News / A Living Legacy: Haiku community works to preserve area's rich heritage
E-mail this story to a friend Version of this story optimized for printing  
Story photos:

Click thumbnails for full-size image:

The Ha’iku Living Legacy Project is a vibrant, continually evolving history project that is a true community effort. It began several years ago around the time that Hiroshi Yamauchi, a retired University of Hawaii professor who grew up in Haiku, was visiting Maui from his home on the mainland. Yamauchi is the youngest of thirteen children; the local Okinawan family that he grew up in had a tofu production operation behind Toma’s Garage on Ha’iku Road for many years, using soybeans that were supplied by Hanzawa Store. During Yamauchi’s stay with Ha’iku residents Frank and Marian Zajac, many lively discussions were held regarding the idea of helping to preserve and record the area’s history, and the Living Legacy Project began to take form.

 At that year’s 2004 Ha’iku Ho’olaulea and Flower Festival, which coincided with Yamauchi’s visit, the late Uncle David Cup Choy was being honored as a Living Legend by a local community group. Uncle David was interviewed on videotape as part of “talk story” sessions during the Ho’olaulea and Flower Festival. Other kupuna, such as Johnny Estes, Bill and Bea Eby and Louis Baldovi, were interviewed the following year, with the idea of formally honoring one person each year in this way. David Cup Choy, Bea Eby and Louis Baldovi have all since passed away, but thankfully, the stories and knowledge of the Ha’iku area that they shared have been preserved.
The year 2005, as closely as can be determined, was Ha’iku School’s 100th anniversary, and a steering committee was formed to organize a proper reunion and centennial celebration. The members of the steering committee for the Haiku Centennial were Mike Gagne, Mike Suda, Aimee Yatsushiro, Marian Zajac, Kathy McDuff and Maggie Welker. Highly successful fund raising for the centennial celebration was organized by lifetime Ha’iku resident Suzy Aguirre. A great many other Ha’iku residents, both past and present, contributed their time, expertise and ideas. The steering committee agreed to focus on compiling and preserving more of the history of the area from people who grew up there; the name agreed upon for this activity was the Ha’iku Living Legacy Project.
Lucienne DeNaie, a former member of the Ha’iku Community Association, along with Maui resident Bren Bailey, had organized historical exhibits for the Ho’olaulea prior to 2004. When the Ha’iku Living Legacy Project was formed, DeNaie and Bailey were among the first to donate valuable historical documents. During the centennial reunion, people from all over began contributing, donating photographs and other historic items, resulting in a good basic collection of artifacts.
The Ha’iku Living Legacy Project has since been very active in the community, sponsoring a cleanup day at Coconut Grove and holding other events about four times a year. At the 2006 Ho’olaulea, they honored the late Jean Suzuki, who was cafeteria manager at Ha’iku School for over thirty years; Suzuki is believed to be the longest-term employee ever at Ha’iku school. With the help of Senator Kalani English, a resolution was passed by the Hawaii State Senate naming Ha’iku School’s cafeteria the Jean Suzuki Cafeteria.

Last Saturday morning, November 11, there was a well-attended event at the Jean Suzuki Cafeteria, featuring a “talk story” about trains which was filmed by Daniel Grantham; the train which ran through Ha’iku from 1913 to 1966 was discussed at length. A video called The Kahului Railroad Stories: First in the Kingdom, Last in the State of Hawaii, by the First Light Studio Television Production Company, was shown. Nathan Perreira, who compiled the film along with Jeff Reiss, spoke about the making of the film. There was a free breakfast, there were many historical photographs and maps displayed, and a memorial bulletin board with a framed photograph of Jean Suzuki was unveiled.
I spoke with several of the attendees; Ken Berkheiser said, “It was most enjoyable, educational and pleasurable.” Jean Gannon, who was there with her sister Kay Cameron, said, “It was just wonderful to hear the stories and see the old photographs of the area.”

Jacob Mau, who grew up near the Ha’iku train, helped with the train video. He said that the train would come by twice a day to pick up fruit at the local pineapple canneries. And he told me a story, one of the thousands now being recorded and preserved by the Ha’iku Living Legacy Project.

As a young boy, Mau remembers watching older kids hopping on the train for a free ride. When he got older, he and his friends would do the same thing once in awhile after school. They knew that the train would slow down and ring its bell before crossing Ha’iku Road, and that there was a steep downhill grade right after that. So sometimes they would put ripe guavas on the downhill tracks to grease them, squashing the guavas flat and covering them with dirt so they couldn’t be seen. And then they’d hop on the train when it slowed down, climbing the ladder between the cars and holding on; when the train went downhill, it would really pick up speed because of those guavas, and they’d have a wild ride. He says they never did get caught.

There is a climate controlled storage facility temporarily available for the Ha’iku Living Legacy Project artifacts; photographs and documents are currently being accepted. A permanent home is needed for them, however, and one of the many community members looking into that possibility is Friends of Old Maui High President Barbara Long. She says, “We’re hopeful that when the master plan for the Old Maui High campus is being formulated that the community will express interest in having a facility there that will house an archive and museum for community activities such as the Haiku Living Legacy Project.”

If you have photos, documents or memorabilia that you’d like to donate, or would like information on the Ha’iku Living Legacy Newsletter, please call Marian Zajac at 573-5229. For information on the train video or others that have been recorded, call Tim Wolfe at Akamai Productions for information; his number is 575-7474. A web site is also being prepared, and is scheduled to be online soon; keep reading Haleakala Times for the most up-to-date information.

Jan Welda