I suspect my dad knew his memory and health were failing well before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and moved to a nursing home at the end of 2008. Over several years prior to that time, he sat at an old electric typewriter and pecked away, recording recollections from his long life.
Here’s another snippet from his long career of 60+ years selling hotel and restaurant equipment and supplies in Hawaii.
Several unusual renovations and completely new restaurant kitchens, dining rooms, and cocktail lounges are worth telling you about.
One was the renovation of the Volcano House kitchen shortly after the start of WWII. It was difficult to get transportation during that period and, on the Big Island, jitneys had to be used. These were private cars that carried four to eight occupants but were used for public transportation.
My usual stop in Hilo was the Hilo Hotel operated by the Lycurgus family. Leo Lycurgus served as the manager at the time with his wife, Nina, assisting in the dining room.
It was a friendly atmosphere and they were good customers. Their rooms were neat and clean and always a small bud vase on the linen clad dining table with sparkling silverware and nice china and glassware. That bud vase with the daily fresh picked flower in it added the perfect touch to the table.
My calls at the Hilo Hospital, County of Hawaii offices and the limited restaurants in the downtown Hilo area were covered in a few hours before heading around the island via the Volcano House.
Uncle George Lycurgus was the head there, assisted by his son, Nick. My calls on the early trips were via the jitney. Uncle George was a very personable man and concerned about his establishment. It was necessary that I find a room for the night and there were no rooms available. After several discussions with Nick and his father concerning their kitchen renovation, the day was coming to an end and I still did not have a room, so Uncle George asked if I would mind sleeping in a closet under the stairway. He gave me a warm blanket and at no charge a place to stay for the night.
A well-planned kitchen was finally delivered about ninety days later. On that trip I had to get to the Kona side of the island and there was no public transportation. Nick told me there was a possibility of working out a ride with the mail man serving the Kona district, who would be showing up soon, providing I didn’t have to be in Kona until early evening as mail had to be delivered en route.
That was a great trip, my first to the Kona area. The mailman, Mr. Lincoln, was related to Abraham Lincoln and his father lived along the Kona coast. We stopped to see his father, who lived in an old home with a giant avocado tree fronting it. I was pleased to have met his dad and left with a big bag of avocados.
A few years later, the whole area was buried in lava. I learned a lot about that side of the Big Island during the mail truck ride to Kailua-Kona.
Our first stop in Kailua and my getting off place was Rose Chong’s Ocean View Restaurant operated by her family, a popular local-type restaurant.
Another interesting experience was meeting the son of local attorney Gardner Anthony. He came to the store and explained he wanted to put a little restaurant and cocktail lounge in Kawaihae on the Big Island. Planning was necessary and required occasional visits to the site. Anthony had his own plane and all of the trips were into the Kamuela airport, not the easiest landing strip as there was cross wind and it was usually pretty stiff. He asked if I had other calls to make and seemed anxious to make a couple of stops. We had work going on at the Coast Guard station at Upolu Point that we visited. Then, after leaving Hawaii we landed at the Kahului airport on Maui and I made a collection call there, then back to Honolulu airport.
I call this one of my memorable sales contacts as it was a real experience. Incidentally, Mr. Anthony ended up with a very nice little restaurant and cocktail lounge, but it was a little ahead of its time for Kawaihae.
Another interesting contact was with Mr. Kimi, who was constructing a new building in Hilo. Mr. Kimi was the contractor and had several workers on the job pouring cement and doing other manual jobs. I learned this was to be the Hukilau Hotel and that two of the workers were Mr. Kimi’s sons, Richard and Billy.
The project was the start of a new local hotel chain that would be operating on most islands. Richard became the key man with the organization and form many years favored us with most of his business. Their hotel kitchens on Hawaii, Maui and Kauai were supplied by our firm. Billy set up his own hotel in Hilo and I was told he bought what he needed from others. We can’t win them all.
Richard later tapered off and turned management of the company over to his son, Allen.
The Hukilau chain of hotels is one of the leading small operations that successfully came through as a result of staying on the job and giving customers a fair deal.