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February 2008

Hawai`i News

The Monkey Pods of Kōloa Town

By Mizu Sugimura

Crosses line the row of monkey pod trees scheduled to be destroyed to make way for a shopping center in Kōloa, Kaua`i. Photo by Mizu Sugimura

It would be difficult to ignore the line of white-washed homemade crosses and hand-painted signs erected in front of a belt of tall, stately monkey pod trees in a vacant lot by the intersection of Maluhia and Kōloa Roads in the historic Kaua`i plantation town of Kōloa.

But a drive-by encounter featuring 20 to 30 cheerful sign-waving demonstrators ranging from school-aged children to middle-aged tourists and concerned citizens by the side of the road is not something previewed in any Kaua`i guidebook, and reason to take immediate notice!

Travelers visiting Kaua`i’s sunny south shore in the past month have been treated to these scenes on four different occasions, as area activists and their supporters have gathered to protest the imminent demolition of some 30 old monkey pod trees in order to make way for a 76,200 plus square foot shopping center spearheaded by a Michigan developer and The Knudsen Trust.

According to a story in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (“Monkey Pod Removal Decried” by Tom Finnegan, Wednesday, January 2, 2008) the trust has owned the land for 135 years and has contemplated development of the piece since the early 1980s, said Stacey Wong, trustee for the Kundsen property.

Activists say the loss of this stand of trees is particularly tragic due the fact it is the result of a settlement made by the county of Kaua`i following the threat of a multi-million dollar lawsuit in the fall of 2006.
As reported by Lester Chang in one of Kaua`i’s newspaper The Garden Island (“Developer Claims County Balked at Project”, October 4, 2007) the lawsuit was filed after Koloa Marketplace LLC and the Michigan-based developers alleged that the county planning commission failed to issue a report for or against the project in the 60 days required by the county’s zoning ordinance.

Chang said the initial application was reviewed on December 28, 2005 but no action was taken by the planning commission until September 26, 2006 when the project was denied because the proposal did not meet with regulations then in place. “The case marks the first time in recent history a developer claimed the authority to build a project based on claims the county failed to process the paperwork for its project in a timely manner,” he said.

The monkey pod trees in question line three-quarters of the main downtown retail corridor on the north side of Kōloa road and have been a familiar sight and welcoming beacon for up to a half-century or more to persons living and visiting the area.

Directly across from the trees, a two and a half block line of assorted storefronts and vintage plantation-era buildings cobbled together in the late seventies or eighties beckon tourists and passersby. This idyllic row of small restaurants and shops is anchored by a small historic center to the west and Big Save market to the east.

The ambiance this scene evokes will be truly a memory of the past when the trees come down and the busy two-story twelve building complex planned for The Shops at Kōloa across the way is finally complete.

Activists have been tireless in their efforts to shine a light on this issue both in and outside of town. Since the original story was published a little over a month ago in The Garden Island, it has been the topic of six follow-up stories, forty-seven letters to the editor and coverage on island radio, television and both major Honolulu dailies.

In numerous websites and literature, area promoters in the tourist and retail industry make a special point to emphasize Kōloa’s heritage and historic character (it was the site of Hawai`i’s first commercial sugar plantation in 1835) and its monkey pod trees.

Coincidentally, as one of the state’s first two original documented money pod trees was planted here in the mid-1800s, there has been speculation that the controversial trees could be direct descendants.
County authorities say their hands are tied. Kaua`i County Mayor Bryan J. Baptise wrote in a December guest editorial for The Garden Island newspaper that "the county can only compel landowners to retain existing trees on their properties within the framework allowed by law" through the Exceptional Tree Ordinance.

Baptise said there are 20 such trees on the designated list, none of which are sited on this property. Nevertheless, he feels the public can be assured that as a matter of policy the Planning Department encourages all landowners with developmental proposals to preserve and maintain existing mature trees, especially native trees.

Local activist Carol Ann Davis-Briant, a board member with the Kōloa Community Association says persons connected with her organization do not object to the shopping center itself, only to the removal of the historic trees.

Davis-Briant whose concerns are made clear in a draft letter circulating in the community has noted: “Mr. V. Knudsen, whose progeny comprise The Knudsen Trust, is to have said his legacy to the Koloa community would be these same monkey pod trees.” She also said the developer has already paid for a grubbing permit needed to begin clearing the property so demolition can begin at any time.

All of us who are hoping to save the trees are watching and holding our breath.

(If you would like to express concern and help save other natural resources in Hawai`i, CLICK HERE for a list of addresses and phone numbers.)

Mizu Sugimura was born in Seattle and raised on Beacon Hill where she got her first exposure to Hawai`i at a live hula performance at the Jefferson Park Community Center.  That began her life-long love of all things Hawaiian and she often visits Kaua`i, where she and her husband own a timeshare.

Chick’s Paddle Returns to Hawai`i

By Dale Parks  

The April 2006 issue of Northwest Hawai`i Times featured Peter Daniels in Kama`āina Profile. Now posted on the website, it led to this happy series of events.

I read the piece on Peter Daniels and was interested in letting him know about an experience I had regarding his great-grandfather Chick Daniels.  I now live in Florida, but attended the University of Hawaii in the early eighties.  My life has never been the same since and I’m always missing the islands and the warmth of the people and the land.  I've returned several times and find it so hard to get back on that plane.  On one of my trips I picked up the book Waikiki Beachboy and read about many of the original beachboys, but Chick's chapter in the book always captivated me.
Photo by Dale Parks

I am an architect and one day, I was touring the home of a client here in Sarasota, Florida. When I walked into a rather empty room, I was confronted with a very old wooden paddle leaning against the wall.  I recognized it instantly as an old Hawaiian canoe paddle, but what stunned me was that painted in a fancy script across the blade was the name "Chick".  I was stunned, especially since my girlfriend and I were scheduled to go to Hawaii in three weeks.  I asked my client where he may have run across the object and was surprised that he knew very little beyond it being a very old Hawaiian relic.  As a collector, he said that it was part of a larger collection of items but knew nothing more than that.  He indicated that he was thinking of removing the painted name on the blade as he believed it reduced the value of the piece.  I cautioned him about doing so and related that I may be able to shed some light on whom this paddle may have actually belonged to.  After showing him Waikiki Beachboy, he was amazed that a picture of Chick showed the very same script.  As I said earlier, my love for Hawaii sometimes is indescribable and I found it very serendipitous that I should come upon something such as this. It certainly would seem hard to ignore that something more was behind my finding this paddle.  As the canoe paddle meant very little to him, the idea that this wonderful object with such powerful meaning could potentially end up in a local second hand store troubled me deeply, and I convinced him that if he ever sold the paddle, I would buy it from him.  I couldn't stop thinking about it and wondered why I should come across such a thing, especially after having scheduled a return to the islands after ten years.  To my surprise he called a week later and agreed to sell me the paddle.

After receiving it, I went through computer searches for any information I could find on Chick Daniels in an effort to find out more about the paddle and Chick.  I exchanged emails with the author of Waikiki Beachboy with little luck until I finally came across a blog site Hawaiian Talk Story that had some postings on Chick.  I found something from Maile-Anne Daniels and emailed my story to her along with photos of the paddle.  She emailed back that it did indeed belong to her grandfather, indicating that he had hand-painted it himself.   I was very moved by the sequence of events and while I knew I would always treasure such a find, its meaning and power was not here with me halfway across the world in Florida, but where it was created and belonged.  I packed the paddle carefully and brought it back to Hawaii where I met Maile-Anne's sister Pualani.  She sat with my girlfriend and me and related stories of the Daniels Ohana. I know that Chick was married twice and that from those marriages there are many Daniels members from different sides of the ohana.  Reading your article on Peter, I recognized the names of his parents, and actually have received emails from other members of the family, including I believe, a daughter/niece from Peter's side of the family inquiring about the paddle.  Perhaps Peter has heard this story, but I thought if he hadn't that he might find my story interesting.  I've enclosed the photos of the paddle, and I understand that it now resides on the Big Island with Maile-Anne and Pualani.  Someday I hope to once again return to Hawaii to meet more of the Daniels family and see where Chick's wa'a paddle finally resides- in the land where it has always belonged.

Dale Parks went to Hawai`i on a national student exchange program from the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. He completed his third year studies in architecture at UH-Mānoa in 1982-83 and lived with friends in Mānoa Valley. After graduating from UNC-Charlotte, he returned to Honolulu to work for a short time with an architecture firm downtown. Dale is now an architect with Seibert Architects in Sarasota, Florida.



Reflections on K.K. Ka’umanua

by Howard C. Wiig

Kent Bowman was best known in the Islands as pidgin storyteller K.K. Ka`umanua who re-told popular fairy tales Hawaiian style: “Goldie the Blonde Malihini and the Three Wild Pua`a,” “Rumple Dakineskin,” “Little Lei Puahi,” among others. He also poked fun at local politics which inspired his stage name. (Say “Ka`umanua” but think in English.)

Born in Hilo in 1923 and a graduate of `Iolani and the Maritime Academy, Bowman worked for Castle & Cooke, participated in Trans-Pacific yacht races and served with the U.S. Army and Coast Guard. After retiring, he moved to Las Vegas with his wife Joyce, and died there right before the end of 2007.

Before the rise of Pidgin-speaking island comedians Rap Replinger, Frank deLima and Andy Bumatai, there was K.K. Ka`umanua. Many islanders heard his stories on the radio, bought his records and remember him as among the first to honor and validate Hawai`i Creole English, better known as Pidgin English.

Below is a personal account by Howard Wiig of a friendship with Kent Bowman, aka K.K. Ka`umanua. ~RdC


A little-known side of K. K. Ka’umanua was revealed to me when my high school buddy, “Jimmy” found himself in the company of those convicted of white collar crimes at Nellis AFB minimum security federal penitentiary, north of Las Vegas.

Photo from squareone.org
Kent Bowman,
aka K.K. Ka`umanua

Jimmy wrote me that Kent, another high school-and-beyond buddy, was a Vegas resident, and visited him frequently. He urged me to contact Kent if ever I found myself in Sin City. When I was headed for a conference there, I contacted Kent and arranged for a rendezvous and Jimmy-visit.

I found Kent’s apartment building on one of those Vegas-only avenues--huge enough to stage a Woodstock-in-Hell concert (gotta get mo’ asphalt fo’ absorb da heat, you know!) In the tall lobby stood Kent--military-erect, wrap around sunglasses, slicked back hair, classy blue tropical coat.

We drove 50 miles north to Nellis and parked behind a line of beat-up Oldsmobiles belonging to other prisoners’ relatives. This is not much fun in the Sonoran Desert in July—the prison makes visiting hard. But this was Kent’s commitment—he’d made all the necessary arrangements, including submitting a background check of me.

We were finally allowed into the cafeteria and Kent got us the gourmet offerings du jour—chips and soda. Then he purposefully busied himself elsewhere since he saw Jimmy every two weeks and I hadn’t seen him in two years. Prison hadn’t dampened Jimmy’s playfulness—he described arranging for a trailer, in which was hidden his lady friend, to be driven onto the grounds. He was supposed to be washing windows. Someone - I believe it was Kent - engaged the supervisor in conversation long enough for Jimmy and lady friend to share some close moments.

Later, as Kent and I were driving back to Vegas, we reminisced about Jimmy’s 167 IQ and his ability to charm any man into a business deal and any woman into…well, this is a family publication. We agreed that Jimmy loved the excitement of living on the edge and accepted the consequences. For Kent, Jimmy’s genius and charisma outshone his foibles.

We repeated the visit when I returned next year for another conference but I believe Kent was visiting Jimmy every visitor’s day during the interlude.

The man Hawai`i knew as a comic displayed another side of local culture—loyalty to a friend, no matter what; offering support to one down and out when most “friends” have turned their backs.

Kent was A True Friend in the tradition of all the world’s great religions.

Howard Wiig is an Institutional Energy Analyst for the State of Hawaii. He is a graduate of UH Lab School and UC-Berkeley in an Honors Curriculum: Field of Humanities. He has published in PACON Proceedings, a peer-reviewed scientific journal on marine science and served as President, Illuminating Engineering Society, Hawaii Chapter. Howard was co-founder and President of International Dark Skies Association, Hawaii Chapter and currently serves as Chair of the Board, Lord & Trigg, a start-up corporation in China. He also has around 50 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards from running races.

Hawai`i -born Presidential Hopeful Supports the Akaka Bill

by NWHT Staff

Barack Obama, born in Honolulu and a graduate of Punahou, is in a hotly contested race with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States. He also supports the Akaka Bill, also known as the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which would give Native Hawaiians the right to form a governing entity, enabling it to negotiate with state and federal governments over control of natural resources, lands and assets.

In a recently-released statement, Obama said that as President, he would sign the Akaka bill. “The process set forth in this important legislation empowers Native Hawaiians to explore and address the long-standing issues resulting from the overthrow of the kingdom of Hawai`i,”

Hawai`i Senator Daniel Akaka has been trying to get the bill through Congress since 2001 but many Republicans are wary that it would divide Americans along lines of ethnicity and race. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill should it arrive on his desk after passing the House and Senate.


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