By Wayman L. McElhaney
Midway Island, 1951 – 1952
Wayman worked at the Midway Dry-cleaning Plant – PO2
Wayman loved living on Midway, in his little cabin near the sea
2/6/1927 – 9/4/2013 – RIP Wayman
Shortly after the Korean War began, most all of us War Two people who
stayed in the reserves got called back into service. At Treasure Island, I learned that my duty station was to be Midway Island. Mentioning this to others in the transit barracks got some big laughs and condolences from a few fellows who had been there at one time or another. I particularly remember someone doing an imitation of a gooney with all the actions and sounds. I thought he was a little nuts, but as it turned out he was really pretty good.
Hawaii is inexorably tied to Midway Island since no one has ever gotten there without going through Hawaii first. Therefore, I’ll toss in a few of my memories starting with my arrival in Hawaii.
As our ship was being secured to the pier in Honolulu harbor, about four or five coin-divers swam along side. Apparently it was a very old custom. We would toss coins into the water and they would capture them under water in their mouths before they sank very far, then surface, secure the money in little bags on their belts, and ask for more. It was fascinating to watch but one could go broke doing so. (Oh, yes. They didn’t bother with pennies).
After proper docking, we were greeted by number of Hawaiian dancing girls in sarongs and leis. They made us feel welcome. Genuine Hawaiian hospitality. The music was good, too.
From there we went to the transit barracks at Pearl Harbor, but because we were transients much of the base was off limits to us. Nevertheless, we did have some opportunities to look around a little. I was impressed with the sub pens and the three subs that were in dry dock. Couldn’t believe how small they were. One could stand on the bow and toss a quarter off the stern. But, Man! Were they effective in War Two.
From there we went to Barbers Point, NAS. While waiting for processing on to Midway, we had some good liberties into Honolulu. I was quite surprised at how small the town was. It was also very colonial with wooden buildings being the predominant structures. Got to see Louis Armstrong there one night. Great performance. He went through a hand-full of handkerchiefs easily because when he laid down on that trumpet, the sweat just rolled.
Needing a haircut, I tried to find a good barber shop in the downtown area. There were lots of them, but all the barbers were women. I’d never seen women barbers before (remember, I’m from rural Oklahoma) so it was awhile before I finally went in for the haircut. Those gals were not only beautiful, but they were excellent barbers, too. (Today, my barber/stylist is a lady and one of the best).
I soon learned that the “Hawaiian Shirt” was strictly for tourists and those just passing through. No self respecting Native Hawaiian would wear one. They all wore white dress shirts. Sometimes with ties, sometimes without, but always the white shirt and very nice slacks. No fancy, brightly patterned shorts either. Those, too, were just for the tourists.
The tallest building in Honolulu was the Aloha Building from which the Harbor Master controlled the ships into and out of the harbor. I climbed all the way to the top only to be chased out before getting any pictures.
There were three hotels in Honolulu and they were fairly closed together. The Royal Hawaiian, the Moana, and the Surf Rider. From there clear on out to Diamond Head there was nothing but shore line with quite a number of large coconut palms along the way. A few private little wooden hut-type homes were scattered here and there along the way, but they sat quite some distance back from the shore so that the shore itself seemed totally undisturbed and natural form the hotels to Diamond Head.
There was a very famous open-air fish marked in “Old Honolulu” that must have been as old as the city itself. I wanted to visit the place just to say I’d been there, but was never able to get closer than a block away because of the stench. I got deathly sick every time I tried. Still, it was a very popular with the locals.
The Dole Pineapple company’s famous pineapple-shaped water tower stood out front and a little over to one side of the main company buildings which were rather small at that time. It was interesting to see, but was a definite flight hazard as it sat squarely in the flight path of aircraft taking off from Hickam Air Force Base not too far away. One of my pilot friends was taking off from Hickam one dark, foggy night in a B-29 loaded with fuel and bombs when he glanced out his left window in time to see that pineapple pass his left wing by about ten feet, and about ten feet higher. Yes, Virginia. There is a God.
….to be continued.
Midway Island, 1951-1952