HORSE’S MOUTH: Regarding the Penny Slot


(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on Oct. 18, 2011)


The opening segment of today’s chatter might sound a bit fishy. That’s because it’s about fishing.

Reader David Watanabe sent me the following message:

“This may help fill up your column in case you need it someday.

The Rafu published my fishing photos twice in the last two months, much to my embarrassment. My fishing buddy submitted these to the Rafu without my knowing it.

“Twice it was written in the caption that I used a ‘secret’ bait to catch the trout. Well, believe me, there is no such thing as a secret bait. I just use what anyone uses that seems to work. I am not a real good fisherman. By the way, the ‘secret’ bait was power worms.

“But this is not the point of this message. I tried twice to submit a photo to Rafu of my fishing buddy but they did not publish it. You are my final hope. I wanted to “get even” with him (a jokester). The caption accompanying my photo was that of my fishing buddy Russ Ukita, who had recently received patent for a fishing lure (dual tubular spinning lure) he designed and developed.

“To those who are not familiar with the patent process, this is not a small feat. Large corporations with expensive patent attorneys may be able to push through a patent much faster, but for an individual who processes the patent by himself, as Russ did (he’s not a lawyer), it took five years! Attached is the photo of Russ. I want to “get even” with him for getting my photo published in the Rafu. That would “make my day.”

“That’s a lot of work and it is not cheap either. The patent office seems to want to discourage individuals from going through the patent process. Perhaps the recent changes by Congress to the patent process will help encourage future inventors.

“I remember going up to the High Sierras on a fishing trip with Russ and he had a rebuttal submitted which contained 80 pages. His poor wife spent a lot of that vacation proofreading the documents on the trip. Reading all the technical and legal language will make anyone dizzy.

“I wonder how many Japanese Americans have received patents and what type of unique product they were for. That may be interesting to know.”

Thanks, David. You’re right. I’m sure a lot of folks would like to know if any JAs have received a patent on something they invented.

I’m sure the Rafu staff will run the photo since it’s in my column and not in the general news section. Hopefully…

A lot of people kid me over my writings about my trips to Vegas.

Most of them say, “What! You go to Vegas and all you play are 25-cent slot machines?”

Yup. That’s me.

Then they may add, “Why don’t you just play the penny slot machine?”

I know a lot of Vegas visitors who say, “I’m a penny slot player.”

What they don’t tell you is that most of the penny slots are more costly than any quarter slot machines.

To play all the various “whys” on a penny slot costs $4. That’s right, four bucks.

The most one can put in a quarter slot machine are the video poker slots, which gobble up $1.25.

The top bet in a quarter video keno is only 25 cents.

So, why am I touching on this to begin with?

Well, I just read an article about a woman who is being charged with embezzling $80,000 at a Vegas casino.

And guess what machine she played to run up an $80,000 debt? Yup. The penny slot.

She lost the $80,000 over a 16-month period.

Man, I’d have to be awfully salty to lose even $800 over a 16-month period playing the video keno machine.

That’s because over a 16-month period I would hit at least a dozen “six of six,” which would come to about $2,500.

At any rate, the casino that is owed the $80,000 by the penny slot player is taking her to court.

Heh. Her lawyer might tell her, “A penny for your thoughts.”

One of the top news stories in the media over the past few days was about the Seal Beach shooting case.

The other one was about Sheriff Lee Baca and the way he is alleged to have handled the physical abuse his deputies have been accused of regarding the prisoners in the county jail.

Steve Lopez, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, is demanding that Baca resign his post. Of course, Baca has responded, “No way.”

Well, let’s assume the pressure on Baca continues to build and he does consider giving up his post.

If that happens, Paul Tanaka, who is now the undersheriff (one step below Baca’s position), will take over as the head man. That is, until an election is held to replace Baca.

If Baca does resign and they do hold an election, I think Tanaka will toss his hat in the ring.

Personally, I don’t think Baca will give up his seat.

I’m kind of curious why someone doesn’t step forward and challenge the accusations being made against Baca.

Hey. We’re talking about groups siding with the criminals behind bars as being the victims. Why doesn’t anyone ask what these criminals are doing behind bars in the first place? They aren’t angels. A lot of them have been convicted of physical abuse they perpetrated against innocent victims and they needed to be “put in their place.”

Just a thought.

How many people work on Sundays?

Well, being a newspaper columnist and having my writing appear on Tuesday’s edition of Rafu, I’ve been pounding out my chatter on Sundays for 20 years.

Needless to say, I’m always looking for ways to shorten my chores on Sunday and one of the sources for this is getting readers to contribute stories I can reprint.

That’s what happened this Sabbath.

Reader Mae Kimura sent me a rather lengthy piece under the title “Who Is Hung Wai Ching?,” written by Ted Tsukiyama.

She opened with, “This is a very interesting story that I have never heard before and I have never heard of this man. He is a great leader who rises above the fear, prejudices and anger to pick up a cause to do the right thing for humanity.

“One wonders if there was never a Hung Wai Ching, where would the Japanese Americans be today?”

Here is the piece.

Most of the 442nd boys don’t know or remember this, but in early April 1943 when the USS Lurline rolled away from Pier 10 in Honolulu Harbor with 2,452 volunteers for the future 442nd Regimental Combat Team, one of the few persons permitted on the pier to see us off was Hung Wai Ching.

When the Lurline pulled into San Francisco six days later, there was Hung Wai again on the pier to welcome our arrival. After an arduous rail trip across the country, when our troop train pulled into the railroad station at Camp Shelby, there to greet us again was Hung Wai.

Just who was this person, Hung Wai Ching, and what is his connection to the 442nd?

Hung Wai Ching was born in 1905 in Honolulu, one of six children born of Chinese immigrant parents. At an early age his father was killed in an accident, leaving his mother to bring up the six children under circumstances of extreme financial hardship, forcing Hung Wai to sell papers and do odd jobs to help his way through school. He lived in the predominantly immigrant neighborhood around the Nuuanu YMCA, where he grew up in fellowship and tolerance with peers of Japanese and other races.

He attended Royal School and graduated in 1924 with the famous McKinley Class of ’24, which included Hiram Fong, Chian Ho, Masaji Marumoto and Elsie Ting, to whom he was married for 60 years. He graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1928 with a degree in civil engineering, earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary, and graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1932. Through 1928 through 1938 he worked at the Nuuanu YMCA as a boys’ secretary and served as secretary of the Atherton YMCA from 1938 to 1941.

In December 1940, one year before the Pearl Harbor attack, he was invited to attend a meeting with the FBI, Army and Navy intelligence, and community leaders present to form the Council on Interracial Unity to prepare the people of Hawaii against the shock of imminent war and to preserve the harmonious race relations among Hawaii’s multiracial population. Many years later, he found out his name had been suggested by Charles R. Hemenway, who was his mentor during his university days.

When the Japanese bombs fell on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the military governor appointed a Morale Division composed of Charles Loomis, Shigeo Yoshida and Hung Wai to put into effect the plans prepared by the Council of Interracial Unity. The Morale Division served as bridge between the military government and the civilian community, in particular with the Emergency Service Committee composed of leaders of the Japanese American community.

Hung Wai reported to Col. Kendall J. Fielder of Army Intelligence charged with the internal security of Hawaii and also reported to FBI Chief Agent Robert L. Shivers. There were any number of Japanese in Hawaii who unbeknownst to them were either not detained or were released from internment because of Hung Wai Ching’s intervention on their behalf.

In the first few weeks of the war, the military governor assigned Col. Fielder a quota of Japanese to be picked up each day, but upon consultation with Hung Wai Ching, Fielder refused to make indiscriminate quota arrests, even at the risk of court-martial and his military career.

Through his Morale Division job, Hung Wai met with some very high and influential people, including President Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt, but he never used these contacts to benefit himself. During a 1943 visit to the White House, Hung Wai used the occasion to brief the president on the wartime situation in Hawaii, how well Sen. Emmons and the FBI were handling the “Japanese situation” and assuring him that there was no necessity for a mass evacuation of Japanese from Hawaii.

But while Japan continued to wage its fierce war in the Pacific, all persons of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii remained “on the spot” and their loyalty to America suspect. Hung Wai had no question about the loyalty of Japanese he had known all of his life, but he knew that the general American public would never be convinced of the loyalty of Japanese Americans until they could shed their 4-C (enemy alien) status, get back into military service and fight and even die for their country.

The greatest contributions made by Hung Wai were his outspoken affirmation of the loyalty of Japanese Americans and the direct part he played in the long struggle of Japanese Americans to regain that opportunity to bear arms and to prove their ultimate loyalty to America.

In January 1942, when all soldiers of Japanese ancestry were discharged from the Hawaii Territory Guard, composed of University of Hawaii ROTC students, Hung Wai met, counseled and persuaded these confused, bitter and disillusioned Nisei dischargees to offer themselves to the military governor for wartime service as a non-combat labor  battalion.

The petition of 170 Nisei volunteers was accepted  by the military governor, who assigned the group to the 34 combat engineers at Schofield Barracks as a labor and construction corps, popularly to become known as the “Varsity Victory Volunteers.”

As “Father of the VVV,” Hung Wai showed off the VVVs at every opportunity to military, intelligence and government officials. In late December 1942, Hung Wai was asked to escort Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy around military installations on Oahu and made certain McCloy witnessed the Nisei volunteers at work in the field. Was it mere coincidence that only a few weeks later in January 1943, the War Department announced its decision to form a volunteer all-Nisei combat team? This is what the VVV had been working for, so its members disbanded so they could volunteer for the newly conceived 442nd.

Hung Wai then adopted the 442nd in place of the disbanded VVV and thereafter dedicated himself to seeing that the Nisei got every fair opportunity to prove their loyalty. With the military governor’s blessing, the Emergency Service Committee sponsored Hung Wai’s assignment to monitor the Hawaii Nisei volunteers’ movement to Camp Shelby and flew him to the Mainland while the Lurline sailed to San Francisco.

Hung Wai met with the infamous Gen. John DeWitt (of the famed “a Jap is a Jap”) to urge him that “these are American soldiers, not prisoners of war” and not to insult and humiliate the Nisei by placing armed guards along the embarkation route. He also asked DeWitt to grant the Nisei an overnight pass to San Francisco Chinatown for a chop suey dinner. DeWitt thought this man was crazy.

During the week the boys entrained overland to Camp Shelby, Hung Wai flew to Washington, D.C. to persuade Secretary McCloy to change the training site of the 442nd outside of the South, but to no avail, but he was authorized to go to Camp Shelby to observe the initial organization of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Prior to the arrival of the 442nd volunteers, the town of Hattiesburg, Miss., was in an uproar over the news that “a Jap regiment would be training at Shelby,” generating “Japs Not Wanted” editorials and “Go Home Japs” signs in town.

Hung Wai met the editor of the Hattiesburg American and the Hattiesburg chief of police to explain that “these boys are all American and that they have all volunteered to serve their country.” Thereafter, the “Go Home Japs” editorials and signs disappeared …

When Hung Wai returned to Hawaii, he went everywhere speaking to families, plantation camps, civic and business organizations about the Hawaii volunteers and the progress of their training at Camp Shelby. His constant message was: “When the boys come back home, treat them like full American citizens, save their jobs for them, let them finish school,” and to “give them a square chance.”

After the war was over and the boys came home, Hung Wai worked tirelessly for their orderly rehabilitation and return to civilian life.

Quite a story. Wonder why it didn’t receive more attention over the years.

Was there ever an event to honor Hung Wai Ching?

No laughers today. The foregoing was enough to make me smile.


George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.



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