Mel Suganuma recalls ‘Old Hawaii’
Lifetime retiree members Mel Suganuma (on right) with
fellow retiree Arthur Fong at the Retirees Club meeting.
Former Officer and Business Agent now retired,
Brother Mel Suganuma recalls “growing up in the
old days” with words of wisdom.
(The following is a reprint of a Hawaii Now TV
Melvin Suganuma grew up in Papakolea in
a large mixed Hawaiian and Japanese family.
Suganuma along with his six brothers and two
sisters struggled like many local families in early
Hawaii, and early on made his living shining shoes
down in Waikiki. At just 11 years old in the early
1940’s Suganuma would start his work day at 7:00
AM and work until the evening.
In those days shining shoes could earn you up
to 50 cents a day, as he and his brothers collected
the earnings at days end, put them in a poi bag and
returned home to Papakolea to share amongst their
On Dec. 7, 1941 their lives changed forever.
Suganuma along with his brothers were down in
Waikiki shining shoes the way they had always
done, when they first witnessed the attacks of Pearl
Harbor on that tragic day. Even all these days later
and at 90 years old, Suganuma recalls the attack
vividly. “I’ll never forget that day,” Suganuma said.
“The Japanese flew in and were shooting up the
place, it was a mess that day.” After living through
the ‘War Days’ Suganuma went into the union and
his trade led him into pipe fitting and plumbing.
After over 50 years of membership he now has a
lifetime connection to the local union here in Hawaii.
As Suganuma looks back on growing up in ‘Old
Hawaii’ he has just one piece of advice for the next
generation. ‘Work hard,” Suganuma said. “And live a