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Waipahu

A former sugar mill town redefines itself.


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1Hans L’Orange

photo courtesy of Hawaii Winter Baseball, Jay Metzger

Everybody, play ball! That’s what happened in 1924 when Oahu Sugar Co. manager Hans L’Orange turned a sugar cane field into a busstling recreation area for the community. The field has hosted football, volleyball, boxing and baseball contests. Today, it is best known as a baseball sanctuary for little leaguers, college athletes, Hawaii Winter League pros and fans of all ages. Come check out a game under the bright lights, or star in one of your own. 94-1024 Waipahu St. (Editor’s note: Hawaii Winter League baseball is owned by AIO, parent company of HONOLULU Magazine.)

Tammy Ishii (above) helps her mother, Agnes, keep this half-century old restaurant running.

 

2.  Rocky’s Coffee Shop

Nestled away on Waipahu Depot Street, Rocky’s Coffee Shop is truly a family business. Country-inspired specials like a fried rice omelet and banana short stacks have kept three generations of diners satisfied. “The old timers, they all come back and their children come back and their grandchildren come back,” laughs owner Agnes Ishii, who works side-by-side with her daughter Tammy in the restaurant that her husband Rocky founded 47 years ago. 94-316 Waipahu Depot St., 677-3842.

3.  Filipino Community Center

Covering 50,000 square feet, the lavish, Spanish-inspired Filipino Community Center is the largest Filipino center outside of the Philippines. After more than a decade of fundraising efforts, the FilCom finally opened its doors in 2002, a momentous occasion that president Geminiano Arre remembers as “a big social event here in Waipahu.” The center’s calendar is chock full of events ranging from a weekly Farmers’ Market to martial arts classes to ballroom dancing activities. 94-428 Mokuola St., 680-0451.

Patrons at Sonny’s can get their hair cut and even rent Shampoo.

4.  Sonny’s Barber and Video Shop

The sign outside the store simply reads “Barber Shop,” but this quaint establishment features a novel concept. At Sonny’s Barber and Video Shop, run by brothers Gerry and Sonny Balcobero, customers come for a haircut but stay to rent movies. Be sure to go early; Gerry performs all the haircuts himself and customers have no problem waiting for his friendly service. Check out a movie while you wait. Just don’t forget your popcorn. 94-235 Hanawai Circle, 671-3644.

5.  Leeward YMCA

When the Oahu Sugar Co. shut down in 1995, Leeward YMCA executive director Manuel Ayala says “a void was left in the community.” That void is quickly closing, thanks to the $15 million invested in the 42,000-square-foot facility on the grounds of the old mill. The state-of-the-art facility features a three-story fitness center, a 25-yard swimming pool and a childcare center built around the mill’s landmark smokestack, or what Ayala refers to as “the Eiffel Tower of Waipahu.” 94-440 Mokuola St., 671-6495.


Did you know? Oahu Sugar Co. workers were identified with a silver coin, each with a different number. The coins were called “bangos” and workers could buy items on credit with them. For more history, visit Hawaii’s Plantation Village, 94-695 Waipahu St., 677-0110.
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Honolulu Magazine April 2018
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