Press "Enter" to skip to content

ISLAND HISTORY: Original Coco Palms Hotel employee Harriet Kamala Kaholokula

Kohala, Hawai‘i-born Harriet Kamala Kaaumoana Kaholokula (1924-2004) was one of the first employees hired by manager Grace Buscher after Lyle “Gus” Guslander opened the Coco Palms Hotel in 1953.

Of her days on O‘ahu before joining Coco Palms, Harriet said, “I, too, like Gus, worked for Walter Child at the Niumalu Hotel in Waikiki. It was where I met my husband, Jimmy. He played music at the Niumalu Hotel, the same hotel that Gus once managed for Child.

“After Jimmy and I married, we moved to Kaua‘i in a house near the Wailua River, next to the Walter Smiths.

“One day, I walked over to Coco Palms and met Elsie Hoopi‘i. She asked if I wanted to do some accounting for the hotel. The job took two weeks to complete and then Mr. Guslander said how would I like to work in the dining room and I took the job.

“I had no trouble meeting people and talking to them. I learned quickly and also learned what went on back in the kitchen. Jiro Okamoto and Masako Hiranaka, Jiro’s assistant, helped me understand the complexities of the kitchen operation.”

Grace promoted Harriet to dining room manager, and while she managed the Lagoon Dining Room, with Walter “Freckles” Smith Jr. assisting her, Grace never worried about the dining room.

David Penhallow, in his book, “The Story of the Coco Palms Hotel,” wrote, “A Hawaiian woman whose appearance Grace particularly admired was Harriet Kama Kaholokula. She was tall and slim, with perfect dark aquiline facial features. There was a regal quality about her.”

In 2000, Harriet recalled: “Lots of people I remember. Larry Rivera, the singer and waiter, grew up at the hotel. I had wonderful waitresses: Lillian Nagao, Mary Wong, and Lillie Christian — all gone now.”

Harriet Kaholokula left Coco Palms in 1968 and became the manager of the Kapa‘a Sands Hotel with her husband, James Kalei “Uncle Jimmy” Kaholokula (1918-93).

Her husband, a native speaker of Hawaiian, composed more than 100 Hawaiian songs.

She and her husband had two sons: Kimo Kaholokula and Robbie Kaholokula.
Source: The Garden Island

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply