The Backdrop to My Youth

The Koolau Mountain Range from Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii (LEO Design)


I grew-up in two Hawaiian towns:  Kaneohe, on Oahu, and Kapaa on Kauai.  I moved back-and-forth during my school years: from grade school to middle school to high school.  Oahu (where one will find Honolulu and Waikiki) was, by far, the more developed island. At the time, 80% of the state's population lived there.  And although Kauai was generally quainter and more beautiful, Oahu was home to one of my favorite mountain ranges in the world:  The Koolau Mountains.

Today, the Koolau Mountain Range stretches 37 miles long, along the Windward (Northeastern) Coast of Oahu, and tops-out around 3000 feet high.  Although it seems large and dramatic—deep crevices run seemingly vertically from ground to summit—what one sees today is only a small portion of the volcano which first erupted 2.5 million years ago.  The existing Koolau Mountain Range is a small fragment of the remaining interior wall of the enormous volcano—most of which collapsed into the sea (1.7 million years ago).  Boy, did that earth slide cause damage with its 3000 foot waves which crossed the Pacific!  At its peak, the Koolau volcano was 10,000 feet high (three times the current height).  Kaneohe, my home town, sits in the interior of the volcano.  The opposite side of the mountain range slopes more gently down toward Honolulu.  Volcanologists tell us that the Koolau volcano could erupt again, however it is highly unlikely.  If it does happen again, it might be hundreds of thousands of years from now.

Most importantly, to me, the steep—and long—mountain range provided a gorgeous backdrop to my early years.  Because the mountain is so sheer, one feels he can get very close to it.  It has an overpowering physical presence—or, at least, it did for me.  It seemed to be a character in my young life.  It may also be the reason I love living in-and-amongst the mountains.

This photo is a very small segment of the entire mountain.  I shot this quickly from the suburban street in front of my friend, Johnson's, house.   We stayed with Johnson on Oahu.  It was wonderful seeing him, his wife and his son.  And my favorite mountain range in the world.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248