In the 1970s, money from Washington padded Maui County's payroll. In 1973, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act. The idea was to train workers and provide them with jobs in public service.
On Maui, that translated to county jobs. CETA workers filled out the ranks of the county's various departments and put much-needed money into family budgets and into an island economy that was moving from plantation to tourism, from a population of less than 50,000 to more than 100,000.
A number of those CETA workers found themselves in the county's Department of Parks and Recreation, working for a woman who had a doctorate in recreation. Jan Dapitan, a teacher at Baldwin High School, had been hired to write a recreation master plan. Halfway through the job, she was named director of the department, and a between-jobs wordsmith was contracted to finish writing the plan.
The parks department office on the fourth floor of Kalana O Maui was a busy place. With an annual budget of around $1.5 million and the recreation needs on three islands, there was seldom a day when the place didn't crackle with energy. Felix Pascual was department deputy director. Al Deloso was the department's recreation director. The county was divided into three districts. Richard Machida was responsible for Central Maui, William "Blea" Amoral for East Maui and Ed Kaahui for West Maui, including Molokai and Lanai.
The guy hired to put Dapitan's master plan on paper soon found himself drafted into doing publicity and cranking out a monthly department newsletter. No computers then. An ancient mechanical typewriter was used to cut stencils for a mimeograph machine. You are an old-timer if you've ever had any experience with typewriters, blue stencils and the peculiar aroma of a mimeo machine cranking out copies.
One of the higher-profile programs begun under Dapitan was Maui Youth Theater. Linda and Michael Takita were CETA workers who put on plays for and by youngsters. The program had its roots in a Maui Community Theater production for kids. Dapitan's young daughter was one of the performers. Mom saw the positive results of theater discipline.
Maui Youth Theater later went out on its own and became the Maui Academy of Performing Arts. During those early parks department days, Maui Youth Theater performed here, there and anywhere it could find rehearsal and performance space. Ingenuity and volunteer parents made up for the lack of money.
While parks were maintained for field sports and community centers for whatever, programs of a more esoteric nature fell under fee for service. The first stop for instructors was Deloso. He'd decide whether to give the proposed class an OK and find a place for it at one of the county's facilities. Students would pay a average of less than $1 an hour. If the class proved popular, the instructor could make a fair wage at no cost to the taxpayers.
There was this one notable morning when a young, hippy-looking guy showed up at Deloso's door. The guy wanted to give lessons in constructing and playing a kind of bamboo flute using a traditional saxophone mouthpiece. The would-be teacher played a recognizable tune on the thing, much to Deloso's amusement.
The county also ran Summer Fun and After School programs involving hundreds of children.
Organized athletics fell under Kenji Kawaguchi, who ran leagues in basketball, football, baseball and softball while supervising canoe races, swim meets, track and field and tennis tournaments.
Soon enough, the recreation master plan was finished. Dapitan debuted it at a national convention of recreation specialists. It got raves from the experts because it was program-oriented and the programs were to be based on what Mauians wanted.
The plan made its way through the county administration, ending up in the hands of Eric Soto in the Office of Economic Development. There it was turned into a plan for parks and facilities, not programs.
CETA? In the 1980s, the program was replaced by the Job Training Partnership Act. Most of the CETA workers went on to private-sector jobs or became regular civil service employees with the county.
The between-jobs wordsmith? Eventually, he found a home at The Maui News.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.