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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 13, 2001

Island Voices
Memories of Liberty House live on in us

By Susan Walker Kowen

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a familiar part of local life was lost forever, as Hawai'i's grand dame of retailers disappeared from our local landscape. Like sugar and pineapple before her, with the end of the Liberty House years (about 100 of them), something ours, something purely "local," has been forever lost.

Since Sept. 11, we have been bombarded with news and with an increased awareness of man's evil and inadequacy. Serious considerations are the fare of the day. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, my first trip to Macy's brought forth in me a noticeable, physical reaction, produced I think by sadness and nostalgia. All things considered, the nature of my reaction surprised me: Macy's is a fine retailer and no doubt will be a good corporate citizen in Hawai'i.

However, for those of us who brought our first real shoes at the old downtown LH, ate at the lunch counter (corn chowder!) at the original Kailua store and purchased wedding rings at the flagship Ala Moana store, the different look and feel of the renamed business brought a flood of memories: haircuts in the '50s, a confirmation dress, a first visit to "Foundations," wedding presents given and received.

As a child of an American Factors employee, Liberty House was a source of pride and its progress a topic of discussion in daily life. As my brother and I grew, so did the LH chain: from downtown to Ala Moana to the neighbor islands and to the Mainland. The years flew by, and eventually I took my own kids to lunch with Santa, for first shoes and for haircuts. As my boys' hair changed from gold to brown, the store changed its trademark colors from the familiar pink and gold to blue and changed its logo, too.

Most of all I remember the excitement of the executives at Amfac, my dad, Ed Attebury and Don Onasch, as they polished their jewel, seeking to establish policies that supported employees and welcomed and respected the local consumer.

Like Liberty House, all those dapper gentlemen are gone now from Hawai'i and live, as Liberty House must, in our memories alone. For those who have never known a day without Liberty House on our local landscape, the arrival of Macy's is one more t'ing to which we must adjust.

Change may be inevitable, but it isn't often easy. As we investigate the "new girl" in town, let's not too quickly forget the matriarch who served Hawai'i well with aloha.

Susan Walker Kowen is the daughter of the late Amfac executive Henry Walker Jr.