By Bob Krauss
Today we shall ponder what happened 75 years ago between Chester Hill, a poetic GI at Schofield Barracks, and Eleanor Genthner, a bachelorette from Maine who stayed for six months in a cottage at the Halekulani Hotel.
All we have to go on are the letters Eleanor's daughter found after she died. Was theirs a bittersweet romance? Did Chester ever propose?
Perhaps he didn't have the courage to propose until it was too late. The first thing he did after she sailed away was sit down and write her a poem on Army and Navy YMCA stationery dated March 30, 1928:
We more than hate to see you go,
Though we try to smile through tears.
For your other friends I cannot say,
But if they're all like me
They would cry for joy to see you
Sailing back across the sea.
Perhaps they met at the YWCA where she worked: Chester a lonely GI, Eleanor a well-bred young lady who recognized the artist in him. Certainly he wrote with sensitivity. Here's how he described 'A'ala Park to her:
"San Antonio minus the nickel pianos, the port of missing men. The Salvation Army band takes its place on the corner. A couple of servicemen step along, accompanied by happy go lucky native girls, probably dance hall bound.
"Sprawled on the grass are folk of all nationalities. A Filipino leader is speaking from the bandstand. A Japanese lady bedecked in a kimono trips by. A Japanese gentleman bows, she bows back. The Bull of Aala Park drives up. A snappy job, that boy.
"Beachcombers hang around the bridge; 'Help an old matey, will ya. Give us a quarter for a drink.' Aala Park where the train rolls in, where the Army and Navy unload, where 'oke' is for sale, where dope peddlers sell powdered chalk for snow."
Chester relived in vivid prose an adventure they might have shared, the end of the Dole Derby, the first air race across the Pacific, on Aug. 27, 1927.
"Wheeler Field, 30,000 people milling around, sitting upright in the bleachers. Crowds storming the hot dog stands and soda water concessions. Military Police everywhere. Roaring pursuit planes take off. There is a mad rush toward the field.
"Binoculars are trained on the heavens, men are climbing the roofs of hangers, hands pointing to the east. A lone monoplane is sweeping through the skies. Diamond Head lies in the distance, the Pali is off to the left.
"A man and an eagle are winging their way gracefully toward the field. The throng breaks into tumultuous applause. Now it is overhead, circling, banking and descending. It lands perfectly and taxies to the stand and a score of mechanics rush out to meet it.
"It is the end of the flight. The propellers are stilled. The eagle is at rest."
No wonder Eleanor saved his letters. She never told her daughter, Sylvia Raban, about them.
Reach Bob Krauss at 525-8073.