BY J ARTHUR RATH III – Coconut Willee observes, “Younger readers like instantaneity so I will cut to the quick: Our pal George Kanahele helped polish Waikiki’s tarnished pride. I’ve seen evidence since coming back.”
He sings and does a little hula motion. He gained early fame in the Good Old Days because tourists liked to see his opu (stomach) wiggle. He does a kind of ama ama (prattling), then sings: “The Times They Are A-Changin’” (that Bob Dylan number dating him and me).
“So have I. The words ‘contemplation’ and ‘contempt’ have the same roots and a well-known Hawaii celebrity once advised me:
“Never interrupt anyone powerful who is on the make—or you might end up make” (sounds like ‘ma-kay’ meaning ‘dead’ in Hawaiian). Go on, I’ll listen.”
“I remember,” Coconut Willee says: “Big shots built a muddy canal, didn’t include pedestrian bridges, and turned Waikiki into an
isolated peninsula. They built hotels. Beaches became kapu—keep out–to locals, because hotels owned the sand!
“Once it was Wet Waikiki–a growing place with farms and healing waters. That’s why Kamehameha I and other royalty had homes there for R&R (rest and relaxation). It was thought of as “Hawaii’s Capital.” Hale Koa complex now is an R&R place for persons with U.S. military service affiliation—a good buy for Mr. or Ms. G.I. and their ohana (family).”
I interrupt: “Let me get back to George, my ninth-grade Kamehameha Schools roommate and a friend for life. He was interested in the “I Love N.Y.” campaign PR-man-me fostered at community levels. Building local pride was the concept—it was “grassroots
marketing,” not “advertising.
“Willee, you see what he helped accomplish in Waikiki.
“His ‘Historic Trail’ idea is has outstanding. Decorative areas with sculptures attract attention. Visitors study the informational markers.
“Good thinking is shown by local-based activities coming back to the healing center and playground of ali’i—these reflect community and joy among locals and visitors. …Concerts, free open-air movies, festivals in Kapiolani Park and beautification efforts all express a sense of unity in community.”
“Yeah, Attah. Although we can’t bring Dr. Kanahele back, I, ahem, have ideas about how things might go forward—to extend his mana (wisdom).”
“We’re short on space, Willee, give highlights to explain later.”
“Right On: I’ll tease with these.
“One: More flower gardens in and around the park. Many people who leave snow in winter crave to see blooms. Seeing early forsythia blossoms in the Northeast is as exciting to some as cherry flowers are in Washington DC and Japan. Take a hike in surroundingneighborhoods and you’ll see how profusely flowers bloom here, needing very little space. I’ll pick up later on how this can be accomplished. We can do more than the manini (meagre) park named for a Queen.
“Two: Is the Natatorium a lost cause that needs to be Kapu—like beaches once where? Or could dolphins live and be seen there?
Could it be an addendum to the aquarium in a sense: kids would love seeing dolphins—if the space is safe. Remember what your
Uncle Bobby Rath did at Sea Life Park?
“Three: Hilo has its ‘Merrie Monarch Festival.’ Why don’t we have an annual (or quarterly) Waikiki Hula Contest. Here’s my scheme to make it different from anything that’s been seen: It’ll be on the Big Outdoor Screen set up there. Singers dance on stage, a projector displays them on the screen for thousands to see close-up what is going on. Using the magic of projection–words in English and Japanese (maybe in Chinese at a later time) can be displayed on part of the screen so the non-Hawaiian speaking audience (almost everyone) can appreciated what is being portrayed. Novel, what do you think?”
“Willee, That would be a way to bring local excitement to Waikiki. Dancers have followings!”
“I know how to do it and can explain how. No more space here, Attah, so,wela ka hao for now! (Meaning, the iron is hot, it’s
time for fun).