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Sharing Mana‘o

After waxing nostalgic in this space two weeks ago, pairing Wailuku establishments with the businesses that used to occupy their spaces, I asked for kamaaina help to fill in the blanks. The response was overwhelming and reassuring; there are a lot of us who fondly remember old-time Wailuku, and our faculties must be intact, because our memories match up, mostly.

Mahalo to everyone who sent their recollections, some of which predate my own experiences. Special thanks to my fellow Baldwin High School Band alumnus Lester Iwamasa, who took the time to update — actually, backdate — a Google Maps image of greater Wailuku. Lester also started a fascinating email thread with some of his childhood chums, giving me a boy’s view of 1960s Vineyard Street.

The guys reminisced about the stops they’d make while walking from Wailuku Elementary School to Japanese language school at Wailuku Hongwanji: Vineyard Candy Store for wet lemon peel or whole salted lemons (my own favorite was the red wet li hing mui), Morimoto Store on Central Avenue for Kitch’n Cook’d potato chips and bottled soda, the original Home Maid Bakery location at the corner of Vineyard and Central, and the Chinese crack seed and snack store directly across the street from the Hongwanji. No one remembered the name of the store because they never called it by name, just “the store by the church.”

Many folks besides Lester’s gang recalled their favorite Vineyard haunts. Starting at the block below High Street, Vineyard Tavern received the most mentions — and the most unfit-for-print memories. A block or so down, The Empanada Lady now occupies the garden setting of Tony Habib’s first La Familia Mexican restaurant. Across the street, what eventually became Ramon’s, Four Sisters and various other short-lived eateries was originally the Aloha Bar, where my father gave me my first lesson in shooting pool. Two of the other three corner lots at Vineyard and Church were occupied by King Theater and Yokouchi Bakery. Walking toward Market Street, you’d pass Fujimoto Florist, Makino Shoes and Ogawa Jewelry before reaching Gilbert’s Men’s Wear and Ooka Sporting Goods.

The next cross street holds a special place in my heart because my father’s first dental office was at 31 Central Ave., in the building that now houses several small businesses including Perfection Bra Salon. Back then, in the early 1960s, Daddy’s office was adjacent to Nagamine Photo Studio (now Wailuku Community Acupuncture) and a couple of doors down from Joan’s Furniture. I loved visiting Auntie Joan Tomokiyo and her daughters Mary, Ann and Jane. Mary, the eldest, drew fashion sketches which I took home and tried to emulate.

I also spent many hours playing with Ricky Shimomura in his parents’ photography shop. We were allowed to play in the studio but not to climb the elegant staircase or touch any of the props.

Most of my time at the office, though, was Daddy time. During his lunch break and in between patients, my father would join me in play-acting. We’d have tea parties and teddy bear picnics in his back office and lab. Often, my reward for behaving all day was a stroll across the street to Nashiwa Bakery for a chocolate cupcake or coconut turnover.

On the corner next to Malama I Ke Ola community clinic (which even relative newcomers call “the old Ooka Supermarket”), in the space recently vacated by the pet grooming salon, Wailuku Florist stood for many years. That intersection of Central and Main is where Maui’s first traffic light was installed. The opposite corner held a Shell service station, which I don’t consciously remember, yet sometimes see in my dreams.

In that recurring dream, I’m a child again, wandering away from Daddy’s office. But by the time I walk up to the mechanics in the garage, I’m a young adult, asking when my car will be ready. The dream usually ends there, with me watching the attendants pump gas. I wonder if the reason I never get to drive away is because I now, in real life, spend my days at that exact location. The gas station was demolished long ago and is now the site of the KAOI Radio Plaza.

I guess, in many ways, memory lane is actually a roundabout. Thanks for taking the ride with me.

* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM and KEWE 97.9 FM/1240 AM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every other Wednesday. Her e-mail address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.

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