Kokua Line

June Watanabe

home repairs often are

Question: Can you please warn your readers about another scam that is apparently targeting the elderly? My father was approached by a man who said he had a little bit of chemical left and could clean the vinyl siding on our house in Hawaii Kai. Luckily, I came home while all this was going on, but not before we ended up having to pay a lot more than my father expected.

Answer: We talked to your father to get more information.

He initially was quoted a price of $38.50 per gallon, but didn't ask how many gallons would be needed. The man started spraying, then said he didn't realize how big the house was. He then said it would take 75 gallons -- almost $2,900 -- to do the siding.

By that time, you came home and, as your father tells it, you were able to negotiate a "discount" and paid $240 in cash.

Although you indicated you called police, cases like this may have to be settled through civil action.

This appears to be another twist in an old series of scams in which someone offers to make house repairs for a "reasonable fee," according to Honolulu police Detective Letha DeCaires, coordinator of the CrimeStoppers program.

Ultimately, the people offering the good deal try to collect fees way above the amount discussed or mentioned.

"The public should remember that 'reasonable cost' can mean inferior quality and workmanship, and victims may be forced to go to civil court to resolve their complaints," DeCaires warned.

"In some instances, the product used may actually damage the house paint or roofs," she said.

In January, CrimeStoppers issued a press release warning the public about a "house repair scam."

In that case, a man, his wife and two sons offered to paint the house and fix the roof of the home of an 85-year-old woman for $7,000.

They did some work, promised to return, then never finished the job.

It turned out no preparation work was done before painting, inferior paint was used and an unknown black substance was put on the roof.

Lihue revisited

Apparently we hit the wrong syllable -- or missed a glottal stop -- in trying to answer the question about how to pronounce Lihue (Kokua Line, Nov. 3, 2003).

Reader Diane Nguyen-Peters says she's no expert but found our answer "a bit confusing." The two organizations we consulted said the correct pronunciation was along the lines of lee-HU-ay ("ay" as in hay), giving that breakdown as a guide.

Nguyen-Peters suggests Li-hu'e.

"Since I cannot write diacriticals in my e-mail, I used a dash for the long i (or 'eeee' sound)," she wrote. "Your description ignored the long vowel and totally left off the 'okina between the two vowels at the end. The 'okina between the u and e requires the speaker to make a glottal stop between those vowels rather than run them together."

Another reader from Kauai, who wished to remain anonymous, e-mailed, "There's a kahako (macron) over the i in Lihu'e, meaning a 'stress' is on the first syllable, not lee-HU-ay, but LEE-hu-ay."

He also says he's no expert, but "I am one of those people who cringe at improper usage."

Other Kokua Line readers say they want to know if you pronounce Oahu with or without a "w" sound and whether Hanauma, the bay, has three or four syllables.

At the risk of simplifying it too much, we'll just say that, basically, there is no "w" sound in the name of the island and "nau" in Hanauma is a diphthong, meaning you glide the two vowels together. So it's oh ah' hoo, and not oh wah' hoo, and hah nau' mah, not hah nah oo' mah.

Readers, please don't ask us how to pronounce any other words. We prefer leaving this subject to the language experts.

Norwegians in Hawaii

They may not be many, but there are enough descendants of two boatloads of Norwegians who sailed to Hawaii in 1881 to fill a book.

That's what Torbjørn Greipsland, editor for Norwegian Christian News Service, is planning to do next year after interviewing many of those descendants during a visit to Hawaii last year and this past October.

In September, Norwegian native Hakon Bjerke asked for Kokua Line's help in tracking down the descendants of 600 Norwegians who sailed aboard the Musca and Beta to work on sugar plantations here more than 120 years ago.

Bjerke, who has lived in Hawaii since 1981, was asking on behalf of a journalist for the newspaper Dagbladet in Norway.

In some strange coincidence, that person never showed up as planned in October, but Greipsland did his own separate quest to document the history of Norwegians in Hawaii.

Bjerke said he received eight responses following the Kokua Line item and gave the names to Greipsland, who has already written about Norwegians in the United States, as well as four books on the Norwegian Royal Family.

Many books have been written about the "enormous Norwegian immigration to the States," but the Norwegians in Hawaii "have been forgotten," Greipsland said. In 1960, more than 600 people in Hawaii said their mother tongue was Norwegian, he noted.

During his October visit, he interviewed about 15 people, including some who can trace their lineage back to the Musca and Beta.

"Altogether I think I meet with very interesting people who had a good story to tell," he said.

Greipsland can be contacted via e-mail at


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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