Kalani, Albert (Part 1)

Source: Waipi‘o Māno Wai an Oral History Collection by The University of Hawai‘i Ethnic Studies Program


Albert Kalani

Albert Kalani, Hawaiian, was born in Kona on October 14, 1908, one of four brothers. He attended Kalaoa Elementary, Konawaena Intermediate and Konawaena High School. He is fluent in the Hawaiian language. Before moving to Waipi‘o in about 1930, he was a cowboy at Huehue Ranch, a construction worker in Puna and on Maui, and a fisherman back in Kona. In Waipi‘o he worked in the Aioka and Ahana poi factories, and also raised his own taro until about 1960. In 1933, he married Mabel Kaaekuahiwi. They had two children and adopted two more. Mrs. Kalani passed away in 1976. Albert was also employed by the Depression relief agencies and the Parks and Recreation Department (1938 to 1970). In 1952 he moved out of the valley to Kukuihaele, and in 1963 he moved to his present residence in Honoka‘a. Interviewers Vivien Lee(VL) and Yukie Yoshinaga (YY)

VL: This is an interview with Mr Albert Kalani. Today is April 10, 1978. We’re at his home in Honoka‘a.

Could you tell us just a little bit about being a cowboy in Kona? Like what did you do as a cowboy?

AK: When I was working cowboy in Kona (at Huehue and Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a Ranch), that’s a regular cowboy. Round up cattle and the do what’s called fence working. You know, repair fence line. And all those things. And then summer time we go up to Hualalai for round up sheep and bring it down to the ranch to shear all the wool.

VL: How did that compare with plantation wages?

AK: I guess, but plantations, they get a better wages than we ranch at the time before. So, you had to take it, when they give, the pay of that.

VL: On the ranch, do they give you housing?

AK: Yeah, they give housing. But those don’t have house, they give housing. But like us, we have our own home, eh. We get free and hunting always free. All employees.

VL: Free, you mean on ranch land?

AK: The ranch land, yeah.

VL: And how did you meet the Ah Puck boys (Ah puck family from Waipi‘o Valley)?

AK: I met Ah Puck boys at the Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a Ranch, the stone wall all fell down from the earthquake. They had terrible earthquake couple years back. I think that must been all around the island. Crack the road, you know, the highways on that. So, Hind wants to repair the stone walls; never had wire fence those days. He had all stone walls. So, he hired lot of people, had all young boys and some old people. That’s how I met the Ah Pucks. They came there and work, we all worked together, stay boarding house together and we get acquainted with each other. And every Saturday, when they come back here (Waipi‘o) then that’s how I come down with them. We both keeping on that way for quite a number of years.

VL: When you came on Saturdays, what would you folks do here?

AK: I help them in their taro patch, they had taro patch. The father was keeping taro patches. I help them working in the taro patch. They showed me how.

VL: What did you think of Waipi‘o that first time you saw it?

AK: Well, the first time I saw Waipi‘o, I think nice place to live, you know. Good place. And then you have to do work in order to know what is the life in Waipi‘o. You just only stay, you don’t know, eh? You got to learn how to get by. As for myself I know I get by because I always associate with people. I mingle around with anybody, you know. Ask them questions and tell me this and that. That’s how I learn lot, you know. Especially like Sundays, like that, we get along some old people, you know. They come by and we talk Hawaiian and I like talk Hawaiian to them, see. I approach them in Hawaiian. We all sit down and talk Hawaiian.

VL: So as a stranger to the valley, how did they treat you?

AK: They accept me, they said, because I’m very good in anythings and kind and approach them in a nice way and talk to them. They really like it. They enjoy the way that I do with them. Because young boys down there, those days, they don’t get by with the old people. When they all get together among ourself, young guys. These old people, they like somebody to talk to. And for myself, I proud that I know plenty of…that;s how I came to know about Waipi‘o, lot of Waipi‘o. I ask questions. I hear so much about it and I try ask it, whether they going tell the truth, then I ask the next person. Then everything come out right, what they tell me. That’s how I get by with the old people.

VL: Can you tell us again why you decided to leave Kona?

AK: Kona never had any, no more work; especially, after I left the ranch I like to get job, no more job.

VL: How come you left the ranch?

AK: I like go out. I know my father doesn’t want me to leave the ranch but I made up my mind, if I going to stay work on the ranch all my life time, I got to go out and seek something. Maybe I can get something. Well, I think I enjoyed too, when I left the ranch and I go out and seek myself. I struggled and all that, see. Then I learn how.

VL: Where did you go see after you left the ranch?

AK: Well, after I left the ranch, that’s when I went to Puna, work on the consruction job. Did hard job but all right. I stand it, enjoy it.

VL: And then how did you end up living in Kukuihaele?

AK: When I went to Puna, after Puna, the job finished there, then I went to Maui for the same job. Kahului Breakwater. I stayed in Maui for about eight months till I came back. I came back to Kona again. I came back to Kona, then went down, went fishing. Try to learn about fishing with old people. Then, two old people, and I stayed with them. They teach me the in and out of fishing. Go ‘ōpelu fishing and all that. I learned all those things. Then I come here again, you know, I meet friends, friends ask me for go and this and that's how I come. From then, that’s how I met the Ah Pucks, then that's how I reach to Waipi‘o.

VL: You lived Kukuihaele first, right, before you moved into Waipi‘o?

AK: No, no. I went to live Waipi‘o forst. With the Ah Pucks down in Waipi‘o.

VL: Can you describe the house that you lived in there?

AK: They had the old house that time. Good enough for people for us to stay. Later on, they build a house again.

VL: Where would you sleep?

AK: Well, we sleep like this, we sleep in the parlor. They have big family they use all the bedrooms so we young boys, we sleep in the parlor. Just to get by for the night.

VL: You have some kinds of bedding?

AK: Yeah, right on the mat there.

VL: What kind mat?

AK: Lauhala mat.

VL: Did you have to pay the Ah Pucks for staying there?

AK: I wanted to pay but they don’t want me to pay. But, whenever I work and I get something, I give them to buy some food. You know, stuff, whatever they like to buy.

VL: When you first moved to Waipi‘o, how was it different from Kona?

AK: It was more different than Kona. Like in Waipi‘o, I find out in Waipi‘o, you get to get things easier than in our way in Kona. In our way in Kona is very hard, you know. But as for myself it wasn’t bad because I was working out. We staying in the ranch, we always have everything. But like the life of others in Kona is very really hard.

VL:Why is that?

AK: Hard no more work. Like no more money to buy anything so they had to weave hat. I almost start weaving hat, you know. When we were going school, a friend of mines smokes, wanted to go school, and he has no money, he asked me for money so I lend him some money. And then one time he didn’t tell me that he was learning how. The sister showed him how to weave hat. So one night I went over the house without him knowing, I caught him weaving hat. So I asked him, “What you doing this for?”

“You know I get no money, I like buy cigarette. I sell one hat, I can get cigarette.” So he asked me better I might as well learn. I said, “Yeah, too hard this job.” So, I didn’t try it. I never learn how make hat.

VL: What else was different about Waipi‘o from Kona?

AK: See, Waipi‘o get a lot of water, you know. But in Kona, you cannot waste all the water you have. Somebody have the tank and small, not enough water, you had to take care of the way of using the water. In Waipi‘o, you always get lot of water, you go, you can just use the water all you want.

VL: Never any shortages?

AK: No, no. Waipi‘o never even saw this till today. Waipi‘o is very, very good place to live. They have everything. And, of course, the first beginning I came Waipi‘o, I didn’t know about anything of Waipi‘o. You know, the food, the kind of eating all these things that get me there for awhile.

VL: Like what kind of things?

AK: Shrimps, that gori, o‘opu and all those things. Of course, that’s good, they fry but sometime the family wants to eat those things raw, eh? And I cannot. I taste but, not bad. After I try, all right, it was good. Because Waipi‘o, you have the warabi there, you know that warabi. They had lot of wild watercress. Oh, never let get anything starve there, you get. You want to go down the beach, the beaches are near. Always there. I always tell everybody, “Waipi‘o is the best place to live.”

VL: What else did it have besides warabi and watercress?

AK: If you don’t have any taro patch, you like taro, you can go to his taro patch and bring some taro. You ask a friend, they give you. They just give you.

VL: Free?

AK: Free, yeah. You help them, they give you.

VL: How about fruits?

AK: Well, we have lot of mountain apples, mangos, oranges. They have all those things in Waipi‘o and you can help yourself.

VL: Do you know of anybody that went hungry?

AK: I don’t think so. In Waipi‘o, I don’t think that anybody went hungry. I think if he went hungry, he just too lazy to move around and do it, I think. But if he move around, I think he’d be way ahead.

VL: In Kona, did some people go hungry?

AK: Oh yeah. Lot of families go hungry. They really have the problem at Kona.

YY: You talked about the water and Waipi‘o having lots of water. Can you say more about that, the importance of the water? In Waipi‘o.

AK: Waipi‘o has lot of water and you can use whatever you want. And then, you can go swimming, all that. Plenty places to go and nobody going stop you from using water. You can go any place use the water.

VL: There were no restrictions?

AK: Before, not like now, they stop you from drinking water right in the creek there. Before that there were a few, nothing, doesn’t affect anybody. Really. We go out and you thirsty, you just drink the water from there. Even down by the beach, you know the stream there. If you thirsty, you drink that water, but not today. Today is different, altogether. I don’t know how come but like today, today they say, “You better not drink down there, you might get some kind of disease or sickness.” Lot of people had some sick, they blame Waipi‘o water. But we were down there, we were drinking all that water even the spring water. Down here, you stay here, drink water here, a graveyard over there, something going be wrong with that water comes down to there. But we drink all that. But not today, today the Board of Health tell us not pure, not for drink. And today, the people, that born and raised in Waipi‘o, they don’t want to drink that water. They go down Waipi‘o, they take fresh water, you know, they take your own water today. Before, nobody take that water. Use for cooking, for anything.

VL: Could anybody go in any of the streams at any time? No restrictions on them?

AK: Yeah. No restrictions at all, you can any time you want, you can do anything you want. And they never had restrictions.

VL: When you were living at the Ah Pucks and your job was what?

AK: You know, help taro farm, like that. Most, They were only working the taro patch. Then, after I got the job in Waipi‘o, I left them. I been working in the poi shop, like that.

VL: That was with Akioka?

AK: Yeah, that was Akioka.

VL: Can you describe him what he looked like?

AK: He’s Chinese, Chinese man. Nice man. Altogether, we about 10 or 12 of us employees. Chinese, most Chinese, and about three of us Hawaiian boys and a Filipino.

VL: And what did you 10 or 12 boys do?

AK: Like us, we go, just like Monday, we go to taro patch, pull taro and bring it back to the poi shop. No, Monday, we go to the poi shop; Tuesday, we deliver the poi to Waimea. Wednesday, we go back pull taro; Thursday, we take ‘em poi shop and then Friday, we go back to Waimea again. When we were delivering poi, Friday we split; one come to Honoka‘a, two go to Waimea. And Tuesday, we all go together to Waimea.

VL: Starting with Monday, you pulled on Monday?

AK: No, Monday, we cook the taro.

VL: Can you explain about how you did that?

AK: Yeah, we do like how Seiko (Kaneshiro) is putting in the steamer. Put ‘em all and then you burn firewood. Not with steam like Seiko has, now. You there with firewood.

VL: Did you have to get the firewood?

AK: Akioka had somebody to cut firewood. He buy it from somebody, the wood. But we the one that go and pack the wood; come back, stack up by the poi shop.

VL: So would all 12 of you be steaming the taro?

AK: Yeah. No, oh one does the cooking in the evening. The next day, then we come down. Or might be five of us. Then the rest go to the taro patch.

VL: And what?

AK: Clean the patches.

VL: How would you decide which ones went to the poi shop. Which ones went to the taro patch?

AK: Most likely, we the younget ones comes out to the poi shop so we can work a little faster and all that. The older Chinese go into the taro patches, they mend the taro patches. But the day of pulling all pull together.

VL: So after it was steamed, what did you five boys do?

AK: After steamed, we bring the taro out, we wash in the tub, wash with the water. And then after that, we peel the taro. After you peel the taro, then you grind, put in the machine, grind. Then, after that, the poi come out; those days, we have flour sack bag, we put (the poi) in there. Twenty-two pound, or 20 pound. Those days, the poi was cheap you know. And then we have a ti leaf, we set the ti leaf this way. You know the ti leaf, bigger ones, one leaf each, one, maybe wrap ‘em up, then you tie that up for keep it fresh. Then your 50 cents, you do the same thing but you wrap something like you wrap package. That’s what we do.

VL: You had two sizes?

AK: Two style to wrapping the poi. The one who goes out to get the ti leaves, that’s his job. Only his job for go out gather ti leaves.

VL: Did you ever do that?

AK: No, I didn’t go for the ti leaf. Our job was to pull taro, do the job in the poi shop and then cut the grass for the animals.

VL: In the poi shop, were there women working?

AK: Yeah, women. Some even some out help peel. They are faster than what us men can do, those days.

YY: What did you peel with?

AK: Coconut shell.

VL: Did you make your own?

AK: Yeah, you know the dry coconut, you split and then you shape ‘em good and then you make like the spoon.

VL: Do you know how much taro would get steamed, each Monday?

AK: Those days, we steam about 40 bags.

VL: Hundred pound bags?

AK: Yeah, 100 pound bags. Lot of poi in those days. But those days, when I was working with Akioka, to me, every people, they didn’t have these brown sack bags, right now they have it put in the taro. Those days, they had bags but we never put the taro in the bags. When we pull the taro, we pull everything , with the stalk, then we bundle everything, then we ties it….

VL: With what?

AK: With that lauhala, pandanus, you know the roots? We strip those things to make a rope.

VL: You had to do that too?

AK: Yeah, we all do that. You know these long stalk from the pandanus tree? That, we strip and dried. That really good tight thing to tie.

VL: Did you twine it or something?

AK: No, no. We just strip with it and leave it to dry. That’s what we use to tie. And then two bundle each, then we have a stick. Kind of flat stick, you know those Japanese or Chinese used to carry two bundles. We put one in the other side, then you carry out from the patch.

VL: And where would they carry it to?

AK: Carry out from the patch. You know, here is the patch, you carry out from the patch, then we pack it on the mule, the same thing like that, we pack it on the mule. Then we lead all the mules to the poi shop. The animals, they know where they going. We just let them go, they come straight to the poi shop. Whatever we do, like us, we young, we always run away from the older guys. They stay way back because whatever taro fall down, they put in the bag and then they carry.Like us, we go out more fast, eh? That’s the way we were working before. Today is much easier, eh? You put in the sack.

VL: How many mules?

AK: Oh, he get about 16, 20. Lot of mules, he has lot of animals.

VL: How would they get new huli then?

AK: When we pull. If we pull now, might be they not going plant this patch right now, eh? So we pull the other patch. After we pull, then we clean this, that’s when we make the huli for plant.

VL: So the ones that you have all the taro with the stalk, you didn’t make huli from that?

AK: No, because when you pulling, if the day that we have to make the huli, we pull, the huli one different. We get the huli one here and the rest is all different.

VL: Then the ones that you made huli from, how would you take that taro to the poi shop? Since you already made huli, no more stalk to carry.

AK: We put in big baskets. That way, you got to be really careful because they don’t put it in the sack then, they are really careful how they do it. The Chinese are very clever in doing it. So they teach is how to use it. That’s why, when we put on the mule, we got to know how to put the rope over that, on the pack saddle. Then later on, then we started putting the bags.

VL: How would you pack it on without the bag?

AK: Well, it’s simple. Really. That time, I think to myself, “How some they do that? They have the bag, why don’t they put in the bag?” But they said, “No, it’s lot of more waste more time.” To me, it’s just about the same but when we reach there, we got to broke the taro show them to put in the bag and more easier. Easier to handle and easier to work. Then, from that time on, we put in the bag. Then, we cook the whole bag and all in the steamer. Because the other way you broke all the taro in there, for bring ‘em out, a little hot, it slow eh? Then in the bag, it’s easier you put in there, You just grab the bag and dump it in.