Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Our View From The Back Porch...

My mom was the youngest of 6 children- Jane, Gilbert, Sandra, Mel, Beverly and then my mom Diane and her mom was my wonderful Granny.  Granny's parents migrated to work in Hawaii from Portugal like many other Portuguese families and they settled on the big island of Hawaii in Hilo. Granny was one of 4 children- Tony, Alice, Olivia and Belle.....she being the third child Olivia. They all had to take care of each other when they lost there parents when Granny was about 12 or 13 and then  granny ended up married at a young at 16 to a much older Portuguese man "Grandpa Morrea" .  After they married he took her to Honolulu on Oahu and they had my auntie Jane. She divorced G Morrea when my auntie Jane was very young and though Granny never married again she did have 5 other children with my Grandpa Paulos. Then when my moms oldest sister Jane got married and there were still the 5 of them in the house my Granny decided it would be better for her to go on her own with her other 5 kids and left. She was indeed a strong willed and independent women for these times and something you really didn't see but Granny was an exception. She rented a 2 bedroom apartment right out of Waikiki on Date Street (2816 apt # 5) and then got a job with the Spencliff Restaurants Corporation as a waitress at the first Tops Waikiki.-Later Tops moved and was called Tops Beachwalk. The Spencliff Corp had a lot of restaurants in those days and most were concentrated in Waikiki area (this alone could be a whole other post about the Spencliff Restaurants Corporation- Its so quite sad that I could find much information on this Hawaii institution online---I guess it is one of those things that will just fade away with time) These restaurants were very popular and with the way tourism was during this era of the 50's 60's and 70's- Granny met and hung out with the "in" crowds--tourist and entertainers that had the money and fame and all that--In fact Chubby Checker played for one of her surprise b day bashes. Also if you watch the opening theme of Hawaii 5-0 you can see the orange neon TOPS signage that was a signature in Waikiki in the 50's and 60's flash a few times. Every time I catch that show I still to this day as I did as a kid yell "there is Granny's Work!" My mother did admit later in years that she and her siblings sometimes felt that Granny's real family was her friends in Waikiki that she spent time with everyday and hung out with on the weekends---her party gals pals, her gays and tourist friends....I can see why they saw it that way but to her credit she lived a busy eventful life in Waikiki and raised all 5 children on that life being a waitress, a job she had for over 25 years before she retired!

Granny had dreams for my mom and since mom was the youngest baby she was spoiled a bit and so she had a little more than the other 5 kids and got away with more...She was the last one at home in the apartment and all the other kids had moved on and were now married- (to full blooded Portuguese spouses of course) and some had children and some would have more later. Mom was 17 and a senior at Kaimiki High School. Granny wanted mom to be the first to go to college but instead mom got pregnant with me at 17. She also was pregnant by a boy of non Portuguese decent! He had a Hawaiian mother and a Chinese father! OH NO! It wasn't a scandal but very close. I was the first Hapa Boy born into our pure blooded Portuguese family (but soon to be followed by my sisters and many many more in our family tree later and through the years). My Mom and I ended up living with my Granny till I was about 2 years of age and so Granny was really my Aunty Mame--- as she taught and influenced me in so many ways. After mom remarried and we moved I still spent every break with her- summer, winter and fall and she took me everywhere and exposed me to a different world if you know what I mean. She let me meet her friends who she called Misses Alice's-- which was her term for her gay boys and men she had as her dear friends, took me shopping and out to eat and though she spoiled me a bit she also gave me a view of life that I would never change for anything as I am who I am because of her.

So I was raised till I was 2 years old in that old apartment in Waikiki by my Mom and my Granny and spent allot of my school breaks there as well- that is until Granny left and moved to Seattle to be close to us in the early 90s'-- The apartment we left behind after so many years was small---the building had  3 apts on top and 2 on the bottom- The corner unit we lived in had a small kitchen, a small living room and 2 bedrooms and one bath. Below us was our landlords Mr. and Mrs. Mirashiro. At one time the building was surrounded by old time Hawaiian plantation homes and then in the 60's and 70's homes were demolished and other apartment buildings would go up. Granny and I would go out on her back porch and she would complain each time a new apartment would go up around us... She didn't want to lose her nice neighbors and hated the dust it would stir up the most. We would also watch the downtown Waikiki skyline grow from that porch on the left side and as another crane would go up Granny would say "Oh there goes up another one of those damm high rises in Waikiki!!" Through the years on that back porch Granny and I would watch Waikiki grow and change and not for the better if you ask me. So allot of growing up on that back porch took place- we would spend so many evenings after dinner on the porch talking story to the neighbors.

So a few years ago I went back and had the opportunity to get in the apartment and while the apartment was so much smaller then I had ever remembered it was nice to see. When I stepped out to that back porch I saw what was left of the view from the old porch.... on the left was the skyline of Waikiki but it was now hard to see through the tall trees that had grown in and on the right side was this home-----one old plantation house stood. This was always the home to 2 older Japanese sisters that I was told both ended up living well into there 90's and it looked exactly the same except now it is surrounded by other buildings and the right hand side of the house looked bare as it used to have a huge mango tree that shaded the whole area. Sometimes I wish I could get in a time machine and travel back in time. I guess my time machine will have to exist is in my head along with wonderful memories of looking out from this back porch through the years.


A Lewis said...

You were raised on the most famous beach in the entire world? You lucky dog. (I know, I know...it doesn't always feel that way.... just my jealous side rearing it's ugly head).

ZenDenizen said...

What an interesting glimpse into your past.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story. I had the chance to fall in love with Granny when we were teenagers. I will always love the song "Honolulu City Lights". Because it reminds me of your stories that you shared with me. I love this blog post and am going to save it. I'll be right there with you in your "time machine" in your memories.
xo- your Jennifer