Earlier this month, in my Americana-Rama post (Aug. 6), I included a delightful postcard Grandpa Snail brought back from Hawaii where he worked as a civil engineer in the 1950’s and early ’60s. I promised to share more of his postcards from that time and place in a future post. I thought I better do that while it’s still summer (it’s only appropriate), so here they are now!
A young Uncle Snail seems to have practiced his postcard-addressing. This postcard must be a little older than the previous ones, as air mail postage is 4¢ instead of 5¢. Boat mail (2¢) is given instead of surface mail (3¢), perhaps because road systems were less developed.
After years of American colonialism, the bountiful, culturally rich Hawaiian islands were made a U.S. state in 1959. Thus, when I look at these postcards, I see a land in transition. Like all post-colonial places, Hawaii straddles modernity and native culture. I see that balancing act vividly in these postcards–the boom of tourism, and traditions being adapted for display. But that’s the cycle of history, and so I appreciate these postcards for the natural beauty they capture, and for their kitsch value, reminding myself that this was the happiest period of Grandpa Snail’s life. Who can blame him?
He passed away in 2006 after years with Alzheimer’s. A lifelong reader, it was sad when he could no longer follow a story. At that point, Mama Snail started giving him photography books and other visual, coffee table type books instead of novels. One such book was Charles Phoenix’s (see the Aug. 6 Americana-Rama post) Leis, Luaus, and Alohas: The Lure of Hawai’i in the Fifties. Grandpa Snail, sedentary and almost non-verbal by that time–basically vegetative, completely lit up whenever he looked at the ’50s Hawaii book. The spirit of Aloha had remained with him all those years.