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!

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2 comments on “Remembering the Memorials

  1. ÇAĞATAY says:

    A very significant article, thank you.

    Like

    • Thank you. I love history but it always bothers me when I see memorials that have been neglected because nobody seems to care. Hopefully this memorial will be taken care of. Only time will tell.

      Like

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