One more talk story on housing
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The first party was even better than they hoped. When former residents of the old Manoa Housing held a mini-reunion three years ago, they thought maybe a few dozen of their old neighbors would show up. After all, it had been over 50 years since families moved out of the federally funded starter homes for World War II veterans.
But though the buildings were long gone, the memories of that hopeful and hardworking community were strong. Over 100 people came to the first "mini-reunion" in November 2004. They brought old photos, great stories, and someone even had kept the original lease agreement to their family's unit. Now, a bigger party is being planned.
Manoa Housing was composed of 1,000 units on 90 acres in roughly the area where the Manoa Marketplace, Manoa Library and UH Agriculture Facility are today. Rent for a one-bedroom unit was $35 a month. Two-bedroom units went for $42.50, and a three-bedroom was $50. Rent included electricity, water and gas. The first families moved in in November 1945. The housing was closed in 1958 and demolished in the 1960s.
The intention of the project was to give returning war veterans a place to start as they came back to civilian life. The homes provided veterans and their families a safe neighborhood, a permanent address to use on job applications and the chance to save up enough money to purchase their own home, which many did.
Joyce Chinen, professor of sociology at UH-West O'ahu, has been interested in the oral histories of the former residents of Manoa Housing. She spent part of her childhood there and says that many families benefited from the program. They purchased homes, their children went to college, they made good lives for themselves.
The first get-together was a chance to exchange funny stories like how it was always raining on the fresh laundry. Former Lt. Gov. Jean Sadako King recalled a lever in each unit's kitchen that controlled the flow of electricity to either the stove or the water heater. If you weren't careful, you'd get a hot meal but a cold shower.
Organizers of this second reunion encourage those attending to bring old photos or documents they may have of Manoa Housing. These will be digitally photographed at the event. These are precious since, as Chinen puts it, nothing much remains of Manoa Housing except memories.
Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or firstname.lastname@example.org.