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A Fund-Raising Benefit, a Cool Night, and the Baldwin Class of ‘70

October 22, 2012 - Ray Tsuchiyama

Almost the same time last year I attended a fund-raising benefit at the King Kamehameha club house. This time the benefit was at the Maui Tropical Plantations in Waikapu. I always like the ride up to the area, since I know that my grandparents must have traveled the road back in the 1920s – when the tall flowering trees lining the route were probably much much smaller.

My Honolulu friend, originally from Kauai, had known the Asian Blend band founder/leader/keyboards player Mitch Hazama, a Baldwin High graduate, from the time they had attended the University of Hawai’i at Manoa campus in the early 1970s. During the fund-raiser the band was celebrating their 40th year together – a long time.*

In fact, the band opened with lead singer Alan Pascua singing the Young Rascals’ iconic tune “My Hawai’i”, which reached the top Hawai’i music chart in 1968 and became the signature song at high school proms that year and still has a deep nostalgic pull for anybody who was in their teens in Hawai’i listening to deejay Tom Moffat at K-POI at home or riding around Zippy’s on King Street (the latter was a Honolulu experience of that period for me).

The emcee, a well-known Kahului attorney (and also a Baldwin graduate), pointed out there was an entire table of Baldwin ’70 graduates in the huge Tropical Plantations main hall. This group came of age on a Maui with a 1970s population that rose back to around 40,000, the same number in the post-World War II years (Maui had a population decline from around the 1954 transformation Democratic election through the early 1960s when Honolulu had explosive growth in higher-paying government, financial, and military base jobs – and this population shift would turn Maui County government and leading firms by the mid-1960s to a revolutionary new industry -- tourism).

To some Baldwin High graduates, the Maui of their youth had a strong conservative Nisei presence (their fathers were probably 442nd/100th Battalion veterans, in their mid-to-late 50s; World War II had ended only 25 years before), similar to the age of the Baldwin High graduates dancing last week to the band’s renditions of Chicago, Rolling Stones, and Boz Scaggs. As Maui High would open in Kahului in 1971, the Baldwin students were the last elite class, claiming the title of attending the only public high school in Wailuku/Kahului. The high school students may have seen trucks moving down to the southern Maui coast, to begin work at a golf course way beyond the only hotel in the area – Maui Lu – and Azeka’s Market – now called “Wailea Old Blue”.

Pai’a was still then a sleepy plantation town that attracted the early counter-culture New Age paradise early-adopters, and moving around at twilight along the beach road near Baldwin Park in Chevrolet trucks and Mustangs the Baldwin high school students must have encountered the hippies in tie-dyed clothes (as I saw from my Uncle’s Buick couples with long flowing hair walking along the cane fields – those who remained for the last four decades probably now have long flowing white hair and shop at Whole Foods in Kahului). Maui was not isolated from the most current Mainland clothes fashion and music and -- as tourists were flying in from Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco and Sunset Strip in Los Angeles – soon drugs became part of Maui youth culture.

Forty-plus years since those nostalgic “My Hawai’i” days for the Baldwin Class of 1970 – so many changes, so many transformations on Maui and for their families who had been on Maui since before World War II, and its dramatic disruption of the social framework of Maui.

Then there is the Asian Blend band leader (and excellent keyboard player) Mitchell Hazama, who had placed a large photograph of his beloved parents near the Maui Tropical Plantations hall entrance. In Japanese terms, he is imbued with “oya kou-kou” or deep love and respect for one’s parents. I cannot imagine all that he had endured with the cancer treatments, the hospice, his parents’ passing, his balancing of family and work and music and friends – such is deep personal loss, wrapped up in so many memories of the past, of a different Maui in time and place.

*The Waikiki icons Society of Seven began earlier, in 1969, but they have gone through several changes and left for gigs in Las Vegas, and then returned to Honolulu and still going strong, amazingly.


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