WWII-era journals found in old Madison Water Utility facility

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Posted: Monday, December 7, 2015 --- 5:20 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. -- Today marks the 74th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks. Remembrances were held across the country--but here in Madison, one man who has connections to the island was able to jump back in time.

A stack of journals is not what John Kaioula expected to find. Hidden away in an old cabinet, in an even older building.

"So I'm in the process of moving, cleaning out my office, I found these journals in one of my desks and they were pushed way in the back. I got them out and started paging through them and I saw the dates on them," said Kaioula.

Some titles: "National Diary 1935" "Yearbook 1940"
But the one that caught Kaioula's eye was year 1941.

"I'm Hawaiian--the first thing I looked up was the 1941 journal," said Kaioula. He says his eyes darted to the December 7th entry, "I looked up Pearl Harbor day."

An entry that simply reads, "Japan attacked Hawaii this afternoon."

"Someone had journaled every day for about ten years," said Kaioula is awe. Ten volumes in total. All carefully penned by Elmer Nordness, the former superintendent of the Madison Water Utility.

"He was at this time the assistant superintendent, and later became superintendent of the water utility in the 1950's and then retired," explained Amy Barrilleaux, the utility's Public Informations Officer.

Nordness never missed a day. Detailing life in Madison, the work at the water utility as well as the impact of WWII on daily life.

"This is mainly to keep track of the very complicated things that happen at a water utility, now we have computers to keep track of all this," said Barrilleaux with a chuckle.

"It seemed like a surprising thing," said Kaioula, referring to the brevity of the record of Pearl Harbor. "The next day it said we declared war."

Entires after that recount of the good-byes Nordness said to many of his coworkers, and even his son as they went off to fight the war. Protecting the nation, allowing December 7th to be remembered.

"It really means Hawaii. That's when Hawaii was kind of made big," said Kaioula.

Barrilleaux says they will find a home for the journals at the new operations facility once construction is completed.