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Monday, March 06, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Monday, March 6, 2023

The 1925 Nā'ālehu Theatre is slated to be torn down, with a permit approved by County of
Hawai'i. A demolition crew was on site on Monday to assess the work. Photo by Bob Martin

A PERMIT HAS BEEN ISSUED BY THE COUNTY TO TEAR DOWN NĀ'ĀLEHU THEATRE. The non-residential Public Works demolition permit PW.B2022-002127 is to "Demolish existing Nā'ālehu Theater structure in entirety. Cut/cap/plug all utilities."
    On March 13, 2017, Hawai`i Tribune Herald reporter Ivy Ashe wrote, “The southernmost theater in the country sits abandoned as it has for more than a decade. It is unclear what the future of the Nā'ālehu Theater, the plantation-era building known to passing drivers for its still-vibrant paint job, will hold, but many residents aren’t optimistic.”Hawai`i Tribune Herald quoted Joe DeMoruelle, who managed Nā'ālehu  Theatre with Sandra DeMoruelle from 1980 to 2006. They hosted a radio station, films, concerts, hula performances, guitar and `ukulele classes and television and film production courses for area students. 
Nā'ālehu Theatre sits idle and unrepaired, remaining a colorful backdrop
in this 2012 photo of the Fourth of July parade. Photo by William Neal
    Among the acts playing Nā'ālehu Theatre were George Na`ope who founded the Merrie Monarch Festival; the band Steppenwolf; and Big Brother and the Holding Company, the band that backed up Janis Joplin. Big Brother brought to Nā'ālehu a young singer who starred in an off-Broadway play about Joplin's life.
     During the life of Nā'ālehu Theatre, there was a food concession for a period of time and numerous volunteer days to try to upkeep the building.
    Much community organizing and political support, from mayors to County Council members and legislators, during two decades supported leasing Nā'ālehu Theatre and restoring it. The owners turned down repeated proposals.
The old projection room and classroom at Nā'ālehu Theatre.
See Abandoned USA
     However, in 2011, developers of a proposed Nani Kahuku `Aina resort on more than 16,000 acres makai of Ocean View (including Pohue Bay) said they had a lease on Nā'ālehu Theatre. As they aimed for government to approve their resort, they proposed a board of local residents to oversee Nā'ālehu Theatre. They said they would pay to restore the theater as part of their community involvement. When the development plans for Nani Kahuku `Aina were put on hold, the restoration planning for Nā'ālehu Theatre paused as well. 
    Pohue Bay and surrounding lands were purchased for conservation and annexed to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.
    The 2017 Hawai'i Tribune Herald story about Nā'ālehu Theatre reported that the theater building went up in 1925, constructed by the Hutchinson Sugar Company and that its 10,237 square feet contained three separate sections. The story said the theater property was more recently owned by 300 Corporation, a division of the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation. The parent foundation is a nonprofit and major landowner in Hawai`i.  At the time, Weinberg also owned Pāhala shopping center, which has since been sold to the Olson Trust. Nā'ālehu shopping center was sold in May of 2019 to Nalu aio, LLC led by Duane Kurisu whose group also owns Punalu'u Bakeshop. Nā'ālehu Theatre was sold to aio Foundation in December of 2021.
The main theater with roof tiles fallen and the theater seats
side by side at Nā'ālehu Theatre years agoSee Abandoned USA
    Back in 2017, Ashe interviewed Joe Demoreulle for her Tribune Herald story. He told her: “I don’t think they’ll rent it to anybody now. I don’t think anything will happen there.” Ashe wrote that “an attempt to list the theater as a historic property was made in 2005. "At the time, representatives from the state historic preservation division of the Department of Land & Natural Resources visited the site and determined that it was eligible for listing."  Hawai`i Tribune Herald also reported that  “in June 2005, Alvin Awaya, then president of 300 Corp, sent State Historic Preservation Officer Peter Young a letter stating that the company ‘respectfully objects’ to the listings and would request a contested case hearing if the listing was not rejected. 
    In 2010, Honolulu Magazine listed the theater as one of Hawai`i’s Most Endangered Historic Sites,” reported Hawai`i Tribune Herald. See photos of the abandoned exterior and interior and a story on the Nā'ālehu  Theatre's history at http://www.abandoned-usa.info/abandoned-naalehu-theatre-hawaii.php

Nā'ālehu Theatre. Photo by Julia Neal

NĀ MELE PANIOLO, SONGS OF THE HAWAIIAN COWBOY is the title of the 103rd annual Kamehameha Schools Song Contest to be broadcast live this Friday, March 10 on K5. The pre-show begins at 7 p.m. with competition at 7:30 p.m. Encore presentations will Friday, March 17 at 7 p.m. on KGMB, Saturday March 18 at 2 p.m. on KHNL and Friday, March 24 at 7 p.m. on KGMB.
    The Kamehameha Schools website explains:
    The Song Contest is unique to Kamehameha – a tradition that has involved all students in musical competition for one hundred and three years. Miss Laura Brown, Director of Music at Kamehameha from 1926-1947, stated that "the objectives of the song contest are to build up the repertoire of the best in Hawaiian music for the cultural heritage of any student who attends Kamehameha; to develop leadership, cooperation and good class spirit; and to give students the use of their singing voices and to give them pleasure in singing as a means of expression."
    The first song contest for male students was held at the School for Boys in 1921. A cup named for George Alanson Andrus, a former director of music at Kamehameha School for Boys whose life inspired the idea of an annual song contest, was offered as an incentive in the competition.
    1922 marked the first year that both the Kamehameha boys and girls held song contests. Mrs. E. G. Scoville, a visitor to the Islands from Watertown, Connecticut, was so impressed with the singing of the Kamehameha girls that she donated the New England Mothers’ Cup for the School for Girls competition.
    In 1967, an additional trophy was offered by the Trustees in honor of Charles Edward King, an 1891 graduate of the School for Boys. The trophy is awarded to the class winning the combined class competition.
    The Louise Aoe McGregor Award, named for a member of the first graduating class of the School for Girls in 1897, was first presented in 1972. It recognizes the student director who has made the most significant contribution to the class in organizational ability, leadership, assistance to others, and persistence.
    The Richard Lyman, Jr. ‘Ōlelo Makuahine (Mother Language) Award recognizes excellence in the use of the Hawaiian language within a song. Mr. Lyman, a Kamehameha Schools Trustee from 1959 to 1988, was keenly interested in the preservation of Hawaiian language and culture.
    The Helen Desha Beamer Award recognizes the best musical performance. Donated by the Kamehameha Alumni Association, the award honors the substantial contributions of Helen Desha Beamer to the lexicon of Hawaiian music. Helen Desha Beamer was a 1900 graduate of the Kamehameha School for Girls.
    In the early years, the girls’ song contest was held in front of the Assembly Hall, and the boys’ was held in front of Bishop Hall. When the School for Girls campus on Kapālama Heights was completed in 1931, separate contests for boys and girls were held in the auditorium. In 1952, the first combined contest of the School for Girls and School for Boys Senior Division took place in Kekūhaupi‘o, the newly constructed fieldhouse. The song contest moved to the Neal Blaisdell Center in 1964 and has been attended by capacity crowds there ever since. A highlight of the evening is the Hō‘ike, a show to entertain and inform the audience while the judges’ score sheets are tallied. The Hō‘ike is an exhibition of the beauty of Hawaiian mele and hula.


St. Jude's Hot Meals are free to those in need on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until food runs out, no later than noon. Volunteers from the community are welcome to help and can contact Karen at pooch53@gmail.com. Location is 96-8606 Paradise Circle Drive in Ocean View. Those in need can also take hot showers from 9 a.m. to noon and use the computer lab from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Free Meals Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are served from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Nā'ālehu Hongwanji. Volunteers prepare the food provided by 'O Ka'ū Kākou with fresh produce from its gardens on the farm of Eva Liu, who supports the project. Other community members also make donations and approximately 150 meals are served each day, according to OKK President Wayne Kawachi.


Volcano Evening Market, Cooper Center, Volcano Village, Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with live music, artisan crafts, ono grinds, and fresh produce. See facebook.com.

Volcano Swap Meet, fourth Saturday of the month from 8 a.m. to noon. Large variety of vendors with numerous products. Tools, clothes, books, toys, local made healing extract and creams, antiques, jewelry, gemstones, crystals, food, music, plants, fruits, and vegetables. Also offered are cakes, coffee, and shave ice. Live music.                                                                                                                                  Volcano Farmers Market, Cooper Center, Volcano Village on Sundays, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., with local produce, baked goods, food to go, island beef and Ka'ū Coffee. EBT is used for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps. Call 808-967-7800.

O Ka'ū Kākou Market, Nā'ālehu, Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact Nadine Ebert at 808-938-5124 or June Domondon 808-938-4875. See facebook.com/OKauKakouMarket.

Ocean View Community Market, Saturdays and Wednesdays, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., corner Kona Dr. Drive and Hwy 11, near Thai Grindz. Masks mandatory. 100-person limit, social distancing required. Gate unlocked for vendors at 5:30 a.m., $15 dollars, no rez needed. Parking in the upper lot. Vendors must provide their own sanitizer. Food vendor permits required. Carpooling is encouraged.