1399th Engineer Construction Battalion
As a youth, Toshiyuki works part-time in the sugarcane and pineapple industries. With the higher wages offered by Baldwin Packers, he prefers pineapple cannery work to field work.
At home, he does yard work and helps his mother wash, dry, and fold towels used in the barbershop.
At school, he is active in student government and sports. As basketball champions in the Maui public school league, Toshiyuki and his teammates travel to Lanai and Molokai.
[Supplemental information from Our Nakasone “Roots” in Hawaii. Permission granted by Toshiyuki Nakasone.]
Working at the Sugar Plantation
We used to work on the plantation on weekends, too. I think when I was about eleven or twelve years old, we used to do on the [Pioneer Mill Company] plantation what we call, ho hana. Ho hana means, you cut the grass.
Palipali was to build all of the lines again because the lines were kind of destroyed when they came in to cut the burnt cane. So we had to go build up the banks, so when they irrigate, the water would stay in the lines.
The sugarcane was all in lines, so we used to do that. We never had hapai ko. Hapai ko was for the older people. They used to cut the cane, then carry it on their shoulders and then put it on the train.
We waited to reach the age of fourteen or fifteen. Because that’s when we can work on the pineapple field and they were paying fifteen cents an hour, which was a big boost from making twenty-five cents a day [in the sugar fields].
Boy, we waited and waited until we can go into the Baldwin Packers [pineapple] cannery, because that’s when they were paying twenty-three cents an hour. We went through all of that and we just anxiously await until we went to Baldwin Packers cannery. Even when I went to the University [of Hawaii], when we came home for the summer, we all went to work at the cannery.
The cannery paid the best at that time. [Pineapple field] was better than the sugar field. The sugar field was the cheapest.
But you know, at least we had a place to find work. It’s like, when you graduate from the elementary school, [Kamehameha III School] was a K-8 school, I would say, maybe 80 percent of us went to high school but the other 20 percent, they work for the [Pioneer Mill Company] plantation and they lived in Lahaina all their life. So they were part of the plantation community, so that’s how it was when we were born and raised and working in the community over there in Lahaina.
I did a lot of the household chores around the house and sometimes I used to tell my kid brother, Nobu, “Eh, when the hell you gonna help me?” Because, he just loved to read. Every chance he get, he was reading something.
So I used to clean. Every day, I used to clean — we had a monkeypod tree on the right and left side of the house. And you know the monkeypod tree, the beans, when they dried, every day we had to go and clean that up. My father used to like plants. We used to water and take care of the plants, too.
My mother would wash the barbershop towels on a wooden scrub board, rinse and hang them up to dry. I helped her frequently with the washing, but mostly took down the dried towels, folded and placed them in the shop.
I was assigned daily, to pick up a block of ice (20 lbs.) and two bottles of milk, which were placed on the sidewalk fronting our shop. The ice was placed in the ice box (no refrigerators). The water from the melted ice from the previous day was collected in a large pan and was supposed to be emptied daily. I forgot to do so one day and the kitchen floor flooded! When I came home from school, I was softly told not to forget – not scolded . . . I never again forgot.
My father was active in the community. He was treasurer for the Japanese-language school and he was also very active with the Methodist church. In fact, he was one of the designated preachers or something.
So every Saturday, I used to go and clean the church. And every Sunday morning, I used to go early, open up the church and take all the potted plants and take them in the church for the service. When the services were completed, then I would take all the plants out and take it back to the minister’s house. So that was my job until I graduated from Lahainaluna [High School].
We were active in student government and athletics because my father used to be a good tennis player. So, every Sunday morning, my father, my older brother, Nobu and me, would go and play tennis at the park.
We would go about 5:30 in the morning and we’d come back about 7:00 or thereabouts, to get ready to go to church. My older brother, who is eighty-eight, eight-nine, he still plays tennis. And Nobu was a Maui Junior Tennis champ when he was at Kam[ehameha] III [School].
We were very active in tennis. But I wasn’t as good as him or my older brother. I really don’t know [when I started playing tennis] but I know it was in elementary school.
Those days on Maui, the Alexander House recreation department had a Maui public school league for elementary schools. We used to participate in the elementary school [league], from fourth or fifth grade, they got track and swimming and tennis and all kinds of activities.
I also played baseball, too, American Legion. My specialty was basketball and track. I wanted to play football but my parents wouldn’t give us permission. We were too small, 115, 120 pounds and so we weren’t permitted to play football.
I still remember when we were in the seventh grade, we won the basketball championship for the Maui public school league. So we went to Lanai to play Lanai when I was seventh grader. Those days, we never flew, so everything is by boat. Took us about two-and-a-half hours to go from Mala Wharf to Lanai, and we were so darned sick along the way, you know, the boat going up and down, we all got sick.
When we got to Lanai, we enjoyed it so much that nobody wanted to come home because no one wanted to come home and get sick again on the boat. And when we were Maui champ our eighth-grade year, we went to Molokai to go play the Molokai team. That was same thing, too. Very rough.
But if it weren’t for those trips, I wouldn’t know anything about Lanai. Or anything about Molokai because at that time, Lanai didn’t have a high school, and Molokai, maybe they had a high school, but lot of people from Lanai and Molokai came to board at Lahainaluna.
Activities in Lahaina
The high school at that time did not have any baseball, so we played American Legion baseball. So we played baseball and basketball regularly. We used to play basketball at the district park. There used to be a bowling alley.
Of course, we went to the beach quite regularly. From where we lived, I can just walk across the street, and go a few yards this way, and the beach is right over there, Lahaina, so we used to go and play at the beach quite regularly.
You know where Kaanapali is? We used to go sometimes on the weekends because Kaanapali Beach didn’t have the hotel yet. So we used to go down over there and then bonfire and dinner down at the beach.
We used to go hiking in Lahainaluna Valley, where the [Lahainaluna] School is located and you go further up, you go down into the valley, and way up and used to have just like a swimming pool. And we used to go over there and pick guavas and mountain apples and so forth.
My neighbors. These are the people that went to Japanese[-language] school together, too, like, Vernon [Shuichi] Hashizume. He passed away a couple of years ago. Mike Tokunaga, we played basketball and we were in class together. He passed away a couple of years ago, too. Shiro Nagasako, he’d be of the Nagasako Store [family].
Ah, who else growing up? Oh, I don’t know, Buddy Farden. We were classmates together growing up at Kam[ehameha] III and as a freshman in Lahainaluna. But he was such an outstanding football player. Offered him a scholarship to go to Punahou [School].
[Related to the Alulis.] That’s a very famous musical family. His father used to be one of the so-called plantation higher-ups. The [manager of Pioneer Mill Company] was named [John T.] Moir. He was the number one chief of the Pioneer Mill [Company].
There was another one [who was] number two and Buddy Farden’s father was number three.
Anyway, they had a big house past the armory, past the Maluuluolele Park, so we used to go play with him once in a while and he used to have a train. We used to go play with him, fooling around the train track. And we used to play basketball and run track together at Kam[ehameha] III. He left to go to Punahou, as I say, he was an outstanding athlete at Punahou, too.
When he read about the [Waialua High School] football field was named after me [in 2005], he sent me a nice letter, and so I called him up to thank him. And he said, “Oh, you can still remember those days at Kam[ehameha] III and at Lahainaluna?” So, we kind of reminisced.
Another classmate that [eventually] went to Punahou [School] was Buzz Willard. He used to be a pole vaulter at Lahainaluna, Buzz Willard. He was such an outstanding track pole vaulter that he was also offered a scholarship to go to Punahou. So he went to Punahou and he was the ILH [Interscholastic League of Honolulu] champion at pole vault for two years, his junior and senior year.
So those were my former buddies at Kam[ehameha] III and Lahainaluna. But after we graduated, we just lost track of a lot of these people because, I went to the university, they were here. The only time we got together once was when we had our reunion. But even that was short-lived because it was only a couple of days together.
Toshiyuki Nakasone's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Toshiyuki Nakasone. Supplemental information courtesy of Toshiyuki Nakasone.