Thursday, July 16, 2009

Letters From Home - Honolulu 1937 - 2008 June 2009

It took two and a half years before I was able to go through my mother's personal things. When I did, I found 9 wonderful letters written back home to Los Angeles from her new life in Honolulu between 1937 to 1945.

In the fall of 1936 she booked passage to Honolulu to marry my father who had struck out ahead of her to check out this 'paradise' his friends had been talking about. How could you not say yes to a man who sent a telegram that read: Take next boat. Get married. Not coming back. Love Larry.

Between booking passage and the date of departure, the Pacific Coast Dock Workers strike - struck. Having sold her warm clothes, packed everything else in a steamer trunk that sat in the middle of the living room of her parents house, quit her job, and celebrated all her going-away parties, she patiently waited for the strike to be settled.

Every Friday she would take the street car to the port of Los Angeles and rebook for the following week. Finally, one Friday, the young man said not to come back and that they would call her when the next ship sailed for the Hawaiian Islands. That lasted for six months!

One day she got a call. "If you can be at the dock at dawn tomorrow, the ship MAY sail, Miss Martin." He said. She did, it did, and the following, in part, is her account of the passage, arrival, seeing my dad, the islands for the first time, her wedding, celebration (boy did they party!), and early life on Oahu in 1937.

Honolulu. 1937

Postmarked March 6, 1937

200 F Dewey Way

Honolulu T. H.

Dear Peg, Dad and Kids,

. . . The morning we docked I was up at 4:30 and I saw the sun rise over the islands. What a thrill and what a sight. You will have to take this trip if it is the last thing you ever do. From 5:00 until 7:00 I stayed up on deck and watched the island come closer and closer. Then at 7:00 we had breakfast. Then at 8:00 the boat stopped for over an hour a few miles out and the Customs and Quarantine officers came on board. A big barge came out to the boat full of people and Larry and Clara’s husband were on it. We were the first big boat to arrive on the island since the strike and we sure did get a big reception! Army planes flew over us in formation all the way. Native boys in outrigger canoes were all around and alongside our boat. Many people had yachts and other boats, and they all came out to meet us so it was a thrill I never will forget! Larry and Harry came on board with arms loaded with leis of all different flowers. I was so glad to see Larry I started to cry. Harry had a moving picture machine and we took movies but didn’t get one snapshot. Then the boat started up again and we came into the harbor. A big band was playing and Hawaiian girls were doing the hula. People were yelling and waving. The sun was shining and it was pouring down rain all at the same time. Can you picture it?

Lots of Larry’s friends were at the dock to meet me and they had more leis and they sure gave me a big reception. He has certainly made some good friends since he has been here. He is very well liked. A whole bunch of us piled into a big car and went over to the City Hall to see some Judge to get permission to get a marriage license without waiting 3 days. They have that 3 day law here too. The Judge gave us the OK right away (for 5 dollars) and then we went to another building and had to wait because a couple of Japanese kids were taking out a license. We finally got waited on and they sure asked us the questions. From there we all went over to Waikiki beach to St. Augustine’s Church, the cutest church you ever saw, and were married. Harry stood up with Larry and Larry’s partner’s wife Casey stood up with me. Father blessed my ring and gave it to Larry to put on me and we were shaking so hard it wouldn’t go on. It is sure a darling ring. As we came out of the church everyone threw rice at us and Harry took some more pictures. Then we all went over to the Waikiki Tavern for breakfast, it is right on the beach near the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. It is a beautiful spot. I arrived at 9:00 and was married at 11:00. After breakfast, or rather brunch, we went to our house and the whole place was filled with people drinking highballs and waiting for us to come home. We sure had a mixed crowd.

Two boy friends of Larry’s who are wrestlers, a fellow who writes the Sporting Column for the Star Bulletin here, a young married couple Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher who have been good to us since I have been here, and an attorney and his wife who is a school teacher their names are Mr. and Mrs. Flint, three or four more fellows, who I have not seen since, and Clarence and Casey, Harry and Clara, and Larry and I. What a mob in our little place. Larry opened up the champagne and we celebrated. Harry and Clara gave us a beautiful big radio. R. and Mrs. Flint gave us the key to their beach house on the other side of the island to use for a honeymoon. The people stayed all afternoon. Then someone went out and got a couple of Hawaiian beach boys with their guitars and they came up and played and sang for us for a long time.

About 7:30 or 8 o’clock the beach boys washed up the glasses and cleaned up the house and we all left. Harry and Clara and Larry and I went out to dinner. We went to some Chinese place and danced and had dinner. More friends of Larry’s were there and kept sending over round after round of drinks to the bride and groom. After dinner we left Harry and Clara and drove around to the Flints beach house on the other side of the island. It was about an hour ride from Waikiki. Larry took a few days off from work and we stayed there for our honeymoon.

This is certainly a paradise and I love every minute of it! The water is bluer and the grass greener and the flowers more beautiful than anywhere on earth. It rains a great deal but it’s a very light rain and no one pays any attention to it. Life over here is very informal. No one locks their doors and when you come home you might find friends in waiting for you. Nothing ever seems to be stolen either.

The day before Larry went back to work we came home and unpacked and for about three hours I showed him presents. He was so thrilled he couldn’t say anything. He sure makes a good husband. He eats everything I put in front of him and then tells me how good it is. I know better. He picks up everything after himself and he is always bringing something home to dress up our house. We spent a whole afternoon in Kress and what a store, it is three times as big as Kress on Broadway.

Our house is adorable, it is not real modern or fancy but a typical beach house. We live in a court about half block off the beach but our living room over looks the ocean. There is nothing in front of our house except a large lawn full of coconut and papaya trees. We are upstairs and the only ones in the court with a view of the ocean in our living room. We eat in our living room and watch the sunset over the water during dinner. What a sight. I have tried to draw a map and give you a mental vision of it but it probably looks funny to you. We have a living room, bedroom, bath room, kitchen, and porch. We do not have a tub but none of the houses have on over here so everyone takes showers. Our living room is furnished with wicker furniture and a punee (day bed to you). Every house over here has one in the living room, full of pillows, and when you go visiting the first thing you do is flop on the punee.

Things are very convenient here. A bakery wagon comes in the court every morning at 8:30 – at 11 the fruit and vegetable man rives in and he also sells eggs. A Japanese boy comes around every morning with fresh flowers, there is an outgoing mail box right at the foot of my stairs, and a Piggly Wiggly store is about 2 blocks away. Everyone trusts everyone else. Anyone will cash a check for you and if you don’t have any money today you can pay tomorrow, even if they never saw you before. A Japanese boy comes every week for my laundry and although he doesn’t know my name or address, and doesn’t speak English, he brings everything back and tells me how much and that is that. The laundry isn’t even marked and I don’t know how in the world they do it. Laundry is quite a bit cheaper here than on the mainland. All the Japanese women are washers and their husbands and sons go out and collect and deliver. They do good work too. Boy I’m sure getting writer’s cramp.

Goodbye everybody – I’ll try to write soon and please write to me. And my name is Mrs. Larry Moss!



Post Script:

My parents lived in Honolulu for 54 years. After my father passed away, my mother moved to the

SF Bay Area to be closer to me - at the age of 84. She died in Mexico at the age of 97.


  1. i loved reading about your folks when they were about the age we were in Hermosa? wonderful blog travel ! sonja

  2. I love this letter!! Your Mom was a great letter writer! It's like reading a book. Fantastic!