Aloha: Hawaiian for Made in the USA

At the end of the school year, my {patient and dedicated} teacher-daughter Carolyn took 35 seventh and eighth graders to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. We texted back and forth as she traveled from place to place. When she arrived in D.C. I asked if she could please find a U.S.A.-made t-shirt for her Dad. "Something patriotic he can wear on the 4th of July," I said, and then added: "but it has to be 100 percent Made in the U.S.A. or forget it." I know. I'm difficult.

Each day, when she had time, Carolyn texted her findings:

"Just made my first attempt to find Made in USA t-shirt at National Archives:Bangladesh, Haiti, Nicaragua, China, Guatemala!"

"Second attempt to find Made inUSA (at Pentagon Mall): Found two brands (Chelona and Noble Wear) but only made women's shirts!"

"Third attempt: One 'Made in Nicaragua of American fabric' but it's an 'Angry Birds' shirt. Pretty sure Dad's never heard of that!"

"Attempt Four: Found a sweatshirt that said 'Designed in USA (Made in China).'"

In case you haven't guessed, Carolyn returned home from D.C. empty-handed. Oh, if we had only known about the new "Price of Freedom" gift shop. On June 10th--the same day Carolyn began her D.C. search for a U.S.A-made shirt for her Dad--the shop opened inside the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. It sells only 100 percent American-made products.

There are 29 other gift shops in the Smithsonian's 19 museums, galleries, and zoo, but aptly named "Price of Freedom" is the only shop where tourists can find, say, a plum-sized plastic bust of George Washington without the wince-inducing Made in China on its underside.

This doesn't seem right. Surely at least souvenirs sold in D.C. with historic references and patriotic symbols on them should be U.S.A.-made. I'm not a Big Government fan, so I wouldn't endorse the creation of a congressional bill. You know how that would go. It would become a 1,000 page monster with tentacles capable of strangling / over-regulating the life out of shop owners.

But a public movement would be another matter altogether. If we American citizens simply refused to open our pocketbooks for souvenirs not made here, we could send a message. Mad as hell and all that good stuff. As I've mentioned in a prior post, when Carolyn returned from a semester in Italy she brought back cheap souvenir t-shirts bought on cobblestone streets. All the labels carried the same simple message: Made in Italy. Nice. Why can't we do that?

Fast forward to this past July 4th weekend: Son Matt arrived bearing gifts. He and wife Erin had just returned from a Hawaiian honeymoon. They brought us a pound of Honolulu Coffee Artisan Kona Roaster (whole beans; don't you love the aroma of freshly ground coffee in the morning?), chocolate dipped cookies from Honolulu Cookie Company (yum), and a vintage-looking Royal Creations Made in Hawaii shirt for Don (so nice).

"If you want products Made in the U.S.A., Hawaii's the best," Matt said. "Think about it. Everything's pretty much made right there."

Perhaps we should move the nation's capitol from Washington, D.C. to Honolulu, Hawaii (and how nice that our Commander-in-Chief is its native son). Begin anew in the land of pineapples, macadamia nuts and Kona coffee beans. I know, I know. You can just picture all those government employees on even more of a taxpayer funded permanent vacation--snorkeling anyone?--than they already enjoy. Bad idea. Scratch that.

Besides, we shouldn't have to move to a blankety-blank island to find a place where America still manufactures everything it consumes. We shouldn't have to take a tour bus to that Made in U.S.A. store outside Niagara Falls I mentioned a few posts back. We should be able to walk into Target or Walmart or Anywhere U.S.A. and find what we need, manufactured here.

Since the souvenir shops in our nation's capitol had let him down, on the morning of the 4th Don instead pulled out a favorite t-shirt. It's white, screen-printed across the chest with palm trees and circa 1940s and '50s surfboards, Woody station wagons and hot rods.

"If you can get me another one of these t-shirts, that'd be great," Don said, admiring it again before he pulled it on. He looked at the inside label. "Hey, it says Made in the U.S.A." He sounded astonished, as if he'd unearthed an ancient artifact.

Maybe he had.

This morning I called Go Barefoot, the t-shirt's manufacturer and wholesale distributor. Thought I'd find out where I could buy Don a couple of new shirts. "We don't make t-shirts anymore," said the less-than-amiable man on the other end of the phone after I'd explained my project and told him how much my husband liked his Go Barefoot t-shirt. "Besides, if we did make those t-shirts here, we'd have to charge $34 for 'em and that's too much."

Had the unnamed rep been open to discussion I would've explained that if the t-shirts could be made of the same quality as the one Don currently owns, they'd be worth the $34. Don's had his for at least seven years. Even after dozens of washings the surfer t-shirt looks and feels great.

For now, Don / Richie C will {cheerfully} wear his old favorite. Guess we can call it a "rare limited edition" t-shirt. And on summer days when he's grilling flank steak, blending margaritas and wants to look especially swanky on the back patio, he can wear his Royal Creations Made in Hawaii shirt.

Ok everyone, go out and buy something Made in Hawaii. They are our last, best hope. Aloha!

PS: Angry Birds? I have so much to learn.