Octogenarian Runners – Hurrah!

edwhitlocktorontoThree cheers for truly senior runners!

My last Boston, darn it!  That was the subject of a previous blog.  And, indeed, I have promised my beloved Margie that, from now on, I will limit my competitive runs to half-marathons or less.

But then, just last week, I read that Canadian Ed Whitlock, 85 years old, three years my senior, not only had run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon but had done it in the amazing time of 3 hours, 56 minutes.  I did my last marathon, in Boston last April, in  6 hours and 8 minutes.  And I was, relatively, a  puppy of 81!

The last time I beat 4 hours was in Los Angeles in 2007 — 3 hours, 58 minutes.  I was then just 72 years old — 13 years younger than Ed Whitlock is now.  Age makes a huge difference!

As Whitlock, a retired mining engineer, told The New York Times:  “I believe people can do far more than they think they can.”  But he adds:  “You have to be idiot enough to try it.”

How does Whitlock train?  He runs laps around a Toronto cemetery (!) for three to three-and-a-half hours at a time.  I can’t imagine the boredom!  I almost always run by myself but I make a point of varying my routes in our Hawaii Kai neighborhood.  And I never go out without a headset affixed to my trusty iPhone radio, listening to news or talk shows on Hawaii Public Radio.  Perhaps Ed finds comfort in quiet — which surely a cemetery has in abundance!  I can understand that.

Perhaps most of all I appreciate Ed’s providing an example that there are some folks out there even nuttier than I am.


A Case of Financial Courage

First, a quick question: Which one of these major national retailers does NOT sell cigarettes? Each of the five has a sizable presence in Hawaii, my home state:
• Wal-Mart • Costco • Safeway • CVS (Longs in Hawaii) • Walgreens
Above:  Today’s best selling brands

Smoking, years ago, held an element of glamour. Think of the old days when Lucky Strike sponsored the Hit Parade on radio (“Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco”). Camel’s slogan was: “I’d walk a mile for a mild, mild Camel.” Chesterfield’s slogan was simply, “They satisfy.”

Remember when smoking was allowed — no restrictions — in movie theaters and even on airplanes?

Yikes, even I smoked for a while — after college, in my two years in the Navy. In fact when I met my wife-to-be Margie at Stanford — I was a grad student and she an undergrad — I smoked a bit.

Meantime, of course, the risks of smoking have been well documented by numerous agencies. The World Health Organization estimates that each year tobacco causes about 6 million deaths — or about 10% of all deaths.

No surprise, today smoking is forbidden not only on airplanes but all modes of public transportation.

I think that many us, while we silently tolerated others’ smoking, really were bothered by it.  Now, though, I have become an anti-smoking hawk! But when I see people smoking today, particularly young people, mostly it saddens me.

OK, back to the question: Which of those big retailers doesn’t sell cigarettes?
Answer: CVS, which operates in Hawaii as Longs Drug Stores. When CVS acquired the Longs chain in 2008, it deemed Longs’ share of market in Hawaii to be so large it didn’t want to confuse customers with a new name.

When it stopped cigarette sales, CVS warned that its total sales could take a $2 billion hit. That’s just a fraction of the $139 billion in annual sales CVS generates. But it’s significant!

I say, good for CVS!

December 7, 1941, marathons, Pearl Harbor attack, running, senior runners, World War II

75 Years after the Start of World War II


Here I stand, 82 years old.  It’s Dec. 7, 2016 — 75 years to the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and other sites on Oahu.  I’m smiling, just happy to be alive and strong enough to still be running.  (Note I’m wearing a finisher’s shirt for the 2014 Honolulu Marathon.)  And I’m standing at Kahala beach on the property where my family lived on that day.

I still have vivid memories of Dec. 7, 1941, when I was 7 years old. My older brother Dick and I were barred from running down to this beach to see what we could see.  I expect we would have seen nothing from this low-lying vantage point, with Diamond Head lying between us and Pearl Harbor.  Later in the day, I remember listening with my mother and Dick to the radio and catching, as best a seven-year-old can, the import and sober nature of the news.  The advice I remember most was to boil water for drinking.

My mom must have been very worried about my dad, but being a stiff-upper-lipped New Englander, born and reared in Connecticut, she didn’t betray it.  When my dad did arrive home — I’m not sure of the hour but it was before our bedtime — he was carrying a pistol that had been issued to him.  That impressed me!

I’m not sure how long we kept observing blackouts during the evening. We taped light-blocking paper over the two windows in an upstairs bedroom and that became our evening gathering place as a family.  I remember my dad reading the Christmas Story to me in that room one evening.  Christmas day, of course, fell just 18 says after Pearl Harbor.

Back to today.  My brother, sadly, died a little over a year ago.  As for technology, the picture above was taken using Margie’s iPhone 6+.  I expect the technologies that exist 75 years from now will include some not even dreamed of today.  May technologies focus on peaceful pursuits and not on weapons of war!

Oh, and about running.  I have promised Margie that I will limit my distances henceforth to half-marathons.  So I won’t get any finishers shirt for the 2016 Honolulu Marathon.   But I’m convinced that far from shortening life, running lengthens it.

December 7, 1941, Nostalgia, Pearl Harbor attack, World War II, Writing

The Day Our World Changed

Book Cover

Dec. 7 is coming up in several weeks and it will mark the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Obviously, it will stir the strongest memories among people who were living in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941 — including me.

As a then 7-year-old boy, I still have vivid memories, of course. They were stirred recently as I came across a yellowed handwritten letter from Vincent J. Repaci, who fought in World War II as an Army enlisted man.  I had written him and he responded.

Vincent was among a group of a dozen or so soldiers bivouacked in a small temporary barracks on our large leasehold property on Kahala Avenue.  A “pillbox,” with machine guns, had been installed on the beach.

As I recall, Vincent had helped my dad cut down an unwanted tree, between our home and the beach, and I had befriended him.  Soon afterward, Vincent was shipped off to fight in the Pacific Islands.

As recorded in a previous blog, I liked to send and receive letters from folks up to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vincent Repaci’s ultimate commander in chief.  So why not Vincent?

Here, much abbreviated, are thoughts he recorded in his letter.  (The letter also had certain sections snipped out, I assume by a censor.)

“I received your letter when I first reached the place where we were going. And we have been fighting ever since. . . . This is the first time I got a chance to write a letter.

“Tom is okay and so is Mac. . . . I hope you are not mad at me for not writing sooner . . . I hope you can read my writing, I am in a hurry.

“Tell Mr. and Mrs. Smith I said hello.”

“I will try to get you some Japanese money to send to you and your brother and mother and dad. . . Tell everybody I said hello.”

        “Your pal, 

                 Vincent J. Repaci.

Statistics show that almost 42,000 Army ground forces died in the Pacific theater in World War II.  We’ve always assumed that was Vincent’s fate.  May, he and all of the others, rest in peace.  They are all heroes.

(About the book cover pictured above:  More than a decade ago, a Punahou School friend, Johnny Bowles, solicited from classmates their recollections of December 7.  The result is a book called “The Day Our World Changed,” published by Ice Cube Press, North Liberty, Iowa.  It has received excellent reviews.)

Daughters, Nostalgia

Ah, reminiscing . . . about youth

IMG_1780I took this photo near our home in Hawaii Kai, using my iPhone (naturally). I’d been out for a four-mile run and took the photo as an act of reminiscing.  All three of our daughters had attended this elementary school. The photo of the girls (below left) was taken during these elementary school years.  When we moved to the islands in 1971, we had  planned to send them to Punahou School immediately. It’s a school that two generations of Smiths before them had attended–my dad, my older brother and I.

But when we purchased a townhouse home in Hawaii Kai in east Oahu, we noted that there was this splendid looking public elementary school practically next door.  My salary at the Honolulu Advertiser, which had hired me as financial editor, was relatively modest and Margie for the time being would be pretty much a full-time mom.  Saving $$$ would be nice.

So Suzanne went to Hahaione Elementary for one year, Patty for three years and Sandy for five.  The photos at the right were taken while the girls were in Punahou. Suzanne is the top, next Patty and Sandy with our dog, Winston.
our-3-girlsScan038 Scan038 (1) Scan039









Back to the sign at the top.  On a recent visit, Sandy said it had not existed at the time she was there.  And the “motto” — Appreciation, Integrity, Respect — was new to her.  Notice that it spells AIR — air for the hawk to fly through, I guess.

Patty, sadly, was to die of lymphoma, before completing her first year of college. That’s another story, told in a previous blog.

Bottom line:  Enjoy the joys of life — to make the memories even sweeter.


Do You Believe in Miracles? — Yes!


Quick quiz: Who uttered these words and under what circumstances:  “Do you believe in miracles? . . . YES!

Hint:  You’re most apt to know if you’re a sports fan.  The answer is at at the bottom . . .

My focus here has nothing to do with sports.  Rather it’s wedding rings — actually a specific wedding ring, the one my beloved Margie put on my ring finger (fourth finger, left hand) 57 years ago, in Altadena, Calif.

OK, here is the miracle.

Margie and I attended my 60th reunion at Princeton this spring.  And somewhere during that wonderful experience my wedding ring came off — I know not how or where. I was certain it was gone for good.  Still, to report my loss, I wrote classmate Arthur Eschenlauer, who along with his wife Janet was co-chair for the reunion.

Word came back:  YES, he wrote — it had been found. He had no idea by whom or where.  It was turned into lost and found.

Talk about miracles!  He mailed the ring back to me via USPS and I don’t know when I’ve been happier to open a package!

OK, about the quote above.  It was uttered exultantly by famed sports broadcaster Al Michaels, who took pride — until that moment — in his ability to remain cool and objective.  The USA hockey team was just seconds away from recording the biggest upset in Olympic hockey history, beating the Soviet Union.51asSar-daL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

“My concentration is as intense as it has ever been in my career,” he writes, in his book YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS UP.

“With 10 seconds to go, the crowd begins to count the seconds in unison. . . The Soviets are pressing in the U.S. end but the puck comes behind the net and gets cleared to center ice with about six seconds left. . . . The game is all but over. . . . A word pops into my head — miraculous.”

A split second later, it gets morphed into a question and answer: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

OK, so only family and friends cared a whit about my lost wedding ring. But being reunited with it was to me a miracle. Yes!

Glass Ceilings, Nostalgia, U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy — and ALL Society — Has Come a Long Way

Lt. JG Kit Smith and Admiral Nora Tyson

Lt. JG Kit Smith and Admiral Nora Tyson

Look at me, a one-time lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Navy, standing upright and proud next to a three-star admiral!

She is Vice Admiral Nora Tyson, Commander of the Pearl Harbor-based. U.S. Third Fleet, who talked recently to my Rotary Club.  She is the first woman to command a naval fleet — hers including not one but FIVE carrier strike groups.

During Adm. Tyson’s talk, one thing that caught my ear was a reference to global warming.  I asked her in the Q&A period if she might elaborate.  She said that if anywhere on the planet should be concerned, it’s the Hawaiian Islands, exposed as we are to rising sea levels.  And yes, she said, strong evidence exists that it’s happening.

Doing some research on U.S. naval history — and women’s role in it — I found the name Lenah S. Higbee. For her achievements in leading the Nursing Corps through the First World War, Chief Nurse Higbee was awarded the Navy Cross, the first living woman to receive that medal.

I remember that the destroyer USS Higbee, named for her, was part of the same four-ship destroyer group as the USS Eversole on which I served.  (I got my commission through an NROTC program in college.)

But I hadn’t known until just now that the Higbee was named for a woman!

Let’s face it, guys, women are extraordinary. And God has blessed my life with my beloved (and wise) wife Margie and three wonderful daughters — each special in her own way.

Thank you, Admiral Nora Tyson, for inspiring me this day!