Paula’s Aunt & Uncle with Michelle at the Kona Surf Hotel Bar
American Express Platinum Card
I wrote about Paula’s Aunt & Uncle coming to visit us in Hawaii in my last post. They actually came because her uncle was Paula’s Dad’s brother and they really came to see him. They finally stopped because they couldn’t stand Paula’s Mom. Her Uncle was some high executive that worked for a large national electrical company in England. He was tasked with selling large power generating plants to a lot of the Arab Countries in the middle east. He once told us that they have so much cheap gasoline there that when they fill up their autos they spill gallons on the ground and think nothing of it. So they were pretty well off and lived in a large apartment in London not far from Piccadilly Circus. Her Uncle liked to drink and that did not sit well with Paula’s Mom who preferred prescription drugs herself.
One time when they came (This was in 1979 that I wrote about on my blog yesterday) they brought their son and his wife and their daughter. I gave her Uncle a motorcycle ride because I knew that when her Uncle and her Dad were young men in Pakistan, they used to ride small motorcycles and he probably never rode anything like the “Pocket Rocket” that I had access to. This is that story: While we were in Hawaii a young guy named Rusty bought a new Yamaha 650– Very Fast bike, and he rented a room from us in 1979 — then he decided to go home to AZ where he was from. He had financed the bike at the Credit Union and when he left he just parked the bike at the Credit Union parking lot and took off. I took him to the airport so I knew about the bike being parked there with the keys in it. So when I came back from the airport I stopped by and picked up the bike and rode it home. Paula took me back to get my taxi and I rode that motorcycle almost a year until the tags had expired several months then I just parked it back at the Credit Union parking lot. Wheeee! He returned a couple of years later and I didn’t say anything to him about the bike but he probably would had a good laugh about it.
Me and My Rabbit Taxi “Yellow One”
Our “Rabbit Transit” business cards
Paula and I both had Volkswagen “Rabbits” for our personal taxi’s. Everywhere else in the world these are called “Golfs” Paula’s aunt and uncle used to visit Hawaii about ever-other year and one time in 1979 they had moved from London and retired to Wales. Her uncle had bought a Golf and was praising it to High Heaven. He suggested that I get one for the Taxi business. I found out that they produced them with diesel engines and I was very interested in checking one out. Of course at that time In Hawaii the only Volkswagen dealership on the Big Island was in Hilo. So Paula and I headed off to Hilo after her aunt and uncle returned to Wales. We arrived at the dealership just in time to see this salesman drive up in his demo Rabbit that was yellow and had several Rabbit Decals on it. Paula liked it right away and so I told him we wanted to buy his demo Rabbit. He was shocked and said that there were several other Rabbits in stock that we could buy but he wasn’t going to sell his demo. I said okay and where can I find your boss, please? Needless to say I drove that demo back to Kona later that day. I was surprised that when I asked him where he got his Rabbit Shaped business cards he actually told me and called the company there in Hilo and told them that he was giving me permission to use that die to cut out the Rabbit shape at no charge. That Rabbit was one of the best investments I ever made. I put 325,000 miles on it on an island 3o mile wide and 60 miles long. I could seat 4 people very comfortably and their luggage would fit in the huge hatch area. Once I took 6 Japanese guys and 2 just hopped into the rear hatch like they did it every day. I also took 6 Americans once and 4 people sat in the rear seat and two ladies rode up front with me. They lady who sat practicably on the gear shift had to lift one cheek for me to shift and they all just cracked up every shift. I only had one place where I just couldn’t go up this steep, steep driveway with four people and tons of luggage. Thankfully the front door to their condo was very close to the street and we managed those bags okay. After my great experiences with the 1979 VW Rabbit, I decided to purchase one for Paula to use as a Taxi.
Unfortunately by that time all the 1979 models were sold out and the new 1980 models were being made in the USA. The engine and transmission were still made in Germany and we never had any problems with those parts– everything else just fell apart! The roof leaked (they both had roll-back sunroofs) the headliner fell down, the upholstery wore out, the dash cracked and separated and it just rusted away. It did make money for a few years but the appearance was so bad that we had to replace it, and not with another USA built Rabbit either.
Sorry for my absence lately, I don’t have a good excuse but I hope that you will bear with me as I promise to do better. I also wish to remind you how lucky I was that Paula Was My Girl.
Paula with her VW Rabbit Taxi, R2D2
Paula with her VW Rabbit Taxi, R2D2 at her Mom & Dad’s House
Paula in Hawaii
As you can see in the top black & white photo most of the people who joined Paradise Taxi in the beginning days were husband & wife owner-operator teams. I had this photo professionally taken to run in the local newspaper because I firmly believed in the power of advertising.
Paula enjoyed the fuel economy of her 1980 VW Rabbit taxi which got almost 50 miles per gallon consistently. She also liked the fact that it was fun to drive. She learned to drive in a stick shift car from her dad and always preferred them over an automatic transmission. I did a play on words with our two Rabbit Taxis. I called them “Rabbit Transit” instead of “Rapid Transit”. We enjoyed the freedom that being our own bosses gave us, but that came at a price too. The buck always stopped with us, and sometimes that was a pretty hard load to bear. So it is with most things in life, rewards & responsibilities. It was good that we enjoyed each other’s company because we were almost always together every day. I will never be able to express now much it meant to me that “Paula Was My Girl”
Paula with an all girl team in Fishing Tournament
Paula and me heading out for a Fishing Charter
Paula with Marlin caught by the people that invited her and me to go with them
Paula with the boat captain
Paula standing near the new charter ship available for intimate dinner cruises
Paula and I were so lucky to be able to both take advantage of the offers on Charters and Luaus. It was also good for those who invited us as we were in a position to tell our Taxi Fares about our experiences and recommend which services to use.
Paula, Ernie and Michelle in our Paradise Taxi dispatching area of our home.
Paula and me in the Paradise Taxi dispatching area of our home
Paula and I started our own Company and named it Paradise Taxi. We worked very hard to get it established and I firmly believed in the power of advertising. We promoted our company in dozens of ways that no other company there ever did. We were the prominent advertiser in the yellow pages and just by luck was given the easy to remember phone number of 329-1234. Years later when a new prefix of 326 was introduced I requested the 326-1234 number as a second line and was informed that it had already been given out. I never knew who had that number and thinking back I guess I could have just called it and offered them money to let me buy it but at the time I just used the number assigned me for our second line. Well wouldn’t you know several months later Paula’s brother moved to Hawaii into an apartment complex that was just built and guess what phone number he was assigned — Yep, 326-1234, Knowing her brother as I did, I just waited patiently and soon he was planning to move back to California. When I heard that he was moving I called the phone company and reserved his number when he left. So we had 2 very simple easy to recall phone numbers working to our advantage.
We also bought the best little ink pens with our Name ,Phone numbers and logo on them from a firm in San Diego, CA . They were the most reliable ball point pens I have ever used and our customers were always asking for additional pens. We also had a silk screen made for out everyday uniform “The TEE Shirt”. The lady who owned the company that did our Tee shirts only used the best Hanes products and could supply them in many colors. We even sold the Tee shirts to people visiting Hawaii that loved the name Paradise Taxi with our Rainbow logo. We kept a supply of various mens & womens sizes that did not have a name on them to sell to the tourist. I owned that Logo and paid a graphics artist to design it.
When we first arrived in Kona several of the Taxi companies used there children’s initials for the name of their company. I think it was a clever ploy that worked to their advantage at the tip time. If a visitor asked about the name of their Taxi and the proud parent told how each letter stood for each of their children the pocket book opened a little wider at the time to pay the fare. Even though it was 1974 back in the Mainland USA, Hawaii was still on “Hawaiian Time” and so the dominate Taxi Company there at that time used their children’s initials proudly on their dome lights. I don’t think it ever crossed their mind that the “KKK” Taxi was probably not the wisest choice to use for the growing tourist trade coming to Kona from the Mainland. As their children became adults and maybe because someone pointed it out to them, around the early 80’s they changed it to “KA” Taxi, named in honor of the mother whose last name was Ka.
Paula really loved that she could drive interesting people around, get paid to do that and still be just a radio call away from her growing children. Getting to work every day in a Tee shirt was a plus also. I loved that and the fact that “Paula Was My Girl”
Paula, the Taxi Driver at the Kona Lagoon Hotel
Paula enjoying a complementarity Luau for Taxi Drivers
Ernie and Paula enjoying a complementarity Luau for Taxi Drivers
Paula working the phones and radio from home with Michelle
Ernie the Taxi Driver with Michael and Michelle on the Kailua-Kona Pier
Paula started driving my taxi shortly after we established our own Taxi Company. Well I tried to get this post in under the wire so as to meet my post a day schedule but fell just short. I’m sure that’s more important to me than to you so I will get over it. There is one photo that I know is somewhere hiding in the depths of my computer and I’ve been searching most of the day for it. Now that I’ve started this post I’m sure I’ll find it tomorrow.
Well here we are living in Hawaii. If you had told me eight months earlier that I’d sell my new house that I loved, quit a job that had the best benefits package and lifetime employment locked in to move to Hawaii where the cost of living was very high and the prospects of employment almost non-existent, I would have thought you were out of your mind. Paula had to be a saint to allow me to rip her out of what was a very comfortable lifestyle and fly her to the middle of the Pacific Ocean without even the slighted hint of employment for either of us. Plus even though we had cash from the sale of our house in California, it was not even within the realm of possibilities that we could buy a house there because neither of us had a job or any prospects of one. When we were living in Hilo, which is by far the largest city on the Island of Hawaii, I checked the job opening in the newspaper and there were two listing; one was for an insurance salesman (Not an Agent) and the other for a Fry Cook. I probably could have learned to be a Fry Cook bur that listing was quickly filled.
Speaking about the newspaper, it was the Hawaii Tribune Herald, because I did not have a job to go to and it rained so much in Hilo I thoroughly read and re-read the newspaper. One day I got out my highlighter and marked the twelve typographical error on The Front Page! So again having quite a lot of free time I decided to call the editor of the newspaper and inquire about all these errors. He seemed to be quite a pleasant fellow on the phone and explained to me that they ran a union shop at the newspaper and the lady that was their proofreader was very elderly and had been laid-off due to poor job performance. He said that if they were to hire a proofreader they would have to bring that lady back on the job, so it seemed to him that they would be without a proofreader until that lady passed away. Of course we all know what happened a few years later computers were every where with their spell-check programs and the job as a proofreader pretty much faded into history.
After we had spent the first three weeks in Hawaii unable to find employment guess where we went, yep The Unemployment Office. In Hawaii thing are as they say–Laid-back, we took the two kids walked into the State Office and were immediately sent into an interview cubicle. The state worker there was very polite and offered the kids snacks from his personal stash. He took down all the pertinent information and after getting all the details said how very sorry he was that we did not qualify for unemployment benefits because we both had quit our jobs. I’ve always found the concept of unemployment benefits strange. It seems to me like if you don’t have a job you should qualify for unemployment, but that’s not how it works. Paula or I never drew any unemployment so I don’t really know how it does work exactly. Anyway this fellow was so concerned that our children had parents without a job and he couldn’t help us but he knew who could: “Follow Me” he said as he got out of his chair grabbed up Michelle and started off to another cubicle in the office. He introduced us to as petite Oriental looking young girl and said she would take good care of us. We thanked him for his help and he went back to his cubicle. Again many question on forms were asked and answered and the young girl appeared to be genuinely shocked that we had not worked in the last three weeks. She informed us that she would issue us an emergency amount of Food Stamps and that we would receive our next months supply in the mail. She also told us that we qualified for some program and I no longer remember the name of it, but it was something to do with having children at that time and she would get us a voucher to pay for the three weeks we we without a job and the next months check would be in the mail. Paula and I were dumbfounded. Living the Good Life in Hawaii AND on the Dole! Of course I had to stop on the way home and try out those Food Stamps — bought a big frozen SMOKED turkey. Living Large on the Government!
We got comfortable getting free money and Food Stamps, going to the beach or the pool everyday and sorta looking for jobs. Then I’m standing in line at the Post Office one day behind these two young ladies and I over hear their conversation. One asked how her boyfriend was doing and the other replied “Oh he’s driving a Taxi and making $50 a day”. My ears perked up and the light-bulb went off in my brain. In 1974 $50.00 was REAL Money; not like today when it will just barely cover pizza and a beer. So I talked to a local fellow who had his own Taxi and he was happy to let me try my hand at driving his Taxi part-time. In the last photo above was that first Taxi I drove over in Hawaii and there is another photo some where in the depths of this computer of me with that same Taxi, but it remains at large.
A long post today and I hope you find it interesting. I also don’t want you to forget ( Because I Most Certainty Don’t) how lucky I was that– Paula Was My Girl.
Michael and Michelle in the lush gardens of the apartment complex where we lived in Kona, Hawaii
Michael and Michelle at one of the many banana trees at the apartments
Michael and Michelle in front of a Wood Rose bush at the apartments
Paula and I stopped by the Volcanoes National Park after getting the news that the Volcano was erupting. It’s fascinating to see all the lava there. The lava that flows smoothly like shown in the last photo above is called “Pāhoehoe lava” and it is by far the most dangerous. Flowing much like a swollen river it quickly moves along burning and burying every thing in it’s path. On the Big Island of Hawaii when these lava rivers flow into the sea it is a spectacular pyrotechnics show. The molten, liquid rock meeting the cool ocean water makes for some steamy, fiery displays. They are stunning to observe at night. Because of the attraction to these free to the public awesome exhibitions of mother nature’s fury some people lose their ability to process the extreme danger of venturing to close to these events. There are warning signs every where and yet some people believe that somehow the danger is overstated and some have paid with their lives for ignoring the warnings.
The other type of lava is called “A’a lava” and is diametrically opposite to “Pāhoehoe lava”. It sorta just rumbles along as if it were large jagged black rocks being pushed ever forward from behind by an invisible bulldozer. The sound that it makes is sort of a metallic tinkling sound s the small light stones fall from the advancing wall of destruction replaced by more and more cooling ones from behind. There are numerous videos of home owners desperately spraying water from a hose in an attempt to stop the advancing fiery menace from destroying their beloved home. Tragically the largest majority fail to stop the onslaught of dispassionate Mother Nature.
It’s as if Mother Nature wanted to balance the immensely destructive forces of her lava with the stunning beauty of her plants and flowers growing in Hawaii. Even on the most desolate lava bed left by her, new ferns appear within just a few short weeks after the flow has stopped it’s fiery onslaught. The sterile lava that bursts forth with such fury lays quietly still and Mother Nature begins her slow but steady work of transforming a plant killing media into a plant nourishing one. Ask any coffee connoisseur about Kona Coffee and watch the smile begin as they refresh the memories of palate pleasing, nostril exciting pleasure vividly brought to their mind. By far the largest majority of coffee sold in America comes from countries where you would never drink the local water. Opposite that is Kona Coffee grown on small family owned farms under ideal sanitary conditions most of which is processed and packaged right in the local area. If you like coffee and have never tried real Pure Kona Coffee you might not want to try it because it will put all other coffees to shame. The small amount grown compared to the global production of coffee is tiny and the price reflects that. Kona coffee blends are available but the superiority of 100% Pure Kona Coffee is defiantly worth the premium price it demands.
As is obvious in the above photos Michael and Michelle loved the beautiful flowers that were just everywhere. Paula was able to be a “Stay at Home” Mom during these critical formative years and I’m sure our children benefited more than they know from that. I found a job driving a taxi and Paula continued to “Be My Girl”.
Paula, Michael and Michelle arriving at the Hilo, Hawaii Airport January 1974
Michelle and Michelle with some of the wild orchids that grew in abundance there
Michelle and Michael on their Cycles in Hilo,Hawaii 1974
Michelle, Michael and the next door neighbor kids in Hilo, Hawaii
Michael and Michelle and the ocean at the end of our street Hilo, Hawaii 1974
Michael and Michelle on our 8 foot round waterbed that I built
Michael and Michelle at one of the many waterfalls on the road between Hilo and Kona
Michael and Michelle on the Saddle Road between Hilo and Kona
Paula was beginning to doubt my sanity the first night we arrived in Hilo, Hawaii. Michelle had caught a terrible stomach virus and we had to take her to the emergency room for treatment. The staff there were able to get the situation under control and thankfully we didn’t have to spend the entire night there because we were all tired from the long flight from California. The next morning was sunny and bright and Michelle seemed none the worse from the night before. We got into our rental car and headed off to find a house to rent. That wasn’t a problem and we were in the house the next day. We had shipped all of our household items by air and half of them arrived before we did. The remaining half arrived the next day so we were all set to begin our Hawaiian Adventure.
The reason we moved to Hilo in the first place was because when Paula’s Mom and Dad were on their tour of all the islands they arrived in Kona before traveling to Hilo where they would board the airplane to return home after 2 days touring Hilo. Well Paula’s parents were very religious and they observed some local young men smoking pot on the pier in Kona and asked the tour guide if they could skip Kona and go in advance to Hilo for the remainder of their tour. He arranged that for them and so they spent about 4 days in Hilo. They went to the local Church which was filled with people their age and loved it. When they came back and said they wanted to move to Hilo it didn’t matter where we moved , we were just following their advise. Huge Mistake — Hilo is very lush for a reason we found out why–Rain– lots and lots of Rain. The ocean at the end of our street was not assailable to go swimming and there was no beach. We found out that the other side of the island, Kona, was where the good swimming beaches were. We used to all pile into the Chevy LUV truck and go to Kona for the day and then drive back to Hilo, 80 miles each way. It didn’t take me long to realized we were on the wrong side of the island. After the first months rent was up we loaded up and moved to Kona. I told Paula if her parents insisted on moving to Hilo we could go and visit them but I was staying in Kona. Well when her parents did sell their house in California they moved to Kona also. They said that if we had not liked Hilo after living there a month they probably would not either.
So here we were — living the Good Life in Hawaii. Life was Good and Paula Was My Girl.
All the Painting is done
One of the Hydroponic trays turned upside-down
Paula allowed me so much freedom to do what ever I wanted and was always supportive of me. I learned about growing tomatoes using Hydroponics and knew that would be an extremely profitable venture to get in on. We visited some large scale operations up in the high desert of Southern California and I researched the methods available at that time. In my discussions with other people interested in Hydroponics I met a man who wanted to produce the fiberglass trays that hold the growing materials. I worked at a metal shop and fabricated the 6′ by 2′ mold to produce the trays like the one shown in the picture above. Part of the contract for my producing the mold was that I could use it to make all my own trays at no additional cost.
So I began to erect a huge green house in our back yard to grow Hydroponic tomatoes. It had full 8′ walls and was gas heated, water cooled and lots of lighting. I had just finished putting the Filon fiberglass panels on when Paula’s Dad became ill as related in the previous post. So although the greenhouse was complete the inside construction of the Hydroponics systems was not started yet.
Then along comes this young couple who bought our house for cash and didn’t have a single problem with the house at all. They just wanted possession as soon as possible. So looking through my ever present “Rose Colored Glasses” and being clueless to boot, Paula and I just took their money and were smiling all the way to the bank and then off to Hawaii. It must have been decades later it finally dawned on me (You know like in the cartoons when the light-bulb suddenly lights up!) that they probably were going to grow a cash crop in that greenhouse and it wasn’t going to be TOMATOES!!
We were so far away that if it ever was in the news we never heard about it. Funny how life is isn’t it?
Paula’s Dad became ill in Riverside, California and was hospitalized for a short time. The doctor took me aside and told me that Paula’s Dad was very ill and has suffered a congested heart failure in addition to having double pneumonia. He was on a breathing machine and was being given antibiotics intro-venously. The doctor told me that the prognosis was very grim. Paula’s Dad had contracted tuberculosis when he was a young man over in Pakistan and at that time he had 1/2 of one of his lungs removed and the other one had severe scaring which affected his breathing. The doctor told me that Paula’s parents had bought and paid for a trip to the Hawaiian Islands and it was only a few days before they were scheduled to depart. Paula’s parents had tried to postpone or reschedule the trip but was informed that neither options were available to them. The doctor was aware of this and told me privately that I should encourage them to take the trip as planned and added that Paula’s dad was very close to death and “he might as well pass away on the beach in Hawaii as in their hospital room”.
I did not relay this information to either Paula or her parents but did all that I could to make them go on that vacation to Hawaii. They finally agreed at the last minute and Paula and I rushed them to the airport to meet up with the rest of their tour group. He took a portable breathing machine with him and was still on heavy antibiotics. He was still very weak and his cheeks were pale. His fingernails were an ashen color and I thought that he was going to be returning in a coffin. However their trip was uneventful and they returned in three weeks suntanned, rosey-cheeked and very much more energetic than before when they left. They were excited about Hawaii and discussed retiring early and moving there. The big thing stopping them was that they did not want to be separated from their Grandchildren, Michael and Michelle. So being the nice fellow that I am (and knowing what the doctor had told me in private) I announced that that wouldn’t be a problem we would just sell our new house that we loved so much, quit our really good jobs and just all move to Hawaii. Of course I left out a lot of the previous sentence when I told them that. I was so secure in the knowledge that the doctor shared with me that I could just pretend to go along with this crazy plan until we had the funereal and then we could get back to our normal lives.
Our house was on a street of about 26 homes and there were 5 homes for sale by Realtors on either side of our street. I placed a for sale by owner sign in the front yard confident that I’d just ask too much and the people would go away. Paula’s parents also listed their home with a Realtor and told his work about his plans to move to Hawaii.
They had taken their trip to Hawaii in the first part of November, 1973 and Paula, the kids and I arrived at the Hilo, Hawaii airport to start our new adventure on January 1, 1974. It went that fast. A young couple came to look at the house and offered to pay us cash twice what we had paid for it 5 years earlier (That story later) and we couldn’t turn them down. Paula’s parents were able to sell there home 4 months later and we flew back to California to help them pack-up and move.
Oh yeah, Paula’s Dad passed away in Hawaii like the Doctor had predicted only it was 16 years later!