Tag Archives: Kamehameha Schools

More treasures: Small mysteries

We’re learning fast. We have started trying to go through the piles of papers and boxes and bags and what have you that my mother stashed away in what has become a small storage room off the garage of her 1942-era house in Kahala.

The game plan to to create separate areas and then sort. One pile to go directly into the trash. One pile to go to Goodwill or one of the charitable groups that collect and sell to Savers. One pile that might have enough value to put on eBay or hold for a garage sale. One pile of things with historical value to be offered to interested archives, if any. And one pile of the keepers.

It’s a slow process, because you never know what was thrown together and dumped in a box years ago.

So here are some bits we didn’t expect.

They were in a small plastic bag, now disintegrating. They appear to be military insignia of different sorts. Did Kamehameha have ROTC in the 1930s? UH? And who gave them to our mother? A mystery, and we’re looking for leads.

Anyway, here’s the stash.

I found a modern version of the top one online, described as an Army ROTC “torch of knowledge” insignia. So this one has been around a long time and apparently is still used.


This next one appears to be standard issue. I don’t see anything distinctive.

eagle & flag

But this next patch is pretty distinctive. Does it represent a particular unit?


And, finally:


Is that a stylized KS within the wreath (for Kamehameha Schools), or are we just reading something into it?

The title of “oldest living graduate of Kamehameha” changed hands this week

Following my mother’s passing last Tuesday, the oldest living graduate of Kamehameha is now believed to be Janet Hopkins Richards, of San Diego, who is also the last surviving member of of my mother’s Kamehameha School for Girls Class of 1931.

My sister, Bonnie, was on the phone to her just hours after my mother’s death to share the news.

Richards wrote a beautiful essay (“Remember when“) for the 70th reunion of the class back in 2001.

She wrote, in part:

Sharing in the upkeep of the school was probably the major teaching method for building good and industrious students. With tuition at $50, who could complain? The jobs rotated about every six weeks. There were tables to be set, silver and napkins carefully placed (and much as I hated it, to this day I fold the dinner napkins as I was taught), dishes to be washed in a commercial machine, potatoes and carrots to be peeled, linen to be ironed, the housemother’s room to be straightened, the halls and public rooms to be swept and dusted, and yes, the main staircase, too. It descend- ed three floors landing on the first floor in two separate symmetrically designed flights. Those stairs were swept with dustpan and brush. A modest sign on the wall above the fifth step read “There are no elevators in the house of success.”

In a personal note to my mother at the time, another class member, Tamar Mookini Tavares, reminisced about their years at Kamehameha.

The “elevator” I remember was the dumb-waiter carrying “foot stuff,” especially poi, from the ground floor to the kitchen, and at times a “love note” found its way to the intended “girlfriend”…. It was quite a trick to retrieve the note before Nui, the cook, found it. Remember him? He used to like to touch your behind. How I hated him.

Tamar was married to Freddy Tavares, a steel guitar great. Check out his biography among the “legends of steel guitar.”

My mother also attended their 80th class reunion in 2011. She was the only one from the class in attendance. My sister described the reunion experience in her blog.

A reunion is very different when there are so few to reunite. Bonnie wrote:

Mother said several times, almost wistfully, “All these people, and I don’t see anyone I know.” This is a relatively new problem for her. She’s always been able to connect with someone in a crowd. Despite its growth and influx of residents, Honolulu is still, socially, a very small town. As the only person from your class in attendance, it was inevitable that there would not be many seated at her table. But someone was there — Mikihala, class of ’36, who was Mother’s little sister when Miki entered Kamehameha. Classes of ’41 and ’46 were at the table behind us. Then the school president, Mike Chun, stopped to greet her. “You worked for the Rentons?” she asked. “My daughter-in-law is a Renton. And aren’t you related to the Mossmans?” Yes, his wife is a Mossman. She a granddaughter of a friend of Mother’s. It wasn’t such a group of strangers after all.

That’s Hawaii. Still a small town in big city guise.

Last woman standing?

Yesterday my mother, Helen Yonge Lind, attended her 80th high school reunion at the Kamehameha Schools annual alumni luau. At least it has been on her schedule and she has been looking forward to it.

80th reunion?!

To tell the truth, I don’t know of there’s anyone else still living from her Kamehameha Class of 1931, and it’s the earliest class on the photo schedule. We do know, though, that she was the oldest graduate planning on attending the event.

Last woman standing? Perhaps.

Last Thanksgiving, I asked her about her years at Kamehameha and the result was a short, 4-minute video. Very interesting.

The lead-up to this alumni luau was also a reminder accommodations need to be made for those ahead of us in age.

For example, the published schedule for class photographs was in chronological order, with the combined classes of 1931, 1936, and 1941 leading it off at 2:30 p.m. and other classes to follow, with most recent grads latest in the afternoon.

My sister, Bonnie, finally had to call the powers that be up at the school to say there was no way for our 97-year old mother to arrive for photos at 2:30 and then have to wait around for a luau where food wouldn’t even begin to be served until 5:30. She would be tired and have to leave before the festivities even started. Instead, mother decided to skip the photo.

Then, after months of saying the 2:30 picture time was cast in concrete, they finally called to say it had been moved to 4:30. That, Bonnie said, mother agreed to do. But it’s clear she was afraid of running out of energy.

But I have a feeling that being the oldest graduate attending the event in a culture which traditionally values older people would provide her a boost of energy.

In any case, I have to wait until a reasonable hour to call over and find out how it all went.

*Update: When you’re done, read my sister’s account of the event. Big hint–All went wonderfully! And, yes, by all accounts, she’s the oldest living graduate of Kamehameha.

Kamehameha School for GIrls–“Everything Hawaiian was suppressed”

Yes, the video is terrible. But the story is interesting.

On Thanksgiving, just before we faded into a food coma, I looked across the wreckage of the meal and asked my mother a few questions about the “old days”.

My mom is 96, turns 97 next May, and she graduated in the Kamehameha of 1931.

My iPhone video is out of focus. Her memory is not.

I asked about the Kamehameha Schools song contest, which is featured in a current set of broadcast ads. She responded, and added some comments about Kamehameha’s suppression of most things Hawaiian at the time.

Click for the video. Transcript follows.

Q: Did they have a song contest back when you were there?

It was only the girls. It wasn’t coeducational in my day. They were separate schools. There was the boys school, on the campus of Bishop Museum. THere was a preparatory school, an elementary school for boys, but no elementary school for girls, and that was where Farrington High School is. Add the girls school was on the Makai side of King Street, facing, now, Farrington High School.

Farrington was not built until…

Q: Where the housing is now?

All that housing, the whole block down, was the girls school. It was a big, big campus.

Q: Until when?

1931. I was in the last class that graduated from that school. The next September, the girls school had moved mauka. It was the first one there, the boys school didn’t move for a number of years.

The song contest. DIfferent girls classes competed. We didn’t have anything with the boys.

Q: Did they teach Hawaiian then?

Everything Hawaiian was suppressed.

Q: Even hula?

You weren’t allowed to speak Hawaiian, you weren’t allowed to dance the hula. But you could sing Hawaiian, because that’s what the tourists wanted, and they brought tourists to… But they educated you, we used to say, to be “good little haole servants.”

They taught you housekeeping, waiting on tables, cooking, and they..when I went to the university, I found I didn’t have any knowledge of what I should have had in math. we just didn’t have any. It was “arithmetic”. They didn’t prepare you the way schools are supposed to prepare you today. Just housekeeping.

Q: How many people went to college?

I don’t know. Not very many.

I don’t know when they started the coeducational, I’m not sure. The first girls on the mauka campus were still segregated, and I don’t know how many years later the boys finally moved up there. Then they put in an elementary school, coeducational. Up there. Everything is up mauka now.