“Am I lucky, or what?” I said to myself as I drove my shiny red sports car along Kamehameha Highway in Hawaii. I was on my way to find a date with some gorgeous girl on Waikiki Beach.
The sun was shining in that big, beautiful Hawaiian sky. The birds were singing, and the engine in my 1960 TR3 (Triumph) was purring. I had the top down, and I was feeling on top of the world.
My good buddy, Keith Tennier, was stationed aboard a Coast Guard buoy tender, the Basswood, and would be out to sea for about three months.
I was stationed in Wahiawa at a Coast Guard radio station. When Keith went to sea he wanted me to take care of his baby, that is, the shiny, new sports car.
My friend said that I could drive the car anywhere I wanted to on the island of Oahu. All he asked is what any good friend would ask: take good care of the car and don’t do anything he wouldn’t do.
Taking care of Keith’s Triumph was just about the best thing that had ever happened to me in my first 19 years of life on this planet.
In those days I used to work 48 hours and then was off for the next two days.
The first thing I had learned to do in Hawaii for pleasure was to head for the beach at Waikiki. Before Keith allowed me the privilege of taking care of his car I had always taken the bus for the round trip.
Believe it or not, even with Keith’s attractive sports car, I had trouble finding myself a date with a pretty girl. There was just too much competition from other servicemen who had exactly the same intentions.
In the early ‘60s there were probably 10 guys to every girl in Hawaii. Shy, young men like myself who did not have a line when trying to meet a new girl, had very little chance of finding a date, even with a shiny, red sports car.
However, one day on the beach I met a cute, 16-year-old red headed girl named Linda from the mainland. She was on vacation with her parents and I would have to meet them before taking her out.
That night I met Linda’s parents and obtained permission to drive their pretty daughter over to Sacred Falls on the windward side of the island.
It was another beautiful Hawaiian morning when I picked up Linda at the Hawaiian Village Hotel.
The drive out to Hauula, on the windward or eastern shore of the island, took over an hour. We had the top of the TR3 down and let the wind rustle through our hair as we learned more about one another on the ride to the falls.
Once at Sacred Falls I parked the car in what I thought would be the safest spot in the muddy parking lot.
Linda and I walked along the trail, also very muddy and wet, to the base of the 80 foot falls. We had a wonderful time enjoying each other’s company and she took a few pictures for souvenirs.
When we returned to the parking lot some two hours later I was stunned when I noticed immediately that the left rear fender of Keith’s prized possession was badly dented.
I was sick to my stomach as Keith was supposed to return from his long patrol in the Pacific tomorrow.
Thank God, I could drive the car with no problem. I took Linda home and called Jim Godfrey, another Coastie and mutual friend. I had remembered that he was a sports car buff and also did some auto body repair.
Jim said not to worry. I took the car to his house. In hours he had that dent banged out of the fender and had applied new red paint. The car looked great!
Keith returned the next day. I was waiting for him when the Basswood tied up at Pier 4 in Honolulu. He never flinched when I brought him out to the car. I thought for sure he’d smell the fresh paint.
My good buddy, Bobby Padgett, another Coastguardsman I had been stationed with so long ago in Hawaii, emailed me earlier this week that my good friend, shipmate, and former best man, Keith Tennier, had passed away in April.
Thank God I still have some old Coast Guard friends like Bobby, who is also a Christian and keeps in touch.
I trust that some of you were as lucky as I was to be stationed in beautiful Hawaii and have great friends with whom you can share wonderful memories from long ago.
God bless you.