Sunday, January 21, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 21, 2001

Governor's mansion revisited

By Bob Krauss

Jim Bartels, curator of Washington Place, stumbled over a plaque hidden behind a water-valve assembly in a clump of wild orchids on the lawn of the governor’s mansion.

Thereby hangs a delightful tale of patriotism, cultural complexity and show business.

The little brass plaque commemorates the planting of a breadfruit tree on Thursday, Nov. 10, 1932, by the Daughters of the American Revolution during the George Washington Centennial Year.

"The plaque wasn’t really lost," Bartels explained. "Groundskeepers knew it was there."

Bartels also discovered while researching the history of Washington Place that the local chapter of the DAR paid its first visit to the historic mansion on Jan. 19, 1931.

The ladies dressed up like Martha Washington, Betsy Ross, Molly Pitcher and Abigail Adams.

Bartels called the DAR chapter with this new information. Charmed, the ladies voted to return last week and celebrate the 70th anniversary of the chapter’s first visit.

Besides, regent Nancy Wahineokai explained, "Our chapter is one of the oldest in the country but we’ve been very low-key. We’re trying to stretch out, become better known."

Now come the cultural complexity and show business parts.

The DAR wanted to have Friday’s historic occasion videotaped. It happens that member Dusty Woodstock’s husband runs a skydiving company. One of his customers operates a video camera while leaping out of planes. He is Hubner Viviers, 25, a visitor from South Africa on holiday in Hawaii. Shooting the DAR event was his first professional assignment while not wearing a parachute.

The ladies brought impressive credentials. Caitilin Embree said her mother’s family owned Valley Forge. Their Franklin stove had been melted down to make bullets for George Washington’s army.

Phyllis Williams, national vice-president general, said her ancestor was a minuteman. Phyllis herself wears 36 DAR medals that cover her from shoulder to waist on the left side.

The procession to the breadfruit tree went astray because the tree had died and gone to breadfruit heaven in the 1980s. Two small plants - keiki from the original ulu tree- remain. Also, Bartels neglected to tell the procession leader where the plaque is hidden under the wild orchids.

Nevertheless, everything went off satisfactorily. Bartels took the ladies on a tour of Washington Place, and I have to say that he has collected marvelous new information about the mansion that adds depth and meaning to its history.

The governor’s wife, Vicky Cayetano, put in an appearance in a white gown and invited the ladies to tea. "It’s very good," she said of the tea, "because I didn’t make it."

Members of the DAR handed over a check for the restoration of Washington Place.

Tell your story to Bob Krauss at 525-8073.

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