Aarona, William Ithiel (Buck)

Kamehameha Schools Archives


Kamehameha School for Boys in a football game on Alexander Field, O‘ahu College.  Photo credit: The William I. Aarona family.

William Ithiel (Buck) Aarona was born at Hanalei, Kaua‘i on October 19, 1899. His original family name was Aalona, but his grandfather changed it. He was the first of nine children. He attended Kamehameha Preparatory School in the third grade in 1912 and graduated from Kamehameha School for Boys in 1919 in the ninth grade, the highest grade offered at the time. As a student at Kamehameha School for Boys, William, called Buck, distinguished himself as an all around athlete and was especially acclaimed in football. He enjoyed celebrity appearing on the front page in an article about football in the 1918 Pacific Commercial Advertiser. While executing a play against O‘ahu College, he was photographed flying over his opponents. He was also known to leap over the football charging line, hence the nickname "The Flying Bird of Kamehameha."   

Buck worked at the Board of Water Supply. He married Elizabeth Kuloloia Kane of Honolulu in 1923. They had 7 [sic] children: Elizabeth Ku‘uleimomi, Annie Ku‘uleiokealaloa, Bertha Kalahau‘oli Spencer, William Palupalu Kane, Isabelle Eleanor Leinani, Joseph Maliaokamalu. Elizabeth owned a business selling lei. After World War II, Buck worked with her and also at Van's Furniture, the predecessor of C.S. Wo & Sons retiring in 1957. Buck continued to play football with Scotty Schuman and his Town Team formed after World War I.  Former high school and college players joined the Townies to play football against service teams, the National Guard, Palama Settlement, Healani and the University of Hawai‘i. Sports reporters considered Buck Aarona one of the greatest Townies. The punishing sport played without protective padding took a toll on Buck's health.  Bill Gee, Honolulu Star-Bulletin Sports Editor asked in the 1960s, "Who was Hawai'i's best athlete?" He chose one from each school and wrote: From Kamehameha came Buck Aarona, 1916-1919, the greatest to carry the blue and white colors of the Kalihi Warriors, an athlete of surpassing skills.

Kamehameha 20 HMA 0
Kamehameha 62 McKinley 0
Kamehameha 33 Punahou 0
Kamehameha 33 HMA 0
Kamehameha 35 McKinley 0
Kamehameha 22 Punahou 0
Kamehameha 20 Punahou (Thanksgiving) 0
Totals 225   0


Red McQueen, Honolulu Star-Bulletin Sports Editor Emeritus asked another question in a September 22, 1968 article: "Who had the greatest football team in the history of the Interscholastic League? The answer: "...for our money, the distinction belongs to Kamehameha for their championship Warriors of 1918...that fabulous eleven...were undefeated and unscored on in seven big games."

Kamehameha Schools Photo Archives

While holding their opponents scoreless, this famous Kalihi machine, coached by Ralph J. Borden, with E. G. Bartlett as his only assistant, rampaged for 225 points, for an average of 32.14 points per game. The prep conference consisted of only four schools at the time--Punahou, McKinley and Honolulu Military Academy--in addition to Kamehameha. They engaged each other twice with the championship warriors notching the following record: The team included backs Buck Aarona, George Crabbe, Kenny Auld, Odgen Dawson, John Ahina, Gotzlieb Coleman, William Parrett and James Rogers, tackles Herman Clark and Edward Nainoa, center Bill Clarke, ends Jacob Akana, Jimmy Apo and Clarence Hohu, guards Ruben Kanoho, John Ahina, Jimmy Spencer, Charles Kahaunaele, and Pua Kealoha.

After Buck Aarona's death on December 1, 1965, Red McQueen wrote in a December 7 article: "The late Scotty Schuman, founder of the Town Team and the father of the Senior League ball in these parts, called Buck one of the finest backs he'd ever seen."  "He could have been an All-American on any team," said Schuman. Tall and rangy, Buck could run like a deer. But he was also a triple threat, being able to pass and kick with equal dexterity. Such offensive starts usually were weak defensively. But not Buck; he was a tower of strength while backing up the line at fullback. He powdered opposing backs and was noted for his flying tackles. He often flew over the line to nail a play at its inception.

Kamehameha Schools Photo Archives

And this happy Hawaiian was something to see in motion. A great broken field runner, he ran with his legs churning like pistons. And he always carried a smile and would never use a headgear.  He became an invalid shortly after his spectacular athletic career and had difficulty in walking during the remainder of his life.  But he carried on with the same stout heart that characterized his athletic accomplishments and he always maintained his cheery disposition despite much pain.  He and his devoted wife Elizabeth maintained a lei stand and sold leis at the docks for many years. He also served as a night watchman for many years at Van's Furniture Mart. Yes, Buck Aarona was truly a lovable guy and he will always remain one of Hawai‘i’s great all-time athletes. 

[Mahalo nui loa e Elizabeth Ku‘uleimomi Kepilino and William Palupalu Kane (Bucky) Aarona for information about their father]