Old Oakum, a Character in Honolulu Long Ago
“Old Oakum” was one of the odd characters of Honolulu u to about thirty years ago. He was a harmless creature whose one talent was that of collecting honey from bee trees without being stung. Where he came from or was born, or just what his nationality was, were matters not well known, for “Old Oakum” seemed to have forgotten all about himself long before coming to Honolulu which must have been in the early 50s.
Many old-timers like Dr. Rodgers, J. W. Girvin and J. O. Carter remember the man well. He told a story of blood-curdling experiences through which he had gone and one was that he had been scalped by Indians. However, his long, curly hair did not bear out this story. There seemed at least to have been a tragedy sometime in his life while he was in the United States.
As far was could be learned his name appears to have been Holcomb and from this he derived the nickname of “Old Oakum.” It is thought he was an Englishman.
“I remember ‘Old Oakum,'” said Dr. Rodgers last evening. “One thing that struck me was his strong resemblance to the late Joe Jefferson. He had the same broad mouth and the Jefferson chin. His great talent was collecting honey. He seemed to know where all the bee trees were and he constantly carried a bucket in which he gathered the honey and sold it to people.
“If anybody wanted a hive of bees changed they called on him. I don’t know that he was ever stung. He had a queer theory, such a theory as one not his right mid might be expected to advance. He claimed that if a bee was permitted to sting one in a certain place in the palm of the hand the poison would connect with a nerve which ran to the lungs and would cure any case of consumption. I believe that he was finally taken to the asylum where I presume he died. One time Peter Cartwright, who took an interest in the old fellow, gave him a new outfit of clothing and assisted in putting up a shanty out in the plains, a sort of a wilderness in those days. The old fellow did not keep the gifts long, but gave them all away, possibly to some one poorer than himself.”
“Old Oakum” also had a mania for dogs, or at least dogs evinced a great fondness for him and he generally had half a dozen of them following him about.
Occasionally he would leave town, take a little food with him and remain in the mountains for days. He always came back with a lot of honey.
(Advertiser, 8/19/1906, p. 9)