The other story about my visits to Chuck’s Steakhouse in downtown Honolulu is not so romantic.
For the younger readers, i would ask you to consider it was a different time. Things for which require pillories today were not considered improper, especially for seafarers. We lived hard, worked hard, and played maybe even harder. This is a story about working and playing hard.
The USS Okinawa was returning from a WESTPAC deployment in late 1981. I was one of the OOD’s in four sections for the roughly two week sail from Subic Bay in the Philippines to Pearl Harbor. i also was the sea detail OOD when on Saturday at 1000, December 11, Oki entered the bay and moored at Hotel Pier, the last pier to the west on the Naval station property and close to where people could catch the tour boat to the Arizona Memorial, significantly removed from the other mainland piers.
It was a long sea detail and what came next was taxing. The wardroom had planned a hail and farewell, mostly farewell, party that evening in Honolulu at Chuck’s, one of my favorite places in Honolulu that evening. But i had much to do before that rendezvous.
Because, i had spent ten months of that year in WESTPAC, deploying in January as Current Ops on the COMPHIBRON 5 staff, and after returning to home port San Diego, having a month before flying back to join the Okinawa as Weapons Officer in Perth, Australia, i had been allowed to take the Command Qualification written exam on board the ship. But because of the many duties of the Weapons/First Lieutenant, i had not had the time to take the long exam. So the Captain (later Admiral) Dave Rogers decided i could take the test after we docked in Pearl.
The ship docked and after all of the details of and administrivia of arriving in Hawaii were concluded, i began the test around midday and finished just over three hours, handwriting seventy-two pages of my answers to wide-ranging questions from ship driving, weapons capability, engineering operation, weather, navigation, Rules of the Road, international relations, and much more. To say it was taxing is not an adequate description.
When i finished, i found Lou Rehberger had waited for me. All of the other officers who did not have the duty left as soon as they could get off the ship. Lou, the Marine Air Operations Officer, was a major and a good one. He and i had spent a lot of time running around the flight deck when available and in many of our liberty ports.
Before heading into Honolulu, we decided to go for a run. We ran Pearl Harbor, or rather we ran the perimeter for about six miles before turning around, a twelve-mile run. i needed it.
We showered, donned our civvies, and headed into town. Lou had rented a car. We went straight to Chuck’s Steakhouse, arriving over two hours before the party was scheduled in the party room in the back.
Lou and i sat at the bar and each ordered a Mai Tai while we decided what to do. When we finished, we decided they were good enough to have another before wandering around. The bartender cleaned our first glass, made our second Mai Tai’s in another glass, served them and handed the first glasses to us. They were high ball glasses with the “Chuck’s Steakhouse” logo etched into the side.
We asked, “What gives?”
The bartender explained they were having a special and if you ordered a mai tai, he would give you the glass.
Lou and i looked at each other and ordered another mai tai. It had been a long day. We had two nice highball glasses in front of each of us. We ordered a third. When we ordered a fourth, the bartender laughed and said, “Here, i give up.” He reached under the counter and pulled up a case of Chuck’s Steakhouse highball glasses and pushed them across the bar to us. We split them. i broke my last one about three years ago. i wonder if Lou still has any of his.
We took the case out to Lou’s car and by the time we returned, the officers of the wardroom began arriving for the hail and farewell dinner. To be honest, i don’t remember much of it, but i’m pretty sure i had a good time. At the conclusion, now well into the night, about six of us decided to go to the Bull and Crown, a British themed bar where it was rumored a lot of young women hung out.
The bar was crowded and everyone was having a good time. i sat down at the bar next to some guy and ordered a drink. The guy and i said hi and then did usual bar talk. He asked me a question. When i responded, i realized i was speaking some language of which no one else was understood.
i actually realized i had more than i should have, perhaps the four mai tai’s may have influenced that outcome. i went over to Lou who was talking to a nice looking young lady, touched him on the shoulder and told him i had too much to drink and i was taking a cab back to the ship.
i did. First time. i’m proud of that.
But i still miss Chuck’s Steakhouse in that just a bit out of the way hideaway in Honolulu.