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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Antiques tell stories of Islands

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

More and more interesting antiques are popping up in Our Honolulu. Edward Carvalho called from Palolo to say that he's the proud owner of a pair of 1917 Hawai'i license plates in good condition. He got them from a woman in Nu'uanu about 15 years ago and has been offered $4,000. But Carvalho won't sell.

Then there's the 1958 Honolulu telephone book that office workers at Hawaiian Telcom found while doing spring cleaning and which is now the prized possession of Mike Ruley, CEO. This book came out the year before Hawai'i became a state.

The Yellow Pages contain six pages of beauty salons and only one page of attorneys. Today beauty salons still take up six pages but attorneys fill 80. In 1958 there were 4 1/2 pages of restaurants compared with 89 pages today, three pages of physicians compared with 47 today. The Lees filled nine columns in 1958 compared with 26 columns today. And figure this one out: There were 14 pages of television advertising in 1958, but only five today.

Ruley also brags about the 1883 Hawaiian Bell Telephone subscription list that he showed to Mayor Mufi Hannemann the other day. The telephone book has six advertisers: two stables, two carriage companies, a merchant and a bank.

The prize antique that has turned up lately is a painting by Jules Tavernier that Dave Young in Kona on the Big Island bid for in an Internet auction and bought for $5,000. Tavernier came to Hawai'i in 1884 from San Francisco one step ahead of his creditors. Today, his work hangs in art museums and galleries around the world. His paintings sell for five figures.

Young, a builder, said he started collecting stamps with a collection from his grandfather, Jack Young, one of the original Young Brothers of the tug and barge company. Then he got into Hawaiian artifacts and now he collects art of Hawai'i.

He said he bought the Tavernier not knowing that it is a scene on O'ahu with Chinaman's Hat, or Mokoli'i, in the background and Kane'ohe Peninsula clearly visible. What makes the painting unique, Young believes, is that it depicts the cannibal dog, Kaupe, recorded in the oral histories of the area.

"The dog is discernable in the clouds, right in the center of the painting," Young explained. "Hakipu'u is the ahupua'a next to Kualoa. Tavernier must have been at Hakipu'u looking over the fishpond when he made the painting. Two people are walking on a path that is now a road with clouds billowing up in the sky."

These details in the painting match the legend of Kaupe, the cannibal dog, who appeared in cloud form at Hakipu'u as a dog and lured his victims to a narrow area in the valley where he devoured them. Young believes that Tavernier learned the legend of the place, then created the painting with two people on a path leading into the clutches of Kaupe, the cannibal dog.

Reach Bob Krauss at 525-8073.