homepage logo

Kenneth Keanui shares fond memories of growing up in Lahaina

By Staff | Apr 22, 2010

Ashley Probst asked Kenneth “KK” Keanui about his life story.

(On Intergenerational Day on March 12 at Lahaina Intermediate School, Lahaina Complex After School Tutors from Lahainaluna High School interviewed West Maui kupuna to write their biographies. This is the second in a series.)

When you’re young, you have the urge to be in motion all the time. This is especially true for senior citizen Kenneth “KK” Keanui.

When KK was a child, he lived in a house with six relatives. This house only had two bedrooms, so living space was sometimes cramped, but they made the best of it. Living conditions were very different when KK was a child — his family’s restroom and shower were both outside away from the house. If they ever wanted to enjoy the luxury of hot water, they would have to take the time to make a fire and heat up the water, since there were no hot water systems like there are today.

The room in which KK slept in was very small. He fortunately got his own bed, but he sometimes gave it up for his sister to sleep in instead, while he slept in the living room with his grandfather. Most of the rooms in the house were quite small. This also included the kitchen. They had to use a portable oven that would be placed on the stove in order to heat up and be put to use.

As a child, KK would always go to the park with his friends. Across from where the Lahaina Public Library now stands, there used to be a basketball court where KK and his friends would spend hours playing ball. Whenever they got hungry, they would run across the street to the store to get shave ice. They could also go around the corner to get delicious little pies that were for sale for only $0.25!

Another place where they would go to get pie was the Banyan Inn, where blueberry and banana cream pies were the most popular with his friends.

On days when the weather was nice, they would head down to the pier to swim. There they had to work through three different stages to help them to become better swimmers. They would have to start at the doggie paddle and work their way up from there.

On other days, when the weather wasn’t as kind to them, they would head over to the Pioneer Theater to see a movie.

When he wanted to hide or get away, he would go to a friend’s house and stay there for a day or two. While there, they would go to the movies or even go to Wailuku to visit with other friends. On other occasions, when they went to the other side, it would be for school games, which most of the high school students attended.

After games, they would go to Tasty Crust, which was a very popular hangout. Many times, KK would arrive home late because he was out having fun with his friends.

School was always a necessity for students of all ages. KK attended King Kamehameha III School from first to eighth grade. To this day, he still knows the school song. The thing he remembers most is the school carnival that they had every year. It was always filled with booths for games and food, and it was always fun!

When KK moved up to his first year of high school, he started going to school at Lahainaluna, where he played on the basketball team.

There was nothing much in the classrooms, but they never stayed in just one room for the whole day. They moved from classroom to classroom as the periods changed throughout the day. In order to get up to school to make it to these classes, most students would take the bus, and a few students with more money than others would drive up in a car.

When the new school year began, the kids always needed new clothes. They would travel to Wailuku and go to Johnny’s for school clothes. There were also a  few shops in Lahaina for clothing that they would go to if they couldn’t make it to Wailuku.

For food, they would go to Nagasako (which is still a popular place to go and get a snack). Nagasako wasn’t the only shop in town; there was also a Bank of Hawaii,  the one jewelry store for those special occasions and three service stations for gas.

The first time that his family moved was in 1958 from Chapel Street to Puunoa Place — the street that the Jehovah’s Witness Church now sits on. The other time that KK moved was after he was married. He then lived in a small town house with three bedrooms rather than two. They often had parties that the whole family would attend.

Every year, they would have a New Year’s party, and there would be plenty of drinking, singing and hula dancing.

When KK went with his family to worship, they would go to Waiola Church (a Protestant church in Lahaina). It still stands today, and all are welcome. He always used to look forward to lunch after the service.

The first time that KK went away from home was one summer when he got a job picking pineapples on Lanai. After graduation, he went to Oahu to work construction. He eventually came back to Maui to continue his work in manufacturing.

After being a construction worker for awhile, he moved on to working at the hotels, then to working on the golf course and then became a park caretaker.

He finally retired in 2002 at the age of 62. He is now a jolly, retired man with many great memories from when he was a child.