This is the story of a home in misty Manoa valley, a home that held and shaped a family, but became far more than just a place to live. It sheltered a couple, her extended family, and carried their dreams and their future within its walls. What made this home unforgettable? Was it the gracious lanai facing the ever-changing Koolau Mountains? Could it have been the drawing room with its ten foot ceilings and charming French doors?. Perhaps it was the somewhat optimistic Butler's Pantry. In any case, Hale O Ka Honi remained in the same family throughout its history.
The Butler's Pantry
Any loved home with so many memories can have the same impact, whether a simple Kapahulu cottage or a dramatic Diamond Head estate. This particular home and its story are told here in a simple but eloquent manner by its owner, as she prepares to say goodbye to its walls, floors, and gardens but not to its memories.
"Helen Akana Bruns, my great aunt, built this house in 1922. She was an elementary school teacher both at Washington Elementary in Waikiki and in later years at Lincoln Elementary in Makiki. We always thought it odd that she could afford to build such a grand home on a school teacher’s salary. Yet as I thought about it later, there were many single school teachers in the valley. Apparently they paid school teachers a bit more in those days!
Her husband left her when they found that she could not have any children. They never officially divorced and she never remarried. Though they were separated, her husband apparently used her home occasionally to spend the night. He was a prohibition officer and frequently went on raids in the middle of the night. Rather than drive back to his home on the North Shore, he would spend the night in town.
Christmas on the Lanai 1943
Aunt Helen would arise early and siphon off the alcohol that he had locked away in the trunk of his car. I always thought that the ladies at her tea parties looked a little bit too happy! Bottles of this bootleg rum were still to be found when the basement was cleared out in 2007.
As she had no children, her sister “shared” her daughter Lorraine Fountain with her on weekends. They lived on Kauai and from the tender age of three, Lorraine would ride the ferry over every Friday evening and Aunt Helen would pick her up on Saturday morning. They would spend the weekends together and she would go home on Sunday evening arriving back in time for school on Monday morning. When Lorraine went to high school, she boarded at St. Andrew’s Priory and spent the weekends with her aunt in Manoa.
Aunt Helen was very much a lady of her day. Her home was filled with silver and lace. The hardwood floors were polished to perfection and covered with Oriental rugs. She herself was always dressed beautifully as she took frequent trips to San Francisco always returning with steamers full of the latest fashions, hats and shoes.
What is now the half bath was once a cutout in the hallway. Aunt Helen had a chaise lounge there with her telephone. She would talk for hours to her girlfriends lying down on the lounger!
The wood floors still gleam
After Lorraine graduated from Mills College in Oakland, she returned to live with her aunt and worked in the tax office (now the post office in downtown Honolulu). Presumably, she took the trolley that came up Punahou Street and ended at Anuenue Street. Life was grand as her aunt prepared her to marry!
Opulent parties were held on the lanai. Her prized rose garden next to the driveway filled the lanai with roses. Everything was served on silver platters with white gloves. One evening, a friend asked if he could bring a guest who was from the mainland. This man turned out to be Lorraine’s husband eventually – my parents. They experienced their first kiss on the lanai.
Lorraine and Wayne Rankin, Honolulu Harbor 1943
Sometime in the 50’s, she turned the garage in the back to a maid’s quarters. She had a live in maid until she retired and started renting it out to supplement her income. You will notice “doorbells” in the master bedroom, kitchen and on the floor of the dining room where she could call the maid with the flick of a finger or the press of a toe as the case may be. Thankfully, these no longer work.
Aunt Helen passed away in 1963 after she tended her rose garden for the last time. She left the house to my mother and me and we moved into the house when I was seven years old. I remember the Safeway being built along with the Rexall drug store in what is now called the Manoa Marketplace.
I myself would slip down to Toyo’s Superette to buy candy and cuttle fish! It was easy if you slipped through the Japanese school! I was allowed to live in the cottage after I graduated from Punahou in 1973 and was going to college. The doorbells mentioned before were still working and my mother would ring them when she thought it time for male company to leave!
Mom and Dad lived in the house where they shared their last kiss – 49 years later. Dad passed away quietly at age 86, Mom lived three more years.
The house has seen so much of the history of our lives – my first kiss, my daughter’s first steps, wedding receptions, anniversary parties and birthday parties. After Mom passed away and we were preparing the house to rent out, a woman slightly older than myself introduced herself to me. She had lived in the neighborhood forever and said that she remembered Aunt Helen. She shared with me how apprehensive she was as Aunt Helen would sit in her wicker Queen’s chair on the lanai and serve tea while she held court. She said that she was very kind but she always secretly wondered if she was a real queen!
It is so hard to say good-bye to a family home filled with so many memories and so much love. My family now lives in Colorado and it would be harder to be so far apart from them. So, I will be content with the memories that are still bright in my heart and hope that someone else will love this home as much as we have.
It is time to let another family weave the tapestry of their lives in this beautiful home. There will be many more stories to tell ...and more kisses on the lanai".
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WHAT A NICE STORY AND SUCH PRECIOUS MEMORIES. MAY THEY FIND A FAMILY THAT WOULD GIVE THIS HOUSE MUCH LOVE & RESPECT. AND PASS THE HISTORY OF THIS BEAUTIFUL HOME FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.
Beautiful story, beautiful legacy. Reminded me of my Papa's home in Waikiki and the memories of a little girl who is now 50.
A hui hou to Lori and her ohana. Mahalo for sharing your story and God Bless you all....
Great story, it reminds me of my days growing up on Maui when we would visit my Tutu in Lahaina, her home too filled with lots of memories of ohana events and all the great knowledge that Tutu had to pass on, I miss those days. Mahalo and Aloha Lori for sharing and taking me down Memory Lane.God Bless...
It brings back so much memories of me growing up, and the house that I grow up in, but not here in Hawaii, but in Texas,
I miss that house alot it holds alot of memories for me too...
Thank you for sharing you memories of your home,very beautiful home....God Bless....