522nd Field Artillery, 442nd RCT
Katsugo attends Kahului Grammar School and Maui High School.
He is elected student body president.
Student government advisor, Stella Jones, instills in Katsugo a lifelong commitment to community service. Football coach, Dee Shetanian, admonishes students to continue their education beyond high school.
Like three of his siblings, Katsugo works for a year to help with college expenses. He enrolls at the University of Hawaii in September, 1941.
Kahului Grammar School
[Kahului Grammar School was located] at the Wailuku end of Kahului, right at the entrance to the Maui Pineapple [Company] cannery. The entrance today would be the end of Kaahumanu Shopping Center.
Next to it was one of the first [vocational] school. I think you graduated from grammar school and instead of going to high school, you could pick up a trade and that was the beginning of the community colleges. You could learn the trades, you could learn carpentry, you could learn plumbing, and you could learn to become an electrician or whatever. [Maui Vocational School] was located between Kahului Grammar School and the Maui Pineapple cannery.
My class is twenty-five, thirty [students]. From first to the eighth grade.
[Students came from] all of the camp, Kahului, and a lot of the town. There were sprinkling of small, little villages along the Beach Road. Up by the pier, there was Hawaiian — not camp, there was just a sprinkling of families living out in that area. Kahana Pond, what we call it now.
Probably 80, 85 percent was AJAs. In my eighth-grade class, there was one Filipino boy, there are two Hawaiian boys, I think, and there were no Chinese boys. I don’t remember a Chinese classmate, grammar school. Although, within Kahului, there was a Chinese family. Among the girls, there were couple of Hawaiian girls, couple of Filipino girls, but very few non-Japanese.
Very little participation by the parents [in the public school], as far as I recall. Very little. Number one, they did not speak English. Throughout their lives, my parents never really learned to speak English. And I don’t know, I don’t recall how the communication level between the grammar school and my parents were. But somehow, community-wise, there would be a spokesman that would kind of speak on behalf of the Japanese community or Japanese students.
I had the most difficult time with mathematics. That was my worst subject. All the other classes, I don’t remember too much about. But math was the worst one.
I did not realize it at that time but my classmates who were from the camps, most of them were having a hard time financially. Gradually, when I got to the high-school level, most of the boys were already dropouts. They’re already working to make a living. So from my grade school to high school, from my class, there were only about three or four boys who went up to high school. And the rest, they just got into stevedoring.
There was no discussion or anything. [Going to high school] was just a natural step for me to be taking. Even going to the university, it was not talked about whether I go to work or what. But in my family, after high school, all of us work at least one year to get a nest egg before we came out to Honolulu to go to University of Hawaii. Somehow we managed to send everybody through school. But we all did part-time work.
I don’t recall any serious discussion on what I would do or not. But it was a natural progression from grade school to high school, high school to the university. That was expected of me, although my recollection after high school years, I had no idea what I wanted to be. I had absolutely no idea. But my brother [Katsuro] had gone [to university], my elder sister [Tsukie] didn’t go because she went to Japan, but Fumiye, Paul, Katsuaki, had all continued on. Without any question, I was just to follow suit.
When I went to high school, Katsuaki was already out of high school. So basically nobody was home. When I started to go high school, I was the only one at home. Tsukie had already gone to Japan. Katsuro was in the Mainland. Fumiye may have been at the university, and Paul and Katsuaki.
Maui High School
Maui High School was about twelve miles from Kahului towards Hana. The first year was the first time that we commuted by bus. Prior to that, the students from Kahului had to commute by railroad. There was a railroad that went from Kahului to Paia. From my time, we went by bus. It was a twelve-mile bus ride.
[Hamakua Poko was] maybe a mile and a half or two miles [from Paia].
When I used to play football, there were no bus transportation after football practice. So all of us had to walk from Maui High [School] all the way down to Paia, which was about a mile and a half, but we had to walk. There was no transportation after school.
Baldwin [High School] started off [when] I was in the eighth grade. Then freshman year, Wailuku students started Baldwin High School as the first class and went on until second, third, and fourth. Some of my classmates went to Baldwin. I don’t know how they split those of us from going to Maui High [School] and those of us [going] to Baldwin.
The feeling was we were excluded from Baldwin because there was not enough room for Kahului students to go to Baldwin because the class was already set. It was very limited facilities, as I recall.
There was a different mixture at Maui High School [than Kahului Grammar School]. At that time we had English-standard schools. Kahului was not an English-standard school, but there was one English-standard school in Spreckelsville. I think there was another English-standard school in Wailuku. The English-standard school [in Spreckelsville] was Kaunoa School.
Most of the Kaunoa graduates went to Maui High School. But most of them were Caucasian students. This group of Caucasians, is the first time that I started to have classmates who were Caucasian. In fact, I had a couple of haole girls in my class. This group of Kaunoa School graduates were mostly from the Caucasian employers’ group or supervisory group.
But we never feel any different. I didn’t feel any different. My friends were still my friends and I made new friends.
The most important class at that time was core studies, I think it was known as. Instead of one-hour session, core studies were two hours. One of my worst subjects was algebra. One of my best subjects was biology. Other than that, I don’t recall too much about the different types of classes that I had.
I think [the subject that had the greatest impact on my life] was core studies, because you got involved with all kinds of aspects of school life. Although I did enjoy English literature. I did used to enjoy reading a lot of different poems back in 1940, and 1939.
One [teacher who had an influence on me], particularly, [was] Miss Stella Jones, who was the advisor to the student government. She was the main advisor to the extracurricular activity of those of us who were involved in the student body.
The student body board was separate from the class officers. So each class had a group of class officers. Then you had another set of officers who were members of the student body association, where all four classes were represented. I was the president of the student body government.
It so happened that in my year — those days, we used to have territorywide student leaders conference. The year that I was the president, we had a conference in Maui High School. So I had to coordinate and be in charge of the [conference] — that was Christmas season in 1939. I met a lot of people whose friendship I cultivated as a result of meeting them at this student conference. A lot of the friends — after high school and after World War II, that relationship continued. Some names like Warren Higa and [Shiro] Amioka and a whole bunch of them. Mostly from Farrington High School because the Farrington High School representatives were very active in that student government when it came to Maui.
Shiro Amioka, who later became the professor and the head of the BOE [Board of Education]. From that time on, we were friends.
As I said, my advisor of student government affairs was Miss Stella Jones. After Maui High School, she moved over to Honolulu and taught for many years at McKinley High School.
I remember distinctly, her advice that, “Going to school doesn’t mean that you just attend classes.” She says, “Think about your everyday life. You get involved in various aspects of life. When you’re growing up, your primary object is just going to school. But you will learn that once you get through with school, whatever you end up being, your lifetime profession, there’s a lot more activities than just your employment and whatever you do to earn a living. There are other aspects of life beyond just your making a living. Community activities, and there’s endless, various subject things that you can get involved in as a community.”
I remember her distinct advice, “You only get back what you give.” So, what she was referring to was that beyond academic activity, you had service. There was a boys’ and girls’ service club. The service was very broad. Then, there was home economics clubs. YMCA [Young Men’s Christian Association], YWCA [Young Women’s Christian Association], all of these different activities.
So she had a lot of influence other than just a advisor to the participants of student government.
Now that I think about it, it was very interesting because even at that level, back in 1939, there was this adversary collision between the neighbor island high schools and Oahu. I don’t know what the issue was, but there was an issue which divided the neighbor islands from the city, big-time — mainly from McKinley High School and Farrington High School representatives. But it was a friendly sort of rivalry.
It’s fun because later on when I became a state legislator, the same thing happened on the political level, the government level. The neighbor islands versus Honolulu. The similarity is very amazing.
I didn’t feel [any different from the Oahu kids] but the feeling the neighbor island students had was that they were kind of looked down upon by the city slickers, you know, the big-time students from McKinley and Farrington High School. Because they were the dominating high schools, from McKinley and Farrington High School. But my association with them on a personal level was very cordial and I cherished the relationship that would develop during that year.
We did have interchange through the activities like the Alexander & Baldwin recreational activity. Football season, we would have fierce competition between Lahaina, Wailuku, Kahului, Paia, Puunene, in all levels of athletics. From swimming, to basketball, to baseball, to softball, to football. The entire island was involved with these Alexander & Baldwin recreational activities. There was nothing comparable to that even on Oahu. Although I do remember Oahu had a very strong barefoot football, like we had on Maui. But Maui had a very organized Alexander & Baldwin recreation program.
There was a very strong rivalry between Kahului and Lahaina. Number one, we were pretty far apart. On a Boy Scout level, I had a lot of friends from Lahaina. But when it came to baseball and football, especially football — football is a contact sport, now.
In football, I remember in so many different occasions, we ended up in a fight after the football game. Not big fights, but there were some grudges between certain players, especially those who were involved with body contact on the lines. The football rivalry extended into baseball. Between Kahului and Lahaina, you had to expect the worst every time we played them.
Kahului and Wailuku were pretty friendly because after my year, all of the students started to go Baldwin High School. So the high school level was one community. Some of the things that caused these rivalries was that the Lahaina boys did not like the Kahului boys dating the Lahaina girls. Yeah, this was a big thing when I was growing up. Those years in Maui, we used to have community dances. Almost every town had a small gym and a community dance, where all the young people would go. One week, it would be in Puunene, one week, in Kahului, then next one would be in Lahaina. The dancing group would move from one gymnasium to the other. But this caused a lot of friction. My time, the popular group was called the Molina Brothers. Even after World War II, Maui musical group, the Molina Brothers were the most popular ones.
I don’t know [who sponsored these community dances] but I would assume it was under the auspices of Alexander & Baldwin.
Let me tell you a tale of my high school coach. Dee Shetanian was a legend. He played football, he played baseball, and not just played, he was THE player from San Jose State in that California area. He was of Armenian heritage. Somehow, he came out to Maui High School to teach and he was my coach. He would tell us that when he first came to Maui High School, football was played only on [Saturdays]. Dee was very concerned. Those days, Kahului stevedores or even the other families, Saturday was a full working day.
Maui High School vs. Baldwin High School. Katsugo Miho (#41) with ball. Kahului Fairgrounds. Kahului, Hawaii. 1939.
So Dee looked into it and he found out that the basic reason why football was played on Saturdays was [Emily Whitney Alexander] “Mother” Baldwin — you got to remember, Maui was under the control of the Baldwin family, the entire island, although Baldwins are Puunene sugar plantation and Paia. They were the big patron of the island of Maui.
But [Dee Shetanian] finally said, “We’ve got to have the families be able to watch the boys play.” He finally convinced Mother Baldwin to acquiesce to the games being played on Sunday so that the families of the players can come and watch the games. When my time came around, I was playing on Sundays.
Dee Shetanian, after the war, moved home back San Jose, and then he retired as a California state schoolteacher in San Jose, but always kept his ties in Maui. Every year, he would come back to Maui for one, two months. The excuse was to have his teeth checked by one of his ex-students. He would come back and keep in touch with his ex-students. I would stop by San Jose and visit with him. There were regular visitors dropping by if they stopped on the West Coast. After he died, oh, about five years ago, he is buried in Maui Cemetery. His wish was that he would be buried in Maui. He kept his ties with all the boys.
He was the one that had a lot of influence on his students — whenever chance he had, he would encourage them, “You got to continue your education beyond high school.” He wasn’t involved only in sports. He was very much a part of our whole life.
I played a little bit of everything. On my level, softball was one of my main fun because I played softball from my sophomore year. But I didn’t get involved on the high school level on basketball. But on the community, Alexander & Baldwin, we had basketball and baseball. The AJA [Americans of Japanese Ancestry] had a junior and senior [baseball] league. My senior year, I played football as a senior member, one year.
But prior to that, I had been playing barefoot football. Maui barefoot football was a highly competitive sport. We started off — it was limited. You had a league based on weight. In other words, the size of the boys. You didn’t want a hundred-and-fifty pounder playing with a hundred-ten pounder. So we had what was called a hundred-and-five-pound league. So at a day before the game, the boys had to be weighed in. There was a lot of starvation and whatnot to make that hundred and five. Because normal weight of hundred and fifteen pounders starved themselves the day before, to come down to hundred-and-five limit. If you were more than a hundred and five at the weigh-in, you were disqualified from playing that particular game either that day or the next day. I think the same day, you had to weigh in. So, the hundred-and-five-pound league, I played. I started going in the hundred-fifteen-pound league, I played in that. Then, there was the hundred-twenty-five-pound league. As I grew older, I progressed, one level over the other. The final one was as a senior, I played high school football. Fortunately, I made the team as a right half.
The name [of the barefoot football league team] was Kahului. We represented Kahului, yeah. Whatever basketball, football, Kahului Town Team, Paia Town, or Puunene. We went by the community that we represented.
My family was one of the few families that started going to university. [Katsuro] went to the University of Utah right after high school. Fumiye, before she could go to the University of Hawaii, she had to work one year. Fumiye, Katsuso, Katsuaki, and myself, we all worked one year after high school, to get a nest egg for our basic expenses, starting at the university.
Before that, we had to find places to stay. Fumiye was sort of like a school girl [live-in part-time household helper] in one of the homes in Manoa. And Katsuaki — Paul, I don’t know what he did, but all of us had to do some part-time [work] to go to school.
At my time, it [working a year, then going to college] was already a practice in the family, so it was an automatic thing. I never considered going straight to the university right after high school.
Work: Maui Pineapple Co., Ltd.
There was no other expectation but that after one year of working at the Maui Pineapple as a maintenance man, I would continue going on to the university.
[I worked at] various things. I learned how to paint. During the canning, the pineapple cannery, June, July, August, it was twenty-four hours. So we worked eight-hour shifts. You either worked one, two, or three shifts. Because I was a regular employee, I would work the first shift, which would mean that you go in early morning and in the afternoon we went home.
June, July, and August is considered the peak of the pineapple season. Thereafter, it slows down. Those years, pineapple was not where you would have all-year-round fruiting. Basically, it was June, July and August. Thereafter, it was very intermittent. You may have one day a week canning or depending on the fruits. Especially November, December, January, February, you had very little canning days.
So those were the days that the cannery did maintenance work, we had to scrape off the rust and paint thereafter. And I’m talking about the ceiling. That was a real big, scary job. The ceiling in the cannery may be twenty, twenty-five feet. You had to put in two-by-twelve raft planks to board the rafters. You have the ceiling and then you have the rafters where you [put on] totan [galvanized iron sheet] roofs.
Underneath, the rusty spot or the old paint had to be scraped off. So, in some areas it require us blowtorch the old paint. Didn’t have these strong chemicals that would scrape off the paint. You had to blow it off and blow it down, and then scrape it off. What you did was you sitting, or standing, or lying on these two-by-four planks, from rafter to rafter. It was a real dangerous job, and remember, we weren’t being paid extra hazardous pay or anything. (Chuckles) But it required us going up to ten, fifteen feet and hanging on to ropes. Some places you had to hang on a rope between the rafters. You hold on with one hand and paint with the other hand, or scrape with the other hand. At seventeen years or eighteen years old, I was doing this, for one year.
[I was paid] thirty cents, thirty cents or thirty-five cents an hour. After being discharged from the [Hawaii] Territorial Guard, when I went back to Maui, there was an option to go back to Maui Pine[apple Co., Ltd.] or get a defense job. You know, I chose the defense job primarily because of the pay. Maui Pine paid forty cents an hour, in 1942. But the USED, United States Engineering Department, paid sixty-five cents an hour. Not only that, we worked ten hours a day, seven days a week, for the one year that I was out before joining the 442nd.
University of Hawaii
I started university September of 1941.
I had no plans whatsoever. Best I knew was go to university. Arts and Sciences. If anything, I had thoughts of being a social worker.
At that point, my brother Katsuaki, immediately older than me, had already graduated from the university. He was working for the city and county [in Honolulu] as an ambulance attendant. He had applied for Tulane Medical School and he was accepted to go to Tulane. But medical school, he anticipated the expenses — his plan was to work one or two years as a city and county ambulance attendant, enough to get a nest egg to go to Tulane.
Katsuso (Paul) had already graduated and he had already started to go to Yale. I think it was a prep school or something, going to divinity school.
Fumiye had graduated after Paul, although Paul was younger. Fumiye had got delayed on the schooling. She graduated from the university and had gone to Japan to teach at Doshisha girl’s school or university because of the influence of this professor, Dr. [Junjiro] Takakusu, who was a renowned lecturer on Buddhism. He encouraged Fumiye to go to Japan and teach.
My oldest sister, Tsukie, had worked at Maui Soda as the boss’s secretary for about two or three years and had gone to Japan on some kind of YBA [Young Buddhist Association] convention or something, and decided to stay back. Basically, I think, because of her bilingual ability — considering, at that time, bilingual was very rare — and she got a job right away. [Tsukie] was already married 1941 and living in Japan.
Katsugo Miho's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Katsugo Miho.