GOODBYE CALIFORNIA, HELLO HAWAII
The flight was so inexpensive because it was a charter. In those days, entrepreneurs would often charter a plane then sell the seats and make a profit – much like I did with the delivery of cars between Provo and Pittsburgh. Charter flights were the equivalent of today’s small regional airlines. They were held to lower standards than scheduled airlines and their fares were not regulated as were those of the scheduled carriers. Their equipment was often older and less well maintained and the crews were much less formal with passengers. These things were in evidence when our four-engine propeller aircraft took off from the much smaller (than San Francisco International) Oakland airport and within a short period of time, developed engine trouble. The plane was able to limp into Burbank on the remaining engines but we had an unscheduled layover while a new (probably "different" is a better descriptor than "new") engine replaced the offending one. Of course, as a stupid kid, I had no fear.
During our several hour mechanical layover at Burbank I met three fellow travelers, all young men from New York. Their names were (no kidding) Barry, Harry, and Larry. They were a little older than me – grown men by my perception, probably in their mid-20s but we were company for one another givven our common airport delay issue. We spotted a man in the airport that we thought looked like comedian Jonathan Winters. In those days, Winters was an edgy, up and coming offbeat comic of the day who regularly did the campus tour. His material was so edgy that he had recently spent time in a mental hospital. We dared each other to ask if it was him and finally, I was elected to ask. I approached him and asked, “Excuse me, Sir, my friends want to know if you are Jonathan Winters.”
He removed his hat and studied its inside for several moments then said, “It says Jonathan Winters right here in my hat and I didn’t steal the son-of-a-bitch, so it must be me." He signed autographs for us and did a little shtick, then said, “Well boys, I’d better go now. One slip-up and whoosh, back to the funny farm.” He was the most famous person I’d ever met up to that time and the diversion made our wait for the plane repair worth it.
There weren’t many passengers on the plane and it was a long flight – 8 hours vs. about 4 in a jet. Much of the trip was at night and most of the passengers were asleep. I wandered back to the rear of the plane and began talking to the stewardess, as they were then known. She was very, very friendly and before long we were in an embrace under the blankets in the back rows of the plane while Barry, Harry, adn Larry were sound asleep forward in the aircraft. Ah, those charter flights.
We arrived in Honolulu late at night, shortly before dawn. The young hula girls who I’d imagined would greet the plane, hang a lei on my neck and welcome me with a kiss, must have worked the day shift. We had a big Hawaiian Grandma who greeted us. Oh well. At least the charter flight had been fun. I caught a bus for the 40 mile ride to the campus at Laie.
The next day, or perhaps it was a few days after my arrival I showed up for tennis practice and was given a "CCH Seasider" (Church College of Hawaii) polo shirt with the school logo over the heart. The colors were gold and maroon, much loike those of University of Southern California, and the icon was of King Kameamea and two crossed torches. I was so proud. The coach told me that was our uniform and I was to be at practice that afternoon. After practice the coach pulled me aside and said, “Son, we made what we call a recruiting mistake with you. We will honor your scholarship for one semester but you do not have to bother to come to practice.”
I had the gall to ask, “Can I keep the shirt?” He rolled his eyes, nodded, and left. The semester at CCH was fantastic. I spent many days at the pristine beach which was just across the street from campus, others hitch-hiking into "town" (Honolulu), and ironically, one day in Honolulu ran into a couple of high school classmates who sere stationed at Schofield Barracks in the Army. One of the things I did not do much of was study or attend class. As a result, my grade point average that semester was 1.17 (very slightly above a D). But oh what a time I had!
Shortly before the semester ended I turned 20. That meant I could get a Hawaii drivers license. The woman at the Hawaii DMV was kindly and since I passed the written test, did not require a driving test (since I had hitch-hiked to the DMV I did not have a car). She said, "Since you just turned 20, that will be your birthday present."
My Hawaii drivers licence, which I still have, had no expiration date on it. A few years ago I was doing some consulting that required me to travel to Hawaii every couple of weeks. I rented from Budget and got to know the staff of the rental car airport kiosk. They would often give me the "kamaina" rate, for locals, or rupgrade my car to a convertible. One day I brought my 1963 drivers license and presented it to the employee who I'd gotten to know. She got a big kick out of it, but still required my home state license.
Over the years I have decided that unless you are independently wealthy the best way to enjoy Hawaii is to be young, stupid, and without responsibility. That is how I enjoyed it.