Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Huang Yunte

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Huang Yunte

Author:Huang, Yunte [Huang, Yunte]
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Published: 2010-08-30T00:00:00+00:00

IN JUNE 2008, during a research trip to Honolulu, I went to visit Apana’s house at 3737 Waialae Avenue. As soon as the sun rose from behind craggy Diamond Head and transformed Waikiki Beach from its predawn monochrome to a colorful postcard, I left my hotel on Kalakaua Avenue and walked windward along Kapahulu Avenue. A plumeria-scented ocean breeze blew gently at my back. Large monkey-pods stood by the roadside under majestic canopies, their blossoms flaming like sunrise clouds.

Densely populated today, Kaimuki is no longer the prim countryside to which the Apana family moved in the 1920s, but it has remained one of the most multiracial residential areas in Hawaii. My barber in Santa Barbara, a man named Dean who grew up in Honolulu, has repeatedly told me while swooshing his sharp scissors close to my ears, about the Chinese chow fun and Vietnamese pho he used to have at places in Kaimuki.

That June morning, I was not looking for a homey dive for chow fun or pho. I had Apana’s last address memorized, but I had miscalculated the distance when perusing the map. What I had figured to be a mere thirty-minute walk lasted for more than an hour. I soon realized that Waialae Avenue, Kaimuki’s main thoroughfare, runs all the way from Waikiki toward the coral reefs on the east, and Apana’s house is at the farther end of the avenue, near the ocean.

Typical of Honolulu weather, the temperature rose quickly as the sun edged higher in the sky. Walking block after block in the direction of the sun and the sea, I passed by modest-looking shops, fruit stands, markets, fast-food restaurants, bus stops, and telephone booths. The word Kaimuki in the Hawaiian language means “the ti oven.” It is believed that in the old days, the Menehune (Hawaii’s legendary little people) chose this area of rocky hills as a stronghold where they could safely make their famous ti ovens and not be molested by the Kamapuaa (pig gods) during the night. After the haoles arrived, they set up a semaphore signal station on Kaimuki Hill. In 1887, a rich German from Kauai, Daniel Paul Isenberg, bought a plot of land at Waialae and developed an extensive ranch for cattle, alfalfa, and racehorses. In 1898, during the real-estate boom following Hawaii’s annexation to the United States, Kaimuki became the first major subdivision in Hawaii. The 1900 Chinatown fire, described in chapter 6, sent some residents to this area to build their new homesteads and businesses. By the time the Apana family moved here in 1922, Kaimuki had become a quiet suburb with affordable, small bungalows scattered throughout the formerly barren, red-dirt land.14

Close to the Apana house was the Sacred Hearts Academy, an impressive white building with a stone terrace leading up to an arched façade. Founded in 1909, this was where Apana’s three daughters had once gone to school. On days when Annie’s car was not available, a police paddy wagon would arrive at the house to pick


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