Children enjoy perks of being 'military brats'
By Beth Neff DeLong
Our family moved to Hawai'i in 1961. Dad was in the Navy, and we were fortunate enough to live in Makalapa Navy Housing, outside Pearl Harbor. We had a big two-story house, which overlooked Makalapa Crater, with a beautiful view of Halawa Heights.
People would call us "military brats," and I didn't understand it. I mean, we had to do our chores, answer the phone politely, respect our elders But now, when I look back on our life in "Mak," I realize how spoiled we were.
There was a swimming pool we would go to on a regular basis and at night for parties. There was a theater that played movies on the weekends for only 10 cents. It was outdoors, and the mosquitoes would get zapped all night by the bug lights. Our Sunday School groups would go on fun outings. We went mud-sliding at Jackass Ginger and up on Tantalus. There were breakfast horseback rides at Camp Smith and all-day horseback rides from Barbers Point to Timberline.
There was a teen club at the chapel on the weekend nights. Our parents would take turns chaperoning us while we played games, ping-pong and pool. Sometimes there would be dances with live bands, and kids from all the other bases would come.
The B.O.Q. (Bachelor Officers Quarters) was there then. It had a snack bar that served the best hamburgers. We ate Sunday brunch and other meals in the club.
On Wednesday nights, you could have a steak cooked to your liking on the lanai. There were little plastic markers that you poked in the top, for "rare," "medium" or "well." The salad bar was super and always had the sweetest fresh pineapple.
President John F. Kennedy didn't stay there when he was visiting, but rather up in an admiral's guest house. Still, Dad reminds me that we were unhappy not to be able to use the pool when the president was there.
The parks provided a place for us to play ball games. In the "woods," there were old bomb shelters. When we were feeling extra brave, we went in them and pretended it was the end of the world, and we were the lone survivors.
The best days were when the canal below the big park would overflow after a heavy rain. All the kids would head down in their grubbiest clothes, carrying boards.
We would slide down the muddy hill and play in the creek bed. It's the greatest memory! Lots of rain, mud, slipping and laughing.
Twice we put on our own spook shows in our carport. Once we made $5.62 and donated ALL of it to the Hawaii Crippled Children's Association.
Another time, we bought canned goods and toiletries to send to families in Vietnam. For pocket money, we washed cars and had lots of baby-sitting and pet-sitting jobs.
The DDT truck would come around every few weeks to kill the flying insects. We would hear it come, and yell, "Here comes Smokey Joe!" We'd take off and run through the cloud of smoke. Little did we know what the insecticide might do to our bodies.
My brother and his family got to live in "Mak" when he was in the Navy. It was such a joy to go and visit them, even though I felt like an "outsider." His kids agreed that it was the greatest place to live, even though they didn't enjoy ALL of the fringe benefits that we did.
Beth Neff DeLong lives in Waialua now.
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