Everything I need to know about Hawaii I learned from Elvis and Dennis the Menace
I am a child of the 1950's. I was born in 1952. There were only forty eight states in 1952. I entered the first grade in September 1958 at the age of five. I turned six while in first grade. Hawaii became the fiftieth state on August 21, 1959 just two weeks before I entered the second grade. So in 1959 when I was in the second grade the addition of two new states, Alaska and Hawaii, was something exciting. At the age of six I became fascinated with our new fiftieth state. I can remember going home from school all excited and asking my parents when were we going to be able to visit the new fiftieth state of Hawaii. We were a working class family. My father was a heavy equipment operator and drove a tractor and trailer for the Department of Defense. We lived in a rented house in a small town in Maryland. Hawaii was in a different world from us. My sister was just born in 1959. My father, who was taught by his mother to use a sewing machine, made my mother's maternity clothes for her to save money. We weren't poor but we did not have a lot money for extras. Vacation meant driving down the street to Jeff Baldwin's boat dock and talking our little boat out to the "flats" just off the city park in Havre de Grace, Maryland to go swimming on Saturday afternoons. The closest I got to Hawaii was getting my parents to buy me the comic book Dennis In Hawaii - congratulations to our 50th State.
I must have read that comic over one hundred times. Dennis and his family flew on Pan American Airlines to Hawaii. Dennis yells to the taxi driver taking them to the airport "We're going to Honey Lulu". This little boy wanted to go to Honey Lulu also. Dennis got to go to Oahu or "Wahoo" as he called it. He saw a heavy lady in a moo moo and asked his mother if it meant moo moo like in cow. He went to Pearl Harbor, and even though he was too young to understand, he still got teary eyed at Pearl Harbor. Dennis got to taste poi at a luau and thought it tasted like school paste. Dennis even included a glossary of Hawaiian words for me to learn and practice saying.
Two years later, in 1961, the new state of Hawaii was still big news. Hollywood was making movies about the new fiftieth state. Surfing was becoming a new fascination. Movies set on the beaches of Hawaii were very popular with the small town Saturday afternoon matinee kids. And who else, but Elvis Presley, would capitalize on it it best. I still had my Dennis the Menace comic book, but now Elvis now brought Hawaii to life on the big screen. I saw the movie Blue Hawaii at the State Theater in my little home town on a Saturday afternoon. From the moment I saw the opening credits and the view of Diamond Head my fascination with Hawaii grew even stronger. As you can see above those opening credits still make me smile.
Now I just had to go to Hawaii. Elvis was there. He sang on the beach. He surfed. He rebelled against his parents. He got married and sang the beautiful Hawaiian Wedding Song on a canal in Kauai. I learned about luau's and what the words hooki lau meant from Elvis. What I did not learn from Dennis, Elvis taught me.
Hawaii did not become a reality for me for many years. My best friend from high school and I talked about going to Hawaii after we graduated. I started to save some money for the trip. World travel and tourism was still in it's infancy in 1970. So the thought of going to Hawaii was a real fantasy for us at the time. In reality my best friend got married and I used my savings to go to college. Hawaii remained in the world of Dennis the Menace comic books and Elvis Presley movies for me.
I had two other opportunities to go to Hawaii over the years, but both times they did not happen. One of the planned trips was going to allow me to stay at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel where Gidget and her family stayed in the movie Gidget Goes Hawaiian. But Hawaii was still a fantasy for me and would continue beckoning me in the future.
In 2013 I started thinking about Hawaii again. I had long lost my Dennis Goes to Hawaii comic book. However with the technology of Ebay, I found an original copy of the comic book at a price much higher than the original twenty five cents. But I wanted it. When it arrived I was a kid again exploring Hawaii with Dennis and the Mitchell family. The Elvis movie Blue Hawaii had been in my DVD collection for many years. It still fascinated and inspired me, even with it's cheesy dialogue and plot. I was getting older and knew I still wanted to see Hawaii but wanted to go before I was too old to enjoy it. I wanted to go before I needed a cane or walker. So sixty seem liked a good age to finally visit the island paradise.
Little did I realize at the young age of six that fifty four years later I would finally get to visit Hawaii. And I would not need Dennis' glossary of Hawaiian words because I would be going to "Honey Lulu", as Dennis called it, with my husband Mark who is a linguistics master. Same sex marriage had just been legalized in our state of Maryland and we decided to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon. We had not traveled for two years, which was an eternity for us. We had recently bought a new house, but we unable to Mark's previous house, so we were paying two mortgages for over a year until his house was sold. Much like my parents, we did not have a lot of extra cash for traveling at this time. But with the sale of his house and now being married the chance of a Hawaiian honeymoon was becoming a reality.
I was a little nervous about finally going to Hawaii. I had such high expectations and was afraid I would be disappointed. I love to travel, but I hate touristy places where nothing is authentic. I love to meet locals, explore foreign cultures, and learn lots of history. Hawaii was touristy. Some places were not authentic. But there was so much more to see and explore than I had expected. When I returned home with over a thousand photos I was overwhelmed at what I had seen and learned. When my daughter came to visit and to see my photos I broke out the Dennis the Menace comic book and showed her how I had followed Dennis The Menace's adventures and she was amazed that I had been able to recapture Dennis' trip all these years late. . I showed her where Dennis had visited and where I had visited. Everything I had learned from Dennis was still there.
As I slowly labeling and organizing my photos after I returned I often had Elvis's Blue Hawaii on my big screen TV. Along with my guide books, notes I wrote, and Dennis's guides, I also have Elvis's travelogue to be my companion in remembering the details of the vacation. Elvis wore a blue Hawaiian shirt on the movie poster and sound track album cover to Blue Hawaii. Can you guess what color shirt I bought in Hawaii to wear to the luau?
I will close this with words from Dennis the Menace and the Mitchell family on the last page of the comic book.