Friday | June 23, 2017
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ID PROJECT: Museum sees great response to Pierce photos

For anyone who was living on Hawaii Island in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, it is an opportunity to see faces, places and events they might not have seen or thought about in almost half a century.

For the young, it’s a launching point — a chance to open up a dialogue with friends and family about history, community and their own sense of place and time.

The John Howard Pierce Photograph Collection at the Lyman Museum in Hilo is a treasure trove of nearly 50,000 images taken by Pierce during his time as a photographer with the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

And for the last year or so, an archivist with the museum, Miki Bulos, has worked to catalogue the photos and identify the people, places and events in them.

The Tribune-Herald has regularly printed images in its Community section and asked for the public to provide its input into the project, and so far the response has been nearly overwhelming, Bulos said.

“It’s a conservative estimate, but I would say we have had about 300 people call in on the photos in the paper,” she said.

Of the initial 700 photographs presented to the community, either through the newspaper, or through the exhibit and special photo ID days hosted at the museum, more than 400 pictures were identified, at least partially, she said.

Area residents might recognize themselves, friends, family members or former coworkers in the photos, and when they share that information with the ID project, the results can pay serious dividends. Almost like a snowball, a small piece of information can lead Bulos and others to reach new people and sources of information that can contribute ever-greater pieces of information.

“Our goal is to find out everything we can about these photos,” Bulos said. “It’s important. This is our community and its history.”

The timing is right for the project, she added, because many of the people in the photos are of the age where they unfortunately might not be around much longer to help and share their knowledge. For instance, a woman named Julita Casil recently called to identify her husband, Alfredo, who was playing saxophone in a band depicted in one of the photos. He passed away a few months prior.

Barbara Fujimoto said she and her mother, Violet Hirata, were thrilled to be able to dig through the archives and find photos of themselves, as well as friends and family. One Saturday, they visited Bulos at the museum and found a picture of their family during a 4-H trip to Volcano.

“It was a picture of all of the 4-Hers and our parents. I’m there in the front row with my brother and sister,” she said. “I didn’t even remember being in that photo. It was in Volcano behind Kilauea Lodge. I had so much fun talking to my Mom about the family camp there. That photo made us start talking about our childhood and what we did together. I didn’t even realize how involved she (Hirata) was with 4-H.”

While looking at the photographs and identifying the people and places in them is fun, Fujimoto added the best part of the experience might be in sharing the experience with friends, family and other community members.

“I took my mother over to the photo ID day, and she got to see people she hadn’t seen in a while. She got to see some of the people from 4-H. It became like a reunion. We all got together, and thumbed through pictures. People were saying ‘Look at that!’ It was so exciting. … I loved seeing other people getting so excited. And I learned about things I never knew. I didn’t even know about Hawaiian Village in Keaukaha. …

“It just brings back how important it is to talk about our history. It starts a conversation.”

Hawaii Community College history student Keala Arquero agreed. In comments to Bulos, Arquero said viewing and talking about the photographs helped her learn more about her family in general.

“It is as if finding out more and more about my grandparents helps complete me and connect me to my past. … I feel like I found a missing piece,” she said.

For Bulos, a relative newcomer to the Big Isle, the most affecting information to come out of the project so far was the identification of a Filipino man, Felix Calibosa, who was pictured with his companions on the beach in Honokohau.

Being of Filipino heritage herself, Bulos said she was fascinated to learn about the small group of men, who had been forced into retirement from the sugar plantations, and with nowhere to turn they set up their own little community, living using traditional Hawaiian methods to survive. Calibosa even built his own shack out of driftwood.

“I knew about the immigration history. But I didn’t know what happened to them after they got retired out of sugar. They were resilient. They found a life here in Honokohau. They survived here and took on roles as caretakers of the area, and of Hawaiian culture and traditions. … (One man) said he would go there on weekends and they taught him to throw-net fish. They were stewarding the land and handing down the culture. They could have just wallowed in their abandonment, but instead they got engaged,” she said.

“Each photo gets deeper and deeper, the more people contribute to its description. … Each picture has a story to tell, and those stories will stop your heart.”

To help with the photo ID project, or find out more information about the exhibit, contact Miki Bulos at (808) 935-5021 (once message begins, press 5). More photos are also available at the museum’s website — — on the Pierce Photo ID page.

The museum also hosted five photo ID events since the exhibit began, and two more are scheduled — Saturday, April 26, and Saturday, June 28 — which will mark the close of the Pierce exhibit.

Email Colin M. Stewart at

The following is a list of the information, as provided by Miki Bulos, that was collected as a result of the Pierce photos being printed in the Tribune-Herald’s Community section since late July:


Photo ID: 014 10177-2

4-H event. Band unidentified. Musicians: Alfredo Casil (saxophone), Inocencio Agasa (clarinet), Greg Manzano (trombone), Tito Nicolas (tuba), son of Andres Baclig in checkered shirt.

Note: Julita Casil called to identify husband Alfredo Casil. He had just passed away a few months earlier.


Photo ID: 112 2007-2-04594

Event unidentified. Harilyn Wong or Lillian Pascual (facing camera).


Photo ID: 002 2007-2-04666

Musicians: L-R unknown, Phoebe Makaio, Mary Keahilihau, Henry Bray. Hawaiian Village, Keaukaha

Note: Kimo Makaio called to identify mother, Phoebe Makaio.


Photo ID: 009 2007-2-03407

National 4-H Cherry Pie Baking Contest. L-R Cheryl Kaneoka, Merwyn Sumida, Violet Miyasato, Patsy Onuma (Nakamura). Island run-off held in HELCO kitchen.

Note: received a large response from this photo. Many Hilo High classmates called, one telling me, "We used to call him [Merwyn Sumida] Cherry Pie!" Eventually, I contacted Mr. Sumida and he related the whole story. Also, Patsy Onuma Nakamura happened to be in Hilo for a funeral the day the photo was in the paper, and several funeral attendees told her to go to the museum because we had her photo.


Photo ID: 016 2007-2-13115

Kaui Brandt Studio performing at Hawaiian Village, Keaukaha. L-R Chris "Nicholas" Harris; Paulette or Kalei Waiau or Wenda DeMattos; Kaala Brandt.

Note: Chris Harris stopped by the museum the day the photo was in the paper to identify himself and talk story about the different halau at the time.


022 2007-2-04361

Squaredancing. L-R Toshiko Okamoto, Leslie Louis Gotcher. Location unidentified.

Note: Gotcher was a world-renowned squaredance caller.


025 2007-2-10079

Annual Beef Steer Roundup at Parker Ranch. Earl Spence (with steer Sputnik) and Lon Taniguchi.

Note: another photo with a lot of response including both wives who called to identify their husbands: Betty Spence and Lisbeth Cabral Taniguchi.


029 2007-2-10755

In the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory library before the onset of the 1960 Kapoho eruption. L-R Donald H. Richter, unknown, Harold L. Krivoy.

Note: we’re grateful for the help of former and current HVO staff to help identify these and other photos around the 1960 Kapoho eruption, especially Akira Yamamoto, HVO office clerk from 1956-1983, who drove down from Volcano twice to bring detailed descriptions of photos.


031 11158-6

Monitoring the 1960 Kapoho Eruption. L-R Chester K. Wentworth, Burton Loucks, Jerry Eaton

Notes: Chester Wentworth was a retired USGS geologist who volunteered at HVO. Burton Loucks was a machinist and instrument maker. Jerry P. Eaton was a USGS seismologist and former HVO Scientist-in-Charge.


036 10755-6

People unidentified.


041 12006-12

D.Y. Lau Shoe Store was located on King Kamehameha Ave. between Furneaux Lane and Haili Street. Owned by Dick Yu Lau, closed in the 1960s.

Note: Lyman Museum volunteer, Seet Lau, identified her father’s store.


045 15584-3

4-H members with champion steers. Barbara Young and Wayne Ryusaki.


047 2007-2-10376

Civil Defense staff at headquarters. L-R Kyoko Lorraine Ishimaru, Amako Amy Kozohara, Peter Nalehua Pakele Jr., Mabel Ahuna, Lillian Kawamura Saiki.

Note: all were identified by children or grandchildren.


063 14580-3

Humorists 4-H Club of Keeau visit Hilo Memorial Hospital. Front L-R Esther Cockett Martinez, Larry Child. 4-Hers L-R Karen Akiyama (Paik), Frances Endo, Lynn Fujimoto, Amy Yamashita, Diana Miyada, Norma Kim, Bonnielyn Navarro, Gwen Tanabe, Estrelita Quilausing, Sandra Tanioka, Yolanda Gallano, Evelyn Gallano.

Note: Esther Cockett Martinez was head nurse and Hilo Memorial Hospital. Larry Child was a long-time instructor at Hilo Technical School (now HCC).


071 10225-10

Location and children unidentified.


079 16678-1

Dedication of Mauna Kea Station Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. Alex Von Arnswaldt (Hilo Fire Chief) left of sign, George Maikui Holi (Hilo Fire Department) right of sign.

Note: according to Dr. William Heacox, the building and telescope were the first on Mauna Kea.


086 10057-2

Opening of Kamuela vacuum processing plant. L-R Sherwood Greenwell, Reverend Nakanishi, Dan Matsumoto, Dr. Kenneth Otagaki, Shigeru Sakata.

Note: Shigeru Sakata confirmed himself and others in photo.


048 14664-3

Yvonne’s Restaurant and Bar, Honokaa, after flash flood. L-R Yvonne Caravalho DeMello Moniz, Henry Caravalho, Donald "Cookie" DeMello.

Note: Henry Caravalho Jr. identified father, aunt and cousin.


049 13192-11

Elderly Filipino men at Honokohau. L-R Felix Caliboso, unknown.

Note: Felix Calibosa was a former plantation laborer who lived fulltime at Honokohau in a shack he built out of driftwood. He used traditional Hawaiian subsistence practices to sustain himself. He became the defacto caretaker of the abandoned area, which included fishponds and a heiau.


050 13196-1

Honokohau. L-R unknown, son of Ulpiano Fernandez.

Note: Ulpiano "Pianong" Fernandez worked on the Murasaki Farms in Captain Cook. Off-season he would live with Felix Caliboso at Honokohau. He came to Hawaii in 1946 as a sakada.


051 13196-2

Felix Caliboso in front of the shack he built using driftwood in Honokohau.


053 11884-4

Departing for National 4-H Conference, Hilo Airport. L-R Charlotte Wada (Nakamura), Chiyoko Wada, Ronald Miyasato holding Christine Miyasato (Ostrow), Sheila Miyasato (Watson), Violet Miyasato, Lorraine Tominaga (Wakida).

Note: one week after photo was in the paper, Robert Miyasato died at the age of 99.


054 11725-11

Young Brothers, Port of Hilo. L-R unknown, Wright Esser, Herman Clark.

Note: Wright Esser was a correspondent for KGNB Honolulu TV and Radio, and also a theater director. Herman Clark was the manager for Young Brothers and coached Hilo High School football.


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