Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Summer of '75

I can count on one hand the few defining moments I had as a teen.

Spending the summer of 1975 as a very young 16 year old on a Sugar Plantation on the Big Island of Hawaii is one of them.

What vision and thoughtfulness my parents had back then to plunk me on a jet out of Toronto, by myself, only to land in Honolulu and be picked up by "Uncle Jack." Uncle Jack was one of my father's best friends from his days at the U. of T.'s Faculty of Forestry in the early 1950's. My dad had continued with forestry and Jack Hewetson had followed the agriculture stream. After a stint with a rubber plantation in Africa Jack managed Ka'u Sugar Company which was based in Pahala, Hawaii.

We'd rise at 3:30 am, and I remember the rice cooker had been on a timer and we'd make our lunch in the plantation house kitchen. Our lunch consisted of various levels of rice with vegetables. This was no small plantation house. The manager's house in 1975 was quite something to see. We'd be in the cane fields covering sugar cane seed by 5:30 am. Good, hard, honest work. Just the thing for a teen.

We'd finish by 2:30 pm and be at Punalu'u Beach by 3:00 pm usually each day. Not many tourists had discovered Punalu'u back then so the beach was mostly locals. And one Canadian in a speedo.

What I remember most about the two months I spent on the Big Island are the people. The kids I hung around with during the summer. I learned how to listen and understand Pidgin English in
about 2 weeks. I had no idea what the kids were saying for the longest time. My biggest compliment was from one of the other summer students when he said, "Hey, you sound like a local, brau".

But most importantly it was how the local teens socialized.

Back home in small town Ontario, the idea of a good time at 16 years old, at least in my town, was to head over to someone's home, usually when the parents were not in and have a party. Not the case in Hawaii. The teens would all head over to someone's home and a spread of food was laid on and the 10 or 20 kids would talk, listen to music, laugh and eat some of the most amazing food I have ever eaten. This was very different from the way Ontario teens, at least the ones I knew, were conducting themselves.

Well here we are 35 years later and I have my own teens. Just about the same age as I was in 1975. So guess what? I'm not putting my son or daughter on a jet all by themselves, we're going as a family! Yes, that's right, next month we're all heading to the Big Island.

There will be swimming with sea turtles, black and green sand beaches, and of course the Mahalo of the people to look forward to.

Maybe a trip to Hawai'i will be a defining moment in life for my teens.

I know it was for me.


Kelly said...

What a great story! I hope your teens will appreciate seeing what an influence these experiences can be. What a great trip you have planned... Enjoy.

dougpete said...

What a great opportunity, Kent. It's nice that you have such fond memories of your own teen years and the chance to pass it along to your own children. Make sure that you share lots of pictures.

Kent said...

Thanks for chiming in Kelly and Doug. Should be a memorable experience for all. Photos, yes, lots.

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!