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Individual Lives

Talking Hawai‘i’s Story: Oral Histories of an Island People

Book cover featuring Moloka'i fishpond and inset photo of children sitting on pier

Cover of Talking Hawai‘i’s Story. Photo captures East End, Moloka'i fishpond and Duvauchelle children at Puko'o, Moloka'i, ca. 1920s. (COH photo; inset photo courtesy Laura Duvauchelle Smith.)

Talking Hawai‘i’s Story, presents a rich sampling of the landmark work of the UH Center for Oral History. Edited by Michi Kodama-Nishimoto, Warren Nishimoto, and Cynthia Oshiro, the anthology preserves Hawai‘i’s social and cultural history through the recollections of people who lived it.

Twenty-nine oral history narratives introduce readers to the sights and sounds of territorial Waikiki, . . .

“When the tourists came, we would take off our tights [i.e., swim trunks], dive into the water, and come up with manini, one or two manini, showing the tourists that we were catching the fish with our tights. We’d hold it up, and if the tourists dropped [only] a nickel, we turned around—we didnít have any tights on—and we showed them our ‘okoles [buttocks]. When they dropped a quarter, we thanked them and did not show them our ‘okoles.” —Lemon “Rusty” Holt

. . . to the feeling of community in Palama, . . .

“Those days, ever since I could remember, I donít know whether we spent more time at Palama [Settlement] or more time at home. I think we spent more hours at Palama. You just went home to eat, and went home to sleep. The rest of your waking hours was at Palama.” —Moses “Moke” Kealoha

. . . in Kona, . . .

“So I rather work in the coffee land, take contracts, you’re your own boss. If you want to work hard, you work hard. If you want to work slow, you’re your own boss, nobody boss you. So when I came from Union Mill, Kohala side, to Kona, I started to pick coffee. Hundred-pound bag, fifty cents.” —John Santana

. . . and on the island of Lana‘i, . . .

“Come rainy time, you know, the time when can’t work outside, then the ladies would get together and clean the lau hala and soften them and put them in poka‘a. Poka‘a is rolls. When thatís all done, they get together and they weave.” —Irene Cockett Perry

. . . and even to the experiences of a German national interned by the military government after Pearl Harbor.

“No light. No reading matter. No writing matter. We decided, on the first evening, that we’ve got to do something. So I proposed that we would form University of Sand Island, in which each of us who had anything particular to offer would act as discussion leader. And that is what kept us not only busy but learning new skills.” —Alfred Preis

An introduction provides historical context and information about the selection and collection methods. Photos of the interview subjects accompany each oral history. For further reading, an appendix provides information about the Center for Oral History’s major projects.

The anthology is published by the University of Hawai‘i Press for the Center for Oral History and the Center for Biographical Research, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.


Link to audioRobert Hasegawa on the World War II internment of his father and four other Japanese residents from Lana‘i. (.mp3 sound file, 396K).


The following is a list of individuals included in this anthology, their ages at the time of their interview, and their occupations as discussed in the interviews.




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