You already know How on May 17th, 1980 I was smitten.
So what happened next?
We were married on May 17, 1980 in Durban South Africa at the Old Fort Chapel. We then backpacked around Southern Europe for a few months (perhaps that story will be told at some future date), and then returned to Hawaiʻi. Claudette is fond to tell folks that she changed her name, left her job, her home, and her country – for an unknown future with a guy she’d known less than a year who peddled a 3-wheeled bicycle for a living.
At some point, I figured out that when I got back to Hawaiʻi with my new bride, I would need some kind of a job other than that of a pedicab driver. Claudette made it fairly clear to me pretty quickly that she had high expectations that certainly did not include me peddling the streets of Waikiki – and all that entailed (still yet another story for the future perhaps published after my passing and when my grandchildren are adult enough to understand).
Then I remembered Linda Fernandez of the famous E.K. Fernandez Shows (Since 1903) who had told me once, “Gary if you’re ever looking for a job, give me a call.”
I’d worked for Linda on and off since my Radford high school days, first for the Hawaiʻi State Farm Fair held on Magic Island I believe, then semi-regularly at weekend carnivals around the State. Linda ran the concession side of the operation, game and food booths etc. I started out probably in the summer of 1971 hawking “3 rings for a dollar” and encouraging people to throw a ring around a 16 oz Pepsi bottle. I soon graduated to the throwing of whiffle balls into the mouths of clowns booth, and then to actually putting up and taking down the concession booths themselves, weekend after weekend.
Think about the image for a moment: I’m heading back to Hawaiʻi with a new wife, a backpack, less than $1,000 in my pocket, and no job – So yes, I called Linda.
It was probably the best call I’ve made in my entire life as it ultimately brought me to the island that’s been home for the past 43 years. Linda was happy to hear from me and immediately asked if I was I interested in opening up and managing a new E.K. Fernandez Fun Factory on Kauaʻi.
Two months later Claudette and I were new renters of a 1-bedroom unit in “H Building” at the Pono Kai Condominiums in Kapaʻa. Located about one mile from the Waipouli Town Center where the Fun Factory was located, I was able to walk to work until later we were able to afford buying a car. We convinced our new landlord to accept the first months rent with a promise to pay our deposit two weeks later, when I received my first paycheck.
So…there we were, ensconced in our rented condo, with me walking back and forth to work at the Fun Factory and learning the ins and outs of the “video arcade” business. I’m sure that Claudette while enjoying the adventure of it all, was probably a bit bewildered, wondering what she had gotten herself into, and thinking “Where were those streets of gold in America that everyone in South Africa had been referring to?”
Our first Thanksgiving together consisted of oatmeal cooked on a outdoor grill because our electricity had yet to be turned on and we were pretty much flat broke. Two weeks of so later, after we paid the landlord our deposit and stocked up on real food (the oatmeal diet was getting a bit old by then), we bought our first car.
It was a big old Buick. I’ll never forget it. A real rust bucket. The brakes didn’t work so well and when pulling into a parking spot, I had to pump them hard and be prepared to throw the car into “park” to make sure it stopped before bumping over the curb. The electric windows didn’t always roll up either and one morning as I prepared to drive the short distance to work, I found a rather confused and somewhat disheveled guy sleeping on the front seat.
The Buick wasn’t much, but hey it was better than walking back and forth in the rain.
And so began this next chapter of our now 43 year journey.
Photo of Me and My Pedicab at the Open Air Pedicab Company – Pre-Claudette
Photo of our wedding day –
Beautiful stories about your lifelong love affair. I met my wife at a hippie square dance in Santa Cruz, CA. I was selling flowers from roadside bucket shops. That was forty years ago and the live still flows. Happiness to you and your bride for the rest of the years to come!
Mahalo Larry! Yes…we each have many stories to tell…stories of love…stories of challenge…stories of growth. We are from the same era I think…Love to you and yours!