The old photograph from 1916 told a powerful story.
Imagine Kuau Bay with broad, sandy beaches. And on the land sweeping to the point on the north, nothing but low, windswept plants. No million-dollar homes, no fat-leaved spreading trees, no gates.
Nothing. Nothing, that is, but the 10-bedroom, two-story gabled home of Antone F. Tavares, "the Makawao orator," one of Maui's most successful immigrant pioneers.
His family came from the Azores in 1881, landing on the boat from Oahu at Maliko in 1882, where the family was taken immediately to work in the fields at the East Maui Sugar Co., living in a plantation camp at Kaluanui. When Antone, then a lad, fainted on the job, the doctor advised school, where he excelled.
He caught the eye of Jim Anderson, the Makawao postmaster, who hired him as his assistant. Tavares apprenticed to a lawyer in Honolulu, and passed the bar, becoming one of Maui's early attorneys. He went on to become Makawao postmaster, a tax collector and served from 1911-1929 in the territorial House and Senate. He also managed Haiku Fruit and Packing Co., started Maui Loan and Finance Co. and controlled much real estate in Paia.
At a time when most people were struggling in the sugar cane fields, Antone F. Tavares could afford an impressive house and a good life for his wives (three) and children (12).
In the foreground of the photograph is a perfect little cove below the house, where three of the children played - Rose, Ernest and Fred, the latter two destined for fame as performers of Hawaiian music, particularly the steel guitar.
The cove is formally named Lamalani, but everyone calls it Tavares Bay. What of the beach now? Nothing but shiny black boulders.
It was a gorgeous day as only Kuau days can be, windy but warm and cool at the same time. I was sitting on the porch with Bill Tavares, the 11th and sole survivor of the children, enjoying the view out to the cove and Kaulahao Beach beyond, unswimmable due to the shelf of beach rock, but a welcome entry point for surfers.
The photo of Antone Tavares' 2-acre family property shows a three-car garage (with room for horse and buggy), a washhouse and water tank, and a row of small coconut trees, now 100-year-old beauties that frame the shore and cost the family $1,600 a year to trim. Bill watched the old house evolve from "wood stove to kerosene stove to gas stove, I've seen it all."
A businessman approached his mother after World War II, thinking to purchase the ideal property and put up a hotel. "It's not for sale, I want it for my children," she replied.
The old house came down in 1959 - "termites" - and five houses eventually arose for Bill, his wife, the former Martha Fernandez - "I was so lucky to get her" - and their children.
Wow. Lucky to be a Tavares.
Bill and I settled in for a talk - and if you know Bill, the former Makawao Elementary School principal - a talk and a talk and a talk. He is alternately described as "the Kuau orator" and "the mayor of Paia," and at 91 his faculties are more than intact. He's a walking archive of Maui lore with a passion for the subject and perfect recall. "There's so much history, I tell you," he said. "It's hard to keep up."
That lovely afternoon, I was reminded of the old Kuau landing, used when Paia plantation was in its infancy. Back in the 1870s when Samuel T. Alexander and Henry P. Baldwin were getting started, sugar was bagged at the original mill at Paliuli, site of Makawao Union Church, and dragged by ox cart to Kuau where the steamer James I. Dowsett waited outside.
The Pacific Navigation Co. generated plans to build a wharf in deep water off "Kuau beach," allowing sugar from the Paia and Hamakuapoko plantations to be loaded directly. But Thomas H. Hobron persuaded Baldwin to use his new Kahului Railroad instead, and the proposed pier was never built.
I asked Bill if he knew where the landing was, something I've pondered for years. "Sure," he said, and pointed to what locals call Coleman Beach, "a beautiful eight-foot beach," named for the people who lived there, a few houses north. Bill and his brother Carl spotted the landing pilings one day when they were out paddling a canoe made of a corrugated tin roof.
I was thrilled.
* 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.