Hawaii has had many interesting social and living experiments over the years. One fascinating example began in 1969, when Howard Taylor (brother of actress Elizabeth) bailed out 13 young Mainlanders jailed on Kauai for vagrancy and invited them to camp on his oceanfront land near the end of the road on Kauai’s north shore. Over the next several years, a clothing-optional, pot-friendly treehouse village called Taylor Camp grew up there, populated by hippies, surfers, and troubled Vietnam vets. It lasted until 1977, when Kauai County condemned the property, evicted the last residents, and torched the structures to make way for a park that was never built.Most people, even in Hawaii, have never heard of Taylor Camp, but for many of the people who lived there the time defined them and left wonderful memories. Fortunately, Kauai photographer John Wehrheim documented the people and buildings of Taylor Camp with a series of stunning black and white photographs. Now he has produced a film, brilliantly directed by Robert C. Stone, that tells the story of Taylor Camp through Wehrheim’s photos, other photos and home movies made during the camp’s existence, and interviews made 30 years later with the campers, their neighbors, and the Kauai officials who finally got rid of them.
Sharene and I saw the Taylor Camp Film in one of its early versions some time ago in Honolulu, we saw the latest release a few months ago at the historic Palace Theater in Hilo (our own little art film house and a real community treasure), and we have watched the DVD several times since. The film evokes powerful emotions in both of us. Those days really were the best of times and the worst of times, when a terrible war and social unrest occurred at the same time communities and cultures appeared built on values of openness, sharing, and love.
We also had a great time watching Taylor Camp because so many of the participants have a Big Island connection! Kauai may not have welcomed the campers, but the Big Island later adopted many with open arms and quite a few still live not far from us. We met Realtor Allan Kroll several years ago when he brought singer Maria Muldaur to stay with us at Hale Kakahi. Artist Pat Leo and her husband Andy live next door to the former owners of Lagoon House. Hawk and Cherry Hamilton lived on the Big Island for years before moving back to Kauai, where their son Moses Hamilton is a mouth painter.
The film is now on the film festival circuit and we highly recommend it! You can also contact producer John Wehrheim through the website and ask about ordering the DVD. We’re having our own little Hale Kakahi Taylor Camp Film Festival in a couple of weeks on an evening between guests when we have invited several friends, neighbors, and Big Island Taylor Campers to join us for an evening of pupus, dinner, and a viewing of the Taylor Camp DVD. We’ll let you know how it turns out!