Plantation Memories

A place for authentic Hawaii antiques

By: Bill Harby

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Antiques such as vintage aloha shirts and
an Aloha Boulevard sign can be found
at Plantation Memories.
When your clients walk through the open doors of Plantation Memories Antiques, in funky little Hilo town on the Big Island of Hawaii, they’ll likely notice two things. Proprietor Billy Perreira, in jeans and a T-shirt, is probably sitting at the table by the window reading the paper. And all around him is a shop brimming with authentic Hawaii memorabilia.

It’s hard to tell which is more intriguing.

“I’ve always wheeled and dealed, and I love antiques,” said Perreira, who was raised on the Big Island. “And I care about what I sell.” That’s clear from looking

around his shop. This is no Hilo Hattie outlet full of shiny tourist trinkets. Instead you find the real deal: cultural, domestic and business artifacts from Hawaii life vintage aloha shirts, a piece of lava rock carved with two sensuous hula girls, a carved wood pineapple cigarette lighter, assorted bottles, a set of plates from Iolani Palace, a whale vertebra, old books like “Geography of the Hawaiian Islands” (1908), a Betty Boop hula girl medallion, even a 1968 poster of the real Hilo Hattie playing her ukulele. Prices range from a few dollars to much more.

Much of Perreira’s collection comes from the sugar plantation era of the early 20th century.

“I like the funky hand-made plantation-era stuff,” he said. “A lot of it was made by the neighborhood carpenter.”

He points out a cabinet with two screen doors, saying it’s a “food safe,” which folks used before refrigerators.

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Billy Perreira, owner, outside his shop in Hilo
As Perreira cleans his glasses on an aloha shirt hanging on the rack, he happily confesses his passion for old business signs. The writing is literally on the walls: Kilauea Hotel, Puna Tavern, Block Warden, Ice Not Fit for Human Consumption.

“Signs find me,” he said.

Maybe so, but Perreira clearly has the touch. Like when he was poking around an old house in the Big Island’s Kohala District. He noticed a step that had a metal frame around it, and he knew what that might mean. He turned the step over and, sure enough, it was a sign in English and Japanese: “Midwife, Misa Yamanaka.”

The house belonged to Yamanaka-san’s grandson, whom she had delivered. Perreira has the sign in his shop now.

“My friend calls me a time traveler,” he said. “I get the feel of a time from these things. It’s like reading a book.”

When he senses that a customer is also a traveler, Perreira loves it.

“I practically give it to them then,” he said.


Plantation Memories
179 Kilauea Ave. Hilo, HI 96720