Recently we came upon a small subset of materials in RASRL that is unlike the rest of the student work in the Collection. If these papers are in response to an assignment, it isn’t one we’d come across before. The authors don’t sound like undergraduates, and after reading thousands of papers we know what undergraduate writers sound like. But the papers don’t read like the work of graduate students either. What we do know is that these twenty papers from the early 1930s are about “delinquents” (RASRL Life Histories, Case Studies, Box 1).
These papers lack the intimate ethnography typical of RASRL writers’ papers. Most sound official, follow a protocol, and include basic biographical details of their school-age subjects: their present living conditions, attitudes of the parents, a recounting of events that brought the children – and both girls and boys are represented here – to the attention of the “authorities,” and test scores. The child’s physical condition and brief medical history are provided; the child’s mental health and ability, as determined by the Stanford Achievement Test and reports from UH’s Psychological Clinic, are included. The writers report on the dynamics of the family, the student’s behavior in the classroom, and his level of diligence in school. Often the writer offers her opinion – most of the writers are female – on the student’s prospects for future adjustment and success.
He should not be forced to go too far in school, especially to the university but he could be trained for business (I. L. H., “The Case of Reuben,” 5/21/31, Folder 36).
. . .he cannot, however, be expected to go beyond junior high (No name, “N[.] Y[.],” no date, Folder 37).
Mr. Leiter [member of Psychological Clinic staff] recommends that [the student] be sent to the Opportunity School, but as she is a white child, her folks are opposed to it, feeling the pupils found in the Honolulu Opportunity School are not socially of [the student’s] class. Can we blame them? (B.V. P, “T[.] N[.], 1930, Folder 39.)
In the school other children have been encouraged to play with her and to invite her to their parties, [sic] this will never progress very far because of her lack of things in common with the White children such as her lack of racial and social and mental inheritance compared to others. … Even though it will hurt their pride, the parents must finally see that Punahou is not the place for their daughter and should put her in someplace where her social abilities can be developed with no racial handicaps, and allow her to get practice in manual lines (W. E. J., “Case of G.G.,” no date, Folder 37).
The writers explain what they believe have caused these students to demonstrate “untoward behavior”: murder and suicide in the family, deafness caused by a high fever, embarrassment over family members’ tuberculosis or leprosy, a brutally strict father, a discouraged or indifferent mother, an overly pampering home environment. But in all cases, what has brought attention to these children is trouble in school: disrupting the class, inability to do the academic work, not fitting in socially, and truancy. One boy left school to work to help his family, another boy who was much older and bigger than his classmates was embarrassed to sit in the classroom, most others just regularly ditched school.
The writers of these reports are professionals in the field. The ones who have been identified through the census or city directory records or from information included in the paper are teachers, some permanent, some visiting (as indicated in “Summer Session Teachers’ College 1931-32 Announcement,” p. 55); school principals; a school counselor; a nurse who eventually became a social worker. (Note: We have made it our policy to not disclose the names of the writers in TL posts, but we do research on the writers in order to better understand the context of the papers.)
There is nothing to explain why these papers are part of the RASRL Collection, but we can speculate. Perhaps these professionals were taking a course on mental hygiene or in social work. Social work courses were offered through the Sociology Department before it became a discrete program then a separate school in the 1940s. It could be that the writers were taking an in-service course offered by Teachers’ College, which had opened in the 1931-32 academic year.
These reports may have been written for a special class for both resident and visiting teachers in conjunction with a new initiative. In “Clorinda Low Lucas: Hawaii’s Social Work Pioneer,” Iris B. Carlton-LaNey and Christine S. Main offer a brief history of Hawaii’s social work program that began in 1925 as a private agency. The Social Service Bureau, formerly the Associated Charities of Hawaii, placed the first visiting schoolteacher in the Pohukaina School in Kaka‘ako to serve as liaison caseworker between the school and home for “children manifesting untoward behavior.” Later in 1931-32, the Department of Public Instruction brought two visiting schoolteachers from the continent, “placing one in the Kawānanakoa Experimental School and the other in McKinley High School” (Social Service Review, vol. 84, no. 2, June 2010, p. 289).
Among the papers is a cover letter – “Dear Counselor” – dated 4/11/32 (Folder 37) from a UH committee, unsigned, requesting that case reports on children and their families be sent to the University. It goes on to say that the data, which would be collected in aggregate, “will be significant not only to the White House Conference but also to the local community.” Perhaps these papers fed into the report that would be shared at the Conference.
In any case, the papers allow us to glimpse what it was like for troubled children and children in trouble. We see what teaching in public school classrooms in the early 1930s was like for some. Teachers were responsible for seeing that underweight students drank their milk. When one boy announced to the class he was leaving school, the teacher sought help for the family and saw to it that the family’s rent was covered, food delivered, and even looked for a part-time job for the student so he could have spending money. One teacher left her classroom as often as three times per week to look for a chronically truant student who eventually rewarded her efforts with steady attendance. One Kawānanakoa teacher had 38 children in her classroom.
In nearly all of the 20 cases, children are seen but not heard. But one boy does get to tell his story:
When I was six years old, I come to Honolulu with my old man and lady. I went Kailani [Kaiulani] School to fourth grade when I get fired (expelled) from school because they (teacher) catch me peep moon (peeping tom). When I get first from school I scared go home, I know I was gonna get lump (licking) from my parent, so I went sleep tramp (sleeping anywhere and stealing anything to get along) with a guy, I think his name was Moneli.”
For over nine months, this student “sleep tramp” (slept under the pier, in sampans tied to the dock, freight trains, public parks). He made money from shining shoes – “5 cents a shine” — and stole milk from doorsteps. With only one set of clothes, he would “borrow” soap from sampans and swim “bare balls” while his clothes dried. “We no shame because dat time us young kids and no more hair.” Finally caught by a probation officer as he walked down Queen Street, he was sent home but ran away after two months. This time when he was picked up he was sent to the Boys’ Industrial School where he was to stay until he reached 21.
The school is just like one jail. They (school authorities) watch everything you do. If you try to get hard (disobedience) they give you the rubber hose or horse whip. When I first went there, they put me into the taro patch gang.”
The training school allowed the inmates to choose their interest; he chose band, learned to play the trombone and ukulele. The band played mostly classical music. Once out, he got a job at a service station but was fired for stealing gasoline. At the time of this interview he was “loafing at home (with Korean foster parents).”
The writer of this paper had a question for this boy on a topic that had dominated the news in 1931-32:
What do you think of the Kahahawai case?
Them haoles rule this rock (Hawaii). Them guys (Massie etc.) go free because why, the color white. As long you white, you can do anything and be free.
Question – What do you think of the rape law?
I scared go against or break the new law. Who the hell like go jail for life or hang fo three minutes of feeling good. When I get married, I can take my sweet time. . . . (B.Y.A., no title, Folder 36, 5/27/32).
The last case study is G. M.’s “A Prisoner Story,” handwritten in pencil on 5-inch by 7-inch sheets of brown paper. It runs nearly 80 pages long. This autobiographical account covers his time in the Waiale‘e Industrial School from 1909, where he began, like all new inmates, working in the “taro patch.” G.M. must have showed promise for he was promoted to a series of skill-building jobs at the School – carpentry, electrical work, and blacksmithing.
By his account he was both gifted and incorrigible. With his skills as an electrician he was able to create a blackout at the School that allowed several inmates to escape, and at another time led an escape by using his blacksmithing skills to forge keys and pick locks. He frequently escaped from the Waiale‘e school campus, which was located near Kahuku, to see his mother in Honolulu. Each time she would convince him to turn himself in:
I obey her command and follow her to the police station. I told her before she left me that I just make my getaway because I was homesick. I just wanted to see her and I’m satisfied. She told me to behave myself and be a good boy not to break any rules. When she moved away from me I began to drop many tears, a tears that have gone a long way. I new [sic] what was going to be happen when I get back to the institution. It would be a lashing of 25 and dark cell for 3 month bread and water. I stood all this . . . (p. 9).
Following punishment, he would be assigned to the taro patch, prove himself again, and work his way up to the more skilled assignments and greater responsibility. At one point he was appointed justice and sheriff among the inmates. But he would escape again:
After been one week in the mountain we start looking for food in a Japnees house. We break in they were all out working on the farm. We took food and can stuff. We live in the mountain for 3 week. I got so angry with the life that we were in, so I told the rest of the boys that we have a gun or two and a weapon. . . . So we all start for the highway. As we got to a place call Pearl City we begin to separate by a chase of police. They open fire on us so we open fired on them. . . . We start for town as we were walking toward home. I hurt [sic] a voice said stop and don’t run all of you. It was a night patrol, a man on a beat. When he said stop and don’t run I was looking for a chance to get my gun. Finally, I got it. When he made a call to police head quarter I begin to fired at him and miss him by a hair. … I’m glad that the shot that I fired didn’t get him. It might cause me a life (pp. 27-30).
As a young adult he served time in O‘ahu prison, but in 1917 he hopped a steamer to San Francisco then shipped to Alaska to work in a salmon cannery. He later became a fur trapper in Alaska. He returned to Honolulu after the death of his mother and was soon serving as a boatswain (a senior crewman who supervises others):
Going over to the orient, we took the Arizona over to Japan. I had a nice trip. All that a man wanted, everything was cheap there, a dollar in Japan, what a swell time that I had. I know one time that I had some coupon with me. I tried to pass it as a currency and got away with it. It was a pretty good dry goods store. I brought me a suitcase and some silk shirt, then I hand the coupon over to a man, and he gave me cash in money. Oh I got away with lots of things there. . . [but] they were looking for me. I had a first class ticket to San Francisco on the Shingo Maru. I was on the boat. The boat was moving slowly out of the harbor. I was safe on board. Its [sic] a grand old time in Japan. A sailor has a girl in every port. It is true by the way. … I hope that some day things would make a little change in life (pp. 23-25).
It is clear that G.M. was asked to share his autobiography as a cautionary tale, although how or even whether his story was shared isn’t known. He ends his account with this:
It doesn’t paid to go crooked. It paid to go straight. . . . I always have been crooked by cards or dice or some things worst than that. But they will get you in the long run. Thats [sic] went tears happy to fall and you will forget your friend, think of your father and mother before you start pulling off anything. I’m not ashamed to said that I’m sorry for what I had done. I’m here to paid it all. I’m going on the straight path from now on. I deeply realize for what I done. I’m a boy who never had a schooling in my life (Folder 33, Part II, p. 25).
Romanzo Adams, in his large and distinctive script, wrote G.M.’s name on the document and placed it in the files.
UH’s Social Sciences
It’s easy to forget that Romanzo Adams and Stanley Porteus were contemporaries, in large part because Porteus and his Psychological Clinic rarely are mentioned in RASRL papers and because the Clinic and Porteus himself, although affiliated with the University, never seemed quite of the University. In a report, Porteus details how busy his Clinic has become:
The variety and number of institutions and agencies requiring the assistance of the Clinic seems to increase rather than to diminish. Elementary and high schools, through the vocational counselors, visiting teachers, and principals, referred the greatest number of cases, but large numbers of individuals were also examined on behalf of the Social Service Bureau, the Board of Health, Queen’s Hospital Training School, the Juvenile Court, Palama Settlement, the Emergency Hospital, the Humane Society, the International Institute, Ala Moana Opportunity School, the Prison Board, etc. The total number of cases examined by the staff for the year was 912, but this figure gives but little idea of the amount of work involved. Many cases are seen at frequent intervals, and many interviews with parents, social workers, etc., are necessary in connection with each case. Some cases have required from 15 to 20 hours of work. . . . Among the special jobs, continuing throughout the year, were the examination of the children proposed for the tuberculosis preventorium and the examination of the applicants for the nursing school at Queen’s Hospital. This latter work may be extended when the University establishes its proposed pre-nursing course. … In connection with a committee on feeblemindedness, to which the director of the Clinic was appointed by the Governor, I visited Dr. Healy’s Clinic in Boston, the New York City clinics, the Essex County Clinic, and the Chicago Bureau of Juvenile Research, making observations of the work of each organization. In addition, much time was spent at the Vineland Training School, and Menantico Colony, N. J., St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D. C., and the Rome State School, New York. The observations made on these visits have been embodied in a report on the care and control of the feebleminded, which will form part of the general report of the committee (“University of Hawaii Report, 1931-32” pp. 28-29).
G.M.’s story, like the others in this subset of papers, raises more questions than it yields answers. Just as the delinquents were swept up in various social service nets, so were these twenty reports gathered into the Collection. Marooned among undergraduate papers, they poignantly speak of “disorganized” lives, ones that lack the promise of the typical RASRL writers’. They also cause us to consider how widely and deeply UH’s social sciences reached beyond the campus and into the community.
Please visit our companion website Local Citing where we feature several community studies form the RASRL Collection in the Mapping the Territory exhibit.