In 1969, more than 400,000 people attended the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. U.S. Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. The Grammy for Record of the Year went to the 5th Dimension for “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.” Midnight Cowboy won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The times, as they say, were a-changin’.
On Kauai, the decade closed with the start of a new community. The story goes that a group of people — as few as three, as many as 13 — were tossed in jail for vagrancy and illegal camping. Howard Taylor, the brother of actress Elizabeth Taylor but a complete stranger to the vagrants, bailed them out and invited them to live on his six acres of land just west of Limahuli Stream on Kauai’s North Shore. His invitation may have come just after — or just before — he got wind that the state was going to condemn his beachfront land for a state park.
What is clear is that those first residents of what soon became known as Taylor Camp couldn’t keep their good fortune to themselves. Word spread; friends visited and then wouldn’t leave, and the population burgeoned to 60, 80, 120 — depending on who is telling the story. After the first winter’s surf washed out campsites, the residents moved up, building houses in the trees.
At the same time, Taylor Camp hit the local community like a rogue wave. Not everyone endorsed the alternative lifestyle. There was nudity, drug suspicion, safety and sanitation concerns. It wasn’t planned. There wasn’t a guru leader or a guiding philosophy in the camp. It wasn’t a Utopian society, nudist colony, commune or self-sustaining farm. It was, quite simply, a community — of treehouses.
After eight years, the state and Taylor settled on a sum, but by that time, Taylor Camp was entrenched. In a twist, the community sued the state for relocation assistance. The Relocation Act, they argued, stipulated that the government must find suitable or similar housing for persons displaced by government action — the land condemnation. After much legal wrangling, the lawsuit came to an end when Taylor Camp willingly deserted. The state moved in and burned the tree-house community.
As you can well imagine, Taylor Camp made for some very interesting stories.
Bobo Bollin was the last resident to live at Taylor Camp. Her treehouse was mysteriously burned while she spent a night in jail for drunk and disorderly conduct. She was left with a rug, a blanket, a fishing pole and a pair of swim fins. Today, she lives eight miles down the road from Taylor Camp in Hanalei in a home she rents from another ex-Taylor Camp resident. She still surfs, and her hair is still long — gray now and braided in two plaits. Bollin has been clean and sober for 19 years. The former California resident was busted a couple times for marijuana early in life in La Jolla. Fearing jail, she ran away.
It was about 1970; I was 20. I wanted to surf, so I came to Kauai. When I got off the plane, I asked the guy at baggage, “Where do people like me live?” I was wearing a long skirt, long hair, no makeup. “Taylor Camp,” he told me. I hitchhiked there and moved in with a surfer, eventually “inheriting” his treehouse. It had a living room and a kitchen with a propane stove. It grew from one bedroom to four. I lived therefor eight years.
Most of the people at the camp were young, 18 to 25, a few in their 30s, a few in their 40s. Then there was 90-year-old Hubert. He was a millionaire who gave it all up to become a naked hippie! Most came from the mainland. Ninety-nine percent were into spiritual growth, health food and family, but not me. They d gather together at the church. I didn’t go, but my daughters did. It was called the Church of the Brotherhood of the Paradise Children. There were Hare Krishna devotees. Christian preachers would sometimes come, too. All religions were accepted.
Mrs. Ching (from Ching Youngs store in Hanalei, Ching Young Village Shopping Center today) donated a flush toilet and hired someone to put it in. Mrs. Ching had a heart of gold.
My children were some of the first at Taylor Camp. By the time we left, there was a tribe. Every house was a home for them. One little girl, Dana, would come to my house to eat hamburgers because her mother was a vegetarian.
Sometimes we’d go down to the wet caves at night, float a candle on a surfboard and swim to the back. We’d hike to Kalalau Valley; it was our backyard. In the modern day United States, we had a piece of the third world. No running water, no plumbing, no electricity, no TV — and we loved it.
Diane Daniells presently lives four doors down from Bollin behind her husband Mark’s art gallery. She still operates a Montessori preschool that she started when she lived at Taylor Camp.
I arrived on Kauai in 1974 at the age of 20. My surfer boyfriend lived at Taylor Camp. Just before I came,a winter swell destroyed his treehouse. He inherited another spot on the beach; that’s how it worked. The Kilauea Plantation was selling camp homes at Kilauea for $100. We built knowing that it wouldn’t be forever — maybe a few months; it turned out to he a few years.
We had a tri-level house. You had to climb up a stairway and through a trapdoor to get into the living room. From there, you’d step down two steps into the kitchen. The floor was made of planks from the old Hanalei Bridge. The kitchen had a propane stove and oven. The countertop was made of tiles from Mexico, which I still have. The sleeping loft was up a wall ladder. We had two outdoor decks and flower boxes with geraniums.
We burned kerosene lamps and candles for light. There was no running water. For refrigeration, we’d get a block of ice from Ching Young’s and put it in a cooler. For bathing, there was a wonderful waterhole between two rocks at Limahuli Stream with an overhanging kamani tree branch for your towel. We had a system where you would wash dishes down river, bathe upriver and gather water upstream for drinking.
The school bus came by and picked up the kids. The county came by and picked up trash. It was a real community.
One day, I was running on the beach with my dogs and a guy on a motorcycle called me over and said, “Hey, I think your house burned down.” The state was already burning houses by then, but I had permission from the Department of Land and Natural Resources to dismantle my house. I had property in Moloaa that my grandmother helped me buy. When I got back, it was still hot, smoldering. That was the end of my house. It wasn’t the state; this was done at night. They didn’t destroy it (Taylor Camp) for me by burning my treehouse.
Rosey Rosenthal lived at Taylor Camp from 1971 until 76. Today, he lives on the Big Island of Hawaii and is executive assistant to the mayor, Harry Kim. He’s involved in sports and the community with sports talk radio and public-access television shows.
I was teaching school in the Bronx and going to law school at night. My friend Albert was at community college. We started driving across the country. We got to San Diego and didn’t want to go back, so we pulled out a map of Hawaii and picked the smallest dot on the map. It was Lihue. Then, we picked the spot as far away as possible — along the Na Pali Coast; we got as far as Taylor Camp.
The people from Taylor Camp were a bunch of scrawny hippie guys. We were very, very lucky we were so far away at the end of the road. Most local guys, even if they wanted to bother us, wouldn’t spend the whole day driving to the North Shore.
Within our community, there were really no rules. Everyone just wanted to come there and build. One of the urban legends was that Mr. Taylor said we could only have 13 houses. Guys would come and say, “I love it here; I want to build.”
“No, no, no,” we’d say, “There’s one rule here: Mr. Taylor only allows 13 houses.”It was a myth.
We used to go down to the park and play softball. I knew local guys on the other side. So we were talking; I didn’t realize how seriously they were into their sports. “We’ll play you for $100,” someone said. This was 1973 or 1974. It was like the Christians going to the lions. The park was packed with hundreds of people. They must have beaten us 45 to 0!
Basically, Taylor Camp was an idyllic existence. If anyone looked weird, this one guy, David, would keep an eye on him. He was like our camp cop. I was the camp athletic director.
There were no expenses. There were papayas, food stamps; some people with families got welfare. I don’t know how I survived, though.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned 10,000 Vietnam War draft evaders. The Grammy for Record of the Year went to the Eagles for “Hotel California.” Annie Hall won the Academy Award for best picture. In the flames of Taylor Camp, Haena State Park was born — 230 acres of beachfront lands situated between Limahuli Stream and Na Pali Coast State Park, along the last half-mile of road on Kauai’s North Shore. National Geographic published a 30-page article that year, entitled “Kauai: The Island That’s Still Hawaii.”
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura was quoted as saying, “Too much resort development has already buried much of Hawaii in concrete. If we want to push tourism, we should not destroy the very things that bring tourists to these islands.”
Nearly 30 years later, one of those things is Haena State Park, if the rental cars parked haphazardly at the end of the road are any indication. Many Taylor Camp residents admit they’re glad their one-time home is now a state park; otherwise, it would be houses — big houses. What they have, instead, is a place they can visit to recall simpler times.
Daniells stills “dreams about living at Taylor Camp,” while Bollin seems to keep the memories alive. “I still go naked bakin’ all the time at Taylor Camp,” she says. “No one’s ever down there!”
This story first appeared in HAWAII Magazine.