Sharing Mana‘o

Talking with a couple of longtime locals from Oahu the other night, I was surprised to learn that Byron’s Drive-In is closing for good, after 47 years. While some might suggest that closing the notorious greasy spoon is indeed for the good of all, these two were lamenting the loss of the Nimitz Highway landmark. No more shrimp burgers or deep-fried peanut butter-jelly-banana sandwiches or – say it ain’t so! – Green River soda.

I haven’t had a Green River in many years and that’s probably for the better, too. From what I’ve read online, the current version bears little resemblance to the original, which was created in 1919 by the Schoenhofen Edelweiss Brewing Co. of Chicago. Sold in beer bottles, the lime-flavored soft drink got the brewery through the Prohibition era and was, in its heyday, second only to Coke in the Midwest. Today it’s marketed as a specialty nostalgia beverage, like Bubble Up and RC Cola.

I don’t recall ever seeing Green River in bottles, nor do I remember it as a bubbly citrus soda. It was a syrupy-sweet special treat, found only at soda fountains like Iwaishi Store in Makawao or Paia’s Machida Store, where it flowed from its own special dispenser – a transparent box, so the bright green potion fairly screamed for your attention. The dispenser carried an official Green River label, a stylized sketch of a river beneath a full moon. To this day, even though Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Green River” is one of my all-time favorite songs, I hear “Moon River” in my mind when I think of Green River the Beverage.

My Auntie Sachan used to take me along on her Saturday errands, which always included a stop at one soda fountain or another. She introduced me to chocolate Cokes at Iwaishi’s, Orange Freezes at Toda’s, Shirley Temples at Hale Lava. When Ed & Don’s opened Maui’s first premium ice cream shop in Lahaina, Auntie and I got hooked on their frosted root beers. And their mint chocolate chip ice cream. I was 7 or 8 years old and this was my first taste of decadence. I remember feeling a little guilty but oh, so lucky, to be chauffeured all the way to Lahaina for an ice cream cone that cost a whopping 75 cents. I think the frosted root beer was $1.50.

And speaking of root beer, was it my imagination or did we really have an A&W Drive In on Maui in the early ’60s, where Cupie’s now stands? I remember having hot dogs and root beer floats served to us in our car there. Around the corner, Treats and Sweets was Dairy Queen then, and Barefoot Boy Drive In was a little farther down Lono Avenue. Every so often, my dad would get an urge, and we’d have a late-night snack at Barefoot Boy before stocking up on Dilly Bars and DQ Sandwiches.

When the island’s first McDonald’s opened on Puunene Avenue, we were as excited as if Disneyland had moved to Maui, never dreaming that in a couple of decades, all of the fast food giants would be here. Now, while I appreciate the convenience of the chains, I miss the comfort food and charm of the mom-and-pop shops long gone: soda fountains and ice cream parlors, drive-ins and diners. Hamburgers at Wimpy’s Corner, lemon meringue pie at Kurasaki’s Cafe. Kawaharada’s saimin. And peach pie. Lucy Goo’s juicy cheeseburgers. Harold’s Inn French fries. Portuguese bean soup and ribeye steak at Club Rodeo, abalone soup and crispy gau gee min at Golden Jade. I know, the last two were too big to be called diners, but they were old-fashioned family restaurants in every sense of the term.

The Oahu boys were saying that, after 10 p.m. tomorrow, when Byron’s slides shut its window for the last time, all they’ll have left is Rainbow Drive-In in Kapahulu. “What about Maui? Do you guys still have that little noodle shop that makes its own manju?”

Yes, thank goodness, Sam Sato’s is still serving up saimin and teri sticks and its own manju. At Tasty Crust, you can have the same world-famous hot cakes at the same counter that’s been there for more than 50 years, though the stools seem a lot shorter to me now. Relative newcomer Sheik’s (40-plus years) still has great beef tomato and chop steak. The Millyard Hamburger Steak House, while even younger and much smaller, is keeping the mom-and-pop spirit alive. It’s actually just a pop shop, a one-man operation. With great hamburger steak and even better fried akule. And I’m looking forward to finding out whether the red hot dogs at the reopened Maalaea General Store are, as I’ve heard, as onolicious as the originals. Maybe they’ll have Green River on tap.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

This afternoon at 5, Mayor Alan Arakawa will deliver his State of the County address in the Baldwin High School Auditorium. The public is invited; after all, it’s his annual report to us, the shareholders. I’ll be there, and I hope to see you there too, although I don’t expect to.

Even at the state and national levels, very few of the general public attends “State of . . .” speeches. We’d rather get the condensed version on the 6 o’clock news or online. I like to read the synopsis and analysis in the next day’s newspaper myself. In fact, this will be my first time in a State of the County audience.

I have, as a working reporter, been to a couple of State of the State addresses, delivered quietly and effectively by then-Gov. George Ariyoshi. (You pass the kama’aina test if you are now hearing that campaign jingle in your head: He’s working quietly and effectively, to do what is best for Hawaii. . . . Bonus points if you remember Ariyoshi’s 1974 opponent and his jingle: Crossley for Governorrr, with Mills for harmonyyyyy. . . . And you make honor roll if you’re saying to yourself, “Hey, that’s from the ’60s, when John Burns, not Ariyoshi, beat Randolph Crossley.”)

So how do we draw more people to these addresses? What’s a chief executive to do? Well, besides offering free food, which the Arakawa administration is doing this evening, I’d like to suggest a bold, new marketing strategy. Actually, it’s a pretty old strategy. Adopt a mascot, a nonhuman spokesperson for the county. Maybe even let the mascot deliver part of the speech. At the very least, the mascot could introduce the mayor and stand behind him on the dais, then pass out county brochures and pose for pictures with the kids afterwards.

The Maui mascot wouldn’t be the first government spokestoon. Smokey the Bear has been delivering the U.S. Forest Service’s message since 1944. He looks darned good for being close to 70; he hasn’t changed much, although his line has evolved from “Only YOU can prevent forest fires” to “Only you can prevent wildfires.” Smokey Bear (his official name) is one of the most recognizable and enduring mascots of all time. He’s outlasted fellow forestry rep Hootie the Owl and outperformed all other spokesbears, including the Hamms Beer bear (From the land of sky blue waaater . . . ).

Then there’s McGruff the Crime Dog, a relative Johnny-come-lately in the mascot biz. He’s been taking a bite out of crime for the National Crime Prevention Council for only 33 years. He too has a lesser known sidekick, his nephew Scruff.

Of course, not all successful spokestoons are animals. My favorite was Reddy Kilowatt. I always thought Reddy was a local boy, born and raised at Maui Electric Co. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I learned he was famous beyond our shores. He’s actually a Southerner, created at the Alabama Power Co. in 1926 and licensed to hundreds of electric companies nationwide. He’s been retired for several decades now, probably living the good life in Wailea. I’ve heard gossip about a nose job, that he replaced the old light bulb with a CFL spiral.

Maui Electric did have a local mascot for a while, born and raised here by Jerry Miller. Jerry was the smooth baritone voice of MECO, heard on local radio commercials and public service announcements. He was also the voice of The Duck – I don’t recall it ever having a name but it was much more eloquent than the Aflac one. The Duck was Jerry’s baby, and he happily played straight man to the wise-quacking bird (Sorry, I can’t resist a pun). Most commercials started with Jerry’s greeting, “Hey, Duck!” and included his translation of the fowl language (Sorry again). The Duck usually got the last word.

Perhaps The Duck might be persuaded to fly again, as our county mascot. Or maybe he could refer us to a cousin nene. I’m sure any local bird or beast would be honored to serve.

We should have auditions, like American Idol. The Maui Mascot Star Search. We’d want a local spokestoon, of course, but we’d probably have to sit through applicants like the Geico Gecko and those disturbingly real pigs that seem to be everywhere these days. Maybe the Hamms Bear would show up with his little canoe. Akaku would televise the auditions, interview the hopefuls as they stood in line outside. An event like that would fill Baldwin Auditorium.

So there’s another reason to attend today’s speech. I’ll suggest my idea to the mayor when I see him, over mini-bentos. Hmm. Mini-bentos. Don’t you think a Spam musubi might make a good Maui mascot?

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I have big plans for the evening. I won’t go into the sordid details, but I will tell you that the highlight will be a candlelit, rose-scented bubble bath for three: Ben & Jerry and me. On second thought, I’d better do the bath alone and save the Cherry Garcia ice cream bar for afterwards. Wouldn’t want the chocolate shell melting and dripping into my bubbles.

This will be my sixth consecutive Valentine’s Day without my late husband, or any sweetheart, for that matter. But don’t feel sorry for me. While my life may lack romance, it does enjoy an abundance of love. And as The Beatles said, love is all you need.

Ah, if only it were that simple. “I love you” is probably the most misused and misunderstood sentence in the English language. Some people say it when they don’t mean it, to get what they really want. Others mean it when they say it, but it may not mean the same thing to the person hearing it. Most of us don’t say it nearly enough.

I think Momi at Uptown Chevron has the right idea. She says it all the time to customers, sometimes with a hug over the counter. And I have no doubt she means it every time. I asked her about it once, after she hugged a little old Asian man, obviously a regular. “Uncle was having a rough day,” she said. “He needed a hug. Everybody needs love, yeah?” I got a Momi hug that day too.

Like most local Japanese families, mine was not verbally demonstrative. In our house, “I love you” was only heard on TV or in songs. I never heard my parents say it to each other and although they both gave me lots of encouragement and praise, they rarely said it to me. Not as a stand-alone sentence, anyway. I do recall hearing more than once, “I love you, and that’s why I’m punishing you, to help you learn to do the right thing.”

Of course, my parents had many other ways of stating their affection for me, including hugs, lots of hugs. I didn’t need to hear the phrase to know I was loved. In fact, I didn’t even want to hear it. Not from my parents, anyway.

As a preteen, I longed to hear it from the lips of whichever classmate I happened to have a crush on. I practiced saying it myself, to Davy Jones’ face on my Monkees album covers. My diary was full of declarations: I love you, (insert name here). But the notes passed between my 7th-grade classmates said “1-4-3” in place of those three little words. We were too embarrassed to actually say what we meant.

High school hormones easily conquered bashfulness, and it didn’t take long for me to get comfortable with saying “I love you” out loud. It took much longer for me to grasp the consequences of doing so and the complicated politics of the phrase.

You know what I mean. If you say it to someone and they don’t respond in kind, you:

A) Feel hurt.

B) Get angry.

C) Say it again, only louder.

D) All of the above.

The first time my late husband told me he loved me, it started a big argument. Not because I didn’t respond with “I love you too,” but because I did. Those four little words offended him as if I’d replied with four letter words. He felt that the “too” somehow diminished the sentiment. From then on, whenever Barry said “I love you,” I answered with “I love YOU.”

A year after Barry’s death, I started dating again. I’m still not ready for a serious relationship; I’m not sure I ever will be. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on love, though. In fact, the last five years have broadened my definition of that particular four-letter word, and I now know that it really is possible – and preferable – to love more than one person at a time. In different ways and for different reasons, I love many people. Unconditionally. Even if they don’t say “I love you too.”

For those who don’t share that perspective, Valentine’s Day can be the loneliest day of the year. Tomorrow I will say “I love you” every chance I get, to the friends and family that I cherish and to folks who just look like they need it. I’ll throw in some hugs too. ‘Cause everybody needs love, yeah?

I love YOU! Happy Valentine’s Day!

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

Laurel Murphy’s “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column last week paid beautiful tribute to the old HC&S manager’s residence outside Hali’imaile. Before reading her account, I knew little about the historic home, though I have my own fond memories of the place.

As a 10-year-old, I didn’t know that the sprawling estate was owned by A&B; I thought it belonged to my friend Mary and her family. Mary Trotter was the new girl at Makawao School and, I learned much later, her father, Fred, was a manager at HC&S. She was friendly and forthright, a bit of a tomboy, and we quickly became good buddies.

On a weekend sleepover at Mary’s house, she introduced me to things I’d previously only read or dreamed about: lounging in our pajamas before a glowing fireplace, real waffle iron waffles for breakfast, a backyard as big as a park and just as beautifully landscaped. And, my first and only bareback horse ride.

When Mary asked if I’d like to go horseback riding, it never occurred to me that the horses wouldn’t be saddled. Not that I’d had much experience in the saddle either. In fact, I’d only been on a horse once before, not counting the pony rides at the County Fair.

Someone, either Mary’s older brother or a stable hand, lifted me onto my steed and instructed me to hold on tight. It was terrifying and tantalizing, all at the same time. Mary showed me how to guide the horse with gentle kicks to its sides and tugs on its mane as we plodded down the unpaved driveway. Then she let out a whoop and her horse took off into an open field. My horse followed suit, a wild stallion galloping carefree through the countryside. At least that’s how I remember it. In reality, it was probably more like an old gray mare trotting down a cane haul road. But for a moment, I was Laura Ingalls Wilder on the Midwest prairie, trying to break a frisky Indian pony. Gloriously giddy, I’d never felt so powerful or so helpless.

I took another wild ride in Hali’imaile that same year, this time on two wheels rather than four legs. I was the only kid in the neighborhood who couldn’t yet ride a bicycle. My best friend Ruth’s three older sisters took it upon themselves to teach me, the way they’d taught her. They took their bikes and me to the last row of houses in the village where the paved road ended at the bottom of a steep hill. The older girls held the bike steady while I got on, walked me to the crest of the hill and then, with the sole instruction being to hold on tight, they let go of the bike and I went careening down the slope. They knew what they were doing; that hill was the only way for me to get up enough speed to learn how to balance. Halfway down the hill, I got it. My body was in tune with the bike and I felt jubilant, gliding along to the cheers of my friends. Until the pavement ran out and I hit the dirt road. Literally. In less than 30 seconds, I’d mastered balance, but I knew nothing about brakes. My triumphant ride ended unceremoniously in the dirt. I didn’t mind, though; I walked away with a couple of small scratches and an enormous sense of victory.

Though I never actually lived there, Hali’imaile is the setting for many of my most cherished childhood memories. My baby-sitter, my best friend, my favorite aunt and uncle all lived in the Maui Pine camp, so I spent as much time there as I did at home in Wailuku and Kahului.

Mrs. Akemoto (Auntie Yoshiko-san to me) was my baby-sitter and she made the best ice cakes, with strawberry Malolo syrup or Mission grapeade base. She always let me pull the lever to free the cakes from the ice cube tray.

At Ruth’s house, the tangerine tree in the front yard gave us sweet fruit to snack on and cool shade for our marbles games. We’d walk to Hali’imaile Store to pick up the mail and a Popsicle, preferably vanilla. Or we’d take the shorter stroll to Inokuma Store for candy or a soda.

Auntie Sachan and Uncle Minoru-san lived in the one house next to the dispensary, where Uncle worked. It’s no longer there; someone bought it and actually moved it, in two pieces, to some location unknown to me. Though not nearly as grand as Mary’s, that Hali’imaile house had a rich history as well, at least for me. The memories made in that home could fill several columns – and probably will, eventually. Stay tuned.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is