Luther S Aungst was born at Linglestown Pennsylvania on October 26, 1862, the son of Daniel and Amanda Aungst. He was educated in public school in Decatur, Illinois.
Aungst got into the telephone business and worked in Des Moines, Iowa 1879-1882, Philadelphia 1882-1886; San Francisco and Los Angeles 1886-1890. He came to the Islands in February, 1890, to take charge of the rebuild the Hamakua and South Kohala telephone systems.
“Mr Aungst, the new telephone man, is making a good start, and has the lines in good working order. He understands the business thoroughly.” (Hawaiian Gazette. March 25, 1890)
Aungst was known as the man who ‘wired’ the Big Island. He installed a line from Hilo to Kau, and across Kona to North Kohala. He used mules to drag telephone poles across lava flows.
He later secured a franchise from the government for Kona-Kau Telephone and Telegraph (1892-1932), stringing a phone line from Kau to Waimea. Kona-Kau Telephone & Telegraph later merged into Hawaii Telephone Company. (HIGenWeb)
Aungst (5 ‘6″ tall, sloping forehead, grey eyes, light hair, fair complexion) married Emma L Schoen of Hilo on February 1, 1896; they had three children Edith A, Elmer L and Wallace M.
He did more than telephone operations … “The sisal mill was run by Mr. Aungst [from 1917 – 1921], the man that owned the telephone company. Mr. Aungst was quite a pioneer.”
Young Minoru Inaba (later, Kona Representative in the State legislature) notes, “I got the job at the sisal mill after I graduated from the eighth grade.”
“My father used to be the foreman at the sisal mill. So, I got a job there. I used to get up, 3 o’clock in the morning, get on a donkey from Holualoa, go all the way to Keopu, and go down the trail. You see, the sisal mill used to be on Palani Road.”
“It’s little below where the Liliuokalani Housing is. Used to take me three hours to get to the sisal mill every morning. I used to get up 3 o’clock in the morning – well, before 3 o’clock, and leave home at 3 o’clock. Get to the sisal mill at 6 o’clock, work there the whole day, then come back. So, I used to get home about 7 o’clock at night daily.”
“I had to haul in a wheelbarrow all the thrash that came out of the sisal. And haul it away from the mill, dump it on the ma kai side of the road. You couldn’t loaf on the job. Because if you’d loaf, it’d pile up, accumulates, and you’d have a hard time. So, it had to be continuously working. It was a pretty good-paying job … $2.50 … per day”.
“What they used to do was to thrash the sisal. You take the green leaves, and at the tip there’s always a spine, huh? So, they had to cut the tip off, and then, cut the leaf off – the sisal leaf. And then, they’d put it on a conveyor.”
“That leaf is really thick, you know, and much of it is moisture and thrash in there. So, this machine would thrash that leaf and leave only the fibers.”
“The thrash that used to come out of the leaves is what I used to haul away. After the liquid and thrash was cleaned out, it left only the fibers. This was what they made rope out of sisal.”
“They had to dry this out in the sun. After it was thoroughly dried – the fibers were dried – they’d bring it in, and they’d compress it into bales. They used to ship it to San Francisco. But the cost of bringing out the sisal from the field …. They used to pack it, and those things were heavy.”
“You know, to bring it out in a rocky terrain, they used to bring it out on the donkeys. Load ‘em up on the donkeys and bring ‘em out. This was the costly part of their operation, so finally, they had to give up.” (Minoru Inaba)
“In Holualoa, he started the first garage. He was the first one that had a radio. He was the first one that brought in the carbide lights – you know, gas lamps for the home. He was the first one that imported the flashlight.”
“He was the first one that brought in ice from Honolulu. There was no ice factory here, so every steamer day, the ship would bring in ice, and they’d bring it up to his home. He was the only one that had ice.”
“Oh, he was quite a pioneer. And he started the soda works there. … The old soda works used to be the Kona Bottling Works. Yes, he was quite a pioneer.” (Minoru Inaba) “The Kona Bottling Works bottled and delivered soda throughout the district”. (Peterson)
Aungst died at his home in Holualua on September 17, 1953 at the age of 90. The County “Board of Supervisors prepared a resolution of condolence to Mr Aungst’s family, honoring him as the first citizen of Kona and a pioneer in developing telephone communications on this island.” (Hawaii Tribune Herald, September 18, 1953)