The second in a series.
By ROBERT L. HURST
Special To The J-H
The waves crashed upon the shores of Oahu in Hawaii recently as approximately 40 Atlantic Coast Bank Primetimers and their guests from Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida watched. …
“Mr. Hurst, it wasn’t the waves that attracted their attention. It was lust! They were remembering that classic ‘kiss scene’ from ‘From Here to Eternity.’ We were standing right above where Deborah Kerr, terribly ‘discobombulated,’ raced onto the shore, dripping wet, to be followed by Burt Lancaster, and … well, the classic kiss then took place. … with the waters rushing over them and that certain gleam in their eyes and … well, it sorta set a standard for the movie industry, I’m told.”
“Thank you, Ethel, for that movie critique. Now, will someone call the emergency unit? Three of our ladies, trying to get a closer look, have fallen off the bluff.”
Of course, the beaches in Hawaii gained a “featured attraction” place, with Waikiki being the centerpiece. Honolulu citizens can truly say that the reason for their city gaining so many tourist dollars centers on Waikiki. It is hard to imagine that, at an earlier time, this area was just marsh and swamp, property with fishponds and homes owned by Hawaiian kings and queens. Walking down the famed beachront Kalakaua Avenue today is meandering in between Sheratons, Hiltons, Gucci’s, Tiffany’s Marriott’s — you get the picture.
“Yeah, even ‘Cheeseburgers in Paradise’ carry a certain glow of wealth to them.”
“Waikiki,” meaning “spouting fresh waters,” strings along the shore from the Ala Wai Canal, a waterway that allowed drainage and building in former wetlands, to the more famous Diamond Head, a leftover crater with an outline skyline that has become an icon.
Diamond Head, described as a “volcanic tuff cone,” gained its name from British sailors in the 19th century. They mistakenly thought they had discovered diamonds, but the calcite crystals could fool any gem novice. The interior and neighboring exterior areas served as Fort Ruger, the first U.S. military base on Hawaii; today, mostly private homes dot the landscape.
“And not too many television seasons ago, ‘Magnum PI’ featured its car chases on Diamond Head’s roads up and down the volcano.”
“You have really done your homework, Ethel.”
“One can never be too prepared.”
Waikiki, boasting many springs and streams that flow from the mountains and valleys, serves as a drainage for the Ko’olau Mountain Range, known for its millions of gallons of rainfall daily. Because of its climate and availability of water, Oahu’s powerful Chief Kakuhihewa had a favorite residence here. By the 15th century, agriculture was underscored with many fishponds established to take care of the growing population. From this period on, Waikiki has been known as a location for productive farmlands.
In 1794, gentle, serene Waikiki became a savage battlefield when Chief Kamehameha led his band of warriors in canoes to face Chief Kalanikapule, whom he defeated at the bloody Battle of Nu’uanu Pali. Chief Kamehameha, then, set up his seat of government at Waikiki until the early 1800s when the capital was moved to the Honolulu Harbor area.
The 1800s found Waikiki “a place of productive agriculture for commoners and a place for relaxation for the royal family,” tell historians, adding this was a time for an “influx of foreigners,” including merchants, missionaries, soldiers and plantation and agricultural workers.
Today, Waikiki is described in full bloom with world-class hotels, visits from world celebrities — and some stay — international dining and entertainment from surfing to good shows. For many of the ACB Primetimers and for me, it was just walking along that sandy beach with Diamond Head in the distance and letting that “comfortable” Pacific Ocean swirl over the toes — Yep, that was a “Visit to Paradise.”