Hanama`ulu Town Celebration

The Hanama`ulu Experience: Bango

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Remembering the Past ...


BANGO AT HANAMA`ULU

bango.jpg

EDDIE SARITA, a lifelong resident of Hanama`ulu, remembers his Mom shopping at Hanama`ulu Store and charging the purchases to his 
Dad's bango -- No. 3256.

BANGO is the Japanese word for NUMBER, and the
plantations used bango tags to simplify
 record keeping.

Oahu Sugar Co. started issuing bango tags to the sugar laborers in 1905 as a solution to the difficulty of keeping track of hundreds of workers with names that were strange, hard to spell, and hard to pronounce. To the Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Spanish, Korean and all the other ethnic groups brought to Hawaii to work for the sugar plantations, the identity tags and numbers were part of plantation life for half a century.

Initially, the tags were made of metal, like the sample shown above. The number on the tag became an employee's identification number. The bango tag was presented to the paymaster on paydays, to the timekeeper when the laborer checked in for work and checked out at pau hana. And the bango tags were used at the plantation stores for purchases.

Produced at the blacksmith shops of the plantations, the brass or aluminum tags, by their shape, indicated ethnicity, sex, and other characteristics. Like military "dog tags," bango tags were worn on chains around the neck. This writer has not ascertained when the plantations discontinued issuing the tags and issued only the numbers. Whenever that was, bango tag became "bango number." It's certain, however, that the Filipino laborers who were assigned to Hanama`ulu by Lihue Plantation when they came in 1946 were issued only numbers, which enabled them and their families to make purchases at Hanama`ulu Store by simply giving Mr. Ferreira and his staff their bango numbers.

SOURCES:
"Bango Tags: A New Identity." www.hawaiiplantationvillage.org, p.4

Medcalf, Donald and Ronald Russell. Hawaiian Money: Standard Catalog. 2nd ed. 1991, c.1990. p.54. ill.

Talk Story.

Copyright 2004 Catherine Pascual Lo
December 2004

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