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Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Sunday, September 28, 2003


Haleiwa needs to
keeps its signs out
of thieves’ reach


New parents learn early how to put things out of the reach of kids but North Shore business owners are having a hard time keeping their colorful "Haleiwa-North Shore" road signs out of the reach of art-loving thieves.

The problem is that the signs are just too dern pretty. They are a combination of carved wood and plastic resins designed in a home-towny kitsch way to evoke both Haleiwa's plantation days and the North Shore's position as the center of the surfing universe.

They first went up when a bypass road was built around the perennially traffic-clogged Haleiwa main drag. The bypass road had the same effect on Haleiwa as the new bypass highway had on the Bates Motel in the movie "Psycho," except relatively few pouffy-haired "Hitchcock Blondes" have been stabbed to death in showers. Actually, there have been no bypass-related homicides, although the new road had the effect of slitting the throat of Haleiwa Town's businesses and the place was on life support until someone thought of putting some attractive signs on the highway urging tourists to take the path less traveled, the one that leads to quaint stores, art houses, surf shops, Matsumoto's shave ice and, I believe, the only McDonald's in the world without a drive-through window.

An artist was contracted to build the new signs, showing a stylized surfer swooping down the last "A" in Haleiwa with an arrow pointed to the old Kamehameha Highway turn-off, reading "Food Gas Shops Beaches."

Soon tourists were clogging up the town's main drag again and dollar bills were clogging up the business owners' cash registers and everyone was happy in the little hamlet of Haleiwa.

That is until people started stealing the cool signs, which some jerks apparently thought would look good hanging on the wall of their living room or car port.

AFTER THE FIRST few thefts, like parents who realize that the Muppet Mobile is hanging too close to the baby in the crib (junior ate Cookie Monster again), town fathers (and mothers) put the Haleiwa signs up high and welded them onto three apparently sturdy metal poles. Thieves would need a ladder and blow torch to take the 5-foot-by-8-foot signs down now.

Or they could just run over the metal poles with a car, which is apparently what the latest sign appropriators did last week. The gentle village folk awoke to find one of the beautiful, not to mention $15,000, signs gone. They are ready to take up pitch forks, torches, long surfboards, beach chairs and any other makeshift weapons at hand to soundly thrash whoever took their precious sign.

Taking the sign was stupid because it is too well known to be displayed anywhere on the North Shore without someone ratting the thieves out, and it's too big to fit in the luggage of some traveling surfer.

The sign, no doubt, will be replaced, perhaps this time on telephone poles secured by C-4 explosive and an armed contingent of the Haleiwa Town Militia and Marching Band.

An enterprising store owner might now think about selling affordable replicas of the Haleiwa-North Shore signs because there's obviously a market for them. When an item is so popular that people run over it in cars to steal it, it's time to put that baby on the shelves.




See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com



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