In Another Lifetime
Growing up on the Hawaiian Islands in the 1950’s was a very special and cherished time in my life. I hope to recapture and share with you many fond memories of another lifetime in our heart warming sugar plantation town called, “Ewa” (pronounced, eh-vah).
The Ewa Plantation is located a few miles inland from the southwest shores on the island of Oahu. Ewa’s long time neighbor is the well known military naval base, Barbers Point. Times have really changed and progress has done a number on our old stomping grounds. Today urban developments, golf courses, businesses, miles of undeveloped land and congested traffic jams is visible everywhere. However, back in those days agriculture (sugar) dominated the region in a big and visibly productive way. There were far fewer cars on the road than today and even the traffic flow was noticeably slower. It was a time when life was so very simple and carefree.
As kids we grew up with Zenith and RCA black and white TV sets watching our favorite Looney Tune cartoon shows, The Three Stooges, Spanky and Our Gang and all of our favorite prime time sitcoms and comedy shows. At one point it was a daily routine watching TV with the family in the evenings. My old school days of life and television is very different than how it is today with my grand kids. For one, the programs they show on TV today are totally different from an educational point of view. With the colors and visual enhancements of today’s technology the cartoons seems more hypnotic to the child viewer. However, I really like the educational programs that are geared for the young 1 year olds to toddler viewers such as Sesame Street, Telli-Tubby, Mr Rodgers, The Wiggles and the very popular “Sponge Bob Square Pants”. My grand kids may not have any knowledge or desire to watch any of the old school TV programs of yesterday, but they seem to be doing just fine with their TV viewing routines of today. Of course, the ground rules set by parents and their elders play a huge role in terms of control and moderation. It is proven that without any form of supervision with TV viewing a child can develop negative habits very easily in more ways than one. LOL!
At a certain age I grew out of spending lots of time at home and became very outgoing, meeting lots of friends and just being a true adventurer. I remembered as a kid my friends and I would venture with our bikes through this long and winding plantation road that would take us to a private road, which led to the top of a hill that we called “Bolo-Head Mountain”. In Hawaiian pidgeon English Bolo means Bald. The hill from afar had a strong resemblance of a bald head. It laid at the footstep of the Waianae Mountain Range and stood pretty high. The hillside town of Makakilo was in clear view just beyond an amazing and natural beauty known as “Color Rocks”. As far as I can remember it was some type of digging that exposed many different colors of gravel. There would always be several mounds of colored gravel that we would jump our bikes off of. It was such a rush going downhill. Starting from the top of Bolo-Head Mountain, leading to the off road trails into the color rocks, then onto some real daredevil type jumps further down the road of our decent. Indeed, we seemed crazy and reckless in this weekly adventure, but without a doubt we were having so much fun. It sure beats being bored at home watching TV.
Every year during Easter the Ewa Community Boys Scout would hike up to this hill and place the Easter Cross up there. An old military bunker provided the stability for the cross and a generator was used to light the huge cross which was seen from nearly everywhere in rural Oahu. Anyone that grew up on Oahu during that time (1950’s) should remember the Easter Cross of Bolo-Head Mountain. I have it engraved in my memory as was one of those unforgettable landmarks of the era.
It was such an extraordinary experience playing at the top of the hill. The view was absolutely breath taking. Diamond Head Crater and the toy-like hotels of Waikiki could be seen from afar. The beautiful blue ocean was mesmerizing. But, what really amazed me was viewing our little patch of hometown that was filled with an abundance of mango trees and small homes. The Ewa Community Center and the ever so famous Plantation Mill stood out as well. Not to mention the whole town was totally surrounded by acres and acres of swaying cane fields. The people of Ewa truly believed in those days that we were blessed with such a wonderful life in “God’s Land”.
Thanks to technology and the social websites I have been able to gather many old photos of the plantation life. I wish to extend a special Mahalo to Art Manglangit and Isamu Murakami for sharing these very, very rare old photos.
My recollection of the great Ewa Plantation started from the early to mid 1950’s. It was a small town community with multiple cultures all bundled up in one and for the most part living harmoniously. The big families and the many unique personalities, with awesome sense of humor, made Ewa such a very special and fun place to be. Back in those days you could leave your doors unlock at night while you slept confidently. Parents had no fear of their children walking to school alone for they knew that somewhere along the path they will join up with other kids and friends. As a child growing up I remember it as a very peaceful and trusting time. Obviously, times have surely changed and the long line of cars with parents and guardians dropping off the children at school is evidence of the dangerous times that we live in today.
From toddler days up to preteen age growing up in our little country town was an incredible experience filled with all sorts of games and activities throughout the year identified as “Seasons”. There was kite season, top season, marble season, bike season and yoyo season. As you got older it was more the traditional football, baseball, basketball and track & field seasons. Chicken fights and ocean life was all year around and depending on your family it was moderate to heavy. In mine it was a little bit of both. If you were into other things such as boxing, swimming or tennis it was more a specialty that you were blessed with. Music was pretty much in everyone’s lives at one time or another. If you had it in you it became a part of your life’s journey. If you did not it would be just another phase that came and went. Surfing was by far my shortest lived phase growing up an island boy and it is not because of the sharks that roam beneath your toes. Instead, it was due to a very forgettable experience with my older brother as he was trying to teach me how to surf. We used an old school style surfboard. It was those very big surf boards made famous by the late great Duke Kahanamoku. It was quite big enough to easily fit both of us. I was in the front doing all the paddling and brother Len was in the back steering and checking out the girls (smiles). The one thing that he kept telling me was if someone looses their board and it is headed straight for us. Turn our board over and get under it so we don’t get hit. What he failed to do was drill into my head that “I” was the one to hold on to the surf board while he dives his way into safety. Just imagine that we were out where it was well above 30 feet. That popular surf spot was known as, “Shark Country” (Hau Bush Beach).
It was a good thing that I understood the ocean’s buoyancy and that I had some previous experience diving with friends to know how to deal with currents because I surely would have drowned that day. But, the fact that I am still alive today tells me that it was just not my time then. Think about it, shark country, little boy floating helplessly in deep waters. Maybe one of my guardian angels changed into a dolphin and chased all the sharks away that day. Humorous as it may sound, strangest things have happened. However, it is billed as the day I stopped surfing.
But, let me take you back to the days of Grandpa and the early Ewa Plantation days of 1925.
My grandfather migrated from a town called “Car Car” located in the Cebu region of the Philippines early 1930’s. He was one of many Filipino plantation workers that migrated from the Philippines and headed east in search of a dream. Starting as a field worker, at harvest time he would carry bundles of chopped sugar cane strapped on his back and walked for miles to get to the designated drop off locations where the trains would pick up the bundles of sugar cane and deliver it to the mills. My grandfather and father both worked for only one company in their entire working career, The Ewa Sugar Plantation Company. My father worked 44 years with the plantation. I’m not sure if grandpa had more years, but with being the very first one in our clan to work for E.P.Co. It was clear who had the real and special honors. I really thank my father and grandpa for showing me what dedicated hard work is truly all about. They help to lay the foundation in our lives and taught us true values that can be passed down through our generations. They have, indeed, set an example to us that hard work does pay off. Thanks to these blessed pictures I can now relate to how incredible it was back then and how life seems to be moving at a different speed. Our parents found ways to get by through the hard times and in more ways than one the determined hard working families prevailed. Thank God our generations continue to grow and live prosperously. But, it would not have been possible if our elders had not sacrificed themselves and dedicated their lives in raising their families in a world filled with challenges.
Agricultural jobs in Hawaii where abundant and quite easy to get. The immigration laws back then were lenient and immigrants flocked from all over. Agriculture and the Tourist Industry were two of the most popular to be in, but the more fortunate and educated found better paying jobs in the city of Honolulu.
Regardless, back then life in the country may not have had the wealth compared to Honolulu in terms of money, but you cannot compare the riches in the country’s lifestyle. The beauty of the land, the shining stars on a clear night, the strong aroma of party cooked food with music in the air and laughter everywhere. I can never forget the huge gatherings of families in many of the households of Ewa town. Every year the New Year celebration brings out the best party times. It is our little version of the New Orleans Mardigras only without the costumes and makeup’s. That brotherhood feeling of togetherness lived strong. If I had a do-over I would live my adolescent life the same way all over again. Then make better long term decisions in the adult days that followed
Eventually, the enormous cane haulers and field cranes became the work horse of future harvest. The production increase played a major role in helping the Ewa community to develop into a lively and fun place to be. Dad drove those cane haulers for years and my brothers and I were blessed to catch rides during harvest season. Back then huge sugar cane haulers, which we called “Turn a haulers”, roared through their special built roads that was wide enough to fit at least 5 cars across. It reminded me so much of a modern day dinosaur. My father, at one point in time during his 40 plus years working for the plantation used to be one of those drivers. My oldest beloved brother and I used to meet him at a certain point of his route on this quarter mile stretch of mango trees that famously became known as “Mango Road”. He would pick us up and take us on a complete tour of the harvest process. Going to the fields, witnessing the field cranes packing a load in his hauler, then bringing it back to the Ewa Mill where it would get weighed then dumped on the conveyor line to be processed. The ride alone was so fun bouncing all over and we would yell at each other just to communicate. It ranks right up there with my favorite E.K. Fernandez carnival ride. I feel so blessed having that life experience.
I enjoyed the experience so much that during the harvest seasons I would spend a lot of time on Mango Road waiting around for the haulers to come, then flag the drivers down and asked if I could ride with them. This one Filipino man, who was known as “Manoy Pastor”, was the only one that I remembered stopping and giving us that fun tour. Of course, he was a very good friend of my father and later on in my life I learned that he was actually my God Father. I remembered at the chicken fights he would always tip me money, especially when he won. He also found great joy making us laugh with silly magic tricks that seemed corny but very funny.
There was never a boring moment hanging around Mango Road. Once in a blue moon mango road seem deserted and eerie. Quite a few spooky stories came out of that famous landmark. Old Ewa town was filled with fables that stretched through generations and that classic old plantation town look gave you goose bumps whenever story telling took place. But back in those days I really wasn’t that afraid of mango road. However, with no street lights the nights is really when you want to stay away. During the days my friends and I would ride our bikes there and build tree houses. I can remember how fun it used to be climbing around, from tree to tree like monkeys, eating those juicy ripe mangos then tossing the seeds and skin at some friends as they passed by with their bikes. We would hide our bikes so it was a real mystery to them and quite hilarious when they would look up in the trees and scratch their heads not knowing why it was raining bits of mangos. The gullible ones would take off frantically with stories of the “Hangman” and “Green Lady” deep in their thoughts. But, eventually you could not hold back your laugh and giving our hiding spots away would ultimately result in a “land to air” barrage of stones and rotten mangos. Crazy fun times, indeed.
Before my time there were quite a few homes built around the old plantation reservoir known to many as “Tongkay”. As far as I can remember as a young kid there were no houses around Tongkay at all. Only acres of sugar cane surrounded the old reservoir. Tongkay was located just on the outskirts of Fernandez Village and at the 1/8 mark of a very long Mango Road. It was a totally different time from what I can remember. These homes were numbered and you were given an army name tag that had your identity along with your house number on it. Back then it was a requirement that you carry it around with you everywhere especially while you attended the Ewa Elementary School. The World War II bombing of Pearl Harbor had a lot to do with that routine. As an infant and toddler of those reservoir days my memory is vague. Even viewing some old pictures cannot bring back much memories of what it was like. Not to mention today’s overwhelming views of homes, golf courses and businesses just makes it impossible to remember what it actually looked like back then. In earlier research I have learned through relatives and friends about those days and it sure sounded like an incredible time to remember. Many described it as something similar to the 50’s sitcom “Happy Days”. The cars, attire and fads of that era were almost identical in the plantation lifestyle. Viewing some old family pictures of my facebook website friends made those times come alive. However, several of my resources have since passed and now it all seems a distant past that is fading rapidly in our memories as we age. Practically, the only thing that reminds me of that era was the music. My father was a Nat King Cole fanatic and played his records over and over drilling it into my soul. Some of my uncles loved Elvis. Another was heavy into Big Band and Lawrence Welk music. While speaking of old school music and cherished songs of our elders we clearly cannot forget about the old cultural Filipino songs and other music of the past that has been kept alive for many years by a popular singing group from Ewa. The “Ewa Plantation Singers” for many years have been entertaining successfully all over the region. Most of the entertainers are over 60 and the group held their last farewell show in 2007. Just as they have rekindled fond memories for our elders their times of shining will well be remembered. An enormous contribution of the Ewa Plantation Singers was bridging the times of our grandparents with that of the generations of today. God Bless their souls.
Clearly the era before the 1960’s had its fair share of memorable times whether you were a toddler or teenager growing up or an adult on the business end of things. Those days are long gone and many who lived it, that are still alive today, can only salvage deep memorable thoughts on those joyful times. Because, many of us have learned that dwelling on the past will not bring it back. In order to continue with survival one, clearly, must focus on today’s needs in order to build a better and happy tomorrow.
The Ewa Plantation train played a vital part in the early development of E.P.Co. As technology developed it was eventually phased out and the train’s locomotive was brought to rest in the heart of the town on Renton Road where it sat on the front lawn of the plantation’s main office for years. As a child growing up we would frequent the old train especially on our way to the town supermarket, post office or community center. Next door was the plantation manager home.
I remembered that we used to carve out our names all over that ancient land mark and the plantation would have to cover it all up with fresh paint jobs periodically. During the Bruce Lee and kung fu martial arts era of the 1960’s we would jump off the train pretending to be kung fu stars. It was silly, crazily dangerous but an absolute fun time. Sadly, the old train has been taken to a sugar plantation museum located in the town of Kahuku on the north shore. The train is now only in our memories, captured in few and rare pictures and will be forever engraved in our souls as an icon of the many treasured past of the Ewa Plantation town.
The town was filled with great social amenities some still standing today. There was the family run Ewa Shopping Basket, our own unique version of the modern day Safeway. Just ask anyone from old Ewa and they will have numerous stories to tell you about this long standing landmark, such as the Santa Claus tossing candies from a loft above the store’s entrance to children below during the annual Christmas program. The last I recalled the shopping basket has been converted to a daycare school.
Next door the famous plantation mill. Directly across the street was the post office still standing today and going strong. The Ewa Community Center was comprised of several building structures and well manicured fields all huddled around each other. For many years it provided the people of the Ewa Plantation incredible memories of good times and rich social events and activities. Year in and year out there was never a shortage of fun things to do. Too many seasons, too many friends and just too many fun times everywhere you turn. As a kid I grew up believing that I was born in heaven and my purpose was to be good at everything I was taught to do.
The Ewa Bowling Alley had no more than a handful of bowling lanes and there was no such thing as those modern day auto pin racks. We did ours manually from pulling that rack rope to retrieving their ball for them and placing it on the ball return track. I worked there a few times as an adolescent and let me tell you it was hard work but good fun. The Ewa pool was another fun place to be. Especially, in the warm summer months when you just didn’t have it in you to take that several miles journey to Ewa Beach, a town on Oahu’s southwest shores that offered awesome white sandy beaches and breathe taking views of Diamond Head Crater and Waikiki. Of course you had your traditional Basketball Gym and one mile track that circled the Ewa Baseball and Football field. The yearly sporting events offered a terrific social opportunity for the people of Ewa and all of rural Oahu for that matter. The Ewa Recreation Association (E.R.A.) was open to teams from all over the islands. During my adolescent years I remembered participating in little league and minor league baseball, youth and men’s league basketball, pop warner football and yearly track & field events. But, no matter what your fancy in terms of sports activities at the community center the icing on the cake was the old Ewa Tenny Tavern. A great family run restaurant that provided absolute ONO (delicious) meals. Everyone had their favorite. Personally, I loved their veal cutlet with gravy all over and add some extra macaroni salad. It seems to just melt in your mouth and top it off with an unbelievable thick crusted custard pie. Yummy! They also had a very unique soft drink called “Green River” that was obviously green in color and sweet with a slight carbonated kick. As one of my Ewa brothers once said, “It just hits the spot”. Awesome !
Kids playing on the community center open field. The Ewa Gym and the Swimming Pool is in the background. (The picture above is unavailable at this time)
The E.K. Fernandez Carnival was a traditional yearly event that brought out the best in the Ewa people. As a good friend of mine described it, “It was our version of Barnum and Bailey’s greatest show on earth”. It was absolutely rich with games and excitement for the young and old. No one can ever forget the skydivers that participated in the opening ceremonies. It was an awesome sight when they used their colorful flares and I always remembered this little pain in the back of my neck while constantly looking up at them. I even walked into a pole once. It was so hilarious. I cannot forget the fresh aroma of the deliciously famous malasades pastry along with many other very tasty cultural delights of the carnival. The carnival engulfed most of the Ewa Community Center using up nearly all of the fields, Ewa Gym and the Swimming Pool in which they stocked an endless supply of Tilapias caught from the local reservoir. Talapias are very similar to the bass family, quite an aggressive feeder and it was such an awesome thrill for the women and children to hook one. They always brought their traditional fun rides. My favorite was the head stuck Tilt-A-Whirl. I laugh so much that it was just amazing how my heart did not fly right out of my mouth from the endless and forceful twirl of the ride. We always looked forward to the carnival every year and just indulged in it from start to finish. It was a remarkable way to cap off the summer. Super Great Memories!
Fast forward a few decades into a time when the whole southwest Oahu region is known as Ewa Beach and you will find that today the Ewa Community Center is no more. I remembered years ago after I had left Ewa as a young man in search of dreams hearing that the community center had been destroyed. I find it hard to believe how anyone can cold heartedly wipe out decades of a community’s rich and unforgettable history. But as one of my significant other, an older and wise Ewa brother once told me, “The reality of progress and change is inevitable everywhere around the world”. Ewa is no exception. Today in old town Ewa the mill production has been closed down for years and the majority of the sugar cane agriculture land has been zoned out. The massive real estate that remains along with that of the Ewa Community Center is now covered with homes, businesses and golf courses. Progress may have found a way to remove the wonderful display of our yesterday. But I do believe that not even time can erase those golden memories that are engraved in our hearts, minds and eternal soul for-Ewa. “Ewa-4-Ewa”.
The Old Ewa town was made up of different villages and housing areas. You had Fernandez Village, C Village &Tenny Village, Japanese Camp, Hawaiian Camp, Verona Village (Banana Camp), Korean Camp and Haole Camp. The latter had bigger homes that accommodated the plantation supervisors and one huge Colonial style home where the big plantation manager resided. Fernandez Village and Banana Camp where Filipino dominant but I also remembered a few Japanese families residing here and there which tells me that the segregation barriers were eventually broken. Korean Camp may have had a few Korean families living there a long time ago, but I cannot recall of any during my days. Across the street from C Village was the Ewa Hospital. That is where it really all started for me, being born on the 26th day of February 1953. The last I recalled the hospital had been converted to a church, then to a school. Finally, there is Honouliuli. A housing area located on the outskirts of the villages. On the main stretch of road you had Hirata Store. Another family owned market for that little community. There was also a liquor store, gas station and a town bar that later became known as a popular “pub”. The St. Francis hospital (west) and the West Lock Golf Course occupy much of that part of Ewa today.
Generally speaking, I am very proud of my home town and quite happy to see that the urban planners have spared the true history of the old Ewa town renaming it, “Historic Ewa Villages”. Thank god I still have family that lives there and whether my visits back to the islands are business like or discreet I can never stay away from visiting my old stomping grounds. Not to mention after all these years they finally built my favorite restaurant, “Zippys”, right outside of Fernandez Village. Just walking distance from my old family home. It seems like they waited till I was long gone, then they put it up. How messed up can that be? Another Ewa brother and very good friend always laugh and joke about that.
Geographically, the town is located just east of Pearl Harbor. I remembered in the late 1950’s my father and uncles took us out on fishing runs with their 8 feet motor boats. Today, it is military patrolled waters now and high risks are involved. But, that cannot always keep the true fishermen away. Chocolate beach has long been a popular fishing spot among the true local fishermen and known for its abundance and sizable catches. However, today only a few of these rare fishermen are alive today. Many have passed on with their secrets and if you happen to know one of these gifted fishermen still alive today consider it a blessing as I do with my oldest surviving uncle “Johnny”.
A Fishing Trip To Remember: It was the summer of 1989 and I had just moved back home recently with my young growing family after being away in the mainland for nearly 10 years. It was the 4th of July celebration week and I was very eager to indulge on a lifestyle that I so dearly loved and missed. There was the usual morning showers followed by spectacular sunshine, cotton filled skies and warm 85+ degree temperatures. The cool breezy trade winds constantly frequent the region providing that much needed air conditioning. Being home again felt so good. The attire of shorts, slippers and tank tops was well suited and made for the ocean life. Life on the Hawaiian Islands is truly God’s Blessing. My brother Nolan (aka “Bully”) had planned a fishing trip, just the two of us, at his favorite spot at what is called “Three Stones”. There were these three huge coral like boulders sitting peacefully at the edge of a 50 yard oyster bed about a good 80 yards or so off shore. To get to the oyster bed you had to follow a particular knee high water path of solid mud that could be only seen at low tide early in the morning. Anywhere off of this path the drop can be into deep waters. The Hammer Head sharks that cruise those waters would love to see your company. It sounds risky but if you know what you are doing the rewards is well worth it. My brother assures me that it will be okay if we apply the simple rule of getting in early and out by noon. Which is when the tide starts rising rapidly. The key is to remember how the mud trail from the oyster bed ran heading back to shore. It was not a straight path and you had to use landmarks to guide you. But, my brother Bully had done it for years and has a ton of Papio and Ulua tails mounted all over his garage to show as trophy catches and the bigger the tail, the bigger the catch. Just the presence of him still alive with no real scars of shark bites or anything like that speaks volumes. I had no doubt that we were going to have a great fishing experience.
We started so early in the morning that it was almost pitch dark when we turned off our mountain bike flash lights, something that we had to do in order to avoid military patrols not far from the area. When we got there my heart nearly jumped out of my mouth when the highlight beem of a sugar plantation truck five feet away popped on at a cane field road intersection not more than 20 yards from the trails that led to the shores. With a load of fishing gear and a huge cooler I nearly fell off into the cane field. I thought, “Oh great, back first thing and here I am arrested for trespassing on private property”. Then I heard this unique and funny laugh. The only one that I knew had that kind of a strange laughter was none other than my crazy father, Sotero. Indeed, it was him sitting there waiting for us. Apparently, he had found out about the expedition and planned his surprise knowing exactly where to be. He was at the end of his usual graveyard shift making his rounds as the supervisor for that field and knew all too well of that fishing spot. He did not openly admit it, but my brother Bully and I both knew that he just wanted to wish us luck and to be careful. My beloved father had a big heart and a tremendous amount of love and care for all of his children. Not to mention, an awesome sense of humor. God rest his soul.
As we got down to the shore there was enough light to start rigging up the fishing equipment and put on our special foot wear that allowed us to walk on the sharp oyster bed. When we actually started walking out you could see nearly the whole oyster bed above the water. They say that the sharks very rarely go near the oyster beds because of their sensitive bottom even when the tides are a few feet above the bed. Trust me, I was not about to stay overtime to try and find out if that was true or not. Getting there was really a breeze, but when I got to the bed of oysters I turned back and had no doubt that if the water rises at least 5 feet we could be in a world of hurt. My father knew this and I had seen him pass by waving to us at least three times in a couple of hours. I walked out to where the three stones lay and periodically would see a few fishes jumping out of the water playing and hungry as if saying, “Feed Me Seymore”. Bully informed me to stay a distance from the edge. He pointed to beyond the three stones and said that it was at least 60 feet deep. The military submarines travel through those waters and it is a well known breeding grounds for Hammer Head Sharks. You had a clear view of “Monkey Island” not more than a mile away and on the other side of it further down was the famous Arizona Memorial.
Because of the depth in that area bait fishing does not work well at all. Besides, we simply did not have the time to sit there all day, believe me. Bully caught the first fish nearly 40 minutes after we started. About that time my arms was already tired from the endless casting. Then I started to think, “Great, some fishing trip this is turning out to be”. To make matters worse, here came the mid morning showers. Only this one looked like a torrential down pour at a distance. Just before the rain hit us I tried all kinds of technique and even tried whipping my lure out over the deep channel water while sitting on one of the three stones all to no avail. So, I covered my head with the cooler cover to protect from the rain and Bully as tough an island boy that he is stood there and continued to whip. I could only imagine my father seeing us from afar getting a kick and saying, “Take a look at that, my mainland son cannot stand to get wet and my island Bull relentless as Ewa”. I am sure glad that he did not have a camera with him on this day. But then, something very rare happened that moved both my brother and I. As if God was actually responsible for it. We both witnessed an amazingly beautiful DOUBLE RAINBOW sprouting right out of the heart of Monkey Island shooting straight into the rain clouds above. It lasted a good 20 minutes and it was so colorful and huge. Bully turned to me and said that double rainbows are an omen, a good sign for fishermen. His statement just lifted my spirits and I tossed the cooler cover down and started whipping again this time with dedicated enthusiasm. As if truly believing that the big catch was coming. Within minutes my brother got another one and a bigger one as well and for me it finally happened. I got a hit that felt like a fighter. I started reeling it in fast, but Bully instructed me to slow down and to play it a little. “Try to tire him out first. You don’t want to break your line”, he would say. When it got visibly close I saw that it was really a small papio and I said, “Awe it’s just a baby one”. As we were taking off the hook my brother told me that the reason he actually selected this spot was for the recent catches of a particular species. A fish very similar to the mainland steelhead, the Hawaiian name is “Ava-Ava”. It gives you one heck of fight and like the fresh water steelhead it jumps furiously out of the water, looking almost like the fight of a marlin. They are known to cut the lines with their razor sharp teeth with that side to side movement. That is the biggest reason why it is so very hard to catch. The baby Papio catch really didn’t discourage me. I was just happy to know that I can catch a fish. I thanked God for that blessing and threw my line back out whipping with a mission. Then, my brother Bully caught two more. We started laughing with high fives and just having a great time. Actually forgetting about what time it really was. I checked my watch and it was nearly 11am. The top of the oyster bed was already a few inches covered so we knew that we had to leave within an hour. Bully was already satisfied with his catches and started packing up. I kept saying, “Please God, just one more. Please”. My brother coached me to work a certain area from 20 yards out from the stones and work back towards the land direction. I did it about five times and told my brother one more time then we head in. What was about to happen was beyond my imagination. Because, on my very next cast I got a hit so strong that I honestly thought I had gotten snagged somewhere. Bully yelled out, “Snag, no way. Look at the tip of your pole.” It was bouncing like crazy. Within a few minutes it jumped out of the water looking like a miniature marlin. We looked at each other and screamed with excitement. It was clearly an Ava-Ava. First thing he kept telling me was to keep the tension up. Don’t give it a chance to cut the line. “Keep it up, keep it up”, he would shout. He adjusted my slack to be just right so it cannot break the line and I can still keep fighting it till he tires. But it kept taking some line out. I fought him as long as I could and minutes later I started getting cramps on my arms. That is what I get for not being fisherman fit. Too much mainland life they tell me. I looked at Bully and said, “Bradda, tag team. I need rest”. Our transition was smooth and Bully was very impressed with the fight. During his fight he mentioned that one of our Ewa brothers “Joe” holds the record in these waters for an Ava-Ava catch. It was fourteen pounds of a fierce and long fight. It seemed like it could be around that record catch. Honestly, I did not really care. I just wanted to bring in the biggest catch of my life. I got him close enough and saw that he was extremely tired so when he got to within a few feet I muscled him all the way in till it was practically in the middle of the oyster bed. We jumped around with high fives as if we had just scored the winning touchdown. All of a sudden you heard this celebrative new-year style horn blowing. We looked towards the land and saw my father get out of his truck and raise both his hands with the victory sign. It seems pops was a very happy man. He also signaled for us to come in because he could see that the tide was a little high. It was really scary heading back because the tide rose faster than expected. With the additional load that I was carrying back it was a little challenging at first and I did stray off the trail a bit into some chest high water. But, my father being on higher grounds guided me safely back on the path and ultimately to shore. With the double rainbows and sizable catch there is no doubt in my mind that this day was heaven sent. It will for-Ewa go down as the greatest fishing experience of my life.
After the catch we went back to Bully’s place and after capturing a few pictures we agreed to bring it to our uncle Johnny’s for his advice on the best option for meal preparation. He is the Ohana Master Fisherman and we always trust his take when it comes to fishing advice. Whether it is preparing a seafood meal or catching a fish. He recommend that I leave the fish in the refrigerator for at least 2 days till the meat gets really soft to the point where it will be very easy to strip apart from the bone. The Ava Ava is great fishing game, but because of the many small bones in them it is a challenge when it comes to eating. If you are like me eating a fish with many small bones means major nibbling like a rabbit. I just have this major fear of choking on a bone due to my personal experience of watching my brother Wayne nearly choke to death during dinner when we were very young. After uncle got most of the meat separated he mixed it in with his own personal secret batter and deep fried some very tasty fish cake. The kind that goes extremely well with Oriental Saimin and Stir frys. God’s Blessing indeed!
Bully and I with “The Catch”.
Always remember “EWA 4 EWA”
The road of “Life” can be long and winding filled with twist and turns that can lead to nowhere or to where you have always dreamed of. It all depends on how your journey plays out and the decisions that you make along the way. I truly believe that growing up in EWA has prepared me well for my long journey through this lifetime. A mixture of strong faith, good times, hard times, family love, a will to achieve and determination to get somewhere are some of the key reasons I’ve made it this far in my life. But, when I have to dig deep down for inspiration when all seems lost and I loose sight of what my life is all about I would always flash back and remember….
“EWA 4 EWA”….