Interviewee: Doris Mau
Interviewer: Josephine Martin
Date: March 16, 2007

Description: Doris Mau is a retired school food service manager and a past-president of the Oahu School Food Service Association. Mrs. Mau was President-elect of her association when Hawaii hosted the Annual National Conference in 1976. The youngest of Mrs. Mau’s three daughters followed her into the school food service profession and is currently a school food service manager on Oahu.

Josephine Martin: Hello and Aloha. I’m Josephine Martin and I’m here in the beautiful state of Hawaii, in the city of Honolulu, and with me is Doris Mau. Doris, I am so pleased to see you again. How long has it been, thirty years?

Doris Mau: Thirty years. I’m glad to see you, too.

JM: And you were President-elect of the association when the convention was here.

DM: Yes, that’s right.

JM: And I remember so vividly that you met me at the airport when I was going home, and just brought me a truck-full of flowers, which I took to Atlanta, and was the envy of all the city of Atlanta. But today we want to talk about you, and about where you grew up in Hawaii, and the schools you were in. So tell me where did you grow up?

DM: I grew up in Lahaina, Maui.

JM: On the island of Maui?

DM: Yes, Maui, and I went to school at Kam Third School from kindergarten until eighth grade, and then I went on to high school, Lahainaluna High School from ninth to the twelfth and graduated. Then I came down to Honolulu to go to school, to continue my education. I attended Honolulu Vocational School for two years. That’s where they offered a Cafeteria Management program.

JM: And so you completed that Cafeteria Management program?

DM: In two years, yes. I graduated and then I was sent out to the school. I was ready for management. The first school I was sent to was Ewa Elementary Intermediate School in Oahu, a big, well-to-do plantation school, rich community, children well behaved, kindergarten to ninth grade. And I was SO YOUNG. And they told me, “Yaeko, you have to wear your hair long and make a bun, because nobody knows who you are. You look like a student.”

JM: Oh. Now I thought you said your name was Doris.

DM: Doris, Yaeko.

JM: Yaeko?

DM: You can call me Doris. My family calls me Doris. They don’t know who Yaeko is.

JM: Why do some people call you Yaeko?

DM: Yaeko is my Japanese name, my regular birth name.

JM: Oh, I see.

DM: My parents are immigrants.

JM: And they came from Japan?

DM: Yes.

JM: But you were born here on the island?

DM: Yes, on the island of Maui.

JM: And so you were a manager, and you were very young at the time, and they thought you were one of the students.

DM: [Laughing] So young and I lived in a teacher’s cottage with all of the teachers, the training teachers. The school was outside of Honolulu.

JM: And did you always work at an elementary school?

DM: Let’s see. After I finished I went to Waimalu Elementary School, yes, and I retired from there. I was a cafeteria manager for thirty-eight years.

JM: Thirty-eight years as cafeteria manager!

DM: Yes.

JM: What year were you in elementary school? I want to know about the kind of lunches that were served when you were a kid. Do you remember those?

DM: Yes. When I was a kid back in Lahaina, we didn’t have a cafetorium. We just had a cafeteria, where Miss Hoshino was the cafeteria manager. We had tin plates, like a pie plate.


DM: We ate on the campus, on the ground. Nothing went to the classroom. It was like that until we finished eighth grade. Then I went on to high school, Lahainaluna High School. There was no cafeteria for us because it was a boarding school for the boys. So we had no cafeteria. We had to take home lunch.


DM: Plus, we had no buses to take us to school. We had to either walk, or buy a car and learn how to drive, and go to school.

JM: Now, did you walk to school?

DM: I had to learn how to drive. I was a VERY poor driver. I banged the car many times in my garage. I had my younger sister, and there were three or four other girls where we lived. I had to pick them up and take them to school, because there were no buses there, and it was very FAR, way up the hill, on top of the mountain over there.

JM: Do you remember the kinds of foods you had when you were eating on the tin plates?

DM: That was, actually, when I think about it, Type-A, well balanced lunch. Many of us, in those days, didn’t have milk to drink, regularly, because we had to go to the store and buy it, and the store was so far away from us. We had to walk to school, too, in elementary, but we had a well-balanced meal. That’s what I want to see. I want to see the kids have milk every day, and a well-balanced meal once a day. The rest of the children weren’t having well-balanced meals. Actually, they didn’t have vegetables, no milk, they were just having maybe rice, or pickled vegetables. I came from a big family, where I was the oldest girl. I had to learn how to cook, to help my mother serve the older brothers. I became interested in food. I said, “I don’t think I want to be a teacher. I don’t think I have that patience. I want to see the children smiling.” Because when you see the children smile and their stomach is full, you can teach them. Oh, when they’re hungry, they’re fighting more. They are hungry. They cannot concentrate. I wanted to help the children.

JM: Oh, that’s wonderful, and that’s what I remember about you, that your heart was with the children.

DM: Yes.

JM: And what the lunches would do to help them to grow and to help them to be disciplined in the school, and to make better grades.

DM: Right, right.

JM: And did the children eat well? Did you have much plate waste?

DM: No. They appreciated so much, you know, until today. Many times I’ve gone to Las Vegas for a trip. I’ll be in the elevator and someone will come over and look at me and I thought, “Was there something wrong with me?” and they say, “Are you Mrs. Mau?” And I say, “Yes.” And they say, “I remember you thirty years ago! You were the cafeteria manager.” I said, “What do you remember about me?” He said, “You served the best lunch, but the shortbread cookie was the hit!”

JM: The shortbread cookies, those were the hit!

DM: Because in those days we didn’t serve cookies. I used to bake shortbread cookies once in a while, like Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter; like that.

JM: So, you had special meals for the holidays?

DM: Yes. Later on, we couldn’t do a special meal. We were directed by the district: All schools have the same meals. They still have that too. We used to plan our own meal, a whole month’s meals, and give that to the students, so they would know what they were getting.

JM: How did you get your food? How did you purchase your food and get it delivered in those early days?

DM: I was one of the last schools in my district to have the food delivered. They would go by all the other districts, Central District, Leeward District. I was in the Central District. However, I was the last school that they would deliver to. So I asked the principal, “May I come in from 7 o’clock to 4 o’clock?” I couldn’t ask the custodians to take over my goods, because they would come after work. Most of the items are contracted out by the district, and the certain commodities would be delivered a certain day. We would be notified when they would come. Because I was the last school in the district, I was the last one to get it.

JM: Well now, what kind of commodities were you getting in those early days?

DM: We used to have cheese. We used to have butter. Oh, what else did we used to have?

JM: Flour?

DM: Yes, flour. Oh, we used to have lots of things. I don’t know about now, because they don’t have turkey anymore.

JM: Don’t have turkey? Well, I think now a lot of managers prefer to have the boned turkey. They think they don’t have time to cook a whole turkey. So, there was a joy in cooking the whole bird, wasn’t there?

DM: We used to cook the whole bird the day before, and in the afternoon de-bone it, and put it in the refrigerator for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, because many of our students didn’t have turkey for Thanksgiving, and that was the only turkey they were going to have. And I wasn’t going to give it to them a week ahead or two days ahead. I wanted them to have it the day before Thanksgiving. Otherwise they wouldn’t have any turkey. It depends on what school you go to, or what district you work in. There are affluent people, there are poor people. There are a lot of free-lunch people. But the kids, I enjoyed the kids. We never had any fights.

JM: What kind of foods did you have? You had turkey. Did you have cornbread dressing, or what else did you have to go with that turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner?

DM: We had gravy and we had vegetables. We had corn and peas. This was Thanksgiving so we had rolls. And we would have cookies to go with it. If it was Halloween, we would make Halloween cookies. We would draw faces on the Halloween cookies. The kids would say, “Oh, look at mine!” It would be a delight for them.

JM: And I bet you did something special for Christmas, didn’t you?

DM: Yes. And I also treated my teachers and staff because we all worked together. At Christmas we would bake cookies special, and I would go to the drugstore and buy the baggies and put three cookies in each, and put it in all the teachers’ drawers: Merry Christmas from the Staff. And they appreciated it so. We used to have beautiful relationships. They did everything for me, and I did what they wanted. We enjoyed our work.

JM: You were partners.

DM: Yes.

JM: You were partners, and that’s the way it should be. Did you have any students working in the cafeteria with you?

DM: At the beginning, yes, when I first started. It was the rule that the students came, half a class at a time, or so. But there were MORE problems. They didn’t know how to sweep, because they don’t do it at home. They don’t know how to do this, do that. Finally, there came a ruling that no student will work except they go to lunch, have lunch, and help serve ONLY, and go back to class. We were all happy. All our workers were happy, because there were problems. The students didn’t want to come to the cafeteria. We were generous. We had a lot of free students, but nobody knew who they were except myself and the collection girl.

JM: So, you always had a lot of free students and you protected their identity. Only you knew who they were.

DM: Only me, and we had a special collection lady from the office. Nobody knew which child was having a free lunch.

JM: Well, you must have had really good support from your principal.

DM: It all depends. I had five different principals. I know one incident. The Breakfast Program came a little later.

JM: Yes.

DM: And I went to my principal and I said, “I would like to start my Breakfast Program.” I heard some other districts were starting, but not in our district yet. He said, “Mrs. Mau, that’s not your responsibility. That’s the parents’ responsibility!” And I said, “Oh, I know, I’m a parent. I know that’s a parent’s responsibility. You ought to see the children dropped off early, 6-6:30 in the morning, because both parents have to work.” And they have nowhere else to drop them. They know the cafeteria is open. The lights are on, but there’s nobody there to supervise them. I’m not there to supervise them. I have my own job.” And so I told him, “Let’s start it and see what happens.” One month later they all came and said, “You were right!” I said, “I told you.” These kids don’t eat in the morning because they’re rushed, rushed, rushed. And by the time they start school at 8 o’clock they’re so hungry and their stomachs growl and growl, and they cannot concentrate. You touch them and they want to fight already. They have no patience. I said, “All these things, I see it.” And when we had a Breakfast Program they RAN to school. We were certain we made hot broth. Once in a while we made doughnuts. They were cinnamon rolls, but we just made them into doughnuts. And once or twice a week we had protein like Polish sausage and little weenies. Everybody ran to the cafeteria. You see, if they eat well they have good behavior. They are so happy, oh makes me happy. I don’t mind the work. I’m young yet. I can work. I’m not old now.

JM: It’s so inspirational to hear you talk about your focus on the children and going the extra mile to reach the children, even when the principals say, “It’s not my responsibility.” How much did children pay for lunches back in those days?

DM: I think twenty-five cents. The last time I was there, twenty years ago, they paid thirty-five cents for breakfast.

JM: Now when did you retire?

DM: I retired twenty years ago.

JM: So, that would have been about 1987.

DM: I’m OLD you know, Dr. Martin.

JM: You’re not old Doris. You’re not old. You may have lived many years, but your attitude and what you’re saying is so, so on target with what we believe in the child nutrition program. If you had to just pick out one experience that you had when you were working in the school lunch program, or school nutrition program, can you think of one thing that just stands out above all other things?

DM: Well, when the classroom goes on class tours, they all have to bring home lunch. With the free lunch people, I don’t know whether the parents didn’t know, or their children didn’t tell them that they’re going on a field trip and we need home lunch. They came to school with nothing. And then at 7:50 all the teachers are running to me, “Oh, what happened? You’ve gotta help me, you’ve gotta help me. What happened? I have eight of my students with no home lunch. What happened? They didn’t bring any lunch.” You see, they are my free lunch people. “Fine, what do you want me to make?” “Anything you have.” At that time we used to bake all of our bread. We didn’t have extra bread, except in the freezer, leftover rolls or whatever. “What time are you going on the fieldtrip? What time is the bus coming?” “Oh, by thirty past.” “I’ll get it ready.” So I go in the freezer, warm the buns. What shall we put in? Whatever protein we have. You have to use protein, and then they have the bun. You have an apple or a whole orange. And they must have a half-pint of milk.

JM: So they had a Type-A lunch!

DM: They were happy, happy, happy. They never brought home lunch. Never. And until today the teachers say, “You saved our children.” And I have one teacher that attends the same church that I go to. “Doris, I remember you. Remember my students?” “Yes, Mr. Parker, I know.”

JM: You really did make an imprint on the teachers that you worked with and the students that you served. Now I think you told us, but tell me again exactly what caused you to go into the school food service program.

DM: Well, you know, we lived in a plantation, because my father worked in a plantation. He was in charge of the electricity and water. So, we call it a pump camp. It’s three hundred and fifty something homes, and at the entrance of this camp you have the electricity and water and everything. My father used to work there for the plantation, taking care of all of the things. At the plantation, you didn’t have your own bath. You had to go to what they call the camp bath. They have a bathhouse where they provide electricity and they get hot water baths. You take your pan and your towel and soap, and you go in there and take a bath and go home. That was plantation. And we didn’t have a bathroom in the home. All outside, lined up by the homes. This is our home. That’s how plantation was. I grew up in a plantation.

JM: Was that a pineapple plantation?

DM: It was a sugar plantation. I said, “Oh boy, I don’t think I would like this kind of life.”

JM: And so you grew up on that plantation, and then you went to school, and you really liked the food that you served, and had an opportunity to go on to the community college.

DM: Yes.

JM: And did anyone at the community college say, “Doris, I think you would be a really good school nutrition lunch manager.” Is that the way it happened?

DM: Yes, yes. Because I came from a plantation family, and when I went through I saw all the other kids not having lunch. And I said, “No, I will feed them, I will feed them.” That’s why I wanted to go. My parents wanted me to go to the mainland, to go into education. I said, “No.” I told them I was different. So, my sisters and brothers went and got college degrees, but I didn’t want that.

JM: Well, you certainly did make such a difference. Then, how did you become involved in the Hawaii School Food Service Association?

DM: Well, you get involved when you are a member of the cafeteria. You have an association. Each island is supposed to have an association. I was always involved in hard work, because from little time, I went to 4-H Club. And I used to go to Girl Scouts. And as I grew older and I came to Honolulu I was very active in YWCA. I used to be a Y-teen advisor for the ninth graders. And then I used to be on the advisory board for the YWCA for the Leeward District. We have three daughters. We sent them all to St. Andrew’s Priory, that’s a girls’ school, because I wanted my daughters to have a religious education background. I came from a Buddhist family, but I didn’t see, you know, what I wanted. Mormon people would come to your house, and Jehovah people would come to your house, and you’d be confused, you’re be so confused. And my parents said “We’re Buddhists.” So, I said, “No, I’m going to be a Christian.” So, when I came to Honolulu, I joined the Kalihi Union Church. Dr. Waterhouse was the minister. That’s when I got involved with Christian.

JM: Um-hum. Well, you certainly have had a wonderful history, and such a great influence, such a great influence on all the people with whom you have come in contact, your teachers, and you students, and believing in working together and expanding the program and reaching all of the children, the needy children. What kind of advice would you give the managers today? I know that Val, your daughter, you certainly were an example for her, because she is now a manager.

DM: Yes. She used to follow me. She’s the youngest. I have only three daughters. The oldest daughter is an Executive Vice-President of the Bank of Hawaii. My second daughter is in California, sent by the Department of Education, to attend a workshop. So she’s there. She left Wednesday; she’s coming home Tuesday. And this girl, Valerie, is my third daughter. She followed me to all the conventions I attended. And when I was in a workshop, she and my girlfriend’s daughter used to go to all those places where they had displays. And she became interested. When she graduated from the girls school, St. Andrew’s Priory, she went to the University of Hawaii. And she said, “I think I’m going to be a hotel manager.” I said, “No, because you’re coming from a small, private school. University of Hawaii is a big college.” She said, “No. I’m going to try it.” So she went there, I think, one year or one semester. She didn’t like it because she wasn’t used to the huge grounds. Priory was a small school, so she was used to the small grounds. She said, “No. I changed my mind.” So, she rested one semester and she went to Kapiolani Community College. On her own she went to inquire when the classes started, and when she should get enrolled, and what they offered. She enrolled and, you know, two years later she graduated with high honors. She was the outstanding student in the class.

JM: I am not surprised.

DM: After she graduated, they sent her to the island of Lanai.

JM: Oh, really? It was like going back home again.

DM: Lanai. And she had to fly on a plane. Only her and the pilot. It was a small plane. Every two weeks, “I’m coming home, Mom, I’m coming home. This looks so weird. There’s no broccoli here.” It was a vegetable and I took it to her. I did everything to keep her there, and she stayed two years, and the school was happy because they weren’t doing so good. One day she threw a big, big dinner for the whole community. Oh, they tried to keep her, you see, but our superintendent in our district heard that she was on Lanai. He wanted to get her. So he said, “Hey Doris, did you send that application to your daughter?” I said, “Oh, no, no. They’ll send it to her.” Well, the school in Lanai had the application. They threw it in the waste bin. They didn’t want her to apply. So, when she came home for Christmas, she applied. And then she interviewed and by the 24th they hired her right away.

JM: So she’s been the high school manager now for five years?

DM: No. She just transferred to an elementary school, two years in Mililani Ike Elementary School in Mililani. The high school was in Waialua. You have to drive; you have to really drive quite a distance. And her husband used to teach there in Waialua.

JM: You have had such a wonderful career. You have inspired so many people, and you’ve inspired me again today, as you inspired me when I saw you and first met you thirty years ago. We appreciate so much Doris your taking the time, and Val taking the time away from her work to bring you down for us to have an opportunity to visit. This is for the National Food Service Management Institute at the University of Mississippi.

DM: Oh!

JM: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And some of your history will be shown on the web. And your daughters and family can go to the web and see it. And it’s been such a pleasure to see you again.

DM: I’m so happy. At least you stay so we can entertain you a little bit.

JM: Oh, well thank you and maybe I’ll come back.

DM: You better come back.

JM: And when I come back we will make time to see you. But in the meantime I want to say thank you and mahalo.

DM: Mahalo, right.

JM: And you just have a wonderful trip back home and tell Val thank you so much for bringing you down here today. And I was hoping she would come in and maybe we could say, “Like mother, like daughter.” So you tell her we appreciate it.

DM: She is really good. She’s the last one. When I went to my granddaughter’s graduation in the University of Las Vegas, I fell down and fractured my right leg. That’s what I have this for. [Showing walking cane] I couldn’t walk for seven weeks.

JM: Oh, my!

DM: Fractures here, all the way to here. The only time I could take off the cast was when I took a bath.

JM: Oh, I hope it will soon be well and you can get rid of that [cane].

DM: When you get old…………….

JM: If not, if not, just be thankful you’ve got it and you can keep walking around. But thank you so much.
[Eleanore Fong-Severance, a former student of Mrs. Mau’s joins the interview]

JM: Look, here’s Eleanore. Do you remember her, Eleanore?

DM: Come closer.

EF: Waimalu.

DM: Oh, Waimalu.

EF: I was classmates with your daughter Valerie.

DM: Oh! You’re a young one yet.

EF: No, just like your daughter!

DM: Oh, I thought thirty years ago you were out at Ewa.

EF: No, no, no.

DM: You were at Waimalu.

EF: I was at Waimalu in 1965.

DM: That’s right. You remember me.

EF: Yes.

DM: Do you remember Valerie never wanted hotdogs for lunch?

EF: I do remember that.

DM: She refused to eat hotdogs.

EF: I met her out in the hallway and I couldn’t make the connection [between you], but of course I remember Mrs. Mau, Cafeteria Lady. You look SO GOOD. How many years?

DM: Thank you. How many years?

EF: When did I graduate? 1971.

DM: Did you go to St. Andrew’s then?

EF: No, I went to Sacred Heart.

DM: Oh, Sacred Heart Academy.

EF: So I guess that’s when we parted from the old plantation days in Ewa.

JM: Did you live on the plantation also?

EF: No, it wasn’t a plantation back then. But they still had sugar cane back in the days.

JM: I know her food was wonderful.

EF: It was. It was the biggest thing to get to work in the cafeteria. That was the highlight of any student that went to Waimalu.

DM: Thank you, thank you.

EF: I really enjoyed the ice cake after.

DM: I didn’t tell [Josephine] about that. One year we had heptachlor in the milk. The department said, “No milk will be served with the school lunch program until further notice.” Well, they had to drink juice.

EF: We had juice.

DM: And then I created a chart on a board. Each class got a yellow bucket, remember?

EF: Yes.

DM: And they had to measure who’s going to throw the milk in this bucket. We had a big chart with each classroom, big. Every day they charted how much milk was wasted in the bucket. And at the end of the month the winner got free ice cake from Mrs. Mau. The ice cake was made out of fruit juice.

JM: Oh, fruit juice.

EF: It was frozen juice in paper cups. And so the monitors, after working hard all day, we would get the ice cakes. And of course that was the reward for the class that drank the most milk. That was a highlight.

DM: Every class had a yellow bucket and put in the milk they didn’t drink.

JM: And you measured the amount of milk they were throwing away, that was wasted?

EF: That is right. It was an incentive to drink more milk so that we could win the ice cakes. The ice cakes were the treat. That was what was so fun about being a cafeteria monitor. You knew you were going to have that one ice cake.

JM: And what did you do as a cafeteria monitor?

EF: Well, we washed; we kind of rinsed plates. I remember cutting up carrots. Back then it was all scratch.

JM: Did you hand peel the carrots?

EF: [We] hand peeled carrots and potatoes. And then the other helpers would tell us what to do.

DM: You know, now they serve lunches on paper plates. No dishwashing.

EF: No dishwasher. I remember the dishwasher.

JM: Times have changed, haven’t they?

DM: Times have changed.

JM: I believe I visited your school when I was here [in 1976]. Didn’t I visit your school?

DM: I don’t remember.

JM: I think I visited your school and I think I visited Donna’s school. I think that I visited those two schools the week that I was here for the convention. It is just such happy memories, and Doris has always been one of those happy, happy memories of Hawaii. So we are just so grateful, and thank you Eleanore for joining us. This has added so much to [the interview].

DM: Do you work here?

EF: Yes, I do now. I was a cafeteria manager also.

DM: Where?

EF: In Kalihi Waena cafeteria for seven years before coming to this office, but prior to that I was with St. Francis Medical Center as a dietician. So, I’m a dietician, and I moved to the state, and worked at Kalihi Waena for seven years. It was an experience! I became a Cafeteria Lady myself, before coming to this office. What a small world.

JM: It is a small world. You know, it’s just such good experience to be a cafeteria manager, isn’t it?

EF: It is.

JM: It lets you know what goes on in the real world. Sometimes I don’t know how people work in food service if they haven’t been in a kitchen. You don’t have to be in there a long time, but you really need to be in there to understand what goes on, because I started out as a hospital dietician. But we thank you [Doris]. Are you sure you won’t come in and have some lunch?

DM: Thank you, but I think my driver has to go home.