Eight letters, almost all of which were written by Jennie while on vacation in Honolulu, Hawaii. Jennie wrote one letter to her children, while the rest are addressed to Nellie. One of the letters was written in 1938 in Berkeley, California, which I believe was Jennie’s home. The letters from Hawaii are all written on blue stationery from Niumalu Hotel in Honolulu.
Letter from Jennie to Children (Jan. 23, 1939)
I wrote my last round-robin just after Christmas, so I guess it is about time I started another, so that you may know what we are doing though of course we haven’t been doing things as we were the first week of our arrival.
Right after Christmas everybody here began to talk of celebrating New Years, but we hadn’t sat up to welcome in a New Year for a good many years, so we came back to our cottage right after dinner that Sat. eve and prepared for an evening of books and radio. It was interesting to watch the greeting of “Happy New Year” spread across the country for reception was good and we heard orchestras play and bells ring from Cincinnati to San Francisco, and the merry making on Markets Street came through as clearly as if we were in Berkeley. We could hear occasional popping of fireworks here, but when twelve o’clock came here such a crash of fireworks I have never heard, and it kept up for hours. The Elkinton’s said you could see grand displays of fireworks from every part of the city, the Japanese and Chinese particularly favoring that type of celebration. The big Japanese fleet of fishing boats were all decorated with bamboo plants (for good luck) and their private-flags and banner along with the U.S. flag, and they stay at the docks for a [illegible] celebration.
The Governor’s Reception was held on Monday at the Palace in Washington [illegible], and as we had met him on the Lurline and the public was invited, we decided to go. It was a very colorful occasion for the “higher ups” in both Army and Navy were there in their white uniforms with gold braid and buttons, and distinguished guests of the native Hawaiian people too, as well the average citizen of Honolulu. The whole lower floor was thrown open so one could see the Palace as it was during the reign of the kings & queens. In the bedroom there was the bed in which the queens used to sleep, and it was 8ft. wide and the design if the headboard was almost identical with that of our old black walnut set. Some said the bed was so wide because she was so far, but others said her maids-in-waiting slept in it with her.
We were escorted to the Governor and announced by fine appearing Navy aides and after shaking hands with the Gov. and his daughter Helen went into the drawing room where refreshments were served and then out into the patios where Hawaiian musicians and dancers provided entertainment. Six fine looking Hawaiian women dressed in gay silk holokus (a form fiting princess gown with low neck, short sleeve and ruffled train) played guitars, ukelele, and sang and three girls in grass skirts and many leis danced hula dances. We met lots of people that we know, including many from the hotel, and everybody was in what we would call summer attire. Father was all in white and I wore light print with white shoes and gloves and a Panama hat, on [illegible], all doors and windows being wide open. A friend here in the hotel invited me to ride back with her, and then Father ran into the Elkinton’s who were paying honors to a group of elderly Hawaiian women (dressed very elegantly in black lace holokus.) who were to be a part of the royal household. Father was introduced to them all and enjoyed chatting with them. They are so gracious and hospitable. The Elkinton’s brought him home and then stayed and took lunch with us, taking us out for a ride in the afternoon.
The custom of giving leis to friends is universal in the islands, and is always accompanied with the greeting - “Aloha!” - and a kiss. At the first Sunday evening entertainment both Father and I were presented with them by the young hula girls, and have been twice since and on New Years Mrs. Masher of Baltimore, who sits at the table next to us in the dining room gave one to me. They are beautiful necklaces of flowers, that one being the crown flower and maidenhair fern, and we have had pink carnations and yellow finger blossoms that have a delicate fragrance. Those arriving here we well as those departing are presented with leis, both men and women wearing them, and it is some sight, on the days the steamers arrive and sail to see the lei women with their arms loaded, offering them for sale. At the reception, the musicians wore leis, hibiscus flowers in their hair, and flower bracelets on one wrist.
I have been to the Palace once more when the D.A.R.’s were entertained by the Governor’s daughter.
Father got in touch with a Dr. Ebsworth who us very much interested in Lawn Bowling, and he called for us and took us out to Ala Moana Park, where there is a bowling green in the making, and then took us for a ride around the city. Shortly after four he stopped in front of his home, inviting us in to meet his wife and have tea. They are people about 45 or 50, should think, and we had a very delightful afternoon. They are Australians and because of ill health he gave up practice about ten years ago, and after traveling all over the world, decided that Honolulu was the most delightful place in which to live, and so brought a home and settled down here. Lots of people here make a regular custom of having tea in the afternoon, and even Father has been dragged into it, but he seems to enjoy it. (We went up to the Elkinton’s home one day last week to tea and to meet a Mr. & Mrs. Kay of Vancouver. We have enjoyed meeting lots of people from British Columbia as well as from Australia & New Zealand, and the guests here are from all over the U.S.
I think you would be surprised to see your father in his 1939 bathing trunks, no tops, going to the beach with another man and two or three ladies all in swimsuits. I have a swimsuit (waist and shorts) with a skirt that can be worn if one wishes. I lie on the sand for a sun bath, while the others go in the water. I couldn’t help but smile the other day when we were driving down to the fashionable part of the city, each, thinking what could our children say if they could see us; we in the front seat of a [illegible] with Mrs. [illegible] of N.Y., she in her swim suit, head tied up in a gay bandana, and two ladies in the rumble seat dressed likewise. The ladies ages range from 54 to 60 I should think, and all good fun. It takes most of the morning to have breakfast, read the morning papers out under our hart tree, undress for beach clothes & swim, and then back for a shower and get dressed for lunch. It’s an awful lazy life but we are enjoying it. We have had lots of rainy weather lately, but it often comes at night, suddenly, morning or afternoon and then the sun comes out brightly. Haven’t seen the thermometer below 70°.
Tomorrow night we are going out to dinner at the home of Mr. James MacCandless. We met a Miss Bowen on the boat, and at the Governor’s reception met her again with the lady she was visiting, a Mrs. Dennis O’Brien. Mrs. O’Brien, from West Virginia, had been visiting her brother (Mr. MacCandless) and she seemed to take a fancy to us, and she & Mrs. Bowen called on us here, at the hotel, and then invited us to dinner. She is to send the chauffeur early for us as she wants us to see the gardens and the view. That’s Hawaiian hospitality!
I guess you think it is time to close and so do I. Much love to you all from us both - Mother.
Please check off as you read and send along - Dorothy - Ralph - Walter - Loren - Aunt Nellie whose address is Mrs. & Mr. Gillard, 205 S. Huntington Ave., Jamaica Plain, Mass.
I can’t let this letter go off without telling you about the dinner that Mrs. O’Brien invited us to, in her brother’s home. The MacCandless home is a very large beautiful home in Manoa Valley, surrounded by extensive gardens, and I find that the MacCandless brothers - four of them I believe) have been indentified with big enterprises here in the islands for the last forty years or more. To our surprise their dinner party was quite a large one - 12 guests - and we were the honor guests. To my amazement when the dining room doors were opened Mrs. O’Brien came up to me, offered her arm and started to sing “Here comes the bride.” The dining table was most beautiful with its cloth of embroidery & lace over gold satin, a bit centerpiece of “cup of gold” flowers with ti leaves, yellow candles in tall silver holders, gold banded place plates with the MacAndless’ monogram in gold-and gold banded crystal cups holding the fruit cocktail. Place cards had trimmings of hold-with a little holder for a tiny yellow flower & foliage. Two other guests, (illegible] from West Virginia), and ourselves were presented with leis of ilima flowers, a deep yellow. I sat at Mr. L. L. McAndless’ right & father at Mrs. O’Brien’s right. We had a delicious turkey dinner, (served by the butler and a Japanese maid, she in native dress) and had native fruits and vegetables besides. Taro tasted like sweet potato we thought. Dessert was papaya ice cream and a layer cake with orange filling-yellow mints, and demi tasse coffee. After dinner there was one table of bridge and the other guests just sat around and told stories of old Honolulu, for except for those from the mainland, the guests were old family friends, and we enjoyed it immensely. We were called for and returned to the hotel by the family chauffeur. I guess this is a good example of Honolulu hospitality, for there can be no other explanation for entertaining such humble people as we are, they just seemed to like us -
Love - Mother
Letter from Jennie to Nellie (April 1, 1939)
We have been away to the other Hawaiian Islands this week, so I guess I will have to tell you about it. We have enjoyed this island (Oahu) so much that we thought we would be contented to stay right here, but we began to hear of the other islands from those who had been there and who said “Oh you must see Hawaii” or Maui or Kauai,” so Dave thought as long as we were near them it would be best to go. We left last Tuesday morning by auto from the hotel at seven o’clock for the airport at Roger’s Field so one six or eight miles away. At 8 o’clock we were in a plane (we had to climb in through the top) with three other and started for the island of Maui, about a hundred miles away, and were there in an hour and a quarter including the time it took to stop and land a passenger on the island of Lanai. When we got to Maui we were met by a chauffeur who introduced himself as Joe, who was to take us over the Island. We drove to the Grand Hotel, where Dave registered and we had a room placed at our disposal, and then off for a 42 mile drive across the country, and up into the mountains to the largest dormant volcano in the world, called Haleakala. It was a beautiful day with light fleecy clouds, and we went through those at 6,000 ft. and then it was perfectly clear the rest of the way until we reached the summit at 10,000 ft. The crater is seven miles by three miles, and I don’t know how deep it is, but it is said you could drop New York City down into it. It is certainly awe inspiring, real cold up there and windy, and no vegetation in sight except the silver sword which grows in the crater and is found nowhere else in the world.
In the afternoon we had another drive through the scenic part of the island, past beautiful waterfalls, into deep canyons of woods and great ferns, wild fruits, etc. We ate French mangoes for the first time, unlike anything we had ever tasted. After dinner at the hotel we chatted with Mrs. Walsh, wife of the manager of the hotel and she told us much about the unusual flowers of the island, and picked one of her white “bird of paradise” blooms for me. As we were leaving she presented both Dave and me with beautiful red carnation leis backed with tiny ferns. At 7.30 P.M. we left by auto on a 22 mile drive to the place where we were to take the steamer for Hilo-Hawaii, and as it was an hour late we waited from 8.45 to 10. P.M. on an open dock, but it was a beautiful moonlight night: the air soft & warm and Dave found a bench for me to sit on. There were probably 25 or 30 others waiting for the boat, & people are interesting to watch, and they were of many nationalities. We had to take a small launch and be transferred to the larger boat, and of course I didn’t enjoy that, but I made it, and you can imagine me going up over the side of the steamer on a ladder. We had heard there was rough water between the island, and we can substantiate that rumor, for it was a tough night for us. We had a nice stateroom, but I held onto the side of the bed all night for fear of being pitched out, and didn’t sleep a wink. Luckily we weren’t at all seasick. We were met at the docks at Hilo at 8 o’clock by a chauffeur with car, a fine fellow, Chinese, named Peter Lau, who drove us all over the island of Hawaii for the next two days. This is the largest of the group and is very beautiful, besides having active volcanoes, though none are erupting at the present time, but steam rises constantly from the ground, showing the heat of the earth. One day was spent in the volcano country, seeing lava flows that had occurred from 1801 on, and they would extend a distance of ten to fifteen miles into the sea. We saw much of old historical Hawaiian places of interest, for this was the island where Capt. Cook first came, and we drove through beautiful country to the other side of the island - the Kona district, where coffee is grown. We stopped at Kona Inn, for the night. It is a beautiful expensive hotel, right on the western shore, and after a fine dinner we went to bed and had a glorious nights’ sleep. Off at 9 A.M., and that day was filled with beautiful sights, through the Parker Ranch of half a million acres devoted to cattle raising, sheep & horses, at an elevation of 4500 ft.; thousands of acres of sugar cane, fine villages maintained by the plantation owner, with schools hospitals etc. Our driver picked all sorts of flowers for us that were growing wild, beautiful ones. Do you remember ever seeing the passion flower? It grows wild here, is a vine, and has a most delicious fruit, unlike any I have ever eaten. The outer skin cracks off like the shell of an egg, and the fruit inside is covered with a soft membrane not unlike the inside of grapefruit skin. The latter part of our ride was along the sea coast, through beautiful canyons with waterfalls and luxuriant foliage, and at 3.15 we ended our drive at the flying field, where we took the plane for Honolulu. This was a larger plane, there were 12 passengers and it was a very smooth passage, we were back to Honolulu by 5 o’clock. I can't say I get much of a thrill in an airplane, for we fly so high one can’t see much and I enjoy riding in an auto much more, but it certainly gets you places in quick time, as from Hilo to Honolulu, 250 miles in one and a half hours. In the plane they give you an envelope containing cotton, for your ears, and chewing gum, and the combination does prevent that disagreeable sensation in your ears.
The next day I intended to rest but Mrs. Drum came over about 9.30 and wanted us to go on a picnic to Bellows Field, 20 miles away, with her & Mrs. Pedrick, and as she was leaving for good the next day it was hard to refuse. We had a nice ride, a swim in the beautiful surg (all except me) and a picnic lunch on the beach. This place is a picnic place with bath house, tables, benches, grills etc. for Army & Navy officers and their families. Mrs. Drum stopped in later and left me a fine bouquet of gardenias, and the next day one of the young girls who sits near us in the dining room presented me with a lei of gardenias and maidenhair fern, a beautiful thing, and so fragrant. She had been urging us to stay here permanently, and when we replied that our children were on the mainland, she said we could adopt her!
I shouldn’t think she was more than twenty-one, a little bit of a thing; is stenographer for one of the oil firms and I wonder how she happens to be here, for she comes from California. Another girl is from New York, also a stenog. There are quite a number of business people who make this hotel their home.
I must stop now for I have three other letters to write-