My father, Edwin Pregill, what an incredible man! My earliest and fondest, memory of father was of him hiding behind my big, black, stuffed Teddy Bear. Even though I knew he was behind it, he would make a crazy bear like sound and I would jump, then squeal with laughter as he would poke his head out from behind the bear's head! Father was a kind and gentle man. He was a gifted musician, gardener, toy maker, story teller, the list goes on. He was an avid reader and I would sit on his lap and listen as he read to me. He loved to take me on walks and we would walk together hand in hand to the park where he would push me on the swing and then help me up the ladder to slide down the slide. He had a passion for locomotive trains. In his red MG, he drove to the train depot and we would sit together and he would describe all the trains that would come and go. Then, for a treat, he would take me to our favorite ice cream shop and he would buy me one scoop of rainbow sherbet ice cream. I loved my father!
As I got older, father told exciting stories of his growing up years in Hawaii. He grew up in a big family, father, 5 brothers and 2 sisters. He and his brothers were known as the “Mountain Boys” because they spent so much time hiking, swimming, picking mountain apples, and hunting in the mountains of Aiea Heights. Father had great memories and told vivid stories of how he and his older brothers would hike through the lush island foliage finally reaching the mountain irrigation ditches. The boys took turns riding down the irrigation ditch on a large squash that they had found. They also floated down the irrigation flumes straddling atop cut sugar cane. Father told a story about the day that all the brothers had taken off all their clothes to swim in the irrigation ditch. When it was time to go home father could not find his pants. He said, “luckily, I found a fertilizer bag and cut the 2 bottom ears off to get my feet and legs through then I walked home in the bag and everyone laughed at me.”
Father’s most favorite fruit was mangoes. He loved mangoes. Father said he would climb up in a mango tree and eat a green mango with shoyu (soy) sauce as he sat on a tree limb. As the boys got older, they delivered the Star Bulletin newspaper in Aiea and Pearl City. After they finished their paper route, they would go to Pearl Harbor to fish and catch sand crabs to take back home for my grandma to cook. As a young boy, father was an avid gardener and definitely had a “green thumb.” He would sell the produce from his garden and always gave the money he made to my grandma to help out his family. When father was 14 he joined the FFA. He worked in the sugar cane fields for $1 a day. He also worked in the pineapple cannery for .50 cents an hour. Because of all the pineapple he cut and canned for DOLE, father would not eat it when he was older.
Father never wore shoes to school until his freshman year of High School. He attended Kamehameha School for Boys. It was a private military school. He stayed in the dormitory that over looked Honolulu. He was in ROTC and participated in many military drills. Father was in his junior year December 7, 1941. As he was looking out of his dorm window, he witnessed first- hand, the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He watched in utter disbelief as the bombs dropped out of the sky hitting the big battle ships that were anchored in Pearl Harbor. Fire balls and billows of smoke filled the air. Alarms rung out everywhere. He said he watched a kamikaze pilot fly his plane right into one of the large airplane hangars, blowing it sky-high. When asked if he was scared he said, “No time to be scared it was time to act.” The next day he was a soldier. He was drafted into the National Guard for one year. He stood guard at the Hawaiian Palace. Next, he was sent to Sand Island to guard prisoners. Later he was the body guard to Governor Poindexter and stayed at the governor’s mansion.
After his year of service, he was discharged. Father wanted to go back to High School to finish the 11th and 12th grade and get his diploma, but the principal told him he was too old. He was 18. Hickam Field AFB was hiring apprentices to work on overhauling aircraft instruments. Father hired on and stayed at his job until November 9, 1944, when he was then drafted into the Army during WWll. Father was one of 1000 men who boarded a ship that sailed to the island of Leyte in the Philippines. Once there, his commanding officer asked if anyone knew how to type. Father did and he was sent to the Battalion Office, typing up paperwork for soldiers being shipped back to the United States. The army needed his typing skills and he traveled from Leyte to the island of Luzon on the outskirts of Manila. He was then transferred to the 13th Army Air Force where he stayed until he was Honorably Discharged in 1946. After he returned home to Hawaii, he went back to work at Hickam AFB. Father attended night classes at McKinley High School to finish and receive his High School Diploma.
In 1959, father was now an aircraft instrument electronic technician. He was sent to Chanute AFB for more instrument training. During his stay, he met my mother at a local dance hall. He tells the story that his friend elbowed him telling him to “check out the girls who had come in.” Father looked over at the group of girls and told him, “nothing to get too excited about”. But, he went over to my mother who was seated at the time. She had 3-inch heels on and when he asked her to dance, she looked him up and down and said, “I think I’m a little too tall for you.” Without missing a beat father said, “don’t let that worry you babe, I’ll cut you down to size.” What a guy! Three months later they were married!!
Agape and Mahalo,