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Growing up in Pahoa, Hawaii: An Interview

    I decided to interview my Nana about what it was like growing up in Hawaii. This is a long interview, so brace yourself.

    “Why don’t you come closer so you can- get one of the chairs honey.”

    “It’s fine. Uh, where did you grow up?

    “In Hawaii. In a town called Pahoa.”

    “Yeah, on the big island?”


    “How many siblings did you have growing up?”

    “About fifteen.”

    “Did you live with all of them?”

    “No, is-is- that, older ones got older they either got married or left. And I’m the ninth child.” 

    “What do you remember about your mom?”

    “If I didn’t listen to her, she’d give me a lickin’. She is! That’s why I, oh God, I used to get so mad at her, or if- if I, like where we lived was kind of like on a hill, and if she want to look for me, she’d just go on the edge of the top of our mountain, and she’d look down and she could see where I was sitting in the village.
And I usually go down by the post office, ‘cause my friends hang around there, and play marbles, ya know? And then all of a sudden, I would hear, “EEEEEEEEEEEEE!” (Nana puts her fingers in her mouth the way you do when you whistle), ya know, the whistle, ‘cause my mother can do that. She-she- I don’t- she uses her fingers ‘cause I don’t look at her when she’s whistling. I’m pretty sure she’d probably just go “EEEEEEEEE!” (She does not put her fingers in her mouth this time) And then I said, “Oh no, now I gotta go, so…”.
    See, and I’d honor it too, knowing that I’m gonna get a lickin’ anyway, and I’m gonna make it worth my time. (We laugh for a good ten seconds) So anyway, I- I’d play along until finally when she’d stop whistling, then I’ll go upstairs (She means up the hill that her house is on) and walk up because we live up, kinda on a hill. And so, I have to go by the post office, and then I have to go by the church, and I’m thinking “I wonder if I should go sneak in behind the house.” But then I’d have to go through the graveyard (Laughing). And I wasn’t about to go- So anyway I just went up, and then what I used to hate was kids that live around there, they always knew that my mother would give us lickin’s up there, so I saw two, three of them hiding behind the hedges, ya know, and they’d say “Oh you’re gonna get a lickin’!” And I’d get so mad I feel like just picking up something and hitting them with it! But I’d just ignore them and I just walked away.
    And sure enough, when I got home, I’d get a lickin’! And, so anyway, and you know! You guys think you got it badly, you know how she used to do? She used to put, uh, rice grains, ya know, raw, on the floor, and we didn’t have carpet or any it’s just wooden floor, and we had to kneel on that rice! And you can imagine what it- it- it isn’t like one or two (Grains of rice), she got a bunch of- Ueghh.
    And so, here we are, and then we’d be on our knees, with our arms out like this (She spreads her whole arm span out, level with her head), that’s how we used to get our lickin’s. But I- I feel like I’m the only one that gets the most lickin’s, she must not- She must hate me or something, usually I didn’t see my sister, Rose, have to do that. And I didn’t see, ya know, my sister Lauli have to do that. I’m the only one that always gets it! I don’t know, maybe she hates me because I look like my father, and he left her. Went to the Philippines, and he want to take me, but she wouldn’t let him. Let him take me, because she already had the two boys and one girl. So I didn’t get to go and I wish I could’ve gone and I wanted to go!”
    “I’m sorry.”

    “But I don’t know, maybe my father could’ve been worse over there, because I know she got the idea from, uh, from my father because my father, he’s part spanish (Something I was previously unaware of), and I used to hear, ya know, uncle Barney, them, talkin’ about how they used to get lickin’s and I’m- I’m getting it now! But, uh, anyway, that was the life of my kid. My- my life as a kid. I used to play and have fun but, boy, if I’m not there, and- and my mother used to always feel like she’s in the mood, and she wants to give one of us lickin’, it’s always me! But anyway, so, anyways, she- I know she regrets it. From, you know, I never used to get close to- In fact when I was little, I used to go get in bed, and I’d get up, I’d get in the bed and I’d snuggle because I’d feel her warm body. And she never bothered me! But then, boy, she gave me a lickin’, she gave me a lickin’, she used to use hibiscus branch, and she’d peel of all the branch (bark) and she’d just have one, you know, and- and the main branch of a hibiscus, when she whipped that tip- that tip will (She curled her finger around her wrist.) hit like a regular whip, and oh god I used to get, whip lash on my arms, my leg, wouldn’t be on my back because I had clothes on. But, uh, anyway, that’s my life as a little kid!”

    “What was your mom’s name?”


    “Can you spell that?”

    “A-N-A-T-I-C-L-A, but a lot of people either just call her Ticla, just the last part.”

    “Do you know how she went to Hawaii, from the Philippines?”

    “Well, from what I heard, through my sister, through Auntie Rose, was her girl friend’s were- they used to be a lot of, ya know, Filipino men and ladies, they would come from the- because, uh, um, United States wanted some more people to come to move to the Hawaiian islands because they want the men to work in the cane fields. Cause they couldn’t get that many, and I wouldn’t blame them, I wouldn’t wanna work in the cane fields, and that’s how they came over. And she came over, her girl friend’s were coming, and they say “Why don’t you go with us?”, they were legally, could go, but not my mother. So what they did, her friends took her in, hid her in a lifeboat, cover her up, and every time when they ate, they’d take extra food and then they’d take it to her.”

    “Oh my god.”

    “Yeah! And she just stayed on the boat! Ya know, the lifeboat, all the time! And I say, “Well, at least if you guys had to go, at least you were already on the-” Oh, she didn’t like that. I thought that was funny, but uh, that’s how she came. 
    And then when she came to Hawaii, the only thing that she could do was dance, so she and her friends, they were all taxi dancers, you know what a taxi dancer is?
    Well, these are gals that work in the dance hall, where there’s single men, or men who don’t have partners to dance with, so these gals would go and, uh, they get paid! To do the dancing, and sometimes, they’d have what they called ‘Box social’, and they’d fix a box, and- because a lot of these men are single men and they never get food to eat, so they know, whenever they go to these dances, there’s box social, with food and- and they had to, uh, bid for each and every- and if the gals, if the gals they had good reputation for good food, they always get em first. And my mother used to be pretty good with her food. So anyway, that’s how she made extra money and her dancing.”

    “So, your mom was Filipino and your dad was Filipino and Spanish?” (I only asked this because I had previously thought Nana’s dad was Hawaiian and Filipino.)


    “Okay. Um, do you remember when the bombing of Pearl Harbor happened?”


    “What was it- was it like a big deal on the big island too?”

    “Well, it was big deal, because, ya know, they announce and I remember when I woke up, I heard it ya know and I was thinking “I wonder if that’s a-” because a lot of people think- A lot of times there’d be planes flying over the Hawaiian islands, and people used to think- And they used to fly because, just kinda practice, so when the Japanese came over, in Pearl Harbor, they didn’t pay too much attention, because, they thought that’s what it was. But then I guess, the army or whatever, found out, and they had all the, uh, the people, the army guys, that were on the island of Oahu to get their butts up, ‘cause they were all sleeping because it was like 7:00 O’clock in the morning, they were still sleeping, and that’s when those sneaky Japanese planes flew over! But anyway, but I- I, they didn’t come over the big island. They must have, but not where we lived. I remember- I woke up, and I wasn’t even scared because I didn’t know any better, because I was still a kid. And then, they left. And they did get some people, mostly on Oahu, where Pearl Harbor was, ‘cause that’s where they bombed, Pearl Harbor, and they- they bombed a little bit on the big island, but I didn’t know about it because I was still a kid. No, let’s see, 1941. How old would I be? I was born in 1928, let’s do the math.”

    “Um, you’d be thirteen.”

    “Yeah. I knew I was- you know, a young teenager, but I didn’t get scared! I didn’t know anything. You know.”

    “When did you meet Grandpa Jim?” (My paternal grandfather, who cheated on Nana, and is now strongly against interracial marriage, despite that he got married to a Filipino lady and had a child [My dad] with her.)


    “Yeah. or, how did you meet him?”

    “Met him when I went to- I moved to the island of Oahu, and I was with Auntie Carol, I don’t think you know her ‘cause she’s dead now, she was the wife of uncle- My brother Barney, and that’s how I met him, through- That- I could only- In fact, I wasn’t really dating, but it was his brother! Who I met, and we used to go to the movies, and- and then I met Jim, and Jim took over. And his brother, what the heck was his name? Anyway they called him Peewee, ‘cause, you know, he’s kinda little, short, and I used to go out with Peewee and we just- We were good friends, we just went to the movies and that’s it. No love, or you know, dates and stuff, just movies and a friend, that’s it. And then I met Jim and he- He was in the reserves I guess, and I remember meeting him was on a Saturday, and I was gonna go to the movies with Peewee, something happened, Peewee had to do something, so Jim said “Well, I’ll take you to the movie!” And that’s how it started.

    “Did you move to the states with him?”

    “No. I moved up here when I was already divorced with Jim, and I think I was married to a guy who lived in Richland, and he was from Richland, and I came over with him, and he was in Richland, ya know? And so, that’s how I came over. I came over, in fact, on an army ship, but I didn’t sleep with him. The way they had it, they had all the women in the lower thing, and the men in another, and some of the gals so, you know, they talk, “Did you, did you wanna sleep with your husband?” Well, yeah! I wasn’t sleeping with anybody, I- She said, “Some of us gals, since we can’t sleep with them,” Because, ya know, they seperated us, so during the day they’d meet their boyfriends or their husbands, and they’d use the cabin and then lock the door so nobody else could come in. They asked me if I wanted to with my husband and I said “No? You guys can do it.” So, ya know, I had to walk away and go up on the deck and- While they were fooling around with their husbands. But anyhow, that’s how I came over.
    We landed in San Francisco, and then from San Francisco, when I got to San Francisco, God, it was so cold, cause i think, I’m trying to think back, I think it was late summer I think when we came. It was getting colder over there, and I finally had to find my luggage and I had to open it and get my- It’s a good thing I brought a- A long coat, it wasn’t real heavy, but it was warmer than what I had on. And that’s how I did it!
    And then, when we got to, uh- Oh and from San Francisco, we took the bus, that’s how I moved to Richland, Washington. With my husband, then. His name was Allen McKrindall. He was really good looking! And, uh, his dad was real nice, but his mother, she act like, ya know (My nana points her nose up and makes a disgusted face) she liked me, but she was like this. But his dad was nice, and he had a sister, her name was Andrea, and a stepbrother because his mother was married before, and had this brother. What the heck was his name? Harold? Or something like that, anyhow, the- It was just Allen, and Andrea, were the two from- And uh, Allen and I lived there for awhile until- I was so glad to get out of that place.
    One day, I was painting my nails, and she says “Oh honey, be careful, you- You, don’t spill any of that nail polish!” And I said, “Oh no, this type of nail polish, you tip it over and it doesn’t drip.” And I did that and it did! I’m telling you! They had, I think they still do, nail polish where you can’t spill it, but this one time I say “This one won’t spill! Oh- (Nana makes like a waterfall/wooshing sound)” But anyway, I said- I hurry up- And then, my husband got real mad at me, I remember he said “You stupid woman!”, cause I said oh you know it doesn’t! So I hurried up and went into the bathroom and got- And wiped it off, and it was okay. I was so like “You’re so dumb Mary!”. Oh, God, and especially his mother, she was kinda like, this type (Nana points her nose up and makes a disgusted face.). But, her husband, my father-in-law, was real nice, ya know, but- What the heck was his name- His name was Andrew, her name was, uh, I forget. And she was really a pretty good looking woman! She was real pretty. But uh- And she was nice to me, ya know, but it was just the idea that she thinks she’s better than everybody. But at home she didn’t treat me that way because her husband would probably tell her off, because he was really good. That’s it, I stayed until- Allen and I, his name was Allen, I used to be McKrindall, Allen McKrindall.
    But anyway, uh, he was in the marines, and he got out, he got discharged, and then started working for Sears as a salesman or whatever. How did we split up? Oh, I know why! Because he likes to drink, and I hated it. He’d drink, and he’d come home, he’d be drunk, but the thing I liked about him being drunk, he doesn’t bother me, he’ll just go to bed, ya know? So, that didn’t bother me. He never beat me, or was mean to me, he was just- He just likes to drink. He had an uncle who used to be- Who was an alcoholic. His dad’s brother. And- Who was it? His mother I think warned me, “Be careful, Allen might end up being a drunk.” And I think he- He did. Because I didn’t see him, or whatever happened to him. But he was good to me! He was really good to me, he wasn’t mean to me, but I just couldn’t stand it.
    You know, my mother used to drink too, and when she get drunk, I don’t wanna be anywhere near her. Cause she’d pee in her pants, and you know who used to look after her, poor thing, uncle Tarzan. You met him, you know uncle Tarzan?”


    “He was a real big uncle, uncle Charles, his name was uncle Charles but we called him Tarzan because he- When uncle Tarzan and uncle Philip were born, and that was when Tarzan and King Kong were famous, so uncle Philip was called King Kong, and uncle Tarzan, his name is Charles, but everybody started calling him, uh, Tarzan I think it was.”


    “Yeah, yeah, and uncle Philip, you know, it was my sister, Auntie Fanny, I’d get so mad at them, poor kids, and here, so when they were at school everybody made fun of them. And then at school when uncle Tarzan went to school, and the first time they heard of him, ya know, the names, they say “Oh, I wouldn’t wanna see him how big.” Because uncle Tarzan was a pretty big guy, and some of the kids, you know, would say, “Gee, when we heard about Tarzan, I wonder what he looks like!” But everybody see him they go, “Oh that’s why he’s called Tarzan.” Because he’s kind of a big guy, but he’s- He’s such- He is so nice! You know? Because when our mother used to get drunk and stuff, poor uncle Tarzan, he’d go and he’d try to take care of her, ya know, she’d pee in her pants, and when she- I’d get away from her, I didn’t wanna see it. Ugh, I just couldn’t stand it. I used to feel so sorry for uncle Tarzan, because he was the only one who ever needed her.”

    “Um, that’s all the questions I have for you, but, um, do you happen to have any, like, old pictures of you and your family?”

    I would like to add on, Nana has only been married once, and it was to Jim. She moved to the states with him, and had my dad in Richland. Jim was an alcoholic as well. I tried to bring up the whole “Allen” thing with my dad but he got kind of quiet, I think he’s sad that her memory is going so badly that she has an entire family in her head that didn’t really exist.