Barefoot Days, Electric Nights-A Memoir of Paradise


Just Launched, “Barefoot Days, Electric Nights,” by David Butwin, is a memoir of his life during Hawaii’s early days as the 50th State.

Butwin arrived in Honolulu to become a reporter at one of the city’s two daily newspapers. As a very young, inexperienced journalist from frigid Minnesota, he began with a scant understanding of the people, places, and nuances of island culture. He soon discovered a land of spectacular beauty, where everyone lived near an ocean shore, and islanders from many different places went everywhere barefoot.

David writes of his Hawaii days, with the clear prose of a seasoned reporter, yet creates an intimate memory of his work, the women he dated, and the prominent celebrities he encountered.

He often draws from an unusual documentation source: reams of detailed letters that he wrote home to his family, saved over many decades.

And for part of this memoir, he draws from an even more unusual resource: Me, (Steve Vachss) writer of this review article. Though we came from different work-worlds, we knew each other back then in Hawaii, as colleagues of a sort, and eventually as friends.

Assigned in Hawaii as an Army writer-editor, I became Butwin’s source for military news and background information. As an Army Reservist, David tells a compelling story about an enormous military exercise called Coral Sands II that involved thousands of soldiers, 13 US Navy warships, and the entire Island of Molokai. For nearly two weeks, David and I occupied a press tent on Molokai and created news stories, interviews, and press releases flown to Honolulu.

We later learned that perpetrators of the famous “My Lai Massacre” were apparently with us at Coral Sands on Molokai. A consequence of the operation later involved us both, especially David, in a blockbuster story that may have affected the history of the Vietnam War. With details never previously disclosed, David explains this incredible story and our involvement.

My other cameo appearance in Barefoot Days, Electric nights, deals with an incident of street violence that Butwin calls “my night of terror.” It’s a story we both would prefer to forget but which has lived in each of us forever after.

Notwithstanding my personal connection, I enjoyed “Barefoot Days, Electric Nights,” and highly recommend it. It’s beautifully written in a style that brings the reader face-to-face with a place and a lifestyle that no longer exists. A memoir of paradise.


Why Did I Write a Story About Stamford?

Why Did I Write a Story About Stamford?

Writing a story that takes place in my hometown of Stamford, CT, was a labor-of-love. Here’s why.

Several decades ago, I boarded a New Haven Railroad train at the Stamford Railroad Station and headed to a new life. Though born and raised in Stamford, I believed that I would never return. The train would carry me to a US Army induction center, courtesy of our local draft board, so it was possible that I would end my life early, fighting in Vietnam.

ClicktoAmazonHaving just graduated from college, believing I knew everything I needed to know, I dismissed all thoughts of an early end as a fallen soldier. I believed, however, that I was leaving the small world of my hometown and entering a much bigger, grander world.

Amazingly my optimistic beliefs turned out to be right. The Army chose me to attend the Defense Department journalism school, launching me to serve as a military reporter-editor in Hawaii for the next two years. After I had become a civilian again, I was lucky enough to have assignments throughout the US as well as European and Asian countries.

As forecasted, I had left Stamford forever, only returning for an occasional family visit. But what I hadn’t expected was that STAMFORD NEVER LEFT ME. My hometown years became a kind of mental measuring stick, against which I would compare everything new such as people, work, and play.

Raising a family with two kids of the cell phone and social media generation, Stamford memories became more vivid. Despite the apparent advantages of today’s video games, hi-def TV, and endless entertainment, I realized that Stamford had offered a much richer childhood. And my education in Stamford schools had prepared me better than the most highly rated schools that my kids attended.

Discovering the Facebook group, “If You’re Really from Stamford You’d Know,” I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the pictures and posts from many people I remembered. The group page has made many memories even brighter.

Nevertheless, there are some things a social media group can’t express. For example, it can’t recreate the lives of Stamford kids from my generation. Random comments and pictures can’t explain the way we talked to each other. It can’t recreate the dating rituals or teen romances. It can’t explain how we dealt with a host of adolescent challenges.

For these elements of Stamford life, I needed to write a book. “It Happened in Stamford” was the easiest book I have ever written. It required minimal research since much of it came from real-life memories. I even had a ready-made plot, based on a series of things that I knew.

I began with a copy of the SHS Yearbook for my graduating year. From there I had a cast of characters that I knew. Some had been close friends, while others were classmates or the SHS kids that everyone seemed to know about. They were a diverse group, including a variety of ethnic, religious, and racial groups of both genders.

From there, the story almost wrote itself. Once published, the book began to sell well. But the best part was receiving messages from people I hadn’t seen in a veritable lifetime. We had all experienced unpredictable lives that had brought us to dozens of places we had never known. Yet a little bit of our hearts will always remain in Stamford.