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Hawaiian sugar going, going ...


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

News that the last sugar cane fields on Kauai were being harvested makes us realize that it won't be long before we will see the last of what for more than a century was the single most important product of Hawaii.

It marks the beginning of the end of yet another era in our island home.

And it brings back a lot of memories.

I remember when Wailuku Sugar used to burn the fields that snuggled right up against the town. We all knew better than to hang the laundry when they burned the fields because the “;black snow”; was everywhere, filling the skies, floating into town. I recall that it would drift down Central Avenue and right into my open office door.

There was an earlier time, when most of the plantation laborers lived in villages and camps that are already a thing of the past. On Maui, most of them moved into “;Dream City,”; the numbered “;increments”; in Kahului. I lived in the 6th Increment.

The villages were torn down and converted to agriculture use as plantations struggled to get the maximum return from their acreage.

But who can forget the colorful names of those camps and villages, and some of the features that made them so unforgettable. It is a fascinating part of our history. Here are some reminders for those old enough to remember how it was “;back in the day.”;

» There was a Korean church next to Japanese Camp in Sprecklesville. Russian Camp was there, too. A Catholic cemetery was right in the middle of Young Hee Village.

» Train tracks were nine abreast going into the Paia Sugar Mill, at Depot Village, with “;sidings”; for cane haul cars. The train ran right behind the theater at Mill Village, often drowning out the sound track at the most inopportune time.

» Children used to swim naked in a reservoir near Nashiwa, Green and Orpheum villages, and the Hongwanji Mission. The bakery was at Nashiwa Village — yes, the beginning of the famous Nashiwa Bakery.

» There was a polo field near Pulehu and Paholei villages, near Haliimaile, in the days when Maui had the top polo team in Hawaii. A lot of Puerto Ricans lived in Kaheka Village, also near Haliimaile.

» There was a lot of cockfighting at McGerrow Camp, and at Camp Five, mostly involving Japanese and, later, Filipinos.

» Hydro Electric Camp was near Mauna Olu College, an all-girls school at that time.

» There was a Boy Scout Camp at Camp Churchill.

» Alabama Camp dated back to about 1901, when black laborers were brought in from Alabama and Louisiana.

» A lot of Portuguese lived at Cod Fish Camp and in Kahului at the area called Cod Fish Row, fronting Kahului Harbor.

» Most villages had a stable, but there was one that was called Stable Village.

» Camp Four was next to the Puunene Hospital, at a time when most Maui children not born at home were born in Puunene.

» Dairy Camp was one of the first to go, and became a part of the 1st Increment of Dream City.

» Plantation doctors lived at Walker Hill in Puunene. Ah Fong camp was on the way to the Puunene Airport. Airport Village was built after the war.

» A post office was located at Hawaiian Camp in Sprecklesville.

» The hospital, post office, high school, Catholic church and children's home were at Hamakuapoko Village A.

» Other camps and villages had names like Spanish, School, Lower Paia, Pump, Hamakuapoko B, Maliko, Kailua, Keahua, Kamole, Grove Ranch, Haiku, Kailiilii, Kaupakalua, Kuau, Spanish A, Spanish B, Sam Sing, Lower, Middle, Upper Camp Three, Bean Mill, Kihei Camp One and Kihei Camp Three.

The highest numbered camp was Camp 13 in Puunene. I guess no one was superstitious in those days.

 

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C. Keith Haugen, a teacher at Star of the Sea Schools, was Maui bureau chief for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin 40 years ago.