hope

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Kalaupapa Memories

Program

 

In this special edition of Long Story Short, we recall our 2009 stay in the Kalaupapa community on Moloka‘i. Members of the dwindling population of former Hawai‘i Hansen’s Disease patients shared what it was like, many years ago, to leave their homes and families. Norbert Kaiama Palea, Elroy Makia Malo, Meli Watanuki and Clarence “Boogie” Kalihihiwa speak of isolation, loss, community, hope and renewal.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Apr. 28, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

More from this program

 

Clarence “Boogie” Kalihihiwa

 

Elroy Makia Malo

 

Norbert Kaiama Palea

 

Kalaupapa Memories Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Meli Watanuki:

 

I pray a lot when I came here.  I pray so much, you know, for sad of me, and take away all that sad to me.  Yeah.

 

Because you had so much sadness, and you needed it to be gone.  And? Did the sadness go away?

 

Yes. Now, I’m happy right now.

 

Elroy Makia Malo:

 

This young boy asked me: Why you wearing dark glasses?  I said: What?  Why you wearing dark glasses?  I didn’t know what to say.  I said: Oh … you wouldn’t want to know.

 

Clarence “Boogie” Kahilihiwa:

 

I met some good people; good people.  I mean, they’re all gone, and you know, we have to carry on what their dreams.  That’s what I feel today.

 

Norbert Kaiama Palea:

 

Look around you; look what God gave.  Look around. You know, lots to appreciate for about. You know, I still have a good mind. Thank God for that.  You know what I mean?  It’s the way you think; the way you think, the way you perceive things.

 

These are four of the last individuals from the dwindling population of Hansen’s Disease patients in the Kalaupapa community on Moloka‘i.  We’ll hear more of their memories, and find out how each found a sense of peace after much sickness and sorrow, coming up next, on a special edition of Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox.  On this edition of Long Story Short, we’re recalling our 2009 trip to the remote Kalaupapa Peninsula on the north shore of Moloka‘i, where we talked story with some of the last remaining patients there. Kalaupapa is a place of great natural beauty, and yet, it will always be linked to the once dreaded disease leprosy, also called Hansen’s Disease.  Starting in 1866, thousands of Hawai‘i residents diagnosed with this disease were ripped from their families, and quarantined in Kalaupapa.  When I spoke with these four residents in 2009, they were preparing to travel to Rome for the sainthood ceremony for Father Damien. He was their hero, who cared for patients in Kalaupapa, and ultimately died of leprosy.  First, we visit with Norbert Kaiama Palea, who was just a keiki when he was taken to the old Kalihi Hospital detention center.  His next stop was Kalaupapa, where his father had already been forced to go.

 

My name Kaiama.  When I was a child, maybe about a year old, my grandfolks told my mom I’m gonna be taken away from her.  Just like that.  So, they said: We going give you the name Kaiama; it means strong.

 

Like the ama in the ocean, of the canoe.

 

You’re not gonna fall to the side, and all that.  So, I believed that, you know, the name.

 

So, when you received the name Kaiama, and they knew you had to be strong, and they said you’d be taken away, what was that all about?

 

I know my name is Norbert, but all my brothers and sisters, my family, they don’t call me Norbert.  Only the family call me that name.  So, all my brothers and sisters began to call me that every time they come.  You know, so I become it.  I don’t know, but they start calling me that name.

 

Do you think it was destiny that you came here, fate, or was that just a lucky guess that somebody thought you were gonna be taken away?

 

It was destiny.  And I have no regrets about it; none whatsoever.  I feel this way: that, you know, when something sad happens to you, you know, you grow from that.  Sadness is a good thing, you know.  Lot of people say: Oh?  Sadness changes your whole outlook in life.  So, my mother said: Don’t turn around.  So, when we got on the plane—I remember that, just before coming—everybody was crying, you know, and I was singing.  Just like their wails, their crying was above my voice.  So, I remember, I just looked back.  And then, I still remember their faces, my mother and my … in fact, before, they was crying, my mother said: Remember now, Kaiama, don’t cry, now.  I said: Ma, how come they’re crying?  But nobody’s crying; I don’t see no tears, but I can feel it.  And she said: Oh, because they love you.  You know, my mother had all the answers for everything. She was a wizard.

 

Here’s a mom who lost her husband, and the eleventh child.

 

Yeah; my mother was a very strong lady.  She believed in God and everything, you know.  So, she instilled in me something that no professors of mine that I’ve had over the years can ever give you that kind of value.

 

Your mom, you say, was very strong.  And of course, she had other children; you were the eleventh.  But I can’t believe she would have been that strong for so long, not being with her little boy.

 

Every time when I used to go home for funerals—and I just went to two recently. Every year, I’m going down for funerals. There’s so many of us; there’s hundreds of us.  So, I go to the funeral, and then my grandnieces, my great-grandnieces, they always say to me: You know, Uncle, every time Grandma used say she’d cry every single day, even ‘til now.  You know.  My mother used to say: They cheat me of you; they robbed me.  You know, the relationship between us.  And my brothers and sisters, too.  And when I talk about this place, and I want to come back, my brothers and sisters would cry.  My mother said: You didn’t have the sick, you know; remember that, you did not have the sick. You know, you didn’t do anything wrong.

 

There’s such loneliness here, and yet, such a sense of community, too.

 

I don’t feel.  And you know something?

 

You never felt lonely?

 

Never, ever.  It’s like this; I’m home here in my house.  Now, I know a lot of people that’s here, I’m younger than them; right? So, I look up to them, I respect them. Not because I have a better education, that I’m better than them.  No, I’m not. I’m below them.  So, if I know they’re sick or something, I go and take something to them, or give up some time and go there.  We don’t have time to worry about getting sad.  To me, you know, when you help other people, you’re actually helping yourself.

 

You know, it sounds like you’ve made the very best of this, and you have appreciation of abundance, not scarcity. But what about some of the folks who were here at the same time?  I mean, that can’t be that common a reaction, just acceptance.  You must have seen a lot of defiance and—

 

Oh, I’ve seen a lot of—oh, it’s heartbreaking.  I’ve seen it.  But then, as the years go by, because we have all these great leaders here, you know, one word from them, they can calm everybody down.  A‘ole!, they would say.  Don’t think, and don’t feel that way.  This is just a new beginning.  That is a beginning.  And why we’re here, we are not to question God; why you’re here.  It’s not for or me to say: Oh, why did you give me this sick? You know, the thing is to accept it, and make the best out of it.  And then, appreciate everything that’s around you, and then one day, you’re gonna see the beauty.  You see? Even if he sent us here, but look around.  You know what I mean?  Look, he gave us the most beautiful woman in the world.  That’s the icing on the cake.

 

Thanks to the discovery of effective treatment in the late 1940s, Norbert Kaiama Palea was eventually able to leave Kalaupapa to attend college, and pursue a successful career in fashion design.  He traveled widely, and returned.  He told me several times during our conversation that he was kolohe, or a rascal; not a typical patient.  Not long after we spoke near the large breadfruit trees in his yard in Kalaupapa, he was arrested.  The Feds took him into custody on suspicion of possession of meth amphetamine, with intent to distribute it.  He pleaded guilty in August of 2010, and served almost five years before his release in 2015.

 

Next, we chat with Clarence Kahilihiwa, better known by his nickname, Boogie.  Just a bit older than Norbert, he was diagnosed two years later, and by then, many patients were being treated at the Hale Mohalu facility in Central O‘ahu. Still, that meant uprooting the eight-year-old boy from his home in Kalapana on the Big Island.  Boogie had already said goodbye to three siblings, and eventually, he would follow them to Kalaupapa.

 

Why do they call you Boogie?

 

The real story.

 

Long story short; long story short.  Okay.  World War II … I think I was about three years old.  You know, we come from Kalapana, and we had the old type gas masks. And going school, even kindergarten, we still had to carry our gas mask.  But my sister them used to, you know, scare me, and then they call me Boogieman, Boogieman.  That’s how I got the name.

 

Did you actually get diagnosed?

 

Yes, I did.  Yeah.

 

And how old were you?

 

I was about nine.  Yeah. Or maybe I was eight in ’49, you know.

 

Was there a lot of worry on your part, on your family’s part, that you were going away to be checked out for a blemish, and when your sister and brother went, they didn’t come back.

 

I think it was more on my mom’s side.  In fact, in a way, I was kinda happy that I was in Honolulu, because you know, Honolulu was a different island to me.  And it didn’t bother me, really, that I was separated at that time, until maybe about two, three days.  Then my mom them left me there, and then they came back a short while afterwards. Maybe about a month, they came back to Honolulu.  And that’s when I really … I saw my mother crying.

 

And you were the third child she had lost to isolation.

 

I was the fourth.

 

Fourth child.

 

Fourth; yeah.

 

So, at that point, you were living in Hale Mohalu in Pearl City.  Didn’t they have a fence around it?

 

Oh, shucks.   To me, looked like one prison.  You remember the picture, Stalag 17, I think it was.  You know, they got the fence up like this, and they got the barbed wire this way.

 

Were there other kids your age, nine years old?

 

Norbert came in not too long afterwards.  Then, another week, a few more came in.  In fact, when I went to Hale Mohalu, looked like they just moved into Mohalu not too long ago.  After a while, I came up here.

 

Did anybody tell you you’re going there, and it’s in effect a death sentence, there is no cure, people get terribly sick?

 

No, not when I was young.

 

And you’ll never come back.

 

No, no; not when I was young.  Because I knew I was coming here to see my sister and my brother.  And I knew I was going back.

 

How many people were here when you came?

 

When I came, well, the first time I came here, I would say about over five hundred.

 

Patients?

Patients.

 

And now, fewer than twenty, this day in 2009.

 

I would say over.  But those days, people was dying too, see?  You know.  When you hear the bell, you know who’s that.

 

What was it like living here?  When were you a kid, what was it like?

 

It’s all right.  You know. Nobody tells me what for do.  We go down the beach, no fences around.  Only thing, we have to be home at a certain time, you know.  There was a little control on the staying up late, we need our nap in the afternoon. You know.  Was good.  I liked it. I met a lot of good people.

 

Was there a lot of sickness?

 

Yeah; there were a lot of people.  I mean, a lot of them at that time had kidney problems, heart failure.  Yeah.  A lot of them was blind; we had a lot of blind people, blind patients.

 

Did that make you afraid of what was ahead for you?

 

No; I didn’t think that way.  In fact, some of them became very good friends, and you know, they began to tell us stories about their time.

 

You’ve been to a lot of funerals in your life.

 

Oh, yes.

 

More so than the average person who does not live in Kalaupapa.

 

I think so too.  You gotta go, because that’s the last time you going see him, whether he’s lying in the coffin or what.  People have this thing about they don’t want to see a dead man.  I know that, but it’s the same when you have a photo.  You wish you could have said something, or you know.

 

So, you go, even though it takes it out of you.

 

Yeah; yeah.  You have to go.

 

In the fall of 2018, Boogie Kahilihiwa remains active in the Kalaupapa community.  He still runs the bookstore, and is president of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa, a nonprofit organization advocating on a variety of issues, developing a new memorial for patients, and perpetuating Hawaiian culture in the community.

 

Next, we meet a man who arrived in Kalaupapa the same year as Norbert Palea in 1947, and lived there for almost twenty-five years before returning to Honolulu.  You may recognize Elroy Makia Malo as a noted Hawaiian storyteller.  And many of the stories he’s told relate to coming of age in Kalaupapa.  Makia lived with his large family on Hawaiian homestead land in Papakolea until the age of twelve, when symptoms of Hansen’s Disease appeared, and he followed two siblings to Kalaupapa.  Once there, his symptoms got worse.

 

Is going blind a common effect of Hansen’s Disease?

 

For many, yeah.  Yeah. Was one of the things.  Not everybody became blind, but many.

 

When you felt yourself going blind, and knowing that others at the settlement tended to be shut-ins once they were blind, did you tell anyone?

 

No; not even the doctor.

 

You were trying to keep it a secret, so that you could be out and about?

 

I didn’t know I was blind.  So, the doctor asked me how I was doing.  I said, okay. A whole week, I couldn’t see.  But like I say, my mind was, it was temporary. So, I’d find my way to the bathroom by just hanging onto the wall, and crossing the floor by counting the doors where another bathroom is.  So, that evening, I got up, and I’m looking around—listening, rather.  Nobody in the hallway.  I walk out down the hallway, come to the nurse’s station, and nobody in there.  Right across the nurse’s station, right alongside the continuing hallway down the outside is this pillar.  I can see the light inside the telephone booth.  I walk straight to the light.  I said: Oh, Mama, Mama, this is Makia.  Mama, can you and Daddy come down tomorrow?  Yeah, okay, son.  They came down, and Daddy ended up sitting at the end of the bed, Mama sits on my right. And Mama always did this; she sit by me, and she grab my arm, she rubs my arm, rubs my arm.  And then I say: Mama, Mama … I have something to say. And Mama says: Yes, son.  Mama … Mama, I’m blind.  Yes, son.  She keeps on rubbing.  Mama, you heard me?  She says: Yes, son.  She continues rubbing, and each time it’s getting harder, and harder.  Mama, Mama, I’m burning.  And I could hear her sobbing as she’s rubbing harder, and harder. And my dad, I can tell when he’s crying; he starts sniffling.  You know.

 

M-hm.

 

And that was how I told my parents I was blind.

 

Makia Malo did much more than survive.  In 1971, he moved back to Honolulu and earned a degree in Hawaiian studies from the University of Hawai‘i.  Makia’s talent for storytelling caught the attention of master storyteller Jeff Gere, who presented Makia to audiences.  And then, Makia met and married Ann Grant, who provided the vision to bring his stories to school children.

 

Suddenly, I see a face, an almost featureless face, a face whose eyes show the discoloration of one blind, a face whose nose has been ravaged, flattened, and the skin mottled with so many scars.

 

Who made the first move?

 

Oh, her.

 

She wanted to take me to her apartment.  And I was thinking: Oh, jeez, how I going get home?  It was from that day on, she comes see me.  You know, we just kept in touch.  I just couldn’t see what this Haole girl from the mainland coming after me.  I thought she’s crazy.

 

I’m blind, I’m all jammed up.  I have an embarrassing history.  Didn’t matter to her.  But I felt bad for her.  Wow.

 

Sounds like she didn’t complain, her whole long marriage with you.

 

No, she didn’t complain.  She got angry often, and now and then, I would get angry too.  But she was my angel, man.  Oh, god.  What a life she helped me into.

 

In the fall of 2018, Makia Malo was living in Honolulu receiving special care.  His engaging storytelling helped to share the Kalaupapa experience with young people, and preserve it for future generations.

 

At this time in 2018, Meli Watanuki works in the Kalaupapa General Store. Back in 1952, she was diagnosed with Hansen’s Disease in American Samoa, and left her home and family for treatment in Western Samoa.  Later, she came to Hawai‘i.

 

So, how did you get to Honolulu?

 

Okay. So, when I paroled, you know—

 

They called it a parole?

 

Yeah, parole, just like you’re discharged from the sickness.  Yeah; the Hansen’s Disease.  So, my stepsister was here, and my stepmother.  They know that I was discharged from October 19, 1958. So, you know, they told me to come here in Hawai‘i.  And I said: Well, I’m not too sure.  But they said: You come, come; you just come out from the hospital.  Yeah; so that’s why I came Hawai‘i.  And then, I married, and then I moved out.  So …

 

You thought all your troubles were behind you; you got married.

 

Yes.

 

Did you have a baby?

 

Yeah. I have one child; it’s a boy.  So, 1964, I just see, because I know when I come Samoa, you know, I don’t know where to go pick up my medicine.  So, I thought it’s finished already.  And you know, they said: You’re supposed to go take your medicine.  I said: No, I did not, because I don’t know the hospital.  So, I went go take test, and just few weeks, and then they called me and said: Yeah, you set up something with your baby and your husband, and then you gotta go Hale Mohalu.  I said: Oh, fine.  And I feel that I better not stay there, because with my baby, I don’t want my baby to get sick.  Because he’s too young, I think only three years old.  So, I set up things, and I talked to my husband.  And my husband think, you know, just like you go hospital, you know, and few days come back.  But end up that was not.  Then, he came visit me with my son, and they see all the fence around.  But get plenty other Filipino there too at Hale Mohalu, so they was talking.  And he said: They talk Filipino.  And then, end up that was the last day I see him and my son.  They never come back.

 

So, you didn’t see your son from the time he was three, to the time he was in college?

 

No.

 

You seem so matter-of-fact when you talk about it. How much does it still hurt?  I know you’ve talked about it, you’ve had time to deal with it, but how are you with it?

 

I feel hurt.  It’s hard for me, trying to go help him and tell him, you know, your mom love you.

 

And now, nothing?

 

Nothing.  They never come back, they never call, no write.  So, I just let it go.

 

Why did you come to Kalaupapa?  You weren’t banished, you didn’t have to live here.

 

I feel happy.  Because when I came here, they was really good.  You know, and they tell me: Anytime, you can go Honolulu, you can go Las Vegas, you can go anyplace, but this is your home.  So oh, okay.  And I’m really, really happy, you know, to stay here.

 

And how’s your health?

 

My health is okay.  Only, I have asthma.  So, it’s taken care, you know, every time I go see the doctor.  Yes.

 

So, the Hansen’s Disease is not a problem?

 

No, it’s finished already.  Yeah.

 

So, you’ve had so much loss in your life.  Is that how you see it?

 

I really feel, what’s happened with all this thing they went do, I pray a lot when I came here.  I pray so much, you know, for sad of me, and take away all that sad to me.

 

Because you had so much sadness, and you needed it to be gone.  And did the sadness go away?

 

Yes. Now, I’m happy right now.  Plus, my husband, they are so nice to me.

 

Meli Watanuki chose Kalaupapa as her home.  In 2018, she’s lived in Kalaupapa for almost fifty years with her second husband, who passed away, and later her third husband, Randall Watanuki.

 

About eight thousand patients came to Kalaupapa, and most never left.  In the fall of 2018, we’re told only about nine patients remain in Kalaupapa out of the dozen still living.  It was a pleasure and an honor for our PBS Hawai‘i team to spend time with the residents. For Long Story Short and PBS Hawai‘i, I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

So, when did romance blossom?

 

Oh, Leslie.  That was, you know, ’82 to 1995.  Then, that’s why, you know.  And I told him: Okay, you know what?  Time for me. Either you marry me or not, and you stay; you go, you move out, and I stay my house.  So, 1995, the first week of April, I told him: Okay, today is the day; either you move out, or we marry.  If we not marry, you move out.  If we marry, then you stay.  That’s all. You know, I cannot do this, no communion, I only go church and pray.  And then, he said: I want to marry you.  No kidding; are you sure?

 

And he wasn’t kidding.

 

He was not kidding.

 

 

 

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT
Next Goal Wins

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT: Next Goal Wins

 

In 2001, American Samoa suffered a world record 31-0 defeat at the hands of Australia, garnering headlines across the world as the worst football (soccer) team on the planet. This film is an inspirational story about the power of hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, and an object lesson in what it really means to be a winner in life.

 

Preview

 

 

 

POLDARK SEASON 2 ON MASTERPIECE
Part 7 of 9

 

Aidan Turner stars as Ross Poldark, a redcoat who returned to Cornwall after the American Revolution to discover that his father is dead, his lands are ruined, and his true love is engaged to another. Though encouraged to pack up and make a new life elsewhere, the stubborn hero resolves to change his destiny and restore his lost fortune.

 

Part 7 of 9
For once, Ross plays the game he despises. George is on the brink of success. The copper mine yields a glimpse of hope.

 

 

HIKI NŌ
Episode # 914 – Top Story: The Many Faces of Hope

 

This week’s episode of HIKI NŌ spotlights seven of the most outstanding stories from the winter quarter of the 2017-2018 school year. The seven selected stories also share a common theme: hope. The island residents featured in this show each express personal hopes for themselves, their families and their communities. Each one is on a mission to turn that hope into reality.

 

THE STORIES:

–Students from Hongwanji Mission School on O‘ahu go off-the-air with Billy V, a local media celebrity who opens up about the physical and emotional journey that’s accompanied his cancer treatment. Billy V expresses his hope to recover from cancer and continue his fulfilling life and work.

 

–Students from Wai‘anae High School in West O‘ahu go aboard the Hōkūle‘a voyaging canoe to show us how the current crew is teaching ancient navigation techniques to a new generation. In this story, Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson shares his hope that younger Hawaiians will take up the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s mission of perpetuating traditional voyaging and the spirit of exploration.

 

–Students from Kamehameha Schools Maui Middle School take us to Noho‘ana Farm in Waikapū to meet a man who is preserving his heritage and his culture by restoring his family’s ancient taro farm. He hopes to share his knowledge and instill a sense of kuleana in younger Hawaiians so they can continue the tradition of kalo farming into the future.

 

–Students from Konawaena High School on the Big Island relay the inspirational story of a teacher who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail – from Mexico to Canada – as part of her recovery from the trauma of sexual assault. She hopes this challenge will help her take back control of her body and her life.

 

–Students from Moanalua High School on O‘ahu show us how a high school athlete hopes to overcome his short stature to pursue his dream of playing varsity soccer.

 

–Students from Waiākea High School in Hilo on the Big Island introduce us to a man who’s spreading his motto: “Stay Humble, Pray.” This former prisoner visits Hawai‘i high schools to share his story of drug addiction in the hope of persuading students not to make the mistakes he made.

 

–Students from Maui High School in Kahului introduce us to a family learning to embrace what life brings after their baby is born with the genetic disorder known as Down Syndrome. The Garcias of Pukalani hope their love and devotion will guarantee their daughter’s happiness. And they hope to share their blessings and inspire their neighbors through their family company, Aloha Kettlecorn.

 

This special edition of HIKI NŌ is hosted by two students from Farrington High School on O‘ahu: 9th grader Shaylen Tatupu-Timu and 10th grader Harvey Saucedo.

 

 


WE’LL MEET AGAIN
Rescued from Mount St. Helens

WEʻLL MEET AGAIN: Rescued from Mount St. Helenʻs

 

Join Ann Curry for the reunions of people whose lives crossed during the deadly eruption. Mindy searches for a scientist’s family to tell them how he saved her life, and Sue wants to find the helicopter pilot who rescued her from near-certain death.

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Dr. Elliot Kalauawa

 

Dr. Elliot Kalauawa’s childhood in Palolo Valley’s public housing helped fuel his desire to enter the medical field. He discovered his life’s purpose at Waikiki Health, where he has worked for over 30 years, offering compassion, guidance and hope to his patients.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Oct. 22, at 4:00 pm.

 

Dr. Elliot Kalauawa Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

With my mom, I always felt real protected, because my mom was very tough herself—emotionally, physically. So, I had no problem. And especially going down to Hotel Street, I would enjoy. Because she liked to drink, she liked to play cards, so I would spend a lot of evenings in the bars on Hotel Street with her. And for a child, it was fun, because I was the only kid there, so different people were buying me sodas.

 

Dr. Elliot Kalauawa grew up in a tough neighborhood. His mother spent most of her time drinking and gambling in bars. Yet, he says he never felt deprived or neglected. Dr. Elliot Kalauawa of Honolulu, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. Dr. Elliot Joseph Kalauawa is the chief medical officer at Waikiki Health. It’s a nonprofit community clinic that provides medical and social services, even when a person has no means to pay. Dr. Kalauawa is the recipient of numerous awards for his work with HIV/AIDS patients, and is widely recognized as one of the most respected HIV physicians in Hawai‘i. Dr. Kalauawa is well-known for his compassion and caring for patients. The circumstances of his childhood could have shaped his character much differently.

 

In the beginning, it was just my mom and I, because when my mom got pregnant, she didn’t want to marry my dad. So, she basically ended that relationship, and then she was on her own. And so, we lived in Hotel Street area, different kind of small rooms she could rent. I always felt real protected, because my mom was very tough herself—emotionally, physically. So, I had no problem. And especially going down to Hotel Street, my mom was like, you know, one of the bulls back then. And so, lot of people were afraid of her. So, nothing happened.

 

Does that mean she fought?

 

She did; physically, she fought. In fact, she likes to tell people a story.   You know, somebody she meets, some of my friends, and she’ll tell them, You think my son’s a good boy? And they’ll go tell her, Yeah. And then say, No, he was in jail. And then, they will look and say, What do you mean he was in jail? Because when she was pregnant with me, she was in jail.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

And then, she was in jail again when I was about five. And then, I stayed with my godmother. So, I would go and visit her for the few months that she was in jail. But that’s how she was. In fact, she even had stabbed a sailor once. She used to carry this knife with her. And I remember seeing it later. And he basically got fresh with her, she pulled it out, and stabbed him. And her nickname was Unknown, on Hotel Street. And the reason was, whenever there was a fight, the police would come, and they would ask who was involved in that fight. And because people didn’t want to squeal on her, they would say, Unknown. You know, in a sense, we don’t know. And that’s how her nickname became.

 

That’s what it shows up on police reports.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Wow. Did you have a sense of fear?

 

No. And see, this is the thing. When I talk to others, you know, especially people who maybe come from broken homes … and people ask me what was it. And for me, it was, I always felt loved. Because even though my mom lived that lifestyle, I always felt loved by her. I never felt like she was neglecting me. I felt like that was just normal, to grow up that way. And then, because of my other family, my godmother, my aunts, my uncles, they all showed me love. And so, I always felt like I was loved. And that’s why I never felt like I had to join a gang to get love there. You know how some of the young ones go to, or to belong. You know, I felt real love. And that, to me, was the key.

 

Did you feel like your life was normal?

 

Yeah; I did. You know. And I felt it was normal to go to Hotel Street. I remember one time, I was about ten, I think, and she had this car; it was a standard. And we left the bar about three in the morning, and the car couldn’t start. So, we had to jumpstart it. And so, it was just her and I. So, she was behind the wheel in the middle of Hotel Street. And that was when Hotel Street was two ways. And you know, no traffic. So, I got out to push the car. So, I’m pushing the car at about two, three in the morning. And there was a young man about maybe in his, I don’t know, twenties, and he saw. And my mom was drunk behind the wheel. And he yelled, Woman, do you need help? And she thought he was getting fresh, so she swore at him. And so, he just kept on walking. And I thought to myself, I need the help, why’d you do that? You know. But finally, we were able to start the car. But again, that to me wasn’t anything unusual.

 

Did your entire childhood go this way?

 

The thing was, when I was growing up, part of me felt like I didn’t know where I really belonged. ‘Cause I was growing up in the housing, and all my friends in the housing were people that, when we’d go to school at Palolo Elementary, they were in the special education class.

 

And when did you go to Palolo Housing? How old were you?

 

I was about six.

 

Six?

 

First grade.

 

What was that like? Did you feel comfortable there?

 

I did; I felt completely at home. You know. And there, you know, we all knew each other, and everything, you know.

 

Okay; and then, did your mom’s lifestyle stabilize?

 

No; continued the same.

 

What was your routine like at home in Palolo Housing?

 

The way it was, was Monday through Friday, I’d get up to go to school. My mom would be sleeping. I’d make my breakfast. Then, I would get ready, I’d kiss her, you know, on her cheek while she’s sleeping, go to school. Then when I would get home from school, she would be gone already, ‘cause then she would leave to go to the bar. And then, sometime early evening, she’d call me just to let me know that either my dinner would be on the kitchen table that she had made, or she would tell some of the people in the housing, you know, some of the other families, to bring dinner over for me. And then, I’d go to bed whenever I wanted. So, usually, I’d go to bed about ten. I did have this one fear, though, living alone. I used to love watching horror movies. And it wasn’t too smart to watch it when you’re home alone, you know, especially then. And so, I didn’t want to hear these different sounds. So, when I’d go to bed, I would be in my room, my overhead light would be on, and my radio would be playing. So, it got the point where I could fall asleep with lights and noise. So, I never needed a quiet, dark room. But that was because I wanted the radio to block out hearing any kind of ghost walking outside my window. [CHUCKLE] And then, I’d wake up the next morning, and she’s be home, but she’d be sleeping again. And so, it was only on the weekends when we would talk face-to-face.

 

So, how did you handle that, as an older kid? ‘Cause you can get into a lot of trouble when you’re a little older, especially.

 

Yeah. And I’m not sure why, you know. Because I used to hang around with these kids in the housing, and you know, they were all getting into trouble. And now, some of them have been in jail. One, I heard, you know, he was murdered maybe in his late 20s. So, they all kinda went. And so, I used to hang around with them, but the interesting thing is, then when I’d go to school, because I would be in what they called the A Class then, with the smart kids. So, I’d hang around with those kids, and they were outside the housing. So, they had a lifestyle that was more like middleclass income class. And so, in the housing, I’d be one group, in school I’d be with another group. And it’s funny, because when we’d go to school, the kids I was with in the housing, we’d walk to school, then I’d drop them off at the special education class, I’d walk to my class. After school, I’d walk back, and I’d pick them up, and we all go back into the housing. You know, so that’s kind of how things went. So, yeah, I look back, and I think I could have got into trouble with them. But I think the main thing, I give my mom a lot of credit. My mom was very strict, even though she was doing that type of lifestyle. Her feeling was, she never wanted me to have the kind of lifestyle she had. So, she would always tell me that. Because she only went to eighth grade, to Kalakaua Intermediate, and then she quit school. And so, she would tell me, You study. And even though she wasn’t home when I’d come home from school, I guess because I knew she could be so firm, you know, and because I knew she really wanted me to do that, when I came home, I would study, I got all my homework done, then I would go out and play with the housing kids. So, the housing kids would just wait until my studies were done. ‘Cause they didn’t have to study. So, would study, and then I’d go. But I think it’s because she drilled that in me. She says, Education is what you need. And so, she would force me to make sure I did that. But her influence was so strong, even though she wasn’t physically there, I sort of always felt the need to obey, even though she wasn’t around. But I loved to read. I enjoyed studying.

 

So, you felt very wanted.

 

I felt very wanted. And I think that’s what made me not have a desire to feel like I had to get into, you know, trouble. That’s the key; I felt very loved.

 

That’s very different. I mean, you know … it was neglect.

 

I know. I look back now; it was neglect. And I look back, and I think, Why do I get the sense that my mom really loved me? I think it’s because when I interacted with her, you know, I could see the love. And because she was very strict—and you know, back then, parents were disciplining kids with what would be child abuse. ‘Cause you know, I was hit with the clothes hanger, the iron ones, with the belt. And one day, she had shared something with an adult person, who happened to mention it to me, that when she would do that to me, and then I’d go to bed crying, that after I fell asleep, she would come into the room and basically cry because she had done that to me.

 

What had you done to cause her to whack you?

 

When I would try to get into trouble; steal things, and if she found out about it. ‘Cause she always told me, Don’t do anything bad. So, she would always tell me that. Even though she did, she said, Do not do anything bad. It’s funny; it’s a double standard.

 

I know.

 

It’s a double standard.

 

It’s such a contradiction in terms.

 

It is; it really is, you know. And I think it’s because she so much didn’t want me to be like her, her lifestyle. ‘Cause the bottom line is, when she got older, she shared with me, she was not happy with her lifestyle at all. So, it wasn’t like she was happy living like that.

 

I want to know what your mom would have said if you said, Hey, Mom, if you really don’t want me to turn out wrong, stop doing what you’re doing and be here with me, and don’t show me that example.

 

She would have just ignored it. She would have said, I don’t care, you’re gonna do it. That’s what she would have said. That’s the kind of person was. You know, she’s the kind of person who really didn’t care what others thought. This is what she told me, and she would tell me this several times. She said, Don’t care what people think if they’re not feeding you. And so, that’s why I grew up having, you know, that tough thing where it’s hard to offend me, because I have a tough skin. And I tell people, you know, Just tell me what you think. Because I like it to be constructive. And to me, in order for it to be constructive, the person has to tell you what they feel. And likewise, I tell them what I feel. But that’s from my mom. It’s all just to make things better. So, it’s never with malicious; it’s always to make things better.

 

But when you dish it out, you have to be able to take it.

 

Yeah.

 

Can you take it?

 

Oh, yeah; definitely, I can.

 

You don’t feel hurt or angry?

 

No. I prefer people be honest with me.

 

Elliot Kalauawa’s hard work and discipline did not go unnoticed by his teachers. This was especially helpful, because he decided at a young age that he wanted to become a medical doctor, a profession that had a cultural precedent in his family.

 

From when I was a child, I was told that my last name, it’s Kalauawa, and it means breath of life and strength. My grandmother was a kahuna, you know, so she was involved with a lot of healing. And she used to use plants a lot. You know, so she used to do that a lot. So, I’m assuming that’s probably the connection there.

 

And then, you wanted to be a doctor from the time you were a kid.

 

Yeah.

 

Huh.

 

So …

 

Did you ever see your grandmother treating people?

 

No, ‘cause she died when I was about year and a half. But my mother would tell me about it. They had a house on Gulick Avenue, and she had a separate room where when she wanted to heal people, she would take them into the room. And she wouldn’t let anybody else go into the room. It was just her and the individual.

 

And did your mother tell you about stories of people getting healed?

 

Yeah; she did. You know, but all kinds of, you know, unusual things, all kinds of things happened. You know, that kind of thing. And I guess part of the reason my grandmother, from what my mom told me, didn’t want anybody else, especially young kids, she was afraid what effect it would have on them. So, I really don’t know what kind of, you know, rituals she did. I know she used plants, she grew a lot of plants. The two sacred things in her life were her plants and her Bible. ‘Cause she was also a deacon at a Hawaiian church, Ka Makua Mau Loa. So, those were the two sacred things in her life. She was pure Hawaiian, and she spoke Hawaiian fluently. And so, my mother and my uncle—‘cause my mother only had one sibling, her older brother. And his children were all older than me, and they all grew up knowing Hawaiian, fluent Hawaiian, because she only would speak English to people who didn’t understand Hawaiian, like if a visitor came over. So, that’s the thing that I kind of feel I wish I had been exposed to. But once she died, the motivation to speak Hawaiian died. So, nobody spoke. ‘Cause this was in the 40s and 50s, so nobody in the family. So, my mom, by the time I was old enough to understand, she could understand some Hawaiian words, but she pretty much couldn’t speak it anymore, including my uncle.

 

What about other Hawaiian cultural parts of your background?

 

Even that. Because back then, when we were being raised, you know, the Hawaiian race was suppressed. It was like they were trying to teach us to be White. You know, even my wife, she went to Kamehameha from kindergarten to twelfth grade, and she said even at Kamehameha, they were training you to be White. So, it wasn’t until the resurgence in the 70s. So, by that time that happened, I was already an adult, so I wasn’t really raised around that type of cultural thing, other than just what my family did.

 

You decided at a young age what you were going to do, and unlike almost all of us, you actually did it.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Can you tell us that story?

 

Well, we used to go to Queen Emma Clinic. And lot of times, we’d wait about three hours to see the doctor. And I remember, and I can picture this in my mind. I was probably about eleven; between ten and twelve. We were in the waiting room, and it was another one of those long waits. So, I looked at my mom and said, Why do we have to always wait? And she says, We just have to. And I said, Must be they don’t have enough doctors, so I think I’ll be a doctor. And it just stuck. I didn’t even think at that point if it’s something I would enjoy. I just said, Must be they don’t have enough doctors. I never even doubted that I couldn’t get into medical school. It was always like, This is what I’m gonna do; what do I need to do, what do I need to do to get into college, to get into medical school, to residency. It never was if; it was, you know, what do I need to do.

 

And while you lived in Palolo Housing and were in intermediate school, some adults in your life saw your potential, and they changed your life.

 

They did; they did. When I was in eighth grade, I played Pop Warner Football for the Palolo Vikings. And at the end of the season, the coaches would have an end of the season banquet. And I remember it was at a restaurant in Waikiki. And as I was about to enter the restaurant, our head coach was outside greeting the kids, telling us where to go. And he came up to me and he said, We’ve submitted your name for a scholarship to Iolani School; what do you think about that? And I just thought, Fine with me. Not that I had any desire to do that, but I thought, Oh, okay, you know, I’ll do that. And then, a few months later, the ninth grade counselor at Jarrett Intermediate called me into his office. And I was only in eighth grade, so at first, I was wondering, Why is he calling me in? And he was always a strict person, so I thought, What did I do? I didn’t think I did anything to get into trouble. And he called me into his office and he said, We want to submit you for a scholarship to Iolani School. And I said, Oh, my football coach already did that. And then, that’s how Iolani started.

 

Well, I gotta say, it must have been quite the transition from Jarrett to Iolani when you were living in Palolo Housing.

 

It was; it was.

 

You know, you see parents dropping off their kids at school, and they have these beautiful cars, and different clothes every day.

 

Right.

 

It must have been kind of mindboggling.

 

It was; it was. You know, we had to have a lot of help, because for Iolani, I had this scholarship, the Albert H. Stone Memorial Scholarship, and that’s the one that pays everything, including the books. But before I could really go, my mom was concerned about how I was gonna get lunch. Because public school lunch was twenty-five cents; Iolani School lunch was about a dollar. So, what she did was, she found out about Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center, and she submitted a request to them, and then they would send us a check every month for twenty-five dollars to cover my lunch at Iolani. And then, so once that was set up, then it was a go. But it was different. One thing, Iolani at the time was all boys, so that was different, going from a co-ed public school. But I know some of the kids there would look at me. ‘Cause I would hear things like, Oh, there’s the kid from the housing. But I had a lot of good friends. My class and I now, we’re still close, so I had a lot of good friends. But it was really only a minority. But the thing was, I was raised—and even now, I have a little hard time; I was raised speaking very heavy Pidgin. And so, going there and trying not to speak, you know. I mean, you could to a degree, but not the degree that I spoke in the housing. And I remember one year, we had a teacher from the mainland teaching English class that I was in, and then she wanted to talk about the Pidgin English. And so, she wanted to kinda discuss it. And one of my classmates raised his hand and he says, Ask Elliot, he’s the expert on Pidgin. But the thing is, Iolani was also very supportive of me, very loving.

 

Elliot Kalauawa never strayed from his path of becoming a doctor, and after finishing high school and college, he earned his medical degree at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the UH. He joined a private practice in Honolulu. In less than two years, he left and chose a different setting, a different patient base.

 

I was in private practice for a year and eight months with another internist, Dr. Jonathan Cho, who’s an oncologist now. But that’s around the time I became a Jehovah’s Witness, so I wanted more time for my ministry, but I also wanted the kind of population that I grew up with. And the practice we had wasn’t that kinda population. And then, I saw an ad for Waikiki Health, and they were advertising for a medical director. So, this was a chance; I could go back basically to my roots, and then also have time for my ministry, too. I’ve been at Waikiki Health now thirty-one years. In fact, two days makes thirty-one years. And I look back, and I say, I feel real fortunate, ‘cause I’ve got a career that I truly enjoy. I mean, it’s not work for me. You know, you hear the cliché that, you know, when you enjoy, it’s not really work. Well, for me, it really is. I go to work, and I just enjoy every single day.

 

So, what is the overview; what are your patients like?

 

Oh, I have a full range. I have patients that are homeless, I have patients that are doctors, lawyers, I have the full range in between. I have, you know, a full range of different types of diseases, as well as HIV.

 

When you first started treating HIV, and it was a new disease, I imagine you lost more patients.

 

Oh, we did; we did. ‘Cause we had no treatment back then. In fact, back then, we didn’t even have the tests that we have now. And so, it was really sad. And HIV, of all the different diseases I treat, the HIV patients are the ones I feel a little closer to. And that’s because HIV now, it’s not so bad, but in the early days, it was like how leprosy used to be. Because there was a stigma, people didn’t want to be around them. And I used to feel sorry for them. And then, the fact that it was a death sentence. So, I used to get real close to those patients. But once when treatments came out, you know, it’s so much better now.

 

There’s a significant percentage of clients at Waikiki Health Center who don’t have insurance.

 

Right; a lot.

 

How does that work? How do you treat them?

 

It’s real difficult. And so, what we have to do, we have to be creative, you know, when we have students, especially, when they come through. It’s interesting, because when we have students or residents come through, the first time they’re with us, it’s funny, because they’ll say, Okay, this patient, I want to order these tests. So, I’ll look at him and I said, Well, who’s gonna pay for it? And he says, What do you mean? I said, Did you check his insurance status? ‘Cause it’s in the chart. And he goes, No, I didn’t. You need to check. And he’ll look, and he’ll say the person’s uninsured. So, I said, So who’s gonna pay for that test you want to do? The patient can’t afford it. So, what we have to do is, we have to be less reliant on tests. You know, I’m fortunate; when I went through medical school, we didn’t have lot of the tests they have now; we didn’t have CAT scans, we didn’t have MRIs. So, we had to learn a lot on the history, you know, from what the patients tell you. Because if you really get good information from the patient, you can probably come up with eighty-five percent of the diagnosis. And then, the physical exam can add. So, we did all these extra maneuvers to try to find out what the person had, you know, like maybe leaning forward while we’re listening to his heart, that today, you don’t have to do so much now, because today, medicine is so test-oriented. And I say it’s real sad, because we’ve got this population of patients that cannot get the things they need, and yet, we’re surrounded by wealth in this land. But we never give up, we never turn our back, we never say we can’t do it; we still do what we can.

 

Do you ever judge people?

 

Oh, not at all. No. Especially when I look at, you know, my lifestyle, you know, what I grew up in. You know. There’s no point judging anybody. Because on the surface, we might be different, but below the surface, we’re all the same. One of the things I like to tell students and residents at our clinic, ‘cause we see homeless patients, I tell them; I say, If you take a homeless person, put him in one exam room, tell him to undress, and you’ll be back in to examine him, you take another person, say, a doctor or lawyer, tell him to undress, you’ll come back in and examine them. And this is where people who have a stereotype about the homeless won’t really understand. So, if you did that, and then you go back into either room, sometimes you can’t tell who the doctor or who the homeless person is.

 

Do you think you would be unhappy in a place that had well-heeled patients who could pay their bills with insurance, and cash?

 

Yeah. Because I would feel like I’m not doing all that I can do. And the patients that I see, in general, a lot of them are from the same background that I’m from. So, that’s more so. In fact, two homeless patients I saw over the years were kids I grew up with. One of them, I saw his name in the chart, and I went in, and he didn’t know who he was gonna see, and he had his back towards the door. I went in, I called his name, he turned around, and he didn’t recognize me, ‘cause it was years. And he was homeless. I told him my name; he said, You know, I remember as a kid, you always talked about being a doctor, and I wondered if you made it; and I guess you did. You know. And then, another one of my patients, I played Little League Baseball with him. And then, couple weeks later, after I saw him, I’m coming into the clinic, I’m walking through the waiting room. He’s with another homeless patient, and he stops me, and he says, Hey, tell my friend here that you and I used to play baseball together. And I said, Yeah, we used to play baseball together. I guess his friend couldn’t see that his homeless friend grew with a doctor.

 

Let’s pick up on the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

Yeah.

 

So, when you talk about ministry, are you talking about going door-to-door?

 

Yes.

 

And how do people receive you? Knock-knock-knock, I’m from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

You get a mix. Fortunately for us in Hawai‘i, many people are very polite. They don’t like to be, you know, rude. So, you know, we start talking, and then lot of times, they’ll just say, Oh, I’m not interested. And then, we just leave. Other times, they’ll listen, you know, and then we share a few things. And occasionally, we do have some people that are just rude. And they just say, Oh, no, don’t come here, or get out of here, or they slam the door. You know.

 

And why is it worth it to you to keep doing that?

 

The Bible has such an important message. You know, because it doesn’t matter what religion a person is, there’s Bible principles that can really benefit them. In fact, one man that I used to visit regularly, he actually was an atheist. But he used to love me coming by, ‘cause he said he loved the principles in the Bible. When I talk to people at the door, I know most of them have no desire to be a Jehovah’s Witness. But if they can at least apply some of the things in the Bible, they would have a better life. And that’s why I do it. Again, it’s concern for people. It’s like when I see all the suffering, and I see how people are, I think, You know what, if you could follow some of these principles in the Bible, you know, you would have a happier life. It’s not gonna solve all their problems, you know, obviously, you know, if they’ve got some chronic medical illness. But at least it’ll help them cope with it better. How to have a healthier lifestyle, ‘cause the Bible condemns things such as drunkenness, drug abuse. There’s principles about always trying to have a smile, always trying to laugh. And it does help the body. We do know; medicine has shown that when people tend to laugh more, that it does help the person and all that. So, those kind of different things that can help a person. And then also, it gives them hope for the future. It’s amazing how strong hope is. So, whether it’s in a spiritual nature, or you know, medical, hope is a powerful force. And that’s one of the things, when I go door-to-door, I like to let people know that, you know, you can have a better life now, as well as hope for the future.

 

Mahalo to Dr. Elliot Kalauawa of Honolulu for sharing your inspirational life story with us. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

Did you and your mother ever have a talk about how things had turned out, and you know, life in general?

 

We had, later on in her later years. And she was always very proud, you know, and things like that. And I never told her that, you know, she had a dysfunctional lifestyle. ‘Cause she knew she did, so there was no point talking about it.

 

And did her life become less and less dysfunctional as she got older?

 

She did; yeah. And I think it’s just, you know, learning from her past mistakes. So, she stopped drinking. I think maybe she was in her seventies, she just stopped alcohol completely. Her gambling, she didn’t stop, but she cut way back. So, she would only maybe go on the weekends, you know. And they’d just basically go to friends’ houses and they’d play Poker. You know, usually the same group; and they’d go to different homes.

 

And she had a long life; eighty-four.

 

Eighty-four.

 

[END]


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When the massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan’s Tohoku region six years ago, life as people knew it was instantly gone. Among the survivors were children, who experienced the disaster and its aftermath at an impressionable time in their lives. The documentary shares five stories of those children, looking at how they have struggled with the past, and follows them as they search for a way to move forward.

 

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