Theodore Kelsey reminisces about his life on Kauai and in Palolo, 1948.

A Hawaiian Lament

One of the most cherished memories of the writer’s life is that of himself as a small barefoot boy, when, with his mother, his little girl playmate and sweetheart, and others less remembered, he made a midnight visit from his home in Ke-kaha, on the enchanted island of Kau’ai, traveling in a horse-drawn, vehicle to the far-famed “Barking Sands,” at Mana’ (mah-nah’), lovingly called by the Hawaiians “Ke One Kani o No-hili—”The Sounding Sand of No-hili.”

There, beneath a glorious bright full moon, in that magic land, where from time to time, at break of day, demi-god Lima-loa would erect his wondrous disappearing village of grass huts, and over the sandy expanse, in time of sunshine, would spread a miraculous, deceptive sea of mirage, we merrily slid about on a hill of strangely rumbling sand.

Alas, now that beloved sand, that world-renowned phenomenon, patiently formed by Mother Nature through untold ages, a proudest show-place of Kauai, has been leveled for an airfield!

* * * *

Again found memories roll back the years. This time the writer sees himself as a larger boy, welcomed by his smiling mother in her little wind-beaten home in upper Palolo Valley, in the branch toward Manoa. There, on happy week-ends following warm days of school in town in a little red building on the spacious grounds of the fine old mansion of Princess Ruth Ke-eli-ko-lani, and in the royal residence itself, now replaced by the Central Intermediate school, that boy would revel in the breezy Palolo’s cool, invigorating air.

Through the sticky mud of somewhat desolate Fifth Avenue, now the excellent house-lined Palolo avenue, with its speedy bus service, the lad’s bare feet would wearily, at times, slither toward his haven. Well he recalls, as an aging man, how he stood bare-legged in the moonlight, fondly gazing on habitationless Wilhelmina Rise, and how in the sunny days he would look off over old Diamond Head and the blue line of ocean.

In joyous vacation time the surf at Wai-kiki’ beckoned, and there he would ride his surf-board, tumbling off as a rule, but occasionally standing erect to speed proudly shoreward.

* * * *

But now, alas, how sadly changed is that old Palolo of the days when these Hawaiian Islands were truly “The Paradise of the Pacific!” Now, topping the Manoa side’s ancient ridge, stretches a long line of foreign trees, marring its Hawaiian character. Far worse, however, is the disappearance of the lone recumbent stone figure of the rain-causing demi-god Ku-mauna, who reposed somewhere above the head of the first gulch a little up from the tower end of those resented trees.

A bit below where the writer lived, a recently placed private property sign forbids entrance. He wonders if joyous parties of Ka-‘au-hele-moa, whose name commemorates a celebrated fighting-cock of yore, that nestles at the foot of the towering wall of the majestic Koolau Range. Over the valley’s dividing ridge, Ka-la-a-nihi, in the Wai-ʻomaʻo Stream branch, on the Tenth Avenue side, the Water Supply now rules supreme, direly prohibiting expeditions to the charming woodlands and scenic waterfalls above.

(Advertiser, 6/12/1948, p. 14)



2 thoughts on “Theodore Kelsey reminisces about his life on Kauai and in Palolo, 1948.

  1. Mahalo for this article of my step-grandfather Theodore Kelsey. Only when I had been a grown adult and after his passing had I learned of his accomplishments and contributions in the Hawaiian culture. He married my grandmother Esther Kaikai Kalaukoa in Honolulu. I’m not sure when. Again, mahalo piha for this gift. I have seen some of his work and photos of himself and the kumulipo he hand wrote on parchment paper, which is now at the Bishop Museum.


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