Farrington Highway, we’ve come a long way, or not…


Back in the old days, the two lanes of Farrington Highway passed in front of Waipahu High School, curled around sugar cane fields topped with white tassels, and rumbled down the pot-holed road westward to Kaena Point at a dead end. The 35 M.P.H. signs along the way ensured a tourist’s view of all directions, mauka to makai (mountainside to seaside). If you did not have a car to travel, there was always the Eberly’s, George and Julia, who ran a daily taxi service, making a few trips to town and back from Waianae to Chinatown in Honolulu. I remember waiting for the taxi in front of the meat market on Kekaulike Street. There were roast ducks glistening with oil which hung from thick iron hooks above the butchers who could deftly chop up crispy roast pork and red charsiu pork in a few seconds for waiting customers. If I had not been so young, I would have worked up the courage to ask for a sampling of that roast pork while I waited patiently for the cab.

The taxi ride cost only a dollar each way, and we relied on these station wagons to carry us to Honolulu and back to the Waianae Coast. Eberly could fit as many as nine customers in his vehicle, and the back seats faced outward to the rear of the car. Regular customers knew his habits well, one in particular – dozing off at the wheel as he rounded the curve at Kahe Point! They made it a point to strike up an interesting conversation with him way before he reached the area. Charlie loved to talk story, and everyone knew when he would feel sleepy because that’s when he stopped talking! People usually stayed awake throughout the whole trip, but occasionally a rider would fall asleep to the chagrin of the person next to him. If a guy slept and leaned his head on someone, after a time not only did his head feel like a boulder on his neighbor’s shoulder, but also his warmth and sweat added more discomfort in the tropical sun. And if he snored, that would be the end of his nap, for no one could tolerate that! It was also not uncommon for passengers to sit on other people’s laps on the last run back to the country from town when seats ran out!

Dad adhered strictly to the speed limit which made out trips last exactly one hour to get to Honolulu. As we would leave Nanakuli going up over a hill, Dad would look out to the ocean and survey the waves. “Does the water look glassy, choppy, smooth, or rough today?” he would ask me, and I would turn to look at the vast ocean below the kiawe trees. If it was deemed glassy or smooth, he would go diving for fish as soon as we returned from town. What I loved most when we returned home and entered Nanakuli was the strong scent of plumeria flowers which grew in every homestead lot along the highway. Even if my eyes were closed, this sweet fragrance would announce that home was just a few minutes away. As soon as we returned home, Dad would jump out of the car, into his swim shorts, and head to the beach across the street with his 7-foot spear, goggles, rubber fins, and a sack for his catch. We could always count on him to bring home four or five fish for dinner, and should I mention all the squid which he loved to dry in the sun?

Our highway is not the same anymore. Friends used to stop in front of our house on the street to talk story when they saw us sitting in our yard, and they would wave oncoming cars to go around them. There now runs a four-lane highway where once a two-lane road sufficed. There has been a population explosion in these parts due to cheap housing and more immigrants. No longer can we say that residents of Nanakuli are unfriendly as in the past which accounts for the literal meaning of the name Nanakuli – “look down at the feet (knee).” My Hawaiian teacher Mrs. Werner said, “People were so poor due to the lack of rain and bad soil in this area, that food and refreshments were scarce.” She went on to say that whenever a stranger or newcomer would travel through the community and greet someone, the person would turn a deaf ear and just look down and stare at his feet or knees because he was so ashamed of not being able to offer refreshments or food. But lifestyles have changed: our highway is busier, and we are able to meet people from all walks of life on the city MTL bus – yes, the bus has replaced our friend Eberly, the taxi man. On top of that, we can go faster now with increased speeds of 45- 60 M.P.H. resulting in more auto accidents and pedestrian deaths. Along with Kapolei, Waianae ranks in the top five towns with the most traffic accidents on Oahu (Source: State Department of Health). Farrington Highway surely has changed.


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