Maui Nei

The University of Hawaii has been running television ads in an effort to get support for its community colleges. One of the ads notes that the community college system is 50 years old. University of Hawaii Maui College is the descendant of a school established by the county 83 years ago.

In 1931, Maui was a sleepy agricultural community. Most of its 56,000 residents depended – one way or another – on the plantations to put food on the table. The County of Maui Board of Supervisors saw the need for training high school graduates into a skilled workforce. They established Maui Vocational School.

Students were trained in carpentry, masonry, metal working, auto mechanics and other manual arts. Women weren’t completely ignored. There were homemaker and dressmaking classes. A major achievement of the woodworking students was the construction of a 65-foot boat.

Harry Baldwin commissioned the boat to carry horses and cattle between Maui and his Kaho’olawe Ranch. Ernest Hood was in charge of the two-year project. Decades later, Hiroshi Arisumi, one the students who worked on the boat, quoted Hood as saying, “You can build anything after you build a boat.” The boat was christened the Maizie C, launched on March 25, 1937, and confiscated by the U.S. Army during World War II.

In 1949, Maui Vocational School moved to a site on Kaahumanu Avenue. That same year, Dream City, the residential heart of Kahului, was started, guaranteeing plenty of construction jobs. Six years later, the school went through one of its many name changes. It became Maui Technical School.

Maui’s need for liberal arts education began in 1950 with the establishment of Maunaolu (junior) College on Baldwin Avenue where the Job Corps is located today. Fifteen years later, Maunaolu was taken over by the United States International University and closed in the 1970s.

The effort to turn Maui Vocational School into a community college began in 1962. An editorial in The Maui News opposed the effort on grounds the island already had a community college, Maunaolu, which had no objections. A poll of Maui residents showed support for a second community college. The University of Hawaii Board of Regents gave priority to establishing a community college on Maui. And so it was, in 1966, two years after Hawaii’s community college system was established.

Vocational training didn’t end. The state Department of Education designated the school as a DOE agency for vocational training. Classes for old and young students mostly interested in learning marketable skills continue today.

The first order of business for MCC was to begin turning the Maui Vocational School site into a college campus. In a deal with Alexander & Baldwin, 70 acres was acquired. Ground was broken in 1966. Since then, MCC has grown building by building into the parklike campus it is today. As a sign of the times, a small constellation of the lights was added for the safety of female instructors and students.

One of the features of the campus was created by Raymond “Red” Texeira – a stainless steel sculpture. Red taught classes in hands-on welding at the school. Although he considered himself a “practical welder,” he was encouraged by MCC instructor Marian Blanton to use his skills to create art.

At one point, MCC was seen as a theater-arts center. Plans were drawn up in 1969 for an 850-seat theater. It was never to be. Today, MCC’s and Maui’s theater needs have been satisfied by the nearby Maui Arts & Cultural Center, distastefully – personal opinion – referred to by one and all as the “Mack.”

While MCC awarded thousands of associate degrees, the school occasionally dipped into controversy with student demonstrations and protests. One notable example came in 1970 when a student group invited nationally known Yippie leader Jerry Rubin.

Maui County Council Member Joe Bulgo took offense at the radical anti-establishment spokesman being allowed on the campus. Bulgo donned his best cowboy attire and showed up at the meeting with a lariat in hand, ready to lasso Rubin and drag him off. Cooler heads prevailed.

Through the years, Maui County has augmented what the state was willing to spend. One example was helping MCC’s highly successful nursing program at the suggestion of the Maui Community Hospitals Board in 1970.

University of Hawaii Maui College has traveled a long road, led by enthusiastic instructors and the island’s 83-year-old desire to give its children every advantage . . . without leaving home.

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

Maui Nei

The mystery sound was first heard over the rush of water running in the kitchen sink. Close the tap. Definitely some sort of bird saying “chuk, chuk, chuk, grrr, grrr.” What kind of bird? The sound seemed to come from the overgrown oleander bush covering the window. The call was answered by a simple “chuk, chuk.” No mechanical “grrr” at the end.

There is no end to the sounds around the house bordered by a field with a scrubby pasture along Na’alae Gulch on one side. On the other side of the road, there’s a string of single houses backed by another pasture. The location is far from remote, but it is definitely in the country. Critters outnumber people.

A glycine-covered fence behind a waist-high rock wall shields the house from the whoosh and rumble of trucks, cars and the occasional motorcycle. Traffic on the narrow strip of asphalt posing as a road has increased since a new landowner began building in a subdivision down below. The noise created by 20-mph vehicles is easy to ignore.

The closest neighbor has four small dogs barking now and then, usually when a walker or truck loaded with big dogs goes by. The barking was incessant during the day when “mom and dad” were at work. It’s been relatively quiet since the dogs began wearing bark collars. The collars give the dogs a mild shock when they bark.

On a calm night, it’s possible to hear music from down the road. On most any night, an eerie, ascending, whooping bark comes from axis deer in the neighborhood. During those times of year when calves are taken away from their mothers, pipi wahine bawl for their missing keiki.

Birds create the most common soundscape.

Common mynas (Acridotheres tristis, imported from India in 1865) are very social but often indulge in family disputes by squabbling. If one gets separated from the others, it will make harsh, chuckling sounds and will yell “caat, caat” whenever a feline appears in the vicinity. They also are fond of tap-dancing on the metal roof.

A 1929 import from North America is a frequent visitor to the 30-foot-high mock orange bush. The northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) often greets the day with a high, clear “chip, chip.” The male is easy to spot with its red crest, head, breast and a beak surrounded by black. Can’t remember ever seeing a female, which is brown with only hints of red, according to the Hawaii Audubon Society’s “Hawaii’s Birds.”

The loudest bird around is the gray francolin (Francolinus pondicerianus, introduced from India in 1958). A flock of seven or eight will march across the yard heralding their progress with an extended chorus of “titur-titur-titur.” The call is especially loud if one of the ground birds gets separated from the others. This time of year, it’s common to stop on the road to keep from running over a scatter of baby francolins. There’s always one or two that can’t decide where to run.

Around dawn, spotted doves (Streplopelia chinensis, introduced from Asia in the mid 1800s) get busy telling everyone to “go to school, go to school.” They fall silent during the day. There’s an easily spooked gang of 20 to 40 that mob the cat-feeding area every evening. They have accurate clocks and love eating leftover cat kibbles, robbing the felines of a second helping if not chased off.

The squawk of a ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) can be heard occasionally. The game bird is a native of Asia and was introduced in the islands in 1865, much to the delight of hunters and hat-band lei makers.

A few years ago, a northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos, imported from North America in 1928) hung around for a few months. The mocking bird would serenade the area from atop utility lines. The melodious song was never exactly the same.

The mystery sound was eventually traced to a pair of small birds jumping from branch to branch in the oleander. Newsman curiosity prompted diving into the Audubon book. The size, the chips and buzzes of the call, shape of bill and white-streak fan tail matched a native ‘apapane but the color was wrong. Or so it seemed. The picture in the Audubon book showed an all-red bird, perfect for Hawaiian featherwork.

It was a puzzlement. After getting a closer look, note a hint of red on head and back. Dig out the book. Read the description more carefully. Ahhh. “Immature (bird is) like adult but crimson replaced by dull dark brown.” The young ‘apapane (Himatione sanguinea) have left, probably to go uphill where their favorite food is found on ‘ohia, flowering koa, mamae and eucalyptus.

End of mystery, just the sort of surprise found on Maui (Hawaiian Islands, Northern Hemisphere, Pacific Ocean, mind of God).

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

Maui Nei

Bobbie Brown, one of the caretakers of a cat colony at Maui Community College, led the way to a utility closet on the campus. Inside were two brothers who were recuperating from surgery.

The black one didn’t want to be handled. His orange-and-white sibling didn’t mind. The tiny cat, thin as a man’s index finger, went into the carrier. On the drive home, he didn’t make a sound. He turned out to be a very quiet cat. Perhaps his mother had taught him to be quiet while hunting or lying low.

At home in a 600-square-foot cabin in the middle of a lilikoi pasture, the carrier was opened near a cat box. The resident cat, Neville, took one sniff and headed outdoors. The cat hatch was blocked off. While that was going on, the new guy disappeared.

During the following days, the new guy stayed out of sight. The cabin was searched thoroughly. No cat. There were footprints in the cat box and the food disappeared during the day. He was still inside, but where?

One night, while watching television with Neville in my lap, the new guy stuck his head around a counter. A short length of string was waggled. The new guy came close enough to grab. Neville stayed put. The new guy seemed happy to be in the company of another cat. Neville wasn’t. He took off. The new guy settled down to be stroked and scratched.

In subsequent days, the new guy stayed out of his hidey-hole, the one place in the cabin I couldn’t check. He’d gone behind and then under the stove. It was the first of many indications the new guy was more intelligent than most. He needed a name. He had a heart-shaped spot on his pink nose. Cyrano came to mind. And so it was.

Once let outside, Cyrano again disappeared. Twenty-four hours later, Neville and I were in the yard. A soft mew came from under the truck. Cyrano slowly ventured out and seemed happy to be taken inside. He’d explore the surrounding pasture and a nearby gulch during the day and come back in at night. He was an accomplished hunter of mice and dumb doves.

One night, my ku’uipo was visiting. The little cat came around the kitchen counter, one foot held up, ready to head back to his hiding place. The visitor, who had been raised in a bird-loving household where cats were said to have “murder in their hearts,” saw him and was charmed. She has a soft heart and came to love Cyrano. The attraction was mutual. My ku’uipo was the only other person Cyrano accepted. While other strangers were ignored, he’d jump into her lap and begin vibrating. It was more than a decade later that he actually purred.

Cyrano practiced sharp love. He’d put his paw on your face, claws extended. “Soft paws, Cyrano, soft paws,” he’d be told but he never learned that lesson, although he was easily dissuaded, usually curling up on my chest for a time. Then he’d stretch out on my thighs with his head resting on my knees.

It took only the thought of getting up to get him to jump down. He was telepathic. It wasn’t a one-way deal. There were times when I’d be reading, watching television or working on the computer and I’d suddenly be aware of him sitting nearby. If he was hungry, he’d open his mouth as if to mew but there was no sound. “Are you hungry?” he’d be asked. He would lick his lips and face the kitchen. At the first sign of human movement, he’d lead the way since I obviously had forgotten where the food was.

During the winter in a Kula house, Cyrano loved sleeping in front of the fireplace, usually on a small stool, although he’d move away when the heat became too intense. Later on, he tolerated a cat colony that had developed. He avoided confrontations, but there was one day when he got into it with the oldest and biggest member of the clan.

They were off in the corner of the front yard in a furious ball of fur. Each sought to punch and scratch with rear paws while holding on with mouth and front claws. I broke up the fight. Cyrano took off. His adversary latched on to Cyrano’s butt fur and was dragged several yards before letting go. I had to laugh. Neither cat suffered any damage.

There are more stories that could told about the best roommate I ever had. After enduring months of nasty-tasting, toxic pills and a few days of struggling to move, he succumbed to cancer. He died on the porch, saving me from having to end his suffering.

Cyrano, March 2001-July 2014.

Goodbye, my friend.

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

Maui Nei

Sara Sue Hoklotubbe is known for writing an acclaimed series of female-oriented mysteries but her latest book, which has a strong Maui element, is a fine example of creating very likable characters who remain vivid and linger long after the book is put down and multiple mysteries are forgotten.

“Sinking Suspicions” is centered on Sadie Walela, a middle-aged small-ranch owner in Oklahoma. She’s decided to give up her job in a small-town bank to become a travel agent. At the same time, she is hesitantly in love with a cop.

The reader first meets the cop, Lance, searching for one of Sadie’s neighbors. He is also a protagonist. The book unfolds with alternating chapters told from the perspective of Sadie and Lance. He’s a bluff, down-home police officer who pursues bad guys with unflagging persistence. While devoting himself to his job, he’s a hesitant suitor who may or may not be ready to settle down with Sadie.

The neighbor is Buck, a Cherokee warrior happily and spiritually spending his last years on a small ranch he maintains for the benefit of a band of wild mustangs. As the book progresses, the reader learns Buck was a decorated combat Marine with a secret. He also has a rapacious niece, his only surviving relative.

The niece is a real piece of work. She is flamboyant, has swapped her Cherokee name for a ditzy Anglo name and lives in California. She wants desperately to acquire Buck’s ranch. Just why is another mystery. Without giving anything away, there is more than the land involved.

Secondary characters are fully fleshed out in the context of Lance’s investigation of the murder of an identity thief with ties to Maui. How this Samoan acquired Buck’s identity is another mystery solved late in the book. The background characters include Sadie’s beloved horse and a devoted, if semiwild, wolf dog. The latter is a key player in resolving part of one mystery.

During the course of learning what she needs to know as a travel agent, Sadie makes a trip to Maui. She tries but fails to get Lance to go with her. On Maui, Sadie meets Pua, a Hawaiian who claims to be part Cherokee. Sadie dismisses the claim. “Everyone wants to be part Cherokee,” she says.

Even so, Sadie comes to love Pua’s classic aloha. Sadie’s island indoctrination includes a trip to Lanai to meet Pua’s mother, who has an old-style Hawaiian heart.

Descriptions of Maui are mostly accurate, although the advance copy of the book has a few of the geographical glitches – not to mention an earthquake – common to what could be called parachute writers, individuals who drop in for a quick visit.

Nonetheless, Maui readers will be charmed by the fact Sadie comes to love Maui and its people. It’s easy to come away from reading Hoklotubbe’s book feeling she understands the parallels between Cherokee and Hawaiian cultures. The writer is a Cherokee tribal citizen and grew up on Lake Eucha, Okla., where most of the book is set.

Back in rural Oklahoma, a merciless sun is baking the landscape and lending an urgency to a search for Buck, another mystery even though the old Cherokee lives alone and is known to take off unannounced. Buck’s disappearance causes Sadie to cut short her trip to Maui. She loves the old man and believes she can help find him. She tries to temper her fears by knowing Buck is tough and land-savvy.

The last mystery is resolved when Pua’s mother dies. Sadie, Lance and Buck, who spent time on the island as a member of the 4th Marine Division during World War II, fly to Maui for the funeral. Sadie thinks the trip will open up Buck and relieve what may be post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hoklotubbe telegraphed the resolution of the main mystery but readers will be so entranced by the characters and settings they shouldn’t mind.

This multiple-mystery is cleanly written. The 224-page book is a quick, enjoyable read with a love interest that should please even the most devoted romantic. The storyline involves Maui enough to satisfy island readers.

“Sinking Suspicions” is due out Sept. 4. The publisher is The University of Arizona Press, Tucson; 224 pages; paperback; $16.95. An electronic version will be available at the usual Internet sources.

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

Maui Nei

The destination was a shoreline bluff on the Maliko Bay side of Hookipa. There was no question about the location. There was a question about access.

Sitting out in a pasture, the hollow-tile blockhouse was easier to spot than usual. Where cows normally roamed and graffiti artists practiced their craft, there was a scatter of cars under an array of spindly radio antennae. The guys in the Maui Amateur Radio Club hadn’t wasted any time installing the equipment needed for the American Radio Relay League’s annual Field Day.

“We wanted to get the antennae up before the wind started blowing,” said Tom Worthington, president of the club, one of Maui’s oldest citizen-based organizations. The club was established in 1936 and had been using the site since the 1950s.

That was after negotiating a way into the World War II radio station site. Slow down while trying not to tie up traffic. Search for a gate. On the other side of a spot surfers call Turtle Bay, there’s a narrow gate. It’s open. Go through the gate carefully. There’s a deep trench between here and there. Closer inspection shows the trench is a remnant of the old, old Hana Highway. There’s a kind of two-track trail paralleling the trench.

Soon enough the flattened pasture grass shows the way around the trench and over to the Field Day site. Worthington is searching through a pile of equipment in the back of his truck. Friday was setup day for an exercise designed to prepare for some future event no one wanted to see.

Bright orange extension cords snake out from a trailer-mounted generator. Small, auxiliary generators sit around the blockhouse. Black lines run from the blockhouse and a borrowed MEO van to the towering antennae, each dedicated to a particular band of radio frequencies.

Inside the blockhouse there are two radio stations, transceivers that could be run off a car battery are hooked to high-power amplifiers. There are computers used to log contacts. One guy is working the 20-meter band just for practice and does a little of what hams call rag chewing – informal chatting, mostly about the equipment being used. He’s an old-timer and uses a yellow legal pad to note the stations he is talking to. At each contact, he gives the club’s station call letters, KH6RS, by saying kilowatt, hotel, six, romeo, sierra. He adds “on Maui.”

It’s a seductive addition. “Everyone wants to talk to Hawaii,” one of the hams said when Matt Thayer showed up to take pictures for The Maui News.

Worthington, who has a state-of-the-art station at his home in Kula, seems to be the chief tech. He’s needed over in the MEO van where another station has been installed. Something is wrong with the hookup between the transceiver and the amplifier.

Worthington is familiar with the equipment. He checks cable connections and begins twisting dials. The problem is quickly diagnosed and corrected. Worthington turns his attention to an external speaker aimed at what appears to be a rest and relaxation area under an adjacent tent. He wants to change the location of the speaker “to eliminate feedback.” The cord is too short and he scurries off to find an extension.

Multiple antennae are needed to cover different frequencies. Bouncing shortwave signals off the ionosphere depends on the sun and other factors. One thing ham operators soon learn is which band will work at which time of day.

The object of the Field Day is to prepare for a time when all normal methods of communication fail. The Amateur Relay League, formed exactly 100 years ago, organizes the event. That happened on Kauai after Hurricane Iniki wiped out the island’s infrastructure, including cellphones and the Internet. Hams provided the necessary communication link with the other islands. Jammed cellphone circuits also proved inadequate during the more recent tsunami scare on Maui. Many ham operators have backup generators or can operate out of their cars.

During Field Day, operators across the Mainland contact each other from temporary, possibly emergency locations. It turns into a kind of contest involving the number of contacts. The Maui Amateur Radio Club excels in these contests, often racking up 1,000 contacts an hour.

It’s all about preparing for disasters, even the likes of the typhoon in the Philippines. The national Amateur Radio Relay League has a saying, “When all else fails.” Maui’s hams don’t want to see anything like a disaster, but if one comes, they are prepared.

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