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ISLAND HISTORY: Robert Hamada and the Coco Palm’s fireworks fiasco

Born and raised on Kaua‘i, Robert Hamada (1921-2014) is best known as a woodturner who created works of art out of milo and hau wood.

He also worked as the engineer of Coco Palms for a number of years beginning in 1960.

In an interview with David Penhallow for Penhallow’s book, “The Story of the Coco Palms Hotel,” Hamada recalled: “In 1960, I was building the Golden Cape Restaurant at the Kaua‘i Surf Hotel, when Coco Palms manager Grace Buscher (1910-2000) offered me the job of Director of Engineering. The job I accepted was to take care of maintenance at the hotel. I had a big crew to oversee.”

One of Hamada’s crew members was Andrew Kane (1923-91), who participated in ceremonies Grace created at Coco Palms.

“Hamada said: “Grace told me a story about Andrew Kane and the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

“I wasn’t with the hotel at the time. In those days, she had Andrew do the New Year’s Eve fireworks. This one night, everybody was celebrating, including Andrew, who was already into six beers. She had bought those hand-held rockets that you could jab in the sand or ground and they would go off. It was midnight and Andrew was firing the rockets. Somehow the sparks of the fireworks fell into a box of rockets. The rockets all started going off all at once in every which way and Grace rushed out of the dining room to get to Andrew. Then one of the rockets struck one of her guests in the chest who was wearing a white dinner jacket. She turned around and rushed back into the dining room and sees this guy on the floor with blood on his chest and she almost faints. What really happened though, was one of the guests rushed into the kitchen and got a bottle of catsup and jokingly poured it on his chest.

“From that time on, Grace kept the men who ran the fireworks locked up in her office until the appointed time. Then she would escort them into the coconut grove to wait for her signal to begin.”
Source: The Garden Island

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