Mahalo Lahaina!


By Hailama V.K.K. Farden

“Mahalo wale au iā Lahaina, ka heke nō ia i ka puʻuwai” (I am in great admiration for Lahaina the dearest to my heart!) – Mahalo Lahaina by Irmgard Farden ʻĀluli and Kawena Pukui circa 1958

On my grandfather’s side (the Farden, Manuwai and Shaw ʻohana) our family is connected to Lahaina for several generations. On my Tūtū’s side (Sylva, Hauki, Kulaʻilua, Baker and Hiram ʻohana) we do not know how many generations back – perhaps since pō…

I colloquially write this haliʻa aloha for Lahaina for my daughter, HōsananuiiāIesū Farden, to capture my memories and stories told of a place I love, Lahaina, Maui.

Hōsana, your great-grandfather Rudolph Haleakalā Farden, Sr., (the grandpa that raised me) was born in Puʻunoa, Māla, Lahaina – raised in Pōlānui, Lahainalalo at our family home, Puamana. His wife, who was my Tūtū, Harriet Kahelemōʻalaʻala (Sylva) Farden – your big tūtū, was born in Waikapū but her roots go back to Moanui, Lahaina, Maui, where her mother Mary Mikala (Baker) Sylva Brown was born.

As child growing up in the mid-1970s many of the memories of Lahaina were already lost to antiquity, but I was so fortunate to have been raised around our tūtūs who always recounted their own haliʻa aloha. Sometimes I could peer into their aging eyes and I felt that I actually could see the mirrored reflections of their stories; almost convincing me that I was there with them when the memory was created.

I loved traveling to Lahaina as a child, either on a major carrier via the old Kahului airport, or by Royal Hawaiian Air to the old Kaʻanapali Airport. Driving from Kahului, I knew I was close to Lahaina by the smell of līpoa at “Cut Mountain” (Kapūʻali – I think?) where the “bypass” starts today. That was our kaunaʻoa beach where we also picked up stones for our imu.

The scent of the līpoa was so strong, even with the windows up, you could smell it. I miss that smell! The grand folks would never forget to tell the story of how windy it was at “Cut Mountain.” They said they had to hold down the roof of the car or the wind would either blow off the roof or topple the car. Because they said that, I was always afraid of going past there and held on to the handle of the roof – not understanding that cars were different back then.

If it was evening when we approached Lahaina, the grand folks would point out the lights at Makila (where the Puamana Condos were located). We’d pass Puamana Park – with reminders from Grandpa of its connection to our family. I just wanted to get to our destination, but Grandpa would always want to go down the old Front St. (Well why not? He grew up there).

Immediately on the bend was where his oldest brother, Carl Alexander Farden, Sr., and his wife Auntie Lucy Kaʻilipakalua Farden lived. If either were outside, we’d have to stop. We continued on, “This is where sister Margaret (Margaret Elizabeth Leiʻaulani Farden Bruss) used to live,” said Grandpa. Then on to the Lindsey’s (Uncle Ned and Auntie Pua) and finally we reached Puamana. With the slowing of the car in an almost reverent manner, Grandpa pointed out the Norfolk pines, his mother’s red hibiscus – and the coconut trees. The home had already been taken down due to termites in the 1960s.

Hōsana, Grandpa Farden (your great-great-grandfather) gave each of his children a sprouting coconut tree and was told to plant, water and care for it, “For as these trees grow, so will you!”

The trees were planted around 1916 when the family moved into our family home, Puamana, which Grandpa Farden bought from the estate of Queen Kapiʻolani (through her nephew, HRH Prince Kalanianaʻole) years before. Whenever he could, my grandfather eagerly took me as a child to see his tree – by that time 20–30 feet tall.

He took me to his parents’ graves at the old Hale Aloha Cemetery, picking common mangoes from the road on the way. He would smell the mangoes and say, “Oh this is a mele mango.” I can still see him put the mango to his nose and hear him sniff it. I repeated the same. You know, I can still smell those mele mangoes today in my memories.

My grandaunt, Auntie Adelaide Kaiwi (Kuamū) Sylva (who was married to Tūtū’s brother, Uncle Frank Hoʻo-ululāhui Sylva) lived on Luakini Street, right behind the Wharf Shopping Center (that I watched being built as a child). Auntie Addie had an ʻulu tree from which she and Uncle would pound poi ʻulu for us (daily when ʻulu was fruiting).

Uncle Frank was an excellent diver and fisherman – although he always boasted about his kaikuaʻana, Uncle Henry Kulekana Sylva. I loved summers in Lahaina. Uncle Frank took us to the Lahaina Harbor wharf. In the evenings we would fish by the lighthouse and Pioneer Inn (where the Carthaginian Ship was docked) for weke ʻula and ʻupāpalu. The weke ʻula was bigger than grandpa’s slipper. My favorite was laenihi or nabeta (that was a deep-water fish) that the boats would bring in. Or we bought from Nagasako Store in Lahaina.

One of my favorite foods was Hop Wo Bakery’s hot bread. I don’t remember how I knew to go, but I ran down Front Street and bought hot bread. They also had biscuits and rubber doughnuts. The magic was when you cut the loaf open and put butter inside…wow! I can still taste it to this day.

With the Sylvas at night, amid the smell of mosquito punk and cocoa and crackers, our grand folks would be singing old songs like E Palau Tātou that was taught to Grandma Brown by two Kilipaki (Gilbertese) people who arrived by canoe in Māla where she lived as a child. I must teach you that song and tell you the story of the Kilipaki people who landed in Māla in the late 1800s.

It was similar for the Farden side. Auntie Emma Kapiʻolani (Farden) Sharpe was a well-loved kumu hula who was born in 1904 in Puʻukōliʻi, Lahaina, Maui. She learned hula from a court dancer, also from Lahaina, Mrs. Rebecca Kauhai (Likua) ʻŌpūnui. I had no option but to learn hula from Auntie Emma at the age of 9.

Auntie Emma lived on our ancestral land in Kahana, Maui Komohana, along with several of her siblings who had homes there (Puamana Place). Auntie Emma, the matriarch of hula in the family, together with another of your tūtūs, Auntie Irmgard Kealiʻiwahinealoha Nohokahao Puamana (Farden) ʻĀluli, (both older sisters of my grandpa) wove stories, mele and hula to become much of that which I know of Lahaina today. Can you imagine 11 of the original 13 siblings singing the old Lahaina songs, like Hālona (“he aloha wale aʻe ana nō wau i ka ua pāʻūpili”); or family songs like our Puamana, a song you just learned to dance?

Puamana was written in 1937 when Auntie Irmgard was home from teaching on Molokaʻi. Her daddy, Grandpa Farden, had just come home for lunch. Some of the sisters were home visiting and Auntie Emma already began to create the hula steps to Auntie Irmgard’s music. When their daddy came home, they did not let Grandpa sit for lunch. Instead, they shared the mele with him. Without an invitation, Grandpa uttered the words that would become lyrics to the song.

My dear HōsananuiiāIesū, I have so much more to share with you about my childhood times in Lahaina – The sacred remaining ʻulu trees of “Malu ʻulu o Lele,” the aliʻi burials of Waineʻe, the placement of the “L” on Mauna Paʻūpaʻū, the disastrous kauaʻula wind, the Māla wharf, nā hono aʻo Piʻilani… And when Daddy repeats the stories over and over again – please humor me and listen to them; sometimes it’s just me missing my tūtūs and my Lahaina.

“ʻEono nā hono a Piʻilani. A he mea nui nō ia i ka manaʻo. E nā hono a Piʻilani. ʻO Maui komo hana nō ē ka ʻoi! Six bays of Piʻilani. Of great importance in everyone’s eyes. Oh Bays of Piʻilani! For Maui Komohana surpasses all.” – a very old Lahaina song remembered, and perhaps written, by Tūtū Mima Apo.