Today I am going to take another brief departure from fish and game stamps. On New Years Day, 2018, one of my dearest friends, Harry Foglietta, passed away in Honolulu. While Harry was a collector of waterfowl stamps and a client – our relationship was not really about stamps, per se.
You see, when I was in my late teens and early 20s (1977-1982) I lived in Honolulu on and off, myself. It all started while I was playing football in college. Our coach had recruited many Hawaiian and Samoan players and I really enjoyed spending time with them. They were hard-working, supportive and loyal teammates. Off the field they were carefree and always lived in the moment. One summer a couple of the guys invited me to train with them in Hawaii.
I was able to line-up a job cooking in a restaurant in Waikiki and figured I could make some extra money buying and selling stamps during the day – so I accepted their offer. It was clear and sunny as our plane approached Honolulu Airport, allowing great views of Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach, the gorgeous blue water and countless tall palm trees from my window seat. I was excited!
I remember stepping off the plane in Honolulu for the first time like it was yesterday. The walkway to the terminal was open-air and I immediately felt the warm, humid and fragrant air wash over my body. A bevy of lovely Polynesian girls met our flight and one of them greeted me with “aloha” while draping a flower lei around my neck. I had never seen so many girls with such beautiful long, dark hair in one place. Many were wearing floral print outfits and some were actually wearing grass skirts! In a matter of minutes I had become throughly enchanted with this tropical wonderland.
So began my ongoing love affair with Hawaii; the tropical climate, the genuine Hawaiian people and their Polynesian culture, the fresh air, local food and many water-related activities. I found the island lifestyle suited me and ended up staying for a year before returning to the mainland.
I would return to live in Hawaii two more times, creating memories with new Polynesian and Haole (white) friends and girlfriends, along with my family and their friends (see Figure 1). To this day, each time I step off the plane in Honolulu, I feel like I have returned home – to the place where I am supposed to be.
In 1982, I met my wife, Kay, who was visiting her sister in Santa Rosa. We chose to permanently live in California, focus on our stamp business and eventually start a family of our own. We still escape to the islands when time permits. Perhaps, some day, we will get a second home in Hawaii. In the meantime, we are content playing tourist.
After making the decision to live in California, I started to pick up Hawaiian picture postcards at stamp shows. Over the years, the collection has expanded to include other items such as photographs, posters, brochures and, yes, Hawaiian stamps and covers. Taken all together, these artifacts that help tell the story of Hawaiian history and Polynesian culture are known as Hawaiiana.
Meet Harry Foglietta
Harry Foglietta was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1946. He was the first son of Harry Foglietta Sr. and his wife, Gladys. Harry’s brother Jim followed two years later. Both their parents were in the United States Air Force. Harry Sr. would make a career as an Air Force pilot and Gladys was in the WACs when they met during WW2. Of particular importance to our story, Gladys was a philatelist and introduced Harry Jr. to the hobby of stamp collecting at a young age.
Being in the military, the Foglietta family moved around a lot – every two or three years according to Jim. They spent most of their time in the U.S. but also lived in Germany when the boys were young. Harry Sr.’s last assignment was in Riverside, California. He retired in 1958 and the family stayed in Riverside for an extended period. Both boys graduated from Riverside Polytechnic High School.
It was while living in Riverside in the early 1960s that the boys learned to surf. In those days it was a 45 minute drive to the closest surfing spot in Newport Beach. However, the Foglietta boys spent a great deal of time surfing at Doheny Beach in Dana Point and San Onofre Beach in San Clemente.
According to Jim, for a time San Onofre Beach was a restricted part of the adjacent military base. However, the Foglietta boys had military ID cards so they were able to get in as many of their friends (and their surfboards) as would fit in a single car. The same beach is also home to the venerable San Onofre Surf Club, whose clubhouse can be seen behind the Foglietta brothers in Figure 1.
Surfing was what teenagers did growing up in southern California in the 1960s and the boys spent most weekends and almost every day during the summers at the beach. Harry would come back to surfing in a big way later in his life.
Harry graduated from high school in 1965 and was soon drafted into the service. He became a member of the highly decorated U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division in 1966, based at Fort Hood, Texas. Harry was sent to Vietnam in 1967. While in Vietnam, he participated in a number of advance reconnaissance missions. Harry was discharged in May of 1968.
Although the year in Vietnam would seriously impact Harry’s mental and physical health for the rest of his life, it also helped shape his future collecting habits. Harry told me that on several occasions, when they had completed their attack on various villages, numerous papers would be flying about.
Included in these were envelopes and postcards, primarily from Vietnam and surrounding countries. After the battles were over, Harry would pick them up and stuff them in his backpack – an attempt on his part to preserve these cultural artifacts from the ravages of war.
According to Harry’s longtime female companion, Patrice, while he served in Vietnam Harry visited Thailand on R&R. There he met and fell in love with a Thai girl. When he was discharged, Harry came back to Riverside and lived with his brother and his family for a short period of time, then returned to Thailand and lived with her for a couple of years. It is possible they were even married.
These experiences would later manifest themselves in Harry’s collecting, as he avidly pursued stamps, covers and postcards from Vietnam and Thailand. He became especially interested in picture postcards depicting women from these two countries and this would lay the foundation for one of his future passions – collecting postcards featuring Polynesian women, specifically Hawaiian hula girls (see Figure 2).
After leaving Thailand, Harry moved to Hawaii, alone. He enrolled at the University of Hawaii and studied anthropology. While at the U of H, Harry became very interested in Hawaiian history and culture. He became a voracious reader of everything pertaining to these subjects and eventually became widely respected for his knowledge.
Also at this time, Harry resumed surfing. He spent a great deal of time at the beach and soon became known as a adept big wave surfer – even appearing in a couple of movie productions, including the transcendent Morning of the Earth. In the movie, both Gerry Lopez and Harry are riding one of Gerry’s red Lightning Bolt boards. Both are wearing a reddish swimsuit; however, Harry’s suit is a bit more purple and he is taller, thinner and more light-skinned than Lopez (see Figure 3).
In 1973, Harry stopped attending the University. He met his soulmate, Patrice, while they were both employed on the estate of a past Treasurer for the State of Hawaii. Harry was a gardner (outside) and Patrice was a housekeeper (inside). When I first heard this story, many years ago, I thought it was very romantic – and I still do today.
Harry and Patrice lived on Oahu until 1975, at which time Harry joined the Carpenter’s Union and was employed as a finish carpenter. The company he was working for landed a contract to refurbish a hotel lobby in Kona and they moved to the big island for a year.
After the job was completed, Patrice was feeling homesick, so they went to northern California to visit her family. They liked the 1970s northern California lifestyle and chose to buy a house in the town of Duncan’s Mills (Sonoma County), where they lived for a period of about three years.
I was living only two miles away, in Villa Grande during this same time. These were very small communities, with populations numbering maybe 100 or so each. It is a virtual certainty that we were in close proximity numerous times, maybe even spoke together on occasion, without being formally introduced. That day would not come for 30 more years.
While living in Sonoma County, Harry worked for Alembic Guitars in Cotati and later, starting in 1979, in Santa Rosa. He built guitars for legends such as Stanley Clarke, John McVie of Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell.
In time, Both Harry and Patrice yearned to move back to Hawaii. They separated, with Patrice moving back first and Harry following after he sold their house. Harry and Patrice would reconnect many times throughout their lives.
After Harry returned to Hawaii in 1980, he never moved again. He worked as a finish carpenter, specializing in working with Koa wood, surfed every chance he could – and started to collect stamps and postcards in a serious way (see Figure 4).
Harry’s collecting interests were eclectic, however, his main focus was Hawaiian picture postcards. Over the next 25 years he would assemble one of the most comprehensive collections of all time. The collection reached it’s apex following the Floyd Fitzpatrick Sales conducted by Schuyler Rumsey Auctions in 2006 and 2007.
The Fitzpatrick Sales
By 2006, Harry Fogliettia and myself were running on parallel paths, with each of us actively persuing Hawaiiana, especially Hawaiian postcards. I had heard many references made about Harry, but we had never actually met. During Westpex 2006 (April 28-30), Schuyler Rumsey was to conduct the first sale including items from the estate of Floyd Fitzpatrick, late of Honolulu (see Figure 5).
Floyd W. Fitzpatrick was born in Oregon on April 15, 1916. It is known that he was living in Hawaii by 1940 (age 24). I found a great photo of him presenting a check to the USO in 1942, on behalf of the Honolulu Junior Chamber of Commerce. At the time Fitzpatrick was the Secretary / Manager of the organization (see Figure 6).
In 1945, Fitzpatrick purchased the photo finishing service Fritz-Kraft, changing the name of the business to Foto Fan Service. In 1952, Fitzpatrick took the company public and it became known as Foto Fan Service, Limited. The company was founded by Fritz Kraft, a local photographer who took photos of Hawaiian scenes, hula girls (many of which were topless) and visiting celebrities, then sold them in small packs to servicemen and tourists (see Figures 7 and 8).
I have been told that Fitzpatrick also had the local Kodak franchise which produced so many of the black and white picture postcards from the 1930s-50s that every collector is so familiar with. Further, it was Floyd, himself in many cases, that hand-colored many of these cards that he subsequently sold for a premium. In addition, Fitzpatrick operated a stamp business, perhaps out of the photo location at 245 S. Hotel Street.
Over the years, Fitzpatrick developed a deep interest in Hawaiian culture and spent a great deal of his spare time collecting Hawaiiana, especially stamps, photos and picture postcards.
As Floyd Fitzpatrick resided in Hawaii since 1940, operating businesses producing commercial photos and postcards, as well as buying and selling stamps, it should come as no surprise that he assembled one of the finest collections of Hawaiian stamps, covers, photos and postcards during the 20th century. It should be noted that Fitzpatrick’s collection not only consisted of items documenting Hawaiian history and culture – but the entire South Pacific region, as well.
The sale was widely publicized and many serious collectors showed up to take in Westpex and bid on Fitzpatrick’s collection in person. When the auction started, the room was full of collectors and dealers and others were standing along the walls and at the back of the room.
I had viewed the postcards several times, taking careful notes. I realized this might be the best opportunity to acquire a number of rare Hawaiian postcards in my lifetime – and I was well prepared. Bidding was active from all parts of the room, the phones and the internet. Although I was successful on a high percentage of my bids, I noticed that when I was beaten out – it frequently was by a tall, thin man with a pony-tail sitting in the front row.
After the auction we ran into each other in the hotel lobby. He introduced himself as Harry Foglietta, of Honolulu. After I told him my name we both remarked that we had heard of each other for years and were happy to finally meet. I found Harry to be a gracious gentleman and obviously someone who knew a great deal about Hawaiian postcards – much more than I did.
He not only complimented me on my wins, but proceded to give me a brief tutorial about many of the individual cards; how rare they were, who owned them, the history of the towns and buildings – even naming the buildings and people on the cards (and not just obvious ones that most collectors knew). I was very impressed. We exchanged contact information made plans to get together soon, then he bid me “aloha” and we parted company.
Visiting Harry in Honolulu
It was not long after the show that Harry first called me. He then called me a couple of more times before summer. If you knew Harry, you know these were not short conversations! It turns out that we had a big part of our lives in common (our love for Hawaii and collecting Hawaiiana) and we were both, how shall I say it, very passionate about our hobby.
After the three calls, I couldn’t stand it any longer – I wanted to go visit this man, see his collection and spend some time with him, soon. The semi-annual Hawaii All Collectors show was coming up in July and I made plans to attend.
I arrived in Honolulu a few days early, specifically to spend time with Harry. As soon as I got to my hotel in Waikiki (9:30 PM), I called him to say I had arrived safely. I asked him when it would be convenient to visit and he said, “How about right now?”
Prior to that I was feeling kind of tired, but the thought of visiting Harry and seeing his collection sent a jolt of adrenaline through me. He told me he was only a 15 minute cab ride away and 20 minutes later, I was ringing him at the ground floor of his apartment building.
The evening was magical (kind of sounds like a love story, doesn’t it?). At that particular point in time, having just recently received his winning lots from the Fitzpatrick auction, Harry’s collection of Hawaiian picture postcards was the best it ever was – and, sadly, the best it would ever be.
It was incredible! I don’t know how many different cards he had, but I would estimate 6-10,000 – and I looked at every one of them that night and well into the next day. It took even longer because Harry knew so much about every card and because I was so fascinated, I just let him talk and talk.
I probably learned more about Hawaiian picture postcards over the next ten hours than I had learned in the previous 20 years. What a wealth of knowledge! I found out that Harry’s favorite topics were hula girls, surfing and the Mid Pacific Carnival (see Figure 9).
In many cases, I already knew what he was explaining to me – but It got to where I just loved to hear him talk; so I just sat there, soaking it all in. Harry had a very calm presence, was very soft spoken and unpretentious. We took a break for some great Chinese food at 3:00 AM and then had breakfast at 7:00. I got back to my room at 8:30 AM (it reminded me of when I lived in Hawaii back in the 1970s), content in knowing I had a wonderful new friend.
After recovering a bit, I went back to see Harry a couple of days later and he let me go through his duplicate cards. It was pretty fun, as at that point (shortly after the auction), Harry’s duplicates were better than the stock of any postcard dealer I had ever seen. The next day, we went to the show. Harry had previously made arrangements to have a table at the show so that he could try to sell some of his duplicates.
Back in 2006, the Hawaii All Collectors show was still one of the best shows in the world. I did not ask for Harry to get me a badge, as he was a relatively new acquaintance and I did not want to impose – so I stood outside, waiting in line, for about an hour and a half with over 5,000 other collectors. It was about 90 degrees and quite humid but I learned a long time ago – if you want to spend any considerable amount of time in Hawaii, you just have to love it.
I picked up many more great cards at the show and, after having dinner with Harry one more time, returned to the mainland.
Harry’s Health Starts to Deteriorate
Over the years, Harry and I got to know each other quite well. He revealed to me that his experiences in Vietnam had affected his health greatly. Unfortunately, he had a number of issues – and these only increased with time. While Harry was pretty much the same guy for about the next eight years and we talked regularly and visited often, his health issues all to soon proved to be a financial burden.
It was not long after my first visit that Harry called and said he was faced with selling cards out of his own collection to meet some pressing financial obligations. I flew over to Honolulu and was able to buy enough cards to put him on solid ground, however, it was not a happy day for me.
Harry, ever the gentleman and by now a good friend, put on a brave face and told me he was happy I was getting the cards and they were going to a good home and so on – but we both knew his collection, one of the greatest of all time for a brief but glorious period – would never be the same.
Harry continued to live his life, surfing occasionally and continuing to collect, albeit on a smaller scale. He still loved his hula girls, surfing and Mid Pac cards. He also collected U.S. and Hawaiian stamps and covers, and had numerous other philatelic and postcard interests. We still talked at least every couple of months by phone and I still visited him in Hawaii.
Sometimes Kay and Eric came along, and they, too, became very fond of Harry. One night we all went to eat at one of the restaurants I used to work at back in the early 1980s, Matteo’s Italian Restaurant on Seaside. Some of the older guys still remembered me and they helped make it a special evening by treating Harry like royalty. We stayed for over three hours and and Harry had a great time, for which my family will always be grateful.
After a few more years, Harry developed additional health issues and then started to lose his eyesight. It broke my heart when I would visit and he would have to first put on a strong pair of prescription reading glasses, then use a powerful magnifying glass – and barely be able to see his precious hula girls on the postcards.
More and more cards needed to be sold; some to me, some at local shows, some to stamp and postcard dealers throughout the islands and across the mainland (see Figure 10). Slowly but surely, Harry’s once magnificent collection was reduced to a few boxes of some of his favorite cards and boxes of common duplicates, the latter which could be found on Ebay at any given time.
My Idea for a Book
Not long after meeting Harry, I met another serious collector on the east coast, Dolores Rowe, at a postcard show in York, Pennsylvania. As with Harry, we had heard about each other for years but never actually met. Dolores had visited Hawaii a few years before I moved there, became enamored, and started to collect Hawaiian postcards like I did (see Figure 11).
For over 20 years, she canvased the east coast for cards while I hunted up and down the west coast. When I first visited Dolores, I knew she was going to have a great collection – and she did, maybe better than Harry’s. Dolores and I soon became friends and started trading cards.
At some point, about six or seven years ago, I realized that among the three of us (Dolores, Harry and myself) we could write the definitive book on Hawaiian postcards. Between Dolores and myself, we probably had 90 something percent of all the cards known; Dolores and I both had experience writing for collectors, postcards and stamps, respectively – but the key to it all was Harry and his wealth of knowledge about the cards Dolores and I had collected.
I discussed this with both of them and we all agreed to do it. I traveled to Pennsylvania several times to help Dolores organize her collection in exactly the same way as mine, so that when the time came to actually start we could find cards quickly and be very efficient.
Then, a couple of years ago, I realized there was a greater need for this website, Waterfowl Stamps and More, than for our book on Hawaiian postcards. I informed both Dolores and Harry that we would need to postpone the book a few years while I focussed on the website… Then Harry died, unexpectedly, on January 1, 2018.
A Day Late…
Now I feel a mixture of emotions; grief over the loss of my friend, regret for postponing the book and, also, a bit of anxiety. I now realize that life can be truly short – and unpredictable. Dolores and I have discussed it and have agreed to complete the book down the road, by ourselves. It will be harder and, while we still hope to produce a great book – it will not be as good without Harry’s knowledge. Life has a way of sometimes getting in the way of hopes and dreams.
In the meantime, I have decided to share with you some Hawaiian picture postcards representing Harry’s three favorite topics: hula girls, surfing and the Mid Pacific Carnival via this website.
Originally, the three of us wanted to share these images with you together. For Harry, it would have been a lifetime achievement – something he could have been proud of – and, most importantly, a chance for him to pass on his knowledge. Sadly, his failing health robbed us all of that opportunity.
I will have to do the best I can on this series of posts without Harry. When I am done, at least I will know that I delivered on a small measure of my promise to a good friend.