Remembering the Memorials

The Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial

The sun won’t be shining. In fact there won’t even be daylight when I arrive at the beach on the Fourth Of July weekend. All the better to get a parking space my dear.

As my son sets up his tents and grill I will sit on the bench contemplating, coffee in one hand and my camera sitting right next to me. I will listen to the lapping of the waves and the quiet all around. Oh! I just love this ritual.

It’s the yearly family picnic and I hope rainbows will not be what we have to look forward to as it drizzles all morning like last year.

I do know that I will take my walk over to the Natatorium and grumble to myself. I will think of all the  soldiers in all the wars that have forgone their future, family, and hopes in sacrifice for our country. There are those who have given their lives for the love of their country, or for money to give them a leg up where no work exist, even for hopes of an education. What ever their reason, their lives counted.

But when I look at the Natatorium I can’t help but think, out of site, out of mind.

I am speaking of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial. It was built in remembrance of the  101 Hawaiian soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War. It is quite a beautiful structure and I love to walk around  and photograph it from different angles. The architectural style is called Hawaiian beaux-arts. (If you would like to see some wonderful examples of that architecture please go to this site.  Hawaiian Beaux Arts  )

Close up of the memorial front

Some of the finer details. Hallway leading to showers

Today the building sits in a sad state of disrepair.  Keep out signs posted on the walls contribute to it’s lonely vigil.  The fallen have been buried, the war is all but forgotten and people have places to go, people to see, and work to find.

But what would those soldiers think if they were to come back today and see just how the people of this generation, who by the way still benefit from that sacrifice, have taken care of the edifice to their memory?

What would they feel about the people who argue that it should just be torn down, or move parts of it to some obscure part of town? It is an ongoing argument as to what to do to raise money to repair parts or all.

The island’s population in the 1920’s was around 300,000. I would guess within the Hawaiian community it might have been around 40,000 or less. But somehow they were able to raise enough money to build this beautiful structure. Though Hawaii has grown by leaps and bounds and the most Millionaires per population live here in the islands, money just can’t be found.

The small amount of people who may be tied by ancestry to this memorial may be the only ones and some history buffs that would actually know the history behind the building. It was sometime before I found out. I must admit I wasn’t even sure which war this was a memorial to. There was no indication that I could see anywhere on the building.

The most blatant eyesore in this whole structure is the Natatorium itself. The attached salt water swimming pool is  where gold medalist Duke Kahanamoku on his birthday,  August 24 1927, dove into the pool and took the first swim. Buster Crabb and Johnny Weissmuller also competed there.

This is what the pool looks like today if you are looking from the gate into the pool itself.

I looked at a couple of other popular memorials to see if it was easier to get backing for them since they encompassed a larger community then then Hawaii’s Natatorium.

Vietnam Memorial

Vietnam Memorial, The Wall, Washington D.C.

Image by ehpien via Flickr


I thought  of all the young men who would gather at Fort DeRussy. They held  on to their wives and lovers so tight as they waited for their transport that would eventually take them back to Vietnam. Their bodies melded into one knowing their was a very good chance they may never return. I could not drive past their without breaking down and crying knowing I was probably looking at someone who might not exist in the next few months.

What a fight was had over their memorial. It was the Vietnam vets themselves who initiated having something built in memory of their fallen comrades.  Funding was slow to come. Constant opposition to the winning architects vision popped up, with constant attacks on every aspect of the design. It was even said that it looked like a urinal. President Ronald Regan did not even attend the dedication!!!

But today the “Wall” as it is known is the most popular memorial in all of the nation. Did you know that it was a young female architectural student who won the competition for her design? (For a very interesting and informative write-up on this please go to The Wall)

Seeing families on bended knee, hand on the name of their lost loved one, the many treasures left at the foot of the granite wall speaks volumes as to how this piece is accepted. In fact versions of this wall travel all around the country it is so popular. Let’s hope that it will always remain in pristine condition.

I don’t believe that the history of that war has really taught anyone about fighting an unpopular campaign but I would hope that it will be taught with passion long after the last vet has died so that the memorial will never be neglected.


The Arizona Memorial

Then there is the Arizona Memorial that I visit now and again. When it was first conceived in the 1950’s more than $500,000.00 would be needed. Congress first authorized the construction of a memorial to the thousands who lost their lives and a ship that would forever trap young men in a watery grave. But it too met with problems. People soon lost interest in donating money after the first $95,000. Again, out of sight out of mind.

It was 1961 when the gauntlet was picked up by none other than Elvis Presley who was in the islands to do a film. He agreed to do a benefit concert to raise money for the memorial. His concert brought the memorial to the public’s eye and it was due to him that concert goers and now the public at large donated enough money to finely build the Arizona Memorial.

The Arizona Memorial

Looking from the Memorial on to the Arizona

As I looked up from inside of the Memorial I thought, Oh no, who has died, as the flag was at half mast. Then I realized not who but how many had died right here where I stood.

Leaving the Arizona behind

So whether it be a memorial that is being lost to the public’s memory and in bad need of repair or those that took years to build because, well, time has passed and the memory fades.  We need to keep these in the public eye. Should the memorial’s be huge pieces of expensive art that future generation may not be able to upkeep or should they be some kind of museum? Who should be responsible for them? How should the public be educated  as to why it exist? Should it be private contributions or a budget set aside? (I’m not sure about that one as we all know what has happened to our social security.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts. My thought is, I would prefer to see no memorials. No wars, no memorials. Or short of that because I know that is just pie in the sky, I would like to see memorial funds set up to be used as designated by each soldier before he even goes to combat. If something happens to him, the a special memorial fund would be set up to benefit whoever he wants to benefit from it.  For example, a scholarship for a family member, a house for his family etc. Yes, it might be big bucks but how much goes into a memorial and, hey, he, she lost  his, her life!

That way it would go to the people who most honor that fallen soldier’s memory. Then let the history books do the rest. As is said time and time again “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

This is the memory I love to recall and in so doing I wish all of you a Happy 4th of July!

Walk a Mile in My Shoes Part 5 of The Waipahu Plantation Village

Somehow when I look at this photo, even though this is a re-creation of a bedroom, I feel a real emptiness. It is not because the room is sparsely furnished. I look at the Religious piece hanging on the wall over the bed, a connection to a past life in Korea.  A woman in a strange land, and more then likely no temple to worship at. What takes it’s place? Who do you listen to when you need words of encouragement, a spiritual uplifting during a very hard and difficult time? Do they confide in their neighbors or their spouses? Do they go to their rooms and try to take solace in the environment so far removed from what they knew? Did the woman after a day in the field covered with red dirt, a back that ached with pain from not being able to stand or stretch without fear of verbal of  physical abuse from the luna as he rode his horse back and forth, take comfort in her meager treasures? The “Man’ getting ten dollars worth of work out of someone who is paid pennies for his or her back breaking labor did not think of the immigrants as people but only a number.

Late in the evening did she sit on her bed and stare at the beautiful dress that symbolized who she once was when she lived in Korea did she look at her hands and feet stained with dirt and weep at the site of her cracked nails? Did she count her blisters?
Or maybe she was one of the women who took the initiative to make or do something that could be supplied to other plantation workers.
 In the above photo you can see the crocks that were used to make Kim Chee. Some type of radish or cabbage grows in the back ground. Making this particular food might have provided her with an extra income if she was able to sell it to the other immigrants not of her nationality.  Maybe if there were bachelors living around her they would have bought some too.
This vegetable dish is eaten with all types of foods much like a relish or chile might be eaten. Here in Hawaii locals have adopted  it as their own. They love to eat it with stew, chile beans, breakfast, lunch and what ever your taste buds will tolerate. A variety of vegetables are used some of which are radishes, bok choy, and other leafy greens. If you are daring here are some recipes you might want to try.
Not being Korean I did not take too quickly to Kim Chee and it does leave your mouth smelling like a dragons breath. But once you’ve acquired a taste for it, it becomes part of your everyday table condiments. Set the stew and rice on the table. Hey, where’s the kim Chee?

Rice Bag Curtains

If she was able to acquire a rice bag when buying rice the bag would have been made into curtains, shorts or shirts or made into anything that cloth could be sewn into. For awhile back in the 1960’s and 1970’s it was a fad to wear shorts made from rice bags as rice was still being sold in their cloth sacks. Now that’s a thing of the past and the bags have become collectors items. Here is a site that sells them with manufactured prints.
Inside The Korean Kitchen
Do you cook ethnic food? Have you ever been to an area where they just don’t carry the right ingredient you need to make a favorite family dish? What did this woman do after a day in the field and coming home to cook? When the immigrants first arrived how did they cook foods from their homelands?

Items that could be found in a Korean Household

Shoes that would have been worn but not out to the field. Maybe the straw shoes were made in the camp to be worn around the house. I did not get information on those things.
We can read history to find out what people experienced, we can look at pictures  and try to put ourselves in their place, but we will never actually know what it was like until we have walked a mile in those shoes.

Visiting the gods at Bishop Museum



Looking at the kids whispering behind fanned out hands or staring up at the whale means I’m loosing them. Sometimes it is hard to get certain groups to listen at all. When this happens I like to scare them a bit.

He helps to keep kids in line

Kalaipahoa Poison God Made With Human Hair

We walk across the first floor passing the cases of gods with dogs teeth jaggedly set in or tall wooden carvings looking down at them with eerie grins and we head to my favorite god of them all. 


Kaneikokala came to the museum with a provenance. The story of the discovery of this god was told to the staff by the son of a man named Wahinenui in the early 1900’s. This man led his family in the middle of the night, down the road to a neighbors house where he ordered them to dig. 

And dig they did, past the water table until they hit something solid. It was Kaneikokala. He was at one time the god of fishing. Wahinenui had never heard of this god until he came to him in his dreams. The god haunted and taunted him nightly begging to be taken out of this cold place. He gave Wahinenui directions in his dream on just how to find him and told him that he would also soon die. 

Many gods had been destroyed in the early 1800’s at the direction of Queen Kaahumanu. Some Hawaiians did not want to destroy their gods so they buried many of them. That may be how Kaneikokala was buried. Wahinenui ordered everyone to pull Kaneikokala out of the hole where he was then taken and washed off and given a lei of coconuts and some kawa in his mouth and some fish laid at his feet.

A few days after the discovery of this god, Wahinenui died in his fishing hut on top of his nets. 

Many years later, in the 1980’s a woman from Japan was looking at Kaneikokala and read of his reputation. She went out and bought a bottle of Sake and placed it at the feet of the god as her husband was a fishermen back in Japan. 

She came back year after year to perform this ritual as each year her husband had good fishing. At some point she stopped coming. Maybe she was too old to travel or her husband no longer fished or who knows. 

Three years ago the Hawaiian Hall underwent renovations. It was decided that the god needed to be moved as they did not want him displayed in that area anymore. 
So the jackhammers, picks and other digging equipment were brought out and they started to work. 

They dug, hammered, and pulled. Kaneikokala was not having any of it. He refused to be moved. Try as the workers might they just could not get him out. So there he stayed. I think, and so does the staff that he knew that was the place for him because as it turned out the gods that were displayed in the cases next to him all had something to do with water. 

The lines on the forehead indicate that this is one of the water gods

Now that the kids have been totally focused on me and are kind of chewing on their fingers or locked arm and arm I take them to the second floor to get the ants out of their pants. It’s all hands on up there and theirs nothing like a little entertainment to level off a little scare. Soon they are all laughs and smiles and they end their day on a very happy note. 

Poi Pounding, matt weaving and general, blow off steam activities.

Hawaii Sugar Plantation Ewa Cemetary

Plantation life in Hawaii or Let’s Take a Reality Check

(I’m taking a break here from my series to add a thought here)

Life was hard for those who came to Hawaii with hopes of making enough money to go back home and help the family. Sugar cane drew many to the islands.

You started for work at 5 AM and back at 4PM. You owed more money to the company store at times then you made. For many there was no medical help and bosses that could beat, kick and prevent you from even standing  up to get the pain out of your back.
If  you were a woman you might also work. That meant you probably rose around 3 am to make breakfast and your lunch to take to the fields for both you and your husband.
Often the women worked the fields with their child tied to their back. Then you would return home after being bent over all day and get the dinner started, do the laundry and any chores that needed to be done before the luna came around and called to all the workers that their lights had to be out. This was around 8PM.
You worked, you slaved, you might have even been hated by your husband who had been disappointed by what you looked like when he finely met you in person after he had applied for you as a picture bride. Mental and physical abuse would be added to your burden.
These people brought their hopes and dreams with them. Many had left behind family but they still honored their ancestor who had passed on and hoped too that they would be remembered when their turn came.
As I passed this field I said to my friend, where is the cemetery where they buried, the old workers who died on the plantation?
“Your looking at it!”
Ewa Sugar Plantation Cemetery
I was incredulous. It couldn’t be true. No markers, no flowers, nobody to mourn. They were gone, the graves covered over with grass, an empty lot. Only one memorial marker stood out. And so I took this photo with a deep sadness.
You would think that with this history we would remember. We would not make this mistake again. We would be indignant if it happened in our life time.
Then I read in the Star Advertiser, the local paper, “Six Isle Farms Sued for Labor Practices! Mistreatment of farm laborers, held captive, handing over their passports so they are unable to leave. And the list goes on. When will we learn? Pay attention. History can and does repeat itself.
If you would like to read about the labor problems going on here in the islands here is the site you can go to (Isles Farms Sued)


Part 4 of The Waipahu Plantation Village

The Portuguese Arrive

It’s Halloween evening. You’ve been scaring people all night and your tired. You take a break to sit on the front porch of this house. It was once the house of a Portuguese family who worked on one of the sugar Plantations.

The Portuguese were the luckier of the plantation workers. They were considered white. On the island of Maderia there was a blight that was destroying the vinyards so many farmers took the opportunity to come to Hawaii. Unlike many of the other nationalities that immigrated to work on the plantations the portuguese were allowed to bring their families with them.

Because they were of the lighter race many of them were chosen to be lunas or foremen. It was not unusual for these lunas to use whips and physical force on the laborers. But this was not true of all. But it gives you an idea of what it was like to work from 6:00 AM to to 4:30 PM.

Upon newly arriving many of the different nationalities lived in crowded and unsanitary conditions. The houses that you see here were not what they would have arrived to. It was over time that the workers were able to improve their surroundings.

Living Room of the Portuguese Home 

Many of the Homes Had Some Type of Religious Shrine in Their Living Rooms

Kitchen in the Portuguese Home

Outside Oven

The portuguese were famous for their breads. And many of them after leaving the plantations started up their own bakeries. Most famous of the breads, we call Portuguese sweet bread or Pao Doce. Here is a wonderful website that has the recipe for the bread if you would like to try.
My kids are part Portuguese and I remember my mother in law saying that they would bake the bread with an egg in the middle. I’ve never seen that. In fact the Portuguese sweet bread you get now days has no comparison with that of the past generations.
Getting back to the front porch. My friend, who was sitting and resting, sees a little girl in a white dress walking along the dark path by herself. She called out to the child. Where is your mother? You shouldn’t be out by yourself. The little girl looked at her and skipped off.
Later that evening when all the scary cast came together and all the visitors to the “Haunted Plantation” had headed home, stories were told. One story was about the portuguese house. ” A child had died in the home” someone had said. The description of the child was given as she was often seen.
My friend said, “I saw that Child.”

Did she?

Anyway if you would like to read more about the Portuguese in Hawaii here is a site you can check out.
And if you would like to find out more about the Halloween Haunted Plantation here is their website.