Dad in Hawaii

Alfred H. Menard — “The Hawaii Story”Tiki Bar

Dad was very fond of a speech recognition program called Dragon Naturally Speaking.  He had several different versions of it and they were all equally inaccurate.  I found the output of Dad telling this story that it tried to translate.  As best as I can tell, Dad tried to clean the translation up, but it gets worse as you read further.  The original text is at the end of this page.

I think I’ve figured out most of it.  I’ve quoted Dad’s text along with my recollections of … “The Hawaii Story”.

Recruitment

Dad was 21 years old in late 1945 when he returned from North Africa.  In spite of the savings bonds he would never see again, Dad had saved some money and knocked around for six months without too much thought about the future.

When I was in the military I had two occupational specialities, one was as a radio mechanic, and the other was as a navigational aids specialist.  Six months after I was discharged from the service I received a letter from United Airlines stating that they had a job opening for me.  This confused me because I had never applied for a job with United Airlines.  However I contacted them and arranged an appointment for me to talk to their vice president in Chicago.  When I arrived at the airport and entered the United Airlines building I was ushered into the vice president’s office.

Dad told me that when he arrived at the office, the lobby was filled with job applicants, including a high school friend.  They chatted briefly and the friend complained that they’d been waiting hours for an interview.  Just then, the secretary called for Dad.

He (the vice president) greeted me and explained to me that during the war United and other airlines had supplied the government with aircraft and personnel to run a Military Air Transport Command.  Now that the war was over there were still funds in this account that could be earned by United by supplying certain key personnel that the Army wanted them to hire.  I asked them how many people were on the list.  He said in Chicago there is only one on the list.  That was me.  He said the job would involve going to the South Pacific.  I asked him what the nature of the work would be.  He said he did not know it was a Secret project called Hypo “a shot in the arm for the army”.  But perhaps when I arrived at Mills Field in California which was United Airlines headquarters they could tell me.  I accepted the position and left a week later for California.

Dad claims that the vice-president was very pleased, gave him a cigar and walked him personally to the lobby to the amazement of his high school friend.

When I arrived at Mills Field (San Franciso) and reported in to United Airlines headquarters, I asked them what the nature of the work would be.  They said it was a secret, but when I arrived at Hickam field they could probably tell me.  I was given a uniform allowance and ATC insignia to wear.  The insignias consisted of an ATC cap device, a Kittyhawk collar device and a black bar edged in silver rank device.

I left several days later for Honolulu, Hawaii.  When I reported in to the Army Airways Communications System headquarters at Hickam Field, I asked what the nature of the position involved and was told it was a secret.  To keep everything more secure they sent me to Wheeler Field about 40 miles away.  Once I arrived at Wheeler Field nobody there knew what I was supposed to do, and didn’t particularly care because the the Officer Corps for the Army Airways Communications System Squadron were going home in the next few days. Before they left they took me down to the Kapapa Gulch and showed me where the communications equipment was and introduced me to what few people were left and I would be coming in contact with now.

I joined the Officers Club.  I was given a half of villa for living quarters and settled into work.  During the next few weeks several more people dressed up like I was arrived and they assumed that since I was there first I knew what was going on.  So each one of them would ask me what the nature of the job was.  I told them it was a secret.

The work that Dad was doing was very similar to his work during war.  Not counting the Constantine part, of course.  After the war, the US government was quietly continuing atomic bomb testing in the South Pacific.  The Army reservists who had been supporting the initial testing were rotating home.  United’s contract was to continue to provide communications and navigational aids support for the A-bomb tests.  It was all very hush-hush.

There were still many pineapple fields on Oahu in the late ’40s.  It was common to stop by the side of the road to pick, and eat a pineapple.  For the first week or so, Dad ate several pineapples per day.  That got old quickly, and he joined the ranks of the old-timers, who could always tell when someone was new to the island; stopping to pick and eat pineapples.

Spiders

About a month later I was sent to Johnston Island for a couple of days to solve a problem they were having with the radio range.

(Note: Johnston Island is 1000 miles west of Hawaii.  The US military bulldozed it flat during WWII and it was essentially a life support system for aircraft runways.  Later, it was used for nuclear testing.  It’s now at least somewhat radioactive and off-limits to the public.  The radio range site was on a nearby small island, called Sand Island.)

The radio range sends out a radio beam for the pilots to fly along to get from place to place.  The beam from Johnston Island was moving about instead of staying steady.  When I arrived at the radio range site I found that half of the transmitter was not in tune and that the meter in the final stage of the transmitter was not functioning properly.  I looked around the building and did not find a spare meter so I sent a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) informing the pilots that the radio range would be off the air for a short period of time.  I then took the meter out of the other transmitter which was functioning properly, and put it in the transmitter that was malfunctioning.

I then tuned up that transmitter and put it back on the air and sent another NOTAM to inform the pilots that the range was back in service.  I told the airmen at the station that I would order them another meter when I returned to Hawaii. They said they probably had one in their store room.  When I asked where the store room was, they pulled open a trap door and said ‘Down there.’  So I took a flashlight and climbed down a ladder, looked around the shelves and found the meter. I climbed back up to the top and asked the airmen if they knew there were spare parts down there, why didn’t they go down and see if the part they needed was there?  The response was ‘We’re afraid to go down there because there are Black Widow spiders.’

Dad was frosted to start with, because the Army had six guys working at this transmitter site doing the same job he did alone in North Africa.  Most of them were sergeants; he was a Corporal when he was discharged just seven months prior to that.

I then went back to the main island (Johnston), anticipating going back to Hawaii.  They contacted Hickam Field.  Hickam Field said don’t come back, go to Kwajalein for a day or two.  But when I arrived at Kwajalein Atoll, I found out I was going to be there for some time.  They were moving all of the equipment from the surrounding atolls to the main island at Kwajelein and had also fallen out with the big secret that we were doing this because they were about to conduct A-bomb tests in the area and at Bikini atoll.

So, Dad had been on the job for a couple of months now, and finally knew the big secret.

Kwajalein

I didn’t have a spare set of underwear with me so I had to buy more clothing at the ??table?? store because they did not have an Army PX at Kwajalein. I stayed there about nine months helping to build a new transmitter site, antenna field, and receiver site.

At Kwajalein, Dad was directing another group of airman who had only been overseas since the war ended.  Building the antenna field involved erecting tall telephone poles, and then climbing the poles (using the same spikes and belts as your local electric company technician used to) to run the antenna wires.  He had done this often in North Africa.  All of the airman had received the same kind of training that Dad had.  And they were all too scared to climb the poles.  Dad ended up doing all the climbing, disgusted again.  At least there weren’t any spiders.

While on Kwajalein, they also built an Officer’s Club with open air seating shaded by palm fronds.

Kwajalein is located roughly halfway between Hawaii and the Philippines, to the west of the International Date Line (also featured in the Santa Story).  Dad’s passport had a Japanese visa; for years he refused to tell me whether or not he had actually traveled to Japan, since this information was still “classified”.

Back to Hawaii

On New Year’s Eve, 1946, Dad attended a New Year’s Eve Party on Kwajalein.  On the morning of New Year’s Day, he flew back to Hawaii, crossing the International Date Line.  Losing 23 hours on the trip, he arrived in Honolulu in time for another New Year’s Eve Party.

Back at Wheeler field, Dad

“found that all my belongings had been removed from the Villa where I had stayed.  Nobody knew their whereabouts.  Most of the personnel had left Hawaii and had been replaced by a new crew. They had their own leader, a fellow named Askem.  We got along very well, he ran his group and I ran my group.

Dad was living in the BOQ near Wahiawa.  Most mornings, he would eat breakfast with a Japanese dentist at Little Kemu’s.  They would play pinball to decide who would pay; Dad claims to have never lost.  There were three young Asian women who worked at Little Kemu’s.  They would close the restaurant some afternoons to watch the group play baseball.  (I don’t know which is more surprsing, that Dad played pinball or baseball?)

On Saturdays, Dad would often call the nursing college in Honolulu and tell them he was “coming to town”.  The dorm mother had become a friend, and she’d always arrange for a different student-nurse for Dad to take on a date.  He would drive to Honolulu in his $200 car (no car in Hawaii was worth less than $200, the cost of shipping a car from the mainland).  The car had been hand painted black and the roof replaced with a tin sheet.  When he drove, the roof would shudder in the wind.  Imagine Dad’s sound effect for this, “labalabala…”.

He would always take his dates first to the Officer’s Club, since cocktails were a nickel.  After some cheap drinks, they would go to dinner and dancing, although Dad always refused to dance.  One of the student-nurses asked him why he wouldn’t dance.  He replied, “I have a wooden leg”.  She asked if she could touch it.  Dad said only if he could touch hers.

After returning his date to the dorm, Dad would sit up late and drink coffee or whiskey with the dorm mother.  She was ‘much older’, perhaps 27 or 28.  Dad seemed very fond of her, but they were nothing more than friends, or so he claimed.

United Airlines had a block of rooms at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel reserved for flight crews.  If Dad was out late in Honolulu, he was often able to reserve one of the rooms, so he wouldn’t have to drive back to BOQ at Schofield Barracks.  When the rooms were full, he would sleep on a bench on the hotel grounds.  Some were in small cabanas for more privacy.  Hotel Security didn’t seem to mind; it was a different time.

The Royal Hawaiian was Dad’s Honolulu hangout.  He mentioned seeing Alfred Alpaca (think Don Ho) there many times.  When Annie and I visited Honolulu a few years ago, we saw Alfred Alpaca’s memorial statue.

Occasionally, a couple of the men would take dates to swim and picnic at a waterfall in Waimea Valley.  Dad described it as almost hidden and completely unspoiled.  I asked him in later years whether he would like to go back to Hawaii.  He always said ‘no’ and thought that everything would be too touristy and ruin his memory of it, particularly the waterfall.

Over the summer of 1947, Dad and some of his buddies rented a beach house near Waimea.  The plan was to go spend every weekend at the beach, invite a few girls, and have a party.  The first night they were there, word got out.  Before they knew it, the house was full of a hundred or more people.  Some drunken Navy men got into an argument over the ladies and a full fledged brawl broke out.  Dad described it as looking like a bar fight from an old western movie.  He hid behind the bar briefly until one of the drunks came after him.  Dad clocked him on the head with a beer bottle and hauled ass out the back door.  For some reason, the landlord kept their security deposit and asked them not to come back.

Eventually United Airlines ran out of money and the contract was turned over to Pan American Airways who still had funds coming to them from the U.S. government.  Finally after two years the contract was over and we were all processed to return back to the United State.  Pan American did offer me a position to stay in Hawaii at the same salary that was getting but without the per diem, I decided to reject that offer and return to the states.  When I tried to board the airplane to go back to America, the immigration employees told me I could not leave unless I could show them that I paid my my taxes during my sojourn. I explained that I was not a resident of theirs, but a resident of Chicago, Illinois.  And that I paid income taxes to the state of California where my checks came from.

They wouldn’t let him leave Hawaii without a tax receipt.  Dad went to the Iolani Palace which was the headquarters for the territory of Hawaii government and explained everything, but they still wouldn’t let him leave without proof of having paid taxes in Hawaii.  So, he paid a second round of income taxes and left for California.

Dad’s salary was deposited to the Wells Fargo bank in San Francisco.  He liked to talk about the stage coach in the bank lobby.  His expenses were deposited to a bank in Wahiawa.  Dad used his earnings and expense money to pay for college and didn’t close the accounts until years later.

Notes

  • The original converted speech from Dragon:

When I was in the military I had two occupational specialties, one was as a radio mechanic, and the other was as a navigational aids specialist.  Six months after I was discharged from the service I received a letter from United Airlines stating that they had a job opening for me.  This confused me because
I had never applied for a job with United Airlines.  However I contacted them and arranged an appointment for me to talk to their vice president in Chicago. When I arrived at the airport and entered the United Airlines building I was ushered into the vice president’s office.  He greeted me and explained to me that during the war United and other airlines had supplied the government with aircraft and personnel to run a Military Air Transport Command.  Now that the war was over there were still funds in this account that could be earned by United by supplying certain key personnel that the Army wanted them to hire. I asked them how many people were on the list.  He said in Chicago there is only one on the list.  That was me.  He said the job would involve going to the South Pacific.  I asked him what the nature of the work would be.  He said he did not know it was a Secret project called Hypo “a shot in the arm for the army”.  But perhaps when I arrived at Mills Field in California which was United Airlines headquarters they could tell me.  I accepted the position and left a week later for California.  When I arrived at Mills field and reported and in to United Airlines headquarters, I asked them what the nature of the work would be.  They said it was a secret, but when I arrived at Hickam field they could probably tell me.  I was given a uniform allowance and ATC insignia to wear. The insignias consisted of an ATC cap device, a Kittyhawk collar device and a Black bar edged in silver rank device.  I left several days later for Honolulu Hawaii.  When I reported in to the Army Airways Communications System headquarters
at Hickam field, I asked what the nature of the position involved and was told it was a secret.  To keep everything more secure they sent made to Wheeler Field about 40 miles away.  Once I arrived at Wheeler Field nobody there knew what I was supposed to do, and didn’t particulary care.  Because the the Officer core for the Army Airways Communications System Squadron were going home in the next few days. Before they left they took me down to the Kapapa Gulch and showed me where the communications
equipment was and introduced me to what few people were left and I would be coming in contact with now.

I join the offices club.  I was given a half of villa for living quarters And settled into work.  During the next few weeks several more people dressed up like I was arrived and they assume since I was there first I know what was going on so each one of them would ask me what the nature of the job was.  I told them it was  secret.  About a month later I was sent to Johnston Island for a couple of days to solve a problem
they were having with the radio range.  The radio range sends out a radio beam for the pilots to fly along to get from place to place.  The beam from Johnstone Island was moving about instead of staying steady.  When I arrived at the radio range site I follow that half of the transmitter was not in tune, that the meter in the final stage of the transmitter was not functioning properly.  I looked around the building and did
not find a spare meter so I sent a NOTAM(notice to airmen) informing the pilots that the Radio Range would-be off the air for a  short period of time.  I then took the meter out of the other transmitter which was functioning properly, and put it in the transmitter that was malfunctioning.  I then tuned up that transmitter and put it back on the air and sent another NOTAM to inform the pilots that the range was back in service.  I told the airmen at the station that I would order them another meter when I re4turned to Hawaii. They said they probably had one in  their store room.  When I asked where the store room
was, they pull open a trap door and said down there.  So I took a flashlight and climbed down a ladder, looked around the shelves and found the meter. I climbed back up to the top and asked the airmen if they knew there were spare parts down there, why didn’t they go down and see if the part they needed was there?  The response was were afraid to go down there because ther were Black Widow spiders.

I then went back to the indications that and celebrating bike Hawaii.  They contacted them field.  The go Friel said no door comeback or two Quad line.  But I arrived the Kwajalein Atoll I found autos going to be there for sometime there are moving all of the equipment from the surrounding at tolls to the made Island had Quad line buyer also fallen out with the big secret was we were doing this because there are to conduct a, bomb tests in the area and that bikini atoll.  I don’t had a spare shared a couple doors of underwear with made so I had to buy more clothing at the table store is because they did not have a Army DX at what’s on their I stayed there are about nine months helping to build a new transmitter side, and to field, and receiver side. At the end of that time our back to why he period I found that all my bow longing
said been removed from the Villa were I had stayed.  Nobody knew there were about its period most of the personnel and left the Hawaii were drawn and had been replaced by a new crew.  They had their own leader of fellow name ask him.  We got along very well you and his group I ran my group I was only one my group Sawyer along very well with my group.  Eventually United Airlines ran out of money and a contract was turned over to Pan American Airways who still had funds coming to them bomb the U.S.
government.  Finally have to 00 were two years the contract was over and we were all process to return back to the manage dates Pan American did offer may position to stay in why he at the same sour that was getting but without the birdie him via decided to reject that offer and return to the states.  When I tried to bore the airplane to go back to America DX employees told me I could not leave unless I could show them that might take my taxes during my sojourn in a way I’d explained that I was not our resident
of hours a resident of Chicago oil line that are a paid income taxes to the state of California or my checks came from.  They said to me brought up the Reagan on all airplane if you’re got no tax receipt you are hereby a why you’re in why he used by the rider in why he therefore got to do taxes.  I went either to the I allow the Palace which was the headquarters for the territory of why a government and explain all of the above the them and they said to me brought up the Reagan not no claim of us together taxes the side to
show them so I had to pay the taxes before I could leave why a back to the stay California I complain to them that they have a like a then that abating comebacks Hawaii they said that stuff.

  • Dates / locations / details are as best as we can recall and researching on the web.

Dad in Cap

:: © 2013 BackAmp Research {> ::

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One comment on “Dad in Hawaii

  1. Thanks, ED! Enjoyed the parts I knew about and REALLY enjoyed learning about the new stuff. Love, A

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