Selected Tales from the Waste family travels for Bechtel Corporation

Kahala, Oahu, Hawaii, 1959-1960

 

Bechtel was building an underwater pipeline at Barbers Point near Honolulu so we had to move to Hawaii. In those days, Waikiki Beach had far fewer hotels. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, above, stood almost alone. We lived just on the other side of Diamond Head, close to the beach, in Kahala.

 

 

 Elvis and my Mom

A few years before we moved there, my parents were on the same cruise ship to Hawaii with Elvis Presley. Here are some pictures of Elvis with his arm around my Mom on the ship. There's more to the story but the pictures are the main thing. Update: Scotty Moore, the original guitarist with Elvis, now has these 2 pics plus the rest of the story on his website, with my permission. Check it out here!

 

 

 

 

Hawaii Statehood Ceremony - August 21, 1959

 

"What a scene there was in Hawaii on Statehood Day 1959! Celebration swept through these islands on news of our joining the union of States of the U.S.A. Communities lit bonfires, neighborhoods held impromptu dances, cars blared their horns and people walked the streets with broad grins and greetings, seeing themselves as full-fledged Americans. "

My Dad took my older brother Steve and me (age 5 1/2) to see the 50-star US flag raised for the first time. It was unforgettably historic! If you look closely, you can see the very long ropes that were used, reaching all the way from the ceremonial speakers up to the flagpole at the top. Once the flag was raised the Army fired a 20-gun salute from a battery artillery. At least, that's what I remember but I was only a little kid.

lWe were in this crowd listening to speakers at the statehood ceremony in Honolulu, Hawaii. The 50-star flag was raised for the first time that day.

Here is a related story as published in the NY Times dated Aug. 21, 1959.

 

Kahala, Hawaii

This was our house in Kahala, just a few blocks from the beach. We lived right behind Diamond Head - close to Waikiki but far enough away to be peaceful and quiet. I saw one of the first American satellites going overhead standing on that driveway at night: it may have been Echo 1A.

 

 

 Shawn and my Mom
Backyard in Kahala on Oahu. From the left: My Mom, Shawn, Steve, Jamie, me with a missing front tooth and my Dad.

 

 

 Waste family in Hawaii (click for larger size)

 

Waikiki Beach, 1959-1960

 

We had some of the best weekend outings living in Kahala. We'd just jump in the car and just minutes later, we were on a beautiful Hawaiian beach. I don't know exactly where this picture was taken but you get the idea. I'm the kid on the right holding the dried leave.

 

Christmas in Hawaii

We would sometimes go barefoot in public - even at Christmas time. Definitely a big difference from the icy cold Canadian winter the year before! My brother Steve and I look extremely pleased to see Santa, for some reason.

 

 The REALLY Big Wave of 1960

Ever been evacuated because of tidal waves? Well, we were . . . . twice! There was a tremendously powerful earthquake in Southern Chile during May, 1960. I remember my Mom had to come pick us up at school and get us all to high ground because of a tidal wave warning. After the danger passed we went home but in the middle of the night I recall being woken up because of a message broadcast through our neighborhood saying that a tidal wave was coming. This time our whole family got in the station wagon and headed high into the hills again. We heard on the car radio that the wave did hit Waikiki but only caused some surfboards to be knocked over. But on the Big Island of Hawai'i, the waterfront of the city of Hilo was devastated. The tsunami that hit Hilo on May 23, 1960 was generated from a 9.5 magnitude Chilean earthquake and killed 61 people, destroyed 537 buildings and caused over $23 million dollars damage. I'm amazed to tell you that the 1960 Chile earthquake is now considered to be the largest earthquake ever recorded! Both of my grandfathers lived through the "Great Quake" of San Francisco, 1906 as very young boys. But that one has down been reclassified as "only" a 7.8. So imagine a 9.5!!


Not too long afterwards, my parents took my older brother Steve and me with them vacationing on the Big Island. On that trip we went through Hilo and saw the destruction first-hand. I clearly remember seeing a large sign of the type you would see on the front of a movie theaters completely smashed down, obviously from a force that was pushing down from above. It's all rebuilt now but we had a closeup view of what a tsunami could do. Once was enough, thank you!

 
It's a fact that Hilo has been hit by a major tsunami more than once and will undoubtedly be devastated again. Here is a link to their Pacific Tsunami Museum. The 1960 wave hit all the way around the Pacific Rim, including Australia and Japan but it was much smaller by the time it got there. But that's still very unusual -a Pacific-wide tsunami only occurred three times in the last century. Experts say that of the three, the 1960 wave was definitely the biggest.

 

I think my family enjoyed living in Hawaii more than anywhere else on our Bechtel travels. The wave barely caused a ripple in our lives, so to speak.

 

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