Every December, I look back on the year and catalog things I learned while writing this feature. There is so much that it usually takes two columns. Here’s part two.
I wrote this year about the “institution on the Windward side” — Pat’s at Punaluu. In digging into the story, I was surprised to learn that founder Pat Hallaran got the idea for his idyllic restaurant while held in a World War II German prison camp.
Hallaran was Irish, the son of a British medic, and was born in Kashmir, India. He fought in World War II and was captured by the Germans in 1942. In captivity, he was often cold, dirty and hungry.
During that time, he fantasized about finding a warm place in some little-known corner of the world. In 1944, he was talking with some other POWs about his dream. One of them suggested Hawaii. He promised himself that if he survived, he’d come to Hawaii and plant his roots so deep that he would forget the horrors of war.
He failed to escape six times, but while on a railroad work party, his seventh attempt was successful. He and several others made it safely to the British 11th Armored Division lines.
After the war, he came to Hawaii, hoping to find an earthly paradise. He met red-haired Iris Cowie of Wellington, New Zealand, who was on an around-the-world trip. She only got as far as Pat Hallaran.
The two fell in love in 1948. They opened the first Pat’s in 1951. They built a 60-unit hotel with a restaurant and bar that could seat 350. Their slogan was “a place to dream awhile.”
The Hallarans wanted to re-create the atmosphere of old Hawaii. “We want a place where islanders and tourists could escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki,” Iris said. “It’s a combination of driftwood and dreams.”
Masu’s Massive Plate Lunch
I was surprised to learn that another notable restaurateur got his start working at Pat’s at Punaluu.
Paul Masuoka, who owned Masu’s Massive Plate Lunch in Liliha, wrote to tell me he worked at Pat’s at Punaluu in the 1960s.
“I was about 18 or 19 years old at the time and going to the KCC cooking school. Pat and Iris Hallaran were looking for a weekend charcoal broiler cook.
“Upon graduating, they asked if I would like to be their full-time chef in charge of the kitchen and offered me a cottage to live in so I didn’t have to commute.
“Pat and Iris were like my adopted parents.” Masuoka recalled. “They knew I was very young and looked after me. They didn’t have children of their own.
Masuoka opened what became Masu’s Massive Plate Lunch in 1974. It closed in 2007.
David of Punaluu
In researching Pat’s at Punaluu, I came across several references to a David of Punaluu, sometimes referred to as the Prince of Punaluu.
David was a one-man Hawaii Visitors Bureau, and precursor to the Polynesian Cultural Center.
David’s story began in 1928, when he decided to buy 2-1/2 acres on the windward side and live a simple, Hawaiian life. He called his home “Nature’s Kingdom.” He probably didn’t anticipate visits from hundreds of tourists, let alone presidents and dignitaries.
He built an acre pond and lived in a grass shack. He built taro lo‘i and made his own poi. He built a canoe, wove nets from twisted coconut fibers and went fishing in the ocean. He cultivated breadfruit and coconut. He raised chickens and pigs.
David’s natural gregariousness attracted passersby who were longing to see something of old Hawaii. They found him wearing only a bright red malo and straw hat.
His real name was David Kaapu-awa-o-Kamehameha, meaning the “awa-cup bearer of Kamehameha The Great.”
A survey of tourists in 1939 showed the things they remembered most about their visit to Hawaii was the “boat day” reception at the dock, the Pali lookout, the volcano, surfing, the people, flowers and trees of Hawaii … and David of Punaluu!
Edward Davis of New York said, “No trip around the island would be complete without pausing at David’s grass hut in Punaluu.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was one such visitor. Davis said that, on parting, David of Punaluu, “sings in a rich baritone voice and unaffected voice, ‘Aloha Oe,’ leaving one with the most pleasurable emotions of the whole trip.”
Laie Beauty Hole
Just north of Punaluu is Laie. John Corboy wrote to me about an inshore spring he remembered there, called the “Beauty Hole.”
“I recall back in the 1940s there was a huge hole in the ground, over 50 feet across,” Corboy said. “It was a beautiful aquamarine swimming hole where fresh water was bubbling up.”
The pool was first noted by the workers that built Kamehameha Highway through the area around 1900. It was right next to the road and about 100 feet from the ocean
All the kids in Laie learned to swim there. It was the only swimming pool in the community until Brigham Young University—Hawaii (then called the Church College of Hawaii) opened in 1955.
It was fairly circular, maybe 75 to 100 feet across. Rocks ran around its perimeter.
One rumor said beautiful mermaids inhabited the area long ago, giving it its name. Another legend says the Hawaii shark god Kamohoalii (Pele’s brother) lived at its bottom. Hawaiian royalty bathed in the pool in ancient times.
Many thought it was bottomless, but later it was estimated to be about 60 feet deep. An underground river from the mountains or channel to the ocean or both mixed fresh and salt water causing the pool to rise and fall with the tides.
The owner of the property felt the pool was dangerous and a liability. It was filled in 1969, taking three months and 9,000 cubic yards of coral to complete.
Workers found two submerged cars and a cave at the bottom with an underground river. Five homes now occupy the site, directly across Kamehameha Highway from Foodland.
Beaver weather vane
Phil Boultinghouse told me there is a beaver weather vane downtown. I worked downtown for 40 years and don’t recall ever seeing it.
He said it is atop the C. Brewer building on Fort and Queen streets. You can see it from the Topa building side of Queen Street.
The beaver belonged to Hudson’s Bay Company. They are North America’s oldest company (1670) and are still in business today. In 1834, the fur-trapping company had a supply store in downtown Honolulu.
Long after they left Hawaii in 1859, the beaver weather vane was found in a storeroom downtown. It’s about three feet long and made of metal.
They also found a painted clay beaver that is now in the James Campbell Company office in Kapolei.
Those are the highlights of 2019 for me. Next week, I’ll be giving out my annual Rearview Mirror Awards. Have a safe holiday season.