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O‘ahu in 1945: “I Want to Go Back to My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawai‘i”

For 133 years HONOLULU Magazine has kept its readers and advertisers at the vanguard of fashion, insight and fun. Starting out as Paradise of the Pacific in 1888 with a commission from King Kalākaua, we’re the oldest continually publishing magazine west of the Mississippi. Here is a look into our archives.


hawaii history


Jack Nelson was one of many U.S. sailors who stopped in Hawai‘i during the war. Paradise of the Pacific writes: “He was a citizen, a sailor, a photographer, and a very lonely guy”—and one of many who knew a signature song about the Islands that starts, “I want to go back to my little grass shack in Kealakekua, Hawai‘i.” When he heard it, Nelson brightened up for the first time. “My Dad bought that record one Christmas.”


“Is there really a little grass shack over there?”


There was, though not at the time the song was written. Over the years, so many servicemen had gone looking for it that writer Ellen Davis said, “we got so embarrassed we whipped one up.” The Kona Historical Society says the ti-leaf thatched hut appeared on the grounds of the Christ Church next to an impromptu USO site with ping-pong tables, music and socials. Servicemen who couldn’t reveal their location in letters took photos in front of the shack as a hint for their families.


The shack now only exists in photographs. But the 1933 tune that served as its inspiration is No. 41 on our list of 50 Greatest Songs of Hawai’i.



Learn more about the evolution of covers in HONOLULU Magazine and Paradise of the Pacific: 125 Years of Covers, available at shop.honolulumagazine.com.


Find more photos from Honolulu’s past every Thursday on Instagram @honolulumag.



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Honolulu Magazine September 2020
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