Mark ‘Ehukai Kwock Sun Yoshio Kahalekulu was born in 1956 along the Honouliuli coast, at ‘Ewa Beach. His kupuna father worked for the Dowsett-Parish Ranch on the Pu‘uloa lands, and lived at various locations between Pu‘uloa, One‘ula, and Kualaka‘i. The Kahalekulu line originated in the Ho‘okena-Ho‘opūloa Region of South Kona, and were displaced by the 1926 Mauna Loa eruption. Mark’s entire young life from toddler through high school was connected to the ocean and nearshore lands of the Honouliuli Ahupua‘a.
During the interview Mark shared his recollection of families, practices, fishing, surfing, and walking the Honouliuli coastal lands. The following topics are among those discussed by Mark:
• In the early part of the 1900s there weren’t many people out here. Then during the war there was no access to the ocean. After the war the fisheries were very rich. Among the fish were moi, awa, kala, palani, manini (and ‘ōhua), ‘ama‘ama, āholehole, ‘ōpae, he‘e, ula, and crabs.
• Limu was plentiful, with beds two to three feet high on the shore. When in season, you could smell the limu inland of Pōhākea Elementary School. Types of limu included līpoa, kala, and manauea.
• Parents always instilled in him the responsibility that lawai‘a had for care of the fishery resources: taking what could be used; not fishing or collecting out of your own area; and sharing.
• Descriptions of the various reef regions extending from the shore to the deep water at first, second, and third reefs.
• During his youth he witnessed a significant change in the ocean environment and resources. There were major sewage spills, and people from all over came and took more limu than the papa could restore.
• Before, the ranch and plantation controlled access along the shoreline, and there were a number of gates that people had to go through to get access. There were no squatters in the early days.
Interviewee Mark Kahalekulu (MK)
Interviewer Leimomi Morgan (LM)
Place One‘ula Beach, Māmala Bay, ‘Ewa
Date January 17, 2014
Final transcription completed February 9, 2014
LM: So, if you want, you can share your whole name, the meaning of your name, and your family connection to ‘Ewa.
MK: My name is Mark ‘Ehukai Kwock Sun Yoshio Kahalekulu. My connection with ‘Ewa is my father and grandfather originally came from Ho‘okena, South Kona. They were paniolo working the ranches in that area during the early part of the 20th Century. I looked up census, and they were listed, my father and my grandfather, in the 1920 census in Ho‘okena.
LM: And what were their names?
MK: Kahalekulu. Raphael Ka‘ihikapuonalani Kahalekulu, that’s my dad. And my grandfather was John Kaihikapuonalani Kahalekulu. And, by the 1930 census, they’re here in ‘Ewa. I always wondered why they moved, and then I was reading a book on the historic volcanic eruptions on the Big Island, and there was a real, real big eruption in 1926, and it started from Moku‘āweoweo on Mauna Loa, and it came all the way down and it went all the way down to Ho‘opūloa, and that’s the name of that flow. That was in 1926, but they showed the extent of the flow, and if this is Ho‘okena here (drawing in the sand), and this is Mauna Loa, the flow came down and all the way to the sea at Ho‘opūloa, but some of it actually went and diverted above Ho‘okena. So, I can only imagine my family, looking up at night, and seeing the lava just suspended on the mountain above them. I would get out too, I would get out too. So, they came out here [‘Ewa] and they started working for, as paniolo, for the Kahuā Ranch that was by Barber’s Point. So this was by 1930.
LM: So your grandfather moved here too?
MK: Yeah, yeah. The stories that I’ve heard, this was way before my time. I was born in 1956, so this was many decades before my time. My father, my grandfather, and my grandmother came and they lived where White Plains, Officers’ beach is now, there’s that stand of ironwood trees on that point right there. That belonged, according to my mother, Leatrice Kam Ing Kulia Chong Kahalekulu, that that belonged to the Shaffer family, and they had lived there before our family came. So, being that my dad worked for the ranch, and my grandfather worked for the ranch, they had gotten permission from the ranch manager, to basically squat on the beach by the ironwood trees. My mother passed away in ’06 . My dad passed away in 1958 of stomach cancer, but while my mother was still alive, and they had opened up Barber’s Point for the public, I tried taking my mom down there, and asking her, “Mom, where did you folks used to live?” and she would say it was Wai‘anae side of the Shaffers. And when I’d take her to where the ironwood trees are, she goes, “You know, back in the ’30s, didn’t have these big tall stand of trees, they were small.” But it was a marker for them, those ironwood trees, and it still is for everybody. So, I can only imagine that where they actually had, and it was like a shotgun shack, it was like a beach shack. Had plenty room for nets, because my dad and my grandfather were very good fishermen from Ho‘okena. Maybe 10–15 years ago, I went to Ho‘okena for the first time. When I saw the canoes that they had over there, I just totally flashed, ’cause one of my youngest recollections of living in ‘Ewa Beach, was after my father died, my mom still kept his canoe on the side of the house. And it wasn’t a dugout canoe like how you would imagine one normal canoe was, dug out from a tree trunk, it was made out of planks, out of boards. But had an outrigger and it was very narrow. It was, you know, the shape of a canoe, but made out of boards.
LM: And, he [your father] used to use it? He made it?
MK: Yes. And then, at the very, very end, it was squared off, and that’s where they would put an outboard motor on it.
LM: Ohh, interesting. And they would just take it out?
MK: Yeah. So, when I went to Ho‘okena those few years back, I blew my mind, because, on the beach, it was like, Wow! There was like a dozen of them. And I had never seen um before other than my dad’s. And that was only from when I was a little teeny-weenie kid, like 3, 4, 5 years old, I remember playing on it. So, it was one of those things that showed me that, we were from over there. My family was very, very much into net fishing. So, even after my dad passed away, we still continued that out here [‘Ewa beach]. My dad was a very, very good fisherman, so he would work for the ranch as paniolo. My sister, see that milo tree there over there [points] that’s my sister’s house.
LM: That one?
MK: Yeah, like two houses away from the right way, that’s my sister’s. Like where that wahine is sitting right there [points].
LM: Ohh. She lives right there still?
MK: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. So, she told me a story, ’cause she’s older than me, she’s 18 years older than me. That’s Yvonne [Leilani Mui Kwai Kahalekulu], Moriguchi is her married name now.
LM: And she was a Kahalekulu, too?
MK: Yeah. So, she had told me a story not too long ago that my grandfather liked to drink. So what he would do, he would get my dad to break horses at Kahuā Ranch, because for every horse that you broke, you got 10 dollars. So, he was like 12, 13, 14, and my grandfather would put him on a horse and go make him break the horse, but he [grandfather] would keep the money, so that he could go drink with his friends.
LM: Ohh… Auē!
LM: That was a lot of money! 10 dollars!
MK: That was big money! Yeah, break your neck though, you’re risking your life. So, they would have a lot of drying racks, and even later on, when I came along, we still had these, [points] net, net, net, net, net, net. And it wasn’t that nylon, not string, it was cord. So, even as I grew up, somebody in the family always had to be sewing it, patching it, ’cause we used them all the time. The bottom over here is very, very rough and uneven, so always you gonna have puka. So somebody always gotta be patching that constantly, especially if you have literally miles of net.
MK: I remember hearing stories of how much fish over here it used to have. And, there wasn’t that much people over here. I remember, during the war, you couldn’t fish, they closed the beach, and you couldn’t fish. What is that… Martial Law?
LM: I don’t know.
MK: Yeah, Martial Law. You couldn’t do stuff. You couldn’t have light coming out of your window at night, because they gotta worry about Japanese bombing, and being able to identify what’s happening on the ground. So, even on the ocean, you couldn’t go out and go fish. So, my mom would say that, right after they lifted Martial Law, there was so much fish, because nobody could fish for four years. From 1941–1945, you couldn’t fish out here. So, had fish up the ying-yang.
MK: Yeah, but she said, within less than a year, so many people were hitting it, ’cause they hadn’t been able to go all those years, that within a short time, ahh, it was hard to get those big catches of fish again. I remember a story my mother telling, and this is down by Barber’s Point, when they were down there, before we came this [One‘ula] side. My dad had located a school of moi, so he went, and with his canoe, he laid the net from the shore, around the school, and it came back to the shore. I can’t even imagine a school this big. And had it almost penned up like cows or something. So, what he would do is, the first day, he would back his truck up to the ocean, and they would use a scoop net, and they would just bring the two ends of the net close to shore so that it would pile the fish right in front of you. And they would just go and get a scoop net and just load up the back of the truck. They would fill up the truck, they would take it down to Chinatown Market downtown, and they would sell um. And I think my mother said, the first day they went do that, they got like 20 cents a pound. They didn’t even dent the school. The next day, my father did the exact same thing, back the truck up, pull the school close, and just start scooping fish into the back of the truck. They took that into Honolulu, they still had fish left over from the day before, so they gave him 10 cents a pound.
LM: Did you guys eat the fish, too?
MK: Ohh, Yeah. And then, the third day, my dad did that one more time, took it into town, they gave him 5 cents a pound. He was so angry, he came home, and he opened up the net and he let all the fish go.
LM: Good [laughing]. So you guys would subsistence fish? You guys would always have fish to eat? It was like a part of your life?
MK: Yeah. And a lot of it was dried. The awa. I know my mother would dry awa. That was her favorite, she loved the belly part of the awa, that was the best. And, because the awa was such a big fish, yeah?
LM: What would you say was the most numerous fish around here?
MK: I would think it’s the kala.
LM: The kala?
MK: Yeah, I always call it the official unofficial fish of ‘Ewa Beach, because it’s very easy to find, and very easy to catch. And they get very, very big, and they’re fat, they’re herbivores, so they eat limu. So, especially in the days before, this beach, would have drifts of 2–3 feet high of limu.
MK: Yeah, you would be able to smell the limu from Pohakea Elementary School when I used to go over there. Some days, if the wind was onshore and really strong, up to the shopping center and beyond you could smell the limu, it was piled up so high.
LM: Wow. You know what kind it was?
MK: The majority of it was probably the ones that people would call it ‘ōpala. But you know, now days, there’s no such thing as ‘ōpala limu now. That’s like, in the old days, palani, and kala even, manini, that was considered “shit” fish. Now, to me, there’s no such thing.
LM: Yeah, you take what you can get now.
MK: Yeah, it’s an oxymoron now. So, ‘ōpala limu is the same thing. But the drifts would be mostly limu kala, long, long strands of limu kala. Līpoa, jus long, long, long strands of līpoa, and most people didn’t come to harvest that. And people came from all over the island, especially on the weekend. Monday through Friday, not too bad, just the local, the people from ‘Ewa Beach. But on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday, you would have, from all the way down there from the wall, all the way down to Parish Drive, which is the point further up there just beyond those coconut trees is where the Parish family lived. And there would be 2–3 feet all the way, and in the water here, would have limu floating at least, 20–30 feet out. Just thick, thick.
LM: Wow. What happened to it?
MK: I have a friend that, he went Kamehameha grad ’74 like me, Alan Perry, he works for whatever city department is in charge of the waste treatment plants. So yeah, I talked to him, and I said, “Alan, you think you can…” and before I can even finish my sentence, he goes, “Mark, I know what you goin’ ask me…” And I said, “Okay, what am I gonna ask you?” He goes, “You want me to let the sewage outfall happen, so that the limu comes back to ‘Ewa Beach.” And I said, “How did you know I was gonna ask you that?”
LM: Is that what it was?
MK: When I was in Kamehameha, I grad ‘74, I was a boarder…
LM: Oh, really? Why were you a boarder? Oh, ’cause it was far?
MK: Any place from Waipahū out, Wai‘anae, Waipahū. Pearl City, you had to be day-student.
LM: Yeah, my mom was day, too.
MK: ‘Ewa, Wai‘anae, of course, North Shore…
LM: You guys all boarded…?
MK: We all boarded with the outer islands guys.
LM: Ho, I wish it was still like that! I would have boarded!
MK: Let me tell you, hey, it was awesome. But I remember, when you looked from campus, you looked down, and off of Sand Island, about a mile out, you would see this big, brown V, out in the middle of the blue water. And that was raw sewage, and if I not mistaken, I may be wrong, but I think I remember 11 million gallons of raw sewage a day would go out into that outfall. And all you saw was this big, brown V, and then the current runs, and this is Māmala Bay [points out around us] all the way across, so the current would run from Honolulu, and run along where the airport stay, Pearl Harbor, and then come down to ‘Ewa Beach.
LM: Wait, what was this bay called?
LM: This is Māmala?
MK: This is Māmala Bay. From Barber’s Point to Diamond Head. So, to me, that’s why [the limu grew]… it was like fertilizer. That’s what it was.
LM: Oh and the fishes love it then, and I bet the honu loved it too.
MK: And to me, that’s why, I like talk to you, because to me, that’s what we have to preserve, if you don’t have the base of the food chain. And to me, it’s limu. And then once you get that, because not only the fish eat the limu, there’s other things like crabs, and shrimps, the ‘ōpae, they live inside the limu for protection. Now, there’s other fish that may not eat the limu, they’re carnivorous, but they looking for the shrimp and the crab that look for protection. It’s like a forest. So, that’s why I wanted to talk to you about that, I think that we really need to take care of the limu because that’s the basis for ‘Ewa Beach. And, as far as Pearl Harbor being Pu‘uloa, it’s all one big system, including Pu‘uloa. Like you said, that’s where all had the fishponds and all, yeah?
LM: Yeah, my grandma said she would go out and collect limu when she was young, too. It used to grow in the watercress patches, I guess, too.
MK: You know, if you get clean water, whether it be fresh water or salt water, plants will grow. But, that’s why, I would like whatever kind organization, whether it be the state, or whatever, is if you want the fish and everything that goes along with that, you gotta start with the actual papa itself, and make sure that the limu is protected. Another thing, is that, because Pu‘uloa was protected, and because a lot of the drainage, I think every drainage, Pearl Harbor is the drainage for, except for Honouliuli.
LM: Yeah, it’s all the way out that way.
MK: Yeah, so, all of that comes in, so you get this balance of salt-water/fresh-water, and it just depended on what part of Pearl Harbor you were actually in. And of course, salt-water’s heavier than fresh-water, so even in some parts you gonna have different kind fish, and to me that’s why they had so much fish ponds. Because the species that could handle being penned up like that, the awa, the awa‘aua, the silver fish, the ‘āholehole, the mullet, the ‘ama‘ama, all of those, they’re brackish water fish. So, to me, a lot of the spawning that happened in ‘Ewa has a lot to do with what’s happening in Pearl Harbor, Pu‘uloa itself. I noticed when I used to go fishing, loaded baby sharks. For me, that’s one example. Loaded baby sharks in the mouth of Pearl Harbor, right outside of Iroquois Point, loaded. Lot of hammerheads, but lot of small sharks, 2, maybe 3 feet. Now, when you come out ‘Ewa Beach Proper, and you start from Iroquois, the Rifle Range, ‘Ewa Beach Park, just go close right here, you would see bigger and bigger and bigger sharks. So, this is my theory, is that they’ll start off at like, Pu‘uloa is like a nursery for a lot of species, and as they got bigger, they would come out, and now you get all of this limu-grinds, that herbivore fish would definitely need. Other fish that were carnivorous, they would find the other smaller animals that lived among the limu. And as you went further and further this way [westerly], you’d almost see a growth within a species. So, that by the time you got down to Barber’s Point, ho, they’re big. You going see the biggest sharks, you going see the biggest enenue, you going see all the big, large adults, the mature adults, over there [Barber’s Point]. And I’m sure that they go back, looking for places that they wanna spawn and lay their eggs, or have their young. So, to me, this shallowness and the outside reefs out there, it’s not like Big Island where, it’s like, right from the shore, boom, the water just deep.
LM: Yeah, this is an old island.
MK: Yeah! It’s an older island. The fish have got plenty, plenty places, the sand pockets, the reef, the rubble, there’s so many places that the animals can come in and lay their eggs and raise their young in a protected kind of area. Of course, you still gonna have, the further out you go, you gonna have the bigger, larger fish. But now, I spoiled, I dive Big Island a lot, and it’s just like, wow, look at this place, the clarity of the water and everything. And that’s another thing, because the clarity of the water is generally dirty, maybe that’s not a real good word, but it’s not clear because of the runoff and infect water from Pearl Harbor. Once it comes out of the mouth, the current catches it, and brings it along this coast, and it just goes right along this way. The only time that it changes, and that’s what I was looking for today, is when the winds blow from the north. When the winds blow from the north, it blows all the dirty, unclear water straight out to sea, and this area [‘Ewa Beach] becomes…
LM: All clear?
MK: Yeah! It looks like Hau‘ula or Punalu‘u or something, which it never does.
LM: How often does that happen? Hardly ever?
MK: Very rarely.
MK: You know when you feel the really really cold morning?
LM: Yeah. We feel it Mililani, too.
MK: That’s the days to come! That’s when you wanna go diving over here. Because with the nets, you don’t need crystal clear water to lay a net. But for diving, you need it.
MK: Yeah, your boyfriend you said he’s a big diver, ah.
MK: One thing that we have to play with, you could have nice water and everything, but if there was a lot of limu in the water, you didn’t lay a net, ’cause your net just would be full of limu. So, that’s what you waited for, you waited for the days when had little limu, and still yet, you still going get limu. So, you laid your net, like you could see, it’s kinda light colored about maybe 30, 40, 50 yards out, and then it goes all the way out to that darker area further out, that’s the first reef. It runs parallel, it runs almost from like, pretty much from ‘Ewa Beach Road all the way out here, and you can see the little white caps out there. It starts off over here as really shallow, 2, 3 feet, and then where it gets to be that lighter color, it’s sand and rock. Almost looks like a parking lot, it’s flat, not much limu, and then once you get out to where that darker area is, it’ll come out maybe from 10 feet deep, it’ll come to maybe 5–6 feet deep on a low tide. And then, that reef is maybe only 50–100 yards wide, and then it drops off again into deep, deep sand. And that’s probably about 50 feet deep. On other days, like in summer time when there’s a south swell, you’ll see another set of breakers further out than these ones that you see here, that’s the second reef. And that one is probably about a half mile out, the first reef is about a quarter mile out. Then you get that deep sand that will come to maybe about, on a low tide, to maybe 12–25 feet deep, that second reef. But it’s, ho, the fish out there. They run in parallel bands, so the first reef runs about a quarter mile, and it runs all the way down, goes. And even like the shark country, where the surfers are, I used to surf too, that’s part of the first reef. And then the second reef, it goes, and then it kinda ends about, well it goes actually through Barber’s Point, and even through like where the jetty is, maybe like by where Barber’s Point is, it’ll actually start, it’s not so defined. ’Cause really, it’ll do this, it’ll be shallow, deep, shallow, deep, shallow, deep, and it goes on. I been out to the third reef, but that’s as far as I’ve gone. And I wouldn’t doubt that there’s reefs even further out. Especially like in past millennium, where the sea level fluctuates, there may be reefs that was in shallower water, long time ago, but the reef is still there.
LM: So, how did you first get into spear fishing? It is spear fishing, right?
MK: I worked for United Airlines after I graduated high school, ’74, and in ’81 there was an air traffic controllers’ strike, and Ronald Reagan was president at the time, and he fired all the striking air traffic controllers. So what that did was, is that airlines couldn’t expand, in fact they had to cut their flights because there’s less ability to control um. You know, air traffic controllers, they gotta follow the airplane, tell um turn left, turn right, go to this altitude. Because of that, United had to lay off a lot of us, throughout the whole system. So, there’s a bunch of guys that I know, that I work with now, that we all got laid off in ’81. And, I didn’t get my job back until ’84. I didn’t wanna work a straight job. I load and unload airplanes at the airport, and it’s kind of a, it’s outdoors, and you’re not stuck in a cubicle. You’re not in an office, you’re not behind a computer screen. You’re outside, you’re doing stuff. It suited me. So, I didn’t wanna work a straight job, I’ll say it like that. So, after my unemployment ran out, I had heard all these stories about my dad, and how he was master fisherman. And our kuleana was the mouth of Pearl Harbor to Barber’s Point. And, later on when I tried diving other places, ho, my mother would scold me, “Boy, that’s somebody else’s fish. Why you need to go anyplace else, this is our kuleana.”
LM: I like that mana‘o.
MK: Yeah, don’t hana ‘ino other peoples’, you know, their area, that’s for them. So, I told myself, “Okay, I am gonna learn from the mouth of Pearl Harbor, all the way to Barber’s Point.” And, I did it for 3 ½ years, almost 4 years. And, I had heard stories when I was young that my father died when I was a year and 9 months, not two years old, of stomach cancer. But when I was born, my father had wanted to show me all these spots, and some secret spots. And, after he died, I felt like, wow, I kinda, I lose a big part of my heritage, my legacy. That was supposed to be mine. So, when I got laid off, I said, you know what, “It’s still here! It’s not like it ran away. It’s still here!” So, whenever the winds would turn cold, I’d be out here. You know, this is like punching in, this is where I work. And, just depending on what area was the cleanest, and what area maybe I never go for a while, and I would pick and choose different areas, but a lot of it was, not just looking for the fish, or well, I would look for fish and he‘e and lobster, and limu, too. And I would take my catch up to Waipahu, and I would sell it at the markets over there. Mostly it was Yama’s, at Westgate Shopping Center, they bought everything I brought.
LM: Wait, in Waipahu?
LM: Yeah, I been there.
MK: Oh, yeah?
LM: Yeah, the fish market. My boyfriend actually took me there.
MK: Oh, yeah? Is it still there?
MK: I’ll be darned. Like I said, Yama helped me out plenty, because he would buy, whatever I got was, kala, palani, whatever.
LM: I’m not sure if it’s still called the same thing, but, there’s that fish market in Waipahu.
MK: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m kinda shocked to hear that it’s still there.
MK: So, that’s what I did, and what I’d try to do is make a mental map of how this place looked if the water was clean. And, lotta times, you know, say you get like maybe only one day the water clean, and then the wind will switch, and it’ll go back to being dirty. Hate to use that word, but not clear.
MK: And, so, those days, a lot of times, even though I’m trying to get fish, or whatever, I’m trying to remember everything, so that one day I could pass it on. And that’s what I’m trying to do now with my grandson, is to let him know where everything is.
LM: So you kinda had to like, go and discover it yourself from just the stories of hearing your dad?
LM: That’s good.
MK: As Hawaiians, we hear all these stories about our ali‘i from long time ago, and sometimes it’s almost like not real, or they’re just stories.
LM: We’re so far removed from it now days.
LM: But it wasn’t even that long ago.
LM: Your dad! Your dad’s generation.
MK: Yeah. So I said, you know…
LM: If they could do it, you could do it.
MK: That’s right. And that’s what I did. And what I would do is, I surfed a lot before, that’s why I had all my surfboards and stuff, so what I would do is I would get two guns, I carried a hinge and a three prong, and I would put that on the front of my board. I would have a floater and a lead and a rope, and I would also wear a leg rope on my leg, so that way, if I’m way outside there, and I run into something that I don’t wanna be in the water with, I just jump on my board, and it was protection.
LM: That’s good.
MK: Yeah, and if I went out to the second reef, I’d put two leg ropes together so that I could reach the bottom in 20, 25 feet of water. And just depending on where I was gonna go, that’s how much, I knew I had to have that much rope. So, lotta times, people would come down and they would see my surfboard floating outside, they’d think that’s like one abandoned surfboard. ’Til they see me climb on top and paddle, oh, where’d that board go? I started in ’81, and then I got my job back in ’84, and I told myself, the ocean, ‘Ewa would take care of me for almost four years, and that’s all I did. And, even though I didn’t make a lot of money, I fed my family with the fish that we got, and I barely had two nickels to rub together, but that was one of the riches times of my life.
LM: Hum. Interesting?
MK: Hoo, I always look back to that so, so fondly.
LM: Like free…
MK: And you know what, I learned the value of a dollar. I know how hard I had to work to get a dollar. And everything was real, crystal clear. And like now days, it’s different now, I live differently. But, that four years really, really taught me a lot.
LM: So, where were you living? Maybe if you could just go back and say where you lived and everything? I know you were explaining on the way here.
MK: Next to the church, yeah, there’s actually some property over there.
MK: My mom and dad, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, they were still squatting down by the Shaffers down by the ironwood trees. And, my dad is pure Hawaiian and my mother is ¾ Chinese and ¼ Hawaiian. Her father, my Goong-Goong, was Kong Chong, he was half-Hawaiian, but he didn’t look it. His father came from China in the 18…, my grandfather was born in 1880, he was born on Kekaha in Kaua‘i. I don’t have any documentation on it, but I’m wondering if that’s where they first worked as far as plantation…
LM: Yeah, they had the sugar plantations. Yeah, my grandpa’s side is the Chong, too, and they were from Kaua‘i, too! It was like, Ah-Chiong, though, and I guess like when they came here they just shortened it to Chong. But he was born in Koloa, Kaua‘i.
MK: Koloa, is the south side, yeah?
LM: Yeah, and his dad was from China, too. And the mom was pure Hawaiian.
Yeah, his father, so my great-grandfather.
MK: Okay, my great-grandfather was pure Chinese, born in China. That’s Chong Ayau, and then he ends up by the turn of the century on Moloka‘i, and what they did was, he married a pure Hawaiian woman from Hālawa. And, he opened up a poi shop in Kaunakakai. To this day, my family still makes Moloka‘i poi over there, the Chong family on Moloka‘i.
LM: Oh, wow! So, wait, what was his name again?
MK: Chong, Ayau, that’s my great-grandfather.
LM: And he was the full Chinese from China?
MK: Yep, he was the one who came from China.
LM: And he married…
MK: A pure Hawaiian.
LM: From Moloka‘i…
MK: And her name was Kanaka‘ole. Her family name was Kanaka‘ole.
LM: Oh, interesting.
MK: Yeah, and so to me, I understand that that’s where originally the poi, the taro, the kalo was coming from, was from Hālawa. And they used to bring it over on mules, mule train to Kaunakakai. He would make the poi there. He had a machine that did the grinding of the taro. So, even when I was young, on Easter vacation, or on Thanksgiving, lotta times we would go to Moloka‘i and we would stay with my mom’s cousin. My great-grandfather had two sons, and one son’s son stayed on Moloka‘i. That’s Fook-ana, we called him Fook-ana, Uncle Fook-ana. And, all the boys was all Fook for that generation. Fook-wah, Fook-sun. My generation is Kwock, so that’s where I get Kwock-Sun from.
MK: So, we used to go there, and he would make poi every other day. But by the time, this is probably late ’60s, the taro came from Maui. So we would have to go with his flatbed truck and go to the Kaunakakai Wharf, and pick up big burlap bags of taro, take um back to the house. His poi factory was a shack that was divided in two, one was to actually puree, mash the cooked taro, and the other half was to cook the raw taro. So, what he had, it was a real, real old machinery. I cannot tell you how old this stuff was, even in the ’60s. You filled this big pan with water, this metal pan, and then get kiawe trees all around his property, so you got his kiawe, and you made this fire under this big, huge pan of water. And then you brought all the taro, bags and all, you unloaded the truck and you put it into this room. The room wasn’t very big, maybe about 10 by 10, but you filled it all the way up with taro. And then, we had boards that you closed up this room, and then there was 55 gallon drums of rags. And, you got rags, and you take it your fingers, and you fill all the cracks in between the boards because you no more door, you just have one open wall.
LM: That’s how they steamed it?
MK: Yeah. So, to make easy to bring the taro in, there was no wall, so you just unload real easy, just stack, stack. And then, you got boards, and you fitted the boards, there was like one space in between a post, so you get your board, and you make like that, and you get your next one, next one, next one, all the way up.
LM: Ohh, I see. So smart!
MK: But, get small cracks, and cannot have no cracks, it’s gotta be like a giant pressure cooker, steamer. So you got all these rags, and that was us as small kids, our job was to make sure we got um filled up all the cracks with rags. So, he did that the night before. The next morning, you would get up and, my cousins would be peeling the taro, so that’s what we did, we would help peel taro. And then, he would feed it into the hopper of another really, really old machine, and then that would grind up the taro, and on the other end, would come out poi. So, he would be on the other end, and he would have an old scale, you know the kind that hangs up from above, with a big round face like a clock. So, he had it wired as the poi would come out, and it was hot, he would scoop it up with his hand, and he would put it into the bag, put ’um on the scale, one pound. Perfect. He did it forever. So I remember, couple times, he goes, “Mark, you go make. Take your turn.” So I make. Hey, not only I cannot get it into the bag clean, stuck poi all over my hand, all over the end of the bag, it was awful. Oh, little bit too much, I gotta take out. Ah, little big too little, I gotta add. It was really goofy, I wasn’t good at that at all. And, he was a good fisherman on Moloka‘i too. But going back to over here [‘Ewa], my dad, there was a story about when people just started living out here. It was mostly, it was all dirt roads. This area [Māmala Bay] was mostly beach cottages for weekends for people that lived in Honolulu, and there wasn’t that many people that actually lived out here, full time.
LM: Yeah, very small community?
LM: But you guys were out here full time?
MK: Yeah. So, when they actually started squatting, the deal was, is that, you could squat, but when you guys go, there’s all these gates to get to the main road, the Wai‘anae Road. So, when you would drive your vehicle up to a gate, then somebody would have to get out, and then open the gate, then you go forward, and you gotta go through and close the gate. I think there was something like 20 or 30 gates that you had to get through before you got to the Wai‘anae Road, the one that goes like that. And, people started coming out here, I can only imagine, they had this place all to themselves for a while, but then, Filipinos, other immigrant groups, because they were leaving the plantation, too, like how the Chinese did. So now, because ‘Ewa Plantation is right here, some Filipinos started moving to ‘Ewa Beach and buying places, and they started fishing. So, my story was, that this is Barber’s Point. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Barber’s Point, they get one jetty that goes out.
LM: Yeah, I been there.
MK: Okay, off of that jetty, about maybe quarter mile out, about first reef distance, there’s a reef that the waves come in from three sides. Comes in straight, and then comes from two sides, like this. And when the three waves come together on the shallow reef, I’ve dove there, I mean you don’t wanna be there. It’ll screw you up big time if you’re not careful. So, what the story was that my dad started off at by where the Shaffers is, the ironwood trees, and he was gonna lay his net on the outside reefs, probably first, maybe second reef, I’m not sure. But, he noticed that there was another boat that was following him, so when he would drive, he’d see this thing driving, so he’d stop his motor, and then they would stop their motor. So, he’d start his motor again, and he goes to the next reef, and ho, these guys, they stopped their motor. So, in other words, they’re trying to find out where his spots were. So, what he did was, is he just kept on going from reef to reef, and then, they would come, so they’re always like one reef behind. So, he got to this, some people call that reef “cross-waters.” But that’s Swabbyland, that’s the surf spot at Swabbyland.
MK: So, he got his boat, he went, went, went, went, went, and he knows that if he stops, they goin’ stop. So, he waited till they were right over that reef, and turned off his motor. So now they turned off their motor, now so they’re sitting ducks.
LM: Oh, no.
MK: So he waited, and sure enough, one swell, the wave came in, it did that triple-up thing, capsized their boat, so he turned around, and he went go rescue them.
MK: A lot of the cowboys, my mother would say, ’cause they didn’t use dry boxes, ’cause they had so much fish, a lot of times they would just go dry fish, and then hang it on a clothesline like clothes between the ironwood trees. So the cowboys, my mother said, they on horseback, and they wouldn’t even get off their horse, because the line is like right by their [head]…
LM: They would just grab the fish?
MK: Yeah, they just go. But, my mother said, you know what was real pretty, was that they would have a, inside their hat, they would have chili pepper, and they would stick, you know like a, you bust one small end of a chili pepper bush, and maybe the thing get like 4, 5, you know, some is red, some is green, some is half-half. So, they would stick it inside their hat almost like one lei or decoration, you know, for them. But…
LM: Aww, cool. They would use it to eat.
MK: Yeah, yeah, yeah, when it came for lunch time, they had it.
LM: Aww, smart!
MK: And, my mother used to say that every once in a while, the small baby manini would come in, certain times of the year. And you know, I’ve looked for that, that occurrence, and, I cannot say I’ve ever really seen that. But she says, every year, certain times of the year, and they would be about as big as a postage stamp, and you know like when you get like a tide pool, the buggahs just full inside. ’Cause they would come in with the tide. And then when the tide went out, they would be all inside the tide pool all low tide.
LM: Ohh… wow.
MK: So, my grandmother, Tutu-Lady, she would have an apron. She would use the apron to scoop up the baby manini, and almost like one net. And then she would put that in a bowl, and the big manini, too. And, even that’s how, my mom said, ’cause she was raised Chinese style, and to live with Hawaiians was real different from what she was used to. So, her mother-in-law, she kinda tripped out on her mother-in-law, my grandmother.
LM: And she was the Chinese?
MK: No, she was Hawaiian, too.
LM: Your grandmother?
LM: What was her name?
MK: You know, that’s a whole ’nother story. ’Cause, I actually have, I guess my family would say, we have two grandmothers. They were sisters. One was married to John Kaihikapuonalani Kahalekulu.
LM: That was your grandfather…?
MK: That was my grandfather. His wife’s sister came and lived with them. She got hāpai.
LM: From him?
MK: He said, that’s his. That man… my dad.
LM: Ohh, wow, scandalous!
MK: I know.
LM: So like, but back then, everyone was like, hānai, so then you have two moms. So your dad had two moms. They would look at it as, ho you lucky you have two moms. Po‘olua they called it.
MK: I know, I know. So true, so true. Po‘olua. So, like my family, ho, they don’t like that Po‘olua theory. They don’t like that at all, because to them, it’s like, for one thing it is scandal. And second, how can you have two mothers. So, that’s old style thinking.
LM: Yeah, it’s Hawaiian.
MK: Like Kamehameha had Keoūa and Kahekili, they had Po‘olua. So, that’s something that’s gotta be sorted out, and as far as the family, some guys think one way, and some guys think another. And, there’s other people, like my sister, who has her own theory, that it wasn’t Kahalekulu, John Kahalekulu was the father. It was a Portuguese man. So, there’s the Portagee-man theory, too, in my family!
MK: I know. And to me it’s just like, and you now, it’s very divisive, it’s very divisive.
LM: Yeah, you never know…
LM: You could put anything on your birth certificate too, yeah?
MK: And, in the old days, maybe that didn’t matter. But now days, say you get your kid in Kamehameha, they not going go with this Po‘olua or anonymous- Portagee-man theory.
MK: They want, who was your grandfather. So, that’s how that works. But my Tutu-Lady, [Emily Ka‘iliponi] who raised my dad…
LM: So she was…
MK: She was John Kahalekulu’s married wife.
LM: Ohh, okay.
MK: Yeah, not the sister. The sister, actually she lived with John Kahalekulu and her name was Philomena [Ka‘iliponi]. You know they get one, like where that slide park is as you going towards Wai‘anae. That used to be one quarry before. And my dad’s biological mother [Philomena], and her husband [Keku], the husband actually was the watchman for that quarry. So, he [my father] had his biological mother close, and his hānai mother with him. So, this [Tutu-Lady] was his hānai mother. So, she would go and catch all these small, little baby manini, and you know, maybe that’s bad now days ’cause you wiping out the babies, yeah? You should at least let ’um grow big, yeah? But in those days, that’s how they ate. So, she would use the limu kala, just the tips, because the whole limu kala is real hard and spikey. [Goes and grabs some limu kala from the shore.] So, some of this [limu kala], they would just use the soft, soft end. Because, as you can feel, the inside part is kinda hard, and you feel this part here, you don’t wanna eat that.
LM: Yeah, this is soft though.
MK: But, the very, very end, and she would just pick this off, and that’s what she would put on top of this bowl of those baby fish, and then use hot water…
LM: And pour it?
MK: Yeah, and that would make one soup, and one broth.
LM: That sounds good!
MK: I know! My mother used to say, “I used to think, coming from one Chinese family, I was so weird.” But you know, she look at me and she goes, “But it was ‘ono.”
MK: “I learned to eat that from my mother-in-law, and to this day, I love that.” [Quoting his mother] So, that’s why I used to go look for that, for her, but I never found that. But what my grandmother would also do, was that she would go get manini, and she would broil the manini, and do the same thing. Put the broiled manini inside a bowl, and then put limu on top and kinda dress it up, and then use the hot water and then make a fast fish soup. So, I could do that, I could go get manini for my mom, and my mom would do that. So, when you think about it, I don’t really know very, very much about my family’s history as far as when they first came, and all I have is secondhand stories from before.
LM: Well, you grew up here, too, so you have memories of your childhood. So, how many siblings do you have?
MK: I have my sister and a brother, there was just three of us.
LM: What are their names?
MK: This is Yvonne [points to the house close to us].
LM: And her married name is…?
MK: And then my brother [Raphael Kaleikoa Kwock Sing], he’s two years younger than my sister. So, I think she was born 1940, and I think he was born 1942. And then me, I’m 16 years after my brother, and I was born in ’56, so, no actually, he would be born 1940, my sister would have been born late 1930s, 1938, something like that. So, when I was young, my father had already passed away at ’58. What they did was after World War II, they were squatting down at Barber’s Point. My mother’s birthday is December 7th, she saw Pearl Harbor get bombed on her birthday. You could never celebrate her birthday, ever. Like she would say, “It was such a sad day.” But, because she was Chinese and my father was Hawaiian, they squatted, and my mother told him, “Old Man, we have to buy our own place.” And when you think about it, it’s kinda Hawaiian for him to think like this, but he goes, “Why buy something that’s free?” He was in favor of jus squatting. But my mother goes, “No, no, no, we gotta buy one place.” So after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, a lot of people that owned these properties, here, most of um was along this shore. They wanted to sell and get on the first boat to California, because they thought the Japanese was going to invade.
LM: I see.
MK: You know, they just bombed Pearl Harbor, this [Māmala Bay] is so shallow, this would be perfect for the Japanese to invade. They [my parents] went and bought next to that church, the bought one lot, and it was three hundred dollars.
LM: What did your parents do? Oh, the paniolo.
MK: My dad first came over as paniolo, but by the war time, he had gotten a job, him and his dad, his dad first, and then he followed. They were custodians at ‘Ewa School.
MK: So that was their straight job. And, after paniolo, you don’t wanna do that for very long, really hard on your body. So, he would fish and then work at the school. And then when my mom moved down here…
LM: Three hundred dollars!
MK: I know, but that was big money that time!
LM: No, yeah, yeah.
MK: So, my mother came down, and eventually she got a job at ‘Ewa School as a custodian. And, later on they moved to other schools, but they usually worked together, McKinley, Stevenson Intermediate down by Roosevelt, Roosevelt High School, too. But they were custodians. That’s why, to me, I’m a very big proponent of education because my mother was. She sent me to Kamehameha, sent my brother to St. Louis, sent my sister to Mid-Pacific. How many toilets she had to scrub to send us to those schools, you know? So, to me, it was like, “Wow!” That’s how much she valued education, she only went up to the 6th grade. And because she had 13 brothers and sisters, when she got to 6th grade, her mother pulled her out of school and said, “Nuff school, you help at home.” And, the boys went on to University of Hawai‘i, but her only to 6th grade.
LM: The girls are gonna get married anyway, and have babies…
MK: So it’s like, ho, lose money, ah? But, I don’t like that way of thinking, but that was them.
LM: That was that time.
MK: Yeah. So, when they bought that property next to the church, it was all kiawe, so they cleared it, they busted their ass, lived in a tent. But after they had cleared the land, one of the regular residents of ‘Ewa, that was here before us, said, “Do you know a certain family?” And, I think now, that might have been Dowsett, but I don’t have no proof. But my mother said that she asked, “Why?” [And he/she answered:] “Because you just cleared their land.” They [my parents] said, “No, no, no, we bought.” They said, “You bought the piece next to it.” But it’s all kiawe.
LM: Yeah, how you supposed to know?!
MK: How you supposed to know? So my mother and father were crushed, because they had busted their ass to clear, you know how Hau Bush looks.
LM: Yeah, that’s tough.
MK: So my mother said, “You know what Old Man, you gotta go talk to this lady.” So they went up there, and she says it was one house up in Nu‘uanu Valley, and it was one old haole-looking lady, and they asked if she’d be willing to sell the one that they wen’ clear. And she said, “You know, I wanted to save that for my family, but nobody want it because it’s so far out in the boonies, out in the sticks, ‘Ewa Beach.” But she goes, “You folks, you young, I’ll sell it to you folks because you guys, you guys are gonna make better use of this opportunity than my own family.” So, she sold it to them. So, they ended up with two pieces. So, while the other one, which was the original one that they bought, still had kiawe tree, they had this one cleared, and they lived in like one army tent my mom says, until my dad could clear the other side, the original one, and put up a house. He eventually put up three houses on those two lots, and at the time you could do that. So one was a three-bedroom house. He originally built one two-bedroom house I think, and then next to it he build one one-bedroom house for his mother.
LM: Aww, okay.
MK: And then later on he went and built a three-bedroom house. When I grew up, my mother had those houses. But they were built like a little after the war time, right around the ’40s. So that’s where we originally lived was next to that church. The church wasn’t there yet. That was actually my father’s brother’s house. And the church bought from my uncle, that was Uncle [Abraham] Apela, my dad’s brother, his half-brother. His hānai mother’s son, his half-brother. So, he sold it to the Baptist church, about the early ’60s, I only remember little while, about the time I was in second grade it was a church, but they used my uncle’s house as the church for many years.
LM: Oh, wow, interesting, huh.
MK: So, we lived there when my mother was just widowed, and she lived in that one bedroom house, and she rented out the two- and the three-bedroom, and that’s how she made money. Because other than that, after my father died, my mom said that for social security for my father dying, she got $64 a month, and that’s what she had to live for, she and I to live on.
MK: You know, I tell you, I didn’t know we were poor, ’cause we had a lotta love and always had food on our table. So, I didn’t realize that until I went to Kamehameha, and then I saw what other kids had.
LM: When did you get in?
MK: ’69, in 7th grade.
LM: Yeah, I got in 7th grade, too.
MK: Yeah! Yeah, otherwise I went Pohakea over here. So, when I was about 5, that house that’s right at the T right here [points], that belonged to my Uncle Peter Chong, and he lived in Kalihi with my Goong Goong and my Popo, kinda took care of them.
LM: Peter Chong. Then who was the Goong Goong?
MK: That was Kong Chong, or Chong, Kong, with the last name first, ah.
LM: My grandpa, the Chongs, they grew up in Kalihi, too. On Pohaku Street.
MK: They were right off of King Street, like where Queen’s Market. There’s a supermarket over there, right off the Kalihi Shopping Center, there’s Kalihi Stream. In fact, before they moved over there, they actually lived on the stream next door to Hiram Fong the senator, Hiram Fong’s family. So my family and their family, not now, but they were close long time ago. Yeah, when everybody was broke! [laughing]
LM: Yeah, anyways! [laughing] So, Peter Chong…
MK: Yeah, we moved when I was about 5, so early ’60s, we moved to over here, this is One‘ula Place. And then, we lived there. And that’s why this beach is very, very near and dear to my heart, ’cause as long as I can remember…
LM: Māmala Bay.
MK: Yeah, Māmala Bay. And then, around the corner, and we can go take a look at that after we leave. As you come out of this One‘ula Place, to the right about 3 houses is my aunt, another sister of my mother. When my mother them came down here, all our family was Kalihi, and she was the first to marry Hawaiian. So, she was ostracized by my Popo.
MK: Yeah, that was bad! Marry Hawaiian. But, once her sisters, and she had eleven sisters, ten sisters. Once she married Hawaiian, oh, it was like, “Oh, now it’s okay for us to marry Hawaiian!” So, they married Hawaiian, and now they started, it was always every weekend, after pau work, they would all drive from town, and they would all come down, and they would all hang out in ‘Ewa. And then, Sunday night, they would all pack up, they all go back to town, they all gotta go work. So, eventually, as places started opening up, they started buying places over here, too. So it was nice.
LM: Ohh, it’s like a Kahalekulu and a Chong… that’s so funny.
MK: Yeah! But it was this strip right here, kinda like from that point to that point. This was our playground, our living room…
LM: And your sister lives right on the beach?
MK: Yeah. What happened was is that, about middle ’80s, after I got back with United, it used to be, these four houses that was right next to the right-a-way [right-of-way] was one lot and it belonged to a family called the Youngs. And, it was their beach house. And they would come on the weekends. And then, there were two twin boys, and I think they went to like ‘Iolani or Punahou. And they got into a business deal, and they asked the parents if they could use that lot as collateral for that business. They business collapsed, the bank took that property.
LM: Ohh, wow.
MK: My sister was living in Waipahu at the time. And when she heard, that this lot, what they were gonna do is cut it in half. So it was one big lot, [drawing in the sand] so now, they went cut it in half, here’s the right-a-way [right-of-way], and so it’s two house lots, two house lots [in four pieces]. So, all the bank wanted is their money. They made an auction, and I think my sister bought that thing for maybe a little over a quarter-mil, two-fifty, something like that for two lots, right on the beach.
LM: Wow, she bought two of them?
MK: Yeah, she bought one half of this, but her half is two lots. So, she eventually put up a big two-story house on the front, on the beach side. And then she has a two- or three-bedroom rental on the street side.
LM: Wow, and she still lives there?
MK: She still lives there. She’s retired from the post office, her and her husband.
MK: So, after we lived here, around the corner you come out of One‘ula onto Pōhakupuna Road, I have another aunty that’s over there. Her children still live there, in fact, my uncle that my aunt married, he’s a Richardson from Lana‘i. The Richardsons and the Kaopuikis, who raised Kepā, are related by marriage.
LM: Ohh, I know some Kaopuikis from Lana‘i.
MK: Ohh, on Lana‘i?
LM: Yeah, from Lana‘i, yeah.
MK: Oh, okay, okay. And you remember, I don’t know if he was there when you were there, but there was a bus driver, his name was Jerry. Jerry Kaopuiki at Kamehameha School.
LM: Oh, I don’t know…
MK: He might be after you. I mean, you might be after him.
LM: Yeah, maybe, I don’t know, probably.
MK: But, as me, going to school in the ’70s, I knew he was family by marriage, twice removed. [laughing]
MK: That’s why, when Kepā told me he was raised by the Kaopuiki I said, “You’re kidding!” So I started rapping off some names, and he goes, “Now, how are you related to those guys?” And I said, “You know, Kepā, you get relatives you know, you get ‘ohana over here right on Pōhakupuna Road.”
MK: My aunty lived over there. Next to her, in the middle ’60s, you know ’64, ’65, had a Filipino guy and he wanted to sell his house. My cousin was gonna buy that house, and she used to work at Woolworth’s when used to have a Woolworth’s over here.
LM: I remember… well my mom told me about that.
MK: The Woolworth’s?
LM: That it was like the only store…
MK: Yeah, yeah! My cousin worked at, what they call that when they have one, ah, you get soda…
LM: Ohh, a fountain?
MK: Yes, yes! A fountain! So, she was gonna buy that house next to her mother, but my mom asked if she could buy it. And, at first it was like, you know, you get $64 a month for social security, how you going buy this? Even though it was only $13,000 at the time.
LM: Oh, wow.
MK: That’s what they sold it for. So, my mom, using the property that she got as collateral, she was able to buy that other house. That’s the house that I grew up in.
LM: Wait, which one was that again?
MK: This was the one on Pōhakupuna Road, you haven’t seen it yet. And now, it’s just an empty lot. My mom bull-dozed down that thing in like the middle ’90s because it was just too old.
LM: And now you still have that property?
MK: I still own that. And, in fact, after I talk to you, I gotta talk to a realtor, I gotta go talk to a realtor.
LM: Don’t sell it!
MK: That’s what I’m thinking of doing.
LM: Aww, no! We always just say, don’t ever sell, don’t ever sell! ’Cause, all the Hawaiians are just getting pushed out…
MK: I know, I know. You know, my father was from the Big Island, and even though I get my daughter, son-in-law, I get two grandsons over here, I get family over here, I enjoy the Big Island. I enjoy going to the Big Island.
LM: But there’s so much land there!
MK: I know, I know.
LM: And it’s getting bigger! [laughing]
MK: You never meet my daughter. My daughter is, oh boy. She grad UH with a degree in economics.
LM: Ohh, wow. That’s the one married to, Eric?
MK: Yes, to Eric.
LM: What was his last name?
MK: So, my daughter is trying, ’cause right now, it’s an empty lot, and as far as I’ve been explained, to get the financing, to put up a house, I would have to rent it out. I wouldn’t see any return for many years, I would just be paying it basically for up to ten years before I see any return on it.
LM: That’s not that long! [laughing] Nah, it’s your money, it’s your house, it’s your land, I don’t know.
MK: But I still have that other house that’s next to the church.
LM: Oh I see, and you rent it out?
MK: Yeah, I rent it out.
MK: So, it’s not like I would be devoid of anything.
LM: Too bad you couldn’t like hang on to it and save it for grandkids…
MK: You know, after I started talking to Kepā , and that’s what it’s gonna go down to. My daughter’s gonna get it. All of this, whatever I have, even if I sell this lot here, and get something on the Big Island.
LM: So you just have one daughter?
MK: Yep. So, it’ll all devolve onto her eventually. But she was saying, “You know Dad, you go to the Big Island anyway, and you prefer over there.” And I do. Even though I get grandkids, very rarely you see me on O‘ahu. I’m always on the Big Island if I can.
LM: Oh. What side, you like Kona side?
MK: I like Kona side. But, right now, I’m kinda looking at Honoka‘a.
LM: Oh yeah, it’s really nice there.
LM: In the middle kinda.
MK: What do you mean?
LM: Or like, kinda in between Hilo and Kona.
MK: Yeah, yeah. But it’s kinda at the end of the road. When I got off the plane yesterday and I was driving in that traffic, I said, to me, that’s not my idea of… I don’t know, I just enjoy the Big Island ’cause get plenty fish, the water is clean, country. There’s certain parts that have no traffic.
LM: So you might retire there?
MK: Yeah. I remember one time I went over there during the winter time, and the waves came really big. And, the main spot of Kona is Lymans, it’s a left, I’m a goofy footer.
LM: Me too!
MK: Oh! So, I was taking pictures, and the whole week had waves. And it was like, 3–4, 4–5, and all of a sudden, they said, “Oh, gonna have a real big swell.” The thing came up to like 8–10 feet with bigger sets. And I looked out, and it was perfect, and there was a half a dozen guys out there. I looked at my wife, and I said, “You know what, I haven’t surfed in long time, but I’m ready to go buy one, if I cannot rent one board, I’ll buy one.” So, I see this guy, and he was walking away. I said, “Bruddah, you know some place I can go rent one board?” He goes, “You see that condo over there, get one surf shop over there, Kona Bali Kai, they rent you boards over there.” I said, “Really?” He go, “Yeah.” Within a half an hour, I’m back with a board under my arm, and I’m all excited, it’s pumpin’, it’s smokin’. And I’m walking up the point, and local guys are looking at me and goin, “Alright, bruddah, go get um, go get um!” ’Cause they’re looking at me, and it’s like, outta six waves, one is ridden. Five empty waves to one. And I was like, I chipped my teeth out at North Shore, surfing the North Shore, and it was dog-eat-dog. Banging’ rails, and it wasn’t like, “Oh, yeah, go bruddah!” No, no, guys will drop in on you, I mean mercilessly.
LM: Yeah, there’s a lot of people.
MK: So, when guys treated me like that, I was like, “That’s aloha, that.” And, I’m sorry, but, I respond to that. And, even like now, I’ll go over there, and I’ll go look for one he’e, I’ll let the small ones go. Just if I was over here. If I something with eggs I’ll let it go, don’t touch it. If it’s kapu, don’t shoot it. Make sure it’s legal size. Even though I’m not a resident of over here, I feel like this is my heritage as a Hawaiian. So, when I go to the Big Island, and over here [‘Ewa], I’ll gather limu, I’ll go and go catch he‘e, and I’ll take that back with me to Colorado, and I’ll share it with other Hawaiians that are over there. To me, that’s the ability that I have, is to keep, not only for myself, but for other people, this connection. So, to me, it’s not just ‘Ewa Beach specifically, but it is, but more generally, it’s the whole state. I like see the whole state be held in stewardship for our people. Wherever it is. And, I may come back the last time in a box, but my heart is always over here. But I can understand, like you’re saying, and I tell you, I still get second thoughts about selling. That’s why, even like right now, I thinking about that realtor that I’m gonna talk to, friend of my daughter’s, and I’m not sure what I’m gonna tell her, especially after talking to you.
LM: I mean, I don’t know the whole story, but that’s my first response when I hear somebody’s gonna sell their land, especially like family land that you grew up on. I’m just like, “Don’t do it!” You’ll just regret it.
MK: You know, I read George Kanahele’s Ku Kanaka, and one part he says, “If you have ancestral land, don’t sell it.” And, what it is, it’s a place where your family can come and learn the stories of your family, and to be introduced to the history of your family, and a place like this, I mean, this is where we would get the net, lay, go make it, we had two pockets, everybody come in, all the kids, splash, splash, splash, splash, splash, pick up the net with the tube, put the fish in the burlap bag, pick up the net, everybody out, all the kids come back in, the men folks go all the way, start over here by this little cove inside here on the other side of the pipe. And then, go all the way down by Parish Drive, and by the time we got to Parish Drive, we had so much fish. We had more than enough fish for many families, like Uncle Peter, and Aunty Alice, and Uncle Lou, and my brother and my sister. You know, we had all of this as a resource. Whenever we went to Kalihi, we brought gallons of pickled limu with us, you know when we went into town. And for us it was no big deal, but wow, you know when you watch the family, our town family.
LM: They loved it.
MK: Aww, it’s like it was gold to them.
LM: Ahh really? I want some of that now!
MK: [laughing] I know.
LM: I want the fish, the manini, that sounds good.
MK: With the little buds of the limu kala…
LM: Yeah! I wanna try that now!
MK: But, no matter what, this place will always be home to me, it will always be one hānau. So, it’ll always be this. And even if in the future, I always think that my family, my descendants could be all blond hair and blue eyes one day.
MK: Pretty soon we’re all gonna look the same.
LM: We’ll all be one race again. [laughing]
MK: Yeah. I just want them to be able, I really want them to know that they’re Hawaiian, that they have Hawaiian, and they should be proud of it. And, even more so, they should try to learn their culture, learn their history, learn their language. For me, I’m terrible with the language. I’m a book worm, I get books all over my house. I can digest books on history, all that, but to learn the Hawaiian language, I have not found the key that unlocks that, and I don’t understand how.
LM: Immersion. Yeah, it’s hard. Language, you gotta live it, to really know.
MK: That’s why, to me, I don’t know if I ever will, but I not going give up. And I have friends up there [Colorado] and we tried to.
LM: When did you move to Colorado?
MK: ’91. So, I just want my children and my grandchildren and descendants, I want them to be proud of who they are and what they are. And as long as we get at least one place over here [‘Ewa], we still got our foot in the door as far as being able to have access to this place which has fed my family for almost 100 years. So, at the very least, I still get that, but if I could figure out something as far as this property, I’ll show you after.
MK: If I could figure out something, I’d love to be able to figure out something that I could say, you know what, this is the cornerstone of a legacy that I could pass down to my descendants and my family. If I could do that, that would be… I could kick out happy.