I was a Boy Scout. I had a fun time camping out, learning how to tie knots and build a fire. It’s interesting how these things stay in my memory 50 years later.
That’s why I was pleased to hear from Boy Scout Troop 10 from Kaimuki this year. It was formed 100 years ago, in 1917.
One of the things that makes this troop interesting to me is that it was founded by former Mayor Charles Crane (1869-1958), who was scoutmaster of the troop for its first 28 years. Crane was also business manager of The Honolulu Advertiser, and he was mayor of Honolulu from 1938 to 1941.
When the troop was founded in 1917, Schuman Carriage sold horses as well as cars. The U.S. entered World War I. New York gave women the right to vote. The Army-Navy YMCA took over the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Richards Street. A three-bedroom house on Kinau Street was advertised for $9,500.
Boy Scout Troop 10 occupies a unique home: an abandoned reservoir behind the Kaimuki fire station. I’ve driven by it a hundred times and had no idea it was there.
“The Bowl,” as they call it, was built by the developers of Kaimuki 130 years ago to irrigate the dry and dusty area, but leaked and was never fully used.
It is somewhat circular, about 100 feet in diameter, with walls 14 feet high and up to 6 feet thick. It is made out of rock, brick and concrete. It’s big enough to hold a basketball court. On one side is a covered meeting area.
It’s the only Boy Scout troop in Hawaii that has its own place.
Charles Crane organized
a group of parents to chisel a hole in the wall for easy
access. He arranged a $1-a-year lease from the state. The half-acre property also has a 30-by-60-foot wooden building (now called “Crane Lodge”) with offices and meeting rooms.
Scout leader Bill Yamada, now 88, joined in 1940 and served as a Scout under Crane. “I grew up a stone’s throw from here on Crater Road. I saw their Friday night activities and wanted to join in. When my first son was old enough, he joined and got his Eagle ranking.”
Troop 10 Committee Chairman Ed Yee joined another troop in 1951 when he was at Royal School. “This big Hawaiian kid walked up to me one day and said, ‘Eh, you wanna be a Boy Scout?’ and I said OK. He brought me to the troop, and I joined his patrol.”
Yee remembers the Scouts going to Hanauma Bay, before tourists crowded its shore. “We hiked from Royal School and had the whole place to ourselves. There was nobody there. It was just wonderful. We spearfished and camped out. This was before a road was built down to the bottom in the 1950s. Few wanted to walk the wooden stairs.”
Yamada says Kaimuki was the end of the city limits back then, and remembers sugar cane was grown near where Kahala Mall is today. He remembers ice being delivered for refrigerators.
“Our home was rented for $15 a month during World War II. My mom cooked our meals on a kerosene-fueled stove in a basement kitchen. She also hatched chicks from eggs in our kitchen under the heat of a light bulb.”
Yamada said he was a paper boy, delivering the Japanese-language paper Nippu Jiji during World War II.
Former Boy Scout James Koga says Kaimuki in the old days was just kiawe trees and boulders. It was dry and dusty red dirt, with a lot of cattle. There was an artesian spring that formed a swamp and is now a pond. It was a little oasis of greenery. Soldiers from Fort Ruger used to go there. It has a nice view of the ocean.
Up until the 1950s, many people in Kaimuki still had horses and carriages in their garages.
Kaimuki has the distinction of being the first subdivision on Oahu.
Developers Theodore Lansing and A.V. Gear were its pioneers in 1897.
They sold 520 acres of land along Waialae Avenue in 5-acre lots for $400 to $500 (about $8,000 to $10,000 today).
The response was less than enthusiastic. Many felt it was “too far from town.” Back then Waialae was only a dirt road. Wild ostriches roamed the area, having been turned loose in 1896 by Dr. Georges Trousseau, King Kalakaua’s court physician.
Then, something happened. A small fire was started in Chinatown in 1900 to battle the bubonic plague, and it got out of hand. Before it could be stopped, most of Chinatown was in ruins.
Hundreds were homeless, and many turned to Kaimuki for housing.
Developers lowered their prices and offered an incentive: $50 for every baby born there.
A small zoo was built at 12th and Waialae avenues, near the end of the trolley line, to entice visitors. The streetcar line was extended from Kapahulu Avenue in 1903. Many of the streets were paved and sidewalks laid by 1924. The Spanish mission-style fire station was built in 1924.
It worked. Kaimuki caught on, and by 1939 The Honolulu Advertiser called it “the Territory of Hawaii’s greatest single residential district.”
Boy Scout Troop 10 helped the war effort in the 1940s. The Scouts assisted Army medical personnel in the pre-induction physicals of draftees. They served as messengers, first-aid volunteers, firefighters and general helpers. They sold war bonds and planted victory gardens.
Troop 10 Scouts built black Bakelite plastic models of U.S. and Japanese aircraft to aid observation and identification for Army anti-aircraft batteries.
Yamada remembers the troop cleaning stretchers at The Queen’s Hospital morgue a week after Pearl Harbor was attacked, to help it prepare for a possible evacuation.
Several thousand Scouts have been members of Troop 10, and 286 have made Eagle Scout. There are 45 kids in the troop today.
Troop 10 has made visits to Scouting events in Japan, Canada and on the mainland.
Yee says he likes seeing young boys grow and mature. “They learn all these Scouting skills and become men. I like working with motivated kids. They learn to sharpen knives, use a compass and tie all kinds of knots — skills that are lost on most city kids.”
Bob Sigall, author of “The Companies We Keep” books, looks through his collection of old photos to tell stories of Hawaii people, places and companies. Email him at Sigall@yahoo.com.