MarkIn Time – Chapter 2: One Big Pig

A/K/A The second installment in my life story

Chapter Two: One Big Pig

What is your earliest childhood memory?

I have already mentioned sitting on my grandfather’s lap sharing a thermos of cream of mushroom soup for lunch in the house he built for us in New Jersey. That would have been in 1972 or so, making me three years old. I also recall hanging out in the backyard with my brother and watching a blimp float by overhead. Odd, the memories your brain clings to.

And I very clearly remember the night of December 31, 1973.

We lived on the bottom floor of this house in Salt Lake, Oahu from 1973-1974.

We were back in Hawaii, my dad’s second tour of duty there, and living on the bottom floor of a two-story home owned by a very friendly Filipino family named the Macadangdangs, who resided upstairs. I think I have the spelling right…I checked on Facebook, and there are actually still Macadangdangs living in Honolulu. I wonder if they’re related, or if the name is as common as Smith or Jones in our country?

Yeah, I kinda doubt that.

Mrs. Macadangdang (it’s just so fun to say!) doted over my brother and I. We were a novelty in the Salt Lake neighborhood near Pearl Harbor, a largely Hawaiian and Asian enclave – there weren’t a lot of blond-haired white boys living in the area, and the family took a shining to us. She would make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for me and Scott, serving them to us on a little plastic table on the patio. Most of the Air Force families living off base were confined to high rise apartment buildings in the area; my parents had actually taken the step of renting the bottom portion of their house, and it definitely gave us more of a sense of the local flavor.

Especially that New Year’s Eve. Thanks to the pig.

The Macadangdangs had decided to celebrate the passing of another year in a very befitting Hawaiian fashion – by digging a pit in their backyard and roasting a whole pig. There’s an experience those poor apartment dwellers missed out on! The scent of roasted pig wafting through the air that day was indescribable, and as evening rolled around the house filled with friends and family. The Macadangdangs (still fun!) were kind enough to invite our family upstairs to share in the feast. I remember a living room filled with people, good food and lots of conversation, and as the night wore on, growing sleepy in an armchair. I think I lasted until midnight…I do remember a countdown and party favors and the usual festive “Happy New Year!” cheers erupting from the grownups…though maybe that’s just my mind filling in the obvious blanks. I was four months away from my fifth birthday, though – old enough to trust in my memory.

Eventually we qualified for base housing and moved to Hickam AFB, bidding the Macadangdangs farewell.

The family in 1974.

Growing up on the island of Oahu was a pretty distinctive experience. There were trips to the beach at Waikiki nearly every weekend. Hikes through bamboo forests, visits to Chinese temples, exotic foods like passionfruit and starfruit and the best bananas I have ever eaten, sourced locally from native Hawaiians selling their wares alongside the road. I wrote a post last year about how my brother and I are celebrities in Japan, thanks to all the photos Japanese tourists took of the two of us. I just wish I knew how to leverage that childhood fame into fortune.

Or at least a decent discount on sushi.

These were my formative years, when random scattered memories stitched themselves together into a fully woven tapestry, a background that I clearly recall to this day. My childhood, my past. I became self-aware. I started school. I developed a crush on a girl or two. In other words, I was growing up.

As interesting as island life was, I found it rather boring. Oahu is about 600 square miles, and after a couple of years started to feel rather confining. Once you’ve seen and done everything – multiple times – you start longing for something more. By 1977, I was eight years old and had no recollection of experiencing actual seasons. Christmas in Hawaii was particularly bizarre; Santa arrived every year on an outrigger canoe dressed in swimming trunks. Ho, ho…huh?! The holiday to me had nothing to do with snow and reindeer; it was instead a balmy and humid 82 degrees without fail. I began to feel like I was missing out on a lot, and envied people who lived on the mainland.

Scott and I, splashing in the surf at Bellows Beach, May 1974

So, when my father received orders in 1977 that would take us to Ohio, I was thrilled.

You will recall, of course, my road trip earlier this summer that centered on a return to Dayton. There’s a reason I wanted so badly to go back: I absolutely loved it there.

But that’s another story…


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

18 thoughts on “MarkIn Time – Chapter 2: One Big Pig

  1. Earliest memory? Just after noon on June 18th, 1949 the first thing they did was slap the tar out of my butt. The second day, they cut my pee pee and by June 22, 1949 I was working in the steel mill. Keerist.


  2. Odd, the symmetries here: My earliest memory is being awakened from a nap (in my crib) for a lunch of a grilled bologna sandwich and Pringles. Healthy, no? I was just 3 years old. I guess the culinary memories are the ones that stick.

    And yes, Macadangdang is fun to say — only trumped by “Macadingdong,” which would have been a fun variation if they hadn’t been so darn nice to you…

    Great post, Mark!



    1. Speaking of early culinary memories, I used to make myself fried bologna sandwiches with ketchup when I lived in Hawaii. But that was the third time around, and still a few years away from this point in the story. I’d better keep mum for now.


  3. Another fun memoir post, Mark. What a great memory!

    About what to do with the egg carton and empty toilet paper rolls–paint the egg carton for a jewelry box and slice up the toilet or paper towel rolls into napkin rings. Paint them, as well. I’m sure any fool would want these gifts, don’t you think? NOT!



  4. Wonderful memoir, Mark!

    I love the photo of you and your brother holding the snoopy dogs. OMG…how cute!!

    ” Christmas in Hawaii was particularly bizarre; Santa arrived every year on an outrigger canoe dressed in swimming trunks. Ho, ho…huh?! The holiday to me had nothing to do with snow and reindeer; it was instead a balmy and humid 82 degrees without fail.”

    I soooooo know what you mean because of living in Florida for 20 years. At first, it’s kinda fun having Christmas in a tropical place because it’s so different from living in a four-season place like Jersey or PA, but after a while it gets old and you begin to miss that traditional cold and snowy Christmas. I am so glad to be back in four seasons!

    Hope you’re feeling better, buddy, and healing well!

    Have a faaaaaaaabulous week!


    1. Thanks, Ron. We were both obsessed with Peanuts back then…which probably explains the 3-DVD Peanuts Holiday Collection I watch faithfully every year. Long live Snoopy!

      I much prefer 4 seasons to one.


  5. Mark, in the interest of historical accuracy, I would like to point out that your grandfather “built” the house in the sense that he bought the land and the building materials and helped pour the cement for the cellar floor. Your house was physically built by my Dad’s carpenter, Ermon Little, and me. Ermon and I built the walls, the floors, and the roof, as well as insulating the house and putting on the siding. My dad told us to spare no effort in building that house as well as we were able, and I believe we did just that.


    1. Tom – I had no idea you were the one who actually helped physically build the house! Wow, learn something new every day. Thanks for the information…that’s very fascinating. And, I guess, thanks for the great construction work. I was a little too young to appreciate it at the time. 🙂


  6. At least this one didn’t make me cry 🙂

    I always wondered why you loved leaving Hawaii but then you made me understand perfectly. I don’t know who I would have handled Santa coming in on a canoe. That would have just freaked me out.

    I have several memories of being a kid. The one I remember the most is my Dad carrying me across the living room floor. Funny what your mind remembers.


    1. Well, glad I didn’t bring tears to your eyes this time, lol! I doubt any of the memoir posts will do that. The missing-your-daughter posts, on the other hand? No guarantees there.


  7. Yes, my dad and my brother built the house in 1970(with Ermon’s help) and we lived there 3 years until returning to Hawaii in 1973 and arriving at the Macadangdangs! It was a great house!


  8. Awwww….love the picture of the fam. Your parents are so cute!

    My first memories are of living in a house in Pleasant Grove, UT when I was three. There are various ones; Mom brushing my hair while I practiced the alphabet, watching cartoons on a Saturday morning, trying to peel an orange and getting shot in the eye with juice. The list goes on. Funny how I can remember so much from that house.


  9. Can I ‘like’ this story more than once? What a charming tale of growing up, Mark. For this Wisconsin girl it’s hard to think of Santa in a canoe! Pretty funny image. Makes me want to watch the movie Mixed Nuts with Steve Martin! I love that Christmas movie! I’m betting you would too if you haven’t seen it.


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