1399th Engineer Construction Battalion
Toshiyuki retires in 1979.
He serves on the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accreditation Commission, the Aiea General Hospital Scholarship Committee, and the Nissan Hall of Honor Scholarship Committee.
Active in the Hawaii Government Employees Association Retirees Unit, he is elected president of the unit for four terms.
I got involved in the retiree group 1979 – Present. [Hawaii Government Employees Association Retirees Unit] Since 1990.
After I had retired [in 1979], I finished my term on the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accreditation Commission [in 1981]. I was on that for six years.
Then, Aiea General Hospital — you know where Pali Momi [Medical Center] is in Pearlridge [today]? That used to be Aiea General Hospital area. When they demolished that area and they sold the property, they had money.
They put that into Aiea General Hospital Foundation and they started offering scholarships. [I was on the Aiea General Hospital Scholarship Committee, beginning in 1986.]
When the Nissan Hall of Honor Scholarship Committee was formed, they asked me to serve on that committee, too. So I served on those two committees for about twenty-five years.
Then, I did some baby-sitting responsibilities because I had two grandsons and three granddaughters born in the eighties, so I did some baby-sitting responsibilities, too.
I don’t know whether you know former Senator [Nadao] “Najo” Yoshinaga? You see, he used to be at Maui High School when I was at Lahainaluna. He was one or two years ahead of me. But we used to compete against each other in basketball. We knew each other from then.
He and Senator [Norman] Mizuguchi were good friends. Senator Mizuguchi lives a few houses from where I live, and Najo, when I was principal at Maunaloa Elementary School, he told me, oh, he’s thinking of moving to Oahu. So he asked me, where would be a good place to be [as a Democratic senator]? So I told him, you want to go to a strong Democratic area, you go to rural Oahu. Aiea, Waipahu, Ewa, Wahiawa, you know, all sugar plantations and pineapple plantations, ILWU [International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union] and so forth.
So, when he moved to Oahu, that was his decision, he just finished his first two years on the four-year term at the [state] senate, so he didn’t have to run at all but he moved to Waipahu. He did a smart thing, he ran against [Thomas P.] Gill for [U.S.] Congress [in 1962] and he used to spend a lot of time walking in the Waipahu community, Ewa, Nanakuli, Waianae, Waipahu, Wahiawa, Waialua area, because he knew that when his term was up, he was going to have to run as a senator [from those areas] and then I was his so-called chairman of the education people. No problem, he got elected easily.
But anyway, he was interested in knowing who might be the governor of Hawaii after [George R.] Ariyoshi. Cec [Heftel] was one of the leading candidates [in the gubernatorial election of 1986] and [Yoshinaga] and a group of others decided they wanted [John D.] Waihee [III]. So we had a meeting at Najo’s house, by then he had moved to Newtown. And he says, there are a lot of new people on all the islands, too. He was real active, even after he had retired from the legislature. So we had a meeting at his house and I don’t know how he got all this information but he says, right now, we only 10 percent Waihee but he used to give us monthly reports. By the time July and August came, he said, I think we have a good chance of winning the governorship. So, September primary, and election, there was no question that John Waihee was going to be the next governor.
But anyway, Norman [Mizuguchi] first ran as a representative in 1972, then he ran as a senator in 1974, and then, Najo and Norman said, “Eh, Toshi, you gotta get the retirees organized and come and lobby at the legislature.” Because he says, [Teruo] “Terry” Ihara, Wist, [Hubert] “Hu” Everly and a group of them, they used to have what they call a coalition of state and county workers. But, they didn’t have a real big organization base. So, like Terry was from the university. I think Everly was from the university too.
Chairman of the Reapportionment Commission for the City Council of the City and County of Honolulu. 1973.
And then he had somebody from the UPW [United Public Workers] and they had the police and the firemen [unions] and so forth. And, they had what they call a committee and the only person that represented us was the executive secretary. But he went along with this group and agreed when they started to assess the membership, they go according to per capita. So they charged, at that one time, was twenty-five cents per member. But, like Terry, he was only by himself at the university, so he was only twenty-five cents. Later on, they raised that to forty cents or fifty cents. But, then when I got involved with the retiree group, I tried to get them to get involved within our organization first. But they didn’t have any political action committee within our HGEA retiree group.
After I got elected to the board as the finance chair and legislative chair, that’s when I started to begin developing the telephone tree and the phone bank committee tree and legislative committee [tree] and so forth. Najo and Norman said, “There is a bill being introduced that will give long-time retirees a bonus.” Because those that retired in the late fifties and the sixties and so forth, they had small pensions. See, they had three-, four-hundred dollar pension. Those that retired later on had much bigger pensions. But I said, “You gotta teach me how little bit.” So, I met with Norman and Najo for quite a while and we start developing some kind of a strategy.
See, by then, I had retired from my high school already but, I had permission to use the cafeteria one summer. After the 89 session was over, I called all the people I knew in education: teachers, administrators, and anybody else that were retirees, for a meeting at Aiea High School. We had about forty of them showing up and then, I said, I called this meeting because Najo and Norman are both urging us to go and lobby at the legislature. So Norman and Najo explained to the group and the idea was that a bill would be introduced but we only made telephone calls to the various legislators, but we also go and be at the hearing and show them that we have a whole bunch of retirees interested in supporting this bill.
Well, the first meeting that Norman Mizuguchi had, the labor committee was scheduled for a one o’clock meeting and they had the agenda posted and it was listed as number fifteen or sixteen on the list of about twenty-something bills. When Najo saw me and a whole bunch of retirees over there, we filled up the room about the size of this, all the chairs were filled, standing-room only and there are a group of people outside. So he talked to the committee and says, “You know, there are a lot of retirees over here. So let’s consider their bill first, okay?” So, when the bill was considered and they whispered to each other, okay, they’re going to pass it to the ways and means [committee]. You know what happened? The room emptied and only had about one or two people in there to listen to the rest of the bills (laughs).
We were all there because we were in support of that one particular bill. Anyway, after it passed the labor committee and the ways and means committee, then it went over to the house, and it went through the same process. [Representative] Dwight Takamine was, at that time, chair of the labor committee in the house. Anyway, we went and they passed it, and it went to [Representative] Joe Souki, who was finance chairman at that time. And when he had his meeting, the place was just flooded with people. And so, in addition to just being at the hearing, and talking to all our legislators that were present at the meeting and they made telephone calls. The point is that we passed, and Governor Waihee, then no problem, you gonna sign ’em, so the bonus bill was passed in 1990.
As a result of that success, I really got our retiree group to say, look, if we want to get anything done, you’ve got to get involved politically. Not only to lobby at the legislature, but during election year, support the candidates that are in your favor. So that’s how it got started.
President, HGEA Retirees Unit
Then after I served two terms, I said, “Go find somebody else to take over. Somebody younger.” But you know, the nomination committee come up with a slate. They have vice-president, secretary, treasurer, board members. They said they gonna put me back on again [as president], so I said, “Well, okay.” So I ran for the third term.
When the fourth term came up, I told them, “Did you find anybody to take over?” They look at me, they said, “No.” I said, “Why?” They said, “Nobody wants to.” So, I said, “Okay, if I run this time, I going find somebody else that I hope will step up.” So that’s when, I don’t know whether you know Elmer Yuen, yeah, he had just retired from the university.
[This is for] presidency of the retirees. So he accepted, so I said, “Okay.” I said, “Do you accept on the understanding that you will run for the president the following year?”
So he said, “Uh, okay.”(Chuckles) That’s how we got him elected the year after. Now, he’s been there three terms now.
Toshiyuki Nakasone's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Toshiyuki Nakasone.