Random musings about elections, storms, Maui police cars and change:
* Zip! Zip! This month's election returns arrived with the speed of light illuminating television screens. It wasn't always that way. There was a time when the County Clerk's Office opened a series of boxes to count paper ballots. There were no absentee votes of the type that got waylaid in this month's election.
Boxes from outlying precincts took time to arrive in Wailuku. Ballots from Lanai and Molokai had to be flown in. Even earlier, it is said, ballots from Kaupo traveled by mule to Hana and then by car to Wailuku. In those days, the county clerk would post local results on a big blackboard outside the county building. Newspapers were the only way to get state totals.
Later, the seventh floor in the current county building would be crammed with reporters and political junkies. There was always something to eat. KNUI often set up a remote unit linked to the station. Radio was the fastest way to find out who would be what.
In an adjacent room, The Maui News' news editor, Earl Tanaka, would be analyzing precinct reports and hammering out his observations on a mechanical typewriter for the next day's paper.
During more recent times, election central moved out to Dairy Road and the studios of Akaku: Maui Community Television. Various local personalities provided running commentary interspersed with on-site interviews with candidates. Got to fill up the time between the interim reports from the Capitol. Of course, you had to have cable to get the broadcasts.
This month, the quickest way to know results was via television from the city, even if it meant ignoring the blather and concentrating on the eye-straining numbers crawling across the bottom of the screen. Maui results didn't warrant commentator attention.
The Puna situation on the Big Island lent a touch of the old days. Voters couldn't get to the polls due to the damage caused by Iselle. Voters in two precincts would decide for the entire state which Democrat would be running for U.S. senator in November. Actually, the primary's winning Democrat had been elected since the Republican Party, as usual, failed to field a plausible candidate. It took a week to decide the close race.
* Speaking of weather. Once upon a time, Maui had its own forecasters. The best of the bunch, and the last one before automatic gauges and the Honolulu office took over, was Roger Kawasaki. He knew how localized Maui's conditions were. The island escaped being ravaged but there was damage here and there.
Perhaps the most serious damage was done in the Ulupalakua area. The ranch lost miles of fencing due to fallen trees, which also blocked some roads. In the same area, the D.T Fleming Arboretum at Pu'u Mahoi lost trees and fences erected to protect native species from being damaged. The arboretum is holding a fundraiser Aug. 30. Call 572-1097 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There was plenty of warning about the storm. TV had been trumpeting the arrival of two slow-moving hurricanes since they first were spotted by satellites thousands of miles away. Too much hype led to unnecessary angst and shutting down the island. Better prepared than sorry.
The only time a cyclonic storm has been recorded on Maui was in 1854. A missionary noted in his diary that a whirling wind destroyed grass houses in the Lahaina area. Use of the term hurricane only began in the early 1900s.
* Have you noticed the new police cars? Ever since Ford discontinued building its whalelike Crown Victoria, police departments across the country have been looking around for replacements. The MPD decided to go with Chevrolets.
Not everyone is happy about the loss of the "Crown Vics." One officer said the smaller Impalas weren't as comfortable as the heavy "Crown Vics" and inspired less confidence, particularly on rough-road chases and emergency responses.
Once upon a time, Maui officers used private vehicles. In the 1960s and '70s, that meant muscle cars. A $250-a-month car allowance made it possible to buy factory hot rods. It was a little difficult to spot the cars. They were marked only by a small lollypop light clipped to the car's rain gutter.
* Maui, and the world, is in a state of constant change. Keeping up with the changes doesn't mean forgetting about the "good ol' days," even if they might not have been that good after all.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.