Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of being among 1,000 celebrants at the Maui High School centennial luau. Exactly 100 years, to the day, after the school first opened its doors, the old H-poko campus was swarming with students past and present. (I know, some say it's disrespectful to abbreviate Hamakuapoko that way, but most of the folks who attended that campus think of H-poko as a beloved nickname, a term of endearment.) The weather was perfect, the food divine, and Saber spirit filled the air as people reveled in memories and school pride. Only problem was . . . I'm not a Saber.
I'm a Baldwin Bear and proud of it. Grrrrr! Of course, I wasn't growling very loudly on Saturday, surrounded as I was by a sea of royal blue and white. Then again, I'm accustomed to being a lonely Bear in Saber territory.
I was born into a Maui High family. Both my parents and all of my aunts and uncles attended, and I was expected to do so as well. But when my mother's workplace moved from Haliimaile to Kahului, I transferred from Makawao School to Lihikai as a 7th-grader. I was dismayed when I realized that my childhood friends would soon be high school rivals. Mind you, this was back in the day when MIL football involved only four schools: Maui High, Baldwin, Lahainaluna, and St. Anthony. The rivalry between the Sabers and the Bears was intense and became even more so when Maui High moved to its present campus in Kahului.
From the age of 3 or 4, I'd been to all of Maui High's football games with my family. My mom and aunt taught me the Maui High alma mater before I entered kindergarten, and I knew all of the old fight songs and cheers as well. My blood ran blue and white, or so I thought.
But after a year and a half as a townie and acquiring a new circle of friends, I was happy to enter Baldwin High. I was especially thrilled to join the Pep Band as a freshman, under the direction of Mr. Lance Jo, who had taught my 5th-grade band class at Makawao School. For four years, I attended every football game in my maroon and blue uniform, first as a clarinetist, then a drummer.
In my junior year, Mr. Jo revived the tradition of staging precision drills by the marching band during the homecoming game halftime show. Back then, it was also traditional for Baldwin to face Maui High for our homecoming game, just like the County Fair game was always played between Maui High and Lahainaluna. I remember being frustrated to tears when my mom teased me, "I'll cheer for the band at halftime, but I hope Maui High wins the game."
"Mom! It's our homecoming! We HAVE to win! And you have to cheer for Baldwin!"
"Sorry, dear. Once a Saber, always a Saber."
I can only imagine how hard it must have been for my Auntie Alice, whose four sons were Baldwin football and baseball standouts. They were considerably older than I, so I wasn't around for the conflicting loyalties that must have arisen when the Endo boys became Bears.
Baldwin won that homecoming game, by the way. And I did not gloat at home. Not much, anyway. Besides, Mom was bursting with pride and praise over our halftime presentation; the game itself was secondary.
Last Saturday's festivities included an old-fashioned pep rally led by alumni cheerleaders and songleaders. I felt like an intruder in the midst of all that Saber spirit. I could not bring myself to cheer along with my mom and aunt as they gaily shouted the Saber Yell and sang "Hi Sabers" to the tune of that old song "Hi, Neighbor." I could actually feel a physical tug inside me, and the words just wouldn't pass my tongue.
But when we all rose to sing the alma mater, I found my voice. I couldn't help but sing along with Mom and the crowd of Saber alumni, including the 100-year-old Howard M. Oshiro (Class of 1931), who was born a month before the school first opened.
Maui High, we all do praise thee
For thy wise and kindly rule;
'Tis with loving hearts we greet thee,
Maui High, our island school.
I didn't even have to look at the program for the words.
The centennial celebration continues next month with the MHS Gala of the Century on Oct. 13 at the "new" campus.
Also in October, Baldwin High will commemorate its 75th anniversary. I'm looking forward to the festivities, especially our homecoming game on Oct. 25. We play the Lunas this time, so I think it'll be safe to take Mom along.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.