The legislature, on December 30, 1864, approved “An act authorizing the board of education to establish an industrial and reformatory school for the care and education of helpless and neglected children, as also for the reformation of juvenile offenders”.
“The only object of the said industrial and reformatory schools shall be the detention, management, education, employment, reformation, and maintenance of such children as shall be committed thereto as orphans, vagrants, truants, living an idle or dissolute life, who shall be duly convicted of any crime or misdemeanor”. (Hawaiian Commission, Annexation Report, 1898)
“The first notice of a reform school is contained in the report of M. Kekuanao’a, president of the board of education, in 1866. The legislature in March, 1865, voted an appropriation of $6,000 for an industrial and reform school.” (Report to the Governor, 1903)
The department of public instruction established an industrial and reformatory school at Keoneula, Kapālama, Oʻahu and had authority to establish other industrial schools across the Islands.
In 1899, a proposal was made to establish a new school at Waialeʻe on Oʻahu’s North Shore, but action wasn’t taken until 1901 when the land was deeded over to the department of education. It was built to replace an older school.
On the May 13, 1902, the last of the boys of the reformatory school in Honolulu – 68 in number – were moved down to the new buildings at Waialeʻe, the institution was thereafter known as the Waialeʻe Industrial School.
The Waialeʻe Industrial School was situated on 700-acres of land, about 5-miles from Kahuku and 8-miles from Waialua. It had a coast line of over a mile, and it extended back to the mountain ridge.
School improvements were built about ½-mile from the ocean on low land between a series of bluffs. Taro patches were built above the beach; there was a large pond supplied by “never-failing springs.”
This site enabled the school to carry on agriculture, dairy farming and fishing, besides giving instruction in carpentering, blacksmithing, the manufacture of poi and general school work.
In 1903, four taro patches had been made and planted; a fifth is about ready to plant. A vegetable garden was planted with onions, tomatoes, com, beans, lettuce, radish, beets, and carrots.
There have also been planted 220 banana plants and about 500 trees for windbreaks and firewood. The trees planted are eucalyptus, gravillea robusta, ironwood, kamani, poinciana, tamarind, alligator pear and mango.
A terrace was built, extending 30 feet around the main building, and planted with grass. A considerable area has been cleared of lantana and stones.
For the dining hall 8 tables and 24 benches have been made, 3 safes for the pantry, a table and cupboard for the kitchen, a table and cupboard for the hospital, and 42 desks have been set up and placed in the schoolroom.
The following buildings were built by the boys: a clothes and store room, 18 by 48 feet, a closet with 10 compartments, 5 by 30 feet, with urinals and latticed screen, a carpenter shop, 20 by 40 feet, and a poi house of corrugated iron with cemented floor, 13 by 15 feet.
In 1903, there were a total of 78-boys in the Waialeʻe Industrial School. (At that time, their attendance was noted as: In school 73; In hospital 1; In Oahu jail 3; and Escaped 1.)
Their offenses included: Truancy 18; Vagrancy and homeless 11; Disobedience to parents 15; Common nuisance 1; Trespass 3; Assault and lottery 2; Larceny 25; Housebreaking 1; and Burglary 2. (Reportedly, an average of 180-boys lived at the school at any given time.)
All was not pretty at the place. “Members of the education committee of the house of representatives are of the opinion that the so-called dark cells or dungeons are improper and should be abolished.” (Star-Bulletin, 1919; as noted in Honolulu Weekly)
Another Star-Bulletin article reveals excerpts of a journal discovered by then-superintendent Morris Freedman that covers most of the inmates from 1899 to 1908. “Disobedience to the moral suasion of parents [resulted in] a man-sized term of 3 to 5 years . . . Runaways were not few and far between . . . Ball and chain were used.” (As noted in Honolulu Weekly)
A related article on the “Boys of Waialee” notes an unpublished piece by Freedman between 1935–1939 that notes corporeal punishment: “Oregon boots, shackles, leg irons, cat-o-nine tails, straps soaked in vinegar and salt, terrific lashings and beatings were the order of the day.”
“In 1921, when Mr. Wesson [took over] the school his first act was to destroy these vestiges of the Dark Ages era [and he] discontinued the use of dark cells which were built below the level of the street surface … his treatment was by far more humane than it had been before.”
A September 3, 1953 editorial in the Honolulu Record notes, “70 per cent of the Oahu Prison inmates comes from Waialee Training School for Boys, which is supposedly a correction and rehabilitation home.”
“This does not include prisoners at Honolulu Jail who “graduated” from Waialee, many of them asking in early youth while at Waialee to be transferred to the jail rather than withstand the brutality and bestiality of the administration staff at the boy’s school.”
The school was operational for approximately 50-years; the boys were moved to facilities on the windward side (above Kailua.)
Later, Crawford’s Convalescent Home operated mauka of Kamehameha Highway. On about 135-acres of the makai lands (below the highway) UH-Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) operated the Waialeʻe Livestock Experiment Station, an animal research and demonstration facility.