I'd forgotton I have not yet transcribed an article published in the
S-B on Christmas Day, 1954, entitled "Don Blanding Recalls --
Christmas 1916, His First Holiday in Hawaii."
A brief excerpt:
Memories start in 1916. I was on my way for a visit home in Oklahoma
before returning for another year of study at the Art Institute of
Chicago with money earned in the harvest fields around Moose Jaw,
Between trains in Kansas City, Missouri, I saw the stage show Bird of
Paradise starting Lenore Ulric with real Hawaiian singers and
dancers. Lenore pitched some fast curves which I caught . . . right
in my imagination which seethed like Kilauea in the act where
beautiful Luana barbecued herself in the lava pit of love.
I asked the ticket seller at the station, "Where's Honolulu and how
do I get there?"
"It's five days and $90, second cabin," he said. (How did he know
the size of my funds?) "The Great Northern is making a trip which
will get you there on December 22. Want it?"
Want it? It was the one thing that I had to have . . . at the time.
I wasn't much use to my folks during my brief visit. I was already
on my way to Hawaii except for moving the body.
The memories are coming fast and clear. The Great Northern put in at
Hilo before Honolulu on that trip.
I shall never forget the impact of the great green-blue cabachon of
mauna Loa against the raw turquoise sky of Hawaii. Unbelievable
blends of melted emeralds, sapphires and lapis lazuli were in the
waters. The coco palms on the shore waved with the luring grace of a
hula dancer's arms. Rich colors and fragrances were wafting
shipward, a potpourri of jungle, sea-weed, lava, cane and mixed lei-
I didn't go ashore. The shore-trip cost money and I was saving my
limited funds for down payment on a little grass house in Honolulu.
Anyhow, I was getting about as much voltage as my wires could carry.
I had known the vast empty horizontals of the Western prairies, the
stark savage verticals of the Rocky Mountains and the fantasy and
strangeness of Yellowstone Park. But I had no preparation for the
lush, lavish beauty and the new dimensions of Hawaii. I stared until
my eyes must have gone out like telescopes from my face. Remember, I
was just 21 and a young 21 at that."
Blanding goes on:
Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve came on Sunday that year, so the
whoopee and hurraws were turned loose Saturday night. Quotes [from
the Advertiser or Star-Bulletin]: "Honolulu had Saturday night
preview of Sunday Night Christmas Eve. Because Saturday night would
be the last shopping night, Honolulu's stores were jammed. The
narrow sidewalks were crowded with last-minute shoppers and merry
With my conditioning of northern Christmases with holly, mistletoe,
snow, headcolds, long underwear, mufflers and sniffles, I kept
saying, as I wandered through that happy, good-natured throng, "This
is Mardi Gras. This isn't Christmas."
Two quibbles about this 1954 article. In 1916 DB was 22, not 21, and
Lenore Ulric did not appear in Bird of Paradise in Kansas City. (The
production had a different star that year.) At the very beginning of
the article, DB responds to his editor's question -- "When was your
first Christmas in Hawaii?" -- by saying, "In 1915 or 1916, I don't
remember which year."
In many other 1950s articles, DB accurately reflects on his age and
the passing years. I cannot quite fathom DB forgetting exactly when
he arrived in Hawaii!