Keiki o ka ‘Aina

I knew it was coming, but it took my breath away to see the old stables and agriculture research building at Hali’imaile leveled to the ground, victims of age, vandalism and roof asbestos.

I guess we should be grateful Maui Pine let them stand as long as they did. I know a study showed they weren’t structurally sound enough to preserve. Still, the demolition leaves a big hole in people’s memories, and in the core of the town, where the illusion of an old plantation village – the only one left in Hawaii, actually – used to be intact.

In 1923, Maui Agricultural Co. agreed to grow pineapple for the California Packing Corp. on a profit-sharing basis, to ship from Kahului to the company’s cannery in Honolulu. William A. Clark, head of Grove Ranch, was selected to head Maui Ag’s pineapple division. He planted 250 acres at Hali’imaile and Kaluanui that first year, and 500 acres more in 1924 and 1925.

“A very attractive camp for the employees in this department has been built, as well as a good garage and repair shop for trucks and tractors and a commodious stable,” Harry Baldwin noted in his annual report for 1924. This was Hali’imaile village, where 120 cottages with “electric lights, running water, shower baths, and a complete system of sewage disposal” were constructed. A separate camp arose for workers in the Kaluanui fields.

In March 1924, Haleakala Ranch signed its own agreement with California Packing Corp. The Haleakala Pineapple Co., headed by Harry’s son-in-law, J. Walter Cameron, came out of that, and Maui Pineapple Co. was founded in 1932 by merging the two ventures as an economy move during the Depression.

One of the original buildings was the old stables. In the early days, horse- or mule-drawn cultivators, with handles to control the width of the blade, were used to weed between the rows. “Sometimes you see these mules with a cultivator behind him running down the road to the stables,” Frank Gouveia once told me. “Everybody laugh. ‘Whose mule is that?’ Yeah, he come back with a cultivator all busted up.”

The animals were replaced by tractors in the early ’30s, but until then Maui Pine maintained a blacksmith shop so fine that Haleakala and Grove ranches sent horses down for shoeing.

The other building at Hali’imaile recently torn down was the old agricultural research facility. Pineapple was easy to grow in the early days in the rich deep soil of Haleakala, and very little fertilizer was needed. The virgin soil was so rich the plants grew high, in some fields up to 6 feet, Eddie Ceballos recalled.

There were no pesticides in 1932 – “In the beginning, pineapple never had that problem” – but as the years went by an agricultural research unit was formed to implement new industry developments in pest control and cultivation.

Spraying for nematodes wasn’t necessary until 1940. During one short experiment, a tractor-pulled mulching machine laid tar paper and injected the soil with chloropicron, a tear gas. Ceballos’ job was to ride the sled and control the flow between the tanks. When he switched the valves to change tanks, sometimes gas would leak out.

“I used to get choke,” he said. His instructions from Wayne Greig, head of agricultural research, were this: “Just get away from the machine and get some fresh air.” Paper was left for five days before planting. “If they punctured the paper would get all the smell, and those guys would get choke.”

The agricultural research building was where chemicals were mixed. A shower was installed in case of mishaps, and for a long time a sign attesting to the department’s safety record hung on a nearby wall.

One day last year someone dragged a three-legged armchair over to the shower area, and sat evenings watching the sunset over the cane fields. That might have been the beginning of the end.

As it strives to make ends meet and pay its pensioners, the slimmed-down (16 employees), 21st century Maui Pine is renting space in the Hali’imaile buildings. Other tenants besides the standbys of the Hali’imaile General Store and Hali’imaile Pineapple Co. are Crossfit Upcountry Maui, Makai Glass Creations, Ding King’s Fiberglass Works, and Hali’imaile Distilling Co.

Even the old headquarters building with its flagpole and historic pay window is up for lease as office space.

County regulations being what they are, I guess it’s inevitable that on the ag research building site there’s going to be a parking lot.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

It was a happy morning a while ago when I waited for a long time in a parking lot for a friend to show up – sounds grim, doesn’t it? Grim according to the standards of parking lots as they are built here today, with lollipop trees and minimal shade.

But no, this was an old parking lot, at the Fairway Shops at Ka’anapali near the Maui Eldorado, where the original landscapers knew how to do it right. This one had the small, round, indestructible autograph trees you see everywhere these days. But it also had monkeypod anchors in the corners and a line of shower trees, the whole enclosed with a thick hedge of pink hibiscus.

I sat on a grassy curb in my patch of shade and enjoyed the morning breeze and the cascade of brilliant bougainvillea across the highway. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, but then most people are probably like that, given the right things.

I celebrate the late Chris Hart for his farsightedness when, as a county planner, he authored our enlightened ordinance requiring trees to be installed in new parking lots and streets. Chris gave us the exquisite landscaping at Maui Marketplace, the former home of Borders, where there’s actual shade, and shower tree petals drifting down, too.

I love the parking lot on Makawao Avenue where the pizza place is, also shower tree-laden, and the one at the David Trask Building in Wailuku. I love the bright show of silver trumpets in front of the prison, the gold trees in all their glory at Kihei Elementary School, the Hong Kong orchids at the Kihei Community Center, and the poinciana on Wells Street.

The parking lot at Maui Memorial Medical Center used to be a beauty, tended for years by the same groundskeeper, I’m told. New construction has taken its toll, and besides, with the valets you can no longer park there anyway.

I commend designers of the Maui Lani Parkway who took the courageous step of planting both shower and monkeypod trees, even though a few of the latter have become wind-trained, fixable with good pruning. I wonder who was responsible for this act of civic virtue.

Even Home Depot has monkeypods in its parking lot, and Walmart seems to be giving its showers a chance now. But these are the exceptions. I don’t understand why the developers of the new Maui Business Park between Costco and the airport, who had a supreme opportunity to endow the island with a boulevard of beautiful flowering trees, settled for the lollipops.

The current requirement for parking lot trees is that one be planted every five spaces. But the ordinance has no teeth, so business owners put in the requisite number to satisfy the regulation and then cut them down with impunity or chop them beyond recognition when no one is looking. This happens a lot with the small businesses and malls.

I was so happy to discover that County Councilman Bob Carroll is doing something about it. Glory hallelujah, he just introduced three new bills that will go a long way toward keeping Maui beautiful.

One spells out new criteria for parking lot shade trees, calling for one “large crown” tree every three spaces and a minimum 25 percent canopy shading the entire parking area. The bill spells out exactly what a large crown shade tree is, so there can be no mistaking the intent. Imagine that!

If shade trees are removed, a permit must be obtained, and they must be replaced. This applies to street trees, park trees, parking lot trees, or trees included in the landscaping plan approved by the county. Imagine that!

The third proposed bill, which warms my heart, would save the threatened monkeypod tree on Front Street in Lahaina and others like it, by requiring that healthy, “significant” trees can be removed in the Lahaina Historic District only after written approval from the Cultural Resources Commission. Imagine that!

Carroll and his aide Gary Saldano deserve medals for taking this on. It’s just the first step, of course; the County Council and the public have to weigh in, but it makes good sense. Think of the oxygen, folks, reducing the carbon footprint. Think of visitor satisfaction. Think of shedding the image of Honolulu’s ugly cousin in this respect.

Look, the sun is getting high. People are pulling into the lot where I am scribbling this. Where do they park? Where there’s shade, of course. Under the monkeypod tree.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

These hot summer days remind me of the tale a friend told about her healing swim in the clear, cool waters of Hana Bay.

She had not attempted to enter anything but shallow surf for the previous 10 months, after the scary day, I forget where, when she swam in rough ocean while recovering from pneumonia and lost the strength to get back in. She finally let herself get washed up and cut up on jagged rocks.

Now she was on retreat in Hana, with its lively, tossing sea. She started off for Red Sand Beach that morning, but instead something told her to take the trail at Pu’u Ka’uiki on the south side of the bay.

This leads to the birth cave of the great Ka’ahumanu, favorite queen of Kamehameha. He is said to have “nohoed” (to dwell, stay, tarry, marry, sit) with over 20 women, but she outshone them all, even the sacred Keopuolani who bore him three children, two of them kings.

Ka’ahumanu’s name translates as “the feather mantle,” the mark of a chief, and she carried herself nobly. “An Amazon in size” late in life, tall, stately and dignified, “often overbearing,” she bore marks of the celebrated beauty of her youth. “A handsome woman, six feet tall, straight and well-formed was Ka’ahumanu, without blemish and comely,” reads a remarkable passage by the Hawaiian historian S.M. Kamakau.

“Her arms were like the inside of a banana stalk, her fingers tapering, her palms pliable like kukunene grass, graceful in repose, her cheeks long in shape and pink as the bud of a banana stem; her eyes like those of a dove or the moho bird; her nose narrow and straight, in admirable proportion to her cheeks; her arched eyebrows shaped to the breadth of her forehead; her hair dark, wavy and fine, her skin very light. Of Kamehameha’s two possessions, his wife and his kingdom, she was the more beautiful.”

A brass plaque placed in 1928 at the Pu’u Ka’uiki trail commemorates Ka’ahumanu’s birth in the 1750s, but many historians place the date at March 17, 1768, or thereabouts.

Her father was the mighty Ke’eaumoku, one of Kamehameha’s famous “Four Uncles” from the Big Island, who fled to Maui and married the high chiefess Namahana. The marriage gave him, a rival chief, the advantage of her rank and lands in central Maui, and Kahekili, the Maui ali’i nui, considered them a threat. He attacked the couple in Waihe’e, chased them to Moloka’i and then to the cinder cone at Hana Bay where their daughter Ka’ahumanu was born.

She was a kindhearted and obedient child, and startled Kamehameha with her beauty at their meeting at Makahiki when she was a teenager. They married in 1785 she captivated him with her intelligence. When Kamehameha died, Ka’ahumanu became the imposing kuhina nui (premier), unmatched for her strength and decision.

The storm surge of Hurricane Iniki has washed away part of the trail to her birth cave at Ka’uiki, so getting there is not as easy as it once was. My friend, who is a midwife, described a shallow hemisphere in the cinder hillside, maybe 8 feet deep and 5 feet high, looking out down the cliff over the ocean.

She set to work clearing away the piled dead flowers – old offerings – and other debris. “A few things I left and placed in cinder niches; a Spanish moss lei, a glowing white smooth oblong stone, a pretty shell. No one had made me keeper of the cave, but I had cleaned up after enough birthings. Why not clean a birth cave?”

Then she sat quietly on the newly bare ground, feeling the vibration from the crashing surf moving through the rock and up her spine. “Breath flowed in and out like waves rocking. I felt grounded, blissful, utterly calm.” Then came the blessing of the fierce sacred feminine.

“I looked out over the sunlight shining into turquoise water so clear I could see the bottom. I decided to swim there. There was no thought of overcoming fear. No thought really, just slipping out of my clothes and into the ocean. Yummy warm sun and cool water, stretching and diving down, it all felt really good.”

It was magical, a moment suspended in time.

“Let me tell you where you swam,” her hostess scolded when my friend returned. “They call that place the ‘shark houses.’ It’s where the sharks give birth. I would NEVER swim there!”

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

I got to ride in a convertible at Saturday’s 48th annual Makawao Fourth of July Parade, what a thrill!

I was with Gail Ainsworth, author of “Maui Remembers,” and horseman, former polo player and rodeo hand Hui Bainbridge, president of the Maui High School Class of 1963, in an effort to publicize the Makawao Community Association’s forthcoming community history project.

Hui was decked out for the occasion in a turquoise cowboy shirt with his name stitched in palaka, a gift from Charlene Thompson of Hawaii Rodeo Shirt Co. (“Well, we grew up together.”) She’s the sister of the parade’s organizer, the irrepressible Theresa Thompson, lovely that day in a white cowboy hat with a lei haku woven in roses.

Gail had purchased a pink western shirt and black cowboy hat with a Maui lokelani colored band from Aloha Cowboy, to which she added black cowboy boots left over from line-dancing days and a svelte pair of black jeans. It didn’t take me long to realize who should sit with Hui on the trunk of the car.

This happened to be Mike Foley’s pumpkin-toned 1977 Mercedes Benz, one of those vintage beauties whose solid doors require a gym membership to open. Foley, former planning director under a previous Arakawa administration (“Four years was enough”), is president of the Makawao Community Association and active in Maui Tomorrow. For years, the car belonged to Richard Michaels, creator of the television series “Bewitched” (“It’s been in Beverly Hills all its life.”) Foley bought the car when Judith Michaels bought her husband a new Mercedes for his 75th birthday.

“I went from quarter horse to Mercedes Benz,” Hui explained to friends as we cruised along in the route. Oh, it was fun.

I’ve always viewed the parade from a point near the end at the Eddie Tam Community Center. Now we were waving at the crowd – big this year, six-deep at some places along Makawao Avenue – passing the grandstand, where the brassy wahine announcer did her best to aloha each entry.

Ahead of us were the samba dancers from the Maui Dance Council and the magnificent black pair of Frisian horses with long manes and feathered feet, drawing the yellow carriage of the new Maui Touch Ranch.

While Gail and Hui waved to everyone they knew (“Gail! Gail!” “Auntie, how you? Good. Good.”) I provided walkers in our party with fresh supplies of the 2,000 pink handouts introducing the new history project.

Very soon, the community association hopes to acquire space in the former Randy Jay Braun gallery on Makawao Avenue where it will install equipment so that people can bring in their scrapbooks and photos to be digitally copied and returned on the spot. Old-timers will be invited to offer their memories via videotaped interviews.

The association’s Paul Mikolay envisions a place where folks from disparate reaches of Makawao can mingle. As people come forward and copies of their photos go up on the walls, the town will gain insight into not only its past but its current identity as well. (To find out more, call Foley at 572-7281 or Judy Mertens at 572-6877.)

The parade was replete with surprises – I saw an old Dodge Army truck from Camp Maui days, loved the Maui Invasive Species Committee’s “fire ant” – but the winner by far was the float celebrating the anniversary of Haleakala Ranch, begun by Charles Hodge Alexander 125 years ago.

Dozens of stockholders and family members in matching blue-and-white palaka shirts and red bandanas accompanied the truck, the entire cab of which was fashioned with cement and wire mesh into the enormous head of a steer with formidable horns. Smoke emitted from its nostrils as Barry McKay, using a camera, managed to guide the behemoth down the road.

That was a treat, a generous giveback to the community. Said stockholder Maizie Cameron Sanford, “It’s very Makawao.”

What impressed me, too, were the ranch cowboys Lester Wong and Roland Kehano and his children, Colton and Kalena. Down by Makawao Cemetery, in the pre-parade chaos, riders (some of them on “push-button horses” after a couple of lessons, according to Hui) worked to control their skittish mounts.

Up ahead, waiting to lead the ranch float, the professionals and the kids were perfectly lined up, their obedient cow ponies utterly still.

“Roland!” Theresa hollered, and they moved forward into the parade, that spectacle at which every year Makawao shows us something new about itself.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

Members of the extended Baldwin family are on Maui this week as part of Haleakala Ranch Co.’s 125th anniversary celebration. Please welcome these folks, for they are stockholders whose commitment to the ranch has made it, after all these years, still entirely family-owned.

This means there is freedom to govern this important property by the values that deep roots in the island generate, and a love for the land itself with its high reaches and emerald pastures, its eucalyptus groves and moonlit vistas.

The family-run board of directors is thoughtfully stewarding the ranch’s 29,000 acres, attending to the native ecology and taking care to preserve the “core” lands of mountain and pasture that form the heart of the island. To keep the business viable, what is sold are only select parcels in Kihei, such as for the tech park and the new high school.

Some of the stockholders’ children are seeing the ranch for the first time, the cowboy headquarters in Makawao and the rambling ranch house at Kapalaia, built in 1917 by Sam Baldwin, where the annual shareholders meeting was held Friday.

Private trips have been scheduled to choice spots like the working cabin at Waiopai near Kaupo, the Pu’u Pahu Preserve, and the rain forest of the Waikamoi Preserve, in which the ranch is a partner.

Yesterday the outing was to the Peanut House near the 5,000-foot elevation that Sam Baldwin built in the 1930s as a gift for his wife, Kathrine. I stood in that marvelous solitude one day with the sweep of open pasture around me in all directions, marveling at the time when the Baldwin family owned all the land as far as the eye could see, save for Wailuku.

“You was always working for a Baldwin,” the late Eddie Ceballos told me, and that was a good thing. The brothers Harry (Maui Agricultural Co., with plantations in Paia and Haiku), Frank (Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar) and Sam were well-regarded for their fair treatment of workers, albeit within the rigid confines of the plantation system.

Alexander & Baldwin (which owns HC&S, into which Maui Agricultural Co. merged) is now a major corporation with no ties to the family. The same is true for Maui Land & Pineapple Co., originally a venture in the 1920s by Harry and Sam. What’s left of the main Baldwin lands is Haleakala Ranch.

It began with Charles Hog Alexander, youngest child of the missionaries William P. and Mary Ann Alexander of Wailuku. He was the most handsome of the Alexander boys, and the most restless, a “generous daring fellow.”

Charles lacked the intellectual power and self-confidence of his older brothers, Samuel T. Alexander, who partnered with Henry Perrine Baldwin in a sugar plantation; James M., a minister; and William D., who became president of Oahu College (Punahou School) and chief surveyor of the kingdom under Kalakaua.

He found his calling in the outdoor life, and from 1871 to 1884 put together a tidy little ranch on the western slopes of Haleakala, formed mostly from Hawaiian kuleana holdings in the areas of A’apueo, Kalialianui, Pulehunui, Omaopi’o and Makawao.

Charles was “a magnificent horseman” and a fearless rider, but one evening after sunset his horse fell into a gulch, leaving him with brain damage. William and Charles’ brother-in-law Lorrin Thurston took him to California, where he died at age 37 at the Napa Insane Asylum in 1885.

His widow, Helen Thurston Alexander, sold the ranch in 1886 to Edward Bailey, oldest son of the Wailuku missionary, for the upset bid of $50,000. Lorrin Thurston put up half the purchase price, and Edward’s brother William, who became manager, agreed to sell them his Kapalaia Ranch in Makawao.

The Bailey brothers added their father’s 1,000-acre ahupua’a, Maka’ehu, into the venture, a long, narrow strip beginning at Waihou Springs in Olinda that meanders downhill along Kailua Gulch through what is now the ranch headquarters to the shooting range at Hali’imaile and beyond.

Bailey and Thurston signed a charter of incorporation for Haleakala Ranch on Oct. 29, 1888, and a sharp investor with sugar profits to spare was brought on board as treasurer. This was Henry Baldwin, who became president two years later and from then on, through many investments and acquisitions, the ranch’s controlling spirit.

It warms my heart to hear Baldwin’s great-granddaughter Maizie Cameron Sanford speak of the beauty of Haleakala Ranch and the family’s efforts to preserve it. “It’s not only a good thing for the ranch to keep that open space,” she said. “It’s good for Maui.”

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday.

She can be reached at