Back In The Day

When I came to Honolulu in January of 1963 it was a very different place. It was relatively small and cozy and I was tired of Madrid and Frankfurt and London and Paris — and even Louisville, Kentucky.

Honolulu was intimate and largely two-story walk-ups. Chinatown was still Chinese and loaded with saimin and wonton restaurants. The highest end eats were at Canlis — a steak or piece of fish or steak with a baked potato and signature salad.

The old Canlis restaurant on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki

Rents were very affordable when measured against salaries. Politics? Still many liberal Republicans in the Legislature. There was some Right Wing and anti-union activity in the then-relatively-prominent Imua organization but in a few years it faded away, as did the Republican Party.

Roads were especially bad when it rained. Like today! Water mains broke fewer times than today! Bars were not called bars. They were mostly called “Cocktails.” The Liquor Commission told the owners of one in Nui that they could not use the name The Pig Sty.” So they just called it “The Sty.” Today, On King Street, there’s a Tipsy Pig II.

You could afford to live here with one job and one family salary.

Michel was in Wahiawa. Fred Hemmings was a greeter/bouncer at The Colonel’s in Waikiki. Royal Hawaiian Air flew small inter-island planes with just the one pilot. We had two daily newspapers and the Waikiki Beach Press weekly.

I’m not anti-growth but I am against too-rapid growth and growth simply for growth’s sake and a belief that more of it makes better. I was getting my batteries recharged by visiting Fiji.

We’ve done a disservice by having such huge City Council districts, where an elected official has to please too large and diverse of a district population.

We did a disservice by not keeping multi-senate-seat districts. We let the Office of Hawaiian Affairs become a squabbling nest of vipers and a place to help yourself to the cash.

Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte is right. Too many Hawaiians never vote — not back then and not today, and so they have had little say in Honolulu’s development. Corporate money speaks louder than residents’ words.

The Republican, Libertarian and Green Parties are jokes.

What we call “affordable housing” is a joke.

Policing of monster houses and other DPP violations by sneaky builders is a joke.

Louis and Katherine Kealoha made a joke of the police department and the prosecutor’s office. They made me miss Francis Keala, Lee Donahue and even Charles Marsland. And I’d take Jack Burns back as governor and Neal Blaisdell as mayor in a heartbeat (didn’t much like them back then.)

But who knows, maybe like Marcel Proust (A Remembrance of Things Past) I’ll find that all here is not lost; that there’s still beauty and still things to be done.


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Vietnam War, Iraq #1 in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. Married to Denby Fawcett, one daughter. Brett Jones.

6 replies on “Back In The Day”

  1. . . . not to mention the Pig and the Lady (Chinatown) and Piggy Smalls (Kakaako – closed indefinitely)

  2. All correct statements….I got here ten years after and, like you, find myself “remembering”. But face it… still is a cery interesting and wonderful place. My observation is that we are less unique as individuals now. Experiencing the differences within our community was part of the draw….Canalis as opposed to Teddys Bigger burgers…..both good eats……but…..

  3. Because of the pandemic we have a rare opportunity to make something right.

    Reconsider mass tourism. Put a cap on it and give the islands back to the people who live here.

    It takes foresight and political will to make that happen, qualities that are completely absent today.

  4. DPP violations is the just the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, our government are reluctant to devise laws that will protect homeowners but skillfully allow devious, dubious, unethical, general contractors pay homage too. The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and RICO does not have the authority by law to penalize general contractors and to deny license of doing unethical practice. Sixteen years of this General Contractor is obviously an example and currently is investigated by DCCA and RICO; continues to do business of praying on naïve homeowners. The building industry unions who fund Democrat politicians are the reason homeowners are victims.

  5. I have lived on Oahu my whole life. In 1963, I was still growing up. I know what you mean that Honolulu was an intimate place, as were other parts of the island. I miss Kelly’s Coffee Shop, Coco’s Coffee Shop, Columbia Inn. I guess there are still some places with a small town feeling like Kaimuki and Moiliili. I agree with you about being against too rapid growth, and especially how ‘affordable housing’ is a joke! I agree with Dean in his comment about reconsidering mass tourism. Diversified economy needs to be turbo charged! Glad that you mentioned Marcel Proust. Good to hope and see the beauty.

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