Kenneth Hagino
1399th Engineer Construction Battalion

Early Adulthood

At the Hawaii Mainichi Shinbun, a Japanese-English newspaper, Kenneth boils and pours lead for the press and writes local sports articles.

After a year, he moves to Oahu to study accounting at Honolulu Business College. To support himself, he works as a short-order cook at Charley's Place and does deliveries for Stewart's Pharmacy.

In 1941, he returns to the island of Hawaii where he becomes an assistant bookkeeper at the Hilo Chamber of Commerce.

Hawaii Mainichi Shinbun

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Hawaii Mainichi, it's a Japanese-English paper. Come to think of it, I don't know how I got into that, you know. I used to know one of the - this person was older than me, about two years older - and his uncle used to run the newspaper. I guess through that, I think.

I worked there and you know what I actually did there? You know, all these comics that you see in your papers. Or pictures like that. At the time we had to boil the lead now. I used to be in the basement. We boiled the lead and you know while the lead is hot like hell, we had to pour the lead on that cardboard, the comics, you see. And that's how that form came out. And one time I remember, chee, kind of spilled that on my shoes, the lead. Wow, it was hot like hell.

[After you pour the lead, they put the imprint.] And the words, well, you had the teletypist doing that. And then they put it together.

It's quite dangerous. Besides, even you get the comics together, you still have to shave off the sides to make it even so they can line up the words. So you have to go use the saw, eh, the electric saw. Oh, that's dangerous.

I was [working] by myself. But like in the newspaper field, you have extra time, eh. So by the time lunchtime, afternoon, when they say early afternoon, it's all finished already. You just, well, prepare for the next day. But like in my case, nothing to prepare. Just do whatever has to be done. So, even in the afternoons, I used to go to the movie theaters. We had really the time to go around.

I think that's the time I started to, got interested in writing articles. Because we had a sports editor now, and he used to tell me, "Kenneth, why don't you. . . ." You know in the Sunday mornings, we used to play softball like that. And he told me "Why don't you cover that in the afternoon, cover the senior Japanese baseball league in Hoolulu Park?" So I did that. And I was out all day long from the morning to the evening and when I came back home, I had to write the article for next day's issue.

The pay isn't that much (chuckles). I forgot how much I was getting now.

Honolulu Business College

Before I went into the army, I went to business school, learned accounting and I returned back to Hilo now. That was later, 1940, and then I started to work for the [Hilo] Chamber of Commerce as an assistant bookkeeper. And when I was there, the war started. And after that I didn't have a job because military government took over [i.e., the imposition of martial law].

Business college, it's one year. Usually they take two years but that's for accounting. But I used to do that day and night, too, and the thing is, when I went to business college, my family didn't support me now. I was on my own. So I had to work to make things meet.

[I lived on] Huali St. They called that the "License Hill." I don't know if you remember. You know, pass Fort Street, School Street, there used to be a Chinese theater over there, long time ago. And you go further, Lusitana, there's a hill. It's about fifty, seventy-five yards. And that's where I know these people come to take [driving] lessons.

I used to live with this person who was the accountant for the business school. So that's how I ended up at the business school. When I was in Hilo, he came to recruit students for the school and I told him, "Hey, where am I going to stay?" He said, "Stay at my house."

He used to have that house and at his house - he wasn't married then - had one, two, three more people living in there, but they were all working. But they went to business school. After graduation, they started working. But when I went, I was the only one going to school yet. So every time when he saw me just loafing, he'd say, "Hey Kenneth, you better study. You know, these guys, they're all working now." So I had to study.

The business college, they only have certain subjects that you can major in, and bookkeeping was the thing that I figured I would be better at.

[Honolulu Business College] was on [1178] Fort Street, above Stewart's Pharmacy. On Fort Street. Right below Beretania. There was Beretania and Fort Street at that time. There was that, on the corner, Beretania restaurant, I think was. And couple of doors down had the Stewart's Pharmacy.

Charley's Place

And after school, I used to - next to Hawaii Theatre, there was a restaurant called Charley's Place [on Pauahi Street]. I used to work there as a short-order cook. By short-order cook, I had an easy life. Just prepare the meals for whatever orders that came in. So, after that, used to work till about ten to eleven.

But on Friday and Saturdays, the busy times, till about one o'clock in the morning. And I used to go home and then do my homework, but, chee, you're so tired you just doze off. That's when I was going to the business school now. So, how many times I had to wake up and go school at eight o'clock. Gee, I used to go about nine o'clock. The secretary sees me, says, "What? You late again?" You know, so tired you just don't hear the alarm.

Stewart's Pharmacy

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I think it was after Charley's Place, I went to Stewart's Pharmacy, which is below the business college. And I tell you, that was something. And I was about nineteen. I didn't have a motorcycle driver's license. You have to have one, you know. But they have the three-wheelers. And since they're dealing drug supplies, more than half of the time I had to go to the prostitute places on River Street. Jesus Christ, I had to go from the back and they say, "Hey, I'm dying, dying. Give me that." (Chuckles) You know, the prescription. I tell you, what a time I had.

[Along River Street is] where the prostitutes were. But Stewart's was on Fort Street, eh? [River Street had] quite a bit [of brothels], I couldn't count. But I know I used to go to about four, five different places.

Men line up for brothels on Hotel Street, Hawaii

They treated me nice. You know, they always say, "Come and visit us sometimes."

Return to Hilo

[My parents] weren't supportive. Because I had to earn my expenses, as I said. Had to work at Charley's Place, then go work for Stewart's Pharmacy. So when I went back to Hilo, at that time they said they're going to support me, pay some of the expenses.

After graduation and working at Charley's Place and whatnot, I returned to Hilo (in 1941). And for about six months, I started working for the Hilo Chamber of Commerce as an assistant bookkeeper. And just about that time, the war started, and the military government took over. The chamber of commerce was, well, not shut down, but since the military government took over, there was no chamber of commerce. And I was without a job now.

Kenneth Hagino's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photograph courtesy of National Archives.

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