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In this age of impersonal corporate radio, it's hard to imagine a time when radio stations were truly local institutions-familiar, a little amateurish and probably broadcasting live from a neighborhood store near you. Such is the world conjured by Kaua'i As it Was in the 1940s and '50s, a collection of memories by Mike Ashman, who, in 1940, was lured from San Francisco to be an announcer and engineer for Kaua'i's first station, KTOH.

The station was created in 1938 by the newspaper publisher Garden Island Publishing Co. KTOH debuted with three solid hours of live Hawaiian music. It boasted programming in English, Japanese and Ilocano. It became a witness, and a mirror, to Kaua'i's plantation society.

In the 1940s, KTOH transmitted live from Lïhu'e Store, holding radio parties at which housewives competed for free housecleaning supplies in contests of penny-pitching and dart-throwing. KTOH was there, holding a microphone up to catch the sound of the ribbon being cut at the opening of the Hanapëpë-to-Waimea highway. When a new fangled technology became available-the tape recorder-KTOH went into neighborhood schools, even into people's kitchens, to record and broadcast daily life from one Kauaian to another.

Reading Ashman's memories, presented as a series of episodes, is like tuning in to a transmission from yesteryear.

Published by the Kaua'i Historical Society, distributed by the University of Hawai'i Press. www.uhpress.hawaii.edu. $18.

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