Class of 1969, Pahoa School

Thursday, January 16, 2002

"Prayerlike thoughts, 
offered from a distance,
have been demonstrated to
increase the healing rate from surgeries,
and religious faith is associated 
with faster recovery from surgeries."
~ Larry M. Dossey, M.D

To my Classmates,

At the country school in Puna, Hawai`i, ours was Pahoa School's Class of 1969:

Arsenio Acob, Bernice Choy, Edward "Eddie" Ganir, Hannah Hanohano, Vivian Hanohano, Calvin Hayashi, me, Trudy Ka`apana, Samson Ka`awaloa, Gabriel Kealoha, Christine Kimura, Norman Kukino, Richard Luis, Milton Miyamoto, Norman Murayama, Janis Nakauchi, Calvin Okamoto, Gregory Pau, Dennis Pavao, Iris Sato, Susan Seto, Susan Tampon, Roy Tsutsui, Barry Toyota, Wendell Toma, Johnny Walker, Deanna Yamaguchi, and Wayne Yamashita. 

That's all of us.  Just as we were called when roll was taken or we were lined up alphabetically to be weighed and measured, vision screened or vaccinated.  That list came straight out of memory. No big feat, as there were only 28 of us in the entire class, not including Leslie, Lisa, and Winona who came to live in Puna but briefly, then moved away.

>> Map
>> Coffee Time's Tour of P‚hoa
>>  Hale Kipa O Kiana's Picture Tour of P‚hoa Village
>> Hale Kipa O Kiana's Picture Tour of Puna Attractions

Growing up together, we have an uncommonly rich shared history of our "Wonder Years" in Puna, including the hula hoop and the twist; the Cold War and bomb shelters; exploring lava tubes behind Christine's house; swimming at Warm Springs and  Queen's Bath, now covered by lava; respecting the riptide at Kaimu (Kalapana Black Sand Beach) and swimming with the tadpoles, alongside an ancient heiau, at Harry K. Brown Park; playing in the rain (and rain it did in Puna, sometimes for many days straight!); wading through the "lakes" in the schoolyard; putting on skits, plays, pageants, and dances; and going on class excursions to the big city (Hilo).

>> Click here for an audio clip of Dennis 
singing "Puna Ku`u Aloha,"
 a song dedicated to Puna, 
courtesy of

Queen's Bath, Kalapana, 
a spring-fed pool
...where we learned to hold our breath 
by swimming its entire length in a single breath.

We came in all shapes, sizes and colors, from every corner of Puna, including Kalapana, Opihikao, and Pahoa. And although we were a mixed bag of aptitudes, talents, and achievements, we progressed through the grades together as one unit, studying the same subjects with the same teachers in the same classrooms.  Except for using our respective boys' and girls' bathrooms, we did just about everything together.

It's a wonder we didn't get sick of each other.

But we didn't.  It was just the way it was. Whether we were aware of it or not, we were just like family to one another. Like siblings, we had our squabbles, fights and rivalries, but I think they were good for us as they prepared us for life, toughening even the smallest and meekest of us. As a result, we're a bunch of go-getters, and none of us are pushovers.

Mostly, I remember the good times, especially holding hands as we walked to the cafeteria, singing together, playing music together, dancing with each other, studying together, helping each other out, ribbing and teasing each other, and playing hard together at recess and after school.

Right now, I'm chuckling over the Red Rover, Red Rover, Send So-and-so Right Over game.  We "potots" -- Susan T, Deanna, Wayne, Wendell, and I (the most potot * of the potots) --  were always picked last for each team and "sent over" first.  Some of you big buggahs could have done us munchkins great harm by bulldozing us right into the ground, but because you picked us off early on and you went easy on us with your slo-mo bulldozing. My unbroken bones thank you.

* potot: short person, dwarf, from the Filipino dialect, Cebu  (Amazing what you can find out with!)

And oh, remember those exciting class excursions to Hilo?  The Hilo Library and Lyman Museum were interesting, but Excelsior Dairy with ice cream and Miko Foods with hotdogs were yummier. The most fun part was lunch at the "Japanee Pahk" with its pagodas, tilapia, tea house and bridges -- also known as Queen Lili`uokalani Park -- and all of us running across the foot bridge to Coconut Island (also known as Mokuola).  

Back then, the bridge was wooden-planked.

Among the most memorable of our teachers:  Mrs. Francis Ho, who drilled us in English grammar and backed up traffic by cautiously driving -- as slow as molasses;  Mr. Toshimasa Miura and Mr. Roy Katayama, who pounded math into us, boys and girls alike; Miss Donna Weiss (Saiki), fresh from Wisconsin with her long legs in silky nylons, who pioneered the teaching of Hawaiiana at Pahoa School and later became Hilo High School's principal, and now executive director of Hilo's Pacific Tsunami Museum; Mr.Donald Isbell, a musically-talented transplant from Montana, who taught some of us how to keep a beat in band (for others, it came naturally), as well as sing and harmonize as one; and who was married to former Girl Scout leader and state representative, Mrs. Virginia Isbell; Mr. Norman Mizuguchi, our 8th grade homeroom teacher, who was Mr. Cool and later became a state senator, then Senate president; and Mrs. Vivian Araujo Stephenson, always sharply dressed and spike heeled, who taught us Social Studies, opening our eyes to the world, while sharing her love, classical music, by slowly seducing us into loving it with her by playing Mozart, DeBussy, and Bach on her portable phonograph.

Remember them?  Do you wonder, as I do, what ever became of them?  We had a lot of loving adults in our lives, and they too are a part of us.  

The saying goes, "It takes a village to raise a child."   

So true for us. After school, Pahoa village with all of its good people raised us, as well as their goodies: brain-freezing ice shave (ever notice that we say ice shave, and everyone else says shave ice?) made by Miura Lady and Shiigi Lady, the best sun-drenched sour lemons from Toma Lady, ampan and coconut pie from Iwata Bakery, delicious crack seed out of the huge glass jar at Shiigi Store, comic books at Momita Store, and everything else at Yamaguchi Store and the Pahoa Cash & Carry, aka "Hara Store", still run by family since the 1940s and the only store left of our "hanabata" days.

We are among the most blessed of the blessed, as we lived our childhoods together in one of the most beautiful and nurturing places on Earth, Puna. We had no way of knowing how blessed. It was all we knew.  Since leaving our corner of our island, many of us are worldlier, having been to other islands, the Mainland and foreign countries.  Puna will always be our home turf.  Wiser, we now can appreciate the blessings of our childhood. 

Sharing the same roots and growing up together, we not only touched each other's lives, we melted together, blending with one another. We became a part of each other, not only in our memories, but in our hearts, minds, and spirits.  The Aloha endures to this day. And because Aloha endures, I write to you.  

I hope I have dredged up some warm and vivid memories, firing up your Aloha because I am asking for your help.  Your strongest prayers and kokua are needed. One of us is hanging in the balance, hovering between this world and the next.  

It's Dennis.  

He had a stroke (aneurysm) and is at Maui Memorial Hospital, recovering from surgery.  Please pray for him, his wife, Leialoha Spencer-Pavao and their young kids, as well as the Pavao 'Ohana (as you may recall, Lenneth was two years ahead of us; Edwin Jr., a year ahead, and Morris, a year behind us, followed by the rest of the Pavao kids) and his extended family, including the Konanui-Punahoa 'Ohana (his mom's family) and the Ka`apana 'Ohana (his Aunty Tina's family, including his cousins, Led and Ned, two years ahead of us and of course, Trudy, in our class). 

If you're reading this and you're not a classmate, please pray, too.  Mahalo.


"Life is a Gift."

Author Unknown
Classmates: You know who I am. 

 "The only gift is a portion of thyself..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


September Morn © 2002