100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)
Students must board outside Hana for high school. With scholarship aid, Takashi and his brothers attend their brother-in-law’s alma mater, Mid-Pacific Institute, in Honolulu.
A Christian setting and Mainland teachers influence Takashi. Takashi mixes with both city and country classmates.
Sada suffers a stroke. For a year, Toraki cares for her while running the coffee shop. She dies the summer after Takashi’s freshman year at Mid-Pacific.
The [other students in Hana] went to Lahainaluna [School] because Lahainaluna was a boarding school. You’ve got to understand that when they go out of Hana, they have to stay at a boarding school. They had no other place to go. Most of them didn’t have any families, or relatives, or friends over on Wailuku or Hamakua Poko. Maui High School [in Hamakua Poko], that’s a public school. So they had to go to a boarding school. I would have gone to any school. Like I said, there was no high school in Hana; I had no choice. If I wanted to get further education, I had to go somewhere else.
I didn’t know [I wanted to go to high school when I was at Hana School. If my father had said, “Well, you cannot go high school, you got to stay back,”] that would have been all right with me. If he had said, “Well, [you] got two brothers over there and I can’t afford to send you,” that would have been all right with me. But I don’t think I would have been a lawyer if that were the case.
I would have been working in the plantation someplace, which would have been all right with me because what’s life? As long as you are happy and can get along, that’s it. You don’t have to have a university education to be happy. The farmers back there are just as happy as we are here, in their own way. They take care of their family, they send their kids to school.
My sister’s husband went to Mid-Pac and he was one of the first graduates of the school. He graduated in 1913. At that time, there were only four students graduating and he was one of them.
His name is Watanabe. He was working for the bank, he was a bank teller in Hana. He lived right next to us in Kaeleku. I think that influenced my family about sending us to Mid-Pacific because he went there.
[I do not remember taking any kind of examination before going to Mid-Pac.] I went there because my two brothers were there and my parents wanted to send me there.
There’s a lot of anxiety not knowing what was coming, except for the fact that my two brothers were at Mid-Pacific, so that helped me quite a bit in feeling a little more comfortable.
Getting to Honolulu
After I graduated from grammar school and had to go to Mid-Pacific Institute, we had to take the [inter-island] boat from Kahului to go to Honolulu. This is how we traveled from Hana. We would go overland to Kahului, and from Kahului, take the boat to Honolulu to go to school. The same way when we came back during the summer vacations.
I don’t know how [my father] managed [to send three of us to Mid-Pacific Institute]. I never did ask him but I imagine he borrowed some money.
When we went to school, the three of us, we would get help from the school by working with different kinds of scholarships there. For example, I was the head of the dining room there for three years.
It was a boarding school and tuition was only $225 a year, which was big money at that time, and that included board. The scholarship, for example, was a big half of it. I would get $100 for working in the dining room. So that helped. But somehow, my parents managed to support us through school.
I enjoyed [the studies at Mid-Pacific Institute] thoroughly. I liked the Christian setting, I liked the Christian influence. I liked the contact with the teachers because 99 percent of the teachers there came from the Mainland and that exposed me to their thinking.
They talked about their lives on the Mainland among themselves. And even with us. I never heard of Estes Park, that’s in Colorado. Well, I heard two teachers talking about Estes Park and I still remember that till today. They talked about their lives over there. This is what is broadening. You don’t get too provincial, you understand, you get a bigger picture of life. Somehow, that seemed to help me.
At that time, I think the student body was maybe a hundred and fifty. So you get very close to the teachers and vice versa.
As a matter of fact, when I went to Japan, 1935, after the [Japanese-American Students] Conference — the student conference in Tokyo — my former teacher, Luther Cox, somehow attended this particular conference. So I met him there and he invited me to [visit] his school, Doshisha [University] in Kyoto. So after the conference, I did go to Doshisha, Kyoto, and I stayed with him a few days and reminisced about our high school days over here.
And during the time that I was at Baylor [Law School], he came to Waco, [Texas]. He stayed a few days and we got reacquainted and talked about our experiences back here at Mid-Pac. These are the kinds of teachers we had at Mid-Pacific. Why would he come down to Baylor just to see me? He was teaching there. I think it was Pan-American University [today known as University of Texas-Pan American], some school down there in the South. He didn’t tell me he was coming, he just came. Can you imagine that? What teacher would do a thing like that today?
So you know, in a small school, you get to know the teachers very well and get very friendly with them. And they cared for you, they cared about your welfare, about your future.
Most of [my classmates] were smarter than me. (Laughs) It was even an experience trying to catch up with them. I was on the debating team and I learned from the other guys and I profited from their experience, from their leadership. And that was good. I was a member of the choir. I joined glee club, even the dramatic club. That kind of loosened you up. It gives you a rounded experience and a bigger picture. I think that helped.
[Having classmates from all over is] an advantage, too. I had classmates from Palama, you know, that’s a rough place. We had kids from Kakaako. On the other hand, we had kids from Waimea on the Big Island, Kula on Maui, Lihue on Kauai; they’re really country boys, down-to-earth. Unsophisticated, so to speak.
I also mixed with the people from Kakaako and Palama. Those days, they had gangs over there. In fact, some of the guys came to [Mid-Pacific Institute] because they were unmanageable. Some of my friends, outside friends, would tease us about these kids. Make it feel as though the boarding school over there is sort of a “prison” because the parents couldn’t handle them, so they had to send them to a private school. I got exposed to that.
But the greater picture is, I was exposed to the country boys and I’m one of the country boys. How sincere those kids are. Naive, so to speak, from the neighbor islands. But very fair, very sincere, trying to learn and that atmosphere is very good.
I didn’t belong to any church — no religion, no nothing, except when I went to Mid-Pac[ific Institute], that’s a Christian school, Protestant. We had to go to church every week. We had chapel service every day. That indoctrinated me to the Christian religion. So I can call myself Christian. To make it formal, after I was grown, I took my kids down to the Church of the Crossroads and I had them baptized. I was baptized, too.
My recollection is that [my mother] passed away after I had come to Mid-Pacific Institute for one year, my freshman year, and when I went home that summer, she passed away.
She had a stroke, the medical term I still remember, intercranial hemorrhage hypertension. I still remember those three words because that’s all I happened to see, that death certificate. [It was a hard time for me.]
During those days, like I told you, there’s only one doctor, and that was the plantation doctor.
She was partially paralyzed from the stroke for a period of one year. I give [my father] a lot of credit because my mother was bedridden for one whole year and so he had to take full control of caring for her. And ran the coffee shop. So that was really tough.
Takashi Kitaoka's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Takashi Kitaoka.