Some call Alice Guild the “First Lady” of the renovated Iolani Palace, perhaps because she spent 35 years devoted to restoring, maintaining, and preserving the 1882 structure–an icon of the Hawaii of a different era.

”The palace still lives on, still plays a role in our modern society. That’s what thrills me the most, Guild has said. “It’s not a place of the past.”

Though no longer president, I interviewed Alice right before her departure. Here’s the full interview, never before printed, here.

What I’m Reading | Alice Guild
Retired President, Friends of Iolani Palace

Q&A with Christine Thomas

-What are you reading?

I’m reading several books because I travel back and forth to the Big Island two to three times a month, so I keep one book that’s light for reading on the airplane so when I pick it up every couple of weeks I can figure out what’s happening. I just started “The Story of Lana’i” by George C Munro, based on the notes he made and kept. He actually wrote this book and it was never published during his lifetime, and his son and grandson edited it and collected wonderful old photographs of Lana`i and its people. It’s a wonderful story written firsthand about an island that I think not too many people know much about. I’m also reading a kind of an exercise book called “Old Friend from Far Away” by Natalie Goldberg. It’s practice for writing a memoir. I’ve been doing her little exercises and hopefully one of these days I’ll at least get down enough family memories to write a memoir. And my travel book is “The Innocent Man” by John Grisham.

-How did you discover them?

The Munro book—his grandson and great grandson are the ones that edited it and published it so Richard Towill gave us a copy. I had known about it and was very interested because I’d seen some of the photographs they were editing a year or so ago. So we were very anxious to see it when it was finished. So my husband read it first and then I got it and just started it. Grisham, I didn’t realize this one is an actual case—most of this stuff is novels—so it doesn’t read quite as glibly as most of his books. And I’m one of these frustrated writers…but now that I’m retired I have no more excuses so I was looking through the how to write section of the bookstore and saw this one and it made sense. Goldberg’s book gets you started without a lot of rules and that’s just what I need. Something to jump start me.

-What do you like about most about The Story of Lana’i?

I love the fact that it’s written in George Munro’s own words, and his great love of the land and the people that comes through. This is written during the days when Lana`i was a cattle ranch and there are just wonderful pictures of the people and an interesting forward. … And Goldberg’s book Goldberg’s book just kind of jump started me. I didn’t have to do a lot of pondering, she gives you an assignment and they are very easy to do. And by golly at the end of your 10 minutes you’ve got something written down and it’s fun.

-Do Munro’s and Goldberg’s Goldberg’s books especially grab you because they help keep the past alive and relevant, as you do working to help Iolani palace play a role in our lives today?

Yes. Because I’ really have spent a good part of my life poking into the past, and so many things that have happened are so wonderful we don’t want to let them disappear from our memories.