Hanapepe history brought to life

HANAPEPE — It was the perfect way to open Friday night’s Art Night.

Joanna Carolan of the Banana Patch and Dawn Traina of Dawn M. Traina/Arius Hopman Galleries spearheaded a project that was capped with the blessing of 14 historic Hanapepe plaques that are placed prominently on buildings within the walking tour.

The plaques offer historic photographs of buildings and brief histories of former (and sometimes current) occupants.

Visitors were provided with a Historic Hanapepe Walking Tour map to guide them through the tour sites, with the reverse side of the fold-out map also repeating the histories of the various Hanapepe sites.

Chris Fayé provided the artwork that is used throughout the guide.

Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste, now free from his discussion with a group of students visiting from Kapi’olani Community College, said in congratulating leaders for the task, that this project is now being worked on to provide Lihu’e with a similar look.

That project is being spearheaded by students at the Academy of Travel and Hospitality at Kaua’i High School.

West Kaua’i Lions Club member Charlie Ortiz was helping out at the event, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ortiz, whose uncle Jardin owned the Jardin Theater (aka Hanapepe Theater), took advantage of the opportunity to reacquaint himself with the many people of Hanapepe who revisited the town for the occasion. These included people who worked in and owned the buildings prior to the current occupants inhabiting the buildings.

“How are you, Mrs. Igawa,” Ortiz greeted the former matriarch of Igawa Drug Store, Mumeno Igawa, who pensively studied the plaque outside their former dwelling/store. “It’s good to see you’re doing well,” Ortiz continued.

“We used to live back where the storage is now,” Mumeno Igawa said quietly.

“You mean, if people needed medicine after you were closed, they would bang on your door?” Ortiz queried.

That was the lifestyle, then. There were no Wal-Marts or any of the stores that stay open late, and if an ailment struck after the doors were closed, the proprietors understood, and accommodated, she said.

As Milton Ozaki was inspecting the plaque on the family’s Robert’s store across Hanapepe Road, one spectator remembered, “Their first store was where the surplus store was.”

Hanapepe residents remembered that, when you needed shoes and clothes, you went to Robert’s. When you graduated school, your watch came from Robert’s. And, when it was time for college, your suitcase came from Robert’s.

Similar tales were exchanged and relished throughout the afternoon, that spirit of rekindling lost memories sitting well with Carolan and Traina after they spent months of collecting and putting together the bits and pieces of Hanapepe history.

Carol Bain, who spearheaded the project, worked her video equipment for the occasion, and leaders of local businesses contributed to make the dedication a true neighborhood event.

Armed with their maps, visitors disbanded through-out the town, Carolan noting that part of the vision for the future is the restoration of the Aloha Theater, which currently sits boarded up following damage wrought by Hurricane ‘Iniki.

However, despite its unoccupied state, one of the windows still says, “Home of Lilo and Stitch.”

The project that was dedicated on Friday afternoon was partially funded by leaders of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the county Office of Economic Development.

Ortiz smartly folded up his Lions vest, and placed it in his car, saying, “I was born here. I grew up here. If I go anywhere else, it’s not going to be too far, because I’ll always come back here.”

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