David Shapiro
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By David Shapiro

Saturday, July 31, 1999

There’s still a Haole
Corner at Hilo High

AS I pulled up to a gathering of old classmates at Hilo High, the first face I saw belonged to a remarkably well preserved Curt Carmichael.

"You threw up on my carpet once," he said.

I remembered. His parents were away and I got too far into a bottle of vodka. I called my dad to tell him I'd be late and, as we talked, hurled all over Curt's living room carpet and passed out. I awoke around 3 a.m. in a wheelbarrow in someone's backyard in Piihonua. It was a milestone on my path to discovery that the drinking life was not for me.

This wasn't a formal reunion, but a gathering of friends from the classes of '65, '66 and '67. Some of us hadn't seen one another in 33 years.

Appropriately, the initial gathering was at the old "Haole Corner" -- a strip of walkway near the administration office where we hung out.

The spot was a convenient dash to the vice principal's office when the Pirates came down from the auditorium steps or the Wreckers descended from the science building to stomp some haole butt. My friends say I was in the middle of a lot of that trouble.

"Remember the time the Pirates had you surrounded under the banyan tree until that counselor came out and saved you? I hope you thanked the guy."

Thank you, Mr. Ura.

Then there was the time somebody came looking for "the haole with the glasses." I wasn't there but poor Thor Wold fit the description closely enough, so the guy smacked him in my place. Thank you, Mr. Wold.

We knew each other at the most awkward of ages when our most sensitive emotions were bare. No matter how much time and how many miles come between us, high school friends are as close as you ever get to people who accept you no matter what.

We sadly marked those who had passed -- C.F. Rohner, Mike Wallace, Vaughn Notley, Pat Burns, Sam Kamakea. Those who attended are doing well, if looking a little like our dads.

Jim Patterson, who cut school to surf Honolii, still hits the waves when he's not building boats. Bud McBrien, who loved to go to Kona, now manages a resort condo there. Jim Wilson and Dave Denny are contractors while Wayne Awai, Billy Ferreira and Carmichael put out fires. Gordon Motta is still the artist he always was.

Lew Waldron is tearing up the ski slopes between graduate studies in Reno.

JOHN DeBriere runs a software company and his brother Terry, who could only phone in from Florida, keeps busy with his gas detection business, his database programming and his psychological research. Whew. Bill Walter still comes in from Portland for family business.

Leon Siu, Ken Forbes and Wold were a hot folk music act in 1966, but have trouble remembering the old songs. Siu made a career of music. Wold keeps an observatory in order atop Mauna Kea and Forbes works in health care administration.

As the only one who flunked English, it fell on me to be the official scribe.

"You've got to write about how great it is that we still care so much for each other after all these years," said Michelle Cabral.

We're told there's still a Haole Corner at Hilo High, full of kids of many ethnic backgrounds derided as geeks with funny hair. As Forbes put it, "kind of just like us."

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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