My Turn

By Mary Poole

Saturday, October 2, 1999

Aloha to Sun Press


Editor's note: The Sun Press, a group of community newspapers that served Oahu neighborhoods for more than 25 years, printed its final issue this week. In an announcement of the papers' closure three weeks ago, the publisher cited escalating costs and declining advertising sales.


ONE summer day 23 years ago, a girl fresh from the Midwest walked into Sun Press Publisher Ken Berry's office and walked out with a job. I was, suddenly, a reporter for the Leeward Sun Press. That new journalism degree helped, but it also might have been right place, right time.

The first thing on the agenda was to figure out what "leeward" meant. I grew up on the Mississippi River -- I knew tornadoes, not tradewinds.

I spent the next 12 years learning about life in the dozens of Oahu neighborhoods covered by the Sun Press. I interviewed the Pearl City police chief, attended neighborhood board meetings, tiptoed through live ordnance in Makua Valley, followed a homeless man for days through Kailua and recorded Waipahu's adjustment to life without a sugar mill.

I also learned how to use chopsticks and judge a pineapple's ripeness by its color. Once, and only once, I ate breadfruit. I also judged a cookie recipe competition along with Famous Amos and Fritz the Baker, and one year I helped choose the winner of the Miss Leeward contest.

Working for the Sun Press was the best journalism education and introduction to a new community that a young reporter and editor could get. Eventually I became editor-in-chief of the papers and helped even newer reporters get to know Oahu as well as I did.

We worked hard, complained about the pay and had fun. Well, a journalist would call it fun. We wrote stories by candlelight during Hurricane Iwa and laughed about our colleagues at the daily newspapers whose computers were silenced by the power failure. At Sun Press we still used manual typewriters.

I was the editor of the paper during the Great New Year's Eve Flood of the mid-'80s. The Pali turned into a waterslide, a hillside street in East Oahu disappeared and tuxedoed party-goers found themselves wading home through knee-deep water in Coconut Grove. My phone rang throughout the night as photographer Richard Ambo called in and described the devastation.

Sun Press coverage was every bit as good as the daily newspapers or TV stations.

The people who worked at the Sun Press became my family. They attended my wedding. They visited me in Castle hospital when my first child was born. I witnessed their family weddings, births and graduations. I cried at their funerals.

AFTER I left the Sun Press, I became just another subscriber. I still read the Kailua edition, from page-one stories to Jerry Murphy's old column to the classifieds. It was the only place I could find out what was going on down the street.

With the final issue of the Sun Press published this week, that source of news is now gone. No more neighborhood-board news, no more Christmas-parade photos, no more Chalkboard columns, no more coupons from the corner store.

I will miss seeing this weekly chronicle of everyday life. For more than 25 years the Sun Press has passed through our living rooms and kitchens. It told us about our friends, our neighbors and ourselves. It became a member of our community family. We were the richer for it.

I know I was.

Mary Poole, assistant editor of the Star-Bulletin editorial pages, worked for the Sun Press from 1976-88 and was editor from 1986-88.

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