The Great Canned Goods Lottery
A Mountain of One Gallon Mysteries

This is one of my father's (WOI) most humorous stories from Hawaii. I had to get this story in the "can." As told to me (WGI) on 13 January 1996. I have done some editing and rearranging, to improve the readability and keep things in sequence. - WGI

Also see the photos: The Kailua House and Pat Crane

WOI:  Have I told you about the canned goods?

WGI:  I remember that one!  It's hilarious! 

WOI:  Yeah, that one was really good.

      The war had gone on and everything had gotten to be 
      about as normal as they could be.  I was in "Shop 08" 
      which was a shop that was responsible for the utilities 
      and the general services for the harbor.  I'd gotten a 
      call early in the morning from a commissary steward at 
      the sub base.  He said he wanted five dump trucks for 
      an hour or two.  If I could send him five dump trucks?  

      I said, "Yes, I can, but I have to have them [back] 
      right after lunch."

      [He said,] "OK.  You'll have 'em"

      As it turned out, the trucks didn't return.  So I got 
      in my station wagon to see what was going on.  I had a 
      truck foreman, a glorified laborer, that was in charge 
      of these five trucks. We called him "Likki."  From 
      "likki-likki" which is "quick-quick" in Hawaiian.  

      [I asked,] "Likki, what are you doing with these 

      He said, "I'm haulin' canned goods!"

      "You're hauling canned goods?"

      "Yeah!  We haulin' *canned* goods!"

      "Where you hauling them to?"

      "We haulin' 'em to the dump!"

      "Good God!  Food is rationed.  Not here in Hawaii, but 
      it's rationed all over the rest of the world!  Let me 
      see what you're doing."

      So he took me to the Chief Commissary Steward.  
      Here was a huge warehouse full of canned goods.  

WGI:  Big industrial sized cans, I imagine.

WOI:  Yeah!  All gallon sized.  Six gallons to the carton.  
      So I went in there and looked at it, and there'd be a 
      carton of catsup, maybe.  And maybe one can was broken 
      and everything would be covered with catsup.  There'd 
      be a can of peas, a can of peaches... a six pack of 
      peaches - whatever.  Dehydrated potatoes.

      I said, "Fellow, what in the world are you hauling this 
      to the dump for?"

      He said, "Do you see [this] little piece of gold braid 
      on my cap?"


      He said, "Nobody's going to bother me for hauling this 
      to the dump.  But if I poison a hundred men with some 
      contaminated food they're going to strip that little 
      gold band off my cap!  So why the hell can't I haul 
      this to the dump?!"

      I said, "You got a point there, I guess."

      So I said, "Likki, do you know where I live?"

      "Oh, yeah!  Oh, yeah!"

      "I live across the Pali."

      "Yeah, I know where you live."

      I said, "Why don't you take five of these trucks, one 
      [load] apiece, and haul a load of these and dump them 
      in my back yard."

      "OK, Mr. Bill!  OK!  We'll do it."

       I get home that night, and here was a mountain, a 
      *mountain*, of gallon cans in my back yard! 

Both: <laughter> 

WOI:  I thought, what the hell am I going to do with these 
      cans?  Well, all my neighbors gathered around.  "What's 
      going on here?" [they asked.]

      I said, "I just got a donation from the Navy base." 

      We decided that we'd just eat around the edges of the 
      pile.  We'd pick out a can of peas, and everybody'd 
      divide up the peas.  Of course, you couldn't eat a 
      gallon of peas, but among us all we could eat a gallon 
      of peas.  

      As it turned out, the flies started to gather around 
      with the stuff that was spilled around from the leaking 
      cans.  I thought, that's no problem, I'll just take the 
      garden hose and hose them all down.  So I hosed the 
      pile down.  Kind of separated a few of them a little 
      bit.  After I'd thoroughly washed them down and the sun 
      came out the next morning, all the labels shriveled and 
      you couldn't tell what was what!

Both: <laughter> 

WOI:  So we got kind of a game going [among] five or six 
      neighbors, I think it was, that were in on this.  We 
      decided that we'd all put in a dollar, in the pot, and 
      we would pick out a gallon can.  And we'd shake it.  

      This fellow'd say, "That sounds like... peas!"

      "No, no, that corn!"

      "No, that's peaches!"

      We'd record what each one said and whoever was the 
      winner would pick up the six dollars.  Then we'd divide 
      up whatever the hell it was!  And we'd eat it that 

      This went on and on.  Finally we gathered a crowd and 
      it got bigger and bigger. <chuckle>  Finally we worked 
      quite a hole into the pile.  

      But we had quite a lot of fun at it.   Here was a 

WGI:  Mystery food!

WOI:  Yeah!  Mystery food!  Here was a man shaking a can 
      close to his head, close to his ear, "Nah, this is 
      peaches!"  "No, this is pears!" 

Both: <laughter> 

WOI:  We had a lot of fun over that! 
Copyright © 1996 by William G. Innanen. All rights reserved.
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