The King and I at Honolulu Stadium

In the early summer of 1966 I had gotten the Waikiki YWCA Beach Club janitor job,* but it was only for two weeks, and with a week to go before my first paycheck, I still didn't have any cash.  While checking to see if my transfer to the University of Hawaii had been approved, I came across a campus bulletin board posting for a vendor at Honolulu Stadium--I didn't know where the stadium was, or even for that matter, what a vendor was.  Anyhow, I called about the job.

“Come to the stadium at five," the lady on the phone said, "Go to Gate Four and ask for Bill.”

“Where is it?” I asked.

"Next to Gate Three," she matter-of-factly replied.

I clarified, "Where is Honolulu stadium?"

“The stadium!” she voiced in surprise, “Just ask anyone.”

I found the stadium, which was right down the street from the University.  A Hawaiian-looking man holding a clipboard at Gate Four said, “Eiy, Brah, you get one pass?”

Not sure what to say, the lady on the phone had never even asked for my name, I replied, “I’m supposed to see Bill about a job.”

The man smiled and said, “You must be a new vendor.  Bill in dea, under da grandstand.” He pointed to a refreshment concession inside the gate.

Bill, a slightly chubby man in his forties, gave me a social security form to fill out.  That done, he handed me a light short-sleeved busboy-looking jacket and said, “Put this vendor's jacket on.”

"What about the interview?" I asked

"Why," Bill queried, "You want one?"

I shrugged an 'uh uh' no.

"You'll need this," he said and pulled out an empty brown cardboard box that had Winston Cigarettes—20 cartons printed on it.  As he placed ten of each item in the box, he stated their price. “Peanuts, 25 cents; potato chips, 15 cents; hot dogs, 35 cents…” Setting the box of goods atop a rack of iced cokes in paper cups with plastic covers, said, “And cokes get 15 cents.”

At a loss, I started to ask, "What do I do with...?"

"Oh yeah," he interrupted, "Almost forgot." He handed me a bunch of coins, and continued, “This is your ten-dollar bank." 

Perplexed, I questioned, “And now what do I do?”

"Put the change in your pockets," Bill instructed, "And return ten dollars when all pau.”


Bill clarified, “All finished.”

“Finished with what?” I asked.

“You’re a vendor,” said Bill, “Vend to the end.” He laughed at his impromptu rhyme.


Bill said, “Sell da kine in da kine.”

“What’s da kine?”

Bill answered, “You’re holding da kine”

"What's the other da kine?

Bill took a deep breath and said, “Go in da stands an try sell before cokes get warm and hotdogs get cold.”

“Where's the way in?”

“There're way-ins all over da place,” said Bill “You can’t miss 'em.  Take any way in you like.  ANY more questions?"

It seemed as though I had already been working, without ever being hired.

stadium past

I found a ramp and carried the cokes, hotdogs, chips, and peanuts up into the old wooden grandstand.  A baseball game warmup had been in progress below.  I nervously advanced toward the small number of spectators scattered on the upper benches.  Stopping in front of them, I silently displayed my goods, holding them up, one by one—nobody offered to buy anything. The spectator that I was standing in front of, not unkindly, said, “Would you mind moving on.  I didn’t pay to watch your white shirt.”

As I stepped away, I was suddenly startled by a big booming voice bellowing, "HOTDOGS! PEANUTS! COKES!"  The voice belonged to an older guy of about forty, dark-skinned with tattooed arms.  He had apparently already been vending nearby in the sparsely-filled grandstand.  I watched as the spectators eagerly stopped him, buying his snacks.  It was then that I knew what I needed to do--I hesitantly semi-shouted, "hotdogs, peanuts, cokes."

stadium king- cartoon

The tattooed guy heard me and gave me a very very unsettling look.  In a flash, he was smack in front of me hawking his own stuff.  I took the hint and quickly exited the grandstand.  Fortunately, I easily found more comfortable turf in the third base bleachers below.

I had quickly learned the unwritten rule of not encroaching on another vendor's space--especially if it was the tattooed guy's.  But, you know, even though I never again encroached on his selling area after that incident, neither had he ever again encroached on mine.  I guess he only did it that one time to teach me an invaluable lesson--mutual respect for one's space.

As it turned out, I had been vending at a minor league triple-A Hawaii Islander baseball game in Hawaii’s oldest stadium (gates opened in 1926)—maybe its only-ever stadium. Many called it the 'Termite Palace'.**

In the eighth inning, Bill told me it was time to quit selling.  I hadn't sold very much and my trousers were streaked with coke that had leaked from the cups in my tray.  Bill showed me how to check out and then said, “This job pays cash, paid after every game.”

 “That's great,” I said, “You don’t know how much that means to me—I really need the cash.”

“Don’t we all?” affirmed Bill as he handed me my pay for three-and-a-half hours of work —one dollar and twenty-five cents.

 “I thought Hawaii was a state—isn’t there a minimum wage here?” I said, without trying to seem angry. “What’s my hourly wage?”

“The vendors' pay is ten percent of their sales,” explained Bill, “No one told you?  You shoulda asked.”

The tattooed guy was standing nearby, long out of his white vendor's jacket, fanning through a bunch of singles--smiling at me (I had a feeling that he had been purposely waiting for my return)—gloating over his commission.

“You made that much?” I asked him.

The tattooed guy stuck his handful of dollar bills in my face and snarled, "I am Cardoza, and I am THE KING!"  It was true.  Cardoza worked only half the time as I did, and made twenty times what I had made.  And moreover, his trousers weren't coke streaked!                   

stadium king-vendors w sub_006

A dollar and a quarter wasn't much for the hours I worked, but it was cash in hand!  And as long as there were baseball games, I would have cash every night the team was in town!  As hard as I tried, I couldn't seem to make more than two or three bucks a game.  Cardoza, on the other hand, would walk away with fifteen to twenty bucks working less time at the same games and selling the same things.  How did he do it?  Why did he try to intimidate me into quitting, as he had done with all new vendors?  I couldn't quit.  I wouldn't quit!  I needed that job to survive.

It wasn't long before I found out some of the very unofficial benefits of the job.  I could eat all the hotdogs I wanted, but no buns (they counted the buns, not the dogs).  I could drink all the coke I wanted, but I had to have my own cup (you guessed it, they counted the cups.)  And if I went down to the beer concession in left field after the seventh inning, I could drink all the draft beer I wanted until the end of the game.

The stadium would hire anyone that wanted to be a vendor--anyone who wanted the job could have it.  It was a straight commission, so the stadium couldn't lose.  I saw many people start working at that job during my nearly nine years at the Stadium, but every single one of them gave up--almost all on the first day.  After all, who would want to carry a bunch of heavy leaky cokes and things around a termite-ridden stadium for 35 cents an hour (my first pay)?

At first, I stayed with the job because I had to.  But as time went on, I stayed not only because my vending had gotten to a point where I earned more than any other part-time job could pay, but because the stadium had become my home--my family.  I was affectionately given the Hawaiian name "Red."

stadium king-red batboy

Eventually, Cardoza and I became more like friendly rivals-- we even went out for beers a few times.  However he still proclaimed himself "The King"--until one day, maybe three years after I started the job, we checked our goods in and counted our money, and though it wasn't announced, everyone working in the concession knew, RED WAS KING for that day!!!  The times I came out ahead of Cardoza gradually increased until it came to where it wasn't unusual for me to beat him.

One point about vending is obvious-- the fewer vendors, the more your profit.  The time waiting for an inexperienced vendor to reload used up precious selling time. That is the main reason Cardoza would be so intimidating to new vendors.  I'll admit that when vending became profitable for me, I was not happy seeing new vendors being hired--having to wait restlessly behind them, losing money, as they slowly reloaded. Still, I never intimidated them (I let Cardoza do that), but I didn't go out of my way to help them, either.

stadium king-crown

In my short nine years, I seem to have earned the title, Red from the Stadium.  But Ben Cardoza will always be known by the vendors (at least two of us) as The King.  And Howard Egami*** (in a picture above, but not mentioned in this story), the Prince.

*How did I get the YWCA Beach Club job?  Click here.

**A future story will include a game that was postponed by termites.

***Read a surprise Letter from Booby

For tips on how to vend click here and scroll down to "HOT DOG HAWKING--"

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Robert Red-Baer

1950-Went to Tinton Falls Elementary School, N.J.
1962-Went to Monmouth Regional HS, N.J.
1964-Graduated US Army NCO Acadamy, Germany
1971-Graduated University of Hawaii with honors
1973-Red Heart Follies (Hawaii)
1975-Japan Prime Minister's Award (Video), among many
1985-Professor Edogawa University, Chiba Japan
2010-Retired in Japan