Gaylord Kuboto, Museum Director, Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum in HI

Gaylord Kuboto, Museum Director, Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum in HI
Recordings by Dmae Roberts & Robynn Takaki
Date: 11/16/04

TRACK 1 – 63:11

GAYLORD: Okay. My name is Gaylord Kuboto, I’m the museum director of the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum in Puunene, Maui, Hawaii.

DMAE: Describe what you were going to describe.

GAYLORD: This is a very unique painting. It was originally commissioned by King Kauakaua in 1885. The reason he commissioned the painting is the first group of Japanese immigrants, known as the Ganemono, had come in 1868, however, they complained back to their government about working conditions, etc, etc, so for seventeen years they didn’t permit any more immigration from Japan. So when they finally resumed immigration in 1885 the king was very happy and he commissioned this painting with the idea that it would be delivered to the Japanese emperor, showing how well his subjects were being treated and how happy they were. And this happens to be a painting on Maui, showing Sprecklesville, Maui, so it works very well for our museum. But everybody assumed that it was delivered to the emperor, however 99 years later when my former colleague at Bishop Museum wrote to the Japanese Imperial Household Ministry, asking about this painting, she was pretty surprised when the answer came back ‘we have no record of such a painting.’ Eventually she figured out she could try to trace it to the company that the Hawaiian minister of Japan worked for, or actually owned, and she traced the successor company to the title company in Japan and when she wrote to them they said we have the painting, it’s hanging in our office. So eventually Bishop Museum contacted them and got a copy, a photographic copy, a negative, and later on I did the same thing and that’s how I was able to reproduce this. But it works beautifully for Maui since you walk in the door and you’re looking at Sprecklesville, Maui painting in 1885.

ROBYNN: Can you describe the harsh conditions that the Ganemono faced?

GAYLORD: Well, at that time. The Ganemono in particular, they were recruited from the port cities, so they weren’t really agricultural people, so it was especially difficult for them. It just so happens that our museum has the only documented record that I’m aware of of the Ganemono. I happen to have a record book that shows their work turnout during the first few months that they were here. When these books came into my possession I immediately check for the month and the year and lo and behold, I found these names. The names are written in English so they’re really scrambled, you have to try to figure out what their real Japanese name was, but what was interesting is if you look at the work turnout record, a lot of them were absent for quite a few days.

DMAE: We’re getting music here so maybe we might want to go to another place. Are we going other places?

GAYLORD: Yeah, we’re walking down the plantation road in the mists of time. Now, these are the sounds I was talking about. This is a chant to the demigod Maui and in this room we have sound recorded right at the spot, so if you wanted a sound effect, this is recorded…

DMAE: Do you have original tapes of these?

GAYLORD: Yeah, but I’d be really reluctant. Those are made over twenty years ago and I’m really reluctant to let them out.

DMAE: We could probably dub it somehow. Okay.

GAYLORD: This is an example of hard work.

DMAE: Can we turn that off?

GAYLORD: As long as nobody triggers it. As long as we come through this way we’re okay. You’re just looking for a quiet place?

ROBYNN: Yeah. This is doctor stuff? Can you talk a little bit about the medical care that the plantations offered?

GAYLORD: Okay, you have to remember that the plantations were developing raw land. There was nothing there literally. So when you’re developing raw land you bring in workers and equipment but then you have to develop housing for workers and if they get injured or sick you have to care for them, so eventually, they probably started smaller with small dispensaries but eventually as the communities grew bigger they had to develop hospitals. Part of the original contract was free medical care for any of the workers and as the time went by and the plantations grew the care became more sophisticated until they had full-blown hospitals and even some dispensaries within the camps, as subsidiaries to the main hospital. But on Maui the hospital at Puuene was the major hospital here.

DMAE: That sound is still going on. You might have to ask that question again. ….

ROBYNN: I think I need to change batteries. …


GAYLORD: Yeah. The labor contracts in the other room bring us to the subject of the original contract laborers. When the system first started, when you signed the contract, you were liable under penal code, if you broke your contract and fled the plantation and tried to leave before your three-year contract was up, you could be arrested and brought back to the plantation and taken before the judge and fined and made to work there. And I have personally seen letters in the state archive of Hawaii from the sheriff of one island to the sheriff of another island saying so-and-so has fledded from such-and-such plantation, he is believed headed in your direction, if you find him, please apprehend him and send him back on the next steamer. So they really did do this and right here on Maui there was a strike of Norwegian workers at one of the plantations and again, we happen to have the labor book that shows this and you can see that particular day they went on strike, only one worker showed up and I assume he was probably the supervisor. The rest of them all had an A for absent that day and then tracing down the record later on you could see that they were fined so much, a few dollars, I can’t remember the exact amount, so it really did happen, this was enforceable under the penal laws of the state of…it wasn’t the state, it was the Kingdom of Hawaii, I’m sorry. But everything changed when we came under US laws. It was considered indentured servitude so the contracts became null and void, no longer enforceable and that made a huge difference because workers are free to move around and depending where you were, if you were in an isolating area on a neighbor island and there weren’t as many job options but if you were like on Oahu there were more things you could move into. So again in terms of, if you want to talk about workers’ resistance to changes, that was one of the ways they could do it. Once we were no longer under that original contract labor system. The way they enforced the labor agreements, versus contracts, was they would still bring them in and they would have a clause about free return transportation back to their home country, and if you didn’t complete your contract you wouldn’t get that free transportation back. But that’s a far cry from having you arrested and being hauled into court. So it made a really big difference.

ROBYNN: Did you want to talk about…can you describe this camp house in the 1930s?

GAYLORD: Right. We’re looking at a couple of things. One, this photograph here shows an older-style camp house before they were remade. The older ones usually have what we call one by twelve boards on the side with a batten in-between to cover the cracks. But the newer ones, and these were built in the 1930s, at least the scale model here was built, the original house for the scale model was built in the 1930s, and it used tongue and groove and the houses were really quite nice. You can see how it was laid out in this other photograph here. Almost like a subdivision, the houses all neatly aligned, sidewalks and everything else. There was a great change in the housing. It just so happened that I ran into, or met an individual who was actually living in this, what was called Magero camp, and he explained to me that the plantation would move them over one row at a time. They would move them into another camp temporarily and then they’d come in and within a week’s time they’d knock down the old houses and build the new houses like you see here. And then they’d move them back in and they’d go to the next row, move the families out…So it’s pretty amazing how they did it. And this scale model is absolutely authentic. Drawings were made from a house that was still standing and I also found a painter who worked for the company at the time and he had the paint catalogs. It was unreal. So we sat down and went camp by camp, what was the color of the wall stain, what was the color of the trim. So I was able to take the paint catalog down to the paint company and match the exact color of the stain and the trim that was used in the late 1930s.

ROBYNN: Can you describe how many rooms there are and where the bathroom was?

GAYLORD: Okay. Well, this scale model we’re looking at has three bedrooms. From what I understand if the family grew the plantation would add on another bedroom if necessary. It had a nice kitchen, living room, bathroom with flush toilets and running water. And one of the interesting features of the plantation houses was a porch which was on that end. A lot of social activity took place on the porch. People would sit there after work and neighbors would come and visit, they’d sit on the porch and talk. And one interesting carryover of this that I saw on Kaualui, in the city, I was driving through one of the increments and I saw these ladies, they were sitting in the shade of the garage, in chairs, and I kept thinking, this is like the carryover of sitting on the porch. They don’t have a porch anymore, these houses. So they’re sitting in the garage, outdoors, in the shade, and I was thinking, I bet you this is a carryover from their porch days in the plantation. So it’s still with us.

ROBYNN: How would you say these homes built after protests would compare to early housing?

GAYLORD: Actually if you talk about housing during the earlier period, at that point they were thinking of bringing in laborers who would come and work for a time and then perhaps go back to their home country. They weren’t thinking in terms of families being developed and living here. So it made a big difference in investment. Also, during earlier housing when it was mainly single men they tended to build bachelor quarter-type facilities and for men it didn’t need to be that fancy. Later on though they realized, especially when you had the original labor contracts no longer enforceable and you had labor agreements, they realized they had to make facilities better in order to retain their workforce. So gradually housing was improved and they realized that families would be living here and that required a lot more amenities and improvements in housing, so housing was greatly improved afterwards.

ROBYNN: Do you see anything you want to?

DMAE: Yeah, but I want to ask it in there.

GAYLORD: One thing we should talk about is…

DMAE: Are we going back in the water room?

GAYLORD: Yeah, we’re going the back way. Is you see the Japanese Tunnel workers, working by hand in the tunnel…


GAYLORD: One of the major contributions of Japanese workers in Hawaii was the development of the irrigation system. We’re standing here looking at a photograph of Japanese tunnel workers. You can see the hachimaki or sweatband wrapped around his head, and by the positioning of their hands, they’re probably working with hand tools, hammer and chisel. And they’re tunneling through solid rock so basically this was before you had things like jackhammers, so they’d use some dynamite to loosen things, then they’d go in with hand tools and do the rest of the work. And they’re working by a primitive torchlight made with a pipe and burlap bag and its light is giving them some lighting in there. But the Japanese tunnel workers and irrigation workers were responsible for building most of the irrigation system in Hawaii. The next photo we’re looking at, this floor to ceiling mural, shows an inverted siphon being laid down one side of a gulch. Again, if you take a look at the photograph, they’re Japanese workers on there. And it’s part of the whole system because you have to bring water down one side of the gulch and engineer it correctly so it would come up the other side and continue flowing. Now this we’re looking at some pipes and the siphon. The other thing we have here is a collar which is used to join two sections of pipe together. This is an early early one, this is our oldest artifact, 1878, but what happened was, when you joined two sections of pipe together and you riveted, somebody has to be inside holding what we call a bucking dolly against one of these rivets here, while they pound on the outside. And I wrote this label before I actually had any documentary proof but later on I came across this article by a Japanese man talking about how he was lowered with ropes under his arms into the pipe, and how they passed him the hot rivet and he would be holding it inside there when somebody’s pounding on the outside. Talk about Excedrin headache two thousand and whatever. I mean, it was, that was hard work.

ROBYNN: Describe significance of irrigation ditches.

GAYLORD: This was major because it takes soil, sun and water for a good cane crop and without the water, you can’t produce good cane. The reason why irrigation ditches were so important is that when you’re dependent on rainfall in nature, you can’t control anything. Usually where you have a lot of rain you tend not to have a lot of sunlight, and where you have lots of sunlight, like in Puunene, you don’t have much rain. So what they did was they were able to bring water from the rainy areas, which would be east Maui, through these irrigation ditches, to central Maui where the sunlight is. And they also dug some deep underground wells and brought water to the surface that way. So by bringing water to the sunny area, they’re able to maximize the growth of sugarcane. Irrigation systems were absolutely essential for successful sugar industry.

DMAE: I understand the ditches were recreation too.

GAYLORD: Right up the street here we have the famous Camp Five irrigation ditch. And this is where the swimmers under Coach Sacamoto trained. So Itchi Sacamoto was a school teacher at Puunene School, which I said is right up the street here and one day he had this idea, he used to watch the kids swimming in the ditch and they used to get chased away by the plantation policemen. So he went to see the manager and said look, how about you let the kids swim in the ditch after school? The manager said well okay, but somebody has to be responsible for them so he said okay, I’ll be responsible for them. So every day after school he was there, taking responsibility so they were allowed to swim. And eventually he started giving them pointers on swimming and he got this idea that somehow, and the coach was a real dreamer but he was also able to make his dreams come true, he told them in 1937, he got a group of them together in the school and said if you stick with my plan for three years, I promise you that some of you will be swimming in the Olympics. And of course all the teachers thought that this guy had lost his marbles. What do you mean, Olympics? From Puunene, this tiny plantation community? But he trained them. They used the irrigation ditches and fortunately, the plantation had built a new swimming complex for the use of the workers. This is different from, again this is part of the social structure. Right across the street here was a swimming pool and a clubhouse, but that was basically reserved for Caucasians only, and I can remember some of the non-Caucasians growing up here whose parents told them not to even walk across the grass there, it was that bad. But the plantation built a whole other really nice complex in what they called Camp Five, swimming pool and baseball fields and tennis courts and it was really really nice. Now, that’s where they had a real swimming pool so Coach used a combination of things. He had them swim in the irrigation ditch here, swimming against the current, and that was part of his system. He also made weights out of I think railroad cars and things. He was very advanced in his concepts. So he had part of the training in the ditch and of course to do turns and things you had to go to the real swimming pool, to be able to do that.

DMAE: So what happened?

GAYLORD: Eventually, by 1940 he had the men’s team was the outdoor national champion swimmers and if the war hadn’t broken out in Europe, indeed there would have been some of them would have been on the Olympic team, so that was kind of sad. As a footnote to that, one of the swimmers that’s in the photograph in our other gallery, Bill Smith, in 1948 took time off from his work, trained with Coach for six months, made the Olympic team, Coach went with him to the Olympics. He not only competed, he won the gold medal in his event, so it was pretty amazing. Indirectly eventually their dream was fulfilled later on, by one of the swimmers on that original team.

DMAE: What was community impact?

GAYLORD: There was tremendous pride. When I was putting together this exhibit, I came across this wonderful newspaper clipping that was in Coach’s own scrapbook, as a matter of fact. And the byline was something about Maui swimmers winning medals, and then a smaller article was about the war, instead. The priorities in the community newspaper were very different. By the way, they’re working on a possible movie about that story. There’s a script being written and they’re trying to find funding for it. But if that happens, it’d be really major. And the person who is working on it, directing and scriptwriting, actually interviewed a lot of the former swimmers, so it should be very interesting to see.

DMAE: Are they still around?

GAYLORD: Yeah. There’s still swimmers around. Some here on Maui, some on Oahu. Of course, some have passed away too. But Bill Smith, the gold medal winner, actually was here and I had the chance to meet him briefly.

DMAE: Where does he live?

GAYLORD: He lives on Oahu. He was coaching swimming at Komehumehu School. I’m not sure if he’s retired from that.

DMAE: We have a producer in Oahu so maybe you could connect us. That’s a pretty big story.

GAYLORD: Yeah. And he’s the one who won a gold medal later on. By that point Coach was coaching at UH so I think he was no longer training here. He was training at the UH pool, I think, by that point in time.

DMAE: How big are these irrigation ditches?

GAYLORD: I’ve never actually looked at the footage of it, but it’s obviously wide enough for a number of people to get inside. And depending upon the level of the water flow it can be several feet deep. Obviously enough for people to swim in.

DMAE: Really canals.

GAYLORD: Small canals. Because the ditch they’re talking about is one of the main supply ditches and from there it goes off into little branches and eventually it comes down into furrows in the fields. So that’s one of the main water supply ditches. I guess Camp Five water ditch would be one of those.

DMAE: Do you want to take us to another room? Are we done in here?

GAYLORD: We talked about the labor contracts right? And the penal law? And the other thing, we were talking about the labor contracts and about if you look at this labor contract in particular – take a good look at it. When they took their pictures, they also put their, like a contract number on them, so it almost looks like a prison log photo. It’s really something. By the way, just for your own information, these are Carol Ogawa’s parents. Ogawa jewelry store. At the time they came, this was 1899, the male was paid fifteen dollars per month and the female was paid ten dollars per month. It was always a wage differential. And then there were wage differentials based on ethnic group. Chinese got paid differently, Portuguese got paid differently, later on the Filipinos came, they got paid differently. That was one of the other things that they had. But by 1899 it’s far different from 1868, I think when the first immigrants came they were more like about three dollars per month or something like that, so by 1899 it had changed an awful lot.

DMAE: Why were they paid differently? How differently?

GAYLORD: Well, part of it was, the Caucasians always had a higher pay scale, period, and some of it was skill levels, like if you were skilled workers you got paid more, but very often workers doing the same job were paid differently. One of the general guidelines would be the Asians were paid less. But the other thing is the later immigrant groups were paid less which follows, I mean even on the mainland US later immigrants coming in were paid less too. But that was one of the complaints that they had, that there was a wage discrimination between groups.

DMAE: Did that lead to protesting?

GAYLORD: It was always a bone of contention, but I suppose if you’re the latest arrival you realize your level isn’t up to the other person’s, and they were initially in no position to do much about it, but as time went on they developed more sophisticated labor organizations and were able to make more effective protests. It also had to do with communication in different places, because when you’re within one plantation and you’re striking your protest efforts are limited within that geographical area, there’s not a whole lot you can do. Especially when plantations kind of helped one another out if one problem was having a problem, others would pool their resources to help offset the losses, and this was one of the strengths that the Hawaii sugar planters had. So some plantations had strikes taking place, the others would help offset their economic losses, so that they were able to maintain a united front and share the loss, so to speak, which enabled them to resist complaints and things like that?

DMAE: Let’s go in here.

GAYLORD: When immigrants came to Hawaii, one of the important things for them was religion, because that provided a sense of continuity and strength for them. So whether you were Catholic, like I have the cross and the bible in that other case, or whether you’re a Buddhist, reflected in this Japanese budsudan, religion was very very important to you when you came here. It gave you a sense of continuity and it gave you spiritual strength in struggling in a new environment and a new country. And not everybody who came from Asia was Buddhist, I have a bible in Japanese and a hymnal in Korean on display here too.

DMAE: It will be quieter in here.

GAYLORD: Here’s the swimmers, by the way. And this is one of the first medals that was ever earned by the swimmers. I was so happy to get this medal because when I went to see Mr. Hirosne, he showed me all his medals and a lot of the gold ones he had mounted and this was in a box with some other stuff, and I was going through it and I looked at the date on it and it was kind of tattered. So I sort of said could we have this medal for the museum and he said my daughter told me not to give away medals but you can have that one. But I was so happy because they won only three medals that year in 1938 when they first went to the nationals and this is one of them, so I was so happy. It was worth more to me than a gold medal one later on, because it was one of the first medals and it had a little conservation work done on it and it’s been on display since we opened the museum. But Coach was really something, he was a great promoter. You can see his booth here at the county fair, where he’s promoting his idea of his three-year swim club, and he was a great salesperson. As well as being a…One of his key contributions to his swimmers was not only technique. Some of them have said that he taught us fundamental attitudes in character building that lasted us and helped us in our lives, not just in our swimming, and I think that was kind of a lasting contribution that he’s made. And I did have the honor of meeting him and talking with him a number of times while he was alive. He was quite a gentleman.

ROBYNN: Let’s talk in here because there’s traffic.

GAYLORD: It’s a shame because there’s all kinds of wonderful things in here about Japanese culture.


ROBYNN: Well, maybe we can talk about some of the festivals and events in this other room.

DMAE: Yeah. Let’s talk in here. Would you talk about the festivals?

GAYLORD: There were different observances of various holidays and occasions. Interestingly enough (I want to tie this back to the labor contracts) because different ethnic groups had special days, like the Chinese had Chinese New Year, Japanese celebrated the Emperor Meji’s birthday, and in the end planters had to write it into the contract that they would have those days off because they wouldn’t show up for work. Silent protests. You could see it written into the contracts in the other room. Those were important holidays. Boys’ day was a big celebration, of course, and we have a wonderful photograph in the other room of a little boy seated on bolts of cloth and his sisters are standing next to him just like he’s a little feudal lord and his sisters are retainers and it’s an amazing photograph and of course you have the carp flying in the wind, but Boys’ day was tremendously important.

DMAE: What is Boys’ day?

GAYLORD: The date is on May 5th and that’s when they pay special tribute to the boys, just like March 3rd is Girls’ day. And they have displays of dolls and things like that for the girls. And other ethnic groups – we have a photograph of Risau day, which is celebrated by the Filipinos at the end of December and we have that marvelous photograph – in all the camps they had some sort of celebration. Often with floats that they put together and always there’s a photograph of Jose Risau there, their hero.

DMAE: Can you describe why they have it and what they do?

GAYLORD: It’s sort of commemorating Jose Risau who was a martyr when the Philippines was occupied by Spain. And I’ve never actually attended one of those but I’ve seen some pictures. They usually have Filipino dancing and foods and things like that. And they used to have a parade before, with different floats and things, but it’s a pretty big celebration. They still mark it today.

DMAE: I’ve never heard of Boys’ Day and Girls’ Day, is that a plantation thing?

GAYLORD: No, that’s part of traditional Japanese culture. It’s observed in Japan in a very very big way, so those are practices they carried over to Hawaii and observed here.

DMAE: What other holidays?

GAYLORD: New Years is of course a big event. One of the interesting things about New Years, it came to a point where, you talk about racial groups living separately, but I’ve talked to, and these are usually not necessarily the first generation, but among second generation friends who are going to school, they would go to one another’s houses so on New Years, open house, you go visit other houses, but sometimes other ethnic groups come and visit. And then in turn maybe you go to their house at Christmastime, and some of these cultural traditions started changing.

DMAE: When did that happen?

GAYLORD: One of the things important to remember is you can look at the housing segregation two ways. From one side, people say oh, they kept them segregated deliberately to keep them from becoming friendly and organizing together their protests, but when you think about it from another standpoint, it made sense in terms of the immigrants’ own benefit, because by putting them together they’re able to be with people from their own country, speaking the same language, having their own customs like the Japanese for example would have the furo, the Japanese bath, in their own houses or attached to their houses. Like right there in Magero camp, behind their original houses was the outdoor toilet, but right next to it was the laundry room and in the laundry room was the Japanese furo or bath. They also had Japanese public baths, where you would go to, and what was interesting is eventually non-Japanese started going to these public baths. I interviewed a gentleman of Spanish ancestry, second generation, he could tell me exactly how you take a bath in a furo. How you wash yourself first, and then you go soak in a tub, and this is pretty amazing.

DMAE: At what point did people start mixing?

GAYLORD: I think probably more in the second generation. This is really critical because they started going to the same public schools, because all the kids in the camp went to the same school, and they got to know each other that way. Initially, before you had cafeteria lunches they used to bring their home lunches, and I’ve talked to people who grew up in the system who used to exchange lunches with their classmates. Like a Portuguese might like the usume with ume inside, so he’d swap it for his sandwich with a Japanese classmate. In fact, one told me he learned to eat raw fish, sashimi that way. By swapping with one of his schoolmates for lunch. The other thing that happened, and we’re standing next to a fieldwork exhibit here, in the fields when work crews became mixed, all of them would have their lunch tin, we call it a cow-cow tin in Hawaii, it’s basically a two-part lunch pail. In the bottom part of the pail would be the staple, whether it’s rice or bread. In the top part would be your entrée. What they eventually started doing in some of the groups was at lunch break they would sit in a circle, they would put the top part of their lunch pail with the entrée in the middle, and then they would all start eating each other’s food, and that’s where I think our plate lunch came from. With the wonderful tradition we have here of mixed plate, where you can have a Japanese and Chinese and Korean entrees together with macaroni and rice and tacua and kim chee. It’s a pretty amazing tradition we have here in Hawaii, but a lot of it grew out of this tradition of sharing. And of course when you share food, you break bread with someone, it builds bonds and closeness, so that was an important thing. The other thing, before I forget, was sports. Because sports was another great thing and a lot of it was the second generation growing up. Playing baseball, swimming and things like that. Baseball was extremely popular. It was a big sport. They had ethnic leagues and each plantation had its own mixed team representing the plantation, and the rivalries between the plantations were really something else when they played against each other. And that was a common thing, they brought everybody on the plantation together cheering for their team, and it was a really big deal.

DMAE: Were there ever any racial tension? Fighting?

GAYLORD: I’ve interviewed a number of people personally and I’ve done videotaped interviews and all of them that I’ve talked to, even in my pre-interviews I’ve asked them about this, and basically they did not have a problem with this, at least in the second generation. Some of them were actually first-generation, later first-generation people. Like the first interview I did was with a Filipino immigrant who was a first-generation immigrant who came in 1930 and he said they pretty much got along.

DMAE: That’s hard to believe.

GAYLORD: What I was talking about was living in the camps. When you talk about labor organizing there were some differences. Some of the problems they had in the 1920s was the Filipinos and Japanese were trying to work together, but they really weren’t able to do it. And Japanese wanted to time the strike for later in the year when it would be more appropriate for the harvest and everything. The Filipinos wanted it earlier and they sort of precipitated it earlier and the whole result could have been maybe a little different if it had gone a different way. But there were some differences. They tried to work together but in earlier years they weren’t as successful.

ROBYNN: Was there prejudice to new immigrants?

GAYLORD: There were some carryover attitudes, especially Japanese wouldn’t intermarry that much and if you intermarried it was looked down upon. Again, I go back to Coach Sakamoto. His wife is Hawaiian but he was a groundbreaker in many ways. He was an exceptional individual having the courage to do that. And he married outside the Japanese. But generally it was frowned upon. Definitely frowned upon. By the time you go down to third generation it doesn’t make a difference anymore.

ROBYNN: Talk about field clothing. Women’s and men’s.

GAYLORD: In the museum we have a mannequin with an actual woman worker’s outfit. The person who donated it to us actually made her own outfit and wore it at work for many years before we eventually were able to get it from her. But you had to be covered from head to toe. You’re dealing with dust, you’re dealing with sunlight, you’re dealing with sharp leaves on the cane. So if you start from the top down she has a sunbonnet on that covers her head. She has a cloth wrapped around her ears and face to keep the dust from going down her neck, then she has a western-style shirt that’s made out of Japanese kimono material which is an interesting cultural adaptation, because Japanese kisuri kimono material comes in a 14” width, so they have to figure out how to put that together to make a western-style shirt, that’s a long-sleeved shirt to protect against the sun. Then on her hands she has hand-covers again you’re working amongst the cane leaves which are very sharp, and that protected the back of her hands against the cane leaves. And if you go down to the bottom she has slacks, and then she has leggings to protect against centipedes crawling up – that would be quite something if you got a centipede crawling up your leg. So from head to toe it took her about half an hour to get dressed, and it must have been so hot in that outfit. But you think about, if you didn’t have that on you’d get sunburned and you’d have dust all over the place and you’d get cut, so that was the trade off. But I personally would have a hard time working in an outfit like that, it must have been really really hot.

ROBYNN: How did it compare to male outfits?

GAYLORD: As you can see in some of these photos, the men didn’t, their outfits were much simpler, they had slacks and long-sleeved shirts and hats, but they weren’t quite as elaborately wrapped as the women.


GAYLORD: I don’t know if there’s a reason for that. The guys didn’t want to be as wrapped up as the women, I’m not sure. But the guys never wore sunbonnets. That’s more of a woman’s thing.

ROBYNN: Did other ethnicities dress the same way?

GAYLORD: The hand-covers and things I think are more uniquely Japanese. Obviously they tried to protect themselves wearing long-sleeve shirts and things like that too and hats of some sort, maybe not necessarily sunbonnets but they had to protect themselves also. One more thing I’d like to add about the Japanese woman, especially the ones that worked on the plantation in the fields, I have a lot of respect for them because when you think about it they were the first ones up in the morning because they not only made the breakfast, they made the lunches for themselves and their husbands, and if there were any working children in the family they’d make their lunches. Then they’d go out and put in a full day’s work and they’d come home and they’d have to deal with dinner and all the other household things, so they were probably the last ones to go to sleep at night. So the women in those households carried quite a load.

DMAE: Does that whistle work?

GAYLORD: It sure does. But you have to push the button on our scale model here. It starts and ends my presentation.

DISPLAY VOICE [sort of fuzzy]: The cane crushing plant model before you is typical of those used with relatively few changes, in the Hawaiian sugar industry since the late 1800s. It is powered by a cordless steam engine with an enormous flywheel. In recent years, steam turbines generally have replaced these engines. Cane stalks from fields first go through a cleaning plant where they are washed and rid of rocks and other debris. The cane stalks then pass through a set of knives which chop them to pieces so they’re easier to crush. A two-rolled crusher removes about 60% of the cane juice by breaking and crushing the stalks. The cane continues under increasing pressure through several three-roller mills which extract the remaining juice. The crushed cane fiber, called bagas, is taken by a carrier to the bagas house. It will become fuel for the boilers which produce steam to operate the factory and generate electricity. The filtered juice meanwhile is collected in the juice pan. From there it is pumped to the boiling house, where the water will be evaporated and sugar crystallized. In the boiling house, impurities are removed by adding lime to the juice, heating the mixture, and then allowing the impurities to settle out in purifying tanks. In early years, impurities were put through filtered presses, shown in the first photo here overhead, to recover any sugar that settled out with them. Today rotary vacuum filters are used. The clear juice meanwhile is heated in the evaporators to remove excess water. The resulting dark brown syrup then is boiled in vacuum pans until raw sugar crystals form and grow to proper size. The raw sugar crystals are separated from the liquid molasses and poured into centrifuges. These spin the liquid away from the sugar through thousands of tiny holes in their baskets. The molasses is boiled, centrifuged, and boiled again. It then is slowly stirred in crystallizers to maximize growth of sugar crystals until the final molasses is spun off. In the old days, raw sugar was bagged, loaded on train cars, and taken to the docks for shipment to the refineries in California. Nowadays raw sugar is transported in bulk containers. Samples of raw sugar, final molasses, and bagas, are in the final products display. Thank you and mahalo for your attention. WHISTLE

DMAE: Does this work? Can you play it?


DMAE: Is this when the train was coming in?

GAYLORD: This is the bell from locomotive number nine. They had a combination of bells and whistles and this happens to be the bell from number nine. This is the bell from steam locomotive number nine from Kahule railroad, which we’re fortunate enough to have. They used a combination of signals from a bell and they had also a whistle which they used to signal various things also, so those were the two ways of signaling that the trains had.

ROBYNN: What were they signaling?

GAYLORD: Oh, when they’re approaching, or you’re about to start up from a stationary position or when you’re approaching something, the whistle would be a warning in advance because you could hear it from quite a distance.

DMAE: Wish we could get real whistle.

GAYLORD: This thing hadn’t been used for about thirty years so I approached them and I said can we hook this thing up because before I take it down and this is museum procedure, we like to document things. So they hadn’t blown it for twenty, thirty years, they hooked up all the steam lines and we went up there and I was up on the roof positioning myself to take the picture and when they blew it I was visually documenting it and we were also tape-recording the sound. So that the sound would be captured on tape. And then using that master tape we were able to take excerpts of it and use it to begin and end our mill presentation. I kind of had that in mind. I knew I was going to do the scale model so when I was doing the mill whistle I figured I’ve got to use this somehow. It’s not just documenting it and sticking it away in a drawer somewhere. So we actually make use of it to begin and end our audio-visual presentation on the scale model of mill machinery.

ROBYNN: Talk about whistle.

GAYLORD: Actually people sort of lived by the whistle because, we have a schedule posted by this whistle here, and this is a pre-WWII schedule and the whistle went off at 4:30 and this is for this particular plantation here. As sort of a wakeup. And then at five o’clock there was a second wake-up for the sleepyheads. At 5:30 they had the work warning whistle and at 5:45 they started work. Then at eleven o’clock they had a half-hour break, until 11:30, for lunch. And at 11:30 went back to work at 4:30 when the pau hana, or work ending whistle rang. And on Saturdays you had one hour less work, so the whistle rang at 3:30, and this is the pre-WWII schedule.

DMAE: What do you have the master tape on? Reel to reel? If we can get it dubbed?

GAYLORD: I’ll have to take a look and see.

DMAE: How did you record it?

GAYLORD: A regular tape recorder. Like a boombox tape recorder. Nothing fancy like this. It was on a cassette originally and then I think it was transferred to a reel tape. I’ll have to check in the file.

DMAE: Are there audio files here?

ROBYNN: More authentic.

GAYLORD: The real one, yeah. We recorded it at a slight distance downwind.

ROBYNN: Talk about actions or resistance the worker’s took pre-strikes?

GAYLORD: Usually this would take the form of slow-downs at work or calling in sick, feigning sickness. In some cases, in the worst cases, workers would run away and try not to get caught. They would try to get to another island if possible so that they wouldn’t get caught and there were some who managed to do that. It depended on how organized the planters were so that if someone showed up to work at another plantation, whether they’d really check on the background and send them back if they had fled from another plantation. Sometimes they would collectively object to something versus an individual. Maybe something happened to one of them and they would get together and voice a complaint together, which gave it a bit more force, but again when you’re talking about individual plantations isolated from one another, so there was a limit to how far you could go before things got really organized.

ROBYNN: Example of a collective act?

GAYLORD: Sometimes when there was an abusive supervisor, what we call lunas here, the workers would get together and complain collectively about that person or maybe, say in the case of the guy where someone actually got into an altercation with a supervisor and was injured by him, then they would collectively protest it and take it up to the management to deal with.

ROBYNN: More details about the three activities you describeDMAE: Ganinmono workers’ resistance.

GAYLORD: I don’t know about more detail besides…

ROBYNN: How did the slow-downs happen?

GAYLORD: I don’t have this documented, but if they did it collectively they would talk about what was happening and how they could protest it and they would talk to one another and collectively agree to do that so it couldn’t be pinned on anybody. And it would have to be finessed to the degree that it would be suspected but couldn’t be actually proved, there’s kind of a fine line to do something like that. So that would be a small-scale organizing among themselves in that.

ROBYNN: feigning illness?

GAYLORD: I’m not sure of the techniques of that, I just heard that they did it.

ROBYNN: Describe hard manual labor in the hot sun.

GAYLORD: The worst job on the plantation in my opinion is what they called haipako. These are the men and sometimes women too, I’ve seen women in the pictures that loaded the cane that had been cut into the cane cars. First of all the cane has been burned, so it’s sooty, and it’s dusty and the field is dusty. And then you have to grab a bundle of cane which is probably at least between fifty and a hundred pounds. And then you put it right up on your shoulder against your neck on one side, usually if you’re right handed you put it against the right side, so that dirty, sooty cane would be right up against you and no matter how well-protected you are I’m pretty sure by the end of the day that dust had gone down through your whole body and then you had to take that and go up this narrow plank that was twelve inches wide, at an angle, and then you had to walk up this narrow plank and dump it into the cane car, and of course once the cane car got filled the cane got higher and higher and you had to heave it up there a bit once you filled up the cane car. The other thing I learned when I was in the galleries one day there was a lady in there, an older woman, and she was looking at it and she told me you can tell a haipaku man by his ears and I said okay, and she explained that because they’re constantly, all day long lifting that bundle of cane and hitting it (say that again) They were lifting that bundle of cane all day long and it was hitting the ear so if they were right handed it was going on their shoulder but it was also hitting that ear constantly, so they’d end up with a cauliflower ear. So that’s what she meant by you can tell a haipaku man by his ears.

ROBYNN: plantation police or police and talk about relationship between plantations and the police.

GAYLORD: The plantations had their own internal police system. They would go around to maintain order within the plantation. I think the contacts I mentioned it in was when the kids would go swimming in the ditch after school the policemen would come and chase them out, and that’s what Coach Sakamoto protested and he went to see the manager and said how about letting the kids swim and that’s when the manager said okay, you be responsible for them and we’ll let them swim in the ditch. And that’s the beginnings of the famous ditch swimmers here, they went on to become national champions eventually.

ROBYNN: Minute of the room quiet.


ROBYNN: Can you describe what you’re wearing?

GAYLORD: I’m wearing a polaka shirt. This is a shirt often worn by the workmen and people tend to associate it in Hawaii, when you talk about the plantation you talk about polaka. And that’s what I’m wearing right now is a polaka shirt.

ROBYNN: What does polaka mean?

GAYLORD: I think it’s a Pidgin word of some sort so I don’t know the true meaning of it but it refers to this type of fabric. I think in English it’s probably what they call a gingham or something like that? But it’s got the stripes in it and fine lines in it, but in Hawaii you say polaka and people think of the plantation.

ROBYNN: Why was this shirt popular?

GAYLORD: Honestly I’m not sure. The fabric itself is durable and there weren’t a lot of choices those days in fabric so it became a standard work shirt, it was very popular as a work shirt.