Toshiyuki Nakasone
1399th Engineer Construction Battalion

Early Adulthood

A 1939 graduate of Lahainaluna High School, Toshiyuki enrolls at the University of Hawaii (UH) in September of that same year.

Having visited Honolulu on previous occasions, he is not unfamiliar with the city.

Beginning in his freshman year, he becomes active in intramural athletics. Later, he participates in Teachers College interclub activities.

One of a select hundred to enter Teachers College, he faces the challenges of studies and work.

University of Hawaii

[I graduated Lahainaluna in 1939. I started at UH in] September. I lived with my brother-in-law. You see, my sister was teaching at Kam[ehameha] III and my brother-in-law was at the university, the ag[riculture] department, and so, I lived with them on 1st Avenue. And fortunately for me, I went to school every day with him and I came home with him, so I had no problems as far as transportation goes.

Honolulu

I came to Honolulu before already because we came to play in a territorial high school basketball championship at the old gymnasium on University Avenue. Across from Teachers College, there used to be the old gym over there.

[Lahainaluna] came to play territorial basketball championship. And we pulled a big surprise. We beat McKinley High School but we lost to Hilo [High School] the following night.

But anyway, I was familiar because I came to Honolulu. Then, I think my senior year, I also visited Honolulu because we went to the territorial high school government conference on Kauai. So, in those days, you travel by boat only, yeah? So I stayed in town and I visited the area, so I had an idea what the city looks like.

When I was a freshman [at UH] and was also active in intramural athletics, Paul Yempuku was a familiar person in the athletic department. He hired me to be one of the ushers for university games, so I could get in free. We used to get paid one dollar per game or something. Those days, they didn’t have the regular bus, they had the trains, no, not trains, it was on a track anyway. Trolley.

Yeah, and, you can hang on the side. After the game was all over and then the trolley would resume up Waialae Avenue. You jump on the trolley. By the time the guy came to collect whatever, we on the steps holding on. So by the time we get up to 1st Avenue, by the time he came to me, I just walk off. (Laughs)

Teachers College

We went to Teachers College, one of the first meetings, and I think there were two or three of us from Lahainaluna there. We look at each other and say, “Now what is he [the professor] trying to tell us?” He said, “You are the select one hundred,” and he look at us, “Yes, we had about a thousand applicants for Teachers College and we selected you.” And he said something like, “After your freshman year, maybe 75 percent of you will be here. After your sophomore year, maybe 50 percent.”

And we understood why later on. He wanted us to really work hard and become good teachers. He assigned [outside reading] once every Friday, you turn in a five-by-eight reading card, a summary of front and back. So religiously, I turned in my three. About a month, six weeks later, he tells me, “I’d like to have a conference with you.” So we went to his office. He look at me, he says, “You are the laziest student I have in this class.”

I look at him in awe, as if to say, “What did I do anyway?” When he started to show me my three cards, plus ten, fifteen, or twenty or so, he says, “These are all your classmates’. You’re the only one with three.” Then I explained to him and he said, “Still yet, you should do more.” So I tried to do a little bit more after that, but I think the most I turned in was about six.

Because I told him, “As soon as the class is over, I try to go and work. As soon as class is over, I try to make at least one outside reading report.” But I used to work on the campus. But anyway, that was my first experience with him.

I had people, like you know of Masato Doi, yeah? You know of Ted Tsukiyama? We all were classmates and the guy from Waialua who was board of supervisors at one time and he became one of the trustees for Kamehameha Schools. [Matsuo] Takabuki.

They started off at Teachers College, all of a sudden, I don’t know where they went. They went to different places [i.e., departments]. Ted went to arts and sciences and Claude Takekawa was with me and Ralph Toyota was with me, too. But after the war, they all went separate ways.

ROTC

[I was not in ROTC at UH], I was declared 4-F. You see, I was beginning to have problems with my eyes and when I reported for ROTC I told them that I needed glasses and so forth. Then they look at me and said, “Ah, okay you don’t have to come.”

So I didn’t have to take ROTC and I was so happy because all my other friends had to report Monday, Wednesday, Friday, seven o’clock in the morning to ROTC program. And me, I don’t have to go to school until about 8:30. But anyway, I didn’t get into the ROTC program.

Athletics

Towards the end of my freshman year, I finally had to get a pair of glasses. And that kind of hindered me in a way because when you participated in athletics, and to wear glasses, kind of difficult to play basketball or even run track and usually you want to play without having all those things on you.

But anyway, that’s how it was and I really enjoyed going to school and being manager of the freshman class for intramural athletics, together with Ted Tsukiyama.

I was also the manager for the Teachers College because they also had interclub activities in college. So, I participated mostly in interclub activities and intramural activities. Not on the varsity level until my junior year I played on the JV team, on the basketball team. JV basketball at the university. But other than that even in track were all in intramurals only.

Toshiyuki Nakasone's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Toshiyuki Nakasone.

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