The other day they removed the Goodwear Dress Shop sign from a little building on Bishop Street. According to the workman it had been there since the 1940s.

When I first noticed its demise, the channel letters and neon were already piled in the back of the truck and only the discolored ghost image of “Goodwear” remained on the façade.

And so it goes with Honolulu’s little landmarks. Those familiar everyday things that have always been there, and compose the face of our city, are being stripped away.

Ironically, I always thought Goodwear was a pretty horrible name for a fashion enterprise because it evokes tires and car parts. But, it was always right there in the same place every day.

A sign of the times: The neon from the Goodwear Dress Shop on Bishop Street is no more. Keith Rollman

We all notice when big stuff disappears, especially those places where we have a personal history. I attended Duane Preble’s Art 101 class in the old Varsity Theater and met my first wife there. It’s now a parking lot. The list of deceased favorite restaurants is endless … Columbia Inn, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Flamingo Restaurant, Wisteria Restaurant, Coco’s Coffee House … and on and on.

Over the years I hung out at John Dominis restaurant quite a bit. It had a great view of Waikiki and Diamond Head and was perched right next to a popular surfing spot at the mouth of Kewalo Basin.

I remember walking through the restaurant when they were closing it down for good. The former employees were in the process of wrangling the fish who lived in the moat that ran through the restaurant. They had the water mostly drained, but the big papio and other denizens of the moat were putting up a pretty good fight. Once captured, they were relayed to the open window and chucked into the channel.

I always thought it was a nice gesture to give them all a final chance at freedom. There’s a new restaurant and Japanese wedding chapel operation on the site now. I won’t be going.

In 1981 I stood across the street when they demolished the Alexander Young Building. A giant mechanical lobster-claw thing was chomping at the masonry. A chunk of the fluting from one of the columns bounced out through the construction fence and rolled to my feet. I picked it up and kept it on a shelf in my office for many years.

Sometimes it’s the smaller things that we imprint on and wish to hang on to. I’m not the only one, either. There was a kerfuffle a few years ago when they declared a little clock sign in Manoa Valley to be “out of code” and doomed for removal. Generations of residents who grew up driving by that clock on the way home were having none of it. I have no idea whether they eventually got the clock or not.

If they ever come for the McCully Chop Sui sign, I will lead the protest, and I won’t be alone.

During my University of Hawaii days our band played at Anna Banana’s in Moiliili. It looked like it had been there for 100 years before we ever got there, and remained unchanged for decades after we moved on to the real world.

These neon letters used to spell out “Goodwear.” Keith Rollman

There was a bougainvillea vine that had been cultivated over the years to bonsai-like perfection forming an arch across the entire building. For years the bench outside had an old bass drum for a cocktail table, and a patina of aging band posters several layers deep covered the doors. Inside, the ceiling was covered with odd, dusty junk objects.

A few years ago the old bar was “renovated” to blend better with its neighbors on the newly re-developed block. They didn’t upgrade Anna’s so much as surgically remove its soul. The spectacular bougainvillea was whacked to the ground the posters scraped off.

The bizarre stuff hanging from the ceiling was thinned down to the least interesting stuff. And, they changed the name to Anna O’Brien’s. I guess “Anna Banana” is politically incorrect.

Change is inevitable, and grousing about it a futile gesture. Yet, as those simple identifiable facets of our city disappear one by one, we can’t help but feel a pang of nostalgia.

Maybe it forces us to replay all the memories attached to those places and things. The UH game at the old “Termite Palace.” Frank Zappa and the Mothers at the Civic Auditorium. That date that went so horribly wrong at John Dominis. The coldest beer in town at Columbia Inn served by Tosh Kaneshiro himself.

So, the Goodwear Dress Shop sign isn’t there anymore, and it’s really no big deal. But, realizing that I’m saying goodbye to my edition of Honolulu, one little piece at time, is a very big deal to me.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a current photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author