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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 17, 2001

Waialua to rebuild ghostly gazebo

By Will Hoover
Advertiser North Shore Writer

Throughout the 20th century, Waialua Town and the Waialua Sugar Mill were joined at the hip. The mill depended on the community; Waialua's reason for being was the mill. Then, after the mill closed in 1997, the community seemed to lose its sense of identity and purpose.

Kenneth and Rhoda Martyn have been the driving force behind the campaign to build a bandstand in tiny Waialua Park.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Now a group of residents is working to reinvigorate the communal spirit by bringing back a fixture they say once drew townsfolk together: a bandstand between two large banyan trees in the one-acre park across from the public library — right where the old bandstand is said to have been.

But whether the new bandstand can reunite the town is as unclear as the old photo. Precisely where the bandstand was — even if it actually existed — is a matter of conjecture. Some recall it and talk fondly of concerts, dances and even boxing matches that took place there.

Others can't conjure up a single memory of an old bandstand.

So far, according to one organizer for the new bandstand, no one has been able to find a photograph or drawing of the structure variously described as rectangular, triangular, octagonal, round and square. Some recall it more as a stage than a bandstand. Some say it was covered. Some say it wasn't.

Wayne Iwamoto was born in Waialua in 1947 and raised in the plantation camp behind the mill, not far from tiny Waialua Park. He insists he remembers the park well, but as for the old bandstand, he said: "Must have been before my time. I don't recall anything like that. The only thing I remember over there was a (display) train. That's all. I don't remember any bandstand."

Fred Gross, 84, a retired civil engineer who built hundreds of homes in Waialua for the plantation in the 1940s and '50s, is even more adamant.

"If there was ever a bandstand in the park, it was taken down before I got there in 1946," said Gross. "I passed that park every day ... from 1946 to 1958, and there was no bandstand. There was nothing between the two banyan trees."

Longtime resident Patsy Gibson not only can describe the bandstand in some detail, she says she performed there once in the early 1950s when she was with the Don Alton Singers.

"It was a darling-looking thing," said Gibson. "It was green and had a white filigree — a kind of lattice thing — around the base of it. It was classic.

"It wasn't very big. I remember it as kind of octagonal — sort of round, but with flat sides. It sat in the back of the park. It was covered. I think parts of the Royal Hawaiian Band even came out here and played. Not the whole band — they would have never fit in that tiny thing."

Gibson thinks she sang at the bandstand around 1953, and that it came down a couple of years after that. She has no recollection of how or why it went away.

Added Peggy Paty, wife of former mill manager Bill Paty, "We went to all kinds of celebrations at the bandstand after we arrived in 1946. I don't have any memory of when they tore it down. But I do remember those were fun times.

"We were young. It was appealing to go over there and sit on the grass and watch the music and entertainment."

Such memories inspired the new bandstand, said Ken Martyn. He and his wife, Rhoda, have been the driving force behind the effort to unite the community by providing a focal point.

"We were talking to some old-timers on the library's annual Heritage Day about a year after the mill closed," said Martyn. "And they said there used to be a bandstand in the small park right across from the library."

It was suggested that a new bandstand might instill residents with a sense of nostalgia and get them excited about the community.

"The bandstand will give the town a central spot," said Ken Martyn. "It'll be like a town square."

Martyn naively assumed it would take about a year to plan and build the bandstand, at a cost of about $75,000. Four years later, his group is still at it, and the price tag has risen to more than $400,000.

But Martyn and his friends did succeed in having the project included in Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris' vision process. The county paid Dole Hawai'i $121,000 for the park land, and the City Council budgeted $300,000 to build the bandstand.

Martyn said work will start next month, and the structure should be completed by early summer. Next year his group will seek an additional $75,000 for landscaping.

Aaron Mahi, director of the Royal Hawaiian Band, looks forward to performing at Waialua's new bandstand. Mahi also said he vaguely recalls seeing photos years ago of the old bandstand.

"It was made of wood, and it had a roof on it, and it was really wide open," Mahi said. "It was round, I think. It's been so long ago since I saw the pictures."

Mahi is not the only person who recalls photos of the bandstand.

George Williams, a former engineering draftsman for the mill who has worked with the Martyns on the new bandstand, said the old one was gone by the time he arrived in 1968. He recalls traveling to Waialua in 1954, and remembers no bandstand in the park then.

But Williams said a fire at the mill in 1976 destroyed numerous plantation photos that probably included shots of the bandstand. He's sure he saw a photo of it once, possibly in an annual plantation report.

"It was between the two banyan trees in the park," he said. "It had a roof on it. Not anything fancy. I got the impression that the bandstand was built sometime in the early '30s. I got the feeling it disappeared sometime in the early 1950s."

Williams agrees with Patsy Gibson, the Martyns and others that a modern bandstand can unify Waialua. However, some, such as Gibson, have also voiced concerns. She admits she wonders whether residents are willing to make a long-term commitment to Waialua after the bandstand becomes reality.

And Fred Gross, who no longer lives in Waialua, questions the wisdom of building a bandstand there at all.

"Waialua as a town is kind of drifting down all the time," he said. "The action is over in Hale'iwa now. If they want to build a bandstand, that's where they should be building it. There is not much traffic to Waialua. That much I know."

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8038.