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

75 Years after the Start of World War II

img_4329-1

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.

Standard
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.)

Standard
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.

Standard
Uncategorized

Do You Believe in Miracles? — Yes!

miracleonice

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!

Standard
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!

Standard
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!

Standard
cancer, Leukemia, marathons, running, Writing

Alicia and Patty: Kindred Souls

920x920Patty_0006 (1)

On Sunday June 26, Margie and I ran the Mango Days 5K, held each year at Ala Moana Park, not far from Waikiki Beach.  The run is named after our daughter Patty’s book, Mango Days, which I compiled from her personal journal, poems and letters to her best friend.  Patty (above right) died of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 18, before she was able to finish even one year of college.

Very recently, in an ongoing bid to clean up my office, I was sorting through saved mail when I came across a handwritten letter from Alicia Parlette (above left), then employed by the San Francisco Chronicle.  She had read Mango Days and was deeply touched.

In the letter, Alicia writes that despite a hectic personal schedule, “I had to stop everything and write to you.”

“Patty and I would have been friends, I know it.  First of all she’s the only other person in the world who actually thought about being a copy editor (smiley face sketched in).  Some of her personal entries . . . particularly the ones about writing resemble some of mine from when I was 16, 17, 18.  And I LOVE mangoes!”

She goes on:  “I lied. The thing I wanted to do after I leafed through her book wasn’t to write to you.  I wanted to write her.”

“And I think I will.  I do this with my mom.  I write her letters and leave them on her grave until the cemetery keepers throw them away.  She and Patty had the same disease, you know.  Another connection.”

The letter was written in October 2005.  Seven years earlier, Alicia had herself developed cancer, experiencing pain in the area of her right hip, forcing her to drop out of cross country running.

That’s still another connection.  Patty, too, loved to run, and at age 17 completed the Honolulu Marathon.  Crossing that finish line was perhaps the proudest moment of her life.

Alicia died on April 22, 2012.  During her final days, friends read aloud to her, To Kill A Mocking Bird, her favorite book.  She died twenty minutes after the last chapter was finished.

I wish Patty and Alicia could have met. Who knows? Maybe they are having a good conversation even now!

 

 

Standard