Takashi Kitaoka
100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)

School

Takashi goes to two-room Kaeleku School for grades one to three. He learns to grow produce and wins first prize in a home garden contest.

Skipping a grade, he starts grade five at Hana School. Students come to the school from all over the Hana district.

Principal William P. Haia starts the day with a morning prayer and informative talk.

Teachers are strict but down-to-earth. Takashi learns a lot from Louisa Mitchell, an African American teacher.

Kaeleku School

There was Kaeleku School. [It] had three grades, maybe four. There was no such thing as kindergarten those days. You just go at age six, you go to school, first grade. And it was a two-room school. This was our exposure to learning.

Takashi Kitaoka, 1st Grade.
Takashi Kitaoka, 1st Grade.

[There were] two teachers . . . and maybe about thirty or forty [students]. [We learned] the three Rs, so to speak, but that’s about all.

My first teacher was a Portuguese teacher. The second one was a haole teacher, and he came from Honolulu with his family. They lived there at the school. There was a house provided for the teacher and his family.

[I had] no favorite subjects at that time. Can you imagine first grade? There’s nothing in particular. All there was to learn was the [English] language.

Takashi Kitaoka, Garden, 1st Grade.
Takashi Kitaoka, Garden, 1st Grade

There was home gardening, we were interested in that. As a matter of fact, I remember when I was at that age participating in a home garden contest that was sponsored by the [Honolulu] Star-Bulletin and I won first prize because of my lot, and my gardening.

That gardening was on plantation property, of course. Right near the school. [We planted] all the different kinds: beans, radish, beets, onions, eggplant. This is how I learned about growing things.

We would give [the produce] away; we would use it at home. But it was an interesting experience for me. [We raised] all kinds of vegetables up on the hill. That hill there is very famous, Kauiki, right on the back slope of that hill.

Hana School

After third grade — I skipped the fourth grade, by the way (chuckles). When I went to Hana School, I went to the fifth grade. I had no trouble taking the next grade. It didn’t make any difference, it didn’t influence my life one way or the other.

There was very little change [from Kaeleku], except the fact that we had to take our lunch there. We took lunch every day. I remember we had no place to put the lunch, except under the school building. And several times, it would be infested with ants. (Laughs) I remember that very distinctly. So we didn’t eat lunch.

[Our lunches were] mostly Japanese musubi [rice ball] and sandwiches sometimes. Just a combination of food. But since there was no refrigeration, you just had to put it underneath the school building someplace.

I would say [Hana School was] not more than a hundred [students] from grade one to eight. We had a very strict principal, and he was good. His name was William [P.] Haia. Talking about separation of church and government, we had some sort of prayer sessions before school started at Hana. The morning prayer. Every day before school, we would recite the doxology, I guess that’s what you call it. He was interested in music, too.

He was a very musically talented person, although he was very strict.

One thing that I might mention, [Mr. Haia] would start the day with what is known as a morning talk. He would talk about life. He would talk about all the different things that would interest young children. I gained a lot from that. This is extracurricular but I thought that was very good.

[The teachers were] very down-to-earth, very serious, very strict. They were very serious, they taught us discipline. You know how it is in a country school, you get close to them, they get to know you, and they try to help you. I learned a lot, not only from the books but from them, by their teaching, outside of the book learning.

My first teacher at Hana School, in the fifth grade, was Louisa Mitchell. She lived just across the street from the school. She was one of the few black women in Hana. She was an excellent teacher. Learned a lot from her.

[Students] came from everywhere in the district. As I told you, Hana district started from, on one end, Kaupo, and the other end is Keanae. So that the students came from Keanae, not from Kaupo because Kaupo is so far away that they couldn’t afford to commute to the school. But even Kipahulu — that’s where [Charles] Lindbergh is buried — they had a small school there. But from Muolea, Hamoa, Nahiku, Keanae, the students came to Hana School. That was the only school.

Takashi Kitaoka's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Takashi Kitaoka.

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