Gray Matter


Memories of Two Islands in Hawaii, Some Newer Than Others

Kauai Waterfall - Kauai, HawaiiAlthough I have years of history with the islands of Hawaii, I’m definitely not Hawaiian. I can’t even be considered a “local”. I’m just an average haole from the mainland.

I attended the last few months of my 8th grade school year and a little more than three years of high school on the island of Kauai. The last time I was on that island was in 1977, when I was still 16 years of age, so I can’t remember everything I experienced.

Memories of Kauai, Hawaii

I moved to the island of Kauai when I was 13 years old. My memories up to that point in my life are inconsequential. I remember very little from any of those years.

From February 1974 to October 1977, my parents, my siblings (and a niece and a nephew) and I spent some time on the island of Kauai. My father was a water well driller and his company paid the rent. If I remember correctly, the rent was $350 a month in 1974. I’m sure the same house today would be at least $2000 and yes, it’s still there. I’ve seen it on Google Maps.

My older siblings slowly trickled back to the mainland. Only my parents, three of my siblings, and I remained until we moved as well. The four of us were the only ones still in school when we returned to the mainland. On Kauai, we attended the Kapaa school. I don’t remember if it served all grade levels or not, but my youngest sister was on the elementary side of the school.

There are places some people will never see because they no longer exist. One of them was the cattle ranch behind our house (even though it was off limits). From what I can see with Google Maps, it’s all housing of some kind now. We used to pick pineapples from a nearby abandoned Dole plantation. The cannery across the street from it was slowly converted into other things, one being a grocery store.

The Places I Remember on Kauai

The island isn’t that big. Anyone with a personal vehicle could cover the entire island in a day. I remember the terms “leeward” and “windward” being used instead of east and west when describing one side or the other. Most of the population was situated on the windward, or east, side of the island.

I remember a trip to Hanalei, a trip to the Waimea Canyon State Park, multiple trips to the Wailua River State Park, including “Paradise Pacifica” (which is now Smith’s Tropical Paradise) and swimming at beaches all along the shore. Our most often visited beach was at Lydgate Park. One of my older brothers worked at Paradise Pacifica for a while, and one of my older sisters went on a date there.

Both of my parents worked, so we didn’t have a lot of time to do things as a family, except on weekends. My father liked to go fishing, forcing one or more children to go with him. He rarely caught anything, so I’m pretty sure he just liked going through the motions. I don’t know if he could swim because I never saw him in the water.

There was a place I bought comic books from in the downtown area of Kapaa, which wasn’t very big to begin with. The things I remember distinctly were the Yick Lung rock salt plums I used to buy at the same store. If I wanted to, I could buy them today at some local grocery stores. I don’t want to.

Memories of Oahu, Hawaii

From 1974 to 1977, the only place on Oahu I set foot in was the Honolulu airport. The Lihue airport on Kauai was the connection. The next time I was on Oahu was sometime in 1982. I honestly don’t remember the exact month I arrived or the exact month I left, two years later.

I was stationed at Kaneohe Bay. It was called a Marine Corps Air Station back then, but the name changed to Marine Corps Base Hawaii around 10 years later. Although it was a two-year tour, I spent six months of it deployed aboard a Navy ship. It was during that deployment, and during a port of call in the Philippines, that I met my future wife.

The Places I Remember on Oahu

A year and a half on the island didn’t afford me many opportunities to go places I would find exceptionally memorable. I moved to an off-base apartment for about a year. It was in the nearby city of Kailua. The only club I ever hung out at was within walking distance. It was called the White Rose Lounge back then, but today it’s called Porky’s Sports Pub & Grill, with different ownership.

I obviously remember the base, where I spent most of my time. I was with the aircraft side of the house. My old squadron flew the CH-46 Sea Knights, which were similar to the Army’s CH-47 Chinooks. They now fly the V-22 Ospreys.

A coworker at another squadron once had a hankering for Popeye’s chicken. I rode with him in his Subaru Brat to the store in Waimanalo, a store that no longer exists. Looking at a map, Waimanalo seems far from Kailua. It really isn’t. It’s maybe a 10-minute ride.

Newer Hawaiian Memories

Josie, my wife, and I stayed on Oahu from the end of February 2019 until the end of April 2021. We were living with our younger son, Jon, his wife, Cathy, and our youngest grandson, Ezra. Jon is in the Army. We didn’t get around as much as we would have liked because everything was expensive.

We spent most of our time at Schofield Barracks (commissary and exchange), the Town Center of Mililani (the movie theater and Walmart) and a couple of places in Waipahu. Waipahu seems like the largest concentration of the Filipino population on the island. Of course, we spent more time at the Helemano Military Reservation than anywhere else. It’s where Jon’s family was living.

At the end of April 2019, we moved in with our older son, Joe, and his family. We left them at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida (my daughter-in-law, Diann, is in the Air Force) in February 2019. Now we’re with them again, but this time we’re near Fort Meade, Maryland.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, we don’t know when we’ll be traveling again. We don’t want to remain here any longer than necessary. We want to head back to our house in the Philippines, but we don’t know when that’s going to happen.

Photo Attribution: Mary Whalen at Pixabay

Author: RT Cunningham
Date: July 25, 2021 (UTC)
Categories: Locations

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