Pineapple Island–before the resorts

A serene morning. Macduff, thankfully, got up at the crack of dawn to go search for petroglyphs. Alone. I take my coffee on the veranda of the Lodge watching as fast-moving clouds and fog sweep across the lush horse pasture across the road and wrap themselves in the branches of the surrounding Cook Island pines. Fat drops of water drip from the outstretched branches of the elegant looking trees. A hundred years ago, a New Zealander, George Munro, planted thousands of pines on the island after observing their ability to attract moisture from clouds passing through their boughs. Today these trees rise up over a hundred feet, all over the island, and continue to wring moisture out of the atmosphere on the rather dry isle (Maui and Molokai, nine miles away, steal most of the rain from the tradewinds before they reach Lanai).

photo by David Lansing

photo by David Lansing

I take my coffee and tiptoe across the damp lawn to an old island church being repainted a grassy green color by several workers. Also sipping coffee and leaning on an old pickup truck, idly watching the workers, is an island game warden, Derwin Kwon. We chat a bit and Derwin tells me he grew up just down the road from here in one of the white houses near a big jacaranda tree. I ask him what it was like back then.

“Well, for one thing, there were no tourists on the island when I grew up,” he says. “There were kids and outsiders who came over during the summer to pick pineapple, but that was our only interaction with people off the island.”

         As we sip our coffee and watch the men painting the church, I tell him I’m interested in stories about old Lanai, what it was like to live in such a secluded place, with just a single 10-room hotel on the whole island, while right across the channel, on Maui, all these big resorts were going up. What was it like, I ask, when Lanai produced 70% of the world’s pineapples?

         Well, it was both better…and worse, he says. “The work was hard and there wasn’t much future in it. If you were a kid growing up, you couldn’t wait to get off the island. But then again, we were a real community. When the whistle blew in the morning, everyone went to work. And when the whistle blew again, everyone went to lunch. At the end of the day, everyone got off at the same time. So you ended up doing things together, hanging out with your friends and family. Now we all have different schedules. The only time I see my friends is in the morning when we all hang out at the Blue Ginger to talk story.”

         What’s that like? I ask him.

         “Come find out for yourself,” he says. “We meet around 6 every morning.”

         Well, that’s a little early for me. But it beats getting lost on dirt roads looking for petroglyphs. So I tell Derwin to look for me tomorrow morning. I just hope I can drag my sorry ass out of bed before dawn. 

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  1. fred’s avatar

    So, get your “sorry ass” out of bed tomorrow. Your public wants to know the morning crowd.

  2. Fred Harwood’s avatar

    Might Derwin (and his Blue Ginger buds) be a considerable asset on petroglyphs?

  3. Angeline’s avatar

    Things may have changed on Lanai a bit, but talking story will always be a staple. Don’t miss it in the morning.
    Great photo!

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