Finding Echoes of the Past

If you'd lived on Maui 100 years ago, you'd have known Worth Aiken, a busy guy who helped get Haleakala made a national park.

If you’d lived on Maui a hundred years ago, you’d have known Worth Aiken, a busy guy who worked in the campaign to designate  Haleakala a national park.

One of my favorite things is to take a research trip to Honolulu and spend days delving into original documents from Hawaii’s past. It’s one of those needle-in-a-haystack deals. Somewhere in the thousands of files stored in the State Archives or the Mission Houses library are fascinating nuggets of information about places and people, but it takes a lot of digging to find what you want.

And it sure is easy to get sidetracked, especially for me, because after years of studying Maui history, I feel as if people prominent in the community a hundred years ago are personal acquaintances.

Charles E. King composed many Hawaiian songs, including the famous Ke Kali Nei Au (“The Hawaiian Wedding Song”). He also put together two collections of his and others’ music, King’s Book of Hawaiian Melodies and King’s Songs of Hawaii.

I just have to stop and read what Worth Aiken had to say about a teacher in one of the tiny schools found in every little Maui community back then. In addition to being an active businessman and a great promoter of Haleakala as a visitor attraction, Worth was a school agent overseeing the administration of many East Maui schools.

And what a surprise to see that the great Hawaiian composer Charles E. King also worked for the school system, while still finding time to produce dozens of songs destined to become classics.

Their letters are written in the beautiful script of people who had to communicate legibly before typewriters were common, and at the Archives I am able to see and touch the original documents. I’m captivated by the old-fashioned prose and try to read, between the lines, the intriguing human stories only hinted at in these official communications.

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2 thoughts on “Finding Echoes of the Past

  1. Helen NIelsen

    I am enjoying your blog, Jill.

    I’ve always wanted to dig around in Honolulu to research Kaupo, and now I believe I may learn about East Maui schools by researching Mr. Aiken’s letters. Fascinating. I’d love to research the early missionaries stories with Hui Aloha Church and St. Joseph Church…And to learn more about the sugar industry in Kipahulu.

    Thank you for your glimpses into the past; I appreciate it.

    Aloha,
    Helen

    • Jill

      Thanks, Helen. Yes, a browse through the State Archives and especially the school records would be interesting. The Hui Aloha history might be at the Mission Houses and info about the Catholic churches in books like Pioneers of the Faith. A lot of stuff is now online from both the Archives and the Mission Houses, which is more efficient but less fun than actually going there.

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