My father's first dental office was on Central Avenue, in the building that now houses Tsunami Electronics and Uncle Jesse's Place. Nagamine Photo Studio was adjacent to Daddy's office and both families had a take-your-child-to-work policy, so Rick Shimomura and I shared many small kid hours together. Of course, he was Ricky back then, and I was Sa-chan (still am, to family). I wonder if he knew then that he would eventually assume the family business, which, by the way, is now in its 80th year. I know my dad hoped that I would someday take over his dental practice. I guess it's telling that I was drawn to the props and sets in Ricky's family studio instead. I especially loved the staircase that led to nowhere; I imagined all sorts of happy places at the end of those steps.
Real-life happy places in my little stomping grounds included Nashiwa Bakery across the street, home of the best chocolate cupcakes ever. No frosting needed; in fact, it would have spoiled my favorite part - the dark crusty top. Oh, I miss those cupcakes.
By the time my dad moved to his permanent office in the Romero Medical Building on Market Street, I was old enough to help in the office. Sometimes Daddy and I would cross the back parking lot for a grilled cheese sandwich at the Kress Store lunch counter. Other times I'd take the short walk to Lucy Goo's Bakery across Main Street to pick up a couple of cheeseburgers for us. The shortbread cookies were great too, but the burgers were incredible. Fat, juicy, cheesy, sloppy . . . oh! I miss Lucy Goo cheeseburgers!
And the crack seed at Vineyard Candy Store. Actually, I never cared for real crack seed - too much work getting the meat off the shards of seed. But Vineyard's wet li hing mui, soft and moist, with just the right balance of sweet and salty plum, was perfection. Like Nashiwa Bakery and Lucy Goo's, Vineyard Candy is long gone, and although I've found substitutes for their lemon peel and olive footballs, I still miss their wet li hing mui.
Not all of my old Wailuku town memories revolve around food, of course. I remember Wailuku as my childhood center for culture and couture, with two theaters, the public library, clothing and jewelry stores, and so much more. We bought our materials for sewing class at Kato Dry Goods or Ikeda's, ready-made outfits at New York Dress Shop or Miki's, and everything in between could be found at Kress or National Dollar Store.
One of my most prized preteen possessions was a rhinestone tiara from Emura Jewelry, missing a few stones but precious to me nonetheless. Mr. Emura, a family friend, gave it to me when it arrived damaged, and it figured in many of the fantasies spurred by the Nagamine staircase.
Other people's fantasies were brought to all of us at both the King and Iao theaters. Across from the candy store on Vineyard, the smaller King Theater showed a lot of movies I wasn't allowed to see. But at the historic Iao Theater, I watched Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, along with samurai and obake movies that I probably shouldn't have been allowed to see, based on the nightmare factor.
The holiday season brought Santa to town, tossing out hard candies from his perch atop the Maui Fire Department Wailuku fire engine, heralded by the Baldwin High School Marching Band in their pajamas. That's all I remember of the Wailuku Christmas parade, although I'm sure there was more to it. By the time I became a member of the BHS Band, the parades had ended, but we continued the tradition of playing a holiday concert on Market Street, on the sidewalk fronting First Hawaiian Bank.
This Friday, the ghosts of these old memories will be roaming Main, Market, and Vineyard streets alongside hundreds of real-time revelers, as Wailuku holds its monthly First Friday street party. I won't be there this time; I'll be on Oahu for the 23rd annual Talk Story Festival. So I hope you'll represent me in spirit and take in the festivities. The party runs from 6 to 9 p.m. This month's entertainment includes MOTHxp at the Maui Thing stage, Benny Uyetake & the Kalama Intermediate School Ukulele Band at Banyan Tree Park, and the Gene Argel Ohana in front of Cafe O Lei. The shops and streets will be filled with activity. And food.
Wailuku First Friday is not exactly the good old days . . . It's better. Once a month, kamaaina get to reminisce with old friends while introducing new ones to the historic town we love. Wailuku is alive with aloha and a good time is had by all. Now if only they could bring back those Lucy Goo burgers!
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.