Back in the 1940’s, when Mike Sudo was just six years old, he was “terrified of a wooden trellised monster.” The monster is the former Peahi gulch bridge, which was part of Maui’s old railroad network. Peahi Bridge spanned 330 feet and stood 133 feet high.
Sudo had to cross the bridge to get to school. He would cry when approaching the bridge out of fear of walking across it. An older brother and classmates used to tease him while walking to school together. Luckily, Sudo says, he had the help of “an angel, and man, she was beautiful.” She was an 8th grader who ended up giving the young boy a piggyback ride across the bridge, while going to and from school.
Gradually she persuaded Sudo to make the walk himself by holding his hand for a few yards each day while crossing the bridge. She then would put him on her back for the rest of the journey. This continued until Sudo had the confidence to face the “monster” himself.
This is just one of the stories told at a recent Haiku Living Legend Legacy Project (HLLP) gathering at Haiku Elementary. The morning of Nov. 11 the group—which gathers and preserves Haiku history—had their quarterly get-together and Haiku’s railway history was the main topic.
About two-dozen people showed up at the school. All were encouraged to bring artifacts, photos and especially stories of the railway. HLLP personnel then recorded the stories on video.
HLLP already has a significant assortment of Haiku’s artifacts. Which is great, except that the climate in the area isn’t friendly to antique photographs. The old photos and such on hand showed considerable signs of wear due to Haiku’s humid and red dirt ridden landscape. But the organization has since moved the historic assortment to a climate-controlled storage unit. HLLP is currently seeking non-profit status as well as a location to permanently showcase their artifacts.
Videos of railways stories like Sudo’s played while attendees ate chow mein, corn bread, fried rice and donuts. Being a fan of the History Channel, I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the morning, but I wanted to know more.
Jacob Mau, who said he was one of the “Kalohe Boys,” confessed to being a rascal in the late 1940’s. In order to catch a free ride home from school Mau would sabotage the train track.
“Hey, I just picked this up from the older kids at that time,” he joked. Mau and his partners in mischief would hear the train coming miles away, well before the steep incline of the track were the boys would board the train.
In order to slow the train, the kids would smash guavas onto the train track. To hide the evidence from the incoming train crew, the boys covered the guava with dirt. Upon hitting the guava, the driving wheels of the engine car would lose traction on the inclined section of track. As the train slowed the boys would sneak aboard.
Of course, it didn’t take long for the train’s crew to catch on to what the kids were doing. But Mau said that just made it more fun for the little hoodlums, who would play hide and seek during the free ride on the rails. But he insists he’s “a good boy now.” MTW