A couple of unusual celebrations
By Bob Krauss
Two events unique to Our Honolulu take place this week, starting with the Honolulu Harbor Festival today and ending with a party in O'ahu Cemetery on Saturday.
The Harbor Festival kicks off at 9:30 a.m. in front of Aloha Tower. Twenty minutes later, a fireboat will blow its whistle and shoot fountains of water to start a canoe race. As the canoes circle Sand Island, a tugboat hula contest will take place. Look for patriotic hulas this year.
Everything is free, including admission to the Hawai'i Maritime Center, boat tours of Honolulu Harbor, a treasure hunt for kids, open houses on ships, games, a Coast Guard rescue demonstration and programs on three stages for the rest of the day.
The bash in the cemetery on Saturday is a new event that exploits our diverse culture. It grew out of a birthday party last December for tombstone historian Nanette Purnell. Fifty guests met in the O'ahu Cemetery Chapel for a mock funeral, dinner and ghost stories.
Everybody had so much fun that the Hawaiian Historical Society decided to make it a benefit, $25 per person for a "Repast in the Past" held in the historic cemetery at night, with a lecture by Purnell on who's buried where.
Purnell and cemetery supervisor Hal Lewis said they can't guarantee that you'll meet a ghost by the light of the moon, but the stories they tell might put you on the right track. One concerns the ghost of Maria Kahanamoku, younger sister of Duke.
In the 1920s, she died while betrothed to an Italian count. He had her statue erected at her grave. During World War II, a local boy took his girlfriend to the movies, drove to the Pali and stopped at the cemetery on the way back to scare her.
He parked and turned out the lights. A young woman in a Sunday dress carrying a bouquet of flowers floated out of the darkness. The young fellow hightailed it for home, his date in hysterics. The next day, he came back to the cemetery and recognized the statue.
Lewis said old-time graveyard employees carry bags of salt in their pockets.
He remembers two young men who stole cemetery equipment. "Within two years, they were both dead," Lewis said.
Recently a juvenile delinquent was visited by spirits after he vandalized a gravestone. He confessed and brought roses to the grave, asking forgiveness.
Once, gravediggers didn't cover the hole when they quit work. A man walking his dog in the evening fell into the grave. He and his dog didn't get out until the next morning, when somebody found them.
Families are responsible for supplying urns for ashes. "I've put ashes in Harley Davidson gas tanks, Santa Claus cookie jars, cigar boxes, Best Food Mayonnaise jars and champagne bottles," Lewis said.
Purnell said food has always been a big item at funerals in Hawai'i but is just catching on in other states. Also, people in Hawai'i put flowers on graves year round, while Mainlanders usually do so only once a year.
Call 537-6271 for information about the Repast in the Past.
Correction: The phone number to call for informaiton about the Repast in the Past is 537-6271. A previous version of this column gave the wrong number.