With no local university rivalries or pro sports teams, Hawaii residents are passionate about high school loyalty. But now, a high school that doesn’t even exist is growing alumni, and that’s a first.
Kukui High School is the name given to Steve McGarrett’s alma mater in the new Hawaii Five-O. When the series premiered, some locals sneered at the name, asking why they couldn’t pick a real high school. Oh, come on, even I know the answer to that one. No mainland producer is going to stick a toe into the life and death rivalries on these islands. No, better to make up a name. And “Kukui” sounds Hawaiian and yet is simple enough for non-islanders to pronounce. Most travelers will be familiar with the name from the popular round black nut lei.
Since Monday’s nationwide premier of the pilot, an enterprising group of local professionals has gotten far more creative. They’ve created an online presence for Kukui High School that has many locals playing along, tongue firmly planted in cheek. KHS has a Twitter account and is on Facebook, seeing to make contact with “alunni.” The story is that the administration building burned down, destroying school records. so alumni need to contact KHS to get listed. A webpage carries an online yearbook, and the first entry under “alumni news” is an article celebrating the fact that several KHS alumni have been selected by the governor to head a new crime-fighting task force. It’s absolutely tone-perfect. It sounds exactly like notes in every alumni association newsletter and incorporates all the information disclosed in bits throughout the Hawaii Five-O pilot. All that’s missing is an appeal for donations.
Within hours, many locals had sent photos and a yearbook description of themselves that includes activities and awards we only wish could have existed in high school. That alone has an instant appeal. Who wouldn’t like to re-make a few high school memories? In the KHS yearbook, we can make ourselves into the person we wish had wandered high school hallways, “reimagining” our own experiences.
To paraphrase a line of H5O dialogue: “What kind of alumni are you?” KHS grads: “The new kind.”