Celebrating 100 Years of Plantation Families 1922-2022
Beyond the Labor: Plantation Life on Lānaʻi
The Community They Built
After James Dole purchased the island in 1922, Lānaʻi's main economic industry was pineapple for the next 70 years, until 1992. Immigrants from the Philippines, Japan, Korea, China, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere all came to the island in search of a better life for themselves and for their families. Lānaʻi City and our modern community today are products of the vibrant community they built.
Plantation life was so much more than just the work. While many might think of the plantation days as nothing more than the grueling field labor, we hope to provide a more nuanced perspective of this time. To those who have lived through the plantation and to those of us lucky enough to learn from them, it is apparent that this idea of a “plantation mentality” on Lānaʻi is not one of servitude or limitation.
In spite of challenging working conditions, segregation, and poverty in the early plantation days, Lānaʻi people persevered and created a community full of joy and life. They were resilient and hardworking. They held a sense of responsibility to the land and to each other. They lifted each other up across ethnic lines and grew to live in a vibrant multicultural society.
These are the values we should remember and carry with us, the values stitched in the very fabric of our community. Beyond the Labor: Plantation Life on Lānaʻi showcases the vibrant lives of Lānaʻi people, and we invite you to help us honor their legacy.
Listen to our stories
This virtual exhibit is the product of the ongoing digitization of our archival collections and features photographs that have never been on exhibit in our physical museum space. As you view the photos, we invite you to listen to stories of Dean Del Rosario (whose father is the photographer of many of the following photos), Albert Morita, and Diane Preza, who all grew up during the plantation days and are deeply rooted to Lānaʻi. While their experiences are their own, we believe many who grew up during this time will find their stories relevant and of value to the greater story of Lānaʻi's community.
Sports, Clubs, & Activities
During the plantation era, recreational sports and clubs thrived amongst children and adults alike. There were many opportunities to participate in fun activities for all members of the community, and the following photographs showcase but a handful of these sports and clubs.
The Yankees were one of many community little league teams. Many organizations sponsored the teams, including the Young Buddhists Association, the Catholic Church, and the Lions Club.
Listen to Dean Del Rosario share about the little league teams:
Boy Scouts Troop 66
Boy Scouts were an incredibly active club in the plantation community. Here, Troop 66 is pictured during an outing on Lānaʻi Hale, with Maunalei Valley visible in the background.
Listen to Albert Morita (pictured on the right) share about the boy scouts:
Boy Scouts weren't the only scouts around. Aurelio Del Rosario led the Sea Scouts, a group of boys who learned seamanship and sea safety while being out on the ocean.
Listen to Dean share about the Sea Scouts:
Girls were not to be forgotten--there was also an active girl scout troop on Lānaʻi. Girl scouts participated in a myriad of activities in the outdoors and in the community, and the club continued for many years.
Listen to Diane Preza share about the Girl Scouts:
Did you know the building in the center of Dole Park served as a bowling alley for many years? Still called the "bowling alley," the building once played host to four bowling lanes and was a central hub for community fun. Many community members formed teams and engaged in friendly competition.
Listen to Diane share about the Bowling Alley:
Lānaʻi Gun Club
In modern times, hunting has continued to be a favorite activity of Lānaʻi people. As avid hunters, the club's members utilized pistols, rifles, and shotguns. The club would host various shooting competitions throughout the year, including a special "turkey shoot" at Thanksgiving.
Listen to Albert share about the club:
There were many community activities held outdoors that invited the participation of all. While many sports teams focused on men at the time, women still joined in on the athletic fun. Here, Lānaʻi women play volleyball at the public park.
Lānaʻi Tennis Club
Lānaʻi City Band
Lānaʻi folks have always been deeply connected to the ʻāina. The land and sea provided both sustenance and recreation for Lānaʻi people, who understood they had responsibility to care for this place.
Every one who has grown up on Lānaʻi has memories of swimming at Kaumālapaʻu Harbor with friends and family. This has been an activity enjoyed by Lānaʻi people throughout the years. While the breakwater and stairs have evolved over time, the harbor will always be a beloved place for Lānaʻi ʻohana.
Listen to Dean share about the Kaumālapaʻu:
Fishing & Diving
Lānaʻi people are ocean people. For many generations, local families have relied on the health and abundance of the sea to provide food for their ʻohana and community. Pictured here: Jimmy Low (left), Stacy Olsen (middle), Mario "Pinky" Dahang (right) with an ulua.
Listen to Diane share about the fishing and diving:
Mr. Ito (known at "Ito") was an employee of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, but in his free time, he developed and cared for a beautiful garden across from his home on Queen's Street. He started small and gradually expanded the garden to include terraces and a variety of colorful flowers for all to enjoy.
Listen to Diane share about Ito's Garden:
Lānaʻi Field Trials
The Lānaʻi field trials were a competition to showcase the skills of hunting dogs. Live game birds were placed in ventilated boxes and hidden on the landscape, and the hunting dogs would locate and point to them, following the instructions of their owners and gaining points from the judges. Pictured in the front row are kamaʻāina of Lānaʻi: Lloyd Cockett (left), Sol Kaopuiki (middle), and Ernest Richardson (right).
Listen to Dean share about the field trials:
Activities in the Park
While this may look like an event in Dole Park, this photo was actually taken at the old baseball field where Hale Kupuna now resides. Community activities like this tug-o-war game would draw the participation of many residents who would come for the fun!
Listen to Dean share about activities in the park:
Ranch at Kōʻele
Ranching was the longest-run economic industry in modern times. Kōʻele served as the headquarters of the Lānaʻi Ranch and the hub of the island community long before Lānaʻi City existed. Though the ranch formally ended in 1951, Kōʻele families continued the paniolo tradition of horsemanship.
Listen to Albert share about Kōʻele:
Within the past century, hunting has become a favorite activity of many Lānaʻi folks. Lānaʻi hunters often hunt to not only to provide food for their families and friends but also to enjoy the Lānaʻi outdoors. Removal of these invasive ungulates (like axis deer and mouflon sheep) from our landscape is also a form of stewardship. Pictured here are: Richard Oshiro (left), "Joey" Morita (middle left), "CO" Oshiro (middle right), and Albert Morita (right, not narrator).
Listen to Albert share about hunting:
Spectators Enjoying a Game
Lānaʻi City played host to many community celebrations over the years. While specific ethnic groups organized culture-specific celebrations such as Rizal Day and the annual Bon Dance, the community also came together for many parades and parties for all.
Union Hall Festivities
The ILWU Union Hall was an important gathering place throughout the plantation days. It served as a meeting place also as a soup kitchen during the 200-day strike in 1951. Celebrations were often held here, and Filipino dancers are pictured during a community festival.
Hula at the Gym
The "Old Gym" or "County Gym" was the only gym in town during the plantation era. While many sports were enjoyed there, the space was also constantly utilized for performances and celebrations, such as the hula featured here.
Listen to Diane share about the "Old Gym":
There were many talented Lānaʻi musicians who excelled in instruments like the guitar, bass, and ʻukulele. Hawaiian music was a staple at parties and community celebrations. Pictured here are local musicians Clarence Fujimoto (left), Robert Amaral (middle), and Sam Shin (right).
Listen to Diane share about music on Lānaʻi:
Obon is an annual Buddhist event celebrated by Lānaʻi's Japanese community and and is a way to honor one's ancestors. This photo shows the bon dance happening on the field across from the current Hongwanji, where it is still celebrated.
May Day Parade
May Day celebrations during the plantation days included festive parades with floats and a May Day court. The photo of the float here was captured on Lānaʻi Avenue, and the rooftop of the theater can be seen in the background.
Pictured is a gathering of employees who worked at the Labor Yard (today's Fleet Yard) enjoying a pau hana gathering. Shop workers were extremely innovative, often fabricating tools or pieces to improve the efficiency of the machinery.
Listen to Albert share about the shop gang:
Fourth of July
Fourth of July celebrations included a lively parade with many floats and organizations participating. The entire community would come out to enjoy the festivities with their families.
Listen to Dean share final thoughts on the plantation community:
Singers at Homecoming
July 4th Parade
Help us honor their legacy
Lānaʻi City has changed much over the past 100 years, but the values that emerged from the plantation community remain valuable. The shared experience of Lānaʻi people during the plantation days created the foundation of our local culture today. This virtual exhibit has been developed with the hope that people on Lānaʻi and beyond are inspired by the lives plantation people lived--vibrant lives that were so much more than just their work.
Our first ever virtual exhibit is part of the "Our Living History: Lānaʻi Digital Archive" project. We have diligently worked with our archivist to organize and continue digitization of our collections, and this exhibit is a product of our continued commitment to making our history accessible by all.
We hope this is just the beginning. If you have additional contextual information about the photos in this exhibit or your own Lānaʻi family photos to share, we invite you to reach out and join us in our journey to care for our island's rich history, culture, and values.