Interesting trivia fills the pages of Kakaako As We Knew It, an oral history of sorts by Marsha Gibson that may very well be one of the most interesting talk-story sessions you’ll ever hold in your hand. Although an easy read, it paints a different picture of the town we see today, as it, like much of O’ahu, has changed unrecognizably from what it once was to so many people in the 1930s-1957, when the residents of the dusty, camp-filled, tree-lined community they knew as “Kakako” were forced out to make room for the version we see, or choose not to see, today. The book’s chapters are divided into a tour of the town as it was, and takes us into each of the camps and businesses that used to comprise what is now parking lots and warehouses.
Marsha Gibson’s sense of sentimentalism meshes easily with the information and interviews, as she lived through it herself. Gibson was a resident for the last two years of Kakaako’s residential era, when she was all but nine. She may have been young then, but she writes with such strong feeling and memory that it feels like the moments represented in her pages happened merely years ago. Interwoven between factual articles are interviews with some of its most prominent residents and personal stories of her own, together illustrating and debunking the belief that Kakaako was as tough, dim, and dirty a town as most thought at the time.
Chapters include “The Camps”, “Neighborhood Businesses” (where they ended up and where they’re still open today), “Yono Kitagawa and the Kakaako Boxers”, and “The Churches”, with history on churches from Kawaihao to the Japanese Churches. After reading these histories from Fudge Matsuda, Gabby Pahinui, Joe DeMattos, and Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, it’s almost as if one can go into Mother Waldron Park and see the ice cream trucks, the Manapua Man, the kids playing ball.
Kaka’ako will soon redevelop once again. Let this book stand as a document that memorializes what was.
Mutual Publishing 2011
176 pp $23.95