Three of the most important years of my life were spent on a Marine Corps Base in Hawaii. I was 7 when we moved there in 1967.
We lived on the main road into officer’s housing just across the street from the Officer’s Club golf course. Our yard was sometimes littered with stray golf balls if the foursome at the hole closest to us had too much to drink or were just novice golfers.
It was a small 3-bedroom ranch on a corner lot. Outside my bedroom window was a palm tree that would drop coconuts on the roof, sometimes startling me out of a sound sleep.
There was no need for insulation in Hawaii. If you hammered a nail into a wall and then removed it, daylight would stream through the hole. It was military housing and nail holes were pretty much forbidden. They were too much of a bother to fix to pass housing inspection when transfer orders were received. You didn’t just pack up and leave military housing. The house had to be squeaky clean from top to bottom. Many women had a side gig cleaning houses with a guarantee of passing inspection.
There was also no need for air conditioning most of the time. The windows were all thrown open to the island breezes. We had an extended carport with a covered patio – the patio was called a lanai. My mother, and my father too if he were home, would sit on the lanai and watch the children play on the communal playground just beyond our backyard.
I racked up some hours on the swing set and merry-go-round.
If it were too warm, my dad would sometimes take our television to the grassy part of our yard so we would be in the trade winds while watching our favorite shows. I have one fond memory of watching The Johnny Cash show with my dad. I think it was a Saturday night in 1969. I was 9.
We were in lawn chairs with a bowl of popcorn on that warm Hawaiian night. The nighttime stars were close as they only are in the tropics. The cane toads were singing. Oh, how I hated those toads. They were big and stupid and would just let you step on them rather than move. About 6″ long, stepping on one while living a barefoot lifestyle was just grotesque. They were invasive and poisonous to pets, but my daddy was there. I felt safe.
My dad was freshly showered and smelled of English Leather cologne. We’d had steak cooked on the small Hibachi grill for dinner. All was well in my world.
“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”
We watched that show every week. On this particular one, his wife June Carter Cash joined him for their duet, Jackson. Oh, how I giggled when she growled the lyrics. I found a recording of that performance on YouTube. It’s priceless. What a love story they were.
1701 Lawrence was my favorite address until I moved here. And I have had many addresses – 24 at last count.
In 2017, the year after my father’s death, I took my mom back to Hawaii. Our first visit since leaving in 1970. I jumped through all the hoops necessary to get a pass to get on base. I wanted a photograph of the house. We have none. I was even going to knock on the door and see if we could go inside. Chances would have been good – military folk understand that kind of need.
The house was gone. All of them were. They had been replaced by new, more modern ones and the spacious yards were now much smaller. They had garages rather than carports, but the requisite lanais were still there.
I was disappointed to my core. I had a strong need to compare my memory to reality. Maybe it’s for the best, though. My memories there are sweet with a dreamy quality. Perhaps the reality would have been disappointing or jarring. I’ll never know.