the pier come down to the house and then they used to drink.

But well, since he was the head of the family and he used to work hard, we didn't say anything.

Mother: Fusa Hagino

My mother was just a housewife doing just like us, helping out in the garden.

But she was the main one that, whenever harvest time, we pulled out the carrots, radish, like that, and she used to wash them and bundle that up, ready to bring it down to the main street.

Besides, well, she's the one that does the cooking like that.

Family Background

I don't know too much about [my family] background in Japan. The only thing I know is they're from Niigata and they call that Kitakambara in Japan.

And the funny thing, you know when I came to Honolulu, you see all kind of [prefecture] associations. Yamaguchi-ken, Okinawa-ken, Kumamoto-ken, And Niigata-ken, they had one association.

So my aunt told me to join over there. So one year, I joined, and next time I know, the following year, I was the president. Gee, I hardly could speak too much Japanese and those guys, more elderly folks. But talking English and Japanese combined, I survived (laughs).

[We] didn't have too many relatives.

Kenneth Hagino's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Hawaii State Archives.

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