Maui Girl

These stories from Donna Austin come from her rich Maui history and heritage.

25 August 2006

Sandwich Islands: Story Seven

I went to Lahaina today to trade a load of bananas at the dock. The sailors were full of the news! Queen Liliuokalani is being held prisoner in her palace on the island of Oahu. Ever since 1890 we’ve been in a state of depression because of the McKinley Tariff. This tarriff raised the price of sugar 2 cents a pound over American sugar. Now a group of people, in favor of annexation, have forced the Queen out of power.”
Enjoying his interested audience’s appreciation of the news, Frank Diaz continued, “I’ve also heard that in prison, Queen Liliuokalani wrote the most beautiful song to her beloved Hawaiian Islands. It is a haunting, beautifully sad song called “Aloha Oie”
Everyone discussed the news and heard and reheard the story several times from Frank before they were all finally satisfied that, that was all he knew.
“This means that we could become American citizens someday soon” said father thoughtfully. I wonder how that would affect us? I feel sorry for Queen Liliuokalani. She was loved by a lot of people and she was as good queen. But I guess the big plantation owners couldn’t stand back any longer while their sugar was taxed out of competition with other countries. It is a shame the almighty dollar must come first. But I guess that is progress,” he said philosophically.
Changing the subject father said, “I think I’ll go to Hana tomorrow. The moon tells me the tides and time of month is right for catching lobsters. They’ll make a tasty dinner.”
His children smiled at the news and nudged Rose. She was the favored spokesman and the apple of her father’s eye.
“Please papa, can we all go with you? The girls will bring sewing to do while the boys help you fish. Even mother can come and we’ll have our mid day meal by the shore. Please say we can?”
Joseph smiled as he looked around at his children’s pleading faces. “That sounds like a good plan. What do you think, Julia?” their father asked.
“A family picnic would be fun and we can all enjoy the fresh ocean air and hopefully the sunshine,” smiled mama. “Now its time for bed.”
Each of her children kissed their mother’s hands in turn and she traced the sign of the cross lovingly on their foreheads as she blessed them and hugged them in her warm enveloping embrace. Then they each went off happily and quietly to bed. Their only thought as hey peacefully and tiredly laid their heads on the pillow was the blue sky an ocean waves crashing on the rocks.

21 August 2006

Sandwich Islands: Story Six

Everyone lightheartedly cleared the table and helped wash up quickly. Then they gathered again on the front porch. Unless it rained, this is where the family always gathered at the end of the day. Joe pulled out his harmonica while Manual got his guitar and Pãe got the ukulele tuned up. Mary, Flora and Lydia’s sweet voices harmonized as the rest of the family sang soprano from the mixture of Portuguese and Hawaiian songs they all knew. “I love a pretty Maui Girl, she lives in Waikapu…”

Later in the evening some friends came by as was the custom. This was the time for gossip and trade needed items. “
“Hello Johnny Freitas!” father called. “What do you have there?”

Johnny’s wife, Mary carried carrots and kale while John had a side of salt pork. “Could you spare some corn and a dozen eggs and a loaf of your delicious smelling bread? (pão)

Father smiled and said, “Of course! And we can always use the vegetables and salt pork too.: Turning to his son Joe he said, “Please run and pick a dozen ears of corn for our friends. Rose, would you wrap a loaf of bread in a clean towel for them? Mary, please gather some eggs.” Then father invited his friends to sit down and join the family on the porch.
Mary Freitas gave Julia the vegetables and followed her into the kitchen while the men stayed outside to talk. “I hear your son Manuel is going to marry the Pereira girl in June.”

“Yes! We are happy for him,” Answered Julia. “She is a good Portuguese girl.” Then Julia put the vegetables in the pantry cooler. “We’ll have a big party after the wedding at the Holy Ghost Church. Her parents are from Kula and are planning to invite half the island to the celebration. It is only two months away and Manuel will start working in Kulanui and living at Camp B in Punene the very next week.”

As the women went back to the front porch to join the men, they heard loud voices. Frank Dias from Hana, had just stopped by with big news!

18 August 2006

Sandwich Islands: Story Five

“Rose, tell us your story!” begged Flora, who hadn’t forgotten about the tale Rose had promised.
“Yes!” chimed the other children, “Tell us about the parrot”
Rose smiled her sweet smile and her eyes twinkled in the candlelight.
“Well, once father took me to the dock with him when I was 6 years old. He had brought a load of corn, bananas, and mangoes to trade with the sea captains in Kahalui Harbor. He left me on the wharf, while he did his bargaining and I wandered around drinking in all the strange sights and smells and sounds. Sailors were stacking boxes of tea and coffee, bales of material and piles of salt cod. I saw a load of Chinese men, wearing pointed hats, come down the ramp of the ship. They looked bewildered and homesick. I felt sorry for them because I know they would be working 26 days a month, 9 hours a day, for only $3 a month. That was barely enough to buy soap and clothes and still save enough to escape bondage some day. If they tried to run away, they were thrown in jail for breaking their contract. I wondered how they could ever better their situation.”
“As I meandered around, enjoying the sounds of all the different languages, German, English, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, I heard some very loud squawks coming from a slatted crate. Being very curious, I walked around the box to see what was inside and was astounded to behold the strangest, most colorful bird, I have ever seen in my life. He was beautiful and seemed to know it. When he saw me looking at him, he fluffed and preened his colorful red, orange and green feathers for my inspection. He strutted on his perch and turned his head full circle, keeping his beady black eyes on me the whole time.”
“A passing sailor stopped when he saw me gazing at the bird, wide eyed with admiration.
“Say little girl, don’t put your finger near his cage. He may be beautiful, but he’s ornery and mean. Have you ever seen a parrot before? He’s the sailors pet mascot, and their lucky charm”.
I shook my head and said, “No, I’ve never seen a parrot before and thank you for the warning.” Then I carefully stepped back.
Just as I started to turn away, the bird astonished me further by saying, “Hello, how are you?” Amazement and disbelief warred inside my head. But the sailor assured me that it really was the parrot talking and not a ventriloquist or the work of the devil.
The sailor explained that “He doesn’t know what he’s saying, he just rattles off words he’s heard before. He is what you call a mimic or copy cat.”
Then the sailor left, whistling a Portuguese sea chantey. Timidly I said to the parrot, “Hello, what is your name? My name is Rose.”
The parrot promptly mimicked me and said, “Hello, my name is Rose! My name is Rose! My name is Rose! And then he started whistling the sea chantey I had just heard from the passing sailor.
“By this time, I was getting a little embarrassed,” Rose said, “Because the parrot was screeching and whistling and talking so loudly that people were beginning to stare.”
“Unfortunately, just as I started to leave, the parrot realized it was losing its audience, and yelled, “Ai que diabo” (the devil take you) and following that was a strong string of filthy words and oaths never heard in the Portuguese language before by God fearing people. My ears burned and I could feel my face turn red from the roots of my hair to the tips of my toes. I turned and ran, while the sailors who had stopped to watch, roared with laughter. I was so embarrassed that I ran to our wagon and hid my face among the flour and sugar sacks at the bottom of the buckboard. I didn’t lift my head again until pãe (father) came back with a sack of coffee and a pile of salt cod. I was so ashamed that I never told a soul until this day.”
The family laughed at Rose’s story which she told so well, but they understood her embarrassment even while enjoying the humor of the situation.

14 August 2006

Sandwich Islands: Story Four

They both heard the pots start to bubble and the lids rattle their warning. “The water’s ready for the baths.” Said Rose. Manuel helped Rose fill the large wooden tub in the bathhouse with a mixture of hot and cold water. Then Rose went to the front porch and called, “Virginia, bath time! You’re first!” Thus began the long process of bathing, starting with the youngest. By the time her father had come back from the fields, hot, tired and sweaty, the tub was again filled with clean warm water, ready for his turn.

As father took his bath, Julia his wife, scooped the last loaf of bread into their outdoor oven with a long paddle. The smell of fresh baking bread wafted through the yard and competed with the smell of ginger and mangos hanging on their bushes and trees and with the smell of corn barbecuing on the grill.

Suppertime was the happiest time of the day for most Portuguese families, but especially so for the Gomes family. Anyone standing outside could hear the laughter and observe the glow of happy faces, glad to be all together again, Prayers were said, corn, freshly churned butter, home made bread an thick vegetable chicken soup was eaten with relish and stories were exchanged with interest by all.

Although Joseph an Julia Gomes had come to Maui in 1883, on the Hankow from the Azores and traveled around the Horn, they spoke some English. But at home when they were together, they spoke their native language, Portuguese. All their children were sent to school for a few years at least so that they could learn to read and write English and do Arithmetic so they could understand the value of money. Saving and hard work was something Rose’s parents believed in strongly, next to the Catholic religion and their family, which tied for first place in their lives.

11 August 2006

Sandwich Islands: Story Three

Back at the house, Rose went about the task of cleaning the corn and heating large buckets of water for the tub in the bathhouse.
Her oldest brother, tall and handsome, walked in as she was busily working. “Hello Manuel”, she smiled, “Did you milk the cow and goat?”
“”Its done and the milk is already in the spring house. How was your day, Rose?” Manuel asked.
Although Rose was only 14 years old, everyone loved her and confided in her. They loved her smile, her quiet ways, her interest in people and her sense of humor and the great stories she told. Her oldest brother Manuel, who was 21 especially loved her and confided in her often.
“Oh Manuel, I’ve had a busy day and an interesting one too! At dinner I’ll tell you all about it. But right now I want to know how you and Felicianna are doing?”
“Felicianna is as beautiful and good as ever. I love her more and more each day. We plan to be married this summer at the new church of the Holy Ghost, which was built in Kula last year. Her parents are pleased that we will be married there, since her father donated some of the wood and helped build the church. So did our family donate and help with the building. It seems right and fitting to be married there.
Manuel sat down at the kitchen table and watched Rose as she took the large pan of dough that had tripled in size. He loved to watch her hands as she deftly kneaded, twisted and formed new shapes for the waiting greased pans. Then she covered them again with warmed towels and dusted off her hands to wait for the final rising before the bread could be baked.
Manuel said, “Mr. Peck and Mr. Baldwin signed me up for a 3 year contract at their sugar plantation in Kulanui. I will get to be an overseer and I’ll make $12 a month. Since I’m getting married in June, I get a free house with a wood burning stove in Camp B. If I was still a bachelor, I’d have had to sleep in a large dormitory with the other single men. Having my own place will be much nicer.”
Rose’s face glowed with happiness as she said, “That’s great Manuel, I’m so happy for you and Feliciana. I know she’s a wonderful person and will be a good wife to you.”
Manuel smiled happily and said, “Thanks Rose, I’ll name my first girl after you.”

07 August 2006

Sandwich Islands Story Two

A pot of sopas (soup) seemed to be perpetually awaiting a panoply of ingredients. Its garlic and onion fragrance haunted Rose as she went about the job of preparing the pão. (bread)
First she coiled her think long hair back and pinned it up, tying a kerchief around her head and behind her neck. After washing her hands, she put a large pan of flour on the outdoor oven to warm. Yeast, her mother cultured, was put into warm water and stirred into the warm dry ingredients. Kneading the dough was the secret to light fluffy mouth watering bread. As Rose worked strenuously at the task, perspiration gathered on her hot cheerful face. She loved pounding all the air bubbles out of the mixture and as she worked, she hummed as song of the islands. When the dough was kneaded to her satisfaction, she called her mother.
Her mother came unhurriedly into the kitchen, her voluminous white apron swishing in the breeze. She smiled lovingly at her daughter. Then her mother traced the sign of the cross over the dough and said in Portuguese, “May this bread rise, like the faith all over the world.” She turned to Rose and the children and said, “Now will you please pick a dozen ears of corn for our dinner. Pull off the silk, but leave the husks. Soak the corn in the pan of salt water. Later we’ll cook them over the coals from our lãores (outside oven-grill)
Rose with her older brother and sisters, eagerly ran through their father’s cornfields, racing past row after row of stalks, looking for the biggest ears of corn. As they ran, Rose’s brother, Joe, reached up and tagged Flora’s back. Flora tagged Lydia and the race was on with everyone chasing Mary and Virginia who were the oldest and the youngest girls and still uncaught. Chunky and quick, two seemingly contradictory adjectives described Virginia, as her short black page boy hair vanished in the wind followed by a very red faced puffing Mary.
Rose laughed at their antics, as she went about finishing the job of picking corn. As she started back toward the house, she saw her father in the distance. He was busy digging a ditch for irrigation. His red hair and beard glistened in the sun as he worked. He paused for a moment, shaded his hazel eyes from the sun’s glare, and waved to Rose.
“I’ll be back at the house in a couple of hours, tell Manuel to milk the cow and goat before I return.”
“Yes Pãe” (father), Rose called, “See you soon. Adeus” (goodbye), she happily waved back.

01 August 2006

Sandwich Islands: Story One

She looked like a country girl, tall, apple cheeked, dressed in a coarse unbleached cotton dress, her long wavy chestnut hair trailing below her waist. She walked tall and proud, feet bare,coming from her school in Hana, her bare feet, making footprints in the red powdery dirt. She was feeling light hearted because school was over and her home was just around the bend.
“Rose! Rose is coming!” echoed her brothers and sisters glad voices, as they ran up the dirt road to greet her. “How was school today, Rose? Did you learn any new stories to tell us?” Their upturned eager bronzed faces glowed with inner joy as they scrambled along holding her hands, her skirts or her books.
Rose laughed and answered, “Not today, but I know a true story I’ll tell you later after we’ve done our chores for MaeMãe (mother).”
“What is it about? Is it funny or sad?” chorused the boys and girls. “Is it about the sea again?”
“Yes, it’s about the sea, but there is a parrot in the story too!” she said as she walked up the steps of the wooden clapboard house. “Mãe, a sua benção (mother bless me)” she called. Then she reached out and took her mother’s tired worn hands and kissed them.
Her mother traced the sign of the cross on Rose’s brow and said, “Deus te abençoeabençôe (God bless you)” After kissing her daughter she asked, “How was school today? Did you learn something useful? Do you have homework?”
“Of course mother, there is so much to learn and not enough time to absorb it all. Did you know Mae,Mãe, that the Hawaiian Islands were once called the Sandwich Islands? Wasn’t that a funny name for them?”
Her mother’s round jolly face mirrored her astonishment, as her other children curiously clustered around her. “Sandwich Islands?
I don’t believe it! (Samweech! Zha não believe!) The islands don’t look like samweeches to me.”
Shaking her head and smiling, Rose said, “It’s true, Captain James Cook came from England and he was the first white man to discover these islands in 1789. He named the islands after his friend the Earl of Sandwich and not because they looked like sandwiches. Captain Cook was killed in Hawaii just a year later in 1779 in a native uprising. Now isn’t that something? I love history, it is fascinating!” Rose said.
“Yes,” her mother agreed, “It is interesting alright, but it doesn’t get the bread baked, the supper fixed or the children bathed so let’s get started. I’m glad you’re home because I can use your help and enjoy your entertainment as well.”

Prologue 1976

A woman with her 3 year old twin girls gazed in awe at the church built perfectly round, made completely of wood, and still standing in spite of its almost 100 years of assault by time.
“Look Kristen and Nicole”, the woman pointed toward a sign. “It says this church of the Holy Ghost, is dedicated to all the Portuguese people who came to this island and contributed so much economically, culturally and socially to Maui. Let’s go in!”
The woman’s tall husband stood back to admire the church with a practiced architectural and engineering eye. He noted how each piece of wood had been cut and slotted to fit the circular structure. As he thoughtfully studied the clean lines of the building, he heard footsteps behind him.
Approaching him was an old man with graying hair and skin the color of teak wood. His face was wreathed in smiles as he said, “Aloha and welcome to our church in Maui. I’m the sexton and my job is the care and cleaning of this beautiful church.” He was obviously an extrovert and a curious one at that. He chatted on for some time before he asked, “What part of Maui is your wife from?”
“Oh no, my wife is a native Californian, born and raised in the Santa Clara Valley,” he answered. He saw that the old man’s crestfallen face looked very puzzled at this information. So to make him feel better, he truthfully added, “But her mother was born in Maui and her grandmother was born here too. Her mother’s family migrated to California in 1924.”
The sexton shook his head and smiled knowingly, “I thought she was a Maui Girl.”