Nostalgia, Punahou, Sports

Al Harrington, my JV football teammate — 66 years later

Al Harrington and Moi

The site:  Kincaid’s restaurant, near the waterfront, midway between downtown Honolulu and famed Waikiki Beach and its concentration of resort hotels.

Margie and I were hosting, for dinner, Jonathan Lyau, his wife Kelli, and their two delightful kids, Sierra and Spencer.  Jonathan has been my running coach since 1997 — first in Team in Training, a fundraising program of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Since then, he has provided me personalized training schedules. This dinner was a token way to say thank you.

As the six of us were leaving the restaurant, Jonathan said he had spotted Al Harrington, at the table next to ours.  Al had achieved national fame as a television actor on Hawaii Five-O.  But I remembered Al vividly as a future football star. We were teammates on the junior varsity team at Punahou School.  Still, I  hadn’t recognized him.  So Margie and I went back in and I introduced myself.  He was good enough to say he had been trying, while we were dining,  to recall who I was.  Once I mentioned our playing together on the Punahou JV team, he stood up and greeted me warmly.  That long-ago connection brought us both joy.

His personal history:  A native of Pago Pago, Al lived there for three years before moving to Honolulu to join his mom, who was working as a nurse.

Back to the Punahou School JV football team:  Al was just a freshman, not eligible to play on the varsity, and I was a junior, not good enough to make the varsity but loving to play.

Even then (1950), it was clear that Al Ta’a, as he was then known, was destined for sports stardom.  In fact, he was the first high-school football All-American to come out of Hawaii.  He went on to play, impressively, for Stanford University.

At this restaurant meeting, I went back in time 66 years. The vivid memory was still there.  Waiting to be remembered — and waiting to be shared.

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.

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!

Nostalgia, Reunions, Uncategorized

Sports Illustrated Cover Boys

Kit and Pete after P-Rade

         Kit and Pete after the P-Rade

Despite living about 5,000 miles from Princeton, N.J., Margie and I have attended most of my Princeton University class reunions held every five years.

I’m convinced that no other university in the U.S.A. does reunions quite like Princeton.  For one thing, the setting is comparatively rural and hence inviting.  Harvard and Yale, Princeton’s rivals in the “Big Three” of the Ivy League, are situated in urban settings — Cambridge, Mass., and New Haven, Conn.  It’s just not the same!

At reunions — and I know almost all colleges and universities do likewise — Princeton offers a rich variety of seminars for alums and families to attend.  Two that Margie and I attended this year were on guns and what’s going on with Russia and its neighbors.  Guns — talk about a passion-stirring topic!  The atmosphere was electric in the packed second floor auditorium in Whig Hall.

But perhaps what most distinguishes Princeton Reunions is the P-Rade, held on Sunday.

The P-Rade starts in front of Nassau Hall, the university’s iconic administration building.  The oldest classes lead the way. No surprise, at a 60th reunion, that included my class of 1956.  In fact, a good number of my classmates and their spouses opted for golf carts.

But not Pete Freck and I!  In fact, at most past reunions we have marched with our trombones in the P-Rade, leading the modest-sized Born Again Class of 1956 band.

Alas, this year our leader Bill Stein wasn’t able to rally enough interest to inspire a 2016 Born Again Band.

But . . . Pete and I marched (OK, walked) holding these signs:   Same two guys 60 years later. 

And, wow, did they stir a response from the crowd!  A course marshall was prompted to jump in and lead a traditional “Locomotive yell” for “Kit and Pete,” ending with: “Tiger Tiger Tiger, Sis Sis Sis, Boom Boom Boom Bah!!”

Seldom if ever have I been so moved!