Maui Nei

When it came to personnel management, Claro Capili was a by-the-book guy. Once, as managing director, the No. 2 job in Maui County government, he ran afoul a smart-alecky haole who was working as the county information and complaints officer.

Capili took the job very seriously since in the county’s table of organization, only the mayor was above him in authority and responsibility. Then, as now, all the department heads were listed below the managing director.

In the late 1970s, there was one appointed position he hadn’t figured on when he braced the info guy in a tiny ninth-floor office that had once been the mailroom.

The first run-in was by proxy. His secretary, Evelyn Sardinha, showed up one day. A visit from her was no little pleasure. She was a good-looking woman usually dressed in some sort of jumpsuit she’d designed and made herself. The suits were form-fitting with fancy trimmings and flared pant legs.

“Mr. Capili wants you to fill out a time sheet,” she said.

The info guy smiled. “It’s not that kind of job. I work when I need to work and don’t when I don’t.” For the record, during most weeks the job required at least one or two 12-hour days. The info guy was a former reporter and editor used to working however long it took to get the story into print. Keeping track of the hours involved was never part of his job.

An aside: In one newsroom, management installed a time clock. It lasted two days. It’s amazing what dumping a cup of coffee with milk and sugar will do to a machine.

“But, Mr. Capili wants you to fill out the time sheet.”

A lack of hubris was not a strong point with the info guy. “No. If Claro has a problem with that, have him see the mayor. Take a look at the table of organization.” The information and complaints office answered only to the mayor.

Evelyn shook her mane of black hair and went to report to her boss.

That was that, for a while.

It was midmorning. The info guy was banging out a press release on an electric typewriter. Claro appeared in the open door. He had a presence that was only partly due to his height. For a Filipino, he was uncommonly tall. Claro had a stern look on his face and a legal-sized, yellow pad of paper in one hand.

“I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes,” he said.

“Sure. What’s on your mind?”

“I’d like to get an idea of when you work,” he said with a pen poised over the tablet. “When do you come to work?”

“Oh, anytime between 7 and 9.”

He wrote that down.

“When do you go to lunch?”

“Oh, anytime between 11 and 1.”

He wrote that down.

“How long do you take for lunch?”

“Oh, a half-hour to two hours or so.”

He wrote that down.

“When do you go home?”

“Oh, anytime between 5 and 9.”

While he was writing that down, the info guy couldn’t resist adding: “And, if I can’t keep those hours, I let Georgina (the info guy’s nominal secretary) know where I am.”

The women in the Mayor’s Office generally liked the info guy, especially Georgina, who went on to become Gov. Linda Lingle’s budget director after obtaining a master’s in business administration. The liking was largely due to one simple fact.

In those days, the all-male administrators didn’t type. They’d handwrite a letter, or whatever, and have a woman type it. (There were only a few word processors and no computers in the building. The word processors, a kind of simplified computer, all belonged to the women working in the attorneys’ offices.)

The typed document would go back to the man who had drafted it. The guy would make changes and send it back to the woman to be retyped, sometimes more than once. The info guy did all of his own typing.

Claro stayed clear of the info guy after leaving the office with a nonplussed look on his face. The info guy tried not to laugh. Claro Capili did his job in the best possible way. He deserved respect, not only for his position in county government but also due to his groundbreaking work in politics.

Claro was among the first of Maui’s Filipinos to understand how active voters, individually and in groups, can influence governmental policies.

Claro Capili died Friday at home in Kahului. He was 90 years old.

* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and writer for The Maui News. His email address is

Maui Nei

Decades ago, unruly behavior in a classroom was generally chalked up to an inept teacher. That may be true today. I doubt it. Today’s teachers must always be aware of lawsuit-happy parents who probably don’t enforce any discipline at home.

It’s been a half-century, but personal public school memories persist. The most vivid recollection is the threat of corporal punishment. Misbehavior involved poking the student in front, shooting spitballs, talking, reading a magazine instead the textbook and sleeping. It was almost never more serious.

Student miscreants could expect, at the very least, a sharply worded rebuke, being forced to sit in a corner, physical contact of varying degrees or the dreaded banishment to the principal’s office.

In the school I attended, a wooden paddle was prominently displayed on the principal’s office wall, ready to be applied to a bottom. The paddle was seldom used but student gossip described horrendous pain and humiliation, not to mention what would happen when the pupil got home.

This particular school was small, less than 300 students in eight grades. It served the surrounding scatter of farms and a town of 1,300 population. Not that much different than, say, Hana.

One well-remembered teacher could maintain strict discipline with only a stern look. Less gentle teachers would pull your ear. An upper-grade teacher liked to smack kids on the head with a ruler or, in extreme circumstances, use the ruler to smack palms. The teacher did it in front of all the students, forcing the offending student to stand and present his hand. There was no lasting damage, but the sharp, stinging pain forged a indelible memory. Don’t ask how I know. In high school, there was one biology teacher who had lost part of his right-index finger. When riled, he’d stick the stub in a student’s ear and twist.

And, or course, most parents enforced discipline with spanking. Youngsters soon learned to keep their heads down and their mouths shut when around adults. In that small town, there were no strangers and everyone felt free to discipline any kid who happened to be acting up. Kids resented the system, but they respected their elders while dreaming of the time when they would be the big guys.

That was then.

Every so often, some egregious student behavior in a Maui classroom or playground surfaces. The common reaction is to wonder why the teacher didn’t do something before the student got out of hand.

Recently, I ran into a veteran teacher/administrator. “I’ve been thinking about classroom discipline.” He laughed.


Hawaii Administrative Rules Title 8, Chapter 19 covers “Student misconduct, discipline . . . police interviews and arrests” among other things. The chapter is 38 pages long and loaded with language designed, if not written, by lawyers. To the untrained eye, the operative section can be found on Page 20.

“Disciplinary action shall be taken for all class offenses [listed at the beginning of the chapter] in grades kindergarten through twelve in accordance with procedures established under this chapter and within the following options as determined by the authorities designated in section 9-19-5. Interventions to teach students appropriate behaviors must be instituted when disciplinary actions are imposed.”

There’s always the prospect of the teacher and school being sued. (A recent writer of a letter to The Maui News wondered why special-needs students are being taught in normal classrooms. A lawsuit back in the 1980s when Lokelani Lindsey was Maui’s district supervisor ended with a judge requiring special-needs students to be “mainstreamed.”)

Back to Title 8, Chapter 19. “Disciplinary action options may include the following.” Most teachers probably translate “may include” to mean “limited to.”

There are 16 options, beginning with “correction and conference with student.” They include detention, loss of privileges, parent conferences, suspension and dismissal. Parents of kids who come home whining can appeal school discipline, launching a lengthy quasi-judicial procedure.

Of course, actual physical contact is strictly prohibited. That could get a teacher arrested for assault, and even the youngest kids are ready to remind teachers what can happen.

To quote Kurt Vonnegut, “And so it goes.”

* Ron Youngblood is a retired staff writer and editor for The Maui News. His email address is

Maui Nei

Auwe! Make anu. It’s pronounced ow-way mah-kay-ah-noo and means “alas, stiff and chilled,” or more commonly, “it’s freezing.” At least it feels that way to weather wimps down on the coast where the yearly average temperature is in the mid-70s.

This week, low temperatures were big news on Oahu where TV weather girls and guys seldom have anything to talk about other than rain and wind. Tuesday, Honolulu International Airport reported a record low of 61 for the date. It was 58, another record for the date, in Hilo.

Chalk up another distinction for Maui. The low before dawn Tuesday was 61 at Kahului Airport and on Molokai. They were not records. Record lows recorded for this time of year range from a 55 recorded in 1967 and again in 1968 to a 53 in 1983.

The official all-time low temperature recorded at the airport on Maui was 48 degrees in 1969. Kihei was only 1 degree warmer. Available records don’t indicate the date, but it was probably in February or March, historically the coldest months of the year. In February 1919, The Maui News reported a stream freezing in Olinda and ice found in the Keanae Gap.

There are folks on Maui who see temperatures in the 40s on a regular basis during what has become known as winter, the coldest of four seasons. Pre-contact Hawaiians knew only two seasons – the warm, mostly dry months (kau or kau wela) and colder, wetter months (ho’oilo).

Mauians who live or work up on the mountain are resigned to pulling on extra shirts, running up their electric bills with space heaters and burning wood in fireplaces and stoves. Resigned, but more than willing to talk about it.

“I don’t like being hot,” said a Kula resident Wednesday morning. “I lived in Kihei and moved to get away from the heat. Maybe I’m just getting older, but it seems to be getting colder.” He was warming his hands on a cup of coffee and wearing at least three layers of shirts.

“We can look forward to the sun,” I said. “It can be in the low 50s at 6 a.m. in the house and hit the low 80s by 1 p.m.” Home sits at the 2,000-foot level of Haleakala. It has a number of windows facing west and an uninsulated tin roof – both good collectors of heat. Wednesday morning, the thermometer in the kitchen sat at 55 degrees, probably 5 degrees colder than it actually was. The more accurate digital thermometer was blank. It eats too many batteries.

“When I get to work, the temperature can be in 60s after the sun hits,” the Kula resident said. “I’ll probably shed a couple of shirts as the day goes on.”

All things being equal, going up the mountain a thousand feet results in a drop of 3 degrees in the temperature. There are lot of houses with chimneys above 3,000 feet altitude. Wednesday morning, a rancher up around the 5,000-foot level reported a thermometer reading in the 30s. Some of that is due to cold air coming down from the summit where visitors often see temperatures in the 30s and lower, even when it’s warm on the coast. The lowest temperature recorded on the summit was 17 degrees on Jan. 2, 1876.

It’s a little unusual to be suffering through cold weather in April, depending on how you define “cold.”

This year, serious inroads on the stack of split kiawe delivered every year by Mark DeCoite weren’t made until the middle of March.

For the last couple of weeks, the fireplace has been put to work in the evening, raising the temperature 10 degrees or so. That’s enough to quiet complaints from old bones. Morning fires are rare. It’s easier and quicker to go out and sit in the sun or use a space heater to warm icy toes. Adding socks to your slippers, tabi style, also helps.

When the fire is going, the house cat moves around the room in search of just the right temperature as the flames go up and down. His favorite spot is on a stool about four feet from the fireplace. Cats have an uncanny ability to find the warmest spots.

The oldest of the outdoor cats began sleeping in the garage not far from the water heater some weeks ago. Once he found his spot, I rigged a light for some additional heat. As soon as the sun hits the garage doors, the old-timer goes outside. By midday, you’ll find him snoozing in some shade.

Cold on Maui? Tourists find it hard to believe. Look at a map. The island is just barely south of the Tropic of Cancer. That puts all of Hawaii in the tropics, but not by much.

* Ron Youngblood is a retired staff writer and editor for The Maui News. His email address is