Grandpa’s (1932) Bike Ride Around the Big Island

I posted a couple other stories by the late Gabriel Manning before.  One on his Survival Story of the 1946 Tsunami and the other was his Memories of the Hilo Massacre of 1938.

Gabriel Manning

Gabriel Manning

I got an email the other day from his grandson, Lance, telling me that the newspapers weren’t interested in his grandfathers story of his 1932 bike ride around the islands so I thought I would post it for you folks.

Lance and Grandpa Manning the night before the race

Lance and Grandpa Manning the night before the race

This was written by Lance Manning (Gabriel’s grandson).

Grandpa’s Bike Ride around the Big Island

During spring break in March 1932, Grandpa Manning, a native of Hilo, Hawaii,  embarked on a memorable bike ride. In preparation for a 1 mile and 3 mile community bike race on the 4th of July, he, just 16 years old, and a friend decided the best way to train was to ride around the Big Island.

Apparently, his daily 300-customer paper route was not enough cycling for him to feel confident about winning on race day. Today, at 92 years old, he looks back and describes himself as, very competitive.

So, on day one of the practice ride, he and Tommy Jewett started along the old road and headed north from Hilo. They dressed in the best biking attire of the day: shorts, t-shirt, and since biking shoes weren’t invented yet, they rode barefoot. In fact, at 14 years old, it was the first time he wore shoes though only to church.

The bike he rode had only one speed, so that required walking uphill in tough spots. Just in case of a flat, he carried a spare tire and pump. Knowing how to fix his bike brought necessary confidence to the journey.

Sufficient hydration did not come from a triathlon, aerobar water bottle. They found water wherever they could. Coming through Lapahuehue, spring water from the side of a cliff provided cooling sustenance. Staying fueled came by way of buying food when riding through towns.

Later that evening, friends in Honokaa welcomed the riders from a long day on the road. They slept well and, after an early 5 a.m. breakfast, continued westward toward Kona. The 320 mile loop became easier when, in Waimea, a tailwind pushed at their backs allowing them to coast for 10 miles. That came at a price though, as temperatures dipped into the 60s and the absence of raincoats left them soaked from the precipitation.

Having made good progress through Kona, day two’s stopping point was in the Kealakekua area. Grandpa knew a minister who lived here. So invoking the Hawaiian way of ìdropping inî, they just showed up at the doorstep. The Reverend Moses Moku happily welcomed his visitors for the evening. He killed a chicken, fixed dinner, and made them feel at home. They later bathed, slept, and after being treated like kings headed south to begin day 3 on the road. Reverend Moku would later officiate Grandpaís wedding to Grandma.

On the volcano side, the heat of the lava fields proved unforgiving. A 3 mile uphill climb walking the bikes pushed their limits. That night, they rested at the Kilauea military camp.

Then it was all downhill through Mountain View, followed by a quick 15 miles to Hilo.  3 days it took from start to finish: leg muscles worn out, lungs burning, and a multitude of views to remember for a lifetime.

The 80 hour workout certainly required some recovery time, but not until the paper route was done on the day of return. In reminiscing to tell this story, Grandpa proclaims that he was in top shape and recovered right away. Basketball, football, rowing, plus biking everywhere made him feel like he was made of iron.

But, was the workout worth it? Only race day results could justify. The 3 mile race amongst teens, Grandpa won by 15 lengths. He also took 1st in the 1 mile race. The medals placed around his neck were the first he ever won.

Seventy-six years later, with a smile on his face and still feeling the pride of victory, he proclaims the grandfatherly advice, “remember, you fight like you train!” Before the Big Island welcomed multi-speed bikes and Ironman World Championships, Grandpa conquered the roads of Hawaii.

Tsunami Survivor Story: Jeanne Branch Johnston

The other day, I posted the story of Gabriel Mannings survival story of the 1946 Hilo Tsunami.

The other day I came across another story that I’d like to share.   But first I’d like to share the E-Mail I got from the person that is involved in the story, Jeanne Branch Johnston one of the founders of the Tsunami Museum

Jeanne Branch Johnston back in 1997

Jeanne Branch Johnston back in 1997

I read the story on your blog about Gabriel Manning.  I am sorry to hear of his passing.  I interviewed him at the Pacific Tsunami Museum some years ago and that interview would be in their archives.  Also, I believe that Gabriel should have received a DVD of his interview.  If he does not have it, his son could check with the Archivist at PTM if he wants a copy.  He has quite a compelling story!!

Thanks for keeping the memory of the 1946 tsunami alive.  Most of the people in Hawaii were born after that tsunami. Many were born after the 1960 distant and 1975 local tsunamis that took lives here in Hawaii.  Since tsunamis are such a rare occurrence, it is not easy to keep tsunami safety in the public eye.  Absolutely no one should ever lose their life in Hawaii from a distant tsunami.  In the case of a locally generated tsunami, you may only have minutes, but if you know the signs, you can save your life and the lives of others.  If you are on the coastline and an earthquake occurs that knocks you off your feet, as soon as you can stand — run inland as far as you can or evacuate vertically above the 3rd floor in a concrete steel reinforced building.  If the water recedes unusually far away from the shore — run inland as far as you can or evacuate vertically above the 3rd floor in a steel reinforced building.  Know the signs of a tsunami — it may save your life!

Thanks for your interest!
Jeanne Branch Johnston

Here is her story as told by Ned Rozell of the Alaska Report.

Jeanne Branch Johnston, then six years old, was in living in Hilo. She remembers a lush neighborhood of coconut trees and brackish ponds that would rise and fall with the tide, and the surrounding sugar plantations where most people earned their wages.

On the morning of April 1, 1946, Johnston was staying over at her grandparents’ house in a section of Hilo that was close to the ocean. She was in her pajamas getting ready to go to school and playing with her brother when she heard car horns blaring. She took her brother David, 4, by the hand, and went outside.

The first wave from the giant earthquake had struck Hilo, sort of like a high tide that kept on rising, and had washed out part of the main road before it receded toward the sea. Drivers who didn’t realize the road damage were honking at others…

Jeanne Branch Johnston's uncle Rod Mason took this photo of a tsunami wave that hit Hilo, Hawaii, on April 1, 1946.   From the Alaska Report

Jeanne Branch Johnston's uncle Rod Mason took this photo of a tsunami wave that hit Hilo, Hawaii, on April 1, 1946. From the Alaska Report

…Johnston and her brother looked around at random debris and wondered what had happened, until her brother tugged at her shirt.

“There were red ants biting at David’s feet,” said Johnston, now 69 and living in Kailua, Hawaii. “He started whining and carrying on. I was really interested in staying out there, but he said Come on, let’s go inside.’ So I took him back inside the house, which saved our lives. He and I wouldn’t have been here today if it hadn’t have been for those red ants.”

After Johnston shepherded her little brother back into her grandparents’ house, a second tsunami wave roiled through Hilo, this one larger than the first. Looking from a window on the second floor of the house, Johnston saw the ocean had poured in; water had reached the height of her grandmother’s clothesline.

“I called my grandmother and said, There’s water in the backyard,'” Johnston said. “She said, Don’t worry about it.it’s probably just high seas.’ I said, I think you should come look.’ As soon as she looked out the window, she started screaming and ran for my grandfather.”

Johnston’s grandmother stayed with her grandfather, who didn’t want to leave his house despite the insistence of Johnston’s uncle, Rod Mason, who seemed to know a larger wave was on its way. A neighbor that Johnston called “Uncle Eddie” took charge and gathered together people who would listen to him.

“Eddie had a machete with him, and obviously had a plan,” Johnston said.

Eddie knew the best path to safety was to get to higher ground before another wave came in. He guided a group of children‹some, like Johnston, still barefoot‹into the subtropical forest behind the houses, chopping a path through vines and trees with another man.

“They kept telling us to run,” Johnston said.

She remembers cutting her feet on sharp lava rocks. The images of water percolating through those rocks and floating, thorny lauhala leaves would appear for years in her dreams.

Eddie and other adults delivered the children to a radio tower and higher ground, where the kids played. When the tsunami had dissipated, the adults gathered up Johnston and the other children and brought them back to the place where they gathered before they went into the jungle.

“(The adults) told us not to go out to the street, but it looked very interesting so I went out there anyway,” Johnston said. “I saw a house that was sitting on a bunch of cushions from chairs, then I found out why they didn’t want us to go‹I saw someone’s arm sticking out from underneath a house.”

Ninety-six people died in Hilo on that April Fools Day 63 years ago, and 159 died in the entire territory of Hawaii. And, though Johnston’s family all survived, the tsunami affected her in profound ways.

“I’ve realized over the last 20 years that it had a tremendous impact on me emotionally and physiologically,” Johnston said. “I never really was in touch with it until I started doing tsunami survivor interviews myself.”

University of Hawaii professor Walter Dudley interviewed Johnston in the early 1990s about her experience. Not long after Dudley interviewed her, Johnston stopped having the dream of swimming amid spiky lauhala leaves. She found the storytelling experience so profound that she helped found the Pacific Tsunami Museum and now devotes a good deal of her time to traveling and interviewing tsunami survivors.

“I found that people are captivated by stories, but not very interested in mitigation info,” she said. “If you get them interested in stories you can teach them what to do and how these people were saved. There are always lessons in these stories.”