Column: Supernatural stirring in neighborhood of Pearl Harbor
Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared Dec. 11, 2004.
WORTHINGTON — Gerry Zahorsky — Zeke — began retirement from Worthington Public Utilities in the summer past. Zeke first was a Linotype operator at the Daily Globe. He and I worked together in the hot-type days. I don’t remember if that was just before the battleship Maine went down or just after. It was a long time ago.
Louise told me she nearly had to take Gerry by the throat to get him to agree to a retirement trip to Hawaii. He was reluctant.
Now he would like to go back. Hawaii does this to you.
Worthington people like to go to Florida or Texas. I am sure there is a special thrill in driving along a street in San Antonio and being told the President of the United States once drove along that same street. Hawaii is even more than this, however. Hawaii is beguiling. Hawaii is, among many things, perfume from flowers in the air.
I was reminded of Hawaii on Dec. 7, of course. Pearl Harbor.
You can read about Bigelow and you can hear about Bigelow. You think you know the town. Still, you don’t truly have the feel for Bigelow until you have walked along Market Street.
Pearl Harbor is a proof of this. I may have seen more photos of smoke billowing from the battleship Arizona than I have seen of any other news photo. I felt, “Been there, done that,” as one morning we set out to see the Arizona Memorial. When you stand with 1,178 names of lost crewmen all about you and look down to see a bubble of oil lifting from the rusting hulk beneath you, a new appreciation emerges.
I went to Hawaii with a tour group. A Lutheran pastor from North Dakota proposed that we share expenses on a Sunday afternoon and rent a car to see Hawaii beyond Honolulu. His interest was in finding graves and churches of missionaries. Hawaii was one of America’s first Christian mission fields.
None of the missionaries’ graves were remarkable. The little churches were fascinating. The things memorable were the churchyards and gravestones with Hawaiian names and 18th and 19th-century dates in rows, along with the missionaries’ graves. Here are the people the missionaries attracted to their churches. The work of their lifetimes is spread about them.
I had my only supernatural experience that Sunday afternoon in Hawaii.
I wanted to see the grave of Ernie Pyle in the Punchbowl, which is the awesome National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Punchbowl is a burial ground for more than 40,000 U.S. service personnel from the Pacific Theater, including those from Japanese POW camps whose remains were excavated and taken to Hawaii for reburial.
By now, it has to be explained that Ernie Pyle was a revered newspaper columnist (World War II) who made individual GIs his focus. Pyle wrote a book, “Brave Men,” which includes an account of Worthington’s Harold Tripp, who won a Silver Star in North Africa.
We spent a good deal of our Hawaiian Sunday outing at the mission churches. We came on a roadside stand where we could eat pineapple that kids were taking directly from a pineapple field. It was getting late when we arrived at the Punchbowl. We drove about — that cemetery setting, the shallow cone of an extinct volcano, is stunning. It affords memorable views of Diamond Head and Honolulu.
We were driving along the paved streets, gawking, when an announcement came: “Attention. Cemetery gates will close in five minutes. They will be opened again at eight tomorrow morning.” We had to be on our way. I was disappointed. I did not see Ernie Pyle’s grave — we hadn’t stopped, we hadn’t seen even one grave.
We turned down a street heading toward the exit and I said, “Pull over. Just for one minute. I want to run over just to see a headstone close up — I’d just like to say I have seen one.”
I opened the car door and ran to the nearest grave. On that first stone at the end of the row ahead of me was carved, “Ernest Taylor Pyle,” with the dates 1900-1945.
That was my supernatural experience. By an unlikely chance, I ran directly to the one thing I wanted to find, as though I knew.