Sharing Mana‘o

When my mom told me last week that she wanted to attend a Glenn Miller concert, I was a bit taken aback. “Ummm . . . didn’t he go missing in action, like, 70 years ago? Did they finally find him?”

“No, I’m talking about the Glenn Miller Orchestra. I’m pretty sure none of the original members are with them, but they play all that great music, and they’re coming to Honolulu. Do you want to go?”

“Sure! When is the concert?”

“Memorial Day.”

“Mom, that’s Monday!”

And that was the start of our latest escapade: a spur-of-the-moment getaway. Not exactly Thelma and Louise, but it did feel deliciously naughty, running off for a big city overnighter. We’ve had some great mother-daughter adventures over the years, but this was the first one that wasn’t planned weeks, or even months, in advance.

It took nearly three hours online to book our show tickets, our flights and our hotel room. We actually got a pretty good deal, considering it was a holiday weekend. In between attempts, I did some research on the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

The original group, the one that was actually led by Glenn Miller, was formed in 1938 and quickly became America’s favorite big band. In 1942, the enthusiastically patriotic Miller enlisted and soon after, the Glenn Miller

Army Air Force Band was raising troops’ morale overseas. Then on Dec. 15, 1944, on his way to a gig in Paris, Miller was declared missing in action when his transport plane disappeared over the English Channel. No trace of the aircraft or its crew and passengers has ever been found. Through the Miller Estate, the original civilian band lived on, with Tex Beneke at the helm, but by 1950, the estate and Beneke had parted ways. The Miller Estate authorized a new Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1956, and the 17-piece band, plus two vocalists, has been preserving the music and memories ever since.

On Monday night, the Blaisdell Concert Hall was filled to capacity with snappily dressed city folk. The snappiest by far was a silver-haired gentleman wearing a fedora and spats along with his black dress shirt and gray trousers with white suspenders. He reminded Mom and me of Jazz Belknap, former news editor of The Maui News and a most dapper man about town from the 1940s to the ’60s. As soon as the show started, Mr. Spats and his young female companion carved out their own dance floor, between the front row and the stage. The ushers allowed them two dances before making them return to their seats.

When the band played “String of Pearls,” I was reminded of another old-time Maui character. Webb Beggs’ Big Band Bash was a weekly radio program that featured music of the 1930s and ’40s. As Webb’s engineer in the mid-’70s, I cued up and played all of his scratchy old records, including his theme song, the above-mentioned “String of Pearls.” Webb was amused by my love for big band music, and he made a point of teaching me something each time we did a show together.

As the band ran through all the big hits – “In the Mood,” “American Patrol,” “Little Brown Jug” . . . I know Mom was savoring her own memories, perhaps of dancing with Daddy to the Molina Brothers Orchestra. We didn’t speak during the concert, except to join the musicians at calling out “Pennsylvania 6-5000!” at the appropriate times.

At intermission, we compared notes. We agreed that, while the orchestra and soloists were superb, the concert would have been better played at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. The Blaisdell is a beautiful venue, but its acoustics are far inferior to our Castle Theater. And the MACC’s technicians would have done so much more for the show than the folks who ran sound and lights that night. But maybe it’s just Maui pride, because the other concertgoers didn’t seem to notice.

There was one area in which the Blaisdell excelled – restroom management. As soon as the first half ended, two female attendants assumed their stations at the ladies room. One monitored the rapidly growing line outside, organizing it into a long, winding single-file snake. The other directed traffic inside, lining us up against the wall and summoning each of us in turn. I must admit, it was the most orderly and civilized public restroom I’ve ever experienced.

When the show closed with “Moonlight Serenade,” I opened the souvenir program and this Glenn Miller quote leapt out at me:

“America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music.”

It was a marvelous way to wrap up a Memorial Day weekend. And, I dare say, there’s no experience quite so special as a mother-daughter adventure.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

Memorial Day is one of those holidays that has no fixed, carved-in-stone date. What is it about the month of May that makes people want to reschedule tradition? A couple of weeks ago, I lamented the moving of May Day from May 1st to a date more convenient for schools staging pageants. Now I feel a Memorial Day rant coming on.

Memorial Day used to be celebrated on the 30th of May instead of on the last Monday of the month. Like Christmas and New Year’s Day, it didn’t matter on which day of the week it happened to fall, Memorial Day was May 30, period. It was a day of remembrance, a day to honor our fallen heroes, those who died in service to our country. Then Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved several holidays in order to give federal employees more three-day weekends. The act took effect on Jan. 1, 1971, and included both Memorial Day and Veterans Day; however, Veterans Day moved back to Nov. 11 a few years later. It took another Act of Congress to do so, literally.

Many people feel that the original intent of Memorial Day has been diluted by the three-day weekend. In 1989, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye introduced a bill calling for the restoration of Memorial Day to May 30. In reintroducing the bill in 1999, our own hometown hero remarked that “we have lost sight of the significance of this day to our nation. Instead of using Memorial Day as a time to honor and reflect upon the sacrifices made by Americans in combat, many Americans use the day as a celebration of the beginning of summer. . . . This legislation would help restore the recognition our veterans deserve.”

I do remember when Memorial Day was a solemn occasion marked by ceremony and prayer. And lei. One of my most vivid Makawao School memories is of the entire student body walking down Makawao Avenue to the Veterans Cemetery, plumeria lei in hand. Respectfully quiet, we filed into the rows of graves until there was a student standing at each plot. I remember staring at the serviceman’s name before me, memorizing it and wondering if he might have had an 8-year-old daughter like me, while Principal Bill Tavares explained the essence of the occasion. That name stayed in my mind long after we placed our lei on the headstones. To this day, whenever I hear the plaintive opening notes of taps, I’m whisked back to Makawao Veterans Cemetery, with the fragrance of plumeria swirling around visions of a young nisei soldier.

Today there are nearly 2,700 men and women laid to rest there. It’s a daunting challenge, trying to honor each with a lei on Memorial Day.

You can help by participating in “Blossoms for the Brave” on Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on the front lawn of the County Building. Co-sponsored by Kaunoa Senior Services and the Office of the Mayor, this massive community lei-making event is sure to be one of the biggest feel-good moments of the year. It’s free of charge, with ample parking at the War Memorial Football Stadium lot. Free shuttles to the County Building will depart every half-hour starting at 8:30 a.m.

Lei-making materials and instruction will be provided, but you’re welcome to bring your own. Or you can drop off finished lei, 20 to 24 inches, before tying. Donations of flowers and greenery are desperately needed; those may be dropped off between 9 and 10 a.m. Friday at the South High Street parking lot in front of the County Building. If you bring flowers, they should be sturdy, like crown flowers, orchids, bozu, etc. The lei will be transported by the Korean War veterans and placed on the graves by the Girl Scouts on Monday.

Kaunoa Senior Center in Spreckelsville is also accepting donations of ti leaves and ti leaf lei today and tomorrow. In fact, staff and volunteers there have already made and frozen nearly 400 ti leaf lei for the project. That means we only have to make another 2,300 or so. And we’re probably even closer to our goal than that, because the Kihei Youth Center and other groups are making lei now since they can’t be present at the event.

I hope you’ll be there. It’s for a good cause, and it’s good for you too. Surrounded by fresh flowers and smiling faces, working with your hands, lei-making feeds the soul. We’ll enjoy live music by Maui-born vocalist Neil Yamamura, and we’ll get to talk story with friends old and new, maybe even kanikapila, as we perform our labor of love. I can’t think of a better way to honor our heroes, even if it isn’t May 30.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o ” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

This is my 125th consecutive column for The Maui News. Two and a half years of Sharing Mana’o. It doesn’t sound as impressive, put in those terms. I remember when two and a half years seemed like a long, long time. Now that I’m 55, it’s little more than a drop in the bucket. Well, OK, it’s a bit more than that; it’s actually 1/22nd of my life, so far.

My association with The Maui News goes way back, to the days when two and a half years might as well have been 20. In fact, I was two and a half years shy of 20 myself the day I started working for Maui Publishing Co. Maui Pub, as we affectionately called it, was run kama’aina style by the Cameron family and included KMVI Radio as well as this newspaper. I worked for the radio station from 1975 to 1979, and for a few months during that time, I also wrote articles for Holiday on Maui, the paper’s weekly supplement for visitors.

We called them tourists back then. I think Holiday on Maui was one of the first publications to use the new PC term, billing itself as a visitors’ guide. It was basically an advertising supplement with occasional features on cultural activities and places of interest. I wrote about Boys Day, Girls Day, May Day, etc.

I even appeared on the cover once, before I started working for Maui Pub. I had just turned 17 and a friend photographed me on Big Beach wearing my crocheted bikini top and Otaheite bottoms. No one else was on the beach. That’s how long ago this was.

Otaheite figured in my first venture into commercial radio as well as my cover girl debut. It was junior or senior year and one of my Baldwin High classmates, Jeff Elkins, said his dad’s radio station (the young KNUI AM) was running an on-air promotion for the aloha wear and bikini boutique. They were asking women to call in with their sexiest phone voice and purr, “Ohhhhhhh . . . Tahiti!” The best one – presumably, the most tempting – would become the tag line for all the Otaheite radio commercials. I didn’t win the contest, but a few years later, I ended up doing their commercials anyway, as part of my KMVI job.

Since I began Sharing Mana’o in January 2011, I’ve received delightful feedback from readers. Some of you have shared poignant memories and funny stories of your own. Some of you have given me great jokes. A few of you have sent some real groaners. The only criticism has come from my mom, who thinks I shouldn’t write about her so often. But then I show her the numerous emails from people who enjoy reading my Mom stories; many are from folks who don’t even know her.

The question I’m asked most often is, “How do you think of things to write about?” The truth is, I don’t. They just pop into my head, usually at inopportune times, never when I’m sitting down for my weekly scribe session. Consequently, I have Post-Its and cocktail napkins filled with stream-of-consciousness ramblings, as well as more than a dozen files in my computer, each consisting of a few trigger words or phrases. The memo pad in my smartphone looks like this:

Classic & makeshift toys

Gum wrapper chains

Daddy as dentist

Holding hands

Bears (Baldwin, Chicago, Yogi, teddy)

Old commercials

Old expressions

Old buildings

Old friends

Growing old


Rubber bands – too many

Men are like . . .

First McDonald’s

Kahului Railroad

And the list goes on. Regular readers may note that I’ve already touched on some of those ideas. I haven’t removed them from the list because I’m not quite through with them. I have a lot more to say about a lot more stuff. That’s the name of my idea file, by the way: Stuff.

I’ve got enough stuff to easily fill another two and a half years’ worth of columns. If I continue for 14 more years beyond that, I will have written 1,000 columns, an achievement reached last October by my old KMVI colleague and dear friend McAvoy Layne, with his Pine Nuts essays in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. Now THAT’S impressive.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

Did you see what Cher got her mom for Mother’s Day? Besides helping Georgia Holt realize her lifelong dream of recording an album, the superstar daughter produced a TV documentary about her mother, basically a love letter for all to see. Or at least for the folks who watch the Lifetime cable channel.

“Dear Mom, Love Cher” was entertaining and sweet. Cher and her sister, Georganne LaPiere, flanked their mother on a huge sofa and the three of them told outrageous family stories, finishing each other’s sentences and laughing like schoolgirls. The first thing that struck me was the similarity of their voices, especially between Georgia and Cher. Singing or speaking, it was impossible to tell them apart without visual clues.

It reminded me of my own mother and how much we have in common. Growing up, I often heard people remark that I was the spitting image of Mom, right down to the voice. But I never fully grasped that until one day, during the first year of my first marriage, she called me and I picked up the phone at the same time the answering machine kicked in. It recorded our brief conversation and when I listened to the tape later, it sounded as though I’d been talking to myself. Even I couldn’t tell us apart.

Like Cher and her mom, we look alike too. Mom used to joke that she could never leave me on anyone’s doorstep; they’d bring me right back to her. She was right. Several times, while walking through her hometown of Makawao, strangers stopped me on the street to say, “You must be Yaemi’s daughter, you look just like her.” I’d confirm their suspicions and then they’d add, “Wow, you sound just like her too!” The old-timers would go on to tell me what a smart and sweet schoolgirl my mother was.

Once, I found a snapshot of that schoolgirl in a box of old family mementos. Taken at Makawao School, my alma mater also, the black-and-white photo confused me for a minute or two. The young face grinning at me was mine, but I didn’t recognize the blouse. If not for that and the dimple on Mom’s right cheek, she could not have convinced me that it was her in the picture, not me.

As the program continued, more parallels emerged. Cher announced that, at 86, her mother has released her first album. Georgia, a former singer/actress/model, had recorded some songs with Elvis Presley’s musicians in 1980, but the album was never completed. When she found the musty, dusty old tapes more than 30 years later, Cher helped her get them restored and remixed, and “Honky Tonk Woman” was released April 30.

My mom never aspired to stardom, but she did make her professional acting debut at the age of 85, with a delightful performance in the movie “Get a Job.” The made-on-Maui comedy recently played at the Wet Your Pants Film Festival in Indianapolis, a benefit for the National Kidney Foundation (I’m not making any of this up, honest promise!). Reliable sources tell me that Mom and her star-making line, which can’t be printed in this newspaper, got the biggest laugh from the audience. Now she’s on iTunes and DVDs with her co-stars, Willie K and Eric Gilliom.

Like my mom, Georgia Holt is a beautiful, vibrant, fun-loving woman who is clearly cherished and admired by her family. She is an inspiration to everyone who knows her, and a delight to everyone who meets her. Just like my mom.

Naturally, there are as many differences between them as there are similarities. For one, Georgia has had six husbands, while Mom enjoyed 44 years of wedded bliss and never remarried after my father’s death in 1999. Then again, as I’ve told her before, I know there are gentlemen who would love to share her company. With her new movie star status, she probably has even more admirers from afar. And since she has ample energy and spirit to live another 10, 20, heck, 100 years or so, she could match Georgia’s marital record if she wanted to.

She won’t, of course. She’s too busy and too happy living the life she has. She doesn’t see herself as a movie star or an inspiration to others. She thinks nothing of the countless hours she spends helping people as a volunteer and as a friend. She has no idea how very special she is. She just twinkles her way through life, happy to be a mom, a grandma, a great-grandmother. She is a great, grand mother indeed.

I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

Ah, the merry month of May has begun, and so has my annual lament: Why don’t the schools celebrate May Day ON May Day?! I know I sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but doggone it, some things shouldn’t be messed with.

Back in my day (as we fuddy-duddies are fond of saying), May Day pageants were held on May 1. Unless, of course, the date fell on a weekend, in which case we celebrated on the school day closest to the big day. Other than that, May Day was May Day, even if it happened to be a Wednesday. And it lasted the whole day, no schoolwork allowed. May Day was Play Day in Hawaii.

My favorite May Day memories are of Makawao School in the 1960s. Back then, almost all of the elementary schools on Maui served kindergarten through 8th grade. With each class enjoying its turn in the spotlight (sunlight, actually), the pageants took up most of the morning. Some years, the program was all Hawaiian; other years, it was a musical tour of the world. We practiced diligently for weeks, learning simple folk songs and dances. One year, we gathered our own ‘ili’ili (small flat river rocks used like castanets) for our sit-down hula to “Pearly Shells” or “Pupu Hinuhinu” – I can’t remember which. But I can vividly recall hunting for the perfect stones in Iao Stream.

Funny, in all those years of multicultural dancing, I never got to frolic around a Maypole. I don’t think we ever had one during my time at Makawao. The closest we came was the square dancing we did in the 6th grade.

Of course, the pageant was only part of the day’s festivities. We arrived at school dressed in our finest aloha attire, bedecked with all sorts of lei, from bougainvillea to bozu. We gave each other candy or crack seed lei and garlands of plumeria that we’d strung ourselves. We wore special lei too, ordered from the florist. Carnation lei were popular then, as were vanda orchids, sewn Maunaloa style. One year, my mom gave me a fuschia akulikuli lei, as thick as a double carnation. But the fanciest one I ever had was a gorgeous jade lei. It didn’t have a scent, but the incredible shades of green and blue made up for the missing aroma.

We usually had a good half-hour or so to admire each other’s lei before filing out to the grass quadrangle for the pageant, carrying our chairs. Following the performances and picture taking, we returned to the classroom and changed into T-shirt and shorts for the afternoon relay races. I wasn’t particularly gifted in sports; in fact, I was a flat-footed klutz. But I was pretty good in the potato sack race, probably because my low center of gravity gave me an advantage over my more athletic classmates. Shorter legs mean less distance to fall.

After the relay races and presentation of ribbons, we were finally allowed to indulge our sweet tooths. I think it was the PTA who set up soda booths and snack bars out on the lawn. Yick Lung seeds and Hershey candy bars, normally considered contraband, were sold for nickels and dimes. We munched on potato chips and Popsicles, shave ice and ice cake. We even tore apart our edible lei and separated the good candies from the junk ones, which we gave to our parents. They’d eat anything, just so no food went to waste.

May Day is a special day for me, beyond my Makawao School memories. My late husband and I were married exactly 24 years ago today. I chose May Day for our wedding day so that I would always be assured of receiving a lei on our anniversary. Pikake or white ginger would be perfect, I told Barry. But he wouldn’t cooperate. Instead, he’d urge me to buy my own lei and he’d take me out to dinner. Lei giving just wasn’t in his nature. I could understand and forgive that; after all, he never sang “May Day is Lei Day” at his grade school in Texas.

I never did get myself an anniversary lei. Stubbornly, I expected each year to be the one in which Barry would surprise me. Now that he’s been gone for six years, I guess I can let go of that fantasy. Today, I’m going to buy a lei of fragrant white flowers and wear it in memory of our 18 years of marriage and in honor of Lei Day.

On second thought, I’m going to make it a candy lei and eat the whole thing for dessert after I treat myself to a nice dinner.

Happy May Day! May you get the lei you want today.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is