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ISLAND HISTORY: Walter ‘Freckles’ Smith Jr.’s early years at the Coco Palms Hotel

Walter “Freckles” Smith Jr. (1934-2024), who passed away recently, was the president of Kaua‘i’s Smith’s Motor Boat Service Inc., the son of Walter J. Smith (1910-1970) and Emily A. Smith (1909-2008), the founders of the business, and the father of Walter Kamika Smith, the company’s present general manager.

Prior to taking over the reins of the Smith family business from his father in 1960, Smith began working at the Coco Palms Hotel in 1953 as a dining room host under the supervision of dining room manager Harriet Kaholokula.

In 2007, in an interview with David Penhallow for Penhallow’s book, “The Story of the Coco Palms Hotel,” Smith said, “My mother said that when I was a baby, I was covered with freckles — hence my nickname.

“I started work at Coco Palms soon after it opened. One night, I walked across the street to Coco Palms. Harriet Kaholokula and the waitresses were so busy that I decided to help them clean the tables. Then Harriet asked me if I would take a certain table. In a few months, she asked, ‘Why don’t you start working here?’

“Harriet was a wonderful lady. She was always, to me, a very fair person and I always tried to follow her ways whatever she did.

“We had wonderful waitresses in the early years: Emily Kealoha, Lily Bender, Lillie Christian and tiny, energetic Lillian Nagao.

“When I got married, I worked for my father at Smith’s Boats during the day, six nights a week at the hotel, and on the seventh I’d attend the National Guard.”

Later, Coco Palms Hotel owner Lyle “Gus” Guslander (1914-84), arranged for Smith to go to Cornell University.

“My father approached me and said, ‘I heard about Cornell. You go away from Kaua‘i and take your family away from us and everything. That really hurts me. I want you to stay home.’

“I made the decision not to go. I made the right decision. Today, I’m my own boss and call the shots at the Smith Boat Tours and Paradise Garden.”
Source: The Garden Island

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