Amelia Bailey, Punahou School icon recently passed away. Though not a Punahou graduate, Mrs. Bailey had an enormous impact on the school as a parent, volunteer, and Costume Coordinator. So generous were these contributions was she that she was recognized by the Punahou Alumni Association with the “Old School” award in 1980. In a 1985 oral history she gave for the school she recounted many of her experiences, several of which intersected with the Punahou Class of 1974. Here, for your recollection, is a look at how Amelia Bailey made a difference to our class and to the lives of many others.
Mrs. Bailey’s first became involved with Punahou when her oldest child (Beryl Leoani Bailey ’64) registered for kindergarten in 1951. Why Punahou for this 1941 graduate of Kamehameha School for Girls? Because it “was a good place for her to be if they would accept her, because it was close to [our Manoa] home, and the reputation of their education program was just superior.” Things must have worked out okay, because four sons (James Radcliffe Bailey ’66, Robert Clifton Bailey ’68, William “Speedy” Brooks Bailey ’71, John Stuart Bailey ’73) would follow in their sister’s footsteps.
Mrs. Bailey’s parental duties included being a room mother, chaperoning, class picnics, Girl Scouts … many of the things that so many Punahou parents do. But she took her volunteering a step farther. She was also chairman of the 1963 “More For ’64” Punahou Carnival. (She was fortunate to manage this event with her daughter Beryl and Gary Blaisch ’64.) Following this effort, she served as both PTA vice president (1963-1964) and president (1964-1965). In 1965 she became the Costume Coordinator and remained in this position until her retirement in 1984. As a master lei maker, she later volunteered her expertise in lei making for various Punahou functions such as Carnival, Holoku Pageant, and graduation.
It was in her position as Costume Coordinator that Mrs. Bailey impacted two generations of Punahou students. For her, every show was a challenge. Interestingly, one of the most challenging and satisfying of the productions she managed was Fiddler on the Roof, a musical that ran during our junior year. She remembered that,
for some reason or other after we did our Punahou production … I saw the stage production and I saw the movie of Fiddler I thought, “Wow, we did a fantastic job because we were authentic enough and we were effective enough so that we came up with some outstanding costumes.” We even had a bottle dance costume, where we had six or eight boys dancing the bottle dance. That was a costume execution in itself, in that the bottles were attached to the top hats with velcro and they had to be very heavily attached, because when the dance was over, the bottles were removed. It was one of the pleasing moments of the show.
Punahou74’s Variety Show also made an impression on Mrs. Bailey:
(Laughing) Well, I tell you, in the Variety Shows you find that if the seniors are writing a play, they have some in-jokes and they have some unusual and sometimes some unique ideas. I remember one of the Variety Shows. It was titled, On the Tip of my Tongue, and one of the important props was a tongue that had to be executed so that the tongue could roll in and roll out. The way we executed that was to fill a wheelbarrow full of pillows, and a pointed pillow at the end was to be the tip of the tongue. By tying on the right number of ropes and by covering the whole thing with red shiny material, we were able to have a tongue that was in the middle of the stage at an appropriate time. It was able to stick its tongue out and roll its tongue in and, from the audience, I thought it looked obscene.
Of interest to me were the comments she made regarding the students she remembered as outstanding. Do your remember them then?
Well, I tell you, the most outstanding student on the stage the I remember was “Rap” (James Kawika) Replinger ’68. He had his beginnings at Punahou in the early sixties as Og in Finnian’s Rainbow, and it was then almost immediately that he established his charisma, that he was able to carry on through his life and on stage in whatever he did. That was what was outstanding about that young, talented comedian. He had natural charisma. There were other people. There was Willie Falk ’76 who played the lead in Godspell, who was a young son in Fiddler on the Roof, who became then an outstanding actor-dancer-singer. He went on to Broadway and he played the lead dancer in Chorus Line, and he had a minor speaking role, but a good one. Then there were other young people like Karen Brillande ’73, who started at Punahou as a dancer. In fact she was one of the three daughters in Fiddler on the Roof. She went on to continue dancing and acting and today she is very well known in the community as a director. Then there is Faye Fujisaki, who graduated in Beryl’s class in 1964. She has been on Broadway for some time. She has been in many shows, and is still active in the theatre. And there’s another classmate of Faye’s who is now very outstanding in designing, in stage design, as well as clothes, costuming, and that’s Peter Lee ’64. He is well known in the community and very active in dressing dolls of various countries and in period pieces. And, then let’s see now, there was John Rowehl ’78 who was an outstanding musician who today–his work in college has been to help write music scores. We can go way back to that wonderful dancer-actor Tessa Magoon and Diana Ewing who graduated in the class of ’64. Diana went on to Hollywood and played minor roles in the film Hawaii and in some other miniseries. Then Tessa went on to England, studied with the ballet company in England, then on to Germany, and she came back to Hawaii to be director of the Honolulu City Ballet.
Condolences to the family of Mrs. Bailey and mahalo to her for all that she did for the Punahou74 students and many others.
Your condolences may be paid during a memorial celebration Saturday, April 7th at Thurston Memorial Chapel, Punahou School. Visitation begins at 12:30 pm with a 2 p.m. service. Carpools are encouraged.
In lieu of wreaths, mourners are asked to wear lei “as Tutu always did.”
Donations to Punahou School’s “Dr. Robert G. and Amelia Bailey Endowed Scholarship Fund” (1601 Punahou St., Honolulu, HI 96822) will be gratefully received. The mailing of memories to email@example.com is also encouraged.