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Afterthoughts: That Bag

The Servco Toyota sport bag is a Hawai‘i classic.


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Servco Toyota bag

The 1970s edition.
Photo: Courtesy of Servco Hawai‘i

 

When I was in fourth grade, the undisputed coolest accessory in school was a red Servco Toyota duffel sport bag. The cool kids used them to carry around their lunch and their Trapper Keepers, and the bright color and bold text made the bags look awesome even just sitting in the cubbies at the back of the class. I, on the other hand, hauled my books in a weathered old Jansport backpack. I was not one of the cool kids.

 

Part of the allure of the Servco bag for me was its unobtainability. It didn’t seem to be sold at Woolworth or Sears, or anywhere else my parents shopped for school supplies and clothing, and thus became a tantalizingly out-of-reach prize.

 

So when, a few years ago, I was trawling through an old Waikīkī thrift shop and saw an entire pile of Servco duffels on a shelf, not only the red ones but also the ultra-cool black edition, you can imagine my reaction.

 

There it was, my childhood dream, right in front of me. On one side, the words, “TOYOTA—QUALITY IMPORT CAR OF THE YEAR.” On the other, a curvy bar of musical notation with the jingle lyrics “Who could ask for anything more!”

 

Toyota Bag

Photo: Aaron Yoshino

 

Instant purchase.

 

I use that bag daily now—it’s surprisingly rugged for a decades-old vinyl bag and just the right size to carry things to work or bring along on an interisland weekend. And it definitely gets reactions—turns out I wasn’t the only kid who had his life changed by a Toyota bag back in the ’80s.

 

I decided to find out the backstory of the Servco duffel bag and reached out to Casey Nishimura, the communications manager at Servco Pacific Inc. He had answers.

 

The Toyota sport bag was the brainchild of Tom Fukunaga, who, along with his brother George, headed Servco in the 1970s. The company itself was founded in 1919, when Peter Fukunaga opened a two-car garage in Hale‘iwa called Waialua Garage Co. Ltd. As the business grew, Peter changed the name to Service Motor Co., and in  1926 started selling cars, turning the operation into a successful, multigenerational institution.

 

Tom wanted to create a bag that disadvantaged local kids could use for sports. He saw them playing baseball at Pālama Settlement, and carrying their gear to games without any bags. He decided to help out with a program that gave free bags to local athletic teams. Tom’s son, Eric, who is currently vice chair of Servco Pacific Inc., says, “The bags were more popular than anyone could have imagined.” As the program grew in the ’80s, Servco gave out tens of thousands of bags to Hawai‘i kids. The bag itself went through several design iterations and colorways, turning the different versions into collector items, particularly once the sport-bag program ended in the early 1990s.

 

A-ha! Finally, the answer to why I never got a Servco bag of my own as a kid. See, I was not what you would call an athletic child. I did, in third grade, play one season of soccer. The AYSO coach installed me as left fullback, where I proved entirely unhelpful at repelling attacks on the goal; our team lost every single game that season, permanently squelching any enthusiasm I might have had for team sports. By fourth grade, I was spending my after-school hours at the public library, which, while amazing, was not handing out sweet duffel bags to its patrons.

 

Fortunately, with adulthood comes the opportunity to reengineer your identity. I may not be a baseball player, or a cool kid, but I’m glad the Servco bag lets me pretend.

 

Eric says there aren’t currently any plans to resurrect the sportbag program, but there may yet be a sliver of hope: Servco’s 100th anniversary is coming up in 2019, and he says they may be looking to do something special for the occasion.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY MICHAEL KEANY

 

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