Last Historical Vignette: Social Life in “Old Laie”

15th December 2015
Posted in Updates

The year 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the LDS Church in Laie, and we have enjoyed celebrating the sesquicentennial over the past several months.


Part of the celebrations included reminiscing about the rich history of our beloved town through a series of historical vignettes, graciously authored by the Mormon Pacific Historical Society, and shared via this newsletter.

With this final installment in the series, we again express our appreciation to the MPHS for helping us to remember and honor Laie’s wonderful heritage.

Social Life in “Old Laie”

One might wonder what the residents of “old La’ie” did in their free time. The word “free” is a relative term, of course. To some people it means an opportunity to have fun. For others less lucky, it was interpreted as time for the children to help mom and dad work in the family taro lo’i (patch)!

Of course, La’ie has always been near the beach. Since time immemorial, the ocean has not only provided La’ie with food, but also recreation on occasion. Besides the beach, however, how did people in La’ie socialize and have a good time?

In the earliest days, as one might expect, there was little leisure time, but as the community grew and became more stable and successful, leisure opportunities increased. Laie Social Hall_ circa 1915  _Courtesy Church History Library__ A historical marker was installed in 2006 noting the location on Loala Street

Laie Social Hall, circa 1915 (Courtesy Church History Library) A historical marker was installed in 2006 noting the location on Loala Street

Religious and cultural holidays provided occasions for sports competitions and feasts. Such events were either held outdoors or at various homes. Seeing a need, Samuel Woolley, then head of the La’ie Plantation, built a social hall for the community in 1913.

The La’ie Social Hall became the site for dances, celebrations, parties, movies, musical events, and various other church-sponsored activities. These activities were attended not only by the LDS members of the community, but also by the Chinese and Japanese families who leased land behind the temple and grew rice and pineapple respectively. When the Kahuku Plantation established labor camps in La’ie, these families (Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Japanese) also attended many of the activities.

Pleasures were much simpler in the old days. Marbles were a cheap form of entertainment. The late Aunty Donette (Ah Puck) Kekauoha recalled playing “kani kani wall”. Each boy or girl would throw their marble against a wall and watch it bounce back.

Each succeeding player tried to throw their marble against the wall hoping to land within a handspan of someone else’s and claim it. Team sports, like basketball, were played with teams being formed according to what section or “apana” of La’ie you lived in.

Laie Plantation Store_ also known as Goo_s Store _Courtesy BYU-Hawaii Archives__ A historical marker was installed in 2005 noting the location at the corner of Lanihuli and Naniloa Loop

Laie Plantation Store, also known as Goo’s Store (Courtesy BYU-Hawaii Archives) A historical marker was installed in 2005 noting the location at the corner of Lanihuli Street and Naniloa Loop

A spare nickel might provide for a snack at one of several snack shops that existed in La’ie at various times, as well as several small stores, one of which — Sam’s Store — still exists. These small outlets were places to meet friends, get a soda pop, a pake cake or two, and a few sweets (no different today!).

Prior to the La’ie Shopping Center, there was no movie theatre in La’ie, but there was a theatre in Kahuku that ran until the early 70′s. Seating was primitive, and when someone yelled “centipede!” everyone quickly lifted their feet off the ground until danger had passed.

Leisure time was also spent swimming in the Beauty Hole, an underground cavern discovered in the 1920′s (near present day Laieloa Bridge along Kamehameha Highway). Many of La’ie’s children learned how to swim there before being allowed to go to the beach. Children often went there after school to swim with friends and occasionally dive for coins that tourists would throw into the water.

Laie_s Beauty Hole_ circa 1920s _Courtesy BYU-Hawaii Archives_

Laie’s Beauty Hole, circa 1920s (Courtesy BYU-Hawaii Archives)

During various seasons, children often walked into the foothills to pick fruits (especially mangos). A few “brave” souls even found time to rustle a watermelon or two from the watermelon patches in the darkness of night!

We live in the 21st Century now, but leisure time is not spent much differently. We have our own theatre of course, and many eateries, in the shopping center. La’ie Park is the scene of constant activity, our beaches fill up each day, ward camps fill the summer months with fond memories, and the bus can take you anywhere you like.

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