|The Best Place to Grow Up|
|Written by Rick Gertsen|
One of my fondest memories of growing up in Hawaii was my first New Year's Eve. I lived in Mauna Loa Gardens and one of my neighbors invited me over for New Year's celebration. I was 15. His house was on stilts and I was standing off his front porch twenty some feet up, throwing lit firecrackers into the street. And at midnight, WOW, I never saw anything like the display of fireworks which presented it to me. The entire valley had a haze of smoke. The deafening sound of fireworks and the excitement of it all was intoxicating.
The next morning, Kimo and I walked the streets of Mauna Loa and picked up the unspent fire crackers. Broke them in half, lit them and stomped on them making them go off. A whole new experience for a haole boy from the Mainland. Later that year, Kimo took me up to Kapana Falls by Punchbowl. We drank beer and dove off the cliffs into the cool waters. I was becoming a kama'aina and felt the islands affecting my speech.
The first time I heard Pigeon English, I thought that Kimo was putting me on. I met him at Mauna Loa Park and he asked for a cigarette. "Hey haole, you got smoke?" I smiled and Kimo said, " you like beef or what haole boy?" I thought that that was funny but judging from Kimo's expression and the tone of his voice, it wasn't a friendly comment. I pulled out a smoke for myself and gave him my last one out of the pack. We starting talking and in a short time I realized that that was the way he spoke and he wasn't making fun of me. Kimo took me across the highway over to Gibson's where I bought myself a pack of smokes and a pack of Kools for him. He thought that that was a nice thing to do and from that time we became friends only to dissolve when I moved to Foster Village at the beginning of my junior year.
I learned many things in Hawaii, but the most life changing was Karate at JIKC. Years into practicing, I not only became a black belt but also an instructor. I taught in Kaneohe and Kailua for years. I had the chance to mold young boys and girls into strong men and women. I even taught a lot of Marines that came from the base when I was teaching at Aikahi Park. That was a very strong part of my growing up. I left Hawaii in 1981 and moved to California where my brothers and sister lived and have not made it back yet. For the last 25 years, I've been in Florida with my wife, two of my kids and one great grandson. Hawaii has been a large part of my growing up and I still have a love for the islands. One day I'll be coming back.
I live in Florida with my wife and two of my kids and one wonderful grandson. I've been teaching IT Professionals for the last 25 years all over the world. I graduated from Radford High School. Taught karate for a number of years under Shehan Hirano at JIKC. Had an alarm company and worked on private homes, the military and many businesses all over the islands. Left Hawaii in 1981 and haven't had the opportunity to get back yet, but will.