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Exhibit to pay tribute to West Maui’s golden years of sports

By Staff | Oct 10, 2013

Andy Kutsunai (right) and Bob Kawaguchi focused on the sports and recreational history of West Maui during the 1920s through 1960s for this year’s Lahaina Plantation Days. PHOTO BY LINN NISHIKAWA.

LAHAINA – When Lahaina Restoration Foundation kicks off the fifth annual Lahaina Plantation Days on Oct. 18-19, the event will unveil a special exhibit that pays tribute to West Maui’s golden years of sports and recreation.

For West Maui resident Bob Kawaguchi, this year’s exhibit hits close to home.

As a former athletic director for Lahainaluna High School for 20 years (1970-90), he felt it was important to share the rich athletic history of West Maui with both old-timers and our island’s next generation. His passion inspired this year’s exhibit theme.

With the support of Andy Kutsunai, the two spent nearly a year researching, gathering photos and articles, interviewing people and collecting sports equipment and memorabilia from the Plantation Era from the 1920s to 1960s.

“The plantation days was a fantastic era for sports and recreation,” said Kutsunai.

“There were a number of organized leagues in a variety of sports, including baseball, softball, basketball, community barefoot football, bowling, horse racing, volleyball, gymnastics, boxing, sumo and all types of youth sports. Recreational activities also played an integral part of everyday life, with many of the families making their own games and toys for the keiki.”

Kawaguchi and Kutsunai, who serve on Lahainaluna High School’s Archive Committee, also wanted to give back to West Maui’s only high school. The school’s athletic history will also be showcased in the exhibit.

“It’s amazing what Lahaina- luna High School had in those days,” recalled Kawaguchi.

“I remember a PE teacher named Don Gustason had equipped the old gym built in 1929 with all types of gymnastics apparatus – rings, horses, balance beam and trampoline. It was amazing! Don also taught the school’s boarders wrestling and boxing. People were definitely passionate about sports, and it’s carried on to this day.”

Among the historical items that will be on display during the Lahaina Plantation Days event will be a saddle used by former plantation supervisor Herbert Kinores in a horse race (he took first place) in 1960, and a uniform worn by the late Masaru Mizomi when he traveled with Alan Freeland on a two-month trip to the orient representing West Maui in an all-Maui baseball team in 1932.

The exhibit will also pay special tribute to Lahaina’s sports legends during the plantation era: Kenji Kawaguchi, Shigeshi Wakida, Shugo Matsuda, Norman Oda, Satoki Yamamoto, Wally Yonamine and Bobby Lee.

As in past years, Mike Jones of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation and his team will transform all the information and items collected into an impressive display – one that the West Maui community can be proud of.

Kawaguchi is thankful for the opportunity to share West Maui’s Golden Sports Era with the island’s families.

“Many of today’s young people do not realize what their great grandparents, grandparents and parents endured during the plantation era,” said Kawaguchi.

“While they worked hard, they also played hard. Our hope, when they see this exhibit, is that their families and friends can point to nostalgic photos and antiques and share stories of West Maui’s history, passing it on to the next generation.”

Presented by Lahaina Restoration Foundation, Lahaina Plantation Days will be held on the former Pioneer Mill site surrounding the old smokestack on Lahainaluna Road.

The event will feature performances by top Maui entertainers, historical displays and exhibits, cultural areas, food booths by award-winning restaurants, a beer tent, coffee tent and game zone.

Event hours are 5 to 10:30 p.m. on both days.

Admission is just $3; children five and under are free.

For more information, contact the Lahaina Restoration Foundation office at (808) 661-3262, e-mail info@lahainarestoration.org or visit www.lahainarestoration.org.