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I guess I must have been about 8 and my brother 11 when we got into this adventure.  The Honolulu zoo didn't have a fence around it in the late 1940's and where the current parking lot is located, there was just a long open red dirt area lined with sugar date trees.  A stream ran perpendicular through the middle of the zoo and emptied into a pond area, which in turn, entered into the storm drain tunnel under Kapahulu Ave.  My brother loved to try to catch the small fish in this pond (it was a swamp to me) and did so with minimal success.  My dad use to call him a "murderer" when he brought home his baby fish catch!

One day, he decided "we" should explore the tunnel that the pond flowed into.  No way was I going in there because standing at the entrance and looking inside, it was pitch black.  My brother did his "thing" and sweet-talked me into the idea.  He had a great plan!  We used a sheet of corrugated iron roof as the hull of a boat, nailed the bow and stern sheet ends to some 2 x 4 wood post pieces, melted some tar to seal the gaps to prevent leaks and ..."voila!" we had our own home made "Hokule'a".

Well, we built that puppy in our backyard on Kuhio Ave. When completed, we carried it out of the yard, down Kuhio Ave, across Kapahulu Ave. and launched it in the zoo pond.  I have yet to figure out why it didn't capsize without an auma or outrigger but at least it floated.  To provide light in the darkness of the tunnel we brought a candle and set it up on the 2 x 4 wood post bow.  With our hearts pounding and mosquitoes making a picnic lunch out of me, we got in the boat and paddled with our hands into the "black unknown".  We had no idea how deep the water was and I sure as hell wasn't about to stick my hand in the water to test the depth.  What if one "troll" bit it off?  Our dog "Butch" was left at the entrance barking his fool head off as we started our journey into the tunnel.

We slowly moved into the tunnel and we lit the candle on the bow so we could see where we were going.  We quit trying to paddle with our hands and just propelled ourselves slowly along the tunnel by pushing on the slimy walls.  We finally made it to the intersection where it tied into the Kapahulu Ave. storm drain tunnel.  The storm drain tunnel was a little bigger but still a spooky, damp, place.  Ahead we could see filtered light being allowed in from the ceiling of the tunnel.  When we got directly underneath of the light source, it turned out to be a manhole cover in the middle of the street.  My brother had another idea.  Why not call out to the dog to see if he can find us...sorta like hide and seek with our dog, Butch.  We started calling him and by golly he found us and was barking excitedly over the manhole cover...in the middle of the street!!  We kept this up for the next 2 manhole covers and by golly, that dog was following us, from cover to cover, running down the middle of the street.  Cars must have been cussing our dog out but somehow he avoided being hit and didn't cause any traffic accident.

I have to stop here to explain something.  We knew that the tunnel emptied into the ocean at the foot of Kapahulu and Kalakaua Aves.  In the late '1940's there were no beaches along Kalakaua between Ohua Ave. and the start of Monsarrat Ave.  There were just big black boulders along the entire length of the wall.  After a big rainstorm, the tunnel discharged ground runoff and street rainwater into the ocean polluting a major portion of the existing Waikiki swimming areas.  Conversely, when we had Kona weather and the ocean was rough, waves actually entered the tunnel and pushed ocean water back a fair distance up Kapahulu until it dissipated.  When this happened, the air pressure and water would blow the manhole covers off and ocean water would spout up and onto the roadway above.  I actually saw it happened one time and the HPD left the cover off and cordoned off the area to force motorists to go around it.  This seawater geyser scared the hell out of the locals driving along Kapahulu near the beach.  I assume a typical reaction was to hear a local exclaim..."Oh wow, bra, check da watah shooting out of da street like Mauna Loa!"  The City later constructed "The Wall" tunnel structure to extend the discharge of polluted water about 100 yds. farther out into the ocean AND prevent this backflow phenomenon.

Ok, back to da story.  Someplace along the way in the tunnel, the candle went "piu" on us because of the wind coming in from the beach side and our matches were all wet.  By then, we could see daylight in the far distance (beach end) and with hearts in our throats, continued forward by groping our way along the slimy wall that had all-kine bugs and crabs climbing that were probably saying..."eh, weah dese buggah's came from and what dey doing in our tunnel?"  My brother kept asking me to get out and see how deep the water was but no way was I going to stick my feet into that hapalaka, lepo, stagnant water.  I saw daylight and dat's what I was going for!

Meanwhile, back at our house, our mother was looking for us and must have walked over to the swamp to see if we were there because she knew that it was one of my brother's favorite fishing places and if she found him, she would find me.  While crossing Kapahulu, she noticed Butch running in the middle of the street barking excitedly at the manhole covers so she went to investigate and get him out of the street.  But then she heard us whistling and calling to him from the tunnel below and must have thought..."Oh my god, those two lolo's are in the tunnel and panic set in as she ran down to the beach to see if we would come out at the beach end opening.

As for the explorers below, we were so happy to see the entrance looming up and felt our confidence return like two conquering heroes returning from a successful voyage.  I guess we must have been cheering a lot (maybe doing our version of high fives?!) knowing we were the first to try this and could brag about it to our neighborhood friends.  We were dragging the boat out of the tunnel and were happy as a lark and began calling to our dog that was barking excitedly at us from the wall above.  Suddenly, a face popped up alongside the dog that we least expected... "Mom!"  You know, I don't quite remember what she said but the facial expressions and obscenities that poured from her mouth was obviously not a good sign of what was ahead.  We most naturally left the canoe there and scrambled up the wall knowing we were walking into a guaranteed onslaught of punishment.  First words out of my mother's mouth were...."you lolo kids, gunfunnit, what a stupid thing to do! You know you could have drowned down there and no one would have found your bodies until the storm season emptied the tunnel out..."COME HERE!!"

At this time, I must point out an observation that I became keenly aware of regarding angry mothers.  They can be pretty fast and accurate with their hands and somehow have eyes like radars that can track a child's moves to the "nth" degree.  On this day, our mother's natural kung-fu-like-ability was at an all time high.  Before we could make a move, she simultaneously grabbed both our ears in a death grip and marched us home along Kapahulu Ave. amidst all the snickering workers at Petrous Service station, which was then located on the corner of Kapahulu and Kalakaua.

How humiliating...two successful, Hawaiian, "tunnel faring" voyagers'....being treated like ... "KIDS!"

About Author

Byron was born and raised in Waikiki at the Kapahulu end of Kuhio Ave.  He attended Kamehameha first and then transferred to Punahou, graduating in '58.   He graduated in '61 from the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, CA receiving a BS in Marine Engineering and Federal CG License for Third Asst. Engineer. He shipped out on merchant ships plying between South Pacific and Pacific Rim countries.

I came ashore to become a fire insurance engineer and traveled extensively within the NW, Canada and Alaska. I switched jobs again to become a mechanical engineer for the utility company in SF.

He took an early retirement in '93 because of company downsizing and actively pursued his love of playing music.

I am currently performing at a few Hawaiian restaurants in San Francisco area. I produced and released my first CD album ("First Break") in 2001 and hope to do another. I have two siblings residing on Oahu.  Both are Roosevelt grads ('55 & '59 respectively) and retired school teachers.  This story is dedicated to my bruddah, Paddy (Al), who was the instigator of this crazy escapade when we were "hanabuddah" keeds!!

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