Thursday, September 27, 2007

45¢ gravy & rice @ Zippy's

During basketball season of 1979-80, I played for four teams at Boys Club of Honolulu. (Yeah, I know, it's called Boys and Girls Club of Honolulu now.) That meant tryouts were in November, and I played for the Panthers under Coach Dwight Sato. We practiced long hours under the sun on the asphalt courts of Washington Intermediate School.

Coach was tough on us, but we needed it, especially a skinny kid in the post like me. I ended up playing for teams under Coach Dwight in the Palama League, another league I can't remember, and then our all-star team that went to California. So we practiced from November until April. It was a long season, but it was the most fun I ever had playing organized hoops as a kid.

Most of us guys on the teams were broke. I gave up my paper route the summer before ninth grade, so every dime counted. That meant a lot of quick stops at Zippy's for Gravy and Rice. For 45¢, you got exactly that, in a small bowl. For us guys who were famished after practice, it was the best thing we could afford. I wonder if Zippy's still serves that.

Anyway, it was a nice snack, along with some tabasco over the top, before we got on the bus and headed home on the #1 bus going down King Street. I sure did a lot of running and walking back then. No wonder I was so skinny. And in shape. Even after we got off at the bus stop near Puck's Alley, it was another 15-minute walk to get home (Date Street). That's why most times, I went home right after school and came back in my basketball clothes ... riding my Roger DeCosta bike. It was kinda small for me by then, with my knees hitting the alloy handlebars most of the time.

I think of that basketball season and what it did for me, what it taught me about practice and persistence. I wasn't that talented, but I willed myself to get better. I listened to Coach Dwight. I worked my ass off. And I ate my share of gravy and rice.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fire Station, pepah route and 25¢ soda machine

Aw man, I can't believe they knocked down the Fire Station. The official name was McCully-Mo'ili'ili Fire Station, and it was a broad structure that covered a wide space on the corner of University Ave and Date Street, it was an oasis of sorts. Lots of grass. Lots of space in the back, where the firefighters stayed in shape by playing volleyball. (That big net was up at least once a week.)

There, in the back, is where Mr. Wong came to drop off newspapers for us guys who had paper routes. My route began across the street, on Date, and included Terrace Towers and a bunch of apartment buildings and cottages behind Terrace on Kamoku Street. It was only to 60 to 65 papers, but it was spread out and took more time than a similar number of papers in the condos like Ala Wai Plaza.

I "inherited" the route from Vonn Rasmussen, who was a cool guy. His family lived in Terrace Towers, and he had the route wired. He could reach the fourth floor with a fling. I couldn't do it, even in eighth grade and throwing the skinny Saturday paper. The railing always blocked me, and after five, six, seven tries, my newspaper was all hemmajag. The route wasn't easy when there was basketball and baseball practice right after delivery, and then bill collection after practice. It's no wonder my grades hit the skids that year. I did meet a lot of cool customers and even cooler stray cats, though.

But meeting at the Fire Station was always cool. There were about eight or 10 other carriers there, including one my best friends growing up, JJ. One of the best things about the wait was the soda machine. It was over behind the kitchen, and that old machine cranked out sodas at just 25¢ each. One of the old Ala Wai gang, Peter, remembers that RC Cola came out of that machine. I just remember the Diamond Head sodas. Grape. Orange. Good stuff and most importantly, cheap.

I wonder where that machine is. I can't imagine where it could be now. The image of the Fire Station, the back area and the soda machine are ingrained in my brain. Somehow, an ice cold 25¢ Diamond Head grape soda tasted so much better in 1978 than anything possibly could now.

Epilogue: No more fretting by me. The old fire station will be replaced by a new $4.5 million fire station.

Monday, September 3, 2007

25¢ hot dog at Kapiolani Bakery (circa 1978)

What's the big deal about a 25-cent hot dog? It's a huge deal if you're 13 years old, have only 50 cents in your pocket and have a major appetite after riding your Roger DeCosta motorcross bike around town with your friends.

Kapiolani Bakery used to have a location on Piikoi and South King Streets, now occupied by Golden Duck Chinese restaurant. On one end was the bakery entrance. On the other, a hot dog stand. We couldn't understand how or why they'd sell hot dogs so cheaply. Even back in 1978, that was really cheap. We never asked why, though. We just bought one, two, even three or four hot dogs and satisfied our hunger. Looking back, my guess is that they tried to use hot dogs as as lure to bring in families. I know just about every time we stopped there for hot dogs, there were always other people around. Old folks, young people, all kinds, just enjoying the cheap, tasty hot dogs.

The bakery has been long gone from that location, though I think they still have one up at Aiea Shopping Center. I might stop there sometime just to see if they have the same offer nearly 30 years later. Mustard. Ketchup. Relish. That's all I need to enjoy my hot dog. I prefer the dog to be grilled, but for 25¢, who's gonna be picky?