Pineapple Picking, It’s Pine Time!

A bunch of high school friends and myself were employed by Dole®, a summer job picking pineapple on Lanai’i Island. As a teenager in the early 80’s I remember looking out of the airplane window and seeing the wings stretching out over the pineapple plants as we landed. How small is this airport and runway, what have I gotten myself into, I thought. As we exited the aircraft coordinators from the student program greeted us and showed us the way to the pineapple trucks.

Hundreds of students from every high school in Hawai’i were being loaded into these dirty trucks. Kahuku High had the largest number of student participation. My school, Waiakea High (Hilo) was a distant second. Many of the coordinators were teachers at these schools.

Working The Fields Of Dole Pineapple Plantation

Once we got to camp we were issued with the proper work gear. Wire screen goggles, arm guards, chaps, and boots, we were ready to work. Let’s pick some pine, so I thought. The first two days my “gang” was detailed to “Hoe Hana”, ho’ohana (to put to work). Walking the fields pulling weeds. The big luna (boss) drove up and told me to tell my gang luna that one of us was needed to fill in with a gang of girls from Kahuku. Without hesitation I jump into his truck and said “yeah me, I can go”. These girls already had two or three summers of experience. I swallowed my pride and gave thanks to the two girls who helped me to keep up with the gang.

As weeks pasted, my gang had learned the technique of picking pineapples. We were being assigned to first and second year crops. I could grab four pineapples at one time and flip them onto the boom. We earned the respect of the Kahuku gangs who were the superiors of the camp.

One day we got assigned to Boom #16. Rumors has it, Boom #16 used to be Boom #13 until an old lady got her head cut off from a snapped cable. It’s been said that she still comes to work from time to time. I get chicken skin (goose bumps) every time I think about it. The boom broke down twice that day. We didn’t even make our quota, too scared to work. We jumped at every sound, thinking it was the old lady. That night I slept along side of 6 other boys, putting two beds together and laying sideways.

The next day we were again assigned to Boom #16. I was more than happy to get pulled and fill in with a gang of old Filipino ladies from Lana’i. What was even better, they shared their lunch with me. I threw out my hamburger patty and rice from the cafeteria for some homemade poncit and pork adobo.

Lanai Pineapple Field

Lanai Culture & Heritage Center:

“Between 1922 to 1992, pineapple plantation operations provided the people of Lanai with a way of life. The people worked and relaxed together, built a community, and contributed to the development of a sustainable way of life.”

Lanai Pineapple Field

Dole Student Camp Life Summer Time Recreation

During off duty hours and weekends the Dole® camp offered game room activities, talent shows, luau’s, weight rooms, intramural sports, hiking, fishing, and the Pine Olympics. Body surfing at Hulopoe Beach near Manele Bay was always fun, although it got a little scary when the larger wave sets rolled in. At times park rangers would have to call everyone out of the water and close the beach. The cookouts and sand castle contest between gangs were a blast. My second year we got second place.

Lana’i City isn’t very big in size, but we found it big in fun. Shopping at the general store, playing basketball at the high school, eating at Taka’s restaurant, going golfing, and hanging out at the park talking story with the Lana’i girls. Attending the local Bon Dance Festival was a treat. I even entered a Breaking/Popping dance contest… took second place!

I made many lifetime friends in the two summers that I worked on Lana’i. I often reminisce of the great times we shared. Packed away, I still have my maroon lunch bag and my Pine Time Yearbook. The pineapple fields have since given way to the hotel industry, but my memories of old will always be fresh in my heart.

punaboy

[Originally posted April 2002]