Arnold Wagner Reminiscences (March 2006)
Note from Judy: I received this information from Dr. Wagner, and was able to let him know that Jack disappeared in order to go to engineering school in Oakland. I gave him the Web address that details that part of Jack's life, and the rest of his life. Dr. Wagner gave me permission to share his memories with you.
About eighty years ago (1927, to be precise), our family got off the Matsonia from San Francisco, to take up life in Honolulu, moving into a house on Anapuni St. in Makiki. There were four children in our family, three boys and one sister, close in age, of whom the eldest was Henry. Within a short time, Henry met Jack Vorfeld and developed a warm friendship based, as I remember it, upon Jack’s outstanding athletic prowess. He dropped out of the scene in several years or so, but he must have been the bridge to Frank Woods, with whom we regularly went body surfing on the windward side, at Kalama, a mile or so down the beach from Lanikai every Sunday afternoon. Upon our return from this activity, Frank would play the piano for us for an hour or two and he was very good. It was a wonderful way to grow up.
The three boys in our family all graduated from St. Louis College, which at the time of our arrival in the Islands was located in the River St. slums adjacent to the Nuuanu canal, skirting Aala Park (as in “go Aala Paka hea moi”). That was an interesting cultural experience for a few coast haoles; the locals took no pains to conceal their universal disapproval at recess time: “Hey haole;, h’ea fo you”, with an obscene gesture, by way of breaking the ice. The nuns in the parochial school in Alameda did little to prepare us for this scenario. However, we survived and moved up to Kalaepohaku in Kaimuki for the ensuing years.
I graduated in 1932 and spent the next two years at UH, transferring to Northwestern for the junior year followed by medical school, finishing there in 1939. With war clouds gathering, I did not go home for the summer thereafter but took advantage of the quarter system to finish up a half year early and start the hospital sequence, which was interrupted three years later by my Dad’s demise.
Henry, meanwhile graduated as an engineer at UH and had a number of small jobs locally, among which was a summer at the Leper colony, laying out the roads. That was an interesting experience. He relates that the lepers all learned, when joining conversational groups outdoors, to stand downwind from the others. On one such occasion a young lepromatous leper had to identify himself. It turned out that he had been a classmate at St. Louis College. During that period of his life, Henry also was employed for a while on Molokai and used to come home on occasion via the pineapple barge.
I do not remember the date of the next phase of his working life, but it was taken up in Kona, where he ran the Kona Light and Power company, the only power source in that area. It eventually was taken into the Hawaiian Electric, I think. Henry also met and married Elizabeth Horner, whose father was in charge of the school system on Hawaii. They had six children and left an idyllic lifestyle in the interest of the education of the children, moving to California after the War. He worked for the Dow Chemical company, maintaining the power plant in the factory, until his retirement a decade or so ago. Henry died at 93 last September.
I remember Jack as a handsome and personable fellow but I was three or four years too young at the time for a closer relationship. Regardless of that, he was center stage in our social structure. My memory carries no further and I suspect it may have been for reason of his departure for another area which was a common occurrence for that time and place. But over the years I have wondered from time to time what happened to him and it is just possible that chance has served up a clue this morning.
This morning I was enjoying some old memories of Honolulu Harbor, which I used to haunt, and all the ships I came to know, occasioned by my encountering a picture of the ancient inter island steamer “Likelike” in a 2006 book on the Leper Colony (she used to transport exiles to the shore at Kalawao and throw them overboard to make the shore on their own.) So I looked up inter island steamers on the web and found you. And at this point, I may be about to discover whatever happened to Jack Vorfeld. (I went on to become a physician and retired from practice in the Chicago area in 1987.
I spent the first two university years at UH but transferred to Northwestern as a Junior and went on to the Medical School. I graduated in 1939, starting the sequence of hospital years which were interrupted in later 1941 by the terminal illness of my father, whom we went home to visit at the end of the year, just before Pearl Harbor. I had a reserve commission and was in the army from then until the war ended in 1946. I spent most of the time at Tripler Hospital (across from Ft. Shafter) with a terminal diversion to join the assault on the Home Islands which was called off when the Japanese sued for peace, so that when we went ashore, it was peacefully. I went back to New York for two more years of training and have been in Chicago ever since, finally retiring in 1987.
When Henry died he left his partner of 65 years and six children, all married and largely living in California. Virginia had one child, a daughter who raised her two children in Massachusetts and retired to California this Spring upon completion of bicycling across the country with her retired husband. Virginia spent her final eight years in Henry’s company in Sonoma, but chose to be buried next to our parents in Diamond Head. She lasted to 84 years, finally succumbing to an obscure pulmonary thing she picked up during her world travels years ago. Bob died at 83 of recurrent lymphoma three years ago, never having left the Islands. He retired from C. Brewer after many years: first to Kona, then to Poha Nani, over in Kaneohe. His wife joined him a year later. They had two boys and three girls, all but one of whom remained in the Islands.
Copyright Judy Vorfeld.
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