In the fall 2017 issue of Island Scene, we focused on the Big Island of Hawaii. Here’s a story about Honomu that we couldn’t fit into the pages of “I Remember When.”
In the heyday of sugar plantations, I grew up in the lively community of Honomu, Hawaii, 12 miles from Hilo. My father worked for Pepeekeo Sugar Company, then later Hamakua Sugar Company. We endured sugar strikes and shipping strikes. The community gathered at the Honomu Hongwanji Mission regardless of race and/or nationality to provide meals to the families in what was called the soup kitchen. My dad was a carpenter foreman and was a non-union employee, so we didn’t need to stand in long lines for our meals, but he and our family helped prepare food. There was no discrimination because we were a community of friends and family.
Honomu had one major road fronting all of the businesses. There was the post office, Kayumangui Store, Akaka Noodle Store, Diamond Bar, Jan’s Store, Tanimoto Theatre, a pool hall, Nicolas Barber Shop, the Full Gospel Church, Honomu Mormon Church, Akita Ice Cream, Muneno Service Station, Ishigo Bakery, Kadota Bakery, Honomu Hongwanji Mission, Honomu Catholic Church, and the Honomu Christian Church. Lastly, at the end of the street was Honomu School (K-6 grades). Across the playground was our National Guard. I remember the bright lights shining as the Army unit did their drills.
Annually, we had a community-based country fair with homemade games like fishing for prizes, spin the wheel, cotton candy machine, a large tent with food booths and other activities. Our parade was complete with a county band, Army marching units, Boy Scouts marching units, and all of the kids from the summer fun program.
In December, the school’s Christmas program was held in the gym complete with a nativity play and a choir. One year, I was so depressed that I couldn’t attend the program because I had the flu and a high fever. The gym was adjacent to our home, so I could hear the whole program. I was supposed to be the angel, Gabriel, in a white gown that my mom sewed from a bedsheet.
The lively life of Honomu will always be embedded in me, thanks to the community folks from this sugar town.
Calvin H. Enoki