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Maui Nei

The short list of gifts and cards had been checked off early this year. There was no need for any last-minute shopping. For the most part, thank the ability to shop at home

and let the U.S. Postal Service do the delivering. The whole idea of giving gifts probably came from the story of “we three kings of Orient” taking gifts to the baby Jesus.

At any rate, that holiday tradition had been honored. This year, as in years past, most of the actual giving would take place on the other end of an interisland flight booked late one night with a computer and some numbers off a plastic card, an easy transaction characteristic of modern life on Maui.

Buying wasn’t the way to celebrate Christmas on the island in the middle of the last century. Two stories come to mind.

In a 1984 interview, Laura Boteilho told how it was when she was a child living in a plantation camp at Hamakuapoko above Hookipa. The camp was divided into divisions of four or five houses. Each division was centered on an outdoor oven. The ovens were used to bake bread and roast meat, especially at Christmas.

The holiday, Laura remembered, meant “food, food and more food.” Nearly all of it was homemade or homegrown. “The only time we got apples or oranges was at Christmastime. We ate everything right down to the core.” Laura’s eyes lit up when she remembered getting a box of chocolates, a very rare treat.

“All my sisters ate theirs up but I just took one piece each day to make it last. When all the chocolates were gone, I kept my doll clothes in the box,” which held the aroma of chocolate for weeks. “It was like having the chocolates all again, just from the smell.”

She remembered music and visiting. “There were a lot of Hawaiians living down by the coast. They’d come up and serenade the camp on Christmas Eve. They always ended up at my dad’s house. He would invite them in and they would eat and eat.” The table would be loaded with roast meat that had been pickled in the Portuguese style, sweet bread and potatoes.

At holiday parties, gifts were exchanged. “Children would make their own gifts out of whatever they could find.” Ironwoods were used as Christmas trees decorated with open candles clamped on the branches. “It always amazed me that they never caught fire, but they didn’t.” Christmas Eve always included midnight Mass.

In Hawaiian Camp above Paia, Christmas was a middle-of-the-night affair, Ann Marie Pereira Ferguson said in a 1985 interview. “We were very poor. My mother would make stocking dolls with painted eyes for the girls. My oldest brother made carts using Crisco lids for wheels for the boys.”

She said the holiday revolved around midnight Mass. “We’d all go to Mass after fasting all day. When we got home, we would eat and open our presents and then go serenade our friends. Even if they were asleep, they would turn on the lights and invite us in to share their goodies.” Christmas night, the friends would serenade the Pereiras and, in turn, be invited in to eat.

It was that way in scores of small camps scattered around the island. Those with little would share what they had. Goodwill and open hearts made up for the lack of money and all of the “stuff” available today.

In more recent times, the going from house to house has been largely replaced by family gatherings and house decorations. The more devoted Christmas celebrants fill their yards with fanciful critters created with wire and lights. At one time, St. Joseph Church in Makawao would light the night with hundreds of electric bulbs. That came to an end in the 1970s due to the higher cost of electricity and building inspectors concerned about the hazards of having yards of extension cords draped over the building. The big attraction in Makawao today is a single star mounted high in a towering pine tree, a tradition started by Gary Moore. It was a star, tradition says, that led the wise men to the humble stable where Jesus was born.

Stars and decorated trees are part of traditions born in places where winter nights are long and cold. Not so on Maui, but it’s easy to find peace and goodwill – island traditions that are not for sale, on Christmas or any other day, but simply a way to live.

* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is ryoungblood@hawaii.rr.com.

Maui Nei

There was a scurry of workers in the fourth-floor office when a shaggy dude carrying a weird instrument walked in to talk to Recreation Director Al Deloso. The guy wanted to set up classes under the county’s Fee for Service program; Deloso was the man who would say yay or nay.

The hippy wound his way through the office populated by civil servants and more than a few temporary CETA employees funded by the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1973. The county administration under Mayor Elmer F. Cravalho was quick to apply for the federal money to augment the county’s payroll.

CETA workers included Linda Kondrat and Michael Takita, who founded Maui Youth Theater, which much later became the private Maui Academy of Performing Arts. In its first year, MYT put on five performances for 6,000 youngsters.

Jan Dapitan was the director of the Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation. She was devoted to developing programs wanted by the public, including Fee for Service.

Under the program, individuals could set up specialized classes. The county would supply the facility and the instructor would be paid by fees from the students involved. The average cost was $1 an hour. The facilities ranged from Kaunoa School to community centers. A popular spot for music and dance was the old Maui High gym, which was destroyed by an arsonist.

Fee for Service was part of a recreation master plan I’d been hired to write. Dapitan supplied the ideas. I supplied the words. When finished, Dapitan took it to a conference of recreation professionals, who enthusiastically declared it an innovative approach. Later, the plan was shuffled off to the county Office of Economic development. In the process, the program-oriented plan was turned into a plan for buildings.

The jungle hippy went into a small office occupied by Deloso, who was used to dealing with what county officials called “transients,” young malahini who had followed the lure of surfing movies touting Maui as a paradise where people could live off the land. Not true, of course, but, that’s another story.

Deloso, who would later be a County Council candidate killed in a plane crash, met the hippy with a straight face. He listened to the sales pitch and didn’t flinch while listening to a few measures of music played on a Xaphoon. If memory serves, the instrument had been invented by the would-be instructor.

Deloso approved the classes, if not the instrument, and did the paperwork necessary to add the music lessons to a schedule that included tennis, exercise for women, modern dance, yoga, tai chi chuan, sufi dance, weight training, belly dancing, painting, baton twirling, acrobatics, gymnastics, horseback riding, ukulele and guitar, among others.

A side note:

Some years later, when I had migrated to the ninth floor as the information and complaints officer, Council Member Manuel Molina resigned as chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee. When the council was the Board of Supervisors, members of the board acted as directors of various county departments. The change from board to council was slowly accepted by old-timers who expected council members to answer complaints.

Molina was huhu. “No one tells me what parks is doing,” he said. This despite receiving a complete schedule of programs and classes that had been laboriously written the night before by yours truly. Molina didn’t want to read, he wanted to be told.

All of this was touched off by an item in a Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. Hammacher is a purveyor of upscale stuff you’ll never see in a local store. The outfit claims to have a group of testers who have to approve stuff before it is sold.

In its most recent catalog, on Page 43, there is a picture and description of “The Maui Pocket Xaphoon,” which “produces a rich, vibrant sound similar to a full-size clarinet or saxophone.” It notes that it was designed by “artisans who originally handcrafted them from bamboo stalks cut from rain forest groves in Eastern Maui.” The current two-octave instrument is made from “durable injection-molded ABS plastic.”

“The large round mouthpiece is fitted with a nickel-plated ligature and a #2-strength tenor saxophone reed.” The 13-inch long “flute” is made in the U.S and costs $119.95.

So much for handmade Hawaiian nose flutes, but thanks for prompting the 40-year-old memories.

* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is ryoungblood@hawaii.rr.com.

Maui Nei

You never know who will show up in the Morihara Store parking lot. A mud-splattered pickup truck rolled in. Out jumped an old friend. Even at this early hour of the day, it was obvious the Kula-born-and-raised friend had already put in some hours of hard work.

It turned out the work was installing fencing down Haiku way. Fences had nothing to do with his visit to Waiakoa. In his hand was a plastic-packed piece of lean axis deer meat. Across the top of the package were the words “USDA Inspected.”

Lokahi Sylva, normally a laid-back Maui boy, was on a mission, the same mission that he has focused on for years – the problem of axis deer on Maui. One solution to the problem is to bring the meat to market. The solution comes with its own set of problems, including governmental restrictions and consumer acceptance. While the Maui Axis Deer Harvesting Co-op is working to limit crop and property damage, Sylva is scrambling to create a demand for the broke-da-mouth meat.

Axis deer were introduced to the island of Molokai in the 1860s. They were a gift to King Kamehameha V. The animals became an integral part of Molokai’s subsistence lifestyle.

In 1959, four of the small deer were transported to Maui and let loose. The idea was to provide game for hunters. Those four have become thousands of raiders, attacking everything from farms to golf courses to backyard gardens, not to mention becoming traffic hazards when they go bounding across a country road. The deer are small, but hitting a 200-pound animal with a car or motorcycle is no joke.

Hunting the animals on Maui can be tricky. With houses scattered all over the island, rifles have to be used with extreme caution. There’s another complication. City-raised individuals look at a spotted axis deer and, thanks to Walt Disney, see Bambi, not a source of lean protein.

Harvesting the animals commercially requires two government inspections, the first before the animal is killed and the second when it is butchered. Without the inspections, the meat can’t be sold or even donated to food programs. With the limited number of inspectors available, it’s just not feasible to have one on hand during a hunt for individual animals. The animals are agile, able to easily clear any fence less than 8 feet high, so corralling them is expensive.

Desmond Manaba’s Molokai Wildlife Management Co. has been producing USDA-inspected axis deer meat for the last 18 months. The distributor on Maui is Sylva. After working for a decade to get deer meat commercially available on Maui, Sylva figures selling Manaba’s product can create an eventual market for homegrown deer.

“All I need is for everyone to know it is available,” he said.

Sylva has been making the rounds to stores and restaurants. He says chefs are very interested but are concerned customers might think the meat will taste “gamey.” It doesn’t. Just ask anyone fortunate enough to have a generous hunter as a friend. The meat is lean and tender. Slice it thin and throw it on the fire. Or, use it in any gourmet dish that calls for beef.

Then there is the problem of supply. As a distributor, Sylva must pay for the meat before he can sell it. He can get 500-pound shipments twice a month. Each shipment is a gamble for a guy who is “struggling to make a living.” No deep pockets here. It’s the same problem faced by farmers on Maui. Retailers, including restaurants, want an assured supply and supply can’t be assured unless there is a reliable market.

Here and there, Sylva is getting prime cuts of axis deer on restaurant menus and store shelves. With more demand, there is the possibility of selling ground deer meat for burgers and producing sausages. It’s an uphill battle, but then so is the whole problem of turning a pest into a resource.

“The Maui Axis Deer Harvesting Co-op is a group of community minded hunters, fully insured and supported by the County of Maui to assist landowners with their Axis deer problems,” says a mailing signed by MADHC President Michael Tavares. “And best of all, our services are free.” Contact Tavares at kawika9679@yahoo.com or 269-4625.

Lokahi Sylva is the guy to contact if your store or restaurant wants to help with the problem by serving deer meat to your customers. Call 269-6952.

* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is ryoungblood@hawaii.rr.com.

Maui Nei

There’s much to be thankful for on Maui – too much to have expressions of gratitude limited to a one-day turkey/football feast with family and friends. It’s easy for blessings to get lost in the welter of everyday life.

In the 1950s, Maui was a financial backwater. Young Mauians routinely left the island to find work. At one point, there were more Maui-born individuals living on Oahu and the Mainland than were on the island itself. Plans were laid to tap into what was then a new industry, tourism.

The basic idea was simple enough. Develop the island’s south and west beaches. Go after what was known as the FIT, free independent travelers, the folks who had the money to spend on extended vacations. It was a time when tourism meant beds and beaches. Many of the earliest “snowbirds” were Canadians brought in by fellow Canadians who built the Napili Beach Club and Kihei’s Maui Lu.

Paul Fagan led the way with his Hotel Hana Maui, even managing to induce the San Francisco Seals baseball team and the newspaper sportswriters who followed the minor-league club to conduct spring training in East Maui.

Plans were developed for Kaanapali with hotels and golf courses. It would take the Central Maui water transmission line to kick-start the construction of Kihei, Wailea and Makena. Of course, the old shoreline road through Wailea had to be moved inland to accommodate the shoreline resorts.

Under all of it were three basic assumptions. First and foremost, tourists would stay “over there,” leaving the rest of the island for residents. Secondly, building the hotels and condos would mean well-paying jobs for Mauians in the construction trades. Lastly, those self-same hotels and condos would bring in individuals who would look around and decide to buy property.

It all worked pretty well with the county pumping millions into marketing that went far beyond what the state was spending through the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. Well into the 1970s, the chief impact of the HVB on Maui was a one-man office catering to travel writers and the installation of the colorful Hawaiian warrior roadside signs now rusting away at points of interest.

Those early planners had no way of knowing what was coming. Sea, sand and sun wouldn’t be enough. Tourists would want things to do and places to go. Visitors once content with lazing away their days on beaches and golf courses or pursuing real estate deals began poking into every nook and cranny of the island.

Thank the rise of the Internet and travel writers who parachuted in to exploit what residents had always thought of as belonging to us, not them. Be grateful, or not, for various economic nosedives slowing development.

Along the way, be grateful for the rare politician who manages to look beyond the next election and his or her own aggrandizement. There’s a little recognized Hawaiian belief that major decisions should be made with the next seven generations in mind.

It’s easy to guess many residents are grateful for the rise of the big-box stores where bulk buying lowered consumer costs while driving small retailers out of business. It’s neat to have new stuff, even if that stuff will end up in the landfill within a year or so.

Sincere gratitude is due the individuals and groups who are fighting to preserve the best of old Maui and underline the importance of the first culture on the island, starting with its language.

On Oct. 31, The Maui News printed an obituary notice written entirely in Hawaiian. It was probably the first time ever. A recent visit to an Upcountry Bank of Hawaii ATM proved a little startling. The machine offered a choice of three languages. Nothing unusual about that, except, for the first time, one of the three was olelo o Hawaii. Thank Hawaiian immersion language classes, which teach not only students but their parents, for spreading the use of the original language of Hawaii. Also be thankful for canoe club cultural classes and the likes of Tim Gilliom, who persisted for more than a decade to create Maui’s own voyaging canoe.

Most of all, be grateful for islanders of every ethnic background who see what is happening around them and do what is needed for the land and each other. True islanders know we are all responsible for making Maui what it is and can be.

* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is ryoungblood@hawaii.rr.com.

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