Gareth Jones

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The Western Mail 21st June 1935

Gareth Jones

When in the hazy distance on one blessed Friday morning I faintly distinguished a lofty range of mountains rising from the expanse of ocean, I felt, as the crew of that vessel in the “Bay of Biscay – Oh!” felt, on seeing a sail and on escaping from the loud roar of the dreadful thunder and from the tossing of the billows. 

For over six days the small vessel which was carrying me from San Francisco to the Hawaiian Islands had, by its continuous jigging and dancing, by its habit of almost turning topsy-turvy, and by its game of hop, leap and jump shown that the Pacific Ocean had conceived an extreme dislike for me.  There were other passengers against whom the ocean’s revulsion had been even more extreme, such as the young American lady who, on the first evening out of ‘Frisco, had been hurled violently from her seat at table, had fallen on her head and bad been carried unconscious to her cabin. 

Hawaii was to us, therefore, Heaven or Nirvana, and had the streets of Honolulu been paved with gold for all to take thereof they could hardly have been more welcome to those of us who came ashore from the gales and almost embraced the porters, the taxi-drivers, and even the Customs officers from sheer joy at feeling the firm sidewalk beneath our feet. 

Cat Out of the Bag! 

From the unknown dark maidenly figures came and gently surrounded my neck with garlands of orange, red, and white flowers until I looked like a successful world-flier being received in the South of Prance.  It was in this garb that I confronted the Customs officer. 

“If you’d come a few years earlier you’d have had a more thorough search,” he said, passing my bags without looking at them and explaining that during the Prohibition era they had to examine the baggage carefully lest liquor be smuggled into the Islands. 

A smart young man of the Kansas City travelling salesman type joined in our conversation. 

“I know a guy who was too smart for you Customs folk,” he said.  “He was a mate on one of the liners and he wanted to bring a dozen bottles of whisky ashore.  He came with a bag, and the Customs officer shouted, “Stop! What’s in that bag?” 

“It’s the ship’s cat,’ said the mate. 

“‘Yer kent kid me,’ says the officer.  ‘Open that bag.’  He opened it and out jumped the ship’s cat, ran away, and climbed on board again. 

“‘Guess I’ll have to catch him again,’ says the mate, goes in with his bag, fills it, but not with cats this time, but with good old hooch, and comes out.  The Customs officer salutes him, apologises for not believing him, and the dozen bottles of whisky go for their little walk to some apartment in Honolulu!” 

We laughed, and soon I was rushing to a hotel which lay on the world-famous Waikiki Beach.  In travel bureaus in all parts of Europe and America this beach had beckoned me in a thousand different forms.  To tread upon its golden sands and to listen to the lilt of Hawaiian music beneath swaying palms (I think that is how the advertisers describe it) was to know a bliss which only this gem of the South Sea Islands could give. 


In that mood I leapt like a sprightly fawn from my room to the shore.  At last I should feel the velvety embrace of its sand and revel in the onrush of its surf.  I entered the water, but no surf did I see.  Suddenly, a sharp, cutting knife seemed to jab my toes, and I jumped, but descended on more “knives.”  It was coral, and I was the latest of its victims.  I went in further and further; sometimes coral would bite into me, sometimes seaweed clustered loathsomely round my legs, but never did I approach the surf, and however far I walked I could not go out of my depth. 

I returned disillusioned, and I still maintain that there is scarcely a beach in all South Wales which is not infinitely superior to the much-vaunted millionaire-infested but disenchanting beach of Waikiki. 

The rest of the main island, however, with the array of delicate colours which play upon the waters, the palm trees, the twanging of ukuleles, the interplay of women’s voices singing in rhythm and harmony, and the fascinating movements of the grass-skirted hula-hula girls is not so disenchanting, and as a human study is remarkable.  It Is the spot where America meets Asia, and its streets and villages are a hotch-potch of Asiatic and Pacific races, a Tower of Babel where the twangs of the plains of the United States mingle with the long, moaning vowel-sounds of the Polynesians, with the sharp cracks of the Japanese tongue and the poppings and konkings of the Chinese dialects. 

Friendly Races 

If you go through the streets you will see the Japanese mixing with the Chinese, the Hawaiian children playing with the “black Portuguese,” who are called thus because they are descended from the Negroes who were imported long ago from the Portuguese Islands of the African coast in order to labour on the sugar plantations. 

This friendly feeling between peoples of various races made the greatest impression upon me. 

A Buddhist temple with Japanese gabled roofs of deep blue, Chinese places of worship and houses with savage dragons carved upon them, a brilliant white marble Mormon temple with Hawaiian Mormon worshippers, a few grass shacks under palms heavy with coconuts, modern American skyscrapers - these varied types of dwellings also showed me what a number of civilisations are gathered in these volcanic islands in the middle of the Pacific. 

In peace they live, love and laugh, undisturbed by riots and national hatreds.  A cloud is appearing over the horizon, however.  Mars is invading these coral strands and palm beaches and scattering the germs of conflict among the peace-loving populations.  What the problem in Hawaii is I shall tell in my next article.  


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