Waikoloa Village Talk Story remembers the pioneering spirit of first residents

Thursday, July 26th, 2012
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It was a night of laughter, friendship and community bonding.

The Waikoloa Village Talk Story at the Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School cafeteria on July 20 brought together about 100 residents and friends who spent the evening listening to seven longtime homeowners recount the history of the pioneering town in its infancy more than 40 years ago.

From chairs on the all-purpose room stage, the talk story speakers took turns passing around a microphone while they recounted memories and dreams from when they first moved to the village.

Speakers included: Diane Rivas of THIS WEEK magazine; Ken Melrose from Waikoloa Land Development; Paula Kamiya, Waikoloa Elementary School’s retired first librarian; Peter Sydserff from Canada/France/Hawaii Telescope and past Waikoloa Village Association board member; Lester Young, former Boise Cascade employee and Clubhouse Restaurant manager; Cris Hafner of Hafner Graphic Designs and Rudy Castaneda, owner of Waikoloa Plumbing.

Ruth Smith, Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School vice principal, served as moderator.

Rivas described first coming to Waikoloa Village before residents had a store, a gas station or a post office. Rivas said it was important then to plan ahead.

“We were glad to have a store,” she said.

Rivas said her husband, Carlos, coordinated many of the early annual events including the Great Waikoloa Bike Race, the Great Waikoloa Horse Race, the Scottish games, polo matches, rodeos and other fun activities that brought the community together.

She said she is still in the house the couple bought in 1977.

“I’m glad I’m still here,” Rivas said.

The talk story events emerged from one of the 2008 South Kohala Community Development Plan priorities for Waikoloa Village of creating a “sense of place.” The document also lists as one of the values in the mission, “We love the old stories about our people and places and want them to live on in the hearts of our


Smith, who was also a South Kohala CDP steering committee member, said she felt the talk story was a great way to bring the community together and help people to learn more about the Waikoloa Village history.

“It was very much what we wanted,” she said. “This was a true talk story.”

According to the South Kohala CDP, Waikoloa Village was established in 1971. The Waikoloa Village Association was created and Boise Cascade gave 10,000 acres of land and improvements to the association, which included the clubhouse, swimming pool, and tennis courts. The public school opened three phases beginning in 1994, according to Melrose.

Since 1994, the school has now doubled in size from about 320 students to 600 students in the elementary school and they also added the Waikoloa Middle School five years ago. There are now about 7,000 people who live in the Waikoloa Village area — an explosion from the dozen or so visible from the hill when it first opened.

Hafner said she remembered the culture shock she experienced when she moved to Waikoloa from New York City. She said she was part of a committee that went door-to-door doing a successful survey to see if there were enough children in the village to justify building a school.

Though its origins were rooted in retirement, the village almost immediately became a family community where people who worked in at the resorts along the coast lived.

Hafner said by the time her daughter was ready for kindergarten, the school was built.

“It was close by and it was brand new,” Hafner said. “The library, when that got built, was amazing.”

Kamiya, the school’s first librarian, helped to set up the new school library. She also helped the school apply for a $300,000, 21st Century Community Learning Grant to provide for non-school hour learning programs.

“The idea was to use these facilities when they aren’t used after school hours or at night and on weekends,” Kayima said.

Smith said through the grant, the school could become a community-learning center.

The talk story events, which are part of the com munity outreach, are an important way to bring the area together, according to Smith. She said that each month, the talk story topics change and attract different people, but they are all designed to educate and to enrich the lives of people in Waikoloa.

“It is a way to web the community together and to help with connections so we really are a support for each either,” Smith said.

The talk story question period also brought closure for many people on the burning question, “What is the brown, tall structure marking the Waikoloa turnoff from Mamalahoa Highway onto Waikoloa Road?”

According to Rivas, it was built to represent Polynesian canoe sails and at one time it had the towns name with the Boise Cascade logo on it.

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