LIHUE — A life in Hawaii always seemed to be in the cards for Kauai Home Depot manager Buck Griffiths. He grew up in what he considered to be a borderline rough neighborhood in West Valley City, Utah.
“It was like ‘Lord of the Flies’ with hordes of kids and little parental supervision,” Griffiths said.
It was during those coming of age years when Griffiths developed a good understanding of Polynesian culture.
“I was always fascinated with Hawaii,” Griffiths remembers. “There were a lot of Tongans, Samoans and Hawaiians in my neighborhood. I played sports in high school with them.”
Griffiths would listen to their stories and yearn to follow them.
“They would talk about all their great travels over miles and miles of ocean back to Tonga, things I would only dream of,” Griffiths remembers. “They would go to places I’d never heard of and come back to tell me what it was like.”
Eleven years ago, Home Depot made that dream of living in Hawaii a reality. And while he married his wife in Maui during a period when he lived there working aboard a dive boat, it is Home Depot that brought him back to the Hawaiian islands, including Kona, Honolulu, Kauai and soon to be at Pearl City in Oahu.
“We’re vagabonds,” Griffiths said. “Life feels like an adventure. Some people would see bouncing around and living on different islands as a negative. But I see it as a positive. My kids love it.”
Griffiths was a bit of a trickster when he managed the Kona Home Depot store.
“I used to pretend I didn’t know what Hawaiian food was, like lau lau and musubi,” Griffiths remembers. “I would even pronounce it as a haole would and all the aunties would bring me as much food as I could eat. I never ate so well. I gained 10 to 15 pounds, but it was worth every minute.”
His three children love to pull out what he calls their “adventure gear” and hit the beach. Swim fins, snorkel gear, surf boards and body boards are already packed for their move this week.
“Our kids have had the good fortune of growing up near water,” Griffiths said.
Whenever time allows, they love to head to Mahaululepu and Brennecke’s beaches.
“I liked to free dive,” Griffiths said. “I like to hold my breath and see how far down I can go.”
Griffiths has noticed distinct variances when comparing the atmosphere on the various islands.
“Every island smells different,” Griffiths said. “On Kona there was a dry, hot voggy smell, Maui smelled like cane or ash from the cane, Kauai is more fresh and green with all the foliage and water. And Oahu smells like industry.”
And while Pearl City offers a different allure for Griffiths, he will always hold a special place in his heart for Kauai.
“I’ll miss the charm of those surreal moments of peace that this island has,” Griffiths said. “People are very giving in Hawaii. I love the sweetness in the culture. There are lots of smile. People are not afraid to smile. I like that a lot.”
• This is an ongoing weekly feature in The Garden Island. It focuses on everyday people who reflect the spirit that makes Kauai the place it is today. If you know of somebody you’d like to see featured, email features and education reporter Lisa Ann Capozzi at firstname.lastname@example.org.