What was it like growing up in Hawaii (Oahu) in the mid-1960s? Tony G. gives some insight. He was born in Tripler Army Medical Center in 1955. Four years later, Hawaii became the 50th state. Tony’s father and grandfather were farm workers.
I remember me and my younger brother lived with my grandpa on my mother’s side. We’d go out to play and walk down to the sugar cane fields. We’d play in the streams on the sides of the fields, swing on ropes to jump in. Enjoy the scenery and nature.
We’d shoot slingshots at pigeons, mourning doves. We’d catch crayfish with my uncle, or grand uncle. That’s where the Waipahu High School gymnasium is now. We lived on a stream that practically surrounds the ball fields that are there now. There was – and is – a watercress farm at Pearl Ridge and there were crayfish. My uncle worked there. So we would catch them and cook them in a pot. I didn’t eat them but we all watched them being cooked. They tried to get out of the pot, of course.
My grandfather used to make this one dish… kalamungay – that’s how we said it in local Filipino. Not sure how it’s spelled. The leaves looked like a big clover. It had long beans. You’d make like a soup from cooking the leaves and beans together and have it with rice.sisters.
My grandfather used to feed me with his fingers and sort of push the food into my mouth with his thumb. Gently.
At left: Tony G.’s grandparents and his mother, center girl pictured of five
We always sang at family gatherings. That I remember. The popular stuff. And church songs. You know, Catholic songs. Filipinos were all Catholic here.
Oahu was more spacious, more earthy, more natural. It had a country feel. Very few people. You just found kids and played ball on the streets. The rest of the country, the mainland, didn’t exist. Just wanted to be accepted by my cousins and friends and fit in.
We didn’t start thinking about the rest of the world until maybe 17, 18 or 19. The first thing I do remember though was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Just shocking. I was 8.
If I could change one thing today, it would be to go back to the freedom to come and go as we please… I mean, not just losing it as a kid like you do when you grow up, but losing control of your whole freedom. Kids can’t live the way we did. Everything’s off limits.
Anyway, the sugar cane fields are all gone and there’s only development, houses. You can’t live that old way anymore.