Recently, Mainard Tom asked if I would write about the first Robert Louis Stevenson Intermediate School, which was located in an old quarry near Alapai and Green streets.
I was surprised by what I found. What today is a derelict Hawaii Housing Authority building was once a quarry and later the site of four different schools.
It was the location of the Territorial Normal School, which certified teachers, beginning around 1905, then became Roosevelt High School’s temporary campus in 1930.
It was Puowaina Elementary School from 1932 to 1937, then became the original location of Stevenson Intermediate.
I had no idea.
Lishman’s Quarry, or simply the Punchbowl Quarry, was dug into the side of the extinct volcano around 1880.
The quarry supplied stone to St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Kaumakapili Church, Lunalilo Home (then in Makiki) and many buildings and homes near downtown.
On July 13, 1898, when word of Hawaii’s annexation by the United States reached the isles, a crowd of citizens lit a fire on the floor of the quarry in celebration at 8 p.m. Low-lying clouds were reddened by the fire and could be seen all over town.
Territorial Normal and Training School
Before the 1880s most public school faculty were untrained in the art of teaching. “Normal Schools” — teachers institutes — were becoming popular around the world
Hawaii’s Territorial Normal School began as a single class at the Fort Street School (now called McKinley High), mauka of downtown.
A permanent structure was built at the abandoned Punchbowl Quarry site, bounded by Alapai, Green and Lunalilo streets, around 1905. It was three stories tall, on 2.5 acres of land, with a fine view of the ocean. C.W. Dickey was the architect.
When the Great Depression hit, the Normal School had outgrown the space, and money was tight. In 1930 the school moved to Wilder and University avenues and became the University of Hawaii Teachers’ College.
Around 1924 the city turned another part of the quarry into Sanford Dole Park. Cliff faces 200 feet tall created a natural amphitheater that had great acoustic properties, many felt.
The students at the nearby schools, a block Diamond Head, used it for their athletic activities.
Roosevelt High School’s temporary location
President Theodore Roosevelt High School was created in 1930 in the former Normal School building. It was the first English standard high school in the state, and students had to pass a test to enroll.
About 350 students were expected, but 640 showed up for grades 7-12. Principal Clyde Crawford said it was likely to grow to 1,500 by 1933.
“The school of today must meet the needs of a changed civilization,” Crawford told an assembly of parents and students.
Transportation, mechanization and the radio were making life more complex. “No longer does a child do chores in the morning and walk one or two miles to school.”
The student’s world is bigger, and the school must change with civilization. “The school of today is no longer the little red two-room schoolhouse of the past.”
Roosevelt students found the former Normal School building was termite-ridden. At times they had to be rushed out of collapsing classrooms and instructed outside beneath the shade of trees, wrote Peggy Hodge, who was voted Most Popular in the Class of ’32.
Dances were held in the crumbling auditorium upstairs with music from records played on a hand- cranked Victrola, Hodge recalled.
Graduation was at the First Methodist Church on Beretania Street. The girls wore long gowns of pastel organdy with white gloves and long carnation lei. The boys wore dress suits.
“The graduates of the class of 1932 never entered the new Roosevelt building, never had a football field or decent classrooms, but seemed to do all right in spite of it all,” Hodge concluded.
Roosevelt High moves to its current location
Planners began building a new campus for the growing school almost immediately. By the fall of 1932, the first building was ready.
The current campus had been the Lunalilo Home, which was built in 1883, ironically with stone taken from the Punchbowl Quarry. The home for aging Hawaiians moved to Koko Head in 1928.
Some of the nearby streets in Makiki were named for trustees of King Lunalilo’s estate, such as Mott-Smith and Nehoa.
Roosevelt was designed in a Spanish Mediterranean architectural style. It had a white domed tower. The dome figured into a “paint-brush rivalry” with Punahou, as students at both schools surreptitiously painted their colors on the other school’s dome.
Mayor-to-be Neal “Rusty” Blaisdell was the school’s athletic director and football coach in 1934.
When Roosevelt moved to its current campus in 1932, the site of the Normal School became Puowaina (“hill of sacrifice”) Elementary School.
Roosevelt, though, continued to grow rapidly, and school officials felt the only solution was to separate the seventh through ninth grades into an intermediate school.
Where would it go? Back to the Normal School site. Students at Puowaina were transferred to nearby schools, such as Royal and Kaahumanu, in 1937.
Old Stevenson Intermediate site
The fourth and last school to occupy the Normal School site on the western slopes of Punchbowl was Robert Louis Stevenson Intermediate (now Middle) school.
It was named after the famous writer (“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “Treasure Island”) who came to Hawaii in 1889 and became friends with fellow Scot Archibald Cleghorn and his daughter, Princess Kaiulani.
Art teacher Marie Wylie suggested the school be named for the famed author. Honolulu possessed many Stevenson artifacts, and she hoped a “Stevensoniana room” in the school could house them.
“When I attended seventh grade at the old Stevenson School, the main building was straight out of the ‘Addams Family’ set,” Martin “Mac” McMorrow recalls.
“It was a Gothic three-story reddish-brown brick building with an arched main entrance with ‘Normal School’ carved in the rock above it. There were some newer concrete buildings next to the main structure along Capt. Cook Street. The third floor was a gymnasium which had been condemned for structural reasons, we were told.
“The morning classes involved three subjects in the same room with the same teacher, a short recess, another class and then lunch. I had a baloney sandwich from home.
“That let me get to Dole Park or ‘The Quarry’ where we could go for the long recess. The park was great. You could sit up on the top and look down at the kids, happy as can be, playing games on the grassy floor.
“My seventh grade class and the eighth grade above me were the last classes to attend the Old Stevenson (1951-52),” McMorrow said. “The ninth grade had moved that year to the new school. I remember the ninth graders lamented that when they got to the top of the pecking order, they didn’t have anyone to peck.”
Stevenson Intermediate School’s current site
In 1952 Stevenson had outgrown the crumbling Normal School site and moved to its current location.
The new spot on the eastern side of Punchbowl had been the University of Hawaii Agriculture Experiment Station from 1901 to 1938 and played a pivotal role in developing our pineapple and coffee industries.
It became an Army barracks during World War II, and UH faculty housing after that.
Over 1,600 students attended the new school’s opening ceremonies where Gov. Oren Long pointed out that author Stevenson had worked on one of his novels — “The Master of Ballantrae” — while in Hawaii.
Emily Kaohu, who supervised the cafeteria at both locations, said the students’ favorite lunches were meatloaf, baked spaghetti, chow mein and banana cream pie.
Don McDiarmid Sr. was a band instructor at both Stevenson and Roosevelt for many years. McDiarmid wrote many hit songs, including “When Hilo Hattie Does the Hula Hop” and “Little Brown Gal.” He also “discovered” the “Golden Voice of Hawaii,” Alfred Apaka, a former Roosevelt student.
Did you attend one of these schools and have a story to share? If so, drop me a line.
Bob Sigall is the author of the “The Companies We Keep” books. Email him at Sigall@Yahoo.com.