Sunday, February 2, 2003

Photographer Luryier "Pop" Diamond

Bernadette Kaohi, left, and Anthony Ramos share the stage during a Kamehameha Schools student council investiture ceremony in 1957.

Keeping an eye
on the kids


Wednesday, February 5, 2003

» David Oka is president of O Communications, the company hired to perform design and layout duties for the Kamehameha Schools book "Images of Aloha." In a story about Luryier "Pop" Diamond in Sunday's Mauka-Makai, he was incorrectly referred to as a Kamehameha Schools staffer. Also, Lilinoe Andrews was responsible for copywriting, caption research and editing of the book.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

By Jason Genegabus

"Images of Aloha," by Luryier "Pop" Diamond (Kamehameha Schools, hardcover, 198 pages, $59.95)

THESE DAYS, it's not surprising if someone changes jobs -- or even professions -- more than a few times during their life. Luryier "Pop" Diamond, on the other hand, is a throwback to the company man of yesteryear. A half-century after reporting for work at Kamehameha Schools for the first time, he's occupied the same office for almost 20 years and still shows up five days a week.

"I don't get excited but I get up and go," says the 88-year-old with a laugh when asked about his daily grind. "If I don't come up here, I don't know what else I'd do."

BACK IN 1943, the New York-born Diamond had just landed on the Big Island for a tour with the Army. "We landed in Hilo in March of '43; I've been here ever since," he said. "That's where I learned (photography) -- I didn't know a damn thing about it."

Kamehameha Schools photographer Luryier "Pop" Diamond.

Three years later, Diamond was discharged from the military but remained in Hilo with his late wife to run a photography store for a Honolulu-based businessman. The Diamonds soon moved to Oahu where Pop taught Spanish at McKinley High School before opening a photography business of his own, Camera Hawaii, with a partner in 1950. It was this venture that first introduced him to the Kamehameha ohana.

According to Diamond, the trip up to Kapalama Heights was too much of a chore for his business partner, so he serviced the Kamehameha account by himself. Starting with the dedication of Konia Hall, Diamond did freelance work on a regular basis, which resulted in a job offer to do public relations work at the school. He was hired as information coordinator on Jan. 1, 1953.

"Col. (Harold) Kent was president of the school at the time, and he didn't know if I could write or anything," said Diamond. "So he says, 'We're having a parade on Sunday, will you cover it?' I covered the parade, wrote up the thing for the paper and took it down to the city desk where I knew all the guys down there, and it was in the Monday paper.

Jeff Akaka successfully pulls off several chin-ups in this 1962-63 photo.

"So they hired me. I sold out (of Camera Hawaii) and moved up here," he said.

FOR THE NEXT 30 years, Diamond spent nearly all of his time capturing Kamehameha's students on film as they studied, played and matured into young adults. "I very seldom, if ever, went out of the office without a camera," Diamond said matter-of-factly a few weeks ago in his office at the Midkiff Learning Center. "I remember everything. I remember the students. ... I had a bunch of good guys."

Diamond also spent time as Kamehameha's yearbook advisor, was music director at now-defunct campus radio station KVOK and taught photography classes until his first retirement from the school in 1984.

"I had to retire in '84 because there was a federal law that said when you were 70 years old, you had to retire," he explained. "So I retired, and they immediately rehired me as an independent contractor."

Diamond has served as the Kamehameha Schools archivist ever since, managing more than 300,000 images of the school and its students dating back to the 19th century. He was photo editor for "Legacy," a book published to celebrate Kamehameha's 100th anniversary in 1987, and spent much of last year with fellow staffers Lilinoe Andrews and David Oka sorting through pictures to use in "Images of Aloha."

Roman Chai, from left, Howard Lua and Apitai Akau move bundles of ti leaves in 1954.

"I can pull a negative for any picture you point out to me in two seconds," he says with a wave at the stacks of contact sheet books that surround his desk. "The kids can come in and look at old annuals if they want -- sometimes they're looking for pictures of their great-grandfather or their grandmother or something like that, and we find them."

Although Diamond doesn't teach anymore and has stopped actively taking pictures, Kamehameha's students and staff still get their daily dose of Pop each day at the cafeteria during lunch. "I like to help out at the salad bar," said Diamond with a broad smile. It's obvious the interaction with students is a high point of his day. "I have a lot of fun with them. ... I scold a lot of (the students). I get to know a lot of the tough football guys and have a good time with them.

In a photo captioned "Hui 'Oiwi Basketball, 1957-58," John Lavilla, Mitchell Kalauli, John Yates, Pierre Apisaloma, Newton Harbottle and Alfred Gonzales play at Mauka Field.

"I give them hell and they seem to enjoy it. ... We get along fine; they always come to say hello."

WITH THE PUBLICATION of "Images of Aloha," Diamond realizes his long tenure at Kamehameha is nearing an end. After dismissing the book as just something he had to do for school CEO Hamilton McCubbin -- "He wanted pictures, so that's what he got," Diamond said -- the shutterbug's ornery side fades a bit, and his true feelings start to emerge.

"I'm very happy with it," Diamond admits as he turns the book's pages and recalls a tidbit of information about each student pictured. "I'm glad that we have it, because people years from now can check back and see what was here.

"The difference is so visible -- it isn't to somebody who just came to the school. They think (the students) are great. But when you were here years ago ... the school was very different in those days."

A few families entrusted their infants to Kamehameha Schools Senior Cottage Program which provided senior girls with 6 weeks of homemaking and childcare education.

More than 1,000 images were narrowed down to the 250 or so that made it into the final draft of "Images of Aloha," available through the Kamehameha Schools Press and at several local bookstores. "Every picture in that book I printed," said Diamond. "We had a room up in the library, and we had (pictures) on the floor for weeks -- we just went through them. I can put out another book easily."

And Diamond may do just that after seeing how well the book is doing in stores. He signed autographs "all afternoon" for alumni and friends during a release party earlier this month at Kamehameha and will also appear at 2 p.m. Saturday at Borders Ward Centre. An additional autograph session is scheduled for 2 p.m. Feb. 15 at Borders Waikele.

Melvin Wong, above, made the cover of "Images of Aloha." He's shown in this 1953 photograph removing the midribs from ti leaves.

"Kids that I'd been very close with, they'd come up and give me a hug," Diamond said as he recalled meeting students he hadn't seen for years. "I didn't recognize them ... they changed so much. It was a lot of fun."

"I'm very happy with the people that I've worked with," he said. "It doesn't seem like it's been 50 years at all."

Pops' photo "Evening in the Boys Dorm, 1961-62."

This 1967 song leader had a wonderful career ahead of him. Do you recognize Robert Cazimero?

Must be some great cafeteria workers in 'Akahi Dining Hall to get students this excited at mealtime, 1954.

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