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ala wai canal 1920 to 1928

I have worked in the food industry all my life. I moved to Hawai’i from New York State in 1975 and worked as a busboy at the Rigger Restaurant, across the St. Freon at the International Marketplace.

I lived in Waikiki at the time, moving from one apartment hotel to another. They were affordable and numerous but I had to keep moving. These places were usually two or three story walkups and some were rather seedy. I remember one place called the Eleanor Apartment Hotel across from the Woolworth building on Royal Hawaiian street. My room was directly above the street, behind the hotel sign. It blinked on and off and illuminated my room all night like in those old Hollywood detective movies. I slept only between 4-6 am because of the street noise and the hookers.

I stayed at another place whose name I have blotted out of my memory on Ala Moana Blvd across from Fort DeRussy. It was small and had slashes in the window screens. One night as I was lying in bed I saw a hand reaching through the ripped screen for my door handle. I was out of there the next day.

I hated Waikiki then. I thought it was ugly, dangerous, noisy and tacky... I ended up there because but that's where the restaurant jobs were. Most of the new friends I made worked and lived there too. Practically all the movie theaters, affordable restaurants where I felt comfortable as a haole and, after I came out, all the gay bars were there.

 

 

 

Hula’s opened around that time but it wasn't gay at first. The first time I went there was with my friend Charisse and her boyfriend. It was a bisexual space with mostly straight people. The hot place to go at the time was The Gay Nineties on the corner of Kalakaua ave and MuCully street. I never had the nerve to go inside. One night a woman stabbed her lover to death in the bathroom. That story was enough to keep me out. It closed not too long after that.

I used to mostly hang out at the Stuffed Tomato on the corner of Ala Wai Blvd. and McCully Street. Then there also was Under Construction, a place on Ala Moana across from the Marina Theaters where all the waiters dressed in construction drag. The walls were lined with tin foil. Combined with the disco balls and strobe lights, it was enough to cause motion sickness.

On Kapahulu avenue, next to where the present Hula’s is located, there was The Blowhole, which was popular with the older crowd. There was a Jacuzzi in the back which I never got near.

I advanced in the food industry a bit at a time - from busboy to fry cook, to cooking in the pastry department. I left for New York for a couple of years to train as a pastry chef at a culinary school. In 1985 I was hired as a pastry cook at one of the big upscale hotels and there I have remained for the past 22 years.

I have been with my partner since 1978 and no longer live in Waikiki. They have planted more trees and greenery but I still wouldn’t want to live there. It might be cleaner but it is still as sad and desperate in many ways. The huge profits that the hotels make don't make it down to the employees. My co-workers with families need to work two jobs to make it. Over the years many of them become physical wrecks. Some of the women are in their 70's. They can't retire because they need the health coverage. It is very sad.

Michael Bosley, 2006