Talk Story

Talk Story


aloha FridayAloha Friday

More than two decades after Kimo Kahoano recorded it, Islanders still sing along to the cheerful tune that begins, “It’s Aloha Friday, no work till Monday,” and many celebrate the end of the work week with a pau hana drink.

The concept of Aloha Friday has spread even to the Mainland, as “casual Friday,” when office workers are allowed to dress down a bit, and in some places the trend has moved to wearing Hawaiian-style shirts. Which is only appropriate, because the whole idea of Aloha Friday grew out of early efforts to promote locally manufactured aloha shirts.

Back in 1946, when the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce first considered the wearing of aloha shirts during the summer months, the business community was still of a missionary mindset: Never mind how hot it is, a proper businessman wears a suit and tie.

But the City and County of Honolulu, and later the territorial government, began to allow employees to wear sport shirts from June through October yearly. Aloha shirts were allowed only during Aloha Week each fall.

In the early ‘60s, designers came up with shirts in dignified, subdued designs and a clothing manufacturers’ group launched a campaign to institute Aloha Friday. The tradition officially began in 1966 when Wilson P. Cannon, Jr., a Maui boy who was president of the Bank of Hawai‘i, started wearing aloha shirts to the office.

Today, aloha shirts are everyday business wear, but knowing that it’s Aloha Friday still gives Islanders a little head start on the freedom of the weekend.

—Jill Engledow


Hawaiian, Heart and Soul

Have you ever played an ‘ohe hano ihu (Hawaiian nose flute)? Strung a lei of blossoms still damp from the tree? Wondered about the concepts of malama ‘aina and ho‘oponopono?

It’s a weighty task to condense all things Hawaiian into one weekend, but for the last 14 years, the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, has taken on the job—with wonderful results. This year’s award-winning Celebration of the Arts takes place from April 6 through 8. The free event on the resort grounds is open to all who want to gain knowledge and experience of the host culture.

“This year, we are dedicating much of the content to those who have come before us; thus, the theme ‘E Ola Ka Mana’ . . . Let the Spirit Live,” says Clifford J. Nae‘ole, Hawaiian cultural advisor.

E Ola Ka Mana is manifested in the personal visions of local artists: paintings in oil and watercolor, sculptures in clay and stone, carvings in bone, and works using fabric or even flowers. The display is part of a tribute to the Honokahua Preservation Site, where more than 2,000 native Hawaiian kupuna (ancestors) are buried near the hotel’s grounds.

One event highlight is the performance of The Queen’s Story on Friday, April 6. The heart-wrenching play, directed by Hawai‘i-born actor/playwright Lane Nishikawa, features well-known Maui Kumu Hula Hokulani Holt-Padilla as Queen Liliuokalani, and the cast and crew are Maui County Correctional Center inmates.

Panels on contemporary issues are always a part of the weekend schedule. This year, “Money Spent . . . Mana Returned” features hotel general managers from Maui and other islands who have made exemplary commitments to the preservation of Hawaiian culture, those who understand that “the culture of Hawai‘i is essential to the success of their establishments,” according to Nae‘ole.

As in past years, keiki can enjoy Hawaiian crafts at the Children’s Learning Center, and guests can watch and learn from informal artisan demonstrations.

For more info, call (808) 669-6200, or visit And don’t worry: despite the hotel’s closing in July for a $95 million renovation, it will be open for this event.

—Sky Barnhart


Hot Topic

Concern over global warming is heating up. Scary conversations about Maui’s extreme vulnerability to its effects have bubbled up, for me, in oddly casual circumstances: dinner conversation with out-of-town friends, chit-chat before an afternoon spin class, random banter with strangers at the local coffee shop.

Whether it’s in our consciousness because of recent extreme-weather disasters, a doomsday rerun on cable, or Al Gore’s hit documentary An Inconvenient Truth, the threat of global warming has some folks fearing the worst. A new lecture series entitled “Focus Green: Conversations on Climate Change,” to be held at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center (MACC), will help explain this critical issue, and elevate our understanding.

“My hope is that people come away inspired to affect change at any level they can, whether that means replacing their light bulbs, purchasing a hybrid car or lobbying their political representatives to increase tax incentives for alternative energy,” says Everett Dowling, sponsor of the event and a certified green developer. Dowling has invited some of the nation’s most renowned environmental stewards to talk with the Maui community.

Speakers include such prominent leaders as David Suzuki, host of the TV series The Nature of Things (March 14); journalist James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency (March 21); Terry Tamminen, environmental strategist and chief policy advisor to California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (March 28); and Christine Ervin, CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council (April 4).

While the focus will be on global warming—with emphasis on education and awareness—the series will also highlight the related topics of alternative-energy use and green-building techniques.

All lectures are free, though participants will have the opportunity to donate to Maui Coastal Land Trust at the door, a fitting beneficiary, given that rising ocean levels are one of the most serious threats of global warming.

Lectures begin at 6 p.m. at the MACC on Wednesdays through April 4. For more information, call Dowling Company at (808) 270-0516. You can also reach the MACC events hotline at (808) 242-7469.

—Sara De Palma


Near Blessings

Anticipation has quickened the pace of construction on a new, sacred monument at the Maui Dharma Center in Pa‘ia—after all, they have an important deadline to meet. Completion of the Lha Bab Peace Stupa, which began one year ago, is planned to be ready just in time for consecration by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama during a historic visit to Maui this spring.

The arrival of this revered spiritual leader will have many Mauians hurrying to make plans to see him. His Holiness will present two days of teachings at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center (MACC). “The Human Approach to World Peace,” on Tuesday, April 24, is free and open to the public. It’s followed on Wednesday, April 25, by “Eight Verses for Training the Mind”: using Buddhist doctrine to explore the intrinsic values of compassion and kindness found in all religious traditions. The Wednesday event costs a mere $25 (a 10th of the $250 some people paid to see the Eagles perform here).

As the finishing touches are made to the new stupa at the Dharma Center—Maui’s Tibetan Buddhists’ hub founded in 1974—its members and supporters undoubtedly have the Dalai Lama’s teachings in mind . . . and very soon they will have his blessing.

The Dalai Lama is coming to Maui. And that is a blessing for us all. For more information visit

—Sara De Palma


No Motor Needed

What if you could explore Maui’s waters as the first Polynesians did, millennia ago? Sage and Liz Spalding are channeling that tradition with their local company, Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Adventures. They offer an ocean excursion that’s fun for the whole family—themselves included. Captain Sage and First Mate Liz launch the Hina, a modified wa‘apea (sailing canoe), midmornings from Wailea’s Polo Beach. It’s done in the spirit of the ancients, using no dock, no motor, no nothing . . . just muscle and determination to push, hurdle and paddle beyond the shore break.

“When we are sailing it’s pure silence except for the sound of the ocean and the wind,” Liz says, “ . . . [taking] people back to the time where only Hawaiians were out here sailing.”

Named for the Hawaiian moon goddess, Hina is a copy of those vessels used to discover the Islands, with its six-man ka‘ele (hull), its ‘iako (boom) and ama (float), and the distinctly South Pacific, crab-claw shape of its la (sail). The canoe is quite sturdy in rough swells, and it’s impressive—from a modern person’s perspective—that coconut and olona sennit were once used to hold everything together in crossings from the Marquesas and Tahiti. Today, the lashings are cotton, the hull fiberglass, and the sail canvas.

“We enjoy educating our guests about the materials traditionally used for making sailing canoes, as well as the tactics Hawaiians employed for both navigating in the open ocean and sailing in coastal waters,” adds Liz. “It’s that information which helps our guests to relive the sailing Hawaiians did generations ago.”

Relive you do, by jumping into a seat to paddle, or throwing your weight around between trampolines—this helps affect the canoe’s stability, according to Sage. He should know, having paddled for the Outrigger

Canoe Club in O‘ahu. Liz worked on sailboats out of Ma‘alaea. They met at the California Maritime Academy and are licensed U.S. merchant marines.

The perk to this canoe adventure is getting to stop and snorkel: The water’s not too deep, with plenty of fish. I got a thrill free-diving the bottom in search of honu (turtles) and puhi (eels).

Call (808) 572-3098 for information, or visit

—Ashley Stepanek


In Praise of Pundy

I’ve written about Masaru “Pundy” Yokouchi a number of times, and ghostwritten for him, too. For once, I don’t know what to say.

Pundy passed away on November 30, 2006. He and Shirley, his wife of nearly 60 years, were flying back from a holiday on the Mainland with family, so that he could attend a meeting of the directors of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, whose board he led for 20 years. Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, that remarkable heart of his stopped beating.

So here’s the challenge. Do I tell you the details of his life, now that it’s the stuff of local legend? Place him on the pedestal of his good deeds, and lose sight of the flesh-and-blood man? Or simply say that he touched so many people, it would be hard not to make him sound like a saint, which, as Pundy would be the first to tell you, he never was.

What he was, first, last and always, was a common man—the kind Aaron Copeland surely had in mind when he composed his “Fanfare.”

Pundy was born in 1925, the son of Japanese immigrants, and grew up in the family bakery. A rough-and-tumble kid who excelled at sports, he joked that his friend Nadao Yoshinaga went into law because “somebody had to keep Pundy out of trouble.”

It was good fortune, and incredible timing, that he got interested in real estate just as Maui was about to take off as a visitor destination. Real estate made him wealthy. Better yet, it didn’t require the early hours a bakery demands.

In the 1960s, Pundy employed his considerable skills as a negotiator to help transform Ka‘anapali Beach into one of the world’s first master-planned resorts. A pragmatic optimist, he saw the visitor industry as a way to create decent jobs and encourage the island’s young people to stay on Maui.

For similar reasons, he helped found the Maui Research & Technology Park in Kihei.

Pundy enjoyed life, right to the end. He liked fast cars, good cigars and wine, and playing golf; he owned his own course on the Mainland. But he never thought of himself as a “big shot,” not in 1991, when the University of Hawai‘i named him an honorary doctor of humane letters; not in 2002, when the national Association of Performing Arts Presenters bestowed on him the inaugural Sidney R. Yates Advocacy Award. When Maui County’s Boy Scouts named him 1994’s Distinguished Citizen, he confessed that when he was a scout, his patrol had been “the worst.” “The day before the [1938] Camporee, we [stole] a big stack of firewood . . . and brought it back for the bonfire. Our scoutmaster said, ‘Take it back. You guys didn’t [chop] that—the logs are cut too clean.’”

In 1991, Pundy purchased the estate that had been, a generation before, the residence of Wailuku Sugar Company’s manager. What made the acquisition particularly sweet was the many times he’d walked past it going to and from school, a barefooted kid wondering what that big house must be like inside. Pundy often hosted events for the island’s nonprofits at the estate; and one of his first acts, after moving in, was to donate to the Maui Historical Society that part of the property that included the Bailey House Museum and its grounds, for decades the society’s home.

Pundy’s mentor and friend was the late John A. Burns, the first Democratic governor of the State of Hawai‘i. When Burns ran for the office in 1962, Pundy managed his Maui campaign.

One evening as they sat strategizing in the Yokouchis’ living room, the soon-to-be governor looked up at an abstract painting by Tadashi Sato and asked what it was supposed to be. Pundy had bought the painting with his first real-estate commission, spending more than he earned in a month at the bakery—much to Shirley’s dismay.

“I thought he was putting it down,” Pundy later recalled. “I said, ‘How can you, as a champion of education, make a negative comment about art? Art educates people.’ I told him that’s why the arts belong to the common man.”

No good deed goes unpunished. After the election, Gov. Burns told Pundy he’d established the State Foundation on Culture & the Arts (SFCA), and was sending Pundy to a national conference in Chicago, in January, as the foundation’s first chairman. “You’ve got to be out of your cotton-picking mind,” Pundy told him. “I just got out of the bakery. I don’t know anything about the arts!”

Burns was ready for him. “Didn’t you tell me the arts should belong to the common man? What better way for the common man to identify with the arts than if its chairman is cut from the same cloth?”

“I couldn’t argue with that,” Pundy said ruefully. “Ten days later I was in Chicago in a thin tropical suit, with a wind chill of 40 below.”

Pundy served on the State Foundation for 20 years, 12 as chairman. His proudest achievement there was the role the foundation played in the Hawaiian renaissance. The SFCA recruited the few remaining experts in hula and other Hawaiian arts, and funded master classes that would keep the culture alive. The foundation also purchased a group of paintings by Herb Kane, a Hawaiian artist living on the Mainland. “We bought the art so that he could afford to come back,” Pundy said. Kane returned to Hawai‘i, and went on to design the voyaging canoe Hokule‘a.

In the 1980s, Margaret Cameron, a major arts supporter on Maui, persuaded Pundy to join a group that was working to build a community theater. Though he was busy running Valley Isle Realty, and serving on a number of community boards, for Margaret’s sake Pundy agreed. Soon after, and much to his dismay, he was elected board president, a post he would hold for the rest of his life. Ask anyone who was involved in the creation of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, and they’ll tell you that without Pundy, it’s doubtful it would exist.

Despite myriad delays—and a construction budget that swelled to $32 million—Pundy proudly presided over the center’s opening in 1994, and saw it become one of the cultural jewels of this island state. His emphasis on the arts as education inspired a number of the center’s programs, among them an ongoing and innovative collaboration with the Department of Education, Maui District, under the auspices of the John F. Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education program.

In later years, health problems slowed Pundy physically, but nothing could daunt his passion for philanthropy. In 2001, he had read an article in Time Magazine on “boundless playgrounds” designed so that children with special needs, even those in wheelchairs, can participate fully; fun enough so that kids without disabilities will want to play there, too.  He continued to lobby for the project, and helped convince the County to designated 4.5 acres for a boundless playground in the Central Valley’s Keopuolani Park. Site preparation is now under way—another addition to the legacy of a man who never stopped working to make his community a better place.

So much for not eulogizing Pundy. But given the man, what can you do? Individuals and organizations a lot more important than I am have honored Masaru Yokouchi for his many gifts to the people of Hawai‘i, and to Maui in particular. Still, I can’t help thinking that what would please Pundy most would be to know that he inspired the rest of us to follow his example—to show by our own good works that there’s no such thing as a merely “common man.”

—Rita Goldman


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