Monday, March 06, 2006

Born Color-Blind

I don't know if it was the air or the water, but all of us kids grew up color-blind. We couldn't tell the difference between each other's skin color. We were neighbors, classmates or friends. We couldn't tell the differences between the sexes either. The girls dressed different, but they were still part of the group.

Most of the people in Kaka'ako were considered poor when it came to money, but were millionaires when it came to compassion. Love thy neighbor was practiced day after day. Love, joy and peace were not words but a lifestyle.

While Portuguese and Japanese were the dominate races, Kaka'ako was also populated by Hawaiians, Chinese, Filipinos, Russians, Black Americans, Haoles and mixtures of the above.

Seven decades ago Kaka'ako was primarily a residential rather than a business district as it is today. On the edge of downtown Honolulu, it was bounded by Punchbowl, King and Piikoi Streets and about a mile or so of shoreline. The acreage kept growing because any trash not burnt in the incinerator was used as landfill along the shoreline.

The fish cannery at Fisherman's Wharf and American Sanitary Laundry on Queen Street were the major employers of women. My maternal grandmother worked in the cannery. My mother and a bunch of aunts and cousins worked in the laundry.
Most residents referred to American Sanitary Laundry as Magoon Laundry because the Magoon brothers owned it. The Ward family and the Magoon brothers were major landowners in Kaka'ako.

Other businesses in the area were Oahu Ice and Primo Beer on Cooke St. between Kapiolani Blvd. and Kawaiahao Street, Royal Beer on Queen St. between Punchbowl and Queen Streets and the Lewers and Cooke lumber yard on Cooke St. between Queen and Kawaiahao Streets. Also in Kaka'ako were Honolulu Construction and Draying (HCD), a soy sauce factory on Cooke St. and a poi manufacturing plant on Queen St.

Kaka'ako was the last district to have "talkies." The Aloha Theater, called Calhau's Theater by the Portuguese, continued to show silent movies long after the talkies came to town.

The first thing that comes to mind when I get gas at Lex Brodie's on Queen St. are fading memories of the theater with corrugated iron on the outside and wooden benches on the inside that once entertained a whole community on that site.

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