Sharing Mana‘o

Today’s column begins my 10th year of “Sharing Mana’o” in The Maui News. In mid-July of this year, I will hit the 500-column mark. The old saw rings true, time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Four-hundred-seventy-two columns, 330,400 words, give or take a few sentences. I hope most of those words brought laughter or, at least, a smile to your Wednesday mornings. I did a quick search of my computer files and found that the word “happy” appeared in 113 “Sharing Mana’o” columns, more than twice the number that contained the word “sad.”

Music, dance and laughter were included in over 100 columns each, as were family and fond memories. To my great surprise, food did not make the mark, nor did pidgin. Wassup wit’ dat, ah?

More than half of my columns featured my 94-year-old mom. After the first few, she told me, “You shouldn’t write about me so much. I don’t think people want to read that.” She’s wrong, of course. Over the past nine years, countless folks have told me how much they enjoy reading about Mom, her childhood adventures in Makawao, and her current escapades. She is definitely the most popular SM topic.

But my first column, published on Jan. 12, 2011, featured another mother, one who also played an integral role in my life.

Dear Maui News,

I’m back! Hard to believe it’s been 35 years since our relationship began.

Actually, you’ve been part of my life for much longer than that, but I’m sure you don’t remember our first meeting as well as I do. I was 10 years old, just one of thousands of Maui kids you’d featured in local interest stories . . . Along with the article on my winning the Maui County Fair jingle contest, you ran a photo of Fair Director Garner Ivey presenting me with a $50 check and passes to the fair . . .

By the time I joined the Maui Publishing Co. family, which then included The Maui News, KMVI-AM, and the Printmasters print job business, you had moved up to a five-day-a-week schedule. As your editor-in-chief and general manager of KMVI, Nora Cooper hired me for a part-time announcer position . . . Newspaper and radio coexisted like siblings; we loved each other even if we didn’t always get along, celebrated each other’s triumphs, tolerated the idiosynchrosies we didn’t understand. We were a blended family, like the Brady Bunch. Overseen with tough love by Mother Cooper, our diverse ‘ohana included the iconic Tanaka brothers, Earl and Wayne . . .

The Maui media scene was a much smaller circle then. Ed Tanji was the Maui bureau of the Honolulu Advertiser and Liz Janes started doing news at KNUI-AM around the same time I became news director at KMVI. Ron Youngblood was editor of the Maui Sun weekly, your first serious competitor. It was all friendly competition, but I couldn’t help feeling guilty when I left you after four years for KAOI-FM. Maybe you didn’t take it personally, but I know Mrs. Cooper did . . . I joined Ron at Kirk Munro’s mini-media conglomerate, and we shared cigarette breaks outside the back doors to both offices, because the ladies at the Sun wouldn’t let him smoke inside, even if he was their boss.

But my stay at KAOI lasted only a few months. In late 1979, another opportunity came up, this time for television news in Honolulu. Mrs. Cooper was much happier about this move and she’d tell me so whenever I’d see her on my visits home.

And now I’m coming home to you. We’ve both changed a lot in the last 30 years; you’ve been through a couple of ownership and management changes, I’ve been through a couple of husbands. I have my own radio station now, where I’ve become Mother Collins, trying to run the ship as well as Mrs. Cooper ran hers. But I have a feeling we’re going to pick up right where we left off. That’s how it is when you’re family.

Several months after that column was published, I ran into Ron, who by then had become a senior member of The Maui News family whose duties included writing the insightful, delightful “Maui Nei” column. He asked if I was enjoying my new life as a weekly scribe, and I answered with an enthusiastic yes. He growled at me, “Yeah? Try doing it for 20-something years.”

I’m almost halfway there, Ron. Of course, you already know that, watching from your desk in the Great Newsroom in the Sky, along with Mother Cooper. I hope I’m making you both proud.

* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.