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Florence Makekau reflects on growing up in Keawe Camp

By Staff | May 20, 2010

Nikki Sulliban hugs Florence Makekau after her interview.

(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 fourth profile in the series.)

Florence Makekau and her husband live in Lahaina. The first person in her family came from the Philippines arriving by boat. Her father worked for the Pioneer Mill, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom who took care of the house and kids.

Keawe Camp is where Florence lived with her mother and father, two brothers and three sisters. The house was nothing fancy. It was an old plantation home with three bedrooms. Keawe Camp was more like a family camp. Everyone knew each other. Since they had little money, Florence and her siblings played with the other neighbors. All the people in camp had nicknames. Her nickname was “Lei Lei.” Life was good and everything you needed was right there.

Florence had chores to do when growing up. She had to clean the house and yard and tend to the garden and the animals. She was the only one who did the cooking. Everybody loved her cooking, and if they asked her to cook a specific type of food, she was always willing to prepare that dish for them. But there were times when she wanted to hide or find some time to herself, so she would go behind her house and climb up the mango tree.

The favorite time of the year for Florence was summer because there was no school. She and her siblings went swimming and swam until their bodies turned purple. They got scolded from their parents. Her favorite place to visit was the County Fair. 

Her friends and family took the plantation truck to the fair. Each of them received five dollars. For two dollars, they could go on 40 different rides. For a dollar, you could get food and other things. The plantation truck picked them up at 9 a.m. and took them home around 5 p.m.

Her favorite holidays were Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Her family had fun at home because they really did not have money to spend. At that time, money was really not that important. At Lahainaluna High School, they danced hula in the gym and held proms there. 

Florence met her husband in Lahaina. They knew each other for three years before getting married. Their wedding was a camp wedding because,

at that time, there were no hotels in West Maui. She earned her living by selling fish and vegetables. On Sundays, her mother made bread and sold it for 25 cents. Florence’s first job was at the pineapple cannery, where she earned $1.30 a day.

One major event she remembers from her childhood was the tsunami. Her heroes are her mother and father. The one person she remembers as being the most religious is Saint Damien. Every three months, Florence goes to Molokai to clean St. Damien’s grave site.

Her favorite pastimes are crafting, dancing the hula and making lei. She helps out at David Malo Day by making lei. She is well-known in Lahaina for her many spectacular fresh floral leis and floral arrangements for festivals.

Being a parent of six children, Florence has learned that her children need to decide for themselves what they want in life. They need to be able to choose what they want to do and where they want to go to church. The advice that she wants to pass down to the next generation is to study hard, go to school and get good jobs.