“They don’t make ‘em like this anymore,” said Albert Moura Tuesday while shuffling around his workshop. “You can’t even buy ‘em like this.”
John Anthony Medeiros of the Koloa Rum Company agreed, his fingers gingerly feeling the wooden case containing the dials for the 14-inch, American Tool Works Co. lathe that was tucked away in a corner of the workshed.
“It works,” Medeiros said. “We fired it up yesterday and it runs good. I even made a video of Albert working the controls.”
Moura is donating the lathe to the Koloa Rum Company following 56 years of having it in his backyard since the closing of the Kaua‘i Pineapple Co., or more commonly referred to as Kaua‘i Pine, back in 1964.
“I used to run this at Kaua‘i Pine,” Moura said. “Twenty years. Then, I went to the Korean War, came back and got married, and then they closed the place.”
The birth of the 14-inch lathe was no secret, boldly touted on its nameplate by The American Tool Works Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. According to Medeiros, the lathe was manufactured in 1917 and is 103 years old.
“Albert makes 92 years in January,” said daughter Marlene Moises, who retired from the county’s driver licensing bureau.
“The lathe has been here since Kaua‘i Pine closed — I was 9 years old — and a supervisor, a truck, and some workers brought it over. There was no roof, no walls, just the concrete where they set it down. They, oh yeah, that was John’s father — John V. Medeiros — who was among the people helping. We only knew him as Johnny, Johnny Ringo. And now look, his son is taking over running the lathe. But they actually built the workshop around the lathe.”
Medieros said the middle name is important.
“I never knew about that ‘Johnny Ringo’ until last night,” Medeiros said. “When I called my dad ‘Johnny Ringo,’ he just smiled. But he’s Johnny V. Medeiros, I’m John Anthony Medeiros, and even my son is ‘John Medeiros.’ When people ask, we answer, ‘Which one?’ They gotta go to the middle name — there’s no ‘junior’ or ‘senior.’”
Moura said the lathe came to Kaua‘i Pine from the U.S. Navy, and he operated the lathe after getting his machinist certification from the International Correspondence Schools. He ran the lathe for 20 years before going off to war.
“We did a lot of work for the homesteaders,” he said. “We helped them with their machinery, sprocket wheels, and all kinds of stuff. We liked doing work for them because they always had pastries for us, and on special days we got chicken.”
Following the Kaua‘i Pine closure, Moura worked at Lihu‘e Plantation as a machinist until its closure in November 2000 after producing sugar for more than 150 years on the island.
“That was a 36-inch lathe,” Moura said. “I used to just work with a 14-inch, but after moving to LP, this was a big lathe.”
Moises said Moura continued to do work with the community, using his skills.
“You remember the electric cars?” Moises sked. “My son Dustin — he’s now an engineer — used to work on those, and grandpa helped by creating all those spindles. Coach Dean Fujikawa was so pleased he kept giving him all those plastic trophies.”
Medeiros said when the lathe moves into the Koloa Rum Company facility, it will take its place next to the current machinery.
“I use an Atlas 12-inch (it’s not made in the USA),” Medeiros said. “It’s just not big enough to handle cutting new grooves into the crushing wheels. The 14-inch is perfect for that because it’s not too long and it’s powerful. On top of that, when I told Bob Gunter about the lathe, his reply was, ‘Tell that Cracker Jack I said ‘Hi.’ When we need help, we’re going to ask him. He’s a consultant.’”
Moura pored over the old photograph showing him working with the 36-inch lathe at Lihu‘e Plantation.
“It’s old,” he said. “Old, but trustworthy. They don’t even have machinists anymore.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.