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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 08, 2001

Hawai'i Ways, Hawai'i Days
Traveling down memory road

By Howard K. Oda
Special to The Advertiser

Taking the scenic drive on the H-2 from Wahiawa to Honolulu is pleasant. But the drive I'd like to take is that on the two-lane Kamehameha Highway during the 1940s.

It is Saturday, a day I spent washing the Wahiawa red dirt off my father's floor-shift 1939 Plymouth. I am a country boy heading for the city lights and a date who lives on Pensacola Street. The war is over, so there is no need for the headlights to be darkened, and gas rationing is no longer.

I am now on the "airplane bridge," the sound that is all too familiar for those who drive to Wahiawa. This bridge was later replaced by the present, infamous one that took about as long to build as the Golden Gate Bridge — amazing, considering that span is less than 100 yards.

Now we pass Wheeler Airfield, the post laundry and a former camp for the Italian and Japanese prisoners of war. Section Rail Camp is on the left and I need to slow down as the railroad tracks cross over the highway. I recall an interesting story related to me by Bob Ishikawa on how the train ran from Wahiawa to the depot at Iwilei.

Down into Waikakalau Gulch I go, passing the A's Tavern and up the hill to the Maruyama Store on the right and the Sato Store and field headquarters of Libby McNeil across the highway. Kipapa Camp! It hadn't been too long before this that it was a long-distance phone call from Wahiawa to Kipapa. No Mililani, just fields and fields of pineapple. The irrigation ditch and Nob Hill or the field manager's home is on the left. It's the center of the island, or so I've been told.

Speeding along at 45 mph, and down into Kipapa Gulch, where ghost stories abound. Menehune crossings, raw pork bringing a car to a screeching halt, an old lady getting off the bus that only the bus driver could see ... these are just a few. Do I doubt them? I know better.

Once at the top of the gulch, I am in sugarcane country. To the right and left, there is nothing but sugarcane fields until the opening at the Waipahu Junction with its banana patches. Take the right turn and on to Waipahu, so you veer to the left and on to the next clearing.

This is Pearl City country, the one and only Pearl City Tavern is there, and across the street, the ballpark. Service stations, a cemetery, a few homes and you're heading toward 'Aiea. Just where the the present Hawaiian Electric power plant is, a left turn puts me onto Moanalua bypass. This road eventually takes you into 'Aiea, on to Red Hill and King Street, a path quite similar to today's H-1 Freeway. The marshlands and watercress farms along the way offer a view of Pearl Harbor and, on the left, cane fields reach the timbers of the Ko'olaus.

Surrounded by sugar fields, 'Aiea, with the exception of the sugar mill and a hospital on the hill, is hardly noticeable from the highway. Students from 'Aiea to Wai'anae all attended Waipahu High School. Cane fields and a makeshift naval laundry, and now you're passing the huge oil tanks of Pearl Harbor. Naval housing has taken over much of the cane fields.

Pass the entrance into Hickam Airfield, there's the stadium where many a memorable ball game was played. Fort Kam to the right and the storied Damien Tract. Take a right and drive along Ke'ehi Lagoon and on to the Honolulu Airport. Pass Salt Lake, when it was really a lake, and into Dillingham Boulevard. Drive past the prison and a street lined with homes of workers at the Libby cannery. A few of those houses are still there.

A block further into town are the canneries of Hawaiian Pine (one with the pineapple landmark) and Del Monte (CPC). The famous Holo Holo Inn on the corner of King and Dillingham, and on to Beretania Street and finally, I am on Pensacola Street. Gee! I wonder if she still lives there? Nah!

And what did this country boy do on our date? That is another story!

Howard K. Oda of Waipahu is a frequent contributor to Hawai'i Ways, Hawai'i Days.