FEATURING THE LIVED WISDOM OF MŌʻILIʻILI RESIDENTS
DECEMBER 14, 2020
On this second Monday of December we continue to feature the lived wisdom of Mōʻiliʻili's residents, this time by making our way two blocks ʻewa of the Varsity Building to learn at the feet of Puamana Crabbe. ʻAnakē Puamana regaled us with stories of her family's long history in Mōʻiliʻili. Together, we looked back to the time of her maternal grandparents' move to what was called "Chinese Hollywood" and their unique experience as one of the few Hawaiian families living in post-war Mōʻiliʻili. In a snap, our talk story session came to a close and ʻAnakē left us with a heartfelt plea addressed to our rapidly changing neighborhood.
The oldest of seven children, Puamana helped her mother to raise her younger brothers and sisters in their grandmother's house on 2342 Beretania Street. Puamana's Filipino grandfather ran a tattoo shop downtown that counted numerous servicemen among its clientele, while Puamana's grandmother "was a big Hawaiian woman — nobody fooled with her." Growing up with four older cousins, the Crabbe's vibrant household was known for regularly hosting large lūʻau.
A young Puamana began to develop her detailed and extensive knowledge of neighboring households as a student at Maryknoll. Puamana and a host of fellow classmates, hailing from a sizable Catholic population in Mōʻiliʻili, devised a route that allowed them to walk home from school together. After transferring to Kamehameha, Puamana graduated from high school in 1974 and helped kick off a series of graduation parties in her family that solidified the Crabbe's reputation as generous hosts.
Like many other ʻohana across Oʻahu, the Crabbes witnessed a rapid wave of development in their community, following Hawaiʻi's admission as a state. After years of intense negotiation and the navigation of byzantine zoning regulations, Puamana's mother reluctantly agreed to move her family one block mauka to the first, modern two-story building in Mōʻiliʻili on Coyne Street. Through their firework-infused celebrations of birthdays coinciding with the new year and the fourth of July, the Crabbes cemented their family's association with big parties at their new home.
It is apparent that this inclination toward hosting is driven by a sense of interconnectedness and the understanding that generosity contributes to the wellbeing of entire communities. For ʻAnakē Puamana is just as dedicated to continuing her family's tradition of hosting (after the pandemic of course), as she is to keeping her neighborhood safe for its most vulnerable residents. Since at least the mid-1990s, ʻAnakē Puamana has helped serve as part of an informal neighborhood watch committee — all aware of the rising incidence of burglary on their block. As ʻAnakē notes, the "social and economic landscape has changed" and "previously safer neighborhoods [like ours] have been targeted."
The buoyant Puamana Crabbe is no victim, however, and she actively works in the service of Mōʻiliʻili's welfare. She and a band of similarly concerned neighbors regularly check-in on the elderly residents on their block, while noting which areas of their community tend to be singled out for break-ins. Based on her close observation of the changing dynamics of upper Isenberg Street, ʻAnakē Puamana suggests that the Mōʻiliʻili Neighborhood Park serves as an indicator of her community's health. Finding a way to make the park safe for families should be a priority she says, conjuring a vision of families enjoying all of its grounds, with children playing sports and parents preparing postgame meals.
Distilling all that is her Mōʻiliʻili — past, present and future — into prose, ʻAnakē Puamana shared the following poem with us:
Going watch matinee movies with Dad and us kids
Across the Crack Seed Store
Theater gone, a bank said "Yes!" still stands
Embrace this humble and diverse community
Ellen Sachiko Nihei
NOVEMBER 30, 2020
This week, we again feature the lived wisdom of Mōʻiliʻili's residents by directing our attention one street ʻewa of Isenberg Street — across from the Old Stadium Park. While not genealogically tied to Noelle Campbell's family, Ms. Ellen Nihei and her family are intimately linked as longtime community members of the McCully-Mōʻiliʻili region. Their close ties are not simply a matter of shared time in close proximity to one another. As it turns out, the beautiful photographs that accompanied Noelle and her father Harvey's profiles were all captured by Ellen's grandaughter-in-law, Pekuna Hong.
Ellen Sachiko Nihei was born in her parents' apartment at 914 Makahiki Way, during a time when at-home births were commonplace. Having lived the majority of her life within a three block radius, Ellen has witnessed extraordinary changes to her community. Against our image of a modern-day Mōʻiliʻili paved over by concrete, Ellen offers a nearly impossible portrait of its more sparsely populated past.
Ellen recalls spending much of her youth outside, with other neighborhood kids, and often in arms-length of water. In fact, one of the favorite spots shared by all of her childhood friends was the quarry pond, just makai of a pasture of cows, located on what is now the lower campus of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Ellen remembers the ubiquity of freshwater in the University area, during a time when there were only three homes between the old Bowl-O-Drome and Citron Street.
Everywhere you looked, you could find what Japanese folks identified as medaka — little minows. Gathering Samoan crabs alongside other families on weekends, or scooping clams under the guidance of her father, Ellen and her siblings were raised in a time of clean streams and natural bounty. She affectionately describes dislodging clams from muddy embankments, before enjoying the haul in miso soup or par boiled with butter with tremendous joy.
As Ellen succinctly puts it, "People got to be more conscious of each other, they cannot only think about
themselves." In the midst of our current crisis, we would all do well to heed her advice.
NOVEMBER 09, 2020
This week, we continue to feature the lived wisdom of Mōʻiliʻili's residents. Revisiting Isenberg Street, we build on Noelle Campbell's intergenerational witness of our community and turn to the reflections of Noelle's father. Together, we contemplated the inescapability of change and the importance of protecting the things in a community held dear by its most experienced residents.
Harvey Takemoto is 73 and wistful. Even though he knows you cannot turn back time, there is a part of him that wishes to travel back to the Mōʻiliʻili of his 20s. A half-century ago, the community was literally full of local flavor. Some of Uncle Harvey's favorite haunts included establishments now shuttered: Chunky's, Kawamoto Saimin, Ellen's and Hisago's. With the old Honolulu Stadium as a hub, Mōʻiliʻili hosted Makahiki festivities, football games, circus troupes and the 50th state fair.
The Takemoto family's connection to the community actually reaches two generations beyond Uncle Harvey. His grandfather purchased their family's property in 1927. When Uncle Harvey's father returned to Hawaiʻi, after completing Command School in the U.S. military, he moved his wife and children — including the 3 year old Harvey — to their forever home across from the old Bowl-O-Drome.
One of Uncle Harvey's favorite parts about Mōʻiliʻili used to be its longstanding sense of communal stability. The residences and businesses which lined the daily path he walked as a child, between his house and Kūhiō elementary, remained the same for decades.
As one might imagine, Uncle Harvey worries about the prospect of widespread redevelopment in Mōʻiliʻili. While Uncle Harvey bemoans the personal disruptions he will suffer living in the middle of a construction zone, he is more concerned about widespread rent hikes and the possibility of displacement facing long time residents, and mom and pop stores. As Uncle Harvey puts it, "you can't have a saimin stand in a 10-story building." All of this while reiterating his acceptance of the inevitability of change, Uncle Harvey declares his aspiration that Mōʻiliʻili remains a "place from the heart."
OCTOBER 20, 2020
In mid-June, when we found ourselves two months into the adjustment to life with the COVID-19 pandemic, we sought to check-in with our neighbors around Mōʻiliʻili. Already familiar with the considerable resilience of this special community, we determined to highlight the rich history of our shared social and economic landscapes.
Starting this week, we shift our focus from the learned expertise of our entrepreneurial friends to the lived wisdom of Mōʻiliʻili's residents. In this profile and the next, we benefit from nearly a century's worth of witness on Isenberg Street and feature @aina.oils Noelle Campbell's family. As you'll find, Noelle and her children share our appreciation for sanctuary — safe pockets of gathering where communal health thrives.
Having never spent no more than one year away from Mōʻiliʻili, Noelle has practically lived all of her 38 years in our community. She resides on a one acre parcel, originally held by her great-grandparents, which was once a farm. Given her household's continued committment to grow their own food and their close proximity to immediate family, Noelle likens her slice of Mōʻiliʻili to a rural community. Not a place of "hustle and bustle," she has lived and continues to enjoy a "slower lifestyle." In Noelle's words, her childhood was a lot like "Sesame Street," where someone would whistle out and all of her neighborhood friends would assemble to play in shared spaces.
It comes as no surprise to us that Noelle thinks of our community as magical. While she suggests that the intangible dimensions of "the magic" might only be enjoyed by its residents, she points to the unique feeling of being at home by even those that come to visit. For Noelle, the over 350 page long "fat book on Mōʻiliʻili" is a testament to both the community's rich past and its collective desire to celebrate its history. With children that consider Mōʻiliʻili to be "nice," "fun" and a place with "a lot of plants and animals," it is clear that Noelle is raising another generation in our community who will in turn safeguard Mōʻiliʻili's magic.
OCTOBER 12, 2020
Our fifth community dialogue allowed us to further explore the diverse and abundant food scene in Mōʻiliʻili. With Carmela Wolf of @downtoearthhi, we reflected on the market's 43 year presence in our neighborhood and the shifts both the store and our community have undergone in that time. Together, we looked forward to a future where we could undertake the important, community building work of meeting face to face and deepening what we both see as a vital component of Mōʻiliʻili: our commitment to ʻāina.
When Carmela shared the story of Down to Earth and its history in Mōʻiliʻili, she reinforced what we learned from our time with Laurie Carlson of Kōkua Market. In 1977, the market opened in the community when our residents were yearning for "healthy food at affordable prices." Carmela marvels that the market was immediately "embraced" and has "been growing ever since," enjoying a loyal customer base that can be overheard talking "about how they have shopped at the store for over 30 years" as they bring in their children and even grandchildren.
Like its fellow grocery provider mauka, Down to Earth enjoyed a surge in activity at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the market has sought to keep up with a steady demand for wellness products while also making in-store changes to ensure a safer experience for its customers. Presently, shoppers may complete orders online and choose contactless, curbside pick-up or at-home delivery.
Throughout and beyond our socially-distanced present, Carmela hopes that there will continue to be a focus on local businesses in our community and a commitment to the health of families and ʻāina. She sees in co-working — as at Waiwai — a forward thinking model that draws from the very old value of growing community wealth by building community health. As has become a theme throughout our conversations, Carmela envisions this commitment being possible even as our community undergoes redevelopment. "If you do build things," Carmela notes, "this should be taken into consideration: how does it impact the environment, and how does it impact the people living here."
OCTOBER 5, 2020
For this fourth week of community profiles, we revisit stories shared by Laurie Carlson of @kokuamarkethawaii. In revisiting Kōkua's inception, we uncovered a model that might guide us into the future — one predicated on the values of reciprocity, self-sufficiency and self-determination.
In the mid-1970s, Kōkua emerged as a market that offered "something new, something different." And for those trying to get away from industrialized foods, Oʻahu's first source of organic produce promised "something simpler," in the form of "more control over your health" and the ability to "create your own food." Those were, as Laurie calls them, "the good old days of Mōʻiliʻili." Down the street was Kūhio Grill, an "amazing place for students," with affordable pūpū and beer, that was a "favorite to all." Across the street, was the service station where the Kōkua truck was serviced, run by a father and son notable for being "so honest and wonderful."
Laurie's ties to Mōʻiliʻili date back to the early 1970s, when she was a student at UH Mānoa. Like Church of the Crossroad's Reverend Turner and Purple Maiʻa's Kelsey Amos, Laurie notes the natural connection between the college and our neighborhood, joined by the bikable artery that is University Avenue. Initially a volunteer at the market, Laurie eventually joined Kōkua's paid staff and served in the role of manager through 1984. During her first tenure at the market, Laurie helped pave the way for Kōkua's transition from a non-profit to a co-op.
When Laurie rejoined Kōkua's staff over twenty years later, she found a significantly transformed commercial landscape — less students frequented the market and the number of Mōʻiliʻili flower shops, and small businesses in general, had significantly diminished. The market itself was veering toward insolvency. But, in a genuine display of community, over 400 members raised funds to keep Kōkua alive. Laurie sees what a future beyond the pandemic should hold: "a need to balance big development against keeping community space available," with ample spaces and "opportunities to network and get together."
📸: Craig Kojima
SEPTEMBER 28, 2020
Our third conversation brought us together with Kelsey Amos, co-founder of and Director at @purple_maia. While one of our younger dialogue partners, the historically conscious Kelsey afforded us the opportunity to share moʻolelo about wahi pana in our cherished moku. Together we contemplated a future firmly grounded in the wisdom of Mōʻiliʻili's original inhabitants.
Growing up in and spending most of her younger days around suburban Mililani, Kelsey recalled an immediate attraction to the vibrancy of Hawaiʻi's version of a college town. Standing out in her memory was Kelsey's first visit, in 2006, to the now shuttered Varsity Theater. Like the Church of the Crossroads' Reverend Turner, Kelsey noted the potential inherent in Mōʻiliʻili's proximity to the University of Hawaiʻi. "Intellectuals were around and people were thinking and talking. It was exciting!"
In 2019, Purple Maiʻa established a programming and operations home at Hālau ʻĪnana on South Beretania. Since then the organization's commitment to innovation and leadership led them to become stewards of the Hālau, managing and running the former Napa Auto Parts building owned and created by Kamehameha Schools. Citing resident-historian and famed Hawaiian educator, Abraham Piʻianaiʻa, Kelsey marveled at the alternate name for our community — Ka Moana Mōʻiliʻili — and its allusion to a well-known moʻo (Mō—as short for moʻo) associated with the area, the small stones (ʻiliʻili) into which Hiʻiaka was said to have turned that moʻo, and the extensive network of limestone caves the moʻo inhabited (moana). It is in this spirit of encoded ʻŌiwi wisdom that Kelsey envisions a future for Hālau ʻĪnana as a gather place which sparks (ʻīnana) innovation and community building.
Echoing the interconnected quality of the compacted coral caves referenced in the original place name of Hālau ʻĪnana — Kapaʻakea — Kelsey envisions a walkable future Mōʻiliʻili with vibrant parks and an interconnected community with vibrant parks and an interconnected community with ample opportunities for intellectual exchange.
SEPTEMBER 21, 2020
Like the Mōʻiliʻili community at-large, the Church of the Crossroads has adapted to change through a willingness to balance an embrace of the "cutting-edge" and a commitment to community members' everyday concerns. As Reverend Turner relates, "Crossroads" was established in 1923 when students from Mid-Pacific and the University of Hawaiʻi came together to create a multi-ethnic place of worship. Born out of that founding group's recognition that, "in Christ there is no East or West, but on Sunday we are totally divided," the church served as a hub for the emerging peace movement in the 1960s and notably provided sanctuary for those who opposed the Vietnam War draft.
As with all leaders of Mōʻiliʻili institutions, COVID-19 has drastically altered the shape of Reverend Turner's work. Starting March 15th, Church of the Crossroads began shifting its meetings and worship services online. And while Reverend Turner hopes to find a way to safely open its physical doors to the public, in the mean time he plans to offer the Church's services to folks who are looking for ways to stay connected during these socially-distanced times.
In recognition of the shifting place of the church in neighborhoods like Mōʻiliʻili, Reverend Turner is looking at his institution's past to forge a path forward. Thinking of the deep connection to the University of Hawaiʻi, Reverend Turner sees the church as being able to reach out to students — some of them living away from home for the first time, in the midst of public health crisis — "to offer something that meets needs that cannot be met elsewhere." For at its best, Church of the Crossroads has served as the "living room of the community," attracting a "multigenerational crowd [that is] spiritually-oriented and focused on progressive community issues."
SEPTEMBER 14, 2020
We love our Mōʻiliʻili community and wanted to center the next set of Monday posts around the people and stories that make this ʻili ʻāina special and unique.
In our inaugural session with Nick Wong, owner of @beerlabhi. Mōʻiliʻili is the proud home of community leaders who insist on a vision of the neighborhood that retains the core values and institutions that make it such a special place. While Beer Lab has made it's home across from our location in the Varsity Building on University Avenue for the past four years, Nick's history in the area stretches back to his days as an elementary student at Mānoa school.
Recalling those special occassions when he would pick up lunch from Fukuya Delicatessen on field trip days, Nick appreciates the culturally diverse and historically rich, neighborhood flavor that has largely remained from his childhood. It is Mōʻiliʻili's unique, communal sense that defines Waiwai's relationship with Nick and Beer Lab. Perhaps surprisingly, the relationship between our two organizations is represented best through Nick's approach to frozen abundance.
As Nick puts it, "ice machines are really expensive and we have extra ice, so you may as well come and use it!" In his words, this is how "you build community — with local businesses helping each other out."
COVID-19 has significantly slowed businesses, interrupting the possibility of many forms of communal exchange. And while Beer Lab has been able to shift its operations to emphasize online and take out orders, Nick eagerly awaits the day when we can once again safely experience the ineffable joy of in-person gatherings.
Nick sees on the horizon another concern that looms in the form of redevelopment, and the encroachment of businesses and organizations that do not share a commitment to communal sharing. For Nick, the history of Mōʻiliʻili has been and should continue to be locally owned businesses visited by residents of Mōʻiliʻili and neighboring communities. "You can upgrade everything," says Nick, "but you got to keep some kind of soul in the area."