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  Cop-Out: The Underground Newspaper of Lanai High, 1970

The "Cop-Out" was founded by Colbert Matsumoto and myself in the Spring of 1970--our Junior year at Lanai High. Surrepticiously mimeographing double-sided legal paper at the ILWU office in Lanai City, we published eight issues and distributed the paper in the classrooms of Mr. Bagley (our English teacher), Mr. Fedak (our French teacher) and Mr. Yarlott. (We avoided distributing in my stepfather Jim Bollingmo's classroom to distance him at least publicly from his stepson's rabble-rousing.)

Colbert and I alternated as "hands-on" editors of the "Cop-Out;" the typeface of each issue reflects who was editing it that week. Clearly, Colbert was the superior typist, as my issues tend to be lighter and are marred by typographical errors. We each wrote pieces for every issue, except perhaps for the sole single-page issue no. 4. We solicited submissions via a box in Mr. Bagley's room, and managed to spark some major controversy by printing honest opinions. We also published a number of excellent poems written by our fellow students. Although I cannot recall the precise details of the launch, it was no doubt a mutually inspired project; I remember being influenced by a magazine article on underground newspapers. Colbert conjured up the name and the printing facilities and the "Cop-Out" was born.

Burk Bagley's mentoring role deserves special mention. Although I don't think he suggested the newspaper idea to us, he certainly encouraged us, and other students, to express ourselves via writing and poetry and to exchange ideas and opinions in public. Sadly, Burk died in 1998, before I had the chance to thank him for his mentoring. His "letter to the editors" can be found in Issue no. 3.

It seems the paper was popular; in its heyday, the submissions box was stuffed with all sorts of poems and notes. I recall Mr. Yarlott telling me that students literally leaped over chairs to grab a copy of the "Cop-Out" when it arrived hot off the mimeograph press. Even granting his account some small exaggeration, it is fair to say the paper was widely read. My memory is sketchy about its demise; though we ceased publication with a bang-up "last issue," the approaching end of the school year probably prompted our decision.

The quality of the writing led skeptics to question whether Lanai High students were capable of producing the "Cop-Out;" some in the school administration and community assumed it was penned by faculty members. (We issued a searing challenge to this slur in our last issue.) I believe the writing holds up rather well; not just our own work, but that of our student contributors as well. (Memo to Myles Hokama: I hope you're still writing poetry.) This disconnect between the creativity and literacy of our work and the low expectations of the community around us may well hold an enduring lesson about what public high school students can acheive if given free expression.

Given that we were all of 16 years old, the initiative, drive and creativity required to launch and sustain the "Cop-Out" remains impressive. Equally impressive, I think, was our "hands-on" grasping of two different but equally difficult nettles--writing, editing, assembling, publishing and distributing the newspaper, and also organizing ecological meetings and actions during the first stirrings of the modern ecology movement.

That Fall my stepfather Jim Bollingmo took a position at Punahou School, where I finished my high school career (three schools in four years). Colbert and I would occasionally cross paths when we both attended U.H.-Manoa, but we lost touch with one another after those early college days. I think he was in law school while I pursued my interests in the People's Party and A.F.S.C.

Of course I'm hoping Colbert will add his memories and commentary to this account.

  Founders: Colbert Matsumoto and Chuck Bollingmo

Colbert was the Mandarin of Lanai High: everyone knew he was the smartest student in our class, and it was natural for him to gravitate to the student council and similar activities. Fortunately for me and the school, he also possessed a deeply subversive interest in looking for the truth and raising unsettling issues--traits which I believe led him to the very public and high-profile position as Master of the recent investigation into the Bishop Estate.

Not every one of our collaborations was a complete success. Our joint science fair entry, a fairly complex but boring chemistry project, rightly lost to Ricky Oyama and James Toguchi's "Steps in Making Moonshine." What chemistry project could possibly compete with a moonshine still?

I was using my stepfather's surname at the time, and as the "new kid in town" along with my brother Craig, had the usual challenges of adapting to a new home and school. I distinctly remember being unable to understand pidgin at first. Douglas Daguay and my other mates on the basketball used to call me their "Hawaiian haole," and always encouraged my halting attempts to speak a little pidgin. I picked pineapple that summer with a Lanai crew; I recommend it to anyone wishing to lose weight and increase their fitness.


Issue no. 2 features a rather pointed critique (I don't recall the author, but it wasn't Colbert or I) of the school's sports director and the short shrift being given to sports other than basketball. This was a sensitive topic; as a member/bench warmer of the basketball team, I benefited greatly from all those inter-island trips. Even worse, the athletic director was the honest and admirable Donald Matsui, our basketball coach, who certainly didn't deserve criticism from a team member.

We also counted coup rather consistently on the moribund P.T.A., and raised hackles by publicizing the environmental pollution fouling the island. We called a meeting April 2, 1970, in advance the first Earth Day on April 22, to organize a clean-up. While I don't recall the outcome of the meeting, the poster is reprinted here along with Issue no. 4.

Fulfilling its primary function as an underground newspaper, the "cop-Out" tweaked the administration on various issues as well; see Issue no. 5 for an example.

From the start there were rumors that the paper was simply too literate to be the work of students. In the final "death issue" no. 8, we ran an open challenge in which I named myself as one of the editors and demanded skeptics address me directly. Needless to say, no one ever did.

  The Archives: All Eight Issues of the "Cop-Out"

All web publishing of original documents requires trade-offs between readability and resolution; the higher the resolution, the bigger the file and thus the longer the download time. I have done the best I could with poor-quality mimeograph sheets which have been moved from Lanai to Oahu to the Big Island to Berkeley over the past 33 years. To improve legibility, I have saved these as GIF files rather than JPGs; as a result, each file is about 200K as opposed to 60K. Despite my best efforts, these pages remain difficult to read.

I begin the archives with a page from the official school newspaper, "Hi-Lites," just to establish the zeitgeist of the era and some context for what Colbert and I published.

"Hi-Lites" the official school newspaper (March 20, 1970)

Issue 1, page 1 (March 30, 1970)
Issue 1, page 2

Issue 2, page 1 (April 7, 1970)
Issue 2, page 2

Issue 3, page 1 (April 13, 1970)
Issue 3, page 2

Issue 4, page 1 (April 20, 1970)
Earth day flyer

Issue 5, page 1 (April 27, 1970)
Issue 5, page 2

Issue 6, page 1 (May 4, 1970)
Issue 6, page 2

Issue 7, page 1 (May 11, 1970)
Issue 7, page 2

Issue 8, page 1 (May 21, 1970)
Issue 8, page 2