Editor's Page: Where Do YOU Live?

It all depends.


Published:

When someone asks where we live here in Honolulu, think about the different answers we give. It depends who’s asking, where they live and how well they know our neighborhood.

In the last few weeks, we have been talking a lot about how neighborhoods change at our office because of our real estate cover story on the upswing in construction across the island. From Koa Ridge to Kailua, and especially in Kakaako, new buildings are springing from the landscape and reshaping our communities. That brings mixed reactions from those happy to move in and others alarmed by how the developments affect their quality of life.

The what-about-this-development and did-you-see-how-big-that-building-is discussion quickly wandered over to the names of neighborhoods.  I live: on the Windward Side, in Kailua, in Enchanted Lake. I grew up across town, in Kalaheo Hillside, but would correct anyone who thought I lived in Aikahi Park—definitely a pricier part of town than my nice middle-class street. Some friends who live on the West Side say they’re from Waipahu, while some claim Waikele, and others prefer Village Park.

In town, some neighborhood names fade with time. When I was a kid, adults referred to Kalihi-Palama, rarely one without the other. People still drive to Kalihi to eat or go to long-established businesses, but Palama seems to have dropped off. There’s an area near Bingham and Coyne streets, sometimes described as Moiliili. But people also call it Bingham Tract. I heard my favorite neighborhood nickname for that area when I was interviewing a longtime resident who informed me that he lived in “Chinese Hollywood.” He explained that the name came because the area was just down the street from the once-classic and now-departed Varsity Theatre, and it was at one time primarily settled by Chinese-Americans.

Community names do evolve. The area closer to Beretania and Young streets and Kalakaua Avenue used to be known as Pawa‘a. Early in my news career, Honolulu Police Headquarters inhabited the old Sears store, a building known as Pawaa Annex. Residential condominiums replaced some of those buildings. Except for a park and a medical building, the name Pawaa is hard to find these days. Of course, that example also brings up our fondness for giving directions to places based on what used to be there. Also in this issue, our assistant managing editor Katrina Valcourt explores the fascinating past of a mural that now resides in a downtown bar and reveals that it first hung in the Zebra Room on Kalakaua Avenue, closer to Pawaa than Waikiki.

One of my fellow editors passed along news about her community: “We live in the area around Punahou and we call it the Barack Obama Memorial Neighborhood. It hasn’t caught on yet, but one day ...”

We heard some folks who live near Lanikai Elementary School are striving to rebrand their community. Since most would agree that Lanikai starts officially as a neighborhood after you pass the point on the hill, then the area near the school isn’t actually Lanikai. The residents’ upwardly mobile suggestion? Lanikai Iki.

I wouldn’t invest in the big rock-wall name plate just yet.

If you’re a baseball fan, you know that the season has begun locally and you might even have caught a University of Hawaii game at Les Murakami Stadium. We get a little nostalgic with “Play Ball! An Insider’s look at the early days of pro baseball and the Hawaii Islanders." It’s a piece by freelance writer Jim Loomis, better-known for his work in politics and advertising, who spent a year as general manager of the Islanders. That was back when they played at the old Honolulu Stadium, where there’s a park now. You know, near where Chunky’s used to be ...

If you’ve got a favorite neighborhood nickname or story to tell, please email me at robbied@honolulumagazine.com or mail us a letter.

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