Waipouli Coconut Plantation manager Edward “Buddy” Crabbe

Edward “Buddy” Crabbe (1909-1972) was the brother of Olympic swimming champion and Hollywood movie star Clarence “Buster” Crabbe (1908-1983), both of whom were swimming sensations at Punahou School, O‘ahu, during the late 1920s.

“Buster” Crabbe went on to become a two-time Olympian and the winner of a gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle swimming event at the 1932 Olympic games held in Los Angeles, and later appeared in a number of feature films, most notably by portraying 1930s comic-strip heroes Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers.

Brother “Buddy” moved to Kaua‘i, where he managed a coconut plantation at Waipouli and became president of the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau.

A large portion of Crabbe’s Waipouli coconut plantation had been planted years earlier by Grove Farm Plantation manager Edward Broadbent (1872-1947).

Broadbent had begun planting coconut trees at Waipouli in 1912 when he purchased the property, and by 1914 his coconut groves contained nearly 1,100 trees.

All that remain of them today are the tall trees to be seen standing in Waipouli alongside Kuhio Highway.

Niu-Pia Farms (“niu” means “coconut” and “pia” means “starch” in Hawaiian) was the name of Crabbe’s coconut plantation.

Comprised of 1,675 trees situated on 325 acres owned by Broadbent’s estate, it was the only commercial coconut plantation in the Territory of Hawai‘i at the time Crabbe managed it during the 1940s.

The trees were of the Samoan variety, which produce nuts in seven to eight years instead of the 10 to 12 years obtained from the Hawaiian variety.

Crabbe was quite successful, selling 2,000 coconuts weekly for a profit.

Some were sold as chilled soft coconut meat, others were purchased by candy manufacturers in Honolulu, and the rest were ground up and mixed with boiled and dried cassava root (pia), grown on 20 acres of the farm, and were sold as hog feed.

“Buddy” Crabbe moved to Los Angeles in 1962, where he operated Line Van Lines, and returned to Hawai‘i in 1972.

Surviving him were his wife Hilda Crabbe, his brother “Buster,” son Edward Crabbe and daughter Mrs. Linden Nuedeck.
Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com


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