We have wonderful memories of Hawaii.
We first visited O’ahu in 1970. I was a soldier in Vietnam. It was late in an unpopular war. Unlike today, many people did not “respect” soldiers. Some even insulted those who chose not to let someone else go in their place. And there were those who make life hard for their spouses at home.
But it wasn’t that way in Hawaii. We were on R & R, rest and relaxation. It was the first we had seen each other in eight months. I was dressed as a civilian, and our goal was just to enjoy the place and each other.
How could you not enjoy such beautiful islands, beautiful beaches, beautiful hills and water.
But what we really remember was the people. Time after time, shop keepers would ask if we were on R & R. I suppose it was obvious: I had a military haircut and we walked everywhere hand-in-hand, probably about six inches above the ground.
“Don’t you want your discount?” I never asked for a discount. It was always volunteered.
On the last night, we ate in the venerable Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s dining room overlooking Waikiki Beach. I was a soldier; Alie was a secretary. We did not have much money. But we wanted this final meal to be memorable and tried not to look at the prices. After a while, the maître ‘ came by and asked if we were on R & R. I happily thought we would get the discount here too. We finally called for the check. “It has been paid for by the couple across the room,” said the waiter.
In 1990, we went to Kauai for a vacation. We stayed at the Coco Palms Resort, the hotel where parts of the movie South Pacific were filmed.
Again, we enjoyed picnic lunches on volcanic beaches. We bought fresh ripe pineapple, cut it up and ate it, dripping juice down our chins.
We drove into the mountains and gazed down on sharp canyons. We walked to idyllic waterfalls.
The scenery stayed in our memories. But once again, a few people made it a once in a life-time experience.
We were joined on our vacation by old friends Neville and Linda. Neville was dying from stage four lung cancer. Meals had to be on a rigid schedule, not our normal preference. But what made it particularly difficult was Neville was understandably depressed. It is hard to be joyous when someone you like is so unhappy.
When Neville and Linda checked in, they were told The Kingston Trio, a major folk group from our teenage years, would be performing a couple nights later. They bought us the first four tickets.
On the night of the performance, we were early and in the first row. Alie wondered if we could get an autograph for her friend Stephanie back home. I went back to our room to get a pen and paper.
Walking back from the room, I noticed the Trio alone at a bar. I went in and asked for an autograph which was graciously granted. Then I apologized: “tonight you are going to be a quartet. My wife knows all your songs and will sing along.”
About half way through the performance, Bob Shane leaned forward, pointed at Alie and said, “she knows more of the songs than we do!”
As we were at the front of the room, we were the last to leave. Once again, the Trio was in the bar, so the four of us went in to join them. Alie again sang with The Kingston Trio. Nick Reynolds, who with Shane was one of the original group, let Neville play his banjo. We didn’t even know Neville had been a skilled banjo player in Australia.
From that night on, we all were on a high. Neville was no longer depressed. Life was still worth living, even if there wasn’t much time left.
Fortunately, I ran into Reynolds again and was able to tell him what a difference he had made.
The Coco Palms was destroyed by a hurricane and Shane, the only original trio member alive, is now retired. But we have wonderful memories of Hawaii.
Click on photos to enlarge.