Guardians of tradition

21 10 2009

“Guardians of Tradition” are we, I was reminded last evening. The event: a gathering of Punahou School alumni to hear a lecture by kumu Hattie Eldredge Phillips at Kauihelani, the Hawaiian resources center of the Case Middle School.

Hattie is of the well-known Eldredge family that has touched the students, faculty, staff,  parents, and alumni of Punahou for generations—as student leaders, teachers and coaches.

In front of last night’s audience, she introduced her brother Pal, who teaches first graders, her very good friend and colleague Malia Ane, who teaches grade 3, and Malia’s mother Marilyn Ane, retired kindergarten teacher. The Ane family is equally dedicated to Punahou. Each would take the microphone to share stories and mele (songs) about Punahou traditions and how they came to be, reliving the journey we alumni were all so fortunate to be a part of. None of what she does is done alone, Hattie said. The others on stage with her and ke Akua were her allies.

It was a bittersweet moment when Hattie prefaced that the empty rocking chair draped with lei was to be for her brother David who passed over the day before. Dave Eldredge retired from Punahou after 40 years as an athletic coach and teacher. He established the Hawaiian studies program at Punahou and designed the school’s fabulous Holoku Pageant.

The Holoku Pageant was how I first met Dave—Mr. Eldredge—who was the adviser to the Hawaiian Club when I was a student, and his sister Hattie, who was one class ahead of me and taught all the hula. Part of the philosophy of teaching hula and mele to students was/is that the students will in turn teach the dance and music to others, thereby helping to perpetuate Hawaiian culture. And this has been happening for all the time Mr. Eldredge, and now Hattie, Pal, and Malia have spent at Punahou. Mr. Eldredge would be proud of Hattie’s program that was dedicated to him last night.

Some highlights:

The entire Eldredge family, though grieving, was present at Kauihelani, a thoroughly modern Hawaiian resource center facility that is Hattie’s domain. Seventh graders have a huge and great place to  learn Hawaiian values, history, tradition, activities, and culture. There they can connect with real events happening in the community.

Pal Eldredge, who has researched the history of Punahou School, showed us some interesting, old photos of campus, gave us the correct lyrics for the alma mater “Oahu-a” and played guitar.

Marilyn Ane (Class of ’48) told how she started the “Flaming P” tradition to generate school spirit.

Malia Ane, also known as “Queen of Mele,” led the gang in a group duet of  “Pupu Hinuhinu” and “Maile Lei.” It was Malia who started the tradition of teaching Hawaiian songs to the elementary grades.

Leilehua Phillips, Hattie’s daughter and past queen of the Holoku Pageant, performed a hula. Hattie inherited the directorship of the pageant from Dave few years ago.

We all sang a medley of Punahou fight songs. The women—Hattie, Malia, and Marilyn—were football song- and cheerleaders, no surprise!

And the special request from the audience that brought the house down: that Marilyn Ane  lead the alumni audience in the cheer “Geeve ’em the hash, the hash, the hash” as the video camera rolled. It was hilarious! I know, it’s something you had to be there for, and I’m sure Dave was. “E Aunty, you still got it!”

We are shown the way by those who came and went before us. We have only to listen for their guidance, follow in their footsteps and teach our children. That was Hattie’s message, and it came through loud and clear.

Mahalo!

Copyright 2009 Rebekah Luke
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