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Rearview Mirror: Temperature, snow and eating pizza among first impressions of mainland

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                                One reader discovered Chicago had a food item he had never seen in Hilo: pizza.


    One reader discovered Chicago had a food item he had never seen in Hilo: pizza.

                                Before the new airport opened in 1962, passengers flew out of the old Honolulu Airport on Lagoon Drive.


    Before the new airport opened in 1962, passengers flew out of the old Honolulu Airport on Lagoon Drive.

Ronnie Belasco in Sacramento, Calif., suggested a topic for today: “Ask your readers what their first impressions of the mainland were, when they landed.

“Mine was ‘Wow, what the heck?’ to the billboards on the freeway! Hawaii doesn’t have those! Thank goodness!”

I turned the question over to subscribers of my free email newsletter, the Rearview Mirror Insider. Here are a few of their responses.


It was freezing, Jeffrey Young said. “I went to the mainland, San Francisco to be exact, for the first time in 1971. As I stepped out of the airport, it felt like I was walking into a freezer, it was so cold.

“The temperature was 60 degrees!”

Golden Gate Bridge

Wayne Nakamoto said, “In the early 1960s, on my way to Fort Ord via Travis Air Force Base, seeing the Golden Gate Bridge from the air for the first time brought tears to my eyes.”


Kathleen Robertson said, “I’m a local girl, born and raised. In the winter of 1957, I was attending the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and living in the dorm. Because I didn’t go home for Christmas that freshman year, I stayed with my aunt and family in their nearby home.

“One morning, my five cousins came down to the basement where I was sleeping. They had a surprise for me! They put a blindfold over my eyes and walked me upstairs to the living room and stood me in front of a large bay window.

“They took off the blindfold and voila! There was the most beautiful blanket of snow all over the city!

“The lamppost had a crown of probably 6 inches. The street had no tire marks, and when I looked down in the flower garden below the window, the marigolds had little crowns of white, too. I cried.

“Then I ran out the front door in my nightie and bare feet and jumped in the snow on the front lawn and threw all that ‘white stuff’ in the air.

“My mainland family thought I was nuts!

“Those memories of ‘real snow’ will live with me forever.”

No pilikia

Ed Short thought flying to the mainland was easy, even if the flight was delayed. “Heading to college in 1960, I was seen off by friends and family at the wooden airport terminal on Lagoon Drive. No jets then, just propeller planes.

“Everyone flying waited in the lounge and enjoyed their pupu, cocktails and beer. Everyone was happy.

“At the appointed hour for departure, we got on our plane and found our seats. The plane taxied to the end of the runway and revved up its engines.

“If the pilots liked what they heard, they took off. If not, they returned the plane to the terminal, like we did.

“Everyone got out and returned to the lounge. There would be more drinking while the mechanics got after whatever the problem was. When the crew and mechanics were satisfied, everyone filed back on the plane. No pilikia!

“The flight was long, but in those days during the flight, people talked to each other, played ukulele, sang, drank and ate.

“When the plane got to Los Angeles, my destination, what caught my eye was the density of housing (one house after another in long lines almost touching each other, it seemed) and that most of them were clad with stucco, a thin, flexible cement.

“The first opportunity I had, I drove down to Huntington Beach. I wanted to get back into the water. So, on that fateful day, I got out of my car, ran down to the blue Pacific water and dove in. I almost died!

“The ocean water was so unexpectedly cold. I was completely unprepared. I ran right out of the ocean to assess the situation.

“Looking around, I noticed that both swimmers and surfers were wearing wet suits. Wrapped in a towel on the silicon sand beach, I gradually stopped shivering.

“One nice thing about the mainland was my introduction to Mexican street food: tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, enchiladas, and burritos. I was famished after classes, and they became part of my routine there.”

Everything is on sale!

Marian Yee said her first reaction to the mainland was that everything was on sale.

“My relatives in San Francisco hosted me for a summer in their Sunset District home in 1971. Wherever I went shopping in California, I bought anything I liked and never checked the ads or clipped coupons because everything was so much cheaper than Hawaii.”

Static electricity

“In 1967 I was fortunate enough to be a member of the McKinley High School Symphonic Band,” Wayne Shiohira wrote.

“We were the only high school band invited to a collegiate band convention in Las Vegas, in recognition of the talent of the previous band graduates. We had a stopover in California via LAX. The view from the airport was impressive … with the sun rising above the smog.

“When we arrived in Las Vegas, we helped transport our instruments to the band room of our host high school. Never having experienced walking on carpeting in a dry environment, the static electricity took me by surprise.

“When I touched the push bar to open the door, there was a spark and jolt causing me to jump and recoil. I thought the school had electrified the doors as a security measure.

“When the phenomenon was explained to us, there was nervous laughter. But as a brass instrument player, I didn’t find it very amusing to be reminded every time I touched my tuba.

“Lucky we live Hawaii!”

Best moment from 1965

Roger Kobayashi said, “I was a young second lieutenant stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., during my first winter away from Hawaii.

“I had seen fallen snow on Mount Rainier during the previous summer but had never seen falling snow. I had seen falling hail earlier in November.

“I was in the unit orderly room in early December 1965 when the first sergeant yelled out, ‘LT, it’s snowing outside.’ Being a know-it-all lieutenant, I replied, ‘That’s not snow. That’s hail,’ and I ignored him.

“He opened the door and pushed me out. I walked around catching fluffy, falling flakes of snow in my outstretched hands and in my mouth. I must have walked around for at least 10 minutes, returned to the room and confirmed his observations.

“The first sergeant and I shared many laughs over that incident. That’s my best memory from 1965.”


The freeways in Los Angeles were more complicated than anticipated, Gareth Sakakida thought.

“We were traveling on a freeway in the L.A. area when I noticed there were about three other freeways crisscrossing under us.

“I thought we were driving at grade, so do not know if we went up or everyone else went down.”

Pizza Prince

Ken Fujii said, “When I went away to college in Chicago in 1956, one food item captured my heart immediately: pizza! Everyone on the mainland seemed to be familiar with the tomatoey, cheesy, crispy, crusty Italian delicacy except me.

“In the dorm we used to order pizza delivery several times a week late at night as we were studying. Pizza was what kept us going.

“When I came home to Hilo the following summer, I found that Hilo still had no pizza restaurants. My folks had never heard of pizza. So I went to the market and bought a Chef Boyardee Pizza Kit, and that night I made a homemade pizza as a snack for my family. They all loved it.

“Pizza eventually made it to Hilo, but that summer was my season of homemade pizza using store-bought kits. And it was good enough for us. We often used different kinds of toppings, like Polish sausage, pineapple, kim chee, bacon bits and Maui onions.

“I sometimes think that if I had started my own pizza business in Hilo right away, I might today be the Pizza Prince of the island. But that was an opportunity missed and a potential fortune lost.”

Readers: What was your first impression of the mainland, Asia, Europe or Hawaii, if you came here from somewhere else?


The Rearview Mirror Insider is Bob Sigall’s twice-weekly free email newsletter that gives readers behind-the-scenes background, stories that wouldn’t fit in the column, and lots of interesting details. Join and be an Insider at Mahalo!

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