I felt sad reading about plans to develop the Pukalani Triangle, that fine empty sward across from the Pukalani Superette. My life is one of simple pleasures - as is that of most people, I suspect - and one of them is when I get out of the car to shop there and am treated to the rare unobstructed sight of Haleakala.
Remember when the crossroads of Upper and Lower Kula Highway at Five Trees was an open pineapple field with grand views extending up the side of Haleakala? It was truly a magnificent gateway to Upcountry. And then a deal was struck with a developer, and the new high school was leapfrogged up there, away from "adjacent development."
That's the argument being used now to support rezoning former pineapple land in the Pukalani Triangle from agricultural to rural growth, where streets will be widened, houses added, and another cherished viewplane destroyed.
I believe the Superette's owner, Aric Nakashima, when he says he speaks for the silent majority of customers and friends who do not want the Upcountry Town Center. What, another shopping center, a strip mall at that? The new one at Kulamalu has barely gotten started.
I like to shop at Pukalani Superette, where the prices are good and the staff supremely friendly. It's one of those few remaining local markets, where the daily specials include chow fun, teriyaki chicken, fried mahimahi. I love seeing working men loading up on those plastic bentos for lunch. Even with a loaded basket, I still seem to end up paying less there than anyplace else.
When I pull up it always makes me happy to see the store's employees on their break, sitting on the bench or on chairs around the back door, silhouetted against the bright green of the building. Some are smoking. Invariably they are laughing and joking, clearly grateful to be off their feet. I'm happy to see a business that has survived the consolidation and homogenization of Maui's retail establishments and retains its heart, not to mention its low profit margin.
The land across from the Superette now facing redesignation in the Maui Island Plan was once pineapple fields belonging to the upstart in the industry, Maui Pineapple Co., created in 1932. Initially, it was part of Haleakala Ranch.
Late in 1922, representatives from the California Packing Corp., later Del Monte, approached Maui Agricultural Co., anxious to lease the company's property east of Maliko, land unsuitable for cane, but potentially good for pineapple.
Harry Baldwin, the company's head, decided instead to go into the pineapple business himself. In 1923, he made an arrangement to grow pineapple for C.P.C. on a profit-sharing basis, shipping from Kahului to the company's cannery in Honolulu.
W.A. Clark, head of Grove Ranch, was made head of M.A. Co.'s new pineapple division. (Clark lived in that interesting old red house with the dormer windows on the mauka corner where Haliimaile Road meets Baldwin Avenue.) He planted 250 acres at Haliimaile and Kaluanui that first year, and 500 more were added in 1924 and the same in 1925, when 5,456 tons of fruit were harvested.
"A very attractive camp for the employees in this department has been built, as well as a good garage and repair shop for trucks and tractors and a commodious stable," Harry noted in his annual report for 1924. This was Haliimaile village, on the slopes of Haleakala, where 120 cottages with "electric lights, running water, shower baths, and a complete system of sewage disposal" were built in 1924. A separate camp arose for workers in the Kaluanui fields.
The prospects for the fields were so good that C.P.C. committed to building a new cannery in Kahului. "All agree to it," Harry wrote in his diary. It opened in 1926, a fine, start-of-the-art facility with a railroad spur leading to the harbor, a dominant symbol of Maui's new economy.
Meanwhile, Harry Baldwin was co-owner of Haleakala Ranch with his youngest brother, Sam, under whose management the ranch was losing money. Harry was chairman of the board and the brains of the operation, and he persuaded Sam to put marginal pastures into pine.
In 1924, Haleakala Ranch signed its own agreement to ship pineapple to C.P.C., and the first fields were planted on both sides of the road at Piiholo. There, another camp for workers was built.
Corn Mill camp evolved on the land now in question, a hub for the company's western fields that old-timers fondly recall. Its few remaining buildings near the bypass speak to that history in a way a new shopping center, no matter how tricked out in plantation style storefronts, ever will.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at email@example.com.