Kenneth Hagino
1399th Engineer Construction Battalion


Like other Japanese families in their area of Wainaku, the Haginos farm vegetables. On one acre of leased land, family members work six days a week: weeding, watering, planting, and harvesting.

Except for Sundays, Kenneth has little time for recreation.

He attends Japanese-language school in Wainaku; later he is a student at Hilo Japanese Independent School.

He attends Hilo Union, Hilo Intermediate, and Hilo High schools, graduating in 1939.

Vegetable Farm

With so many children, we really worked. I went to Hilo High School, graduated in 1939, but before that, we used to live in Puueo, which is across the Wailuku River.

And after that, we moved to Wainaku, where we had a one-acre vegetable farm. And that's why I say we were really busy because when school was over, I couldn't play with the other kids in different activities. We had to come right home and do work in the garden. Either watering, pulling weeds, and whatnot. So we had a busy life.

Well, we had all kinds. When you say vegetables, lettuce, cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots, and you name it. We had them all. So what we did was, as I said, worked all day. Not all day, but after school, Saturday, Sundays. Well, Saturday, most of the time we worked.

At least Sunday we had a break. And that's when we, well, I used to go out play basketball or play with the other children.

My mother used to be the one that said we had to market the cabbage, the lettuce, carrots, like that. We had to wash them and bundle that up, and we used to take it down to the street.

When I say "street," you see, having a one-acre farm it's about, gee, I would say easy about 200 yards from the main street. And we had to take it down early in the morning for the wholesaler that lived in Papaikou area to come pick it up in the morning. And he brings it down to his store where he sells that.

So when time for payment, my mother used to go down, gets paid and she used to do the marketing.


Compared to now, when you eat more meat, or pork, or whatever, looks like we were eating more vegetables than meat. And there, it's not like here. We had a lot of papaya trees, banana trees, these bamboo shoots where you get the takenoko. So we had all these fresh fruits.

So that part at least, I can say that I was fortunate in the sense that I didn't have to eat just candies or eat the sweet stuffs like that. Whenever I was hungry maybe I would go up the papaya tree and get the papaya and eat that. So, that part, I liked that.


Everybody did their work like, since I was the second boy in the family, naturally we did most of the hard work. And the others were a little younger so we didn't push them too much to doing, this and that.

But I was surprised, at least we kept the area, the house, the garden, clean. After so many years, when I return to Hilo, to the same house, gee, I looked around; nothing but weeds, (chuckles) looks like they didn't do anything, the younger children. But well, we didn't really want to scold them or do anything, yeah. That's the life, I guess.

When you say "hard work," we used to pull weeds, water. And when you plant potatoes like that, you really have to dig down and make a mound so that the potatoes can grow in there. Even the radish yeah, it's kind of long. And in fact, what's that, burdock, the gobo, that goes way down so you really have to dig down. So that's a lot of work on that.

We had [water] from the faucet. Where we had the farm, we were under the Bishop Estate. We lease the property. I forgot how much we paid, I know it was really cheap, that. So we could use you know, whatever, water and all that.

Since we were used to doing the work, as I said, after school we just have to come right back to the farm to do the work. So even when we had to bring down the vegetables to the roadside, ho, we have to wake up about four, five o'clock, to bring - we had all the vegetables in a wagon and at least two people had to go down because one has to lead the way and the one in the back to hold, in case the thing, goes along the way because nearby was the gulch already.


Not only us, we had other owners too, who had different vegetable farms. So there was about three, six, seven, something like that all around our area. In fact we had one hog farm, too. Hog farmer, had nothing but pigs.

All Japanese [farmers].

Oh [the houses were] quite far, because if we had one acre, and let's say the other person had one acre, so you know, the houses are quite far [apart]. So it's all scattered all over the place.


At least six days a week we worked in the gardens. And at least Sunday we had the time off. So that's when, I used to play basketball. We used to go down to the gym or do some other things. Playing around with the other children about my age.

[The family] didn't have any kind of celebration or like now, you know sometimes the family goes out to the restaurant to eat. We never did.

Like shogatsu [New Year's] time we, like before, each family had their own celebration. When I say "celebration," they used to make mochi [rice cake] and zoni [rice-cake soup] and things like that. That's the extent that we went through.


The house wasn't that big because you figure, having eleven people in the family, eh. Let's say the main room maybe had about my father, mother, and three or four children. And here, on the other side we had another three, four, besides another small room, another person until. . . . You see, my older brother was a carpenter so later on he added room in the back portion and that's where he and I slept in a bed.

The rest of the people, the family, on the floor. So actually, it wasn't that big, the house, for the number in the family. It's not like now.


Among the family, I was the most educated. When I say that, I went to school more than the others. I guess the others, they didn't care too much about going to school. Just like my older one quit after high school. The one below me quit after intermediate, I think.

But there was one below, I would say about the fourth or the fifth, he was kind of smart. He went to MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But in my case, as I said, I went to UH [University of Hawaii], I went to business school and all that.

Well, actually, [my parents never emphasized education]. It was dependent on the person. Like in my case, well, maybe I'm the lazy one in the family (chuckles). I didn't care to work too much out in the gardens. I figured, oh, I'll be an office worker.

So that's how I went to the business school and then later on to UH. But even when I got back, it's just right before the war started, I worked for the [Hilo] Chamber of Commerce as an assistant bookkeeper. So I was in the office all day long. So I guess I worked more in the office than working outside.

Japanese-Language Schools

Those below the street that worked in the sugar mill, they had their own [Japanese-language] school. The ones above, just like us, we had our own Japanese[-language] school.

Japanese-language school students, Hilo, Hawaii

And after, when we moved was when I was in the ninth grade from Hilo. And ninth grade when I was in Hilo, I used to go to the, they call that, dokuritsu [independent] school. And I was, I would say, average.

But when I moved to Wainaku, the students, the classes were small. Maybe five or six in one class. Let's say five or six in fourth grade or what . . . And when I came there, chee, I happened to be the smartest. Because when you get five or six only in one class, and here, when I used to go to the Hilo school, we get about twenty, twenty-five students. So there's a difference.

So when I came to Wainaku and I found out that I was the smartest, I didn't learn anything.

I guess I went about three years. After that I quit because I didn't learn anything anyway already, you know.

Hilo Union School

We had a smart class. Above average, I think. And if you know when I was in the fifth grade, we jumped. We made fifth and sixth in one year. And I found out in that year, too, another class that was in the, I think it was third and fourth grade, they made it in one year. They did that during those years. Now you don't see that.

I think depended on the class. So when I moved to Hilo Intermediate, I was always in the - you know we used to divide the classes into X, Y, Z classes - I was always in X1. That was the top in that grade. But as I said, well, I didn't come to that. Being even in high school, intermediate, I used to get good grades. But when I went to the UH, gee, I never did see so many D's in my (chuckles) career. I couldn't understand that.

Hilo Intermediate School

Hilo Intermediate was a little - well, the grades are higher and you have to study more. Not like the [Hilo] Union School which was more close together. Like when you come to intermediate, you get [students coming] from other schools, too, now. Like Piihonua or Kapiolani schools they come to intermediate so you get different students, too, now. So it's not that close like when you were in [Hilo] Union School where all the years you have the same students.

Hilo High School

By then I got used to the changes already. Because even in Hilo you get more people from different areas, too, like Honomu, Hakalau people used to come, too. Like intermediate they didn't go to the intermediate school yet. So you get more students from outer areas at the high school.

Even at Hilo High School - actually, during all these school years, I didn't have any favorite subject if you say so. It's not like when you go to UH or, as I said, I went to business school. So that's when I started to lean more towards business subjects.

In high school I figured. . . . There was more in general in high school. In fact, I didn't think that I was going up to UH or a college level because during the high school years I was figuring that I would just learn whatever subjects and then decide later. But after working one year for the Hilo newspaper, after that, I went to the Honolulu Business College and that's where I took up accounting.

Kenneth Hagino's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photograph courtesy of Hui O Laulima Collection.

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