In our twenty-eight years on O’ahu, we met many unique people. It was a special time to be there as many changes were coming about and the old ways were fast disappearing. Elsewhere I have written up some of these characters such as the last Kahuna Nui Daddy Bray, the last bone-healer Morna Simeona, a few of the old-time kahuna such as the much feared Sam Lono and several herbal healers, not to forget the famed last dancer of the sacred hula, Iolani Luahini.
In Waikiki there were still full-blooded Hawaiians living or practicing their crafts such as Chief Ka’a’awa who ran the gym at the Reef Hotel on the beach. And then our friend, David Bray who never accepted following in his powerful father’s footsteps to become a kahuna as he was determined to be part of the modern world. He ended up by drowning his regrets in drink.
Then, there was Papa Dave (written about elsewhere) who taught Dennis to play the ukulele and sing Hawaiian songs.. We were fortunate that many of the old beach boys were still around. The very last, Turkey Love, was still there when we left in 1997!
In my Hawaiian language class at UH, the teacher, Naomi Clark, a lovely Hawaiian. In my class were several who helped later bring about the resurgence of Hawaiian culture. They were Dr.Richard Kekuni Blaisdell, as well as one of the famous Lake family who went on to become a foremost kumu hula. Others were at the inception of their careers as lawyers, politicians and activists (like Kekuni) who began to discard their haole names for their birth names.
Then there was Dr. Mitchell of Kamehameha Schools who founded the Hui Imi Na Au’ao O Hawai‘i. Its purpose was to learn about all things Hawaiian. We would take trips to other islands to meet folks like Edith Kanakaole, singer, composer, dancer and chanter. Once we drove north on O’ahu to gather poi from a pond belonging to one of the members’ uncle. After cooking, it was ready to be pounded into poi. We took turns on an ancient poi board, which reminds me of the first time Bob and I visited as tourists in 1964. In Ala Moana Park, Malia Solomon, a famed culture expert, was demonstrating Hawaiian arts and crafts. She had made poi and passed it around and later commented that I was the only tourist who had ever asked for more!
As to the many characters we met, a stand out was Paul Bragg, founder of the health movement, then up in years but still leading a daily two hour morning exercise session on the beach. We became regulars more or less. Then there was the Chaplain of Waikiki, Bob Turnbull, a former film actor, about whom Bob wrote a book. Not to forget “Monday Henry”, a little guy who was a mixture of Japanese, a touch of Hawaiian and several other races thrown in. He appeared at each week’s beginning, in his woven coconut hat, carrying a bag of goodies: a flower lei or two, drinking coconuts, some local food, etc… on the lookout for the first attractive new woman visitor on whom to bestow his gifts of Aloha, with the hope it would lead to a date that evening. (Never mind that he was married. This was his gift of Hawaiian hospitality). Often, under a tree at end of the beach at the Rainbow Tower, a group of musicians would arrive, guitars and ukes in hand, to practice their craft. Usually among them was Blah Pahanui, son of the famous Gabby.
As the years passed, Bob became one of the local characters known as the Bird Man of Waikiki. When he appeared, loaded down with bags of peanuts and seeds, the pigeons and mourning doves would fly to him and sit on his shoulders as he made his way to our Palm Tree #9.
Among the beach regulars with whom we became friendly were Carla and Joli Cansil. Joel Gains from New York, once he married an Indonesian princess, changed his name and persona and announced to all hereafter he was to ne known as Prince Joli Cansil. He and Carla were friendly with an Austrian Baron who, on his death, left them his money. Joli had been a talented game inventor but now had other options. He founded a travel agency and after an initial group tour toSoviet Union, used the travel perks and eventually claimed to have visited over 200 countries!
There were glamour girls that would frequent our corner of the beach. Shalimah, the belly dancer, a native of New York, a very attractive but unhappy woman who found much solace in talking with Bob (who didn’t mind one bit … and neither did I!). The second was teenager Tiare Sanford, whose father was the mayor of Fa’a’a and represented the Tahitians in the Chamber of Deputies in Paris. She was attending the Mormon college. We were very friendly with her. She was a real cutie with her pareau draped low on her swinging hips and her flower-bedecked hat angled just so. She caught the eye of an attractive visitor who made a hit with her each time he visited O’ahu, never telling her he was married. Years later, when she had gone, there he was with his family, acknowledging me sheepishly. Afterwards in 1971, I stopped off in Tahiti after the Subud World Congress in Indonesia and stayed overnight at her lovely home, enjoying Tahiti’s charm. Another glamorous visitor to Palm Tree #9 was the delightful Big Band singer Connie Haines with and about whom Bob wrote a book.
In Honolulu, we were friendly with several Hawaiian wood carvers, artists and entertainers as well as political figures. Not to forget my hula teachers. Then there was the amateur philologist, Albert Karlsbeek and his Tahitian tahuna wife (who believed her people came from the ancient city of Ur). Albert and I would spend much time talking on the phone about languages, their origins and connections.
An outstanding personality was the low-key wealthy Ruth Knutson Hanner who wrote an excellent book on the pre-Hawaiians. She once drove Dennis and me in a jeep across the red dirt roads of the Big Island to view petroglyphs she’d discovered. She showed us a cave with a burial scene identified as Chinese ad a rock carved with petroglyphs that was definitely Egyptian. These indicated that in ancient times mariners had made forced or intentional stops here. Uncertain of her writing skills she had several people edit the book and finally left it in the hands of some expert at the Museum in Salem. It has now been sent back to her family on Kaua’i unfortunately unpublished. And to think if she had given it to Bob, it would have been long published!
A close friend was Nana Reeder Hall, an author, promoter and teller of tales, some undoubtedly “tall”. Another who became a good friend was Larissa Keller, a Russian lady born in China. I last saw her when she visited me in Hua Hin but we keep in contact.
By the time of our leaving in 1997, many changes had taken place, one of the saddest were the replacement of the local beach boys with blonde Californian fellows and the sound of rock blasting from radios. But one remained as the very last, Turkey Love who was still there when we left.
As for all the others, they are long gone but never from my memory or affections.