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 email@example.com. "The State of Aloha" alternates Fridays with Ilima Loomis' "Neighbors."