The State of Aloha

A few years ago, a fresh newcomer to the north shore told me about a beach party at “The Cove.” At first I assumed this person was talking about Kihei, but later I realized that he was talking about Paia – specifically, the little beach just to the right of the parking lot at Baldwin Beach Park and the Buddhist temple.

The Cove, I wondered. You mean the old lime kiln? The newcomer just looked at me vacantly. Quite frankly, I’m too young to remember the lime kiln itself, but when the beach erodes you can still find pieces of old concrete, rebar and what looks like rail lines sticking out of the sand. I had no idea what that was when I was a kid but knew that there was something there before me.

The lime kiln was an edifice going back to the 1920s, and it was run by the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. The kiln turned beach sand into lime powder, which was used in processing sugar cane powder. My dad remembers getting lime powder, but he can’t remember if I was even born when he was doing that. Anyways, the lime kiln is gone and so is the lime powder, but the old appellation for the spot stuck – at least for a few generations of Mauians.

I ended up going to the party and saw it was packed with people who are part of that new group of folks who’ve settled down here on Maui. They called this spot The Cove. Nobody knew about the lime kiln, and certainly no one called it the “old” lime kiln.

At first I was a little annoyed. Who were these impostors? It was another example of how a new group has come in and renamed everything and assumed they had no interest in what was here before they showed up and started calling the place The Cove. Then I laughed at myself. I guess I was kind of an angry local after all.

It wasn’t until I read a book from the now annual hoolaulea at Haiku Elementary School when my view started to change. The festival is a celebration of all things Haiku. It’s a great mix of the old and the new. New Age merchants sell their fragrant oils and other spiritual paraphernalia. Farmers hawk their produce, fruits and flowers. Kids are running around everywhere.

The Haiku Ho’olaulea & Flower Festival takes place Saturday.

One of the steadfast features of the festival is the history exhibit at the Haiku Community Center. It’s put together with loving care and sensitivity. The exhibit features pictures and even artifacts from Haiku’s old days. Turns out that Haiku School (formerly known as Pauwela School) was among many small schoolhouses that dotted the jungles and gulches in the 1920s. And it was there that I got a copy of the late Louis Baldovi’s memoir, “Holoholo To Wen I Wuz: Kolohe Days in Haiku Maui 1930s-1950s.”

Baldovi’s Haiku was vastly different from mine, and it was really different from the one that’s around now. Back then, Haiku was just one small part of the greater region we now call Haiku. There was Pauwela, Kaupakalua and Peahi. It was a fun read to learn about the same spots I grew up in.

But what struck me as the most interesting were the place names. In his book is a map of the area where he grew up. I recognized it instantly. It was that spot near the Pauwela Cannery up West Kuiaha Road, except everything had a different name. West Kuiaha Road was called Libby Road. And the Hana Highway wasn’t a highway at all. It was called the Hana Belt Road. There was a certain irony in the fact that the older name for West Kuiaha Road from the territorial years was not a Hawaiian name like it is today.

It got me thinking about The Cove-versus-old-lime kiln debacle. What we call a place says more about us than the place itself. I’m sure that long before HC&S build the lime kiln, there was a different name for that spot. Maybe it’s long forgotten by now.

And in the future, there will surely be a different name for the place when the older term slips out of living memory. Maybe that generation of people and their kids who call the place The Cove or West Kuiaha Road or even Haiku will be just as annoyed as I was when a newer group starts calling those places something entirely new.

* Ben Lowenthal is a trial and appellate lawyer who grew up on Maui. His email is “The State of Aloha” alternates Fridays with Ilima Loomis’ “Neighbors.”

The State of Aloha

Last week Tuesday was Prince Kuhio Day. These days it’s hard to find folks who know about him, let alone why we have a holiday for him.

Here are the basics. Jonah Kuhio was born into a high-ranking alii family in Koloa on Kauai in 1871 but was not considered a prince until he was adopted by King David Kalakaua. Like many in his socioeconomic class, Prince Kuhio was educated at the Royal School and Punahou on Oahu. Afterward, he went to more schools in California and in England.

King Kalakaua later made the prince part of his Cabinet. He also served Queen Lili’oukalani. During the time of the overthrow, the prince was loyal to his queen. He fought against the small group of white businessmen who had organized the overthrow and set up an oligarchic government.

Prince Kuhio joined the armed insurrection against the newly established Republic of Hawaii. He was detained, tried for treason against the republic and sentenced to death, but that was commuted to a year in prison. After serving his year, Kuhio left the islands.

The oligarchy that engineered the overthrow and had set up a republic enjoyed tight political control of the islands by limiting the voting populace to mainly the white minority (the oligarchs had a property-ownership requirement for voters). They also lobbied the Republican Party to annex the islands to the United States.

When Prince Kuhio returned, the islands had become a territory and the oligarchs enjoyed tariff-free exports of sugar to the Mainland. They had also officially become staunch Republicans. But they had a new problem.

The property-based voting franchise was gone. The election of a delegate to the United States Congress was now wide open to not only the white minority but to any and all adult men born in the islands – including the Native Hawaiians who objected to the overthrow and annexation. In fact, the Hawaiians formed their own party – the Home Rule Party – and elected the flamboyant revolutionary Robert Wilcox as their candidate for Congress.

Wilcox enjoyed a strong populist appeal among the Hawaiians. He was also the worst nightmare for the oligarchs. Like Prince Kuhio, Wilcox fought against them and led an armed insurrection against the Republic in the 1890s. He too had been sentenced to imprisonment. He openly called the government in the islands the “Dole Oligarchy.” Wilcox was a rabble-rouser. He rejected even the restoration of the monarchy and advocated a truly independent republic – a position considered too radical for many Hawaiians.

The Republicans needed a viable candidate that could at the very least split the Hawaiian vote. Fortunately for them, Prince Kuhio left the Home Rule Party and joined their ranks. In 1902, Prince Kuhio ran against Wilcox. During his campaign, the prince used his royal status and ran as a man who would have been the rightful heir to the overthrown throne. Wilcox didn’t have this royal pedigree and was crushed in the election.

Prince Kuhio was a consistent delegate to the United States Congress. Although he joined the oppressors, he made it clear in speeches that he was his own man and he wanted above all to help his people. He was re-elected nine more times and served until his death in the 1920s. He urged Congress to pass the Hawaiian Homes Act, one of the first governmental programs designed to help Native Hawaiians.

On the other hand, Prince Kuhio’s switch from the Home Rule Party to the Republicans helped the Republicans gain total control of territorial politics. Eventually the Home Rule Party fizzled out and the Democratic Party was moribund for nearly 50 years.

These days, those who know about Prince Kuhio see him in two very different lights. Some think of him as a turncoat who left the rebellious Home Rulers and threw in his lot with the ruling class. And very recently, Native Hawaiian scholars have argued that Prince Kuhio became a Republican because he felt he could serve his people better with the majority party. These scholars write that he was a conscientious leader of Native Hawaiians, seeking practical change and legislation.

Despite the divergent opinions about the man, one thing is certain: He is considered the first modern Native Hawaiian politician. He was born in the days of the kingdom, fought against the oligarchic republic, and served his people as he saw fit in the territory. And that’s enough of an achievement to honor him with a holiday.

* Ben Lowenthal is a trial and appellate lawyer, who grew up on Maui. His email is “The State of Aloha” alternates Fridays with Ilima Loomis’ “Neighbors.”