I remember, when I was a young girl looking at the lighthouse, I asked my parents why the light was so high up in the sky. My mother explained that where we lived, the land extended out into the ocean further than the rest of the eastern coast of the island. Therefore, the lighthouse was erected to warn ships passing in the night that land was nearby, and that they should steer away or risk crashing against the rocks.
Pepeekeo Point Light was established in 1907 on the Big Island of Hawaii, about six miles north of Hilo. It was a square, skeletal tower made of steel, and it was always painted white during the years I spent in Pepeekeo. It towered 75 feet high and its light was visible for 13 nautical miles.
During the sugar plantation days, the people living in the village known as Pepeekeo Mill Camp used the park around the lighthouse for recreation – picnics, gatherings, or just a place to play in the sun. Baseball, softball, and even cricket games were played in this park. Once, a Canadian cricket team came to play in a tournament here. There was also an area for volleyball, and a gymnasium was close by where basketball was played and Boy Scout sessions were held. One could not help looking at the majestic, tall, white tower nearby.
I cherish this lighthouse. It reminds me of the many happy times I had playing in the park. It was the last thing I saw when flying in an airplane to another island and the first thing I wanted to see when I returned home. As a youth, I remember going to the base of the tower many times just to look up to the very top. Because of the moving white clouds, the tower seemed to be moving against the beautiful, blue sky.
Occasionally, couples would venture
to the park on a dark night. The beacon and the millions of stars were the only lights, and they probably made each couple a little less afraid. The giant, golden moon rising east beyond the horizon, its reflection on the calm ocean, the silhouettes of the ironwood trees lining the edge of the park, and the coconut grove nearby added to the area around
the light a scene that I will cherish forever in my memories.
I left Pepeekeo after graduating in 1964. My husband and I returned in 1968 to get married in the church near the park. The lighthouse was a backdrop in several of the photos that were taken outside of the church. Occasionally, I visit the place and reminisce about the good old days and there it would be, still standing majestically with its white steel poles, the Pepeekeo Lighthouse.
On January 25, 2005, I went to see the changes at the place where I once lived. I had been told that a gate was erected across the entrance to the village. The gate was there, and Pepeekeo Mill Camp is now called “The Orchards of Pepeekeo.” The former cane field lands were bought and developed into parcels for agriculture.
The one thing that would never change would be our dear old Pepeekeo Lighthouse. After all, it had been standing there for nearly 100 years. I looked for the lighthouse and noticed the beacon blinking as it always did. I walked along the fence and saw it between the tall trees that limited my view. I soon realized something was amiss.
I pondered, because it seemed like an additional tower was erected next to the lighthouse. Then I saw that the blinking light came from this alien structure. My heart sank when I realized the white steel tower I knew all my life no longer existed. It was replaced by a solid structure, not a skeleton tower made of steel poles. Now, all that I have is the memory of the white tower I knew as the Pepeekeo Lighthouse.
This story appeared in the
May 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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