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OFF AT OLD WAIALAE DRIVE-IN
By Rodney E.J. Chang
was a great time to be a teenager back in the late 1950’s. Rock and roll was
all the rage, teenagers enjoyed just “twisting” the night away. And it was
cool to do crazy things, like hide in the car trunk, as your high school friends
drove through the local drive-in ticket booth. This weekend, it was Cynthia’s
turn to hide in the trunk. She did make it in without paying.
that’s why it
upon her later in the evening.
Waialae Drive-In in East Honolulu wasn’t just another drive-in. It was built
on land that once was an old cemetery.
deceased Japanese plantation workers had been buried there. For the sake of
progress, their eternal rest was put on hold as their coffins were dug up, and
then relocated. The dead had lied where now there were cars parked with speakers
attached to their windows. Such is the reason most think that strange things
kept occurring at the drive-in during its years in operation. Many believed the
grounds were cursed and haunted. Some Japanese believe in mujina
who might return to haunt the living if their graves are disturbed.
at the start of the 21st century, the drivein itself is history. The drive-in
was demolished in 1984 to make room for the development of large homes and a
local restaurant chain. Waialae Avenue and the second tier freeway running
parallel and above it, separates these residences and eatery from today’s
upscale Kahala Mall with Macy’s, Barnes and Noble, Footlocker, Apple,
Chili’s, McDonald’s and the like. The area upon which the mall is situated
used to be a swamp till the 50’s.
back in the late 50’s and 60’s, life was simpler. No big box stores or fast
food outlets where there had been a marsh, no “Mc-mansions’ on the grounds
were coffins were previously buried (the upscale residential development
included both the drive-in site as well as adjacent previously untouched,
remaining cemetery acreage), but just a nondescript drive-in with its large
outdoor screen and parking lot with metal poles at each stall for speakers, with
portions of the former cemetery left untouched on both sides. It was creepy
driving along the exterior fences, to get in on one flank of the drive-in
massive car lot and along the opposite side fencing to exit back out to Waialae
Road. On the other side of both side fencing, there were tombstones still
intact. Children in cars driven by their parents knew that, as they rode in to
find a stall or drive to the exit after the show, they were passing buried
remains just a couple feet away. They were by night driving between- and on,
inside, Cynthia celebrated her cunning entry by sharing a couple of beers with
her girlfriends. They were partying in the car, watching a black and white movie
featuring Marilyn Monroe. It was sexy and the girls felt aroused, but without
dates. No matter, they were having a good time. Inside the privacy of the car,
they talked dirty and laughed at each other about boys that they had dated that
finishing her second beer, Cynthia said, “Hey, I’ll be back, girls. Gotta go
to the restroom and pee.”
you sure that’s all you’re going do?” joked her best friend Gertrude. The
sexy scene was still on the screen. Kissing sounds and moaning was emanating
from the speaker on the car window.
so silly,” said Cynthia, blushing but unseen in the dark.
you do,” added Beatrice, “you better watch out, going in there by yourself.
You heard the story about the obake
that is sometimes seen in there, didn’t you?”
hasn’t? But I don’t believe in such things. I always feel that those stories
are made up by folks with weak minds.”
you don’t want me to go with you and hold your hand?” joked Gertrude.
I’m a big girl. I can go to the potty myself, Mommy.” All the girls laughed.
that, Cynthia left the car. After she walked pass eight rows of parked cars, all
with the speaker hooked to their half-raised glass windows, she had reached the
opened the door, entered, and then heard it click close. Inside it was well lit.
Nobody else was in the spacious restroom. A large group always came between the
two shows so it had to be able to accommodate more than a few at a time. Still,
at intermission, a line would form outside the women’s restroom. (Never the
men’s room. Men can do it quicker and easier and with urinals.)
would have been filled if she had
during intermission instead of in the middle of the sex scene. Cynthia wanted to
stay and watch (and learn) but when nature called, she had to go. She chose an
empty stall and relieved herself. Since she was already there, Cynthia decided
to why not check her makeup.
washing her hands, she leaned in close to the long mirror that was affixed in
front of the row of sinks and soap dispensers. Yes, indeed, part of her lipstick
had been smeared when she drank the beers in the car and sometimes wiped her
to fix myself up now, just in case we bump into some good-looking guys during
intermission at the snack bar.
usual, the girls would go together at the intermission for buttered popcorn,
carbonated drinks, and candy (such as chocolate-malt “pom pom” balls, chewy
jelly animals, chocolate mints, and red twisted rope candy). There was always
the chance to meet other school friends or some new guys from neighboring
schools. Or at least flirt with them.
got her lipstick applicator out and started to reapply the “Shocking Pink,”
a popular shade at the time. Cynthia had to really concentrate, in order to make
the lines straight at the edges of her lips. It was somewhat difficult because
she had been drinking. With her close friends and in the car, she didn’t have
to worry that her parents would discover her experimentation with alcohol.
she applied her makeup, Cynthia noticed another woman looking into the mirror
about ten feet away from her.
odd, I don’t recall hearing or seeing anybody else enter since I came in here
other woman wore a long black dress and was combing her long reddish-black hair.
The unknown person remained deathly quiet. Minding her own business, Cynthia
continued to finish up reapplying her lipstick. After feeling satisfied that her
lips looked perfect (intermission was soon), she placed the applicator back in
her purse and started to walk out. She never made a direct glance at the other
woman who was to her side at a distance.
to get to the exit door, she had to pass where the other woman stood next to the
long mirror. Cynthia still didn’t bother the other, but just went pass her
without a word or stealing a quick glimpse as she made her way to the exit.
her surprise, the door wouldn’t budge! Who had locked it? Cynthia suddenly
felt trapped. But at least there was another person inside with her. Maybe the
other could help to open it, or explain why the door was locked. After all, the
stranger was also in the same predicament.
turned around and started towards the woman, whose back was now facing her.
Still never a word out of the mysterious individual. The stranger’s long hair
and head obstructed the view of her face from where Cynthia was walking. (From
the back, the woman appeared like the spirit in the 2004 movie titled the “The
Grudge”.) When Cynthia got closer, the schoolgirl looked into the mirror to
see what the woman she was about to address looked like.
her shock, there was no face!
could only see the reflection of the body wearing a long black dress and the
hand that continued to comb the reddish-black hair. The terrified girl ran back
to the locked door, frantically attempting to open it. In desperation, Cynthia
twisted, pulled, and shook the door handle, but it didn’t budge. Then she
pounded and kicked the door. She screamed for help. But nobody came to her
rescue. It wasn’t intermission time yet. All were in their cars, watching
Marilyn make out.
Cynthia realized that she was hopelessly trapped, she turned around to face her
faceless woman was standing right next to her, with her long thin fingers
stretched out. It appeared to be wanting of the young girl’s face.
screamed in horror, then fainted, falling and hitting her head on the ceramic
tile floor. Eventually an ambulance came and took her away. Just as one did for
Marilyn at the end of the romance-turned-violent movie.
ended up dropping out of high school, having to do time in Kaneohe State
Hospital for her mental breakdown. It took weeks of therapy before she could
once again see a face in the mirror, when she dared to look into one.
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