Sharing Mana‘o

Harold’s Inn is gone. For good. Although it’s been closed for decades, I’ve harbored the hope that someone would refurbish and reopen the little open-air diner at the heart of the old Kahului Shopping Center. Last week that dream was demolished, along with three of the center’s ancient, termite-ridden buildings.

According to The Maui News archives, thousands attended the October 1951 grand opening of Maui’s first shopping mall. For the next 20 years, KSC was the hot spot for retail and recreation. The marquee at the main entrance advised us of the weekend entertainment, ranging from hula shows to biddy boxing. Under the monkeypod trees, men gathered to play checkers and talk story at wooden picnic tables. Even after Maui Mall and Queen Ka’ahumanu Center opened in the 1970s, local institutions like Ah Fook Supermarket, Maui Garden & Hardware and Noda Market kept us coming weekly, if not daily.

In my youth, I often spent Friday nights at my aunt’s Haliimaile home. Every Saturday morning, after a light breakfast of Ovaltine and a hard-boiled egg, Auntie Sachan would drive down Haleakala Highway for her weekly shopping at KSC. While she roamed the aisles at Ah Fook’s, I’d hang out in the back corner and watch my Auntie Alice (Mom’s and Auntie Sachan’s eldest sister) clean and slice fresh fish. Auntie Alice’s husband, Uncle Mike, also worked there, as the head butcher.

Over my parents’ protests, Auntie Sachan always insisted on buying me something on those weekly visits: a Cinderella dress from Peggy & Johnny’s, a troll doll from Sue’s Stationery, new outfits for my Barbies from Ben Franklin. But my favorite KSC pastime was having lunch with Auntie Sachan at the Toda Drug soda fountain. My usual was a grilled cheese sandwich and an orange freeze. Sometimes, while we waited for our order, Auntie would let me pick out a comic book from the magazine rack in the corner next to the lunch counter.

A few years later, I would ride my bicycle from Kahului’s 6th increment on Saturday mornings, on a mission to buy the latest 45-rpm single at Music Sales. If I had any money left over from my allowance, I’d meet my friends at Harold’s and we’d pool our coins to share an order of crinkle-cut french fries. Even though the lunch counters at Toda’s and Crafts Drug Store were still operating, we preferred sitting in the booths at Harold’s in order to see — and be seen by — the strolling weekend shoppers.

After my son was born, Auntie Sachan delighted in resuming the tradition of Toda Drug visits, though not as often as our weekly lunches. She’d treat Jimmy to an ice cream sundae and buy him a G.I. Joe or Transformer from the toy shelf. As my parents learned before me, protests of “you’re going to spoil him/her” fell on deaf ears.

The late Michael McPherson, a prolific poet and novelist, published his own memories of the Todas and their pharmacy. “Toda Drug” is one of the pieces of local literature that will be featured in “The Best of Aloha Shorts — Live!” at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at Kamehameha Schools Maui’s Keopuolani Hale auditorium.

“Aloha Shorts” was a weekly radio program co-produced by Hawaii Public Radio and Bamboo Ridge Press from 2004 to 2012, bringing together some of Hawaii’s finest writers, actors and musicians. In 2018, Bamboo Ridge published “The Best of Aloha Shorts,” an anthology of poems and stories along with a history and inside look at the making of the popular radio program.

The Maui leg of the “Aloha Shorts” Neighbor Island tour, hosted by HPR arts and culture reporter Noe Tanigawa, will also feature Pat Simmons Jr. performing original tunes from his debut album, “This Mountain.” And I have the honor and pleasure of reading McPherson’s “Toda Drug,” just one small part of this celebration of island life and lore.

Reservations for the Feb. 9 performance may be made at www.hprtickets.org or by calling (808) 955-8821.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.