The good old days


POSTED: Monday, August 24, 2009

Former plantation families exchanged memories of an earlier, simpler Hawaii at the 12th Waimanalo Sugar Plantation reunion.

More than 200 people with ties to the sugar plantation gathered at Waimanalo District Park yesterday to reminisce about the good old days, when it cost 10 cents to see a movie and there was no need to lock front doors.

“;I got paid 5 cents an hour, big money,”; said Herbert Omizo, who worked in the cane fields as a 12-year-old boy. “;Used to go caddy every Sunday at Mid-Pac, Lanakila ... paid 30 cents for nine holes.”;

Omizo, who was born and raised on the plantation with 10 siblings, attended his third reunion and said he enjoys meeting once a year but does not recognize many people.

“;I like to meet all the old-timers, but very few older ones are here,”; said Omizo, whose father was a plantation supervisor.

The reunion is important for many senior citizens who are unsure when, or whether, they will see their friends again.

“;It used to be every two years, but now it's every year. Everyone is kicking the bucket,”; said Felipe Galagar, whose parents worked on the plantation. Although Galagar now lives in Carson, Calif., he makes the trip every year to catch up with his childhood buddies.

The first reunion started as a small request by June Saito's mother, who wanted to have a party with friends from the plantation.

Saito decided to plan a reunion instead, and called her friend Grace Adviento, then-director of Waimanalo District Park, for help. The duo spread word about the reunion through phone calls, word of mouth, letters, e-mails and fliers around the community.

“;All it was was a simple thought,”; Saito said.

That simple thought evolved into the plantation's first reunion in 1994, with nearly 150 people.

“;We thought for our age we did a pretty good job,”; Saito said.

The duo, born and raised on the plantation, remember when all of Waimanalo would gather at the plantation's gym for holidays and graduations.

“;We were one big ohana here. It's something that we cherish, the thoughts, the memories of the plantation,”; Adviento said. “;I miss the friendship, the aloha spirit we used to have. That's the kind of things I remember. Good times.”;

In 2004 the two women planned to stop the biennial reunions, but Adviento's nephew stepped up and took over the responsibilities.

Bernie Villanueva has since created an annual event that features ethnic foods, door prizes, live entertainment and several display boards of Waimanalo history.

“;It brings back their old friends,”; Villanueva said. “;When they hear people passed away, they'll talk as if they're still here. You never forget.”;

As the older population declines and ties to the plantation weaken, Villanueva is unsure whether there will be enough interest for future reunions.

“;When the old people are gone, I don't know what's gonna happen. I'm gonna run it till I can't do it anymore,”; he said.