Sunday, June 14, 2009


We were not "people who travel." That was what rich people did, and we weren't rich. That we could afford a summer vacation at all most years was pretty good and we considered ourselves lucky. My grandmother saved ,money all her life to achieve her dream, which was to travel to Hawaii. She fell in love with the place. She stayed at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel, which she thereafter referred to as "my darling Princess K." She was able to make the trip two more times, and the last time she went was with my mother and me after my high school graduation.

We never would have gone at all but for two things. First, my godmother had died the year before and left me $500 in her will. That was a huge sum of money in 1959. Ordinarily, it would have gone to pay college expenses, but I was going to enter the convent so my parents decided I should blow it on one huge memorable vacation. It was such a big deal that our next door neighbor threw a going away party for us, and, since these were the days when you could still accompany people to their gate when they flew out of an airport, there was a group that came with us to see us off.

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The lady on the left was our neighbor, my mother is in the middle, and her sister Jean is on the right (I wonder how long that lei lasted on the l-o-n-g flight!)

The three of us flew over to Oahu (my father died in 1987, at age 72, without ever having been in a plane) and took the ship home again. It was one of those wonderful/horrible experiences. We had a wonderful time, but spending two weeks with my grandmother was not pleasant. It was even less pleasant on the trip home, when we discovered that even a luxury liner like the Matson's Lurline was not large enough to get away from her. My mother and I would relieve each other, and one would spend time with Nannie while the other got a chance to have an hour without having to cope with her.

But my memories of Hawaii are mostly very positive. We stayed at the Reef Hotel, which was new then, and the next door neighbor of "My Darling Princess K." We were part of an organized tour and our tour guide was named Vern, a delightful man. The first night we went out on a sailing ship (the Barkentine), sailing along the shoreline.

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(My mother is a year younger than Jeri in this photo!)

I remember that we spent a lot of time touring the Morman Temple on the island and there was always that wonderful fresh pineapple. In fact, my daily breakfast was always banana bread and fresh pineapple (see? more pleasant food memories!)

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We went to the famous Kodak Hula Show and, having been there again in 1997 with some Brasilian friends, I don't think that it had changed at all from 1960! We also attended a broadcast of the very popular weekly radio show, Hawaii Calls, where I just fell in love with the voice of Haunani Kahalewai (in the middle of this photo), "Hawaii's first lady of song." I bought two of her albums after we returned home.

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I don't know if everybody got a script of the show, but I have one, autographed by host Webley Edwards.

Of course we had to go to a luau, where I discovered that I loved raw salmon and hated poi (Walt, who grew up in Hawaii, says he's amazed at how many people have tasted wallpaper paste, since everyone says it tastes like wallpaper paste!)

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There were other trips, around the island, to a pineapple plantation, some great meals and a wonderful dinner we were treated to by the family of one of my teachers, who was Chinese. We went to a Chinese restaurant, but we got to eat upstairs, where the tourists didn't eat. The room was filled with her relatives and I think we were the only people who spoke English, but it was the most fabulous Chinese dinner I'd ever had, until I went to a gourmet dinner with Martin Yan at the conclusion of our Chinese cooking course many years later. The dinner in Hawaii was made even more pleasant by the fact that my grandmother chose not to go with us!

At the end of the time on the island, we boarded our ship, heavily covered in leis.

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The leis were made of plumeria, which is very fragrant and our stateroom was so heavily perfumed that it made me sick to my stomach to be in there, so we let them all go out the window, following the superstition that if they float toward the island you will return. It must have worked, because I've been back a couple of times now!

All things considered, it really was a good trip, though I suspect my mother and I would have had a lot more fun with just the two of us. But traveling with my grandmother was a bonding experience, if nothing else!

About a year after our trip, my grandmother heard from someone -- I don't remember who -- that Vern had undergone a sex change operation, which was very definitely a surprise for us!


Mary Z said...

Great memories! But what I love most is remembering how formal we all were - dresses all the time - probably stockings, too. AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!

Ain't it wonderful that we don't travel like that now!!!!

Bev Sykes said...

We also got real food to eat...and stewardesses (never saw a male in that role) had to be young, thin, pretty.

kathi said...

Your photos and stories take me back to my earliest childhood memories (I was born in Honolulu in 1958). When I was young, traveling to or from Hawaii was a really big deal. I remember the Lurline, and also the Kodak Hula Show which sadly finally closed down for good in 2002. My junior prom (heh, that was forever ago too, 1975!) was at the Princess Kaiulani, but I don't remember a Reef Hotel nearby... possibly changed ownership?

Have a wonderful trip to Paris!

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