Origins of Laie street names

[Originally published in KALEO on April 3, 1997]

The late Wylie Swapp, 1997

A recent proposal to rename one of the streets in Laie caused Kaleo to investigate how the streets came to be named as they are. Kupuna said talk to retired art professor and longtime Laie resident Wylie Swapp.

Typical of his high degree of organization and sense of history, Swapp, who’s lived in Laie for over 40 years and who first came to the South Pacific a half-century ago, had pulled out a file with most of his original notes from the 1961 street naming project.

“When I first came to Laie [in 1955 as an original faculty member at Church College of Hawai’i], there were only about three streets that were named,” he reminisces, “and the town had been extended to include BYU-Hawaii, so there were some additional street, or extensions of streets.”

Swapp explains that as a member of the board of the old Laie community association, Hui Laulima, he was given the assignment to come up with new names for these streets. He noted that some of the other members of the board included Kay Andersen, Viola Kawahigashi, Delwin Guinness, George Okanishi, Lafi Toelupe, Henry Lindsey and Gwyn Barrett.
He adds that “there were some [street] names that people didn’t like. People liked Lanihuli and Iosepa, but they didn’t like Wahinepe’e or Kohakupönua. That was the one that’s now Naniloa Loop.”

Swapp explains he did a lot of research using [Mary Kawena] Pukui’s book, wrote down a lot of possible names, and submitted some of them to the Hui Laulima group. “Some of them, I realize, didn’t end up being names we now have. I think mostly because the City and County said, oh, those names are already used. So, then, we had to change them,” Swapp says.

“I thought, back in the beginning, that Pu’uhonua would be a good name for the street that kind of encloses Laie, the one that’s now Naniloa Loop. But that was used someplace else, so we couldn’t use that.

“I talked with a lot of the old residents — Poe Kekauoha, Kau’i Lua, Viola Kawahigashi and others — and, so, I thought a lot of the historic names would be appropriate. They were giving me names of certain sections of the village that used to be,” Swapp says, such as Pu’ukolu — the section on the Kahuku side of Lanihuli street going down by Laie Cash &?Carry.

They considered old Hawaiian names such as Laieikawai and Malaekahana; or Pu’uone (‘sand hill’), the area around the cemetery; and Pu’uahi (‘fire hill’), “which is the present name.

“That’s an interesting story.” Swapp explains Pu’uahi got its name in the days before refrigeration when Hawaiian fishermen would bring in a catch, and then would use a sand dune at the head of the present street to build a fire to notify the people to come get the fish before they spoiled.

Iosepa Street, of course, had already been named years before after the Polynesian colony in Skull Valley, Utah. When some of the Hawaiian and Samoan families returned to Laie when the temple was built, they settled along that street.

“We had been calling the street heading toward Church College Kulanui, but it wasn’t an official name. And some people said, oh, that’s a made up Hawaiian name. It’s not a real word. But, then, I went ahead and used it anyway because we were already using it. It seemed the logical one. There was no Hawaiian word that I could find that said it nearly as well.”

“I had listed Laniloa as the street leading to the temple,” he continues. “It seemed like some people objected to Hale La’a (‘holy temple’) as being not reverent enough, that it shouldn’t be used on a street name but, I think, [Edward] Clissold was the one who finally said it would be appropriate. He was the head of Zions Securities, and he was president of the temple, and he was president of the [LDS] stake, so it worked out.

“Over there where Wahinepe’e is,” Swapp recalls, “I submitted the name Kahakai (‘shoreline’ or ‘beach’), but the City &?County said, ‘you can’t name that street. That’s our street.’ So that’s why it’s still Wahinepe’e” (‘hiding’ or ‘secretive woman’).

Map of LaieSwapp says he submitted the name Pu’ukolu for the street now called Moana, including what is now Loala (‘to praise’) Street. “I was so surprised to find the City &?County hadn’t used Moana Street,” he says. “I recommended it as soon as I found out it wasn’t used someplace.”

Swapp also recommended Naniloa (‘extensive beauty’) Loop when his other choice, Pu’uhonua, couldn’t be used; and he came up with the appropriate name Pa’ani (‘to play’) for the small street by old Laie Park, although many people today aren’t sure what the name of the street where Bob and Mavis Coleman live.

Pa’ani, of course, runs into Po’ohaili Street, which is an old Hawaiian name for that area, according to Swapp. “There used to be grass shacks out in the area beyond where Mata Jackson lives, and taro patches out there.”

How about Palekana (‘safe’ or ‘rescued’) Street? “I originally had named that Lohilohi Street,” Swapp says, “but that name was used, so we found something else.”

Swapp says the association board considered using old Laie family names, “but that was eventually ruled out.” And some possible haole names — Kamuela for Samuel Woolley, the mission president and plantation manager; Kaliko for Clissold; or Kamika for Joseph F. Smith. “These were also eventually ruled out,” Swapp says.

Lots of old place names were also considered but not used: Kawaiele, a hill behind BYUH’s General Classroom Building; Palikahaloa, where the water tank is located mauka of BYUH; Nioi, the area mauka of the temple; Kaulia and Pa’akea, near the chicken farm; among others.

Swapp says after all the research and cross-checking, the names were presented to the general membership of Hui Laulima and voted upon. “I’m quite happy about the names,” he says. “I think they’re quite good.”

Swapp says he will eventually donate his well-kept research to the BYU-Hawaii archives. In the meantime, when new housing and streets are developed in Laie, he hopes some of the unused names on his list might eventually find a home.

— Story and photo by Mike Foley

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