On Monday morning I looked up quotes about Mondays. The very first one blew me away: “On Monday mornings I am dedicated to the proposition that all men are created jerks.” It was worth a chuckle and a thought, but the author of the quote brought a smile to my lips. H. Allen Smith most likely is not a name that means much to most people.
“Harry Allen Wolfgang Smith was an American journalist, humorist, and author whose books were popular in the 1940s and 1950s.” – Wikipedia
Smith became famous with his book “Low Man on a Totem Pole” (1941), which was a hit at home and our troops overseas in World War II. Before my time, but authors and their books are fair game at any age and historic period. His second book “Life in a Putty Knife Factory” (1943), and his third book “Lost in the Horse Latitudes” (1944) were also hits. All three were distributed by the Armed Services Editions to the members of our military. I read those books about twenty years later. His novel, “Rhubarb” (1946) was a best seller, also and was made into a film in 1951. Not my favorite book, or film.
“Waikiki Beachnik” (1960) is Smith’s book that probably changed my life. My second year at Clover Park High School I couldn’t get classes that I wanted, so I signed up for Study Hall. Study Hall was a waste of time, academically. A friend tried to set me up with her sister . . . an upperclassman told me how much he enjoyed “Catcher in the Rye” when I read it instead of studying . . . and I read Waikiki Beachnik. One of Smith’s stories in Waikiki Beachnik was about his trying to sing the Hawaiian song, “Little Grass Shack.” The humor of the story was about him trying to sing while butchering the Hawaiian names and phrases. I kept my head down so the other students couldn’t see the tears in my eyes as I laughed convulsively and quietly. My head and shoulders twitched as I held back chortles, cackles, and guffaws. By the end of class I could have made a small fortune by selling copies. I never signed up for Study Hall, again.
I looked up Waikiki Beachnik on Amazon. The reviews show five stars out of five stars. Here are a couple of their comments: “Love this book. A real slice of what Hawaii was like back in the 50s and early 60s.” “Another book I read as a kid from H. Allen Smith and really liked it then and wanted to read it again.”
Waikiki Beachnik in study hall was actually a precursor to me in college listening with headsets to records of Victor Borge in the library. People stared at me until I learned to snort and snicker more softly.
The book doesn’t appear to be attracting new readers, but those who have read it, remember it well. If you find yourself looking through little lending libraries outside friendly book reading neighbors, you might keep your eye out for a copy. Don’t hold back like I did in study hall, go ahead and laugh out loud. Enjoy.
p.s. There aren’t too many H. Allen Smith quotations to be found on the internet, so here is one of my favorites: “There are no doubt times in history when the oppressed are being oppressed mainly because they’ve got it coming to them.”