‘We are more alike, my friends’

The other night, a discussion about newspapers came up with friends. One person subscribes to both The Garden Island (TGI) newspaper and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to read a mix of both local and national and international news.

The discussion turned to how our TGI keeps its focus tuned to mostly Kauai news and events. I ventured that this is why I like it as a truly “local” newspaper. Some saw that as a lack, so we agreed to differ.

When I went to work at TGI after coming to Kauai in the mid-1980s, Charlie Fern and his commitment to the paper were a legend, and former editor Jean Holmes was on her way to becoming a legend, too.

But Editor Julia Neal (new on board) and all staff members were concentrating on writing fairly decent local news.

Some of us may remember department editor names from the past as fondly as I do: Gladys Tashiro, Georgia Mossman, Rita De Silva, Art Umezu, Nick Abramo, and the unbeatable and still very present staffer Dennis Fujimoto.

Some of these folks, sadly, have died; other have branched out following other pursuits.

Some of us won’t forget the team of John Ueno and the late Edith Tanimoto as publisher and assistant publisher.

They ran the place “spit-spot,” not to mention the whole production group (yes — we were still pasting up computer generated copy and printing out the finished product out on our own press in the back area of the plant) who worked under the guiding hand of Jimmy Oyadamori.

Writing the stories about events I was assigned to cover — a Hanalei paddling race, a tour of the old Kekaha Mill’s sugar from field to finish, the demolition of Wahiawa camp, Frank DeLima at the old Kauai Resort, Hanapepe salt making and Hawaiian issue meetings — plunged this “haole girl” into the local community as I met and talked with Kauai people.

These experiences provided an invaluable education. I considered this a gift, off-setting my low salary. (Believe it or not, the unionized “paste-up” people were paid almost three times what the reporters received for generating the material for the galleys.)

I thank my old boss for forcing me to become skilled at computer word-processing, even though those old clunkers on our desks would be considered dinosaurs now.

Copy generated on my trusty electric typewriter, hand-carried all the way from Denver, was not acceptable. One night, after losing a two hours’ worth of copy written onto a file on my office computer to a blip in the electricity, I learned to religiously hit that SAVE button after every paragraph.

No longer a TGI employee since the post-Iniki years, I still value this paper as a publishing entity for my column contributions and other occasional Kauai news I submit.

My husband and I continue to value reading the good news that Editor Bill Buley made a personal commitment to publish when he took the position. Also, we value the “think pieces” that generate discussion.

A spate of recent letters to the editor have focused on bigotry — or bypassing and ending same — since such judgment creates nothing but hurt, anger and serious rifts right here on our own supposedly idyllic Garden Island.

This important issue seems to be resolving itself — at least in print. It would be real progress to see love and acceptance of differences being applied, to find the chinks in “aloha spirit” being filled and eventually disappearing.

This celebration rather than condemnation of people with differences ideally would begin within our own homes and families, spreading throughout the island community and beyond, across oceans. We’d be staying true to the message proclaimed by Hokulea and our tourist board.

Our late National Poet Laureate Maya Angelou brought similar thoughts into focus in her poem, “Human Family.”

She repeats the core issue of her poem three times, hammering it home after the last verse.


Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live with books, music and birds in Wailua Homesteads. The writer’s books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon. For more information, go to www.kauaiweddingsandbooks.com.


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