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A hick in paradise


Mary Jane Owen

  In this saga, I am the “hick”, which by definition means “that one is unsophisticated and provincial.” Paradise, in this case, was the island of Oahu, Hawaii, just as it was becoming the 50th state in the Union in 1959.

  Married less than one month, my husband and I left McDonough headed for Oakland, California where we would depart for Honolulu. There my husband would begin his requisite two-year tour of military duty. Based on the information that had been provided, I was to fly solo to Honolulu and hubby would arrive shortly thereafter. I had a phone number for a contact who would pick me up at the airport and transport me to Waikiki Beach (Fort Shafter) to await my groom. According to plans, we would be staying in that facility until we could make living arrangements. Sounded really good, in fact, fool that I was, it sounded soooo romantic.

  Understand that I had NEVER flown before and by my understanding of protocol at the time, I prepared for the flight decked out in my “going away” outfit: a silk suit, green felt hat, three inch heels and gloves. Folks stared! No other passenger was so attired, but I dismissed that as folks not “knowing any better.”

  But the saga was just beginning. I arrived at the airport in Honolulu, which for all the world reminded me of Shingleroof Campground. I stood out like a sore thumb in my getup. My troubles were just getting started. The contact number that I had been given was incorrect. I sought assistance from airport personnel, but they only laughed at my accent. After many hours of anxiously sitting, I began to think about taking the cash that I had and high-tailing it back to Georgia to my Daddy.

  It took intervention from three nice young Marines, who just happened to speak my kind of English, to finally locate the appropriate military facility. After a wait of several more hours, a young couple attached to my husband’s unit arrived and whisked me off to their north Oahu beach shack, informing me that the Waikiki plans were not approved. They were not too cordial, so communication was a bit strained. As we prepared for bed, the husband indicated that he would be sleeping on the porch. He said something else, which I did not comprehend in his Vermont accent, but learned later he was trying to tell me that he slept in the nude, hence I needed to be circumspect if I needed to get up in the night. Fortunately my kidneys did not fail me.

  It was my great fortune that by the next afternoon I had found a little apartment, messy but private, and mine. I cleaned for hours, scrubbing, scouring and sobbing. I was disabused of any- thing remotely romantic. Two days later, my husband showed up and with little ceremony announced, “This place will not do.” I could have killed him on the spot, but by this time I was just glad to see a familiar face. We found our own “shack” on the beach.

  Settling in, I began to attend the monthly wives “to-dos.” I was aghast when I realized that many of the women were well “in their cups” by lunch. I knew nothing about social drinking and stupidly, at the first of these outings, I ordered the only alcoholic beverage I had ever heard of, a Tom Collins. I made a passing attempt to drink the thing, but realized that I was headed for trouble. I think I recall hearing some sniggling, so I found a place to dispose of the thing.

  For one of these really special monthly outings at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, I dressed carefully but neglected to remove some metal clips from my hair. As I greeted the “Colonel’s Lady,” I was given the evil eye like you’d not believe. Finally, a kind soul told me of my latest faux pas, and I quickly headed for the ladies lounge.

  I did accomplish some things. For example, when shopping at the local Haliewa grocery stores, I finally mastered passing the fresh squid and octopus without gagging. I took great joy in the beautiful sunsets, the whales running offshore in early January, the exotic plants that grew profusely everywhere you turned, fried shrimp the size of your fist, fresh pineapple and coconut. And just to make up for all my naïveté, Kilauea erupted while we were there, a spectacular site.

  It turned out that it was not all that bad. Being a hick, that is.


  Mary Jane Owen is a veteran educator. She has two children, one grandson and is a member of the McDonough Presbyterian church. She’s an avid Braves fan, reads, writes and gardens.




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