Saturday, May 03, 2008

Lost in Paradise - Hawaii 1969 (Chapter Three)

As our flight approached Oahu, the United 747 circled over Pearl Harbor just as a huge explosion billowed above a ship in the bay. Out our windows, we saw fighter planes with the Japanese flags shooting at other ships in the harbor . . .then came more explosions.

No, it wasn't December 7, 1941 and we weren't in a time warp. The Captain of our flight announced to the passengers that the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! was being filmed and it was supposed to be the most authentic World War II film to date. It was a strange introduction to paradise. It was 1969 and the U.S. was in the middle of another war and here we were landing during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

We spent two weeks looking for an apartment we could afford, one without cockroaches the size of a shoe. Both goals were tricky. We couldn't agree on location or cost, but that got squared away. We eventually decided to sub-let an apartment from two nuclear submarine sailors who were shipping out (for the South China Sea) for three months. We originally planned on staying in Hawaii for six months, so we thought we'd have to move when the sailors returned. However, three of us decided to leave the island after only three months (family problems) and our other two roommates talked the sailors out of their lease. Things worked out housing-wise.

Woodrose Apartments
on Amana St., Ala Moana
We lived on the 11th floor

View from our Lanai

My first job was as a waitress at a Chinese diner which lasted about five days. The owners yelled at me in Mandarin, I dropped too many dishes, ran my legs off and the tips were lousy. J. found a job as a cocktail waitress and her tips were excellent, but she had to learn the names of all the alcoholic beverages and how they were made. Plus she had to work in a dark, smokey place at night. She was legal age (20) and I wasn't, so a cocktail-waitress job was not an option for me. N. obtained a job as a secretary at the Hawaiian Tuna Packing Co. and we were guaranteed all the free fish we could eat! Our other J. worked at Dole and brought home tons of pineapple. We seldom bought food.

Finally I found a job at the Bank of Hawaii as a teller, which included teller training school for two weeks at the uptown Honolulu branch. During the training I made some posters which the Vice President in charge of advertising saw and he wanted to hire me for his department. The head of Tellers would not release me from my contract. Thus ended my career in advertising before it ever got off the ground.

When I graduated from training, I was placed in the Waikiki branch--obviously the choice spot--but also one of the busiest branches.

During our off hours, we hung-out at the beach or at the International Market Place in Waikiki--

Makapuu Beach

International Market Place
(Great shops and Macadamia Nut Ice Cream!)

Since we obviously didn't have cars, we walked a lot or took the bus--

One night when bored, we decided to take a bus round-trip just to see more of the island. We were giggling at the back of the bus, annoying the other passengers and the driver. We had no idea where the bus was going and we didn't care. We were in HAWAII. After most of the passengers were gone, the bus turned onto a steep mountain lane. It was very dark (no city lights) and there was only one real passenger left. The old Chinese man pulled the stop cord near a tiny convenience store and stepped out into the night. The bus kept going up the hill on an increasingly narrow, bumpy road. It turned onto a cul de sac, stopped and the driver got out, turning off the lights and locking the doors.
At first, we sat quietly wondering if the ogre driver was going to return. Finally, we started screaming. The door slammed opened and the driver yelled, "I'm just out here smoking, for heaven's sake!" Only he didn't say "For heaven's sake." He then went into a tirade, saying he wasn't going to take us back to town. He was off-duty and we were idiots! By this time, the tears were flowing and they were real. "Please," we pleaded. We added up our loose change. It came to about eleven dollars and some odd cents which we handed to him. "That won't even pay for the gasoline, let alone my time." He could see we were terrified, truly repentent and he was enjoying it immensely. He snorted a hideous, sinister laugh. "Just joking, girls. Hope you learned a lesson!" Back in the driver seat, he turned the bus around and headed back to Honolulu. We arrived at the bus terminal at midnight. Chastened, we crept down the steps and vowed we'd never again take a bus JUST FOR FUN.

  • While waiting for a bus to take us to a movie, the wind was blowing so hard it blew a contact lens from my eye. I only owned one pair. Therefore, all four of us spent a half hour on our hands and knees on a gritty sidewalk searching for my lens. Unbelievably we found it!
  • A nuclear submarine sailor proposed to me via ham operator from aboard the sub when it docked briefly in Guam. Everyone aboard the sub heard the proposal and the refusal, as well as the ham operator in Guam, the ham operator in Honolulu, the telephone operator who called me and half the apartment building because I had to shout so loud to be heard. He'd only known me for two weeks! I was so embarassed.
  • We attended a Tom Jones concert at the Ilikai Hotel. It's true what they say. Women did throw their underware and hotel keys on stage!
  • I tried to buy a pair of shoes, but none of the stores carried my size. (Japanese, Chinese, Polynesian women must have tiny feet.)
  • I got on an elevator at the Bank of Hawaii and I was a head taller than the twelve other passenagers. I was also the only blond and only Caucasian.
  • When I told people I was from Utah, most had never heard of the place. Two Japanese boys thought I said "Yukon" and said, "Oh, Canada!"

On our first night in Hawaii, we witnessed a truly awesome sunset!

  • Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery

  • Diamond Head National Park

  • USS Arizona memorial

  • Polynesian Cultural Center

  • BYU Hawaii

  • Any of the other islands

  • A hula dance, a luau, a roasted pig, poi or anyone playing a ukelele

1 comment:

TravelinOma said...

These are the best stories! I loved the bus driver leaving you locked in the bus.