There is nothing like the anticpation of ascending a narrow stairway flanked with portraits of WW2 veterans, approaching the door of a speakeasy, giving the secret knock and password as the window slides open, and being greeted by a military-uniformed host and stepping into the war-torn 1940s. This twist of time happened to Anthony and me at the culmination of a 12-hour Oahu daycation this weekend. Here is how it all began:
Ever the history and WW2 buffs and lovers of craft beer and cocktails, my boyfriend Anthony and I lounged at a restaurant bar one night last year as we lamented that there were no WW2 themed bars that we knew of. We’d been to our share of gastropubs, shmancy restaurants, dive bars, and noodle houses, but of all the gin joints, never had we found one that combined our love of history, food, and craft beverages. That instant Anthony — a consummate historian, author, and journalist — began digging and stumbled upon a gem: Home of the Brave Brewseum. We just knew we had to check it out the first chance we got.
We got our chance this weekend on our Oahu daycation. We awoke at the crack of dawn, hopped on an inter-island jetliner to Oahu, and we indulged in our love of history and aviation with an early morning tour of the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor (a usual stop on our Oahu trips) and capped our trip that evening with the crowned jewel of our daycation — Home of the Brave Brewseum.
Opened in 1991, the Home of the Brave Museum and Brewseum are adorned with World War Two artifacts and portraits donated by veterans and their families, and two vintage vehicles that were actually used in the hit movie, Pearl Harbor. Our sweet and knowledgable docent proudly led us through the artifacts and explained their significance. She also whispered the “secret” knock and password to the upstairs speakeasy.
We knew there was a brewpub, but a speakeasy too? This was pure gold! Intrigued, Anthony and I browsed through the enormous collection of artifacts downstairs and made our way up the narrow staircase — noting with pride and sadness the portraits of the brave who served our country and now flanked the walls of the narrow staircase. At the top of the steps, I knocked apprehensively, and was delighted when the window slid open, and a friendly face peered out at me. I could only see his face and military cap, but he looked to me like he stepped right out of a World War 2 documentary. He asked for the password and handsign, and granted entry to his domain – The Speakeasy.
Adorned with red highlights and covered with World War 2 memorabilia, the Speakeasy took our breath away. Our host, Glen Tomlinson, led us on a tour of the bar and shared his knowledge of World War 2 history, the museum and it’s pub’s background. The brainchild of Duke Tomlinson (whom I can assume is a relation to our charming host, Glen) the museum and pub were established in 1991 and became known for its vast collection of war memorabilia and locally brewed craft beer. Over the years, veterans and their families gathered at the museum and speakeasy, not only sharing their artifacts, but stories about their experiences — some of which even their families had never heard.
Glen shared one harrowing story of an officer who was captured by the Japanese and forced to watch as the Japanese brutally executed his enlisted crew. The horror really sunk in.
We wished we could have stayed all night, but our flight loomed ahead, and we were to return to Maui in a few hours time. While we could, we listened contentedly to Glen with growing interest in each story as we sipped our cocktail and beer at the dimly lit, beautiful red bar. Anthony enjoyed their tasty and cleverly-named craft IPA GuadalcanALE, while I sipped a deliciously limey cocktail made with Aviation Gin (of course). My cocktail was a bit on the citrusy side, but it worked perfectly for me as I am crazy for just about any drink or dish with lime.
While we enjoyed our drinks, I shared with Glen a treasured picture of my paternal grandfather, Blair Alfred Thompson, who served with the United States Army in North Africa during World War 2. My handsome Bogey-esque grandfather — sporting a fez and smoking a pipe — rests atop the wing of a fighter plane. An airplane mechanic specializing in propellers, it is no surprise that my grandfather was photographed sitting on the wing of a fighter plane — the surprise is that the plane is none other than a downed Nazi fighter plane. I shared this photo with Glen, and I was thrilled to see that he was intrigued the moment he saw it, and advised me that he doesn’t see many photographs of the men who served in North Africa. He asked me if I’d send him copy of that picture to display with the rest of the veteran’s portraits at the museum. Of course! I was honored to do so. I’m proud of my grandfather!
Having recently delved deeper into my family history — tracing my paternal grandfather back to my 10th Grandparents, John and Pricilla Alden of the Mayflower; my paternal grandmother Idahleen back to the 1400s; and Anthony’s family to the 1700s, my grandfather has been on my mind a lot recently.
One of my favorite people in the world, Grandpa Blair displayed a dry sense of humor, Humphrey Bogart good looks and demeanor, and a silent intelligence that captivated me as a child. Tragically, he developed Alzheimer’s Disease, and he passed away when I was 19. I miss him everyday and wish I could spend one day with him talking more about his life and his service, I lamented to Glen. Always captivated by history, I have this urge to learn as much as I can about the world’s history and my own.
Researching my family’s history and visiting sites such as the Home of the Brave and Brewseum makes me feel closer to my grandfather. And hey, we got to enjoy cocktails and beer while leaping backward into history.
If you love history, next time you are on Oahu, check out Home of the Brave Brewseum. You won’t be disappointed. Located at 909 and 901 Waimanu Street in Kakaako, they serve wonderful cocktails and their own locally-brewed beer from their Home of the Brave Brewing Company, and next door, patrons can indulge in pub food and even more beer at the Brewseum. Dining on Maui will certainly visit again. Say hello to Glen for us!
You may see another copy of this post on my dining page: www.diningonmaui.com