Sharing Mana‘o

Bells are ringing, children singing,

All is merry and bright!

I love Christmas music, all of it. From “Silent Night” to “Santa Baby,” solemn hymns and cheerful carols to rock anthems and irreverent parodies, I love it all. That’s unusual for someone who’s been in the radio business as long as I have. Most of my colleagues OD’d on Christmas music after the first few seasons of incessant carols and bells. Not me. I’ve worked nearly every Christmas on the air since I was 17, and I still relish the joy of reveling in nonstop holiday music each year.

Shepherds, why this jubilee?

Why your joyous strains prolong?

What the gladsome tidings be

Which inspire your heavenly song?

And I, along with the angels on high and the mountains in reply, echo the joyous strains. It’s a good thing for our neighbors that radio station studios are soundproof, because I sing along to all the songs I play on Christmas Day, naughty or nice.

Mama’s in the kitchen cookin’, her children are fast asleep;

It’s time for Santa Claus to make his midnight creep, ’cause

Santa Claus wants some lovin’ . . .

My unbalanced fondness for Christmas parodies like Bob Rivers’ “The Restroom Door Said ‘Gentlemen’ ” and “Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire” began in childhood, when my dad introduced me to Mad Magazine.

We three kings of Orient are;

Tried to smoke a rubber cigar.

It was loaded and it exploded – boom!

. . . Siii-lent night . . .

Stuff like that is what inspired my alter ego Tita to translate “A Visit From St. Nicholas” into pidgin.

Was da night befo’ Christmas, and all ovah da place,

Not even da geckos was showin’ their face.

Da stockings was hangin’ on top da TV

Right next to my husband’s old BVDs.

Da kids was all crashed, my old man too.

They leave all da work fo’ you know who.

So me, I stay pickin’ up alla their toys,

When – boom! – outside, get only big noise!

I run to da window, I open ’em up,

I stick out my head and I yell, “Eh, wassup?!”

An’ den, I no could believe what I seen;

Was so unreal, you know what I mean?

One fat haole guy get his reindeers in my yard!

An’ reindeers not housebroken, you know – ass why hard.

But, eh, dis Christmas, so I cut ’em some slack.

Plus, had uku pile presents pokin’ out from his sack.

So I wait ’til he pau tie up da reindeer,

Den I yell out da window, “Hui! Brah, ovah here!”

An’ I tell ’em first t’ing when I open da door,

“Hemo your shoes! You goin’ dirty my floor!”

He take off his boots, he tell, “You know who I am?!

I go, “Ho, from da smell, must be Mistah Toe Jam!”

He make menpachi eyes and he go, “Ho, ho, ho!”

By now I stay thinkin’ dis guy kinda slow.

He look like my Tutu, but little less weight.

An’ his beard stay so white, mo’ white dan shark bait.

He stay all in red, speshly his nose

An’ get reindeer spit on top his nice clothes.

But him, he no care, he jus’ smile at me

An’ he start fo’ put presents undaneat’ da tree.

I tell ’em, “Eh, Brah, no need make li’dat.

An’ watch where you step! You goin’ ma-ke da cat!”

Den, out from his bag, he pull one brand new computah.

iPads an’ iPods, an’ one motorized scootah!

He tried fo’ fill up da Christmas socks too,

But had so much pukas, all da stuffs wen’ fall t’roo.

When he pau, I tell ’em, “Eh, Santa! Try wait!

I get plenny leftovahs, I go make you one plate.”

But he nevah like hang, he had so much fo’ do;

Gotta make all dem small kids’ wishes come true.

So I wave ’em aloha an’ I flash ’em da shaka,

An’ I tell ’em, “Mele Kalikimaka!”

When he hear dat, he stop – an’ I tellin’ you true –

He go, “Garans ball-barans! Merry Christmas to you!”

Merry Christmas to you and yours, from Tita and me. May your days be merry and bright, full of music and laughter.

* 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

It’s been nearly a week, and a bunch of us are still absorbing the shock of losing an old friend. Until the story appeared in last Friday’s Maui News, we didn’t know that Treats & Sweets would close the barn doors for good that day. Our fault, I guess. Had we been better friends, and gone to visit more often, we would have seen the signs posted at the windows.

“We” are the folks who never got used to calling it Treats & Sweets; to us, the big white barn with the red roof would always be Kahului Dairy Queen. We never got used to calling Dilly Bars “chocolate sticks” either.

I remember when the Kahului and Wailuku Dairy Queens became Treats & Sweets. The word through the coconut wireless was that the DQ chain insisted that all franchisees adhere to a standard menu, and the Ting family did not want to stop serving local-style grinds, so the relationship was terminated. We were grateful that the Tings stood their ground for hamburger steak and teri beef plate lunches, and happy that everything else, right down to the curl on the soft-serve ice cream (actually ice milk), stayed the same; only the names had been changed.

The Maui Dairy Queens had always been unique, anyway. When I moved to Oahu after high school and ordered french fries with mustard at a Dairy Queen in Honolulu, the girl at the window said, “You must be from Maui. We don’t have the kind of mustard you want.” Apparently, the creamy mustard-mayo mix that we still call “Dairy Queen mustard” was unique to our island. Another thing that makes Maui no ka oi.

My Dairy Queen memories go back to early childhood, hanabata days, when my aunt kept a bag of Dilly Bars and DQ sandwiches in her freezer. I preferred the sandwiches, but usually asked for a Dilly Bar, hoping for the bonus. Supposedly, if the DQ logo was imprinted on the stick underneath the ice cream, you could turn in the stick for a free Dilly Bar. I think it might have been a myth, because I never knew of anyone actually finding one. I certainly ate enough of them to beat the odds myself.

Of course, nothing could beat the simple pleasure of biting off the curlicue tip of a chocolate-dipped cone and sucking out a little ice cream through the hole. Then came the tricky part: eating the rest of the cone without a piece of the chocolate shell sliding off the rapidly melting ice cream. One of my friends solved the problem by eating the entire shell first, leaving a plain vanilla cone to be leisurely licked. I could never do that; it would be like eating all the chili in your Hobo Lunch before starting on the rice.

Sometimes, after an afternoon of swimming in the pool at Kepaniwai, we’d stop at Wailuku Dairy Queen for a full meal: My favorite was a hamburger with the works (mustard, ketchup, relish, shredded lettuce), french fries, and a grape slush. For dessert, if I wasn’t too full, my parents would let me have a sundae, or we’d share a banana split. I’d eat more than my share of the chocolate syrup, leaving the strawberry and pineapple for the grownups.

By the time I reached high school, Kahului Dairy Queen had become one of the main attractions on the teenage circuit. Actually, the tradition probably dates back to the store’s 1954 opening. Cool guys in hot cars, with their girlfriends snuggled up to their side (we called it “cut seat”), would rumble through the parking lot or gather under the mango trees on Friday and Saturday nights.

That was when most cars had front seats that went all the way across like a couch. Six or seven of us girls could ride comfortably, with three in the front. We’d egg on the driver to “go cruise Dairy Queen” and then, just as the car pulled into the lot, the girl on the front passenger side and everyone in the back would duck down below the windows, so it looked like the two girls in front were riding cut seat. We thought that was hilarious.

Last Friday, standing in the long line at Treats & Sweets, old-timers talked about what they would miss the most. For me, it’s my favorite salty/sweet combo: french fries with mustard only, eaten simultaneously with a hot fudge sundae. I actually went twice on Friday, at lunchtime and after work. I ended up spending more than $40, but it was worth it. As I write these words, I’m munching on a Dilly Bar from the bag in my freezer. Oops, I mean a chocolate stick. Sorry, DQ. And hey, thanks for the memories. And the mustard.

* 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

My mother and I spent a lovely hour in her hometown last Saturday, visiting the Makawao History Project. Housed in the old Randy Jay Braun gallery on Makawao Avenue, the exhibit offers a fascinating glimpse into old-time Upcountry, with artifacts and photos dating back to the 1800s. It’s an eclectic collection, from The Maui News article about the three Balthazar generations of postmasters, to Haku Baldwin’s saddle. An impressive paniolo display dominates the little museum, as it should, given Makawao’s long-standing identity as Maui’s “cowboy town.” But it was the assorted photos and accounts of town life from the 1920s through the ’60s that held Mom’s attention.

Mom was literally born and raised in a tiny wooden house on Baldwin Avenue, near the center of town. Her childhood home is now a cool little clothing boutique named Goodies, and the last time we stopped in, Mom said the building looked pretty much the way it did back in her day. Standing in the middle of the main room, I could hardly believe that anyone could raise five healthy, rambunctious children in such cramped quarters, but that’s what Oji-chan and Obaban did.

One of my grandfather’s skills was vegetable carving, Japanese style. I’m told that the local Japanese families would ask him to carve fishnets from daikon to adorn the customary red fish served at weddings and other special occasions. I’ve also heard that my grandmother made excellent bathtub gin.

Mom’s favorite Makawao memories include Saturday movies at the theater across the street from her house, 5-cent loaves of warm, fragrant bread from Komoda Store & Bakery, and good times with friends at Makawao School.

A generation later, attending the same school, I relished my afternoon walks to Makawao Hongwanji for Japanese language school, stopping first at Iwaishi Store for a 6-cent chocolate Coke, then pausing at Ichiki Store and Komoda’s for more treats. Yick Lung seeds came in 10- and 25-cent packages then, and a Sugar Daddy cost a nickel.

Sometimes, on Saturdays, my aunt would treat me to a juicy burger, dripping with melted Velveeta cheese, at Iwaishi’s soda fountain. Or we’d have dinner at Club Rodeo, which always included a hearty bowl of Portuguese bean soup, served at tables covered with red-and-white checkered tablecloths.

Club Rodeo is now Casanova, Iwaishi’s became Makawao Steak House; except for the venerable Komoda’s, all of the old establishments have been given new identities. Thankfully, the cheer and charm of Makawao have been retained in the buildings that once housed Matsui Store, Yoshizu Market, Kitada’s Korner, Crossroads Gas Station at the Makawao-Baldwin intersection, and homes like Mom’s. They’re all depicted in a delightful series of Eddie Flotte’s paintings at the History Project.

The display doesn’t include Eddie’s depiction of Goodies, but that’s OK; he gave Mom a print years ago, when he learned of her connection to the house and chose it as his subject for one of Makawao’s Paint the Town artistic showcases.

Mom was especially pleased to see the photos of Mrs. Minerva Kalama and the Rev. Theodore Schulz in the Pookela Church historical display. I remember her taking me to visit Mrs. Kalama in the big house on Kalama Hill, the first two-story house I’d ever entered. I was a bit intimidated; from the outside, the house looked like a Gothic mansion to me. But inside, it was warm and cozy, with family photos and dainty doilies decorating the sitting room.

After the Rev. Schulz and his wife moved to California, our families continued to stay in touch. Uncle Ted and Aunt Esther sent me a new book every Christmas, as well as on my birthday each year. That’s how I acquired the entire set of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books that filled so many of my childhood hours and convinced me of the magic of reading. Aunt Esther and my mother carried on their written correspondence for decades, and after both Schulzes passed on in their 90s, Mom, in accordance with their wishes, had their cremains returned to Maui and scattered at their beloved Pookela Church.

The hour spent at the Makawao History Project wasn’t enough for either of us. Mom’s going to look through Oji-chan’s steamer trunk for photos and memorabilia to donate to the cause. I’m returning for a Christmas story-time session at this month’s Third Friday celebration.

Whether or not you have personal history in the town, the Makawao History Project is worth exploring, and, I believe, worth supporting. Project coordinators hope to establish it as a permanent museum. For now, it will be open daily until Dec. 31, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. except Sundays, when it opens at 11 a.m. Admission is free; donations are gratefully welcomed. With enough support, the Makawao History Project could become the Makawao History Museum. What a great gift to ourselves that would be.

* 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

I survived Black Friday. And Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Got through the whole weekend and most of my gift list, without exceeding my holiday shopping budget. I’m very proud of myself, staying within budget throughout the frenzy.

Christmas shopping used to be my favorite seasonal activity. I enjoyed the challenge of finding the perfect gift for each recipient, even in the lean years, when creative thinking made up for lack of cash. One year, my only purchase was a stack of origami paper, which I folded into miniature floral arrangements and customized displays.

Then, in 1999, my father died of pancreatic cancer a week before Christmas. I did no shopping at all that year, and for the next several years I went through the holidays on autopilot.

There are some wounds that time cannot heal, but it does serve well as an anesthetic. A decade after my father’s passing, I felt ready to rejoin the legion of holiday shoppers. I decided to do it in a big way, by braving my first Black Friday. It was also my last, or so I said at the time.

In the Wal-Mart chaos, surrounded by veteran BFers working in teams and jostling past rookies like me, I felt like “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” I’d never seen Mauians behave like that. Later, standing in the more orderly but much slower lines at Macy’s, I had lots of time to observe and ponder how much Maui had grown in my lifetime.

In the 1960s, before Black Friday existed, every Friday was a shopping event. That was the only day of the week the stores stayed open until 8 p.m. And nothing was open Sundays. But on Friday nights, Kahului Shopping Center was the place to be. Under the monkeypod trees.

You could shop in Wailuku town on Friday nights, too, and during the holidays, high school bands and church choirs would perform on Market Street, in front of First Hawaiian Bank. The Wailuku Christmas Parade was a highlight of the year, led by Santa on a fire engine, tossing peppermints and hard candies to the crowd lining Main Street. The Baldwin High School Band always marched in pajamas and nightcaps.

One holiday season, when I was 7 or 8 years old, the big Wigwam store in Honolulu opened up a temporary shop at the back end of Kahului Shopping Center, between Robin’s and Music Sales. Remember their jingle? It was more of a chant, really, with native drums beating out the rhythm: “Your dollar buys more, your dollar buys more, your dollar buys more at the Wigwam store. Wigwam! (Pah-pah pum-PUM!)”

We kids were thrilled to have Wigwam on Maui, even for just a few weeks. I guess they might have carried grown-up gifts as well, but all I remember seeing were rows and rows of bins filled with toys. It was a dream come true. You see, boys and girls, back in the olden days, there was no toy store on Maui. No Kay Bee Toys or Toys R Us. We got our Lincoln Logs and Barbies from variety stores like Ben Franklin, Kress and National Dollar, where Mom bought household goods. Drug stores like Toda’s and Craft’s also stocked a shelf or two with toys and games.

I don’t remember whether they were given by the Wailuku merchants, the Kahului Town Association or another organization, but I loved the traditional goodie bags we received each year. The brown paper bag always contained an apple, an orange, a few unshelled nuts, and several pieces of Christmas candy – fancy ribbon candy, if you were lucky. No matter what, though, the unwrapped candies always got sticky and ended up all stuck together.

This year, I think my inner elf is finally back in the game. I actually enjoyed shopping on Thanksgiving night and through the weekend. Standing in line at Macy’s, I recalled the time my father took me there to help him pick out a gift for Mom. It was the brand-new Liberty House back then, and I was so pleased that he trusted my teenage fashion sense. That was one of the best father-daughter afternoons we ever spent.

I’ll be doing more gift shopping and reminiscing this Friday. Wailuku First Friday features the return of the Christmas Parade, this time with the award-winning Maui High School Marching Band. Santa will be there, of course, with or without firetruck, and the evening’s entertainment includes renowned jazz musicians Jeff Kashiwa and Bill Heller, with Maui’s own Le Gruv. I’m looking forward to roaming Market Street with the spirit of Christmas Past and the joy of Christmas Present. And my shopping list.

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