Another excerpt from my father’s rambling description of his life and times. John Lind arrived in Hawaii in 1939 and worked in the hotel and restaurant supply business until his retirement at the end of 1998, after more than 60 years in the business.
War, it seems, was good business as the old adage, “an army marches on its stomach“, proved true.
I was assigned a desk on my first day on the job after arriving in Honolulu in May 1939, unpacked all of my prepared notes and instructions, arranged things temporarily, and got ready to study the maps to learn just how far I would be traveling and what roads to use.
King Street was the main street through town and had street car tracks coming and going. Parking was available on most streets and one-way traffic did not exist. Fort Street was the main and busiest street in the downtown area. Livis Bakery and the City Grill were located on the mauka side of King Street off of Bethel. Both were popular establishments. Livi bread was the preferred bread at the time.
With the assistance of Mr. Wong, the store manager, a route schedule was prepared, as it had been clear my major assignment was to make military contacts for more business and I would be spending little time in the office. This arrangement was not what Mr. Wong expected when he asked for assistance, as it couldn’t help make his job harder with more office work being created.
So much was taking place in the islands during this period that it is difficult to put it all together.
My new assignment took me to Fort DeRussy, where five Army companies lined the Kalia Road area, each with their own kitchen and mess halls.
Fort Ruger, located on the back side of Diamond Head, was the other base in town. It had four companies stationed there, each with mess halls, kitchens, and orderly rooms.
On the other end of town there was Tripler General Hospital fronting Fort Shafter, a major facility with a large number of mess halls, offices, and parade grounds as well as officers and NCO clubs.
Hickam Field and Pearl Harbor were major calls and fitted with a Marine Corps company as well as the multitude of offices, cafeterias and clubs found in naval and air corps bases. Between Pearl Harbor and Schofield, there were no other military facilities. THe main road to Schofield was a two lane highway.
Schofield was located in a city town as Wahiawa but Schofield was the main activity there, a group of four quadrangles, each with sixteen Army companies fitted with mess halls, barracks, and orderly rooms.
To properly cover this area, one man could spend a week making required contacts. Each company had their own company fund and made purchases of products that were not government issue. The area was being worked only by one competitive organization at the time and was a lucrative territory. Hurd Polman was the name of the competitor who had a truck fitted with many of the items normally required by the Army mess halls.
I soon learned that cutlery was a popular item as every cook in every kitchen wanted their own set of knives. The cutlery case made up by Russell Harrington Cutlery Company become one of the more popular items I would carry on my weekly calls. I called it my “friendship maker”.
I remember one day shortly after my arrival and before the company had its own delivery truck. I left town one morning with my new Dodge, a cocktail sink tied down on the roof, and a Hobart mixer and slicer under the turtle back.
The day rooms found a specially designed desk for writing letters proved very popular and soon the majority of day rooms had these.
Wheeler Field, located on the town side of Schofield, had several company kitchens but also a fine NCO club. It was operated by a Sgt. Gardino, who was a talented club manager and while other clubs were so-so, he had all kinds of activity going on and an energetic membership resulting in many new items ordered for the membership, including a complete new Cederquest-designed cocktail bar and back bar.
When Sgt. Gardino left the club several years later, he called me to ask if I wanted a lot he had acquired under lease in Kailua. It was a period when real estate was not of much value and leases were hard to move. I felt real privileged that he would have singled me out for such a gift.
I complained about the use of my car for deliveries as I didn’t know what to expect and I could not forget the last time I had asked for overtime in Long Beach before coming to Hawaii. It was agreed I should have a $25 monthly car allowance.
In discussion with Mr. Sullivan, the president of Dohrmann, prior to leaving the mainland for Hawaii, it was also agreed I would be in line for management if an opportunity arose.
When Mr. Wong suffered a heart attack and passed away, I was officially appointed manager of the Honolulu office.
After Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, my birthday, control of the territory was taken over by the military government. Immediately our lives changed. Merchandise in the hotel and restaurant field was frozen and supplies couldn’t be sold except to the military government.
In short order, the Dohrmann Hotel Supply Co. in Honolulu was cleaned out. Authorization had to be received on any transaction specifying controlled material such as stainless steel. Jobs in progress were all frozen except for military work that went full speed.
The PNAB (Contractors Pacific Naval Air Bases, a consortium of companies with contracts to build Pacific bases) was transferred to the Punahou School Campus and all purchasing was done from those quarters.
At Pearl Harbor, the planing department at the naval yard was constantly in search of information and delivery times. A purchasing department was set up at Pearl Harbor and bolstered with talent for many classifications of merchandise. Complete new projects were developed daily, it seemed, and with few in Hawaii knowledgeable about planning commercial kitchens, our facilities here and in San Francisco were swamped with requests.
The Marine Corps Air Station at Kaneohe was in progress at the time and Dohrmann had contracts for all food facilities. The general mess kitchen was a large project. The officers club and bar, as well as the CPO and NPO club kitchen and bars were under construction and required supervision from our office.
A one thousand man mess hall and kitchen was awarded to us for planning and supplying. Bill Kent was the man we had to work with on the project. He proved to be a knowledgeable and pleasant person to work with. In a short time, deliveries were made and equipment installed and one thousand underground workers fed three meals a day at this location.
About the same time, an underground air field at Wheeler was developed and required a cafeteria and kitchen to be planned, supplied, and installed. This was a big project and under super security. While all this was going on, the draft board had me AAA and on the call list. Many of my friends had already been called and were in the service. Because of the service being rendered the government, I had been deferred. As activity continued and the line islands developed, new kitchens were required and equipment was sent to Wake, Palmyra, Johnston, and Eniwetok.
While all this was going on, the facilities at Pearl Harbor, Schofield, Hickam and other local bases were being bolstered. Barbers Point Naval Air Station was developed. The radio station at Lualualei was commissed, rest and recreation facilities were set up throughout Honolulu.
The Armed Services YMCA was developed. Peter Canlis, an employee of a suitcase and shoe supply company whose parents had operated a food establishment in San Francisco, was put in charge of the food facility there. We worked with him on the designing of the kitchen and dining room. That food operation became a popular spot for civilians as well as military. It was super and Peter Canlis became popular as a result.
Following the war, Peter decided he was going to open his own restaurant. We were friends from Junior Chamber of Commerce activity and several nights were spent on my living room floor making layouts of his proposed first Honolulu location, which was a small bungalow across the street from Kuhio Beach.
It was a small place with a few tables and chairs but a huge broiler visible to the guests in the dining room. Candle light was used on the tables and the china, glass and silver ware were the best that could be found. From the first night he opened the place was filled and was identified as the place to go. It wasn’t cheap but it was good, and Peter was always on hand to greet his guests.
Prior to the opening of Canlis Broiler, another restaurant operated in the neighborhood was known as Bruce’s Blackout Cafe that was popular for families. Large dishes of food were placed on the table and enjoyed family style from the serving bowl in the table to the guest’s plate. Sort of an “all you can eat” restaurant.
Across the street on the beach side of Kalakaua was the Waikiki Tavern operated by Rudy Tongg, one of the most popular food operations in Waikiki. Music and entertainment were a big attraction, in addition to the good food and beverages served.
Don Beach (Don the Beachcomber) came on the scene with the idea of developing a marketplace. Don had national recognition before coming to Hawaii for his exotic drinks that had been developed in Tahiti. Don was a dreamer and full of ideas but always anxious to put his ideas to work and he did. He set up his first place in the International Marketplace. Don had a custom pineapple cutter-juicer combination that was set up on the back bar visible to customers and served sliced pineapple and pineapple juice.