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Individual Lives

Hanahana: An Oral History Anthology of Hawai‘i’s Working People

Book cover featuring picture of women pineapple field workers

Cover of Hanahana: An Oral History Anthology of Hawai‘i’s Working People. Photo captures interviewee Venicia Guiala (fourth from right) and other pineapple pickers in Wahiawa, O‘ahu, 1957. (Photo courtesy Venicia Guiala.)

Hanahana, reduplication of the Hawaiian word, hana, is a pidgin term for work. Originally used by immigrants who labored on the sugar plantations, it later came to be used by other workers in Hawai‘i. The term, as well as the hard work and way of life it connotes, transcended ethnic and cultural barriers, providing people with a shared understanding of the work experience. Even today, older workers know and use the term. The term’s meaning, mixed origin, and common use by workers make it an appropriate title for COH’s Hanahana: An Oral History Anthology of Hawai‘i’s Working People.

Hanahana features narratives, based on oral history interviews, of twelve working people. The twelve, representing the values and lifestyles of different communities, are placed in four chapters. Ida Kanekoa Milles with her Hawaiian upbringing in isolated Nahiku, Maui, and Nelson Ah Hoy Chun, a rice and taro farmer in the Big Island’s Waipi‘o Valley, occupy Chapter 1, “In the Country.”

“I remember my father, my mother and I and my little brother at this little village. We travel by foot to go there and live. My father builds a grass shack. I lived in that kind of house.” —Ida Kanekoa Milles

Eleanor Heavey from Honolulu’s tough working-class district, Kaka‘ako, and Usaburo Katamoto who built boats on the waterfront, follow in Chapter II, “In the City.”

“When the owners launch their boat, it’s customary, they celebrate even they don’t have any money. They used bamboo from Manoa Valley to put up flags on the new boat for good luck . . . And, we builders, they throw us in the water. So I couldn’t afford to get any good watch.” —Usaburo Katamoto

Chapter III, “On the Plantation,” features Lucy and Seraphine “Slim” Robello, a second-generation sugar plantation family; Adam Holmberg, locomotive brakeman; Cresencia and Pedro Ponce, participants in the 1924 Filipino strike; and Emigdio Cabico, plantation store clerk.

“We went out and wired all of the plantation homes. . . . Did it all outside. Open wiring. I also climbed poles, strung power lines down to houses, and everything. In 1922, I was making ten cents an hour, ten hours a day.” —Seraphine “Slim” Robello

Violet Hew Zane, a storekeeper in Lower Pa‘ia, Maui, and Osame Manago, owner of a hotel in Captain Cook, Kona, Hawai‘i, occupy the concluding Chapter IV, “In the Small Town.”

“Above our houselot there used to be a large Paris Hotel. People would come to Kona to sell all sorts of things, but their drivers couldn’t stay with them at that hotel. Since they didn’t have any place to stay, they asked me if they could stay at our shop for a cheap price . . . That’s how we first started the Manago Hotel, back in 1917.” —Osame Manago


Link to audioViolet Hew Zane recalls how Chinese New Year’s was celebrated when she was a child (.au sound file, 479K).





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