1399th Engineer Construction Battalion
Toshiyuki accepts a teaching principalship at Maunaloa Elementary School on Molokai in 1962. The following year, he is assigned a principalship on the island of Lanai.
As principal of Aiea High School on Oahu, he graduates the school’s first class in 1964. With the exception of one year as acting deputy district superintendent, he remains at Aiea until his retirement in 1979.
During his tenure at Aiea, a 2000-seat gym and other buildings are built.
Schools on Molokai and Lanai
[For my teaching career, I was at Farrington and Kahuku. In 1949, I went to Waialua where I was a teacher, coach, athletic director and vice principal. In 1962, I moved to Maunaloa Elementary School on Molokai as principal.]
I was there for one year. Nineteen sixty-two.
I was looking forward to [being principal at Maunaloa] and I told myself, it’s a good school, a small school. So I guess I’m going to have to be able to get to know the kids and the teachers well because it is a small community.
But the only difficult thing was that I had a secretary every other day. I didn’t have a custodian so I had to go and assign my eighth-grade kids to go and clean up the lavatories and the first- and second-grade classrooms. So I was only concerned about the school buildings being properly cleaned.
And then, because they didn’t have any library, my wife and I had to take care of the library books that came in and had them classified and everything and then put them in the library.
And then I had to go to the post office every day because my secretary wasn’t there every day. I had to go to the bank every day to deposit their lunch money.
So there are other things that I did besides teaching, but I made sure that the lavatories were cleaned properly and the kindergarten and first- and second- grade classes were cleaned properly. So I used to hire my eighth-grade kids to have them clean the other rooms and we used to pay them for doing those extra work.
I grew up in a rural community anyway so it wasn’t that difficult. Even if I were a so-called city person living in Lahaina town. We had various plantation camps and all the kids that came to Kam[ehameha] III and went to Lahainaluna [High School], I used to know them because they come from the plantation camps that were pretty close.
In those days, Kam[ehameha] III was the biggest [elementary] school in the west side of Maui and Lahainaluna was the only high school on the west side of Maui. The east side they had Maui High only, so [there were] only two high schools [on Maui at the time]. And then there were all kinds of plantation camps, I think Puukolii had an elementary school, Honokowai had an elementary school but the rest of the places never had an elementary school, so they all went to Kam[ehameha] III. So you grew up in a sugar plantation plus a pineapple plantation because we had sugar and pineapple.
I was offered to go to Kaunakakai [Elementary School] after I was at Maunaloa for two or three months. The job at Maunaloa Elementary [School] was a teaching principalship. The job at Kaunakakai was a regular principalship without teaching responsibility. But I turned ’em down simply because I felt that I went to Maunaloa and I got to know the community. I met the parents, I met the kids and I didn’t want to disrupt and make another change in administration. So I told my district superintendent, “I’d like to stay here and finish it up.”
But he tells me, “You’re going to get better pay, you don’t have to teach classes, you’re going to have a full-time secretary, you’re going to have a full-time custodian and full-time librarian at Kaunakakai.” Where I didn’t have any of those at Maunaloa. I had a part-time secretary, she came every other day because the student body at Maunaloa Elementary School about 160 kids. Kaunakakai was about 600 already.
When I got assigned to Lanai the following year, I went.
The interesting part of Lanai, I had a Mainland teacher who lived in a cottage, haole guy from Arkansas. I think that was his first year of teaching, too. I guess I didn’t notice until after a while that he was eating pineapple almost all the time because he didn’t have any money to spend, to buy [food]. So he could go out into the pineapple field.
After about a month or so when I discovered that, I invited him to come over for dinner at my house once in a while. But I told the cafeteria manager, “If you have any extra food, give it to him.” So this haole guy from Arkansas I still remember, a single man. Even when I was on Molokai, the pineapple field was right next to where I was living. So anytime we want pineapple we just go across and pick the pineapple and come home.
But before the semester was over, [the district superintendent] told me, “You got to go to Aiea [High School] second semester.” And I said, “I cannot finish out the school year here?” He said, “No, you go.”
So that’s when I went to Aiea.
Aiea High School
[In 1964, I moved from Lanai to Aiea High School.] Second semester.
It’s a rural school in a way, but close enough to town. It was a new school and I graduated the first class that year. Timmy Hirata was there, he was transferred to McKinley. Mel DeMello used to be at Aliamanu Intermediate and he was assigned to Aiea. Then after two or three months the principal at Kailua High School went on sick leave and Mel used to live at Kailua, so they transferred him to Kailua. And George Walker who used to be the vice principal they made him acting principal [at Aiea] until I came in the second semester.
My secretary, Florence Yamada, after two or three weeks she said, “Mr. Nakasone, are you planning to stay?” And I understood why [she asked] because in one semester, she had four principals (chuckles). So I said, “Look, I just came, I’m just getting to know the school community and the school program.” So she said, “Well, I just wanted to ask you that question.” I said, “Yeah, I’m planning to stay.”
When I was at Aiea for the second year, 1965 school year, [the principalship at] Farrington [High School] opened up and they wanted me to go to Farrington and I turned them down. So the superintendent from town came out and said, “You’re turning down the offer to be principal at the biggest public school in Hawaii?” That was Farrington; they had over three thousand kids. And they said, “You’re going to be the highest-paid principal, too.”
So I said, “No, I don’t think I should go. I just came to Aiea a year and a half ago and I don’t think it's right for me to go and move right now.” So I decided not to go.
I don’t know exactly what the pay would have been.
Then, when Art Mann used to be principal at Radford, he became our district superintendent and he went to the state office and he became assistant principal in the curriculum department. He wanted me to go up there and be one of the directors of a department. I turned him down, too.
So I just stayed at Aiea. The only time I moved out of Aiea, one year when [Francis] Hatanaka was district superintendent and he went on a sabbatical one year. He told me to come up and be the deputy superintendent at central district, for one year only. So I said, “Yeah, okay.” So I did go to central district for one year.
[I was acting deputy district superintendent] one year.
I was pretty busy in the community, too, because when I first went to Aiea they used to have what they called district councils and that was a preliminary to the neighborhood boards that they have now.
That [Aiea] District Council [consisted of] the principal of the high school and the other principals, plus the community association. And they used to meet regularly and they talked about the problems in the community.
I still recall when I went there, they had an old plantation gym but the seating capacity of the gym was only two hundred and fifty seats and my school was already about nine hundred to a thousand kids.
So when they were talking about building a new gym, tearing down the old gym, I asked the council, “How big a gym are you talking about?” They said oh, five-hundred-seating. I said, “That’s not enough, my school already has a thousand kids. They cannot meet in a gym that small.” We used to meet in the lawns on the campus.
So they told me, “No more money.” Fortunately at that time [Senator Nadao] “Najo” Yoshinaga, he used to be chairman of the [state senate] ways and means [committee]. I knew him from Maui. I was his campaign manager when he came to Oahu. Anyway, I told him about the problem. He said, “Oh, go ahead just tell them to submit a plan that’s going to accommodate the community and the school.”
So they built a gym to seat over two thousand people and a swimming pool. The old swimming pool was only a four-lane, twenty-yard pool, so they made an eight-lane, twenty-five-yard pool and a lot of meeting rooms and so forth.
So the gym at Aiea is the only gym that’s built the way it is. All the other gyms seat only about five hundred. That’s the only one that seats two thousand people. So Najo was the one that was responsible.
I learned from the time that I was in Waialua, by Philip Minn, that the legislature can do a hell of a lot. [Nadao “Najo” Yoshinaga] was the one who made me realize that if we wanted anything to be done for the school and the community, you got to go and lobby.
So when we first got that gym rebuilt at Aiea, I didn’t have any administration building yet. They were using classrooms, so he was the one who provided me with that administration building that Aiea High School has right now.
Then as the school was growing they were starting to bring in portable classrooms. So I said no, I would rather have a regular building because the school population is going to grow because Newtown [subdivision] was just coming into play and Halawa Heights, and so forth. So then we had another new social studies building, twelve classrooms built.
Then I didn’t have an auto shop. I had a regular carpenter shop, but no auto shop. So he was the one that provided me with that: the new administration [building], the new auto shop and the new social studies building. So he provided us with all of those things.
I used to tell my coaches and my teachers that you got to elect people to office who will provide us with the kind of things that we want for the school. I said, “I am not doing this for my gain; I am doing this for the school and the community.” So that’s how we got all those things.
Toshiyuki Nakasone's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Toshiyuki Nakasone.