Hawaii Business salutes the people, places, businessses and events that profoundly changed Hawaii over the past half century.
Over the past 50 years, businesses, people and events have shaped the Hawaii we know today. While Hawaii has many more than the 50 icons whose stories are told in the following pages, these icons help to illustrate the breadth and depth of the profound changes that have come about in a short half-century. Let us remember these icons, appreciate their accomplishments and learn from their mistakes. Then Hawaii can move on, with a better understanding of where we have come from, and an eye towards the next half-century and the year 2055.
The First Tycoon
Henry J. Kaiser came to sleepy Hawaii to retire, but ended up transforming the Islands forever
It can be argued that modern Hawaii began with the construction of a swimming pool. It wasn’t just any pool. It belonged to Henry J. Kaiser and it was designed and completed within six days. The super-industrialist, who has been described by one historian as “America’s boldest, most spectacular entrepreneur,” had just moved into his Kahala beach house in 1954, with the intention of retiring.
If anyone deserved some time off, it was Kaiser, who, at the time, headed an empire of 29 companies, with annual sales of $775 million. Kaiser’s conglomerate was involved in everything from shipbuilding to heavy construction, steel making to automobile and aircraft manufacturing. He should have been very tired.
After completing his backyard project, Kaiser turned his attention to nearby Waikiki. He knew postwar America would soon be re-discovering the faraway vacation spot, but there weren’t nearly enough hotel rooms to handle them. As a young man, Kaiser had scoffed at the idea that Florida would develop into a major visitor destination. Later, as a seasoned businessman, he ignored predictions that Las Vegas and Palm Springs, desert truck stops, would blossom into tourist meccas. He vowed that he wouldn’t miss the boat for a third time.
With his brand-new pool, Kaiser would proceed to make the biggest splash in modern Hawaiian history.
The Perpetual Outsider
Henry John Kaiser was born in 1882 in Sprout Brook, N.Y. At 13, he left home to seek his fortune out west. He eventually found work in the construction industry, riding the rails with hobos from one job site to another. Later, he started a road building business of his own and laid down thousands of miles of highways in the United States and Cuba, before helping construct the Hoover, Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams, as well as the Oakland Bay Bridge. During World War II, the visionary builder brought innovations to shipbuilding, which would revolutionize the industry and energize the war effort. From 1941 to 1945, his shipyards built 1,490 Liberty cargo ships, far more than any other builder, which made Kaiser an American folk hero. In addition, he developed and constructed several hospitals, medical centers and medical schools. Arguably his most lasting impact has been the prepaid health plan that he started for his workers in 1938. It would become the model for modern health-maintenance organizations.
In a little more than a decade in Hawaii, Kaiser created the 18-acre Hawaiian Village, Waikiki’s largest resort (see story on page 67); built the $4 million Kaiser Medical Center, the territory’s most modern medical facility, which would eventually become one of Hawaii’s largest healthcare organizations, and developed the 6,000-acre Hawaii Kai, the Islands’ first planned community. In addition, he founded the KHVH (Kaiser’s Hawaiian Village Hotel) radio station and purchased a television station, which he also named KHVH (it is now known as KITV). To feed his heavy construction projects, Kaiser opened a massive cement manufacturing plant.
Kaiser – with his gargantuan dreams and oversize checkbook – not only transformed the Islands’ physical landscape, he was the harbinger of the New Hawaii, opening up the territory, soon to be state, to the wider world.
“Henry Kaiser was the prototypical Mainland outsider who comes to Hawaii, tells people how to do business while not following the existing rules,” says DeSoto Brown, collections manager at the Bishop Museum. “In his case, that put him in direct conflict with the kamaaina elite of the Big Five and Walter Dillingham. Many others had tried to break their monopolies before, but Kaiser was the first person to kick in the door in a very big way.”
“Kaiser was always the outsider, whether it was opening a steel mill in California or bringing new manufacturing techniques to the ship building industry or building automobiles. Everything he did was treading on existing monopolies,” says Noel Kent, professor of ethnic studies at the University of Hawaii Manoa. “He was obviously one of the founders of New Hawaii. It [the opening up of Hawaii’s economy] would have happened one way or another. However, it may have taken a little longer and may have happened in a slightly different way. Kaiser had the power and, maybe more importantly, the insolence to do it.”
Along the way, he would ruffle a lot more than just kamaaina feathers. He publicly tangled with the U.S. Coast Guard over the licensing of one of his massive catamarans, with the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation about his development of Hawaii Kai and with the doctors in his hospital. He fired soon-to-be-radio-legend J. Akuhead Pupule and even feuded with the interisland airlines, threatening to start his own.
But everyday Islanders were fascinated with the exciting and eccentric tycoon, who lived in a fabulous estate overlooking Maunalua Bay, painted the vehicles and equipment of his Hawaii Kai construction army a shocking pink and took on the old boys and won.
It Takes A Village
In a matter of weeks after arriving in Hawaii, Kaiser became the largest landowner in Waikiki (16.5 acres), with the purchase the rundown Niumalu Hotel and the nearby John Ena estate, for a total of $8 million. In typical Kaiser style, he tore down the Niumalu and constructed a new resort, the Hawaiian Village, a complex of bungalows, in less than four months. Over the next three years, Kaiser would construct three high-rise towers, which transformed the quaint little village into a bustling tourist city.
The themed resort, the first of its kind in the country, wasn’t just Hawaii’s most modern hotel, it was also a glittering advertisement to the Islands’ burgeoning modern tourist industry. Kaiser brought big, Las Vegas-style entertainment to Hawaii with the construction of a 1,000-seat geodesic dome, which featured budding superstar Alfred Apaka as its headliner. Pianist Martin Denny, who performed at the resort for a year, recorded the song “Exotica” in the Dome. The tropical instrumental would launch a thousand luaus on the Mainland, becoming the anthem for jet-set America’s discovery of Hawaii. In addition, Kaiser dreamed up numerous television promotions for his resort. When people thought of modern Hawaii, they thought of the Hawaiian Village.
Even though his resort was built quickly, it had its roadblocks, five big ones to be exact, six if you count Walter Dillingham.
“The Big Five controlled the ships and the docks. And Dillingham had the only cement plant on the Island,” says Kenneth Chong, president of Pacific Realty Consultants and Avalon Realty and a former Kaiser administrative assistant. “They had been able to shut out other businesses for years, but Kaiser had his own ships and he built his own docks. He was a rebel.”
“When he announced that he was going to build another cement plant, we thought he was crazy,” says Tim Yee, former corporate vice president of real estate at Kaiser Aluminum. “Dillingham’s plant was only running at 50 percent capacity at the time. It didn’t make sense to build another, but Mr. Kaiser said that he [Dillingham] had a monopoly, and it wasn’t good for the island.”
Whether it was forethought or dumb luck, Kaiser’s decision to go ahead with the construction of the $13.5 million plant, which had the capacity to produce 1.7 million barrels annually, turned out to pay big dividends. According to Yee, the coming building boom and the aftermath of the Korean War would increase the need for Hawaii-produced cement exponentially. Of course, there were also the pressing needs of Kaiser’s own growing Hawaii empire.
In 1961, Kaiser sold his interest in the Hawaiian Village to hotel mogul Conrad Hilton for $21.5 million. He then turned his attention to his next and last Hawaii challenge.
The development of Hawaii Kai was the only Kaiser project that didn’t originate from the man himself. The first proposal actually came from Atherton Richards, then a trustee of the Bishop Estate, which owned the area. Richards took Kaiser on an afternoon drive through the remote East Oahu landscape, which was dominated by Kuapa Pond, a mud flat which drained that corner of the Island. Richards, who was struggling with what to do with the property, said the region was impossible to develop and challenged Kaiser to prove him wrong.
Kaiser accepted the challenge and, like all his previous projects, the development of Hawaii Kai was fast, furious and audacious. Kaiser proposed a $350 million dream city, which would contain 11,000 single-family homes for some 75,000 people. Residents would play on 20 miles of man-made beach, at several country clubs and on a tranquil marina. There were even plans for an ocean-side hotel, with a trio of golf courses.
However, Hawaii Kai’s challenges would be as big as Kaiser’s ambitions. About half of the area’s 6,000 acres was developable, and most of that surrounded the 500-acre Kuapa Pond, which ranged in depth from six inches to one foot. Kaiser engineers shrunk the pond to 300 acres and dredged it to a depth of seven feet throughout, a massive project for Hawaii.
“The place was a natural drainage basin, so when it rained, silt would collect in the pond,” says Yee. “When we dredged it, we had to make it smaller to eliminate little collection areas where the silt would build up and cause problems.”
Not only the landscape was difficult. The city required that Kaiser build a state-of-the-art sewage infrastructure for his development. Moreover, he and his engineers weren’t allowed to construct one that would grow with Hawaii Kai. It had to be able to accommodate the entire proposed development’s needs from day one. Therefore, when it first opened, Hawaii Kai had a sewage system that could accommodate as many as 30,000 homes, far too large for its first couple of hundred houses. To get the system to operate properly, Kaiser personnel had to pump millions of gallons of fresh water into the pipes to move the effluent. It was years before the system worked properly. The costs were staggering.
Some of Hawaii Kai’s problems were of Kaiser’s own doing. “Kaiser hired a lot of construction people who just loved to build things, like him. They decided on selling the homes for $18,750,” says Yee. “I figured that someone had been running the numbers, because it was such an exact figure. But they hadn’t. They just thought it was a nice round number for a house. So we just went out and built them, and we lost a ton of money on each one.”
As these and other problems came to light, it didn’t take long for the naysayers to dub Hawaii Kai “Kaiser’s Folly.” Maybe the entrepreneur had finally met his match in Hawaii? But Kaiser, who never paid much attention to what other people thought, forged ahead. What rules and laws he couldn’t change, he disregarded. If that approach didn’t work, he had an uncanny ability to change course midstream. When Yee informed Kaiser that it would take months for him to get both state and federal approvals to transport a massive dredge from Maunalua Bay across Kalanianaole Highway and into Kuapa Pond, Kaiser moved it anyway. In the cover of darkness, his workers tore out a section of Kalanianaole Highway, floated the dredge through and rebuilt the road before the morning commute.
“I had a full-time job acquiring permits and approvals after the fact,” says Yee. “The guys at the city would be furious with me. ‘What have you guys done now?’ they’d ask me.”
“That marina would have never been built if he tried to work within the system. But he thought that the system was unreasonable,” says Chong, a Harvard MBA, whose first job at Hawaii Kai was selling off Kaiser’s six massive catamarans. “But Kaiser was also a creative thinker. When we first opened, sales were sluggish. Local people were apprehensive about buying a Kaiser-built house, so he brought in sub-developers, local and Mainland companies that buyers were familiar with, and sales started to take off. At one point, we had as many as 50 different sub-developers.”
Kaiser wouldn’t witness the completion of his dream city, not even close. He passed away peacefully at his nearby palatial Portlock estate in 1967. Nearly 40 years later, large sections of Hawaii Kai are still being developed, filling in and, some would say, crowding out his resort community. Moreover, thanks to its overwhelming infrastructure challenges, his dream city was actually a financial nightmare of sorts. An analysis conducted years after Kaiser’s death found that his development companies made virtually no money after years of work.
“We would have done better if we had taken all that money we spent and put it in a savings and loan account,” says Yee, with a shrug. “The only people who made large profits in Hawaii Kai are the homeowners themselves. Property values have gone through the roof. But I think Mr. Kaiser would be perfectly happy with that fact.”
The Kaiser Legacy
As large and outrageous as his construction projects were, many of Kaiser’s lasting legacies are things that don’t have his name on them. The hyperkinetic, rags-to-riches dreamer brought the modern American dream to Hawaii. Bold, brash and benevolent, Kaiser showed that the world beyond the horizon was daring and exciting.
“Kaiser rode and helped push along the wave of change in Hawaii. He was a good self-promoter and a charismatic salesperson, who could sweep you away with his evangelical zeal,” says Kent. “He was a progressive capitalist. Kaiser was driven by profit, for sure, but he also believed in providing abundance for everyone. And that is what he wanted to do in Hawaii.”
However, according to Kent, the Kaiser legacy is a double-edged sword. While he helped break the Big Five’s monopoly in the Islands, his build-first-ask-questions-later theory of development set a dangerous precedent for the state, which was just beginning the biggest building boom in its history. Many of the builders and developers who would follow Kaiser wouldn’t have his vision, enthusiasm or creativity.
Bits of Kaiser’s legacy may not have arrived yet. According to Kent, his progressive beliefs are sorely needed in a scandal-ridden business world focused on short-term profits. “I’ve spoken to some people who have said that we could use some Kaiser today, because our corporate people treat their workers like crap,” says Kent. “I don’t know how he would operate today. It’s a different world. However, in many ways, he is the quintessential American. He was a workaholic who wanted to change the world.” -DKC
Aloha and Hawaiian Airlines
Commercial interisland service has been a fixture of daily life in Hawaii since statehood, spurred by the advent of jet service among the Islands in the 1960s. In its heyday, interisland flights were so frequent – some at 30-minute intervals – that residents and visitors considered them the Islands’ secondary bus line. Travelers could buy coupon books and use them at will, like bus passes. Alas, those days are over, as the airlines have tightened their belts after 9/11 and attempted to get a better grip on their inventories.
Commercial flights started in the 1930s, with Inter-Island Airways, which was renamed Hawaiian Airlines in 1940. The airline reduced travel time between Honolulu and Hilo from almost two days by boat to less than two hours by plane. In 1946, a local hui formed Trans-Pacific Airlines (now Aloha Airlines), allegedly because Asians flying between the Islands during the war were viewed as security risks and excluded from Hawaiian Airline flights by military government employees. This introduced a virtual duopoly that has endured for decades, more recently resulting in a federal antitrust exemption that allows them to coordinate their schedules. Other interisland airlines had attempted to shoehorn into the market, but none of them survived.
Today, stalwarts of the airline industry nationwide are facing formidable competition, and Hawaii is no exception. With both of Hawaii’s interisland airlines in bankruptcy, and anticipated startups like the Superferry and FlyHawaii airlines, the two airlines that transformed interisland travel will either find ways to adapt, or fade into the horizon. -MTK
Ala Moana Shopping Center
Big, Busy and the Center of Hawaii’s Retail Universe Hawaii’s shopaholics owe their eternal gratitude to Walter F. Dillingham. Without his 1912 purchase of the 50-acre site between Honolulu and Waikiki from the estate of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop and acres of coral fill from his nearby dredging projects, the land would have remained an unproductive swamp.
Ala Moana Shopping Center debuted with great fanfare in 1959 – the same year Hawaii celebrated statehood – as one of the largest retail districts in the world, a “wonderland of goods and services,” with 80 merchants in one area.
Today, far from being unproductive, Ala Moana is known as one of the most profitable shopping centers in the nation, with 240 merchants and annual sales topping $1 billion, more than $1,000 per square foot. With 100,000 customers per day, the center contains a rare mix of merchants with wares ranging from groceries to teenybopper and surfer chic to designer haute couture. While Waikiki continues to search for ways to entice locals, Ala Moana has maintained a delicate balance as a destination covering virtually every retail price category, attracting both locals and visitors.
This hasn’t always been the case. Remember Palm Boulevard? The center chased away local dollars in the late 1980s when it exuberantly marketed the exclusivity and glitz of shops like Chanel and Christian Dior. When the Japanese economy tanked and the Persian Gulf War sank that market, Ala Moana needed to bend over backwards to emphasize diversity over exclusivity, and responsiveness to local tastes. During its 1999 renovation, local residents vehemently opposed the development team’s plans to eliminate the mall’s Center Stage, where viewing live, local and mostly amateur entertainment had become a tradition. Beyond that, the center also serves as a transportation hub, providing bus access to the rest of Oahu in every direction.
The land may have been considered unproductive for a time, but perhaps its future was inevitable. Retail Traffic Magazine notes that Ala Moana stands on what had previously been the Piko, or regional trading post, for the Hawaiian Islands. Piko literally means navel, or center, a historic meaning reflected in Ala Moana’s current tag line as “Hawaii’s Center.” -MTK
Even today, nearly a dozen years after it was taken down, Island residents still clamor for “the Pineapple.”
The Dole “pineapple” water tower that sat atop Dole Cannery in Iwilei was more than a distinctive landmark. It also represented a time when pineapple was king in Hawaii. The cannery opened for business in 1907, just seven years after founder James Drummond Dole, with $16,240 in operating capital, established a 61-acre pineapple plantation in Wahiawa.
The revolutionary Ginaca machine, which could peel and core a hundred pineapples a minute, was invented at the cannery in 1913. (Previously, that task had to be done by hand.)
The water tower was erected in 1927. The pineapple façade weighed 30 tons and held 100,000 gallons of water (used to drive the cannery’s sprinkler system). It was more famous than the “peach” water towers in Clanton, Ala. and the Brooks Foods ketchup bottle water tower in Cillinsville, Ill.
Over the years, the cannery provided summer jobs for thousands of Oahu teenagers. Working at the cannery, in fact, was practically a rite of passage for local youngsters.
Burl Burlingame of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin was 16 when he worked at Dole Cannery in the summer of 1971. “I really tried to do the best I could,” he reminisced in a 2001 column, “but I distinctly remember one morning when I came home after my father picked me up from work, reeking of pineapple on my work apron and clothing, showering, falling asleep from exhaustion, getting up, eating dinner and then later refusing to budge from my bed, tears streaming from my eyes, and attempting to tell my folks, between sobs, that I didn’t want to go to work in a couple of hours.”
At one time, Dole Cannery was the world’s largest cannery. As the pineapple industry in Hawaii fell on hard times, however, so did the cannery. Finally, in 1991, Dole Cannery closed shop.
Today, the cannery has been converted into an office and retail complex, including the 18-screen Signature Theatres. Plagued by rust, the pineapple water tower was disassembled in 1993. The once proud king, Hawaii’s pineapple industry, lost its crown. -LT
The world has gotten increasingly complicated for Kamehameha Schools, whose 600-acre main campus in Kapalama Heights has long been celebrated for its exuberant songfests and championship sports teams. Created in 1885 by the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last royal Kamehameha descendant, to educate Native Hawaiian children, the private school was formerly known as the Bishop Estate. With more than $6 billion in assets, Kamehameha Schools now has the formidable task of being one of the nation’s wealthiest educational trusts and the state’s largest private landowner, with more than 365,000 acres in the Islands.
As Bishop Estate, the formerly land-rich, cash-poor nonprofit charitable trust was transformed by the early 1990s. Thanks to some savvy investment decisions, it grew to a multibillion-dollar empire spanning three continents. Appointment by the state Supreme Court to a Bishop Estate trusteeship became a political plum and meant instant wealth, with salaries and commissions nearing $1 million annually. Trusteeship also meant job security, since Native Hawaiian beneficiaries were often reluctant to criticize the keepers of Pauahi’s trust.
All that changed in May 1997, when Na Pua a Ke Alii, an alliance of Kamehameha students, parents and alumni, staged a protest march and publicly challenged some of the trustees business dealings. Then “Broken Trust,” written by five prominent leaders of the Native Hawaiian and legal communities and published by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that August, called on the state’s attorney general to investigate the trustees’ management of Kamehameha Schools and the estate’s financial assets. By 1999, the mismanagement of the $6 billion trust was the state’s No. 1 news story of the year and attracted national attention in the Wall Street Journal.
A year later, the current trustees had either resigned or been removed, new ones were selected at considerably lower pay and a CEO position was created to oversee operations. Trust spending on education, including two new high schools on Maui and the Big Island and 32 preschools, more than doubled, from $130 million in 2000 to a record $289 million by 2003.
Kamehameha Schools’ 120-year-old Hawaiians-only admissions policy ignited a new legal and emotional firestorm in 2002. A non-Hawaiian student was admitted to the Maui campus and more than 7,000 signed a protest petition. Last November, a federal appeals panel heard the legal challenge of another non-Hawaiian student denied admission. That ruling is not expected for several months, but may set off the biggest challenge to Hawaii’s most prominent Native Hawaiian institution. -GM
Collectively, they were known as the “Big Five.” In practice, however, the designation was a severe understatement. Big? For more than half-a-century, they essentially ran Hawaii.
From the late 19th century through the mid-1900s, Hawaii fell under the economic rule of a consortium of companies: Alexander & Baldwin Inc., founded in 1895, was in shipping, sugar and pineapple, American Factor (Amfac), founded in 1849, had sugar, insurance and land development, Castle & Cooke Inc., founded in 1851, was in pineapple, food packing and land development, C. Brewer and Co., founded in 1826, did business in sugar, ranching and chemicals, and Theo H. Davies & Co., founded in 1845, was in sugar, investments, insurance and transportation.
The leaders of the Big Five included members of Hawaii’s oldest and most established “haole” families. The board members of those companies formed interlocking directorates. They exerted considered political influence in the Islands, favoring annexation to the United States (the primary market for sugar) and contributing to the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani. So dominant were the Big Five companies that it’s said the plantation managers used to hang pencils from the ceilings above voting booths so they could tell how people voted, from the way the string moved.
As Hawaii began to expand its economic base, the Big Five’s influence began to wane. Even today, however, Big Five companies continue to be players in some local markets.
“I basically come from a labor perspective, so the Big Five were always seen as people who were suppressive of the workers,” says former Hawaii Gov. Benjamin Cayetano. “But on the good side, they also brought a modern, free-enterprise kind of economy to Hawaii. Also, they brought in a lot of people from the outside, especially the Asians, to work on the plantations. In that sense, the Big Five were very significant in the building of Hawaii. If the [plantation workers] didn’t come, I don’t think you’d find the makeup that we have here today. Hawaii would have evolved into something different. No one can deny that the Big Five had a tremendous impact on the Islands.” -LT
Patsy T. Mink
An over-achieving underdog, Mink was a fearless advocate for the powerless When you sit at the feet of giants, sometime all you see are their toes.
When Rep. Patsy T. Mink died after a month-long bout with viral pneumonia on Sept. 28, 2002, the outpouring of grief from across the nation and the world was poignant and powerful. For many Islanders, especially those who came of age after the Vietnam War, Mink’s obituary was an introduction to the fiery legislator’s trailblazing career and groundbreaking accomplishments.
Born on Maui in 1928, Patsy Takemoto was the underdog who overachieved. She was Maui High School’s valedictorian and its first female student body president, beating out Elmer Carvalho, who went on to become mayor of the island. It was one the first of her many firsts: In 1953, she became the first Asian-American woman to practice law in Hawaii. Three years later, she became the first Asian-American woman elected to the Territorial Legislature. In 1964, she was the first woman of color to be elected to Congress.
However, Mink, who married John Mink, a geologist, in 1951, did not blaze her trails for herself. She rose through the corridors of power as a fearless advocate of the powerless, especially women and children. As a student at the University of Nebraska, she led an effort that ended the school’s segregated student housing policies. In Congress, she introduced the first comprehensive Early Childhood Education Act and authored the Women’s Educational Equity Act.
Perhaps Mink’s greatest legacy is Title IX of the Higher Education Act Amendments, which she co-authored in 1972 and were enacted in 1977. The law prohibits gender discrimination by federally funded institutions and applies to all aspects of education. However, it has also been responsible for increasing women’s and girls’ participation in sports exponentially. Title IX created countless numbers of point guards and pitchers, as well as doctors and doctoral students, ensuring that women wouldn’t have to fight as long or as fiercely for their rights as Mink did.
“She is a remarkable figure in Hawaii history and also in national history, and we are only now beginning to appreciate her,” says Meda Chesney-Lind, professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “Over here, we would just say: ‘Oh, that’s Patsy. She just does those things.’ It took the rest of the nation to kick us upside the head and say, look, you have a national treasure.”
According to Chesney-Lind, even though she herself shattered a number of glass ceilings, Mink’s stellar (but largely ignored) career is illustrative of both how far women have come and how far they need to go. “Had she been a male, she would have been God. I do think that she was a victim of the sexism of her day,” says Chesney-Lind. “But she fought and she ultimately won, making enormous contributions from a position that typically doesn’t have much influence. She took what she was given and, like any strong woman, she marshaled her resources, kept coalitions together and did good politics.” -DKC
The Aloha shirt, as we know it today, is the undisputed, multipurpose staple in every man’s (and quite a few women’s) closets. A local favorite from the boardroom to the beach, the trusty aloha shirt is rarely considered inappropriate Island attire. But that wasn’t always the case. Introduced in the early ’30s, when skilled immigrant seamstresses married colorful Oriental and Polynesian prints with Western-style clothing, Aloha shirts were, for a long time, not just frowned upon, but outlawed in most workplaces, public and private alike.
In fact, it took two decades and numerous attempts by various local business groups and politicians to bring about the widespread acceptance of Aloha shirts as daily work wear. It started with a resolution passed in 1947, allowing Honolulu City and County employees to don aloha shirts during hot summer months. It progressed slowly into the early ’60s, when a local manufacturers’ organization cleverly convinced legislators to pass a resolution encouraging aloha attire for male businessmen during summer months by providing each legislator with two Aloha shirts.
It was the same persuasive group, the Hawaii Fashion Guild, that began the crusade for the use of aloha wear in the workplace on Fridays. Aloha Friday, as we now know it, started in 1966 and, by the end of the decade, practically every local businessman had traded in his sports coats and button-downs for a colorful array of the tried and true Aloha shirt, the reverse-print Reyn Spooner.
These days, there are dozens of Aloha shirt companies producing a wide variety of styles and prints to suit every taste. In addition to Reyn’s, local manufacturers Kahala Sportswear and Tori Richard are also popular with the downtown office crowd, while companies such as Local Motion and Hawaiian Style gear their Aloha shirts toward the local surfing and visitor markets. Finally, don’t count out Mainland competitors, such as Tommy Bahama, which has established itself among the premier “resort wear” manufacturers in the Islands and afar. -JLY
Shops closed early and car horns sounded. Teenagers danced in the streets and waved banners at Iolani Palace. Musicians poured out into the streets of Waikiki to play music. But it was the hastily handwritten sign outside the Hawaii Statehood Commission Office that said it all: “Out of Business.”
On March 12, 1959, the U.S. Congress approved Hawaii’s bid for statehood, ending a 106-year journey begun by King Kamehameha III to make Hawaii a U.S. state. In the June primary election that followed, voters in the then Territory of Hawaii chose overwhelmingly in favor of statehood. On August 21st (now celebrated as Statehood Day), President Dwight Eisenhower made it official and signed Hawaii’s statehood proclamation.
Despite the jubilation among Hawaii’s citizenry in 1959, the road to statehood was a rocky one. Southern Democrats in Congress expressed concern over Hawaii’s multiethnic, in particular, its Japanese, population. Others feared pro-labor, pro-Communist and pro-civil rights forces in the Islands’ political mix. Even at home, many of Hawaii’s kamaaina families opposed statehood and, until the passage of the Jones-Costigan Act of 1934, which classified Hawaii as a nondomestic producer of sugar, which meant loss of U.S. market share, so did Hawaii’s Big Five sugar interests.
Hawaii’s then-delegate to Congress, John Burns, got around congressional opposition by agreeing to let Alaska go first and become the 49th state, thus paving the way for Hawaii’s entry as the nation’s 50th state. At home, the only one among the Islands’ 240 precincts to reject statehood was Niihau, all of whose registered voters were Hawaiian or part-Hawaiian. Among today’s Hawaiian sovereignty groups, some view statehood as a continuation of the injustice that began with the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and the annexation of the Islands to the United States.
But back in 1959, when politicians in Washington, D.C., picked Hawaii’s judges and governors and the Islands’ voters could not vote for president, Hawaii made history as the first state to extend rights and benefits of full American citizenship to a multi-ethnic population with a nonwhite majority. Little wonder that Hawaii’s statehood has been hailed as the first major piece of civil rights legislation to be passed after the Second World War. -GM
For visitors from around the world, the first glimpse of Diamond Head means they’ve come to Hawaii. For returning kamaaina, it means they’ve come home. Hawaii’s most recognized landmark, originally named Laeahi (brow of the tuna) by the ancient Hawaiians, came by its more popularly known name when British sailors in the late 1700s thought the calcite crystals sparkling in the crater’s lava rock were diamonds.
Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1968, Diamond Head is one of the state’s most visited places. As many as 3,500 people daily hike its 1.4-mile trail and climb its 99-step “stairway to heaven” to reach the breathtaking view from its 763-foot summit.
Created about 500,000 years ago by a single, massive eruption, the extinct volcano features a broad, saucer-shaped, 3,520-foot crater, whose width is greater than its height. With an expansive, grassy, 350-acre interior, Diamond Head crater, entered through the 225-foot, unlit Kahala Tunnel, was once part of Fort Ruger and housed a battery of cannons. But it may be best known as the site of a decade-long series of music happenings known as the Crater Festivals.
First organized on New Year’s Day in 1969, the all-day, sometimes weekend-long festivals reflected the grooving ’60s and ’70s. Music greats, ranging from Journey, Fleetwood Mac and Santana to Buddy Miles, the Beamers, Sunday Manoa and Cecilio & Kapono, attracted huge crowds of 20,000 to all-day music celebrations. Vegetarian food, love beads and water pipes were sold at makeshift booths. Experimental drugs, alternative clothing and an occasional medivac chopper were part of the over-the-top crater-festival experience.
Amazingly, the festivals went on until 1979, when state officials and complaining neighbors finally put a stop to Hawaii’s celebration of the Age of Aquarius. That year, the governor’s Diamond Head Citizens Advisory Committee’s master plan for the state monument was adopted. The plan called for the preservation of Diamond Head’s geological and historical features and native plants.
Echoes of Crater Fest still live. Come April 22, 2006, over 25 years since the last concert, a sunrise-to-sunset Sunshine Festival has gotten the go-ahead to be held in Diamond Head crater. This time, only the 7,500 who buy tickets will attend. -GM