It was 20 years ago, on June 7. 2003, when “Black and White and Read All Over” was staged at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom. ‘Twas a benefit for Manoa Valley Theatre, sponsored by Honolulu Advertiser (my former employer. This was the promotional postcard. Two beloved Broadway phenoms, Craig Schulman and Cris Groenendaal, provided stunning Broadway music of the night; Schulman starred as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” here and Groenendaal was the Phantom in “Phantom of the Opera.”
If you grew up in the Hawaii of the 1940s and ‘50s, you likely will remember something commonly called the slop can, where your family dumped their kitchen discards.
This was an era where most households didn’t yet have garbage disposals in their kitchens.
So “wet” garbage, like soups and kitchen debris, like carrot shavings, cabbage cores, pineapple skins and orange and banana peels, had to be disposed somewhere.
This also was a time where there were no oversized plastic garbage bags – or composting in the backyard – to conveniently dispose these food remnants.
Enter, the slop cans. Or in local lingo, “buta kau kau,” literally pig food. Gross? Yes, but it was part of everyday life.
Most homes had a slop can outside their kitchen door. The canister was a rectangular-shaped can, likely the kind of container for oils and other liquids, with an open top, where garbage would be disposed. A wooden cover was necessary, to keep flies and bugs and even feral cats and dogs from seeking the remnants of discarded food. And a bucket-type handle was necessary, to lift the can and contents.
I remember having that duty to bring out the daily veggie and fruit stuff and even chicken and rib bones. I recall, too, that slop had a sickly sour odor, and you made sure you didn’t allow seepage.
This messy load would be picked up once a week, like the rubbish vehicles hauling away other throw-aways. The slop was destined to rural pig farms in Waimanalo, Kahala (before the luxury homes were erected), and other farming zones. The thought that slop could be food for pork that we’d eventually buy and eat was unimaginable.
As garbage disposals became prevalent and vital, not merely for convenience but for health reasons, the slop can happily became history.
Till today, we don’t toss stuff like fish or steak or pork chop bones into the disposal; we place ‘em in produce bags from food stores and dispose in the gray bins for waste collections once a week.
Been to a funeral recently, or during the later phases of the pandemic?
Bentos now are very much part of the funeral experience. It’s trending as an alternate to post-services buffets in the reception hall.
Also, services at the mortuary are now welcoming larger crowds like the past decades, unlike the 10-maximum head count at the height of the pandemic. Face masks are recommended, like other events with huge attendance.
The local custom at funerals always has included post-service fellowship with the grieving family. Over the decades, a mini-buffet of local food – sushi, perhaps fried chicken, macaroni or potato salad, with mochi as the dessert offering – used to be the rule of thumb. Paper or foam plates would be available, along the usual utensils, like chopsticks, forks, napkins, where mourners used to self-servce.
Not anymore. Bentos in pre-packed take-out type containers are stacked in the reception hall, awaiting mourners of the family of the deceased. When you consider health safety, a pre-packed meal makes a lot of sense, however awkward it might seem. And there are no more intrusive, pesky flies.
If folks start to exit and skip the refreshment hall, announcements are made to pick up a mini-meal in a grab-and-go format. Even take-out plastic bags are available for those opting to nibble at home.
Apparently, catering organizations have been revving up the post-funeral bento meals. Websites reflect a range of bento options, from minimalist to the excessive (and expensive), depending on budget.
Reflection is the validation of a happy life. And you’re a lucky soul, if you have fond memories.
As one who covered the Waikiki scene – with a focus on entertainment – I miss the good ol’ days.
Gone, but not forgotten; but I cherish these 10 yesteryear recollections:
The Kodak Hula Show, on a patch of green adjacent to the Waikiki Shell, was a freebie crammed with hula, mele and fun, widely supported by visitors. The ALOHA signage at the show’s finale, was a photo op for the times.
Duke Kahanamoku’s, the epicenter of the birth of global favorite, Don Ho. With roots in Kaneohe, he was a crooner beloved by young women and grandmas,who waited for his kisses. “Tiny Bubbles” became his signature. But his recordings of a clutch of Kui Lee tunes made both famous.
Hilo Hattie, doing her iconic “When Hilo Hattie Does the Hilo Hop” She was not a particularly great singer, nor dancer, but she had charisma, in the tutuwahine mode, adored by locals and visitors alike in her revue at the original Halekulani Hotel as well as the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Room..
Coco’s, the 24-hour eatery, located at Kalakaua Avenue and Kapiolani Boulevard, replaced Kau Kau Korner at the pivotal gateway to Waikiki. It was the place to go for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but also a grand wee-hour spot for after-movie munchies. The restaurant also boasted a much-photograph locator sign, pointing to cities around the world, and would be a popular selfie spot today, if it were still around.
The humble venue called The Noodle Shop at the Waikiki Sand Villa Hotel fronting the Ala Wai Canal, was the birthplace for the career of Frank DeLima. He delivered oodles of local-style gags, and Imelda Marcus, then the first lady of the Philippines, popped in to see him enact her. She surely was the most widely known spectator. That ensured DeLima’s trademark Imelda hair and toaster-sleeved dress, in his routine.
The Monarch Room, the fabled showroom-restaurant in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (aka The Pink Palace), is where notable headliners appeared: Wayne Newton, The Brothers Cazimero, John Rowles, Ed Kenney, Marlene Sai, Beverly Noa.
The Waikiki Theatre, on Kalakaua Avenue, was later known as the Waikiki 3 because of satellite screens 1 and 2 on Seaside Avenue around the block.- This was the movie palace jewel of the Pacific, with a rainbow arch surround the screen, an in-house organ providing pre-show concerts on weekends, a ceiling with moving clouds, a cluster of coconut trees on both side aisles. The walkway original boasted ponds with water, with screen-star autographs on the cement. Today, the site has restaurants and boutiques – with no designation of its past glory, except for the “WAIKIKI” nameplate.
The $1 buffet meals, at the Waikiki Sands, was a true bargain for the times, unfancy but fulfilling. The concept eventually evolved as current $80 buffets in other Waikiki resorts.
The Hilton Hawaiian Village Dome, a replica of the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles, had film screenings (like “Around the World in 80 Days.” It eventually became a nightclub hub for such shows as “Paradise Found” and such singing headliners like Don Ho, Jim Nabors, and magician John Hirokawa.
The first Bruno Mars concerts, at Blaisdell Arena. Our local superstar at his best. The Arena is expansive yet intimate. Consequently, the second Mars concert at Aloha Stadium had larger crowds but less intimacy. Still, watching our former Little Elvis on the stadium screens proved he’s still a certified star.