A Year on Molokai

As a 74-year-old I treasure the memories of past lives, one of which was a lifetime spent on Molokai in one year. It was 1982 and I had lost my job in Washington state due to an economic downturn. I traveled to Koloa on Kauai and after working and living there for a month, I recalled a friend-of-a-friend had a charter sailboat business on Molokai and said he would take me out, so I took the next plane to the Molokai airport. I remember it was difficult to find a ride to Kaunakakai so thankfully most of my walk was downhill. The day I arrived was also the day that the deckhand for the boat quit. The owner asked me to take his place and the next thing I knew, I was driving the returning charter guests back to the airport that I had just walked from.

So began one of the most memorable years of my life. There were Sundays at the Pau Hana Inn and sunsets at the Banyan Tree Terrace bar, with the wonderful mahu singers. We often provisioned at the local stores for our charters. There were workdays at the Coast Guard Auxiliary building and even one late night rescue of a passing sailboat with a damaged mast.
“The Friendly Isle” is only a nickname, but to have lived there was to understand that it is more than a name. There was the man with the mango tree in his front yard who let me gather my favorite fruit, another who let me use his table saw for work on the boat, the airport workers who would sit at the luggage claim to talk story while waiting for the next flight. There was also the policeman who I played tennis with, who taught me how to hit a backhand: “pocket the ball, pocket the ball.”

I left Molokai a year after my arrival, but 20 years later, I returned to Maui where we lived for another 11 years. I was active in local government but never returned to Molokai. Things change but I can only hope that the people of the island know how much my life with them meant to me even to this day.

Ron Montgomery


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