Daily Archives: February 5, 2013

A long lost Honolulu landmark: M’s Coffee Tavern

James P. YongeHere’s another random photo I came across this week in my mother’s “stuff.” It’s my uncle, my mom’s younger brother, dated 1949.

To get a better look, just click on the photo to see a larger version.

Where was it taken? There are two landmarks shown. The sign on the wall behind him reads “M’s Coffee Tavern”, and across the street, in the background, is a low-rise building with a large “Star-Bulletin” sign.

Both those provided crucial clues.

According to one local website:

Famous for its coconut cream pie, M’s stood on Merchant Street in the location of what is now the Financial Plaza of the Pacific. “M” was originally Emma Millikin, who opened the restaurant in 1920. She later sold to, conveniently, Kenneth Emerson, and yes, you are correct! EMerson also operated two other landmark eateries, M’s Garden Buffet in downtown, and M’s Ranch House, which once stood in Aina Haina.

I found several items from M’s Coffee Tavern listed on ebay, including this placemap map of downtown Honolulu.

collectible placemat

The Star-Bulletin building was another key landmark. It was on Merchant Street, across on the makai side of the street. M’s Coffee Tavern was across on the mauka side.

[text]Here’s the Star-Bulletin building in 1912. The evening newspaper was housed here until 1962, when it entered into a joint operating agreement with the Honolulu Advertiser.

I believe that when my uncle’s picture was taken, he was working on Matson ships. He started on freighters, then moved to the passenger liners that cruised the Hawaii route. He spent a number of years as chief purser on the Mariposa, and was chief purser on the last voyage of the last of the famous white liners which once sailed under the Matson flag, and later were operated by Pacific Far East Lines.

He was always my favorite. He (and his friends, including local comedian Kent Bowman) were the best story tellers i had ever heard as a kid, and may still hold that rank in my memory. When they would visit my parents, the liquor would be broken out of the closet, and I would try my best to hang around and laugh at the tall tales. He did drink a bit, and after we graduated from college, he drank us under the table on several long evenings when his ship was in town.

And could he write! Every letter I’ve found of his is a small and wonderful piece of art. More on those later!

Unfortunately, he died in Portola, California, in 1994 at age 73. Far too early to lose one so talented. We scattered his ashes around the Diamond Head buoy. Late in life, my mother decided to sell her cemetery plot alongside her parents in Nuuanu and join Jimmy out at sea. That’s another thing to look forward to.

A morning to remember

This was the early morning view at Swanzy Beach Park in Kaaawa just a few minutes after 7 a.m. a week ago, Tuesday, January 29.

It was taken at almost the same time my mother passed away at the hospice home in Palolo where she was being cared for. I made the connection only later when I was looking back at the photos and noticed the time.

She died about 7 a.m. I got a telephone call from the hospice at 7:04. This photo was taken at 7:05.

It wasn’t an outstanding sunrise. But it’s one I will remember.

January 29