A speaker at this year’s Natatorium Memorial Day Observance made a good point. To the audience of veterans and loved ones gathered in front of the Waikiki landmark, U.S. General Gary North said to take notice of the “THE” carved above the arched entrance; it boldly states, “THE” WAR MEMORIAL because in 1927, WWI had been “THE Great War.” No one knew the fighting and sacrifice would continue into the present, but it has. And to those veterans and loved ones gathered during the windy Sunday ceremony, he reminded us that today, the Natatorium should not only honor the generation lost in WWI, but it honors all brave men and women who served and continue to serve as well.
With the Natatorium in the background, U.S. General Gary North salutes during the singing of the National Anthem.
Although one of the smaller observances, the Natatorium’s ceremony continues to let the community know just how much they care because for the past three decades, they’ve been fighting a war of their own – to see the living war memorial restored to its glory. It was closed in 1979 after years of neglect and has since seen some ups and downs in its road to revivification. Just recently, an “up.”
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie mentioned the possibility of converting the saltwater pool into sand volleyball courts. While it’s not the first choice for the Friends of the Natatorium, they would still support the governor’s proposal because it’s dedicated to the preservation of the structure rather than the destruction or continued deterioration of it.
“I think everyone agrees that doing nothing and letting the place deteriorate doesn’t make sense for a lot of reasons,” said the non-profit’s vice president, Donna Ching. “It’s just morally irresponsible, as well as financially and environmentally irresponsible, so we’re really excited about the new momentum…that it looks like the state and the city have. We’re trying to get something done.”
VIDEO: Hawaii remembers those loved and lost at the Natatorium’s 24th annual Memorial Day Observance.
The Friends’ would ideally like to see the Natatorium’s 100-by-40-meter pool rebuilt and reopened but are still awaiting the city’s ongoing environmental review. This could determine the future of the historic landmark. Until then, the Natatorium will continue to serve as a tribute on to those whose sacrifices a nation is built.
WAIKIKI WAR MEMORIAL AND NATATORIUM • 2815 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815 • www.natatorium.org
Video Photo Credit: Friends of Natatorium