Kaua‘i Remembered: Koke‘e 1919 to 1938

My grandfather built his cabin in 1919. It was a two-bedroom building with a large family and dining room, a kitchen and pantry, with a bathroom between the kitchen and a bedroom.

After about 10 years, an addition of three bedrooms and a bath was added to the end of the house away from the kitchen. There was a small Franklin stove in the living room that put out a lot of heat when we had a fire going. At the top of the property there were two more buildings, one with three bedrooms and a bathroom with a Furo or Japanese bathtub in it. This was for the help.

The next building was a two-car garage and a tack room for the saddles and grain for the horses. In most summers we would have four or five horses up for the summer. The roads were unpaved so we could go out on them only when it was nice and dry. I did not like putting chains on the tires when you had to lie in the mud, so most of our travel was by horseback.

In the early ’30s the CCC crews had cut several new trails. This made horseback riding much more interesting. And on some of the new trails mokihana and maile were to be had sitting on the horses back and not having to go plowing into the brush.

Several of the plantations would have cottages at Koke‘e so their top men could get away from the heat of the summers. That meant more kids to play with. So more fun!

One year my grandfather got a big square tent. After putting it up, he got the carpenters to put 1×12 lumber all the way around the bottom and then made us get all the hay that was laying around and filled the center of the tent so that we had a nice mattress. There were no mosquitoes up there yet so we spent the summer roughing it. The grownups loved it.

As the family grew, more buildings were built, the first one for The John Plews family and next one for the Wichman family. We Wichman kids loved to go over to the Plews’ cottage as soon as we saw that someone was awake because that meant tea was being served. Morning tea is very big for the British. Later in life after Nancy and I were married we went on a tour to Australia and New Zealand and one morning while I was shaving there was a knock at the door and in comes the maid saying “Good morning, tea time,” with me only in my undershorts.

The Hui Manu Society (bird club) imported the chickadee bird to Koke‘e and they were starting to increase. They were very friendly and my grandmother loved to feed them raw peanuts. They would come and take a peanut right out of your hand. We finally got wise and started to cut the peanuts into about four to six pieces to make the peanuts last longer.

My grandmother died in 1940 so she wasn’t around when the Forestry people took 25 breeding pairs to Maui to try and start another colony. Both colonies died out. My grandmother would have been devastated. She also got hummingbird feeders and got the green-colored amakihi to come to the feeders but she couldn’t get the apapane or i‘iwi to come to the feeders.

The purple liliko‘i (passion fruit) would be ripening in late August and we boys would collect them to make juices out of the pulp. This juice was good for drinking or for making jelly. We would try to get them while they were still on the vine or the pigs would get them before us if they were left on the ground.

The Territorial Government got fertilized eggs or young fingerlings to stock the Koke‘e streams back in the 1920s from Southern California streams where it never froze and the young trout took hold and started to flourish. These fish were nice rainbow trout and good eating. One year they brought in Dolly Varden fingerlings for release. Thankfully they didn’t reproduce in our warmer waters but they almost wiped out the Young Rainbows. The summer of 1936 I think I caught 20 Dolly Varden and were not bothered with anymore.

The hunting for goats and pigs is ongoing today. The Koke‘e goats are found on the cliffs of the Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Coast. I would not go goat hunting at Koke‘e because all you had to hunt were those goats that came out on the upper side of the cliffs. If I wanted goats I would go to the mountains opposite Nawiliwili because it was a lot less dangerous.

In 1938 I stayed in Hawai‘i for the summer and my mother and two brothers came to Kaua‘i. The big doings for that summer were the arrival of Carl Sckotsberg and Otto Selling from the University of Sweden at Uppssala, and Lucy Cranwell from Christ Church, New Zealand to botanize the Koke‘e forests. Otto Selling became a world-renowned scientist in the pollens of plants, and wrote a treatise on pollens that was used for years as the bible on pollens.

There were no four-wheeled vehicles in those days so we went everywhere on horseback. I was the groom for the trio and very often they asked me to climb a tree to get a flower or fruit for them to use in their identifying the plant. One day mother and I took them down towards Nu‘alolo to see the Hibiscus, Kokio Kauaenisis tree in full bloom. They were like little children trying to outdo each other in getting the best sample. Mother took a flower home for herself and painted a watercolor of it. When she died she left the painting to me, which I cherish to this day.

After returning back to the house where they were staying, they would clean and put the samples in dry newspapers to dry before sending them home for later mounting permanently. And because I showed interest they showed me how it was done.

In August my grandfather got a letter then a telephone call from Ford Motor Company saying the Louis Ferdinand, the Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany’s grandson and his bride Kira, who was niece of one of the Grand Dukes of Russia who had escaped the purges of 1917. Louis Fredinand had been sent to the United States several years before to study mass production in the U.S. and had done this work at Ford Motor Co. in Detroit for one year.

When they got to Koke‘e they were put up in the bridal cottage. After lunch of the first day I took them on a horseback ride to Kalalau lookout, an hour’s ride because there was no vehicular road there yet. When we got to the lookout the sun was shining over the whole scene. The ocean was vivid blue with white waves breaking against a green shore. They were properly impressed.

That night after supper, Princess Kira taught me how to fold a piece of paper into the form of a bird that would flap its wings when you pulled its tail. It was a happy two days with them and who would expect that a year later a war with Germany was declared by the French and British.

The next three summers I went back to Haycreek in Oregon and worked on the ranch all summer. Then I went back to Iolani for the Fall Semester.

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