For two years prior to being hired as a reporter at The Garden Island newspaper in 1922 and then advancing to become the newspaper’s editor, manager, president and publisher before retiring in 1966, Charlie Fern (1892-1995) worked as the camp policeman at Makee Sugar Co. in Kealia.
In 1978, he recalled his days working there under manager Herman “Bismarck” Wolters for $75 a month, when Makee’s 1,500 to 2,000 employees lived in Kealia Camp, Mill Camp by the mill, Kumukumu Camp above Kealia, other camps mauka of Kumukumu Camp, and in one camp on the old road to Anahola.
“In those days I was camp policeman. I had to get the men out to work in the morning. The job was, in those days, if they worked 20 days a month, they’d earned their bonus, then they’d all loaf. And at the end of month, there’d be nobody working in the fields or anywhere. So my job was to pick ‘em up and make ‘em get out and keep a record on them. You’d have to just start and say, ‘If you keep this up, you won’t be working here anymore.’
“And then I’d go out and inspect the camps for sanitation and housing and repairs. It was to keep the houses up. And keep up the sanitation. In those days they had so much washing and things like that. We had ditches for all the waste water. Most of the toilets were outdoor toilets on the plantation.
“Another job was, I had to take care of the sick; see that they got to the doctors. If I’d go and find some guy who wasn’t working, and he was in bed sick, well, I’d let the doctor know and I’d get him to the doctors.”