Kaua‘i Pineapple Co. Manager John Graves Watkins

A direct descendant of early 17th-century Massachusetts settlers, John Graves Watkins (1892-1982), the manager of Kaua‘i Pineapple Co. (Kaua‘i Pine), in Lawa‘i from 1943 until his retirement in 1957, was born in Boston, Massachusetts and educated at Boston English High School.

His ancestors were Minutemen, who’d fought the British at the Battle of Concord, Mass. during the Revolutionary War. One forefather, Captain Jotham Watkins, served in the Continental Army throughout the American Revolution.

Years later, Willard Wesley Watkins, Watkins’ father, took up arms for the Union in the American Civil War, and Watkins himself was an Army captain and veteran of WWI.

John Graves Watkins began his career in Hawai‘i in 1919 as timekeeper at Ola‘a Sugar Company on the Big Island. Prior to joining Kaua‘i Pine as field superintendent in 1931, he’d also worked for Libby, McNeill and Libby on Moloka‘i, and had served as assistant manager of Koloa Sugar Co.

Among the changes Watkins oversaw during his long tenure at Kaua‘i Pine was the evolution of cultivating with mule-drawn plows to plowing with tractors, and the replacement of laborers harvesting pineapple by hand and loading sacks on their backs with workers picking the fruits and placing them on a conveyor belt leading to a truck for transportation.

As manager, Watkins was not only respected; his employees considered him their friend.

On Saturday evening, May, 11, 1957, some 250 well-wishers attended Mr. and Mrs. Watkins’ Aloha Party at the Kaua‘i Pine gym in Lawa‘i.

Kenneth Arashiro’s Green Garden Restaurant prepared the buffet dinner. Territorial Miss Puerto Rico Linda Agosto honored the couple with a hula and then draped them with lei, and Beatrice Almeida presented them with an autograph album inscribed in gold letters: “Aloha to Our Manager and Friend, John G. Watkins, May 1957.”

Watkins and his wife, Marie, had three children: Martha Haskell, John Graves Jr. and Henry Norman.

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