There were rewards for his risky and isolated lifestyle. “It was so nice and peaceful—typical Kalapana magic,” he recalls. “No coquí frogs.” In ‘Ainaloa, where he’s been living since his house was consumed, “you can’t even talk on the telephone outside, they’re so loud. It was so quiet you could hear a leaf fall across the street when the breeze was not blowing.” Living so close to the vent meant he ironically had the cleanest air on the Big Island. “When the trades blew, [the volcanic fog] blew to Kona, and when the Kona winds blew, it blew to Hilo.” And, of course, he had a front-row seat for Pele’s theatrics. “She does a lot of amazing stuff,” he observes. “I’ve seen her face in the fountaining, just as plain as in any of the pictures in Volcano House.”
And he wasn’t always a recluse. Jack got to know the Hawaiian community in the surrounding area, for instance. “They’ve got something no one else has,” he says. “They’ve got aloha in their DNA. They’re such loving people —I’m a product of the Mainland, and I don’t have it no matter how much I try. I got the pleasure to know all of them.” There were frequent musical get-togethers: “Just about every night, somewhere they’d be playing music and singing.” And the Hawaiians often would visit Royal Gardens to pick maile and gather fruit. When they did, he offered them drinking water and showers.
And then there were the visitors from outside. “It was a pretty special house,” says Jack’s friend Cal Dorin, who owns a local helicopter tour company. “There was something very relaxing about standing out on his lanai and looking out on the ocean. Sometimes there would be a lava flow on the flats, and we could look down on it in the evenings. There were a lot of people who went out there and felt tied to his house and had a soft spot in their hearts for Jack and his place.”