Talking Story


The "Shaka" Sign

Street Names in Laie

Hukilau Beach

The Beauty Hole

Flag Raising Mosaic

Faculty and Staff: Roots Run Deep

The "Shaka" sign

How can you tell if a person is from Hawaii? He'll flash you a "shaka" sign in greeting. Little is known about the Laie origin of this local gesture. A large Hawaiian man by the name of Hamana Kalili lost the index, middle and ring finger of his right hand from an accident at the Laie sugar plantation. He was well-known to everyone in this quiet Mormon town. When Hamana conducted church services on Sunday, one would only notice the thumb and little finger.


The children would imitate Hamana by bending their index, middle and ring fingers and say, "right on." Through Laie's children, this sign spread. A local car salesman, Lippy Espinda, used it in his TV commercials. It gained state-wide popularity when Frank Fasi used it while campaigning for Mayor of Honolulu in the early seventies.

This story and photograph was shared by Kupuna LaVerne and Rueben Pukahi and confirmed by Hamana's grandson, Walter Wong, former Head Custodian of Laie Elementary.

 Hukilau Beach

Edging Laie Bay is a necklace of white coral sand. The more popular section is called Hukilau Beach. The other sections are called Malaekahana and Temple Beach. Before it was called Hukilau Beach, the community called it "Hamana beach" after Hamana Kalili who had his boat house there.


Hukilau Beach was made famous by Arthur Godfrey's song, "Going to a Hukilau." He penned the words to the song after visiting Laie as a tourist and participating in a community fundraiser. Godfrey enjoyed his experience at the Hukilau so much he wrote a song about it and sang it while playing a ukulele. The Mormons in Laie were organizing weekly hukilau, luau and entertainment on the beach at Laie Bay to raise money to build a new chapel. (The old one had burned down.) The main fishermen of the village, Hamana Kalili, Jubilee Logan and Moke Hiram were responsible for the fishing. Community members were organized into work groups to prepare food for the luau and put on a show. Hamana Kalili, being a large Hawaiian portrayed King Kamehameha. When the money was raised and the chapel built, the weekly community hukilau was discontinued. Once in a while, if you're lucky, you'll see a group pulling hukilau nets. If you do--stop what you're doing and get in there to help--it's not often you get to experience a real hukilau.

This story was told to me by Kupuna LaVerne and Rueben Pukahi.


Flag Raising Mosaic

A mosaic depicting a school flag raising ceremony graces the front wall of the McKay Building foyer at Brigham Young University. "In 1921, as he (David O. McKay, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) visited the mission at Laie, he was inspired by the sight of the flag raising ceremony at the Church elementary school there. His feelings were articulated the next day on Maui when he indicated that a school of higher learning would be built in Hawaii. The college (Church College of Hawaii) was established (in 1955) and has since been designated as Brigham Young University Hawaii Campus." (Great are the Promises unto the Isles of the Sea. Joseph H. Spurrier. Hawaii Honolulu Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, c1978. pp.26.)


That church elementary school was later turned over to the Territory of Hawaii. Laie Elementary School continues this tradition of flag raising accompanied by bugle. Everyone on campus stands at attention with hand over heart when the bugle sounds in the morning, the JPO's raise the flag, the bugle ends and the day begins.


Faculty and Staff--Roots Run Deep

 It's quite unusual, even for a rural school. Five of our teachers and two on our staff, ten percent of the adults on campus, attended Laie Elementary as a young child...and so did their parents...and in two cases, so did their grandparents. We honor our "alumni."



Serena Manumaleuna Tuliloa


Jacqueline Tashiro Chang



Ruby Ann Au
Jo-Ann Keliikuli

Barbara Jean Ah Puck Kahawaii
Walter and Pola Wong


Street Names in Laie

As a plantation village, Laie had few streets, Lanihuli, Wahinepee and Puuahi, already used by the Hawaiians. Lanihuli Street was named after the rise or hill where the temple grounds are. This street led right to the door of the Mission Home (of the LDS church in Hawaii). The mission home was called Lanihuli House.

In the old days, Wahinepee Street was the main thoroughfare of Laie, not Kamehameha Highway, and is a name selected by the City and County. The villagers didn't particularly care for that name which means "secretive woman" but the City and County didn't want to change the name.

Puuahi means "hill fire." At the ocean end of Puuahi used to be a tall sand dune on the beach. Fishermen would bring in their catch and build a fire on top of the sand dune to cook the fish. When the villagers saw this fire, they knew that there was fish cooking for was a sign to "come and get it." There was no refrigeration in those days.

Poohaili is an old Hawaiian name for the district and area where the street is located.

Wylie Swapp, one of the original faculty members of Church College of Hawaii and long time community leader, named most of the streets in Laie. In 1956 he was serving on the board of "Hui Laulima" the community organization of Laie. As Church College was built he was asked as a board member to name the streets. He used the Hawaiian-English Dictionary and selected names that were interesting, had meaning, and a nice flow to it. Hale Laa is the road that leads to the Mormon Temple, the sacred house. Kulanui joins the elementary school with the University, the "big school." Originally, Naniloa Loop was called Pohakuhonua, but was changed because it was too cumbersome to say. Loala means "to play" and was meant for the street by Laie Park. The City and County put the sign on the wrong street and that was that. Moana means "ocean." Wylie Swapp was surprised that no street was given that name on Oahu, so he claimed it for Laie. The City and County wouldn't allow duplicate street names. Palekana was also another unused name that was claimed for Laie. Iosepa Street was named for the people who returned to Laie from a desert colony in Utah by that same name. These families that returned settled along that road.

This was told to me by Wylie Swapp.


The Beauty Hole

On the highway side of Laie Point used to be a salt water-filled large hole that residents called "The Beauty Hole." It was large enough for a dozen children to swim in comfortably. When asked how deep it was--some would say bottomless and others would say with emphasis, "Deeeep." It is believed to be fed by an underground channel to the ocean. Why was it called "Beauty" hole? No one can remember why.

Tourists and passersby would throw coins into the beauty hole and the children would gladly dive for the money. In the late eighties the hole was filled in and houses built on the property.