Elbert Arakawa
1399th Engineer Construction Battalion

Life After the War

Elbert is discharged in December 1945.

For three months, he works at a cold storage facility. For seven months, under the GI Bill, he does an apprenticeship in refrigeration mechanics.

He then pursues employment with the U.S. Post Office. Among his many postal duties are: rural mail sort, carrier delivery, city section mail sort, window clerk and parcel post.

Prior to his retirement in 1976, Elbert serves as superintendent of four postal stations.

I was discharged December 1, 1945.


I passed the test to work in the post office prior to entering the army. So I figure the test is still good, yeah. But when I heard that the pay was low, I said, “Oh, I going try something else to be able to get a better pay.”

So I worked at a cold storage house in Sand Island. I spent about three months, I think. Then I went apprentice training on refrigeration mechanics for about seven months.

Post Office

Then I say, “Oh, this is not for me.” So said, “I’m going back to post office.”

[The apprentice training was under the] GI Bill. Then I went to work at post office. I have a friend, classmate, working as a carrier and he knows me and I know him. So I talked to him. “Hey, I want to come back to post office.” He said, “Okay, I take you down to the postmaster.”

[Albert] Lino was the postmaster. So we went up and he said, “Yeah, okay. You can go come and work in the post office.”

Albert Lino, Postmaster (right)

I want to work for steady income, yeah, government job. I worked for Kress’s for five years. I don’t see any future in it. Good thing I get out. They told me to come back, Kress store. But I had second thoughts, “No, I think I got to look for some other job.” Kress’s was pretty good but, look, they’re closed down. If I were there, I don’t know what I’d do. But anyway, I worked at the post office so that I got a steady income.

When I went into the post office, [the beginning pay] wasn’t that bad. And we had, cost-of-living [allowance].

The first job they assigned me was the mailing section, you know, post office. Mailing section, sorting the mail for Haleiwa or someplace, far places, or the other islands.

Then, I said, “Well, I think I better be a carrier.” So I applied for carrier job and I got that. I was delivering mail and I worked in the Palama area, carrying one bundle in the hand and another one in the sack and go mailbox to mailbox. Oh, I get so hot. But on a hot day, the tar road comes real hot, you know. It affects your feet. But then I went to Pawaa Station, doing the same kind of work, delivering mail.

Then I said, “Chee, feet is bothering me. I think I better do something else.” So I asked for transfer back to clerk section, this time city section, and you got to pass test to qualify. I passed so I qualified.

I work in the city section, delivering mail for the whole Honolulu area. Had prima[ry], secondary, yeah, get two sections. If you work in the primary, you have to know all the streets in town, you know, every one, because you don’t know where to throw [sort] otherwise. I used to practice, make one dummy box and I used to practice.

[Before zip codes, start] by street because eventually when you go to secondary, you got to know the carrier breakup. So one street may be broken up into two or three, depends how they cut. I work in the primary section so I study the map and learn of all the streets’ name. I was able to do it, all that. But I got bursitis on my right arm. I was throwing mail, so I throw ’em left-hand. The boss come around, he said, “Hey, you throw it right-hand.” And so, okay, I throw it right-hand. The minute he disappear, left-hand.

And so I say, “Ey, this is not for me. I think I better work at the window.” So I get trained on the window work and I became a window clerk, taking the parcels and everything, yeah. First, I was assigned as a relief window clerk, go from different stations every day. But later on, I got a steady job at Pawaa Station as parcel postman.

So I worked at Pawaa Station. Then, there was an opening in Kalihi Station, so I signed up for Kalihi Station. By the time, I was getting used to doing all the things that station does, yeah, taking care of the delivery, I mean, box mail, and then making a report. You know, at the end of the day, you go make a report of how much cash you took in and all that. Then, the funny part was that every time somebody moved out, my number-one man [supervisor] moves out, they put a new one inside there, see. So I have to train ’em, yeah. And here, I’m only a clerk, the guy going be a boss. (Chuckles) So one day, one of the clerks told somebody in charge, “Hey, how come Arakawa, he take care, he train the supervisors and you don’t even promote him?”

So they say, “Okay, okay.” They send me down to Pearl Harbor, one-man station. I was making money order and distribution of mail and so on. So I stayed there for few more years. Then there was an opening for job at Hickam post office. So I signed up for that and this time I was a supervisor, assistant supervisor, taking care of the carrier section and distribution of mail. I did that for a few more years. Then I said, “I think I better sign up for another job.”

I signed up for superintendent for post stations: Moiliili, Kaimuki, Aina Haina and Hawaii Kai. I had to take care of all that four stations. So I was going back and forth. But actually I was only peddling stamps. Nothing much. They do all the work. They make the reports and everything. So it was very easy for me. Kaimuki had two [employees], Moiliili was two [employees]. Average two to a station.

[I retired in 1976.]

I think I did the right thing, go post office. I worked post office thirty years and retired. This June I’ll be thirty years retired already, yeah?

Elbert Arakawa's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History.

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