100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)
Takashi studies political science and sociology at the University of Hawaii. He graduates in the midst of the Great Depression.
As heath education secretary for the Tuberculosis Association based at Palama Settlement, he gives talks, shows a movie and issues pamphlets.
He reports on the Japanese community for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, producing a special edition in 1935 on the 50th anniversary of Japanese immigration to Hawaii.
[When I was a senior in high school,] I had no goal. I would have been happy to just make a living but we’re talking about high school. My parents wanted me to go to the university. My brothers were willing to help and they did. [While I was at the University of Hawaii] my big brother was working for an automobile firm on Maui, my second brother was working for Schuman Carriage [Company, Ltd. on Oahu].
You got to remember that both of my brothers don’t have any university education. I would have been happy not to go to a university, but since the opportunity was there, I went.
University of Hawaii
It seemed like it was a natural transition from high school to the university. I didn’t make any special effort to try to go to the university. But, you see, Mid-Pacific was a college prep school mostly, at that time, although they had other interests.
And so we, during our senior year, we were exposed to the kind of examination that the university would give us, before entrance. That helped, too. We knew, more or less, what kind of questions they would ask, and that’s an advantage. I don’t know if the public schools had that.
[At the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I concentrated on] mostly political science and sociology. I had no particular ambition at that time. I enjoyed history in high school. I was interested in government, how the government interacted, how the government functioned. That was the sphere of my interest.
I took part in debating. I took part in the YMCA [Young Men’s Christian Association], they had a branch at the university, at that time. Atherton, I think they call it. But I was mostly interested, or I was mostly involved, in getting an education, not knowing what I was going to do after graduation. That’s the truth.
I worked at Mid-Pacific Institute. I had free rent. I worked at the school, school grounds, for the four years [while] I went to the university. That helped me and I guess that helped my parents financially. Otherwise, I couldn’t make a go of it.
Health Education Secretary
[I did not know what I was going to do]. As a matter of fact, we are in the depths of [the Great] Depression at that time, 1934. So we took anything that would come around. And the first thing that came up was this work at Palama Settlement as a health education secretary for the Tuberculosis Association.
As the title indicates, my job was to educate the people, the common people, about tuberculosis. How it was spread, what symptoms, how the doctors take care of people like that.
[We educated the people using] pamphlets, distributing pamphlets. I gave talks in different camps. I showed movies on the subject. I even got on the radio. Those days they didn’t have TV. To reach the people, I had to improvise in pidgin English to explain the disease and ramifications of the disease. That was a lot of fun. That pidgin especially.
Of course, in ordinary life you don’t use too much pidgin because we were taught not to [speak pidgin] in school, try to speak English. But to reach the common people working the plantation and in the slum districts, who couldn’t understand English very well, you had to resort to pidgin. But luckily we had this movie on the subject. That was a big help.
[Tuberculosis] was very bad at that time. But then you see this Christmas Seals organization, which is the tuberculosis organization [American Lung Association], which is still in existence, they were in the business of educating people, combating the disease, working with the health organizations. We worked very closely with the [territorial] and the county health organizations.
By the way, I did a little newspaper work, too.
This is funny because being in the depths of depression, we had to go look for a job. Well, somehow, this reporting job came to my mind. I don’t know how I got into it, but I did, and it wasn’t even a paid salary. You got paid on an inch basis, how many inches you wrote. Your column [inch]. So I made some kind of a living there.
Now this is interesting. I’m not going to mention names, just about the time that I was working for the [Honolulu] Star-Bulletin, another guy, a haole guy, came into the reporting room, and he got a job on a salary. So I was kind of disappointed. I was sort of a Japanese community reporter, in that the source of my news was the Japanese community. So I went to the Japanese business places.
In fact, that is how I got to know the [head of] Sato Clothiers [Taichi Sato]. He was the head of the [Honolulu Japanese] Chamber of Commerce at that time. I went to the Japanese consulate and everything that had to do with Japanese, I reported. I’m going to boast a little bit by telling you that I was responsible for the 50th anniversary of the first coming of the Japanese immigrants to Hawaii [edition, in 1935]. That was a big celebration, and there was a special edition at the time, and I was largely responsible for getting that edition out.
I graduated in 34, 35. So, in between 34 and 35, a period of about one year [I worked there]. You can’t make much by writing and paid by the inch. I wasn’t happy but I saw possibilities in the newspaper business.
I go back again to the fact that this is in the depths of depression, you take anything you can get.
Takashi Kitaoka's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Takashi Kitaoka.