POSTED: 29 JUNE 2007 - 2:30pm HST

Two Tales From Uncle Louis Almodova Jr

[Editor's Note: the following two stories were recounted by Louis Almodova, of Eleele. Louie is going to be 90 years old, and has lived all his life here. Louie is a favorite with visitors at Salt Pond Beach park with his wealth of aloha and stories about Kauai.]

image above: Japanese attack the USS Shaw at Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December 1941

The Last Football Game
by Juan Wilson as told by Louis Almodova Jr on 27 June 2007

I had a knee injury recently after a minor bike accident. It really was not very serious, but it kept me off my usual swimming routine for a couple of weeks. Today, 27 June 2007 was the first time my wife were back doing our laps down at Salt Pond Beach Park. When we had finished up, and were drying off at the main pavilion.

The late afternoon at Salt Pond is a special time. The main pavilion is almost nightly occupied by senior locals cooking dinner, sharing a brew and talking story. We have been lucky enough to share a picnic table with these folks and hear a few good stories.

As we got ready to go, Louis Almodova, known at Salt Pond as "Uncle Louis",  came over to chat. He will be ninety this year. Our parents, from the mainland have passed. We think of Louis as our adopted father on Kauai and are always impressed with the number of people he has known, and their stories. When I told Louis about my knee he related this tale. 

Louis grew up in Eleele, went to the school there and bought a house overlooking the fields of McBryde Mill. Before World War II he joined the Army and was stationed on Puolo Point at a barracks on Lele Road. Back then, Hanapepe was a strategic spot with a harbor and an airport. 

The squad he was with had the luxury of hanging out at night in Hanapepe. Fifteen or more pals would sit on benches near the USO and pool hall (where the Banana Patch Studio is today). That was across the street from where the Jardine Theater sat. It wasn't bad duty. There was always something going on in town.

There were three movie houses, a roller rink, dance hall, plenty of bars and great cheap restaurants. Louis' squad even had members on the Kauai US Army football team. Louis was always a baseball player. Even into his senior years he played competitively. In his pocket he carries a 1997 Senior World Series trophy ring. Even though he was a baseball player first, he was a member of the Army football squad. 

On December 6th, 1941 the Kauai Army football team hosted a football game against Saint Lukes College  from Oahu. The game was at Eisenberg Stadium in Lihue, near where the existing Lihue Neighborhood Recreational Center is. Louis played his first competitive game for the Army. As it turned out, it was the last and only football game Louis played for the Army.

During the game Louis injured his ankle badly enough to be pulled out of the game. It swelled up so bad he had to stay off it. The next day he was in his barracks. The barracks was on Lele Road, the one that leads down to Salt Pond Beach Park. His ankle was so bad, Louis was in the barracks office to get a transfer to the hospital for treatment.

While he waited outdoors for a meeting, he saw an armada of planes moving towards Oahu. It was the first wave of attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7th. Not knowing exactly what they had seen, people on Kauai could only look as the planes disappeared into the east and wonder. It was only later they received news of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Uncle Louis was subsequently stationed to defend the southern shore of Kauai for the duration of the war. He is still here today, welcoming visitors instead of defending against attackers.

image above: A Caterpillar D7 bulldozer with blade

Wainiha Valley & the D7 Bulldozer
by Juan Wilson as told by Louis Almodova Jr on 29 December 2006

I spent lunchtime on December 29th, 2006 at a mochi pounding party at the end of my street in Hanapepe Valley. At 89 years old, Louis Almodova, sometimes called the Mayor of Salt Pond, was the senior guest present. His daughter, Gerry, was the hostess.

As the men steamed and then pounded the rice with wooden mallets, the women formed and flavored the resulting mochi with mint and sweet beans. Louis sat in the shade towards the back so he could see everybody, including a few great great grandchildren.

My wife, Linda, and I sat with paper plates loaded with food that Gerry and other family members had prepared, while Louis told us the following story.

Louis worked for the McBryde Mill in Numila for four decades starting in the 1930's. He began with a hoe in his hand and ended as a dispatcher and transportation foreman.

On more than one occasion he had to take a crew all the way around, to the north side of the island, to Wainiha Valley to do work on the hydroelectric plant there. McBryde Mill built the power plant to provide electricity for its operations.
Maintenance for the equipment had to come from their facilities on the south side.

In 1968, after a particularly bad winter in Wainiha Valley, the water intake dam, way above the power generator was washed out with flooding from heavy rain. A large bulldozer would be need far up the valley to manage the repairs.

It was Louis' job to get a team and the Caterpillar D7 to the site. The flatbed truck to carry the bulldozer was a wide load. Louis had to get a special permit to move such a rig. Louis, driving a McBryde pickup, was the lead vehicle in the caravan, with flashing warning lights. Bedsides the bulldozer, tractor trailer, and crew there would be plenty of other equipment and material needed just to get to the mouth of Wainiha Valley.

The first real challenge came just before Hanalei, in what is now Princeville. The McBryde caravan had to stop at the top of the hill before descent to the one lane bridge over the Hanalei River. There they unloaded the D7 from the truck. After some negotiation and discussion, a plan was executed. The river bridge could not handle the load.

To get around the Hanalei Bridge, the D7 had to be driven mauka along what is now Kapaka Street as far as Ahonui Place. There a gentle enough slope would allow the bulldozer to driven down to the bottom of Hanalei Valley. Then the D7 could cross through the river and emerge on the west bank.

Louis arranged for the D7 to earn its passage by providing favors for land owners along the way. Once across the Hanalei River, the D7 could rejoin the caravan where Ohiki Road met the Kuhio Highway on the west side of the river. But after the Hanalei River there were more challenges.

There were a few stone small concrete bridges that could take the loaded tractor trailer but not the bridge then over the Lumahai Stream. Near Lumahai Stream, at the west end of the beach, again the caravan had to stop and unload the bulldozer.

The crew had brought old tires with them to lay down on the highway to protect the surface of the road from the treads of the bulldozer. They drove the D7 along the beach and when they got to the stream built a sand bridge for a crossing.

It took most of the a day to reach Wainiha Valley. Finally, they headed up Powerhouse Road to get to the damaged intake. The caravan unloaded the D7 for a week of work at the site and then headed back to the Mill. When the work was done the whole process was reversed to bring the D7 back to the southside.

This adventure was repeated on more than one occasion when the hydroelectric power plant needed repair. Louis said sometimes his smile was the only permit they rode with.

Louis ended his story telling us about an accident he witnessed back then with the D7. They were in the valley, pushing over a tree that was in the way of a job they had to do. The bulldozer operator was downhill from the tree and tipped the tree up the slope.

The spread of roots was huge and wide. When the tree went over the root ball emerged from the ground, caught the blade and flipped the bulldozer on its back, killing the driver. A nasty surprise for everyone.

See also:
Island Breath: Uncle Louis - The Caretaker of Salt Pond
Island Breath: Uncle Louis remembers the Eleele School Song
Island Breath: Unlce Louis Tales - The Rumba Kings
Island Breath; Uncle Louis Tells the Menehune Fishpond story
Island Breath: Uncle Louis tells the Two Dragons of Lawai story
Island Breath: Hanapepe Mochi Pounding

Island Breath: Uncle Louis Tales - Last Football game & the D7 Bulldozer
Island Breath: Uncle Louis - The mayor of Salt Pond

Ea O Ka Aina: Salt Dedication to Uncle Louis