Wat Dat Oldies!

Strange things you see and say...

Monday, September 1, 1997

Presented on this page are all the ‘Wat Dat’ items that ran in 1995 prior to the opening of ‘starbulletin.com.’ The 1996 ‘Wat Dat’ archive is also here on the next page.

Notches in the Pali were
Hawaiian lookout stations

THE sharply eroded vista of the Nuuanu Pali is broken by two notches that stand out unnaturally on the edge of the mountain ridge, like missing teeth. WatDat?

Because the notches, on the right as you’re Kailua-bound, don’t follow the natural pattern of erosion, they appear to be artificial.

Are they? According to information from the State Historic Preservation Division, not a lot of archaeology has been done up there. It’s high, it’s windy, it’s rainy, it’s dangerous and severe exposure to the elements has scoured away any details of artifice. Even so, these notches appear to have been carved out of natural depressions, and there are traces of windbreaks and throwing stones scattered around.

Such notches cut in commanding views aren’t unique to the Pali. Many are seen throughout the islands.

According to old stories, the notches were cut by the warriors of Kalanikupule as sites to place cannons, the high positions being ideal to rake the invading armies of Kamehameha. The cannons supposedly were taken from the ill-fated ship Fair American. The Battle of Nuuanu Pali, although primarily fought with spears and clubs, featured these newfangled cannons banging away at invading hoards from the south.

Not quite, says artist/historian Herb Kane, who has studied the battle in detail. For one thing, it was Kamehameha who had Fair American’s cannons, and these were small-caliber guns hardly worth carving up a mountain for.

“Kalanikupule had some arms bigger than muskets, but they were probably just swivel guns,” Kane said. “Besides, the Battle of Nuuanu Pali started as a skirmish by Diamond Head, and no one knew where the battle would end up. Kalanikupule could not have planned it that way.”

So why were the niches notched?

“Hawaiians, like everyone else, understood the value of high ground,” Kane said. “These are certainly (pre-Cook) lookout stations, and that’s why you see them all over the islands -- if you look out for them.”

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Is Mrs. Sleeping Giant
near Mililani Mauka?

Mamo Kuniyoshi sends us this lovely panoramic snapshot taken from Mililani Mauka, looking west. “Kauai has the Sleeping Giant,” she writes. “Is this Mrs. Sleeping Giant? (Is she pregnant?)”

We rushed this startling image to our trio of experts in the Star-Bulletin art department, all of whom often see women’s figures within inanimate objects. “Wow,” said Kevin, Bryant and Vint, “Yep, there she is.”

Essentially, the face is in profile, beginning where Kolekole Pass divides the Waianae range. It then dips down in to a neck, then swells up into a breast, then dips down again into a waist, and then curves up into a shape that could be a hapai opu, but which the artists prefer to see as a softly rounded hip, turned on edge. The cartographers would call it Mount Kaala. The range, and the legs, then slope down toward North Shore.

Under the right lighting conditions, arms, eyes, belly buttons, etc. will appear, depending on your over-fevered imagination. This is because certain familiar shapes have imprinted themselves on our subconscious, a kind of visual mnemonic, and the most familiar is the human shape. Ask anyone who thinks there’s a giant face on Mars for the benefit of mapping satellites.

Given this kind of instinctive visual programming, it’s not surprising that virtually everyone we showed it to on the Star-Bulletin staff could divine the female form, that is, except for one of our many copy editors named Joe, but then he also has trouble seeing the face of Jesus in burnt taco shells.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

It's not Da Hummer, it's those
radio and TV broadcast signals


Chances are your car radio may hum as you drive by the KGMB studios on Kapiolani Boulevard -- in fact, the hum rises and falls in proximity to the radio tower behind the station. WatDat?

It’s true, the tower is causing the hum. That tower not only broadcasts KGMB, it also broadcasts KHET and radio station station KQMQ. But it’s unfair to single out KGMB -- KITV and radio station KPOI are broadcast from the Ala Moana Building, and KHON is broadcast from Century Center, so there are four TV station signals all within a few blocks of each other.

"That corridor is certainly the hottest area in Hawaii, wave-wise," said Federal Communications Commission engineer John Raymond. "And there’s not much you can do about the hum until you drive through."

The hum, which is about 50 cycles, is caused by the television stations’ video-sync signal. This occurs at a wavelength that car speaker systems aren’t designed to shield out because it’s so rare. "It wouldn’t happen anywhere except in close proximity to a 100-kilowat tower," Raymond said. "If you listen to the hum closely, you’ll hear it rise and fall in cycles."

No thanks. Sensitivity to the hum is directly linked to the type of vehicle you’re driving. The bigger, the more metal your car, the more shielded your speakers are. If you’re driving an open-top Jeep with a vinyl dash, hum city.

The signal is not supposed to be unhealthy, unless the hum drives you batty. On the other hand, the hum does scramble car-alarm systems, making it very difficult to set one off in the area. And there’s no special dispensation for government types -- Raymond said that the FCC vehicles’ car alarms won’t work there either. Hmmmm?

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Station pumped to
become historic center

WatDat’s roving reporter doesn’t rove too far today, as the site in question is that charmingly ramshackle group of bluestone buildings on the corner of Ala Moana and Keawe, topped by a tall smokestack, which in turn has a plant growing out of the top.

Commonly called the Kakaako Pumping Station, the site is actually the Ala Moana Pumping Station, says Dion-Magrit Coschigano of the Historic Hawaii Foundation.

It was part of the city’s original sewage system for many years, but the pumps were moved elsewhere, and the building became a target for neglect, with occasional bouts of vandalism.

Of typically ornate Hawaii-Victorian architecture, the 1900-era buildings also feature church-like picture windows to let the sun shine in on all that pumping apparatus. Boy, those were the days of pumping-station design! The architect was O.G. Traphagen (who also designed the Moana Hotel) and the style is known as Richardson Roman-esque.

An additional structure was built in 1940.

Last year, Chaminade University students completed the measurements and paperwork necessary to have the site registered as a national architectural landmark. The site is owned by the state’s Hawaii Community Development Authority. The foundation has been announcing plans to restore the site for years -- half a million dollars was raised in 1992 for the project -- and Coschigano says work will begin in earnest this month or next.

“We’ll turn it into the Historic Hawaii Kakaako Heritage Education Center, so there will be a permanent statewide address for historic preservation in Hawaii,” she said.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Those hillsides look so green it hurts

From a distance, it looks just like acres of green Scotchbrite scouring-pad material, bandaging the damaged slopes where new highways have cut into the hillsides. But get right up close to it, eyeball an inch away, and it looks exactly like ... Scotchbrite.

Though the green stuff has a variety of brand names, Department of Transportation guys just call it “erosion protection mat,” and that’s what it does. When a hillside is cut away, the EPM is staked down to keep erosion to a minimum -- it’s more like a sticking plaster than a Band-Aid.

The plastic weave actually has a chicken-wire mesh inside for strength. It’s not bio-degradable, and, according to DOT spokesperson Ross Smith, it hasn’t been used here long enough to determine how long it takes to fall apart.

“The idea is that it’s porous enough for grass to take root and grow up through the mesh, and eventually become strong enough to break the mat apart,” Smith said. “It’s been pretty successful on H-3 projects.”

And you don’t want to go hill-sliding on the stuff. Check out a football game where the teams are scrambling on Astroturf, and when the receiver goes bum-over-breadbasket, watch him check his elbows to see if the plastic grass has rasped away the skin. Same smell here.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Park in Kaimuki was
once a mortar battery

Robert Lee of Mililani writes, “where Koko Head Ave. meets Pahoa Ave., there is a fire station. Wat dat in the back of the fire station up on the hillside? I heard it’s one Russian fort? Why did the Russians build a fort there? Even get one on Kauai. They was going take over the islands?”

For years, there were concrete pill-box-like buildings on that little hill, the only high ground between the Koolaus and Diamond Head. They weren’t Russian, they were American, built during World War I and soon thereafter. According to the U.S. Army Museum in Waikiki, these particular structures were probably a mortar battery, part of the serious defenses that earned Hawaii the lovely nickname “the Gibraltar of the Pacific.”

The Cold War made such hilltop bastions obsolete, and they were eventually abandoned. This particular set of structures was torn down not that long ago and the city created Pu‘uo Kaimuki Mini-Park on top, a grassy knoll featuring a nice view, a new driveway with a lava-rock retaining wall.

It’s this low wall that looks, from a distance, like a crumbled fort, but really, it’s relatively new. It’s just not that tall. It’s just the right height for people to sit on and eat fried food. Boy Scout Troop 10, housed nearby, periodically has to clean the park.

Incidentally, the Kaimuki fire station in front is not abandoned, it just looks that way. The building is being refurbished and the windows are boarded up because the new windows haven’t arrived yet.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

It’s kinda like
Yankee Stadium—with a view

Ever wished you could have a box seat on the freeway? You know, a nice loge where you can kick back and watch the semis whiz by, where the perfume of diesel exhaust mingles headily with the aroma of oily asphalt, an oasis, a windswept window on the wide, weird world?

On H-1 in the Punchbowl area, there are three such areas notched into the mauka side of the freeway wall. They feature broad stairways accessing the loges from Magellan Avenue, trees, landscaping, park benches and an unparalleled view of oncoming and outgoing traffic. Good place to calibrate your radar gun.

“They’re parks. Really,” Department of Transportation answerman Ross Smith says. “Miniparks. They were built in the late-’60s, early ’70s time period. The idea was to provide as much open space as possible for people in urban settings, and we had the opportunity to do that here.”

The miniparks also provide access to greenery placed along the freeway for DOT plant wranglers.

During the day, the loges are sunbaked frying pans. At night, “well, there’s the homeless,” Smith says.

The park benches are rotting, the lights are kicked out, the puny trees appear to have been chewed on, mounds of beer cans -- mostly Bud -- form aluminum snow drifts. Little bottles of bleach for sterilizing drug needles crunch underfoot. Welcome to the ’90s. The dream dies hard, even urban daydreams.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Maybe intellect is for muscle heads

Heading into Manoa Valley, once you get past the University of Hawaii, there’s a cross street called Alaula Way, and there, plopped on the corner, is a sign announcing the location of the Anthroposophical Society’s Rudolf Steiner Library.

The library dates back to the mid-’20s, when anthroposophy was an intellectual craze. Steiner was an Austrian philosopher who believed, essentially, that the intellect was a muscle that was wasting away in the materialistic world. Mankind could achieve spiritual pumpitude by focusing on the “higher self” and by studiously avoiding any TV show featuring Tony Danza.

It seems humanity (anthropos) has the built-in wisdom (sophia) to transform the world into a spiritual wonderland. A not-quite religion in which higher consciousness can be achieved by thinking mighty thoughts? No wonder Anthroposophical Societies sprang up near college campuses across the world. "Can't mow the yard today, dear, I've got to get down to the Steiner clubhouse and reconsider the perplexing nature of matter in a constantly fluxing universe. The future of mankind depends on it. I need a couple bucks, though, for a sixer."

The Steiner influence is felt in a variety of disciplines and arts, with the Waldorf Schools being best-known.

The Steiner library in Manoa triples also as a meeting hall and bookstore for anthroposophical titles; it's open to the public 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays. The local group currently has about 50 to 60 members, according to AS contact Phyl Dwyer. For information, call 988-4555.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Monitoring wells
keeping tabs on aquifers

They look like little guard houses that guard nothing, popping up in the oddest places -- the one pictured here is on the grounds of Kapalama School near Bishop Museum -- and they’re soundly locked. Listen carefully; there’s no hum of electricity, no seismic tingle from a faraway dynamo, no smell of chemicals or ozone or any other kind of activity. They seem to be abandoned.

That’s where you’re wrong. These are actually monitoring wells for Oahu’s aquifer and they’re run by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. According to Water wrangler Denise DeCosta, there are 14 such stations scattered around Oahu.

These are NOT fluorine injection stations. Oahu’s water isn’t fluoridated, although there are areas where a bit of chlorine is added to kill critters.

Each monitor well has a sensing device that records the level of the aquifer. They don’t pump out of these wells -- they’re more like catheters or thermocouples inserted through an incision -- and they have to be kept away from pumping wells so the results aren’t skewed.

Water does seek its own level, but when it’s doing so through rock, it takes a while.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Overpass to nowhere
has a colorful history

Art Freedman of Honolulu is perplexed by “a somewhat mysterious bridge that crosses the Likelike Highway apparently going from nowhere to nothing ...”

It’s the Burmeister Overpass, named for the fiercely individualistic Burmeister family whose property was sought by the state for the Likelike project. It links the family home with upper Kalihi Street. After lengthy court battles, the state bought the parcel straddling the highway, and the family built the overpass.

In the mid-’60s, private eyes wanting film footage of son George Burmeister for a deposition trespassed on the property and threw sticks at the house. Burmeister rushed out and shotgunned one of the detectives, who died. Convicted of manslaughter, Burmeister passed out in court. The sentence was five years probation and counseling of Boy Scouts.

In 1971, Burmeister surprised other people on his property poaching Christmas trees, and got into a bloody scuffle involving hunting knives and rip saws.

In 1986, George Burmeister was charged with with shooting out the tires of an employee’s car. His wife and brother, who backed bail bond for the incident, revoked the bond after Burmeister’s wife and children fled following a domestic dispute. In front of more than a dozen witnesses, Burmeister then burned down the family home.

Results of the arson investigation were never revealed, but Burmeister was placed on probation for the tire-shooting incident. In 1993, at the rebuilt home, Burmeister assaulted another employee and his girlfriend, smashing their truck windows while they cowered inside. Burmeister finally did some lockup time.

In other words, don’t get too curious about the area around the overpass. Tain’t healthy.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Morgan’s Corner
has a grisly reputation

Just in time for Halloween, Randall Lee e-mails us about a place called Morgan’s Corner on Nuuanu Pali Road. He’d heard grisly stories about the place. “Any truth, or just a camp counselor’s story?” Lee asked.

There are a hundred variations of the story, but most involve a dark Pali road, a couple stranded in a car, the disappearance of the man, a steady drip-drip-drip on the car roof, a hook stuck in the door, and police who say get out of the car and don’t look back ...

It’s a real place. It’s where the old Pali road swings back over Nuuanu Stream and then straightens out again. It’s also where Dr. James Morgan built a villa in the ’20s. Morgan’s Corner was a well-known slow-down for Kailua commuters in pre-Pali Highway days.

The site comes by its gruesome reputation honestly. In 1948, prison escapees James Majors and John Palakiko invaded the home of Dr. Morgan’s neighbor Therese Wilder. They tortured and assaulted her, then trussed up and gagged the 68-year-old woman.. She died, and Palakiko and Majors were charged with murder and swiftly found guilty.

Sentenced to hang in September 1951, they were being shackled for the long walk to the gallows when Gov. Oren Long stayed the execution. The case polarized Hawaii citizens; many felt the two men were sentenced to die solely because they were not white.

Palakiko and Majors, would have been the last people executed in Hawaii. They were paroled in 1963 and had minor brushes with the law afterward. Palakiko died mysteriously and Majors’ whereabouts are unknown.

So, if you happen to stop at Morgan’s Corner one dark night, listen carefully. Is that the rustle of the wind, or the lonely screams of Therese Wilder?

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Building at Moiliili
is switching vault

The tiny, stout building is not a satellite City Hall, even though the vaguely Mediterranean-au-go-go architecture suggests it might be. It’s not Earl Anzai’s Fortress of Solitude. It’s not even where the Eagles keep their guitar picks (and if you think we can let a couple of inches of newsprint roll by without mentioning the Eagles, then wake up and smell the ’90s.)

Located at the Diamond Head end of Moiliili Field, behind Star Market, there is nothing to indicate the reason for the building’s existence, except that it’s locked up tight. There’s the world’s smallest set of bleachers right next to it, just in case some softball leaguer powers one out of the park.

What it is -- hold on to your butts -- is The Moiliili Switching Vault.

This is a Hawaiian Electric deal. On the inside are a bunch of electrical switches to route 12,000-volt power lines around, kind of like Victor Frankenstein’s hobby room. This particular vault can mess with the circuitry for Hausten, Date and Kamoku streets, plus Kapiolani Boulevard and assorted lateral avenues.

Which explains the generic, public-utility look to the structure, which is 19 years old. There are a number of them around the island, including some very visible vaults in Waikiki. Hawaiian Electric crews handle the maintenance and groundskeeping, which explains the nice plantings. They also routinely check the shutters -- in case some bonehead decides to go fishing inside with a lightning rod.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

HFD Station No. 8 is a
historical landmark

In the old days, as firemen dozed in the Kakaako station on South Street, the ti leaves would suddenly rustle around the entrance on windless nights and the firemen would hear a hollow voice calling them outside.

Naturally, there would be no one there. But ghosts are regular visitors at an edifice built around ancient Hawaiian graves and where the corpses of harbor accidents often wound up staining the floor.

The Honolulu Fire Department’s Kakaako brigade moved to fancier digs on Queen Street in 1973. Station #8, built in the late ’20s and one of HFD’s five historical-landmark stations, remains fire-department property, although there have been brief flirtations with housing homeless people and the ballet (not simultaneously).

Area merchants got a scare earlier this year when a plan emerged to operate a shelter for deranged homeless people at the station.

The fire department, however, also had plans for its South Street site. For one thing, it isn’t actually abandoned. The rear lot holds HFD’s mechanical shops, which are in operation. When these move to a newer site in Waipahu next year, HFD wants to erect a “multistory” departmental office where the shops are.

The fire station itself will be renovated and an HFD museum will find a home.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Boulder is memorial
to Windward soldiers

A simple act of decency in Mississippi during World War II led to a mysterious boulder familiar to Windward commuters. It sits on a whitewashed base across from a pleasant-looking ranch house at Castle Junction.

Earl Melvin Finch, a prosperous young rancher from Hattiesberg, Miss., noticed some lonely GIs from Camp Shelby one day, and invited them home for dinner. No big deal when there was a war on, except that these were AJAs with the 442nd and Finch’s neighbors ganged up on him when they found out he was entertaining “damn Japs.”

Finch -- by all accounts a thoroughly decent guy -- became a “one-man USO” for the nisei and his efforts to make Hawaii boys feel at home became legendary. If you’re a Japanese-American around age 50 and your name is Earl, chances are you’re named after Finch.

Finch made a visit to Hawaii in 1946 and was stunned by his reception, the largest ever given a private citizen. He dined with the governor and mayor, was feted at lavish parties, became the first honorary member of the 442nd, and people just gave him money. Piles of money. He used it to honor the 442nd.

A Windward reception for Gold Star Mothers, who had lost a son in combat, was memorialized in the plaque and boulder at Castle Junction. Korean War losses were added later.

Ostracized in Mississippi, Finch later moved to Hawaii and became a businessman and promoter. He adopted an orphan -- now noted economist Seiji Naya -- and introduced Hawaii to rock ’n’ roll. He died in 1965 at age 49.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

No deposit, no return
on yard bottles

When he bought a house on the cheap side of Diamond Head in 1979, museum archivist DeSoto Brown received a big jar of water as a housewarming present. “I was supposed to put it in my yard to keep dogs away,” he said. “But even then I thought it was a joke.”

Is it? There was a rash of yard-bottles in the mid-1970s at many Hawaii homes. The concept is that the water in a big clear bottle magnifies and reflects images, causing odd movements where they aren’t expected. While humans are (rarely) fooled by this, it was supposed to spook animals. Upshot: for the price of a bottle of water, no more unfamiliar animal poop on the lawn.

You see far fewer yard bottles today than you used to, but they’re still around. In the 1970s, however, big bottles and jars were still made of glass, which has superior prismatic capabilities. Like milk caps and Spam musubi, yard bottles may be a Hawaii invention. Urban-legend chronicleer Jan Harold Brunvand first reports yard bottles in Santa Cruz in the late 1970s, spreading to San Diego by the early ’80s and then to Australia and New Zealand by the late ’80s.

Does it work? Who knows. In his book “Curses! Broiled Again!” Brunvand recounts witnessing a dog making a deposit directly on top of a yard bottle.

On the other hand, while taking the picture shown here of a Kailua yard bottle, a Star-Bulletin photographer witnessed a gaggle of ducks scared away by “something” about that yard.

So, if nothing else -- circumstantial evidence that dogs are smarter than ducks.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Kolekole cross isn’t
what you think

As Dec. 7 draws nigh, otherwise rational people point at the white cross on Kolekole Pass and say, “That’s where the Japanese came through and surprised the Americans.” X marks the spot.

Nice tale, but t’ain’t so. Any Pearl Harbor historian will tell you that the Imperial Navy aviators hit Oahu from dozens of directions, and the few that passed over the Waianaes did so in full view at 10,000 feet. Not exactly sneaking through the mountains.

The notion got started when Navy commander and Hollywood director John Ford made a “documentary” about the attack, and he restaged several scenes. One featured airplanes hurtling perniciously through Kolekole, and the footage was reused so often -- notably in “From Here to Eternity” -- that audiences swallowed the hokum wholesale.

A cross at the site dates back to the mid-’20s, when a craze swept the country for hillside religious services. Army chaplains erected a wooden cross at the peak of a natural bowl and over the years it was constantly re-erected. In 1947, Army engineers put together a 37-foot, 35-ton, I-beam- and sheet-steel cross embedded in a concrete base.

In the mid-’60s, Marines at Camp Smith erected an even bigger cross, complete with floodlights. In 1986, the Jewish Federation of Hawaii complained about the Camp Smith cross through the ACLU, saying that the Christian symbol violated the First Amendment.

The Camp Smith cross came down, the Kolekole cross stayed up. Why? The Kolekole cross marks a traditional place of worship -- like the cross on a church -- while the Camp Smith cross had no such context.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Pillboxes were part of
Oahu’s defense

They’re everywhere -- squatty, concrete structures, often in inaccessible areas, and they always face the sea. But it wasn’t until the structure on the hill above Lanikai was painted a violent pinky-purple color that we got asked about them.

They’re part of the island’s defensive system that was begun in World War I and hit its peak in 1941 and ‘42. They’re pillboxes, observation posts, gun pits and triangulation stations, all of which together earned Oahu the nickname “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” (And you thought our nickname was “The Gathering And Cement-Pouring Place.”)

Something like 40,000 emplacements were planned, and it’s unknown how many were completed.

The state’s Historic Preservation Office has no idea how many of these structures there are -- or were. None are listed as historical landmarks, despite their significance in Hawaii’s modern history, and none are being preserved. Technically, they’re abandoned property, and belong to the current landowner.

The Lanikai site, which appears to be an observation post, was likely built during a panic-period in October and November of 1941, when Army engineers quickly beefed up defenses on the Windward side of the island.

It was all rendered fairly moot by tactical improvements in shore-swarming during the war and afterward by A-bombs. Everything useful was stripped out and the concrete-and-rebar husks abandoned.

Some were knocked down, others were overgrown. Some were demolished to make way for other constructions. Some have the indignity of being grafitti’d, or, in the case of the Lanikai site, having the old warrior painted a sissy color.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Nutridge House leased to Ralston

It was built halfway up Tantalus in the 1920s by E.S. Van Tassel, the founder of the local macadamia nut industry. Thus its name, Nutridge House.

Since the Sixties, the small, picturesque house has been under state ownership, overseen by the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

So why is a state-owned home, sitting in the midst of Puu Ualakaa State Park, been occupied for a dozen years by Rick Ralston, founder of Crazy Shirts?

In the beginning, it was partly because the state didn’t really know what it wanted to do with the house and partly -- surprise! -- because it didn’t have the money to put the structure to public use.

It sat vacant for years, neglected and vandalized.

In 1981, the land department gave Ralston, known for restoring historic properties, a three-year lease to live in the home. But first he agreed to put in some $70,000 worth of repairs, including a new roof.

He moved in in 1983. Ralston was given a monthly revocable permit, at a continuing rent of $655 a month. He also voluntarily paid to have the grass and trees in the area kept trimmed.

The idea was to allow him occupancy until the state figured out what future public use could be gained from the house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

But the state has decided that the house is “probably too fragile” to be put to public use, state parks administrator Ralston Nagata said last week. He also said it was too small to be divided into meeting rooms.

Down the line, there’s talk about using the grounds, which has remnants of Van Tassel’s macadamia tree grove, for an interpretive history center, but nothing is now planned, he said.

Ralston can remain in the house “for the foreseeable future,” Nagata said.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Postage stamp is a real “Butte”

Peter Berkey of Honolulu is puzzled by the postage stamp shown here. “Is it a desert with rocks?” he wonders. “Or is it two submarines floating on the sea in the sunset? It also looks like it might be an industrial site.”

And another thing. “Why doesn’t the stamp say what it is representing? Doesn’t the USPS want you to know?”

To us, at first glance, the image seems to be an Art Deco representation of Monument Valley, an area that straddles the Utah-Arizona border where many John Wayne movies were filmed. But if you lay your eyeball directly on top of the thing, it indeed becomes a kind of mauve-red-yellow Rorschach test. To make sure, we checked with our local post office.

All stamps sold in the post office have information sheets available. The Post Office even publishes a kind of slick magazine that gives the skinny on currently available stamps, handy for browsing while waiting in Christmas-gift exchange lines.

“Stamp Announcement 95-6” in the current Postal Bulletin reveals this stamp is called “Butte,” and it is worth 5 cents and comes in rolls of 3,000 and 10,000, but it is only available to qualified nonprofit organizations. That is, nonprofit organizations -- and ONLY nonprofit organizations -- can use it for postage, but they have to buy the stamps in bulk and mail in bulk in order to realize savings.

“Butte” was designed by artist Tom Engeman of Crockett, Calif. He’s the guy to complain to. Tell him your name is Phil Attaly.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

Wat Dat Oldies 1996

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