A recent overnight trip to Honolulu had me reminiscing again.
I was 6 the first time I flew to Oahu alone. Kahului Airport was a single-story building with two small ticket counters, one for Hawaiian and one for Aloha. The tickets were actually boarding passes, collected at the gate and reused over and over. I didn't have a pass; instead, I had a cardboard sign hung around my neck. I think it was a handwritten makeshift sign that proclaimed me "Special Cargo" or something like that. Everyone made a big fuss over me and the stewardess gave me a wings pin and all the Chiclets gum I wanted. It was a wonderful adventure.
Random Thought Number One: I liked the word "stewardess" better than "flight attendant." I guess the change came about when men started doing the job and they were called male flight attendants, but why didn't they just call them stewards? I'd rather be a steward than an attendant, wouldn't you? A steward is defined as a manager, whereas an attendant just . . . attends. But I digress.
Years later, after my son's father and I were divorced, Jimmy took many flights to Honolulu and even to the Mainland alone. By the time he turned 13, he was an experienced traveler but still had to fly as an unaccompanied minor. Once, the agent assigned to escort him to the plane was no taller than my big boy. When the agent met us at the gate, he asked, "Where's the kid?" He and Jimmy were both a bit embarrassed as they rode the little golf cart to the aircraft.
By then, Kahului Airport had long grown out of its tiny tin-roofed building (I'm not sure whether it really had a tin roof, but that's how my mind's eye sees it). I was 9 or 10 years old when the new open-air terminal was built. The beautiful banyan tree with its chattering mynah birds was a striking centerpiece, but my favorite feature was the elevator that took us to the second-floor Gate 21 restaurant. My second favorite was Gate 21 itself. Since I never had to pick up the tab, I don't know whether the menu prices were as inflated as in today's typical airport coffee shops, but I thought it was the classiest restaurant on the island. I think it was the only 24-hour establishment we had at the time. I remember my parents getting me out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to go eat pancakes there.
I also liked the broad staircase leading to the restaurant, and the circular information counter near the tree. The information ladies wore lovely muumuu and wide-brimmed hats. I thought they were as classy as Gate 21. I loved that old airport.
Random Thought Number Two: I've always wondered why the airport code for Kahului Airport is OGG. I figured KAH and MAU had already been taken, but why OGG? Well, I finally took the time to do a little research. Turns out it was designated OGG in honor of Capt. Bertram J. Hogg (pronounced with a long "o"), a well-known aviator from Lihue. Capt. Hogg piloted the first interisland flight following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and flew for Hawaiian Air for most of his career. Now I wonder why they named Kahului Airport and not Lihue Airport (LIH) for him.
Random Thought Number Three: Do you know the airport code for Kapalua Airport? It's JHM, for John Henry Magoon, who was Hawaiian Air president when the airline built the little airport in 1987. The State of Hawaii purchased it six years later.
Back to OGG. The present facility, opened in 1990, isn't as lovable as the previous one (which became the baggage claim area - you can still see where the old tree grew), but I think it's quite pleasant. Of course, I like airports in general, because I love going places. Even with today's extreme security measures and extra costs for luxuries like luggage and food, I still enjoy traveling by air. I like the whole experience, from people-watching in the terminal to cloud-watching from the plane. Most of the time, the destination doesn't even matter, I just enjoy the ride.
I'm not a jet-setter by any means, but I've done a fair share of flying - as a passenger. From two-seaters to jumbo jets, I've enjoyed great rides. There's always a moment when I pause to marvel at the miracle of flight. Suddenly I'm 6 again, on the adventure of my life.
My most memorable flight was in the open-air front seat of a stunt biplane, doing loops and rolls over Oahu's North Shore.
My favorite flight? Whichever one I happen to be on.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose Sharing Mana'o column appears every Wednesday. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.