by ʻUluʻulu Project Assistant, Sidney Louie
ʻUluʻulu has recently completed digitizing the broadcast videotapes of Pau Hana Years, the popular Hawaiʻi Public Television series produced by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education and the Hawaiʻi Public Broadcasting Authority. Branded as the television show “for and by the senior citizens of Hawaiʻi,” the series, hosted and produced by Bob Barker and later Charlotte Simmons, aired on KHET-TV for 16 years beginning in 1966 through its final episode in August 1982. Celebrating the older population of individuals and in groups and communities, the program profiled kupuna who told their life stories, showcased their talents, engaged in lively activities, and shared their cultural knowledge.
Nearly 200 episodes are now available online. Shot on location across several islands, these episodes cover a wide range of special interests, such as baking Portuguese bread in a traditional brick oven at Makawao, Maui; planting kalo in Keʻanae, Maui and Wainiha, Kauaʻi; cattle ranching in Waimea, Hawaiʻi; celebrating the Molokaʻi homestead with a hoʻolauleʻa at Kalamaʻula; and participating in a hukilau at Kualoa, Oʻahu. The studio interviews are just as lively. Some memorable episodes include Hawaiian music performances by legends Alice Namakelua, Charles K.L. Davis, and Ray Kinney, Hawaiian quilt displays by Deborah Kakalia, and a slightly boozy cooking demonstration by Chef Titus Chan and special guest Julia Child. Most importantly, the program captures the lives of a generation born at the turn of the 20th century under political and economic challenges. The series recorded their stories of personal struggles and achievements, preserving them for the next generation of viewers.
Recently we interviewed producer Joy Chong-Stannard about her days working on set of Pau Hana Years:
When did you work on Pau Hana Years, and what was your role there?
Joy: My work with Pau Hana Years began in the early 1980s and lasted for about two years. This was at the tail end of the show. I was just beginning my career as a producer/director/editor and worked with longtime producer Charlotte Simmons. She had previously worked with Bob Barker, the show’s original host and producer of the program. After he retired, Nino Martin, the Executive Producer for the Culture & Arts Division at Hawaiʻi Public Television, took over the reins of the program, and he selected a new host, big band leader Del Courtney.
How and why did you consider the series ground breaking?
Joy: Pau Hana Years was a groundbreaking production for its focus on Hawaiʻi’s multicultural community of senior citizens. It gave them a platform to express their concerns as well as to celebrate their contributions to our island home. Many of the people featured are now considered cultural legends in our state, and we are fortunate to have captured some of their talents and stories on videotape and film.
How has Pau Hana Years helped you grow as a producer/director?
Joy: Working on Pau Hana Years provided me a unique opportunity to build my skill set as a filmmaker and television director. Before I started on the project, the series was shot on 16mm film. Portable video cameras were just coming into play in the late 1970s, and we were able to shoot a lot more footage on a lower budget. I was able to work with this new technology that made access to editing much easier. And, of course, it allowed for shooting multiple takes if needed. We also taped many segments in the studio, including musical numbers that required innovative sets and lighting on a very limited budget. We also used multiple cameras to capture the performers.
What were some memorable moments working on the show?
Joy: During my time with the program, I was able to meet with many of the older generation living on the neighbor islands as well as some musical legends like Del Courtney who, for many years, performed at the Monarch Room at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. My first documentary that I directed and edited featured a farewell to the iconic old Halekulani Hotel before it was renovated into a luxury resort in the mid-1980s by its new owners from Japan. Capturing the memories of the older generation who used to patronize the House Without A Key restaurant at the hotel and from the many local musicians who performed there gave me a unique insight to that time and place that was Waikiki before the tourist boom that we are witnessing today.
I find it somewhat ironic that, with the baby boomer generation nearing retirement, and the increasing population of older people in our state’s demographics, we don’t have more programs devoted to the older generation. Pau Hana Years was surely ahead of its time.
You can view video clips of Pau Hana Years here. To request specific episodes, please contact ʻUluʻulu Moving Image Archive. The Pau Hana Years digitization project was generously supported by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.