Baldwin’s earliest students remember very different era

KAHULUI – While students at Henry Perrine Baldwin High School enjoy numerous extracurricular activities such as volleyball in their gymnasium and digital media programs in their library, Baldwin High students were not so fortunate in the school’s early years.

“The attack on Pearl Harbor occurred three months after I began my freshman year at Baldwin,” said Michael Morisaki of the Class of 1945. “I spent the rest of my high school years under wartime conditions.”

This weekend, the school celebrates 75 years at its Wailuku location. A tour and “talk story” session that includes lunch in the school’s cafeteria will be held Friday, while a charity golf tournament at Maui Lani Golf Course will be held the following day.

Alumni from the first Class of 1939 to the present are invited to attend a dinner banquet to honor a select few former students on Saturday night at the King Kamehameha Golf Club.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the campus again,” Morisaki said. “In the old days when I used to go to the campus nobody was there. I used to have it all to myself.”

Morisaki, 88, remembers a distinctly different campus.

“The walls of our school were camouflaged with that olive drab paint,” he said. “We carried around gas masks; bomb shelters were dug along the side of the campus.”

Fellow 1940s graduates remembered the school similarly and called it a period of “martial law.”

Tomoe Takeuchi of the Class of 1942 and her husband, Hideo Takeuchi of the Class of 1943, dusted off an old yearbook Monday afternoon inside their Kahului home. They strained to recall some of their memories of school.

“We weren’t very active at school,” Tomoe Takeuchi said. “I worked at Kress Store on Main Street. . . . We were like everyone else: my family was poor. At that time, it was different.

“The only thing I can tell you is when we graduated we had our gas masks, and we had to carry them into the auditorium.”

Hideo Takeuchi, the oldest of five brothers and sisters, was restricted from participating in school activities as well, and would immediately go home after classes to help with his family’s auto repair shop. His responsibilities increased when his father drowned his freshman year of high school.

“You have to work to make money,” Tomoe Takeuchi said.

School life for Glenn Oura, however, was slightly different.

Oura, a member of the Class of 1960 and one of the six inaugural members of the BHS Hall of Fame to be honored Saturday night, was a star baseball player on Maui. He led the Bears to the state baseball championship in 1959 and 1960 and was named the most outstanding and most valuable player both years.

“We used to practice at Wells Park,” he said, adding that Ichiro “Iron” Maehara Stadium was not built yet. “It didn’t have the basketball or tennis courts, but home plate is still in the same area.”

Oura said he used to catch rides to practice after school and at one point, the park was the Bears’ home field.

After graduating from college, the high school would eventually become his “second home” where he worked for more than 30 years. During his career, he taught physical and special education, and worked as a special education coordinator for the Department of Education.

“I was there nearly every day until about 10 years ago,” he said.

Oura had fond memories of the school, including meeting his wife and classmate, Sandra Kuwada.

Kuwada was a math teacher at Baldwin until she was forced to retire because of complications from a neural muscular disease. She died in 1996.

“I think it was junior year we met,” he said. “She and I worked at the cafeteria. I was cashier, and she became a cashier and we kind of started off from there.”

Although much of the earlier alumni memories center on World War II, many of them also found their life partners at the school.

“We knew each other during school, but didn’t talk to each other at the time,” Tomoe Takeuchi said of her husband. After graduating, “I used to come back, and his classmate got us together.”

“Biggest mistake I made,” Hideo Takeuchi interjected with a smile.

Morisaki also met his wife, Helen, Class of 1947.

“The story is we went on a few dates the last few months before I graduated and then went our separate ways,” he said. “Nine months later, when I was finishing medical school, we got in touch and got engaged in one week.

“I didn’t know where or how it happened, but I think the big thing was that she was from Baldwin.”

Established in 1938, the school was originally founded as Wailuku High School. The Territorial Legislature appropriated $350,000 to design and construct the school, and many of the main buildings such as the auditorium and cafeteria were built between 1938 and 1940.

The name was later changed in honor of Henry Perrine Baldwin, co-founder of Alexander & Baldwin and manager of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., which deeded land for $4,995 to the school. The name change came days before the first graduating Class of 1939, which included 61 seniors.

Now, the school has an enrollment of more than 1,500 students. Numerous structures have been added over the years, including a classroom building (2006), a library (2011) and softball field (2012).

Calling from his Los Angeles home, Morisaki said that he is excited to see the campus again and some of the newer sites with his wife. He said he planned the trip more than three months ago.

“I’m excited at the prospects of meeting some of the hall of famers. Those are the people I’m excited to meet, not our classmates,” he said jokingly. “I’ve had it with my classmates.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at