My new mini-gig is taking me back not only to Maui’s past, but to a great time in my own life. I have begun writing the “Looking Back Through The Maui News” column that Gail Ainsworth originated and contributed for years to the Sunday paper. After Gail decided she was ready to stop doing the little column, readers noticed that it was gone and asked the paper to bring it back. Now I’m taking over, and, if all goes as planned, the first one should appear April 3.
The column consists of a paragraph for the date of the paper 100, 75, 50, 25 and 10 years ago–or as close as you can get, since the paper was not always published daily. To find the stories that will be summarized in the various paragraphs for April, I spent some time last week at the microfilm machine, a place I know quite well. Back in 1998, when I decided to leave The Maui News and go freelance, the paper asked me to take on a big project. The Maui News would be 100 years old in the year 2000, and they wanted to run a series of stories looking at the history of Maui over that century as seen through the pages of The Maui News.
This was one of the best jobs I ever had. It was great fun scrolling through the old newspapers recorded on microfilm (using the indexes put together by Gail, by the way, her great contribution to Maui history). I learned about the history of Maui in the 20th century and then shared what I had learned in “double-truck” pages published every other week. Double-truck means two pages facing each other, so there was a lot of space to fill. Having researched each decade, I wrote up stories that gave an overview of the time and others that went into detail about certain interesting events and people. Then I had to find pictures, which also was fun. At one point, I think I had seen every photograph in the Maui Historical Society archives.
Along with my stories, the biweekly pages included columns by then-publisher Maizie Sanford, who wrote about her family’s history on Maui and her memories of growing up here. We were proud to win the Maui Historical Society’s 2000 Preservation Award in recognition of our work, which the paper put together at the end of the year into a booklet that made our work available even after the last newspaper had gone to recycling.
Now I am back at it, whizzing through reels of microfilm to find certain dates, stopping to check out interesting items along the way, recognizing the names of people who were community leaders many decades ago. The work I did back in 1998-1999 gives me a good grounding in what was going on at the time, so I know what was significant then. And because I still subscribe and read the paper copy that shows up every morning on my doorstep, I also am aware of interesting connections to current events.
For example, one of the items I found reported on the establishment of the very first Maui County Fair committee in 1916. Another reported that Mayor Eddie Tam had spoken in favor of the “strong mayor” form of government, an issue now being debated as we consider whether to switch to a county-manager system.
I hope others will find these glimpses of the past as interesting and, often, amusing as I do. It’s good to be back at the old microfilm machine, so thanks to Gail for passing this along, and thanks to The Maui News for allowing me to do it.