Norman Kikuta
Military Intelligence Service

School

Norman attends Honokohua, Kamehameha III and Lahainaluna schools. He does well, encouraged by his elementary school principal and teacher-scoutmaster.

Transportation is free until high school, when the children must find rides to Lahainaluna. Harugoro, wanting to send all his children to high school, manages to buy a Plymouth.

Norman also attends Japanese-language school for twelve years but doesn’t acquire much conversational skill.

Honokohua School

[Honokohua School] was located about a mile away from home. We had to walk the distance every day. It had grades from one through seven. After that, we had to go to Kam[ehameha] III School [in Lahaina] for the eighth grade. [Transportation was provided by Maui County.]

[All the camp children went to Honokahua School.] That served the community.

Edith Tomlinson

The principal was Edith Tomlinson. She was through all of my seven years there. Fortunately, I did well enough so the principal paid attention to me, she tried to encourage me.

In the 1930s, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin encouraged young kids, especially males, to submit reports on home gardening. I was appointed the reporter for the Honolua Camp, so I used to submit reports, maybe once a month. The principal, Mrs. Tomlinson, would provide me the papers and she’d [edit] my composition [before I submitted it to the paper].

Kenneth Kurokawa

Kenneth Kurokawa, I remember as being [a teacher] who had quite an influence on me.

He had just come out of [Territorial] Normal [and Training] School, in the early [19]30s. They put him in quarters in the Japanese Camp. Of course, he was Japanese. He was boarded with a Japanese family, and his quarters was adjoining my home. I used to see him all the time. And, he was also the Boy Scout leader, the troop leader [scoutmaster], so I learned a lot from him.

[Kenneth Kurokawa] was a Boy Scout. I stayed in long enough that I almost made Eagle Scout. I missed it by one [merit badge]. Lifesaving was my downfall.

[He was] everything that you would expect a leader to be. Quiet in his ways but stern when he needed to be. He came out of a plantation background. He was born in [Papaikou] on the Big Island. I guess he was familiar with the plantation background and the culture in a plantation community. We got along famously. Maybe [Honokohua School] was his first [teaching] assignment but I guess his next one was closer to Honolulu, I don’t know. I lost track of him.

Kamehameha III School

I went to Kam[ehameha] III School in ’34.

King Kamehameha III School
King Kamehameha III School

[I went to Honokahua School through the seventh grade, then to Kamehameha III School for eighth grade then to Lahainaluna High School for four years.] All those living in West Maui, depending on location, had different elementary schools. Honokahua only took care of those in Baldwin Packers. We had other areas like Honokowai School or Puukolii School.

Although the distance was about eight miles, it was [Maui] County who provided the transportation [from Honokahua to Kamehameha III School]. So, that was not a financial problem. The county provided that.

The county was responsible for transportation only for elementary grades. When it came to high school, the [individual student paid for his own transportation ($5 a month)].

[Some of my friends at Kamehemeha III did not continue,] especially the females. It’s sort of unfortunate because there were a lot of bright minds among the girls but they weren’t able to go. Nowadays, it is expected that the girls and boys receive the same education. But during those days, the girls unfortunately didn’t receive [the same opportunity].

My sisters were fortunate. There were six of us kids in the family. My brother being the eldest one went through and I followed. Then my four younger sisters all went through.

Going to High School

Going to high school was a gimme. That is, every [male] was expected to attend. Of course, being a plantation community like that, there weren’t too many of the graduating eighth graders from Kam[ehameha] III [going] to high school because it required transportation. We were twelve miles away from high school.

Lahainaluna [School] is located up on the hill, above Lahaina town, and transportation cost five dollars a month. So, if you had three of four kids in the family, the transportation cost would be a [hardship]. So there weren’t too many who continued on to high school from my community. Those living in downtown Lahaina could walk to school.

For the first two years, there was a family who owned a Buick and my brother drove the car. So as compensation, he rode free. My father didn’t have to pay the five dollars a month. But for me, he had to. When I was a junior, my fatherprovided transportation for my brother, me and my two sisters. Four, so he bought his own car. He bought a Plymouth, [a 1935 model].

[It was quite an expense and sacrifice to send six children to high school.] When you think that the plantation pay was minimal. By the time you paid off your grocery bills and so forth, you really had to scratch for the extra money. But I guess my father practiced good husbandry [and was able to send all six children to high school].

My father wanted all of his children to at least finish high school. [I graduated from Lahainaluna in 1939.]

Lahainaluna High School

[Lahainaluna is] a good old school. It has a long and glorious history about it, being the [oldest] school west of the Rocky Mountains. It was founded in 1831 by the American missionaries. I liked that school.

Atkinson Hall, Lahainaluna High School
Atkinson Hall, Lahainaluna High School

Of course, the subjects offered were the general, required by the Department of [Public] Instruction, at that time. So, I took a rather broad type of class. I even took machine shop, auto shop, woodworking shop, first year. Then I took commercial subjects, I took up an agricultural course and then of course, the usual English, history, social studies. I even took up Latin and math.

No, I wasn’t preparing to enter the university while going to high school. At that time, I didn’t even think about [preparing for college]. So, it wasn’t until my senior year that I applied.

Sad to say but living ten miles away and having to rely upon [private] transportation, you leave home at a certain time, you leave school at a certain time. You cannot dilly-dally and say, "Wait for me for thirty minutes, I have this seminar to attend" — you can’t do that. So my extracurricular [participation] was just about nil, except for occasionally, you get roped into a Christmas play or something. And then you stay overtime and get somebody else to take you home.

So, that is one big disadvantage for us students who live away from Lahaina town. Those who lived in Lahaina could just walk home if they wanted to. But not for us.

The boarders, were on campus twenty-four hours a day. As an aside, I have coffee with a former boarder at Lahainaluna who was very prominent in school activities. In fact, he was a star football player and also a student body president. He used to be a personnel training officer at City and County of Honolulu [before he retired]. I question him now and then about a boarder’s life. He tells me some amusing things. Boarders are away from home. He’s a Hana boy, so I don’t know how many miles away but he doesn’t go home except once every three months or something.

[All boarders are] assigned certain chores to earn their keep. Initially, he had to go out in the gulch to bring back cattle feed. You heard of the old Hawaiian koa [largest of native forest trees] that grows in the gulches? Well, he had to bring back seventy pounds of it every morning [before breakfast].

He told me all the tricks of the trade. Maybe inserting some heavy wood or something [in the bundle] so that it’d weigh seventy pounds when put it on the scale.

Or, maybe locating a [mature] bunch of bananas. The bananas would ripen one at a time. So, he’d pick them off as they ripened. He tells me that the boarding life was a good training ground for all of these youngsters. They were [age] fifteen when they get in, and out at eighteen.

Japanese-language School

I went to a Japanese[-language] school for twelve years and had virtually the same teacher because there were only two teachers [for] the small student body.

The community [ran the Japanese-language school]. Our parents had to pay tuition. Maybe a dollar and a quarter [$1.25] a head, per month. So, for every class session, you might have two grades in one session.

[Japanese-language school] was in the Japanese Camp, probably only about seven houses away from my home.

[We go to English school first,] go home and then go to Japanese[-language] school for about forty-five minutes. That was it. So, unfortunately, you didn’t learn very much.

By the time the teacher would take the roll and attend to other administrative duties, the class would be [almost] over. Well, in a small country school like that, the instructional program is not that cut-and-dried.

We had about eight students in my class.

I would say [I liked] the English [public] school [better]. In the Japanese[-language] school, the subjects are concentrated on reading, writing, what we call kakitori, spelling. As for conversational Japanese, we didn’t do that so much. That’s why I can hardly speak Japanese.

Norman Kikuta's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Norman Kikuta.

All rights to the reproduction or use of content in the Hawaii Nisei web site are retained by the individual holding institutions or individuals.

Please view the Hawaii Nisei Rights Management page for more information.