Born in Germany, Diedrich Prigge Sr. (1878-1954) immigrated to Kauai with his parents in 1881, and beginning in 1897, when he was just 19 years old, he was employed for 50 years by the Department of Public Instruction on Kauai as a vocational teacher, until he retired in 1947.
A 1897 graduate of the Government Normal School — a sub-collegiate educational institution established in Honolulu to train students to become elementary school teachers — Prigge’s first teaching assignment was at Mana, Kauai, where he taught school in a small bungalow on a patch of salt flat that always flooded in rainy weather, and upon which nothing would grow.
Yet, Prigge — stubborn and determined — persisted in carrying out the school department mandate that he teach his students agriculture at Mana, albeit without success.
He finished his long teaching career at Kapaa Intermediate and High School as the oldest instructor in point of length of service in the Department of Public Instruction.
At Kapaa, Prigge’s student class sizes were large, to say the least.
In 1931, for instance, there were 546 boys under his direction taking the agriculture course.
Nevertheless, he was able to teach effectively that year by delegating authority to 39 student luna and 78 assistant student luna, whereby the school’s nearly- 2-acre garden was divided into 39 garden plots, with one student luna and two assistant student luna overseeing the work of 11 students in each of the plots.
An expert gardener, Prigge taught crop rotation to enhance the fertility of the soil.
One old garden plot was cultivated constantly for 22 years by implementing crop rotation and the use of green manure, horse manure and chemical fertilizer.
Vegetables were sold to the public, and the best student gardeners were rewarded with tickets to Kapaa’s Rialto Theater.
Another skill Diedrich Prigge Sr. taught at Kapaa was the making of high-quality furniture.
Prigge and his wife, the former Hannah Ka‘ai of Anahola, had 10 children: Diedrich (Dick) Jr., Paul, Emil, Joseph, Rudolph, Fedor, Rebecca, Lillian, Meta and Hannah.
Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org