Friday, September 25, 2009


Not too long ago a new weekly column appeared in a local newspaper - a column especially for seniors. I was delighted to see it, but that delight was tempered by two things: first, the writer may have had one toe over the age of 50 which qualified her, I guess, but she's no senior and can't even imagine what a real senior is like, and secondly, she wrote about "Moo-Moos," which of course reinforced my thinking that she is not the one to speak (or write) to my generation.

In spite of the fact that her column droned on about preparing for old age, all tidy and theoretical, it certainly did jog my memory about how living through the Hawaii craze of the late 40s and early 50s influenced my life.

Our family acquired our first television in the late 1940s, the first in the neighborhood to have one. One of the top shows in those early years, starting in 1949, was Harry Owens and the Royal Hawaiians. The show was an immediate hit and all the young teenagers, which I was at that time, bought ukuleles and song books and taught ourselves to play all those tunes that were featured on his show - Sweet Leilani, Little Grass Shack, Hawaiian War Chant, Blue Hawaii, Lovely Hula Hands, Little Brown Gal, To You Sweetheart Aloha, Hilo Hattie Does the Hilo Hop, On the Beach at Waikiki, Song of the Island, and the funny Ukulele Lady, among others. Harry Owen's program lasted a long 9 years.

I was in a scout troop during the years 1945 to 1953 and almost all of us had ukuleles we took everywhere with us, ready to play during any lull in activities. Living in a beach town, we all wore bathing suits made of Hawaiian prints, and learned how to make leis out of both crepe paper and a more sturdy silk fiber material. Just before I went away to college I purchased a Martin "Tipple" or "Tiple," which is a 10 stringed ukulele-like instrument, larger than a standard uke but smaller than a guitar. It used ukulele chording but with the additional strings gave a much fuller sound, not unlike a mandolin.

In college and young adulthood, the luau was the party of choice, either at the beach or in the backyards of our homes. We bought Tiki Lamps for our patios, and all the women wore Muu-Muus and the men, if they were brave enough, wore lapu-lapus. Eventually the Hawaiian craze settled down and finally went out of fashion. We grew up and put our ukuleles away. I later gave my uke to my son, a musician, who was as enchanted with the tipple as I was. As it aged, it became more valuable.

Muu-Muus went out of fashion too, and even though they were wonderful to slip into if you wanted real comfort, eventually they began to look like things old ladies wore when they got tired of wearing their girdles and corsets and needed to "let it all hang out and covered up." And as the trend in everybody's clothing became less formal and more relaxed (think of young people going to work in jeans now), we aging ladies kind of adopted T-shirts and bermuda shorts as our "around the house" wear.

A couple of years ago I mentioned to my cousin Shirlee that I was considering finding a nice trendy Muu-Muu, if such a thing existed any more, to put on after I showered at night but before I donned my pjs for bedtime. She just about had a stroke, telling me it would make me look like an old lady. While I was still thinking that somehow I'd look like I did back in 1960, I figured she was probably more accurate in depicting my visage, so I took her advice. No Muu-Muu for me.

I paid her back when she moved to North Carolina into a nice mobile home park to be close to her daughter and said she was thinking of getting a tricycle so she could maneuver around the park without using her car. "A TRICYCLE?" I shouted into the phone? "ONLY OLD PEOPLE USE TRICYCLES, CUZ. YOU'LL LOOK STUPID!" And then I said, "You listen to me the way I listened to you when I said I wanted to buy a Muu-Muu!" She did, and both of us still consider that we are not old yet because we didn't succumb to things that aged us!

So I do think that this columnist is not the right age yet to do a column about us, the generation of the '30s and '40s and '50s. Let me screen the next writer. Only one who knows the difference between Muu-Muu and Moo-Moo is old enough to write bout us!


Ukulele Man said...

This was a really sweet post -- I still see some people use 'moo moo' around here in Honolulu, haha. I hope you are still plucking your uke or tiple!


Ukulele Beginner said...

Wow. I certainly never classified myself as a ukulele expert, but now I'm thinking I'm going to change whatever my ranking was back to beginner. I had never heard of the Martin Tiple. 10 string ukulele?! I MUST have one!
Thanks for the great post!