Kaleikini, Jacob Pi‘iakanoa Sr.

Author: 
Kepo‘omaikalani Vierra

 

Jacob Pi‘iakanoa Kaleikini, Sr.
Photos courtesy of Kepo‘omaikalani Vierra.

Eia ko‘u mo‘okū‘auhau.
‘O Aulelio Tame‘ame‘a Ana eke kāne. ‘O ia ko‘u kupunakāne kualua.
‘O Sina Siona Leiali‘ifano Roberts ka wahine. ‘O ia ko‘u kupunahine kualua.
Noho lāua a hānau ‘ia ‘o Siliua Anae, ko‘u kupunahine kuakahi.
Noho ‘o ia me Jacob Pi‘iakanoa Kaleikini Sr., ko‘u kupunakāne kuakahi.
Hānau ‘ia ‘o Jacob Pi‘iakanoa Kaleikini Jr., ko‘u kupunakāne.
Noho ‘o ia me Gwendolyn Leilani Naehu, ko‘u kupunahine.
Hānau ‘ia ‘o Joanne Puanani Kaleikini, ko‘u makuahine.
Noho ‘o ia me Richard Thomas Vierra, ko‘u makuakāne.
Hānau ‘ia ‘o Neilina Kepo‘omaikalani Kaleikini Vierra. ‘O wau ‘o Neilina Kepo‘omaikalani Kaleikini Vierra.
E ola ka hāloa o ku‘u ‘ohana
E ola!

"Jacob Pi‘iakanoa Kaleikini, get in here now!" This kolohe boy is my great-grandpa. He was born on July 14, 1915, the youngest of six children in his family. His parents were Jacob Pi‘iakanoa Kaleikini and Esther Kaimimoku. He had three sisters, Francis ("Fanny"), Pauline, and Leialoha, and two brothers, Harris and Theodore. They lived on Campbell and Kaimukī, the current location of a Zippy’s restaurant, for six years. They loved to play outdoors, pick panini, buy crackseed, catch frogs, and all kinds of things. But it was during his childhood that my great-grandfather learned how to invent things.

It was Christmas time, and all the kids loved getting presents! My great-grandpa, Jacob, and his brothers all got knives that year. They were so happy, because a knife was one of the most useful things you could own. This story really starts a few days after Christmas. My great-grandpa had to go to the bathroom -- which was an outhouse back then! So he’s sitting there, and his knife falls into the toilet! He had absolutely no idea what to do! Then, his creative instincts kicked in. Since his knife was about ten to twelve feet down, there was no way he could reach it. He ran into the house, grabbed the magnet that hung in the kitchen and some string, and ran back to get back his most prized possession. He tied the string to the magnet, dropped it down, and got back his knife!

Some of the other things the brothers liked to do was swim at an area that is known today as Walls and pick fruits like dates, opiuma, and poinsiana. Opiuma was the name of a fruit that grew down by Lincoln Elementary. Poinsiana is another fruit that grew down by the zoo. You hit the edge of the fruit to break it, and it left a sweet bean. When my great-grandpa was six, his family moved to Esther Street. My great-great grandpa (his dad) built the house.

When they lived on Campbell, my great-grandpa Jacob still wasn’t in school. Once they moved, he started school at ‘Iolani. He stayed there for two years, then it got too expensive at $3.00 a month. After ‘Iolani, my grandpa went to Waikīkī School from the fourth to the sixth grades, then Washington Junior High for seventh through ninth. He graduated from McKinley High School, class of 1934. Right after he graduated, he started working at the Pineapple Cannery as a tray boy. They got paid three cents an hour.

My great-grandpa ended up leaving the cannery, and he had many jobs at many different places. He got rehired at Dole as a tray boy, but this time he was paid twenty-four cents an hour. He also worked at Hawaiian Carpenters trimming trees. Back then, they didn’t have much safety equipment, so he climbed trees without spikes and cut the leaves by hand. Everyone thought he was really good at this and wanted to hire him. But he found a new love -- music. My great-grandpa started playing music at the Lalani Hawaiian Village. They held shows there every night that were similar to shows at the Polynesian Cultural Center today. He got paid one dollar per show per night. During the shows, my great-grandpa would take the pig out of the imu, strip the pig, play music, climb trees -- a show for the tourists -- and during the finale, he would blow fire. For the finale, they did the "Pele dance," where a girl would dance atop a giant volcano. Behind her, my great-grandpa would blow fire. This is how he met my great-grandma, Siliua. She also worked at Lalani Hawaiian Village as one of the first female knife dancers in Hawai‘i.

My great-grandma emigrated from Sāmoa, met my great-grandpa, and they got married in 1937 and had eight kids. They adopted my Aunty Velma, and together had my Aunty Emma, Grandpa Jacob, Aunty Ku‘uipo, Aunty Violet, Uncle Jimmy (who was adopted by my Aunty Ruth), and my Aunties Hope and Faith. My great-grandpa worked at Hawaiian Electric for ten years while they were married. This was all during the beginning of the war. After leaving Hawaiian Electric, he started his own tree trimming business and sold wood at three cents per pound. He sold kiawe, pine, and many other types of wood. They also sold wood by the chord (four feet by eight feet) for sixty-five dollars. After getting divorced in 1955, he married my great-grandma Anna in 1983.

My great-grandpa knew Anna since childhood, because they lived down the road from each other. Her husband died in 1976, and he was my great-grandpa’s best friend growing up. They both decided that they didn’t want to live alone, so that’s why they got married in 1983. In 1942, he joined the musicians union and is still with them today. He also taught ‘ukulele to pass on his love of music. Currently, he lives in Papakōlea and just celebrated his 91st birthday. He is still an entertainer today, playing bass at the Elks Club with his son, my grandpa, Jacob Pi‘iakanoa Kaleikini, Jr.