50 Hawaii icons.
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 Kmser 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."
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 bui 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.
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 suffer 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."
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 facade 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.
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 $t 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 Maul 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.
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."
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 Maul 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."
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.
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.
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 i969, 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 i979, 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.
When it comes to natural disasters, it seems Hawaii just can't get a break. Besides the volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and hurricanes that have ravished the Island chain over the past 50 years, Hawaii has also endured its fair share of flash floods, heavy storms and even a few earthquakes.
Without question, the outermost counties of Kauai and the Big Island have suffered the biggest losses, both in terms of lives and financial damages. The 1946 tsunami that struck northeastern Hawaii Island, killing 159 people, remains the state's deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii's recent history. And in 1960, Big Island residents were hit again, this time with a double whammy, as a lava flow from a Kilauea eruption destroyed the village of Kapoho, and a 35-foot tsunami obliterated Hilo town, killing 61 people and leaving hundreds homeless.
The 1960 tsunami remains Hawaii's second-deadliest natural disaster to date. It is the island of Kauai, on the opposite end of the Island chain, however, that holds the record for the two costliest natural disasters in Hawaiian history. Hurricane Iwa, which pummeled the island (and parts of Oahu as well) on Nov. 23, 1982, generated more than $200 million in damages. A decade later, on Sept. 11, 1992, the island's nastiest storm in recorded history, Hurricane Iniki, ripped through the island, leaving more than $2 billion in damages in its wake. Iniki, which touched down nearly 13 years ago, remains the last major natural disaster to hit Hawaii.
Hawaii's passenger ships have long evoked the romance of traveling to a tropical island: sailing away with great ceremony, waving at the unfortunate landlubbers, then gazing out at an endless horizon, being pampered, doted upon by ship staff, soon seeing land, being greeted by the gentle strains of Hawaiian music, graceful hula dancers and flagrant lei.
Such experiences abruptly ended as all four of shipowner Matson's vessels were used as war transports during World War II.
The 1950s saw a resurgence of demand for passenger ships to Hawaii: the Lurline started sailing from California to Hawaii first, in 1948. By 1955, the Lurline was operating at 97 percent capacity. The Matsonia (formerly the Monterey) followed in 1957. The Mariposa and Monterey started South Pacific service in 1956. But this was a new world: by the 1960s, more tourists were coming to the Islands by air. Matson began marketing its ships as floating "resort hotels," enticing visitors with nightly entertainment, party and dining themes, and a Mariner Club, with added perks for repeat passengers.
At the same time, Matson was already in the midst of transforming itself into a cargo operation, which had become more profitable, thanks to increased efficiencies in cargo handling and innovations such as large, refrigerated containers.
By 1976, Matson ended its passenger service, sold its ships and concentrated on honing its fleet of container ships. Almost three decades later, Boat Days have returned, courtesy of Norwegian Cruises. Its ship, the Pride of Aloha, is Hawaii's first home-ported passenger vessel for interisland cruises since American Classic Voyages ceased Hawaii operations in 2001. Norwegian plans to add two more ships to its fleet by 2006.
John A. Burns
Shortly after being sworn in as lieutenant governor in 1970, former Gov. George Ariyoshi turned to his boss, then-Gov. John A. Burns, for advice and guidance. "Jack said to me,' I know you've been very supportive of my thinking and the things I do, but I realize you're a different individual, with your own background and experiences, and therefore you need to do whatever you feel you need to set forth your own vision,'" recalls Ariyoshi. "That was one of Gov. Burns' biggest strengths--recognizing that every person in Hawaii has something to contribute and is important to the community and helping to realize that potential by giving everyone equal opportunities to share in the good life."
In fact, equality, along with education and economic diversification, were the three E's on which Burns built his political platform. When Burns first entered politics at the end of World War II, many of the Japanese-Americans whose rights Burns fought to protect as captain of the Honolulu Police Department during the war, rallied around his efforts to renew the Democratic Party and enact social change in the Islands. Through the '50s, while chairing the Democratic Party and then serving as a congressional delegate, Burns fought vigorously for statehood, and, when that day finally came, his efforts were widely heralded--although he lost his bid to become Hawaii's first post-statehood governor. In 1962, Burns won the gubernatorial race and remained in office for three terms.
Among the many things Burns is credited with over his career are shaping the modern Democratic Party, the establishment of the East-West Center and supporting the creation of new schools at the University of Hawaii--in particular, what is now the John A. Burns School of Medicine. "The med school was his idea. He felt that, without it, many people in Hawaii could never become doctors," says Ariyoshi. "He felt very strongly that the university had to provide better undergraduate instruction for Hawaii's people, to give everyone here an equal shot at the good life in Hawaii. Because that was really his vision--to have Hawaii be a place where everything is equal and fair for every person, no matter their race or class."
Spouting lava fountains as nigh as 1,540 feet (almost four times the height of the 430-foot First Hawaiian Center, the state's tallest building) and adding more than 540 acres of lava land and black sand beach over the past two decades, Kilauea is the Big Island's biggest visitor attraction. Since Jan. 3, 1983, the youngest volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii has been putting on a spectacular show of continuous eruption for tourists, residents and scientists and is at or near the top of the list of the world's most active volcanoes.
Daily crowds of up to 1,500 come to see the so-called "drive-in" volcano, because of its relative safety. Cruise ships schedule their night sails past the Puna coast to catch the fiery, steam-billowing lava flows into the sea. Helicopter tour companies take up to 400 visitors a day to get a bird's-eye view of the spouting fountains and rivers of molten lava. Attendance at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the state's largest single visitor attraction, rose from 1.5 million in 1983 to 2.17 million in 2003, a 45 percent increase.
The home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, has been called Hawaii's oldest tourist attraction. Scientists are unable to tell how much longer Kilauea--estimated to be about 600,000 years old and active ever since--will continue to be active. But most believe it will continue to erupt through the rest of human history.
For more than a decade, Waikiki has been the Nora Desmond of Hawaii's tourist industry, a glittering, but fading, superstar that got too big, too fast and is too old. Throughout the '60s and '70s, Waikiki grew wildly, with few restrictions and without a coherent, long-range plan.
By the late '80s, the bustling tourist district had alienated Island residents, with building and population densities that rivaled Hong Kong and Tokyo, while new and repeat visitors were disappointed with a tired infrastructure and ancient attractions.
The old girl got long in the tooth, but it was and still is vital to the state. Over the past 50 years, the 500-acre peninsula has been Hawaii's main economic engine. The numbers are staggering: Approximately 90 percent of all hotel rooms in the state are located in Waikiki, generating $2.5 billion in revenue. Waikiki's 1,600 businesses employ 30,000 people, who make up half of the tourist industry's work force and to percent of the state's. On any given day, as many as 50,000 tourists are wandering its beaches, avenues and side streets, with 20,000 more people calling it home. Last year, nearly 9 million people visited Waikiki Beach, one-quarter of whom were local residents.
Where Waikiki goes, so goes the rest of the state.
It is heartening for residents and visitors alike that the district is currently undergoing an extreme makeover. In 2002, the city completed the $50 million renovation of Kuhio Beach Park and Kalakaua Avenue, which has been credited with reviving the beachfront. More importantly, more than $1 billion in private-sector improvements are planned over the next five years, including everything from Outrigger Hotels & Resorts' $800 million Beachwalk to the redevelopment of both the International Marketplace and the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.
Soon, Waikiki will again be ready for her close-up.
In the late 1980s, real estate investor and corporate raider Harry Weinberg was near the top of the list of Hawaii's richest residents. Today, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, which had a 2004 market value of $1.9 billion, is among the top 25 of the nation's philanthropic organizations. Yet, Weinberg in his time, professed to not know how much he was worth, saying he didn't have the time to total it all up.
"He had a wonderful heart and that's what people didn't realize about him," says his friend and former corporate nemesis Michael Marks, who has retired from his job as legal counsel for Alexander & Baldwin Inc. "He was ruthless in how he got his money, but it was all for the good eventually."
In November 1966, Hawaii Business and Industry hailed Weinberg as "Transit's Medicine Man: The man in the driver's seat at Honolulu Rapid Transit is a freewheeling, financial genius who looks and talks like one of his more colorful drivers.
Weinberg made his mark on business in Hawaii, by acquiring what he considered vastly undervalued assets. He would buy up stock in local companies and make them pay him to get off their boards. In 197% Hawaii Business said, "With the cunning of a street fighter he has bullied their boards and bamboozled their management into making him one of the richest men in town."
Marks says: "He was an icon in the business community, because he made people realize the value of Hawaii companies, which no one else realized. He was the only one who saw that and he made hundreds of millions of dollars because of that."
Weinberg targeted some of the biggest names in town, from Honolulu Rapid Transit Co. to Dillingham Corp., Amfac Inc., Maul Land & Pine Inc. and Alexander & Baldwin Inc. While Marks worked at A&B to oppose Weinberg's takeover maneuvers, he also became a friend and confidante, who would serve as a pallbearer when Weinberg passed away in 1990.
Marks says: "He always knew that he would be very popular after his death, but not before his death." Today, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg foundation owns more than 2,000 acres of land in the state, for a total tax-assessed value of $923 million, and the foundation gives away about $20 million every year to Hawaii charities.
For the first time, as early as this summer, the Akaka Bill, formally known as the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005, to recognize Native Hawaiians as an indigenous people, is up for consideration for a full vote in the U.S. Senate. A companion measure in Congress is also seeking House approval. But not all Native Hawaiians are pleased by the news on the landmark legislation. First introduced in 2000 by Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka, the Akaka Bill has been a galvanizing force for lively debate among Native Hawaiian sovereignty groups.
As the name given to a very loose coalition of groups, the Hawaiian sovereignty movement shares the common concerns of seeking self-determination and self-governance for Native Hawaiians and redress from the U.S. government for its role in the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom. How these ends should be achieved, however, is where opinions among the groups vary greatly.
Would the Akaka Bill's proposal that U.S. recognition of the nation's 400,000 Native Hawaiians, similar to the way it recognizes American Indians and Native Alaskans, create a nation within a nation and nullify recognition of an independent Hawaiian nation? Is parity with other indigenous peoples and the creation of a Native Hawaiian governing entity to negotiate with federal and state governments over land, resources and other assets the best approach to self-determination?
Seen against the backdrop of the larger Hawaiian renaissance over the past three decades, the Hawaiian sovereignty movement is very much a part of this "uncharted journey" to bring together people who have not been so for generations. It sparked a centennial commemoration in 1993 of the overthrow of the monarchy, rallied 200 supporters for the Aloha March from the U.S. Capitol to the White House in 1998 to bring awareness of Native Hawaiians to the nation and, in 1999, organized the first Native Hawaiian Convention to propose a Native Hawaiian government.
Hawaiian sovereignty has had its share of bumps along the way but shares a commonality with the voyages of Hokulea, the renaissance of Hawaiian culture, music and dance, the revival of language in Hawaiian immersion schools, the emergence of Hawaiian activist groups, from militant Ka Lahui Hawaii to service-oriented Alu Like, and much more. It can be a means of profound expression for Hawaii's first people in their quest for identity, pride and a place in Hawaii's future.
Hilton Hawaiian Village
According to legend, Henry J. Kaiser first got the idea to build the Hawaiian Village after he and his wife couldn't get a room at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. When he took one look at Waikiki's crowded beach and low room inventory, he quickly realized that he had stumbled upon a new economic frontier.
"I figured that just about everybody wants to travel to Hawaii, but facilities have not kept pace," Kaiser told Time magazine in 1956.
In 1954, Kaiser and Fritz B. Burns purchased the Niumalu Hotel and eight oceanfront acres of the John Ena Estate for $3.5 million. Within four months, Kaiser demolished the old hotel and, in its place, constructed the Hawaiian Village, a complex of 24 thatch roofed bungalows, three swimming pools, a nightclub and a bar. To ensure that his structures were sound and authentic, he hired a crew of Samoan workmen, who wove his resort's thatched roofs by hand. Inside, he decorated his rooms with Polynesian and Asian furnishings, yards of tapa cloth and thousands of sea shells.
At the edge of his new village he dredged a large lagoon, using the dug-up coral as the base for his beach, which he named Duke Kahanamoku Beach, the widest in Waikiki. In 1957, he added the Ocean Tower (now known as the Alii Tower), as well as a geodesic dome showroom (built in just 20 hours). The Village Tower followed in 1958 and the Diamond Head Tower in 1960.
With Martin Denny playing his exotic tropical music at the Shell Bar, crooner Alfred Apaka selling out the Dome and the popular television detective show Hawaiian Eye shooting on location (occasionally), the Hawaiian Village became the epicenter of '50s and '60s tiki culture.
In 1961, the Hawaiian Village was renamed the Hilton Hawaiian Village after hotel mogul Conrad Hilton bought a controlling interest. Kaiser was no longer associated with the resort, but expansion continued with the construction of the Hilton Lagoon Apartments in 1965, the Rainbow Tower in 1968, the Mid-Pacific Conference Center in 1969, the Tapa Tower in 1982 and the Kalia Tower in 2001. Today, the Hilton Hawaiian Village boasts 3,386 rooms in 5 towers spread out over 22 acres. In addition, there are five pools, 22 restaurants and more than 90 shops. Excluding the mega-resorts in Las Vegas, the Hilton Hawaiian Village is the second-largest resort in the world.
As big as the Hilton Hawaiian Village is today, it could have been even larger. Kaiser's original plan for the resort called for the construction of an island just offshore, which would be home to hotels, an aquarium, a convention hall and a theater.
Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial
Oil still seeps to the surface of Pearl Harbor from the USS Arizona more than 60 years after the battleship was sunk during the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941, that heralded the U.S. entry into World War II. On that Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor, 2,390 lives were lost, half from the Arizona. And from that day, Pearl Harbor would become, together with Diamond Head, Hawaii's best-known landmarks.
Known as Puuloa and important to the ancient Hawaiians for its many fish ponds, Pearl Harbor got its modern name from the pearl oysters that once thrived in the Central Oahu harbor. But its sheltered waters and natural lochs are what first caught British Capt. Vancouver's eye in 1790 and, later, influenced American Lt. General Schofield's recommendation in 1872 that Pearl Harbor offered an ideal naval anchorage. In exchange for duty-free Hawaiian sugar entering the American market, the Hawaiian Kingdom and the United States signed a treaty in 1884 for an exclusive American station at the harbor.
Today, Pearl Harbor, home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet, may be best known as the site of the 184-foot-long Arizona Memorial, which stands over the sunken battleship. Over 1.4 million visitors annually come to see the names of the 1,177 fallen Arizona crewmen engraved on the shrine's marble wall and to take in the gentle serenity envisioned by its designer, architect Alfred Preis.
After nearly 20 years of military fund-raising to build the memorial, private funding to help finish it came from an unlikely source: the King of Rock 'n' Roll--Elvis Presley. At a sellout charity fund-raiser on March 25, 1961, at Bloch Arena and in his first concert after his Army discharge, Elvis wowed the crowd and exceeded the concert's $50,000 goal by raising over $64,000, more than 10 percent of the memorial's $500,000 cost. He waived his usual fee of $25,000 and even bought the first of the limited $100 tickets to his own concert. Most tickets, available at Sears, sold for $5- Every penny Elvis raised went to complete the Arizona Memorial, which was dedicated in 1962.
Today, new fundraising efforts to rebuild the memorial's sinking visitor center will soon expand to the Mainland, says Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund Communications and Grants Manager, David Gibson. Local fundraising efforts have started, as volunteers collect donations at the current visitor center and schools raise money through the Pennies for Pearl Harbor program. The Fund expects to raise $34 million dollars, with 80 percent coming from grants and donations from the Mainland.
He started as a 12-year-old deck hand aboard tugs and steamers, and wound up taking the helm of Hawaii's largest shipping company and Big Five corporation, Alexander & Baldwin Inc. According to his friends and colleagues, however, Robert J. "Bobby" Pfeiffer possessed a heart that was as big as his lengthy resume.
"He's a remarkable success story, and he left behind a tremendous number of legacies," says W. Allen Doane, president and CEO of Alexander & Baldwin, and vice chairman of the board at Matson Navigation Co. Inc. "One legacy that endures even today is the standard he set in giving back to the community. It was about 20 years ago that he gave a speech that, at the time, seemed pretty revolutionary. He said that companies everywhere had an obligation to give back, to return part of their income every year back to the community."
In 1992, three years before he retired, Pfeiffer helped establish the Alexander & Baldwin Foundation. In 2004, the foundation donated more than $1.3 million to 267 separate nonprofit organizations in Hawaii and the Pacific islands.
Pfeiffer died in September 2003 at his home in Orinda, Calif. He was 83.
Born in Fiji in 1920, Pfeiffer grew up on the Big Island. His family moved to Honolulu in 1929, and Pfeiffer began working odd jobs at the waterfront. By the time he was 15, he had earned a license to skipper harbor tugs
Pfeiffer became president of Matson in 1963, directing a $400 million capital investment program that turned the company into one of the world's leading marine transportation companies. He became president of Alexander & Baldwin in October 1979 and the company's CEO three months later. Under his guidance, A&B made a successful transition from sugar to real estate development and management. The company's annual revenue and assets nearly tripled under his leadership.
"There was a special fraternity that included Bobby and the Matson captains," recalled Walter Dods in his eulogy for his friend. "Skippers knew to expect phone calls from the 'Old Man' every day, asking about weather, wind speed and even what they had for breakfast. And they could call him back anytime. Bobby Pfeiffer brought joy and camaraderie, humor and warmth, everywhere he went. He ran his boardroom with an iron hand, but had enough of a twinkle in his eye to write his own obituary, starting with these words: 'Old sailors never die, they just drop anchor.'"
"Icon? He certainly fits in that category," says Doane. "He was a remark able individual who was a superb leader. He was very focused on the core parts of A&B; where some other companies have gone by the wayside over the years, we've pretty much stuck to the businesses we know: shipping, real estate and agriculture. Bob, in his wisdom, was very strong about staying with what you know and doing well at it, and that continues to be a big part of A&B today.
"Wherever he is now, he should feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment for what he meant to the company, and what he still means to the company."
The venerable Coco Palms Resort on the east side of Kauai has been idle since shutting down in September 1992, when the damage inflicted by Hurricane Iniki proved too pricey to repair. But after 15 dormant years, the famed resort is finally, scheduled to once again open its doors to the public in late 2007. Earlier this year, Mainland developer Richard Weiser was given the county's go ahead to spend $200 million to restore the ailing property, and reopen 104 of the original hotel rooms, along with an additional 200 condo units.
While it will be impossible for Weiser to recreate the resort exactly as it was in its glory days in the '60s and '70s (at its peak, Coco Palms had 400+ hotel rooms), the property still retains a lot of its original charm and appeal. The historic fishponds, which former Coco Palms manager and marketing marvel Grace Guslander often touted as the "royal fishponds" of Kauai's ancient alii, will remain signature features of the hotel when it is reopened. And, in addition to the hundreds of palms speckled throughout the resort grounds, Coco Palms will still be home to the oldest and largest coconut palm tree grove in the state. The famous "Elvis Cottage," where the king himself stayed during the filming of 1961's Blue Hawaii, will also be restored to near original condition. And, of course, the famous lagoon, where Elvis Presley serenaded his bride with the "Hawaiian Wedding Song" in Blue Hawaii (and perhaps a little lesser known--where throngs of locals gathered regularly for the hotel's keiki fishing contests), is still gloriously intact.
Wen "Hawaii's Horatio Alger," venture capitalist Chinn Ho, died in 1987, at the age of 83, Time magazine said that Ho had built a real estate empire that stretched from California to Hong Kong and proclaimed him The putative model for Hong Kong Kee the wily businessman who outsmarts the white hierarchy in James Michener's Hawaii."
Ho was blunt in an interview with Hawaii Business in 1980, saying, "I've always been fearful of an influx of Mainland population and the capability of the people in local government to cope with the situation."
He was probably best known to Hawaii residents through the years through two high-profile business ventures: his pioneering of the condominium concept with the 24-story Ilikai Hotel in 1964, along with colleagues Matsy Takabuki and Sam Silverman and his 1952 purchase and 1971 sale to Gannett of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
In 1961, Time described Ho, then 57 as "stocky, cigar-chomping ... the prototype of Hawaii's newest business phenomenon: the self-made fast-moving Hawaiian millionaire of Asian descent." Ho broke ground for Asians in Hawaii in the business arena. According to Time: "So successful a hui manager was Chinn Ho that he cracked Hawaii's bamboo curtain and gained a toehold in the haole establishment; he was the first Oriental named a trustee of one of Hawaii's landed estates, the huge Robinson estate, a bastion of Hawaiian conservatism, first Asian invited to join the businessmen's Commercial Club (now the Pacific Club), the first named President of the Honolulu Stock Exchange."
His son, Dean Ho, now oversees businesses in Shanghai that Ho started in the 1980s. Dean Ho says his father's rise through Hawaii at a time when there was a fair amount of hardship for Asians taught him to respect other people's ideas. Dean Ho says, "I think he rose through that very difficult environment and he did it with great charm and a lot of forgiveness, because there were a lot of people who wanted to crush him who since became friends. That takes guts, for him to step back and say, 'These people see things one way and I see them another way. I think I'm going to win, but let's be gracious in victory.'"
Les Keiter remembers his first broadcast at Aloha Stadium. It was April 9, 1976, and the Hawaii Islanders Triple-A baseball team was hosting the Spokane Indians.
"I'll never forget opening night. Looking out at the field from the press box, the players looked like ants!" he recalls. "I had to use binoculars to identify them."
Today, the 86-year-old Keiter--now retired after more than 50 years of sports announcing and eight years as an Aloha Stadium spokesperson--laughs at the memory. "When I came home that night, my wife asked me how many people were there, and I said there were about 5,000," he says. "She said, 'Oh, that's good,' and I said, 'No, that's bad. There were 45,000 empty seats!'"
Built by the state at a cost of $37 million, the 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium opened its turnstiles to the public in the fall of 1975. The first event was a University of Hawaii football game against Texas A&I--32,247 fans watched the home team get drubbed, 43-9. At the time, the stadium was considered state of the art. The stands could be moved (via air cushions) into different configurations for football, baseball and concerts, making the stadium the first of its kind in the United States.
The stadium has had its share of memorable moments, from 18,345 fans watching Derek Tatsuno pitch his final home game in a UH uniform to Hawaii's at-long-last 56-14 football victory over rival Brigham Young University. In its 30-year history, Aloha Stadium has welcomed the famous (soccer legend Pele, Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones and the Eagles all performed there) and the forgettable (does anybody remember the WFL's Honolulu Hawaiians?).
Today, the stadium is showing its age. The state spent $88 million on stadium repair and maintenance from 1989 to 1995, with another $23 million anticipated over the next three years. Last year, House lawmakers approved a resolution to study the longevity of the stadium. Some are speculating that building a new stadium might save the state money in the long run.
"I think the future of Aloha Stadium is questionable, because of its age," admits Keiter, with resignation. "Life will go on, and we'll move forward. But the stadium really turned out to be a showcase for all kinds of events in Hawaii. It will be a sad day if and when they tear that thing down."
Sen. Daniel Inouye
Few can match Hawaii's senior senator, now serving his 46th year in the nation's. Capitol, for name recognition in the Islands. His campaign banners and bumper stickers simply say, "Dan." As the third most senior member of the U.S. Senate and the first Japanese-American elected to Congress, in 1959, few on Capitol Hill can match Daniel Ken Inouye's impressive legislative influence and distinguished career.
A member of Hawaii's famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Inouye was the recipient of the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for military valor. As a freshman senator at the stormy 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago amid Vietnam protestors, he was the keynote speaker, the Barack Obama of his time. In 1974, Inouye emerged in the national limelight as a solid and steadfast member of the historic Senate Watergate Committee. In 1987, he was chosen to chair the Senate's Iran-Contra Affair hearings.
Pragmatic and passionate, Inouye is proud of the major role he has played in shaping U.S. defense policies and strengthening Hawaii's role in that effort. This year, the state will receive nearly $865 million from the Department of Defense's $417 billion budget, thanks in no small measure to Inouye's seniority as the ranking member of the powerful Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
At the same time, Inouye also belonged to the less prominent Indian Affairs Committee, banking on its strategic importance to help give Hawaiians the same rights as an indigenous people that are now held by Native Americans and Eskimos. The decorated American military hero even pleaded with President Carter in 1976 to pardon Hawaiian activists Walter Ritte and Richard Sawyer for federal trespass on Kahoolawe. Inouye called the then-Navy-occupied island a "symbol of the resurgence of the Hawaiian people, a movement formulating for many Hawaiians a renewed respect for their culture and history."
This year, thanks to Inouye and Hawaii's congressional delegation, Hawaii is earmarked for $602 million from the Omnibus Appropriations Bill to provide federal funding for local initiatives, ranging from crime prevention, school support and road improvement to job training and healthcare. Considered a shoo-in for reelection in 2010 to his ninth term in the U.S. Senate, Inouye will be 86 years old when that term ends. Postwar Hawaii owes much to our Dan, the son of Japanese immigrants, who once dreamed of becoming a doctor, but took, instead, the road less traveled.
The military has long played an instrumental role in shaping the direction of the 50th state. It helped Kamehameha the Great conquer the Hawaiian Islands and unite them under his rule. It helped force the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani, leading to Hawaii's annexation into the United States.
In the mid-1930s, it helped Hawaii recover from the Great Depression, as American forces began to build in the Islands in reaction to Japan's occupation in Manchuria. By September 1940, the number of U.S. military personnel in Hawaii reached 48,000.
Today, the military maintains a giant presence in the Islands. According to the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii (CCH), the U.S. Department of Defense is second only to tourism as a source of revenues to the state. Hawaii is also the second-ranking state in annual per capita federal defense expenditures, at $3,566 per person. Every major defense contractor has local staffing in Hawaii, where defense procurement totals $1.9 billion on an annual basis. Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard is the largest industrial employer in the state.
"During the recession of the 1990s, the military industry in Hawaii continued to plug on," says Charlie Ota, vice president, Military Affairs, at CCH. "It was a reliable and stable source of revenue for the state and business community. Then, from 2000 till now, military spending has increased from $3.3 billion in 2000 to $4.5 billion in 2003. Military housing construction over the next five years is going to be $2.2 billion."
In fact, by the end of 2002, federal expenditures surpassed visitor expenditures as the No. 1 contributor to the local economy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, federal expenditures in 2002 totaled $10.47 billion; state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism statistics, meanwhile, show that visitor expenditures in the same year amounted to $9.55 billion. In 2003, the gap between federal and visitor spending increased, with federal expenditures reaching $11.27 billion and visitor spending totaling $9.64 billion.
Furthermore, Ota points out, while Hawaii's visitor industry has its ups and downs, the military's contributions to the state economy have been stable and growing. "Spending not only means good revenues for business, but also the creation of hundreds of jobs," says Ota, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.
Recently, the Navy announced that a new military intelligence-gathering center in Kunia will bring in $300 million in construction and add 700 jobs. Construction of the 350,000-square-foot, three-story Kunia Regional Security Operations Center is slated to begin in 2007. The facility will be responsible for monitoring international hot spots such North Korea and provide classified information to the U.S. Pacific Command and Special Operations Command, Pacific.
Colin Cameron was a rare combination of businessman, environmentalist, visionary and patient pragmatist. A fourth-generation descendant of the Baldwin side of Alexander & Baldwin, Cameron was well known on Maui and in the rest of the state as worldly but friendly, good-natured and unassuming.
A graduate of Punahou, Stanford and Harvard's MBA program, he spent most of his life in Spreckelsville and Paia. He was a business and community leader, who helped build such landmarks as the Maui County Arts and Cultural Center, Kapalua Resort, Kaahumanu Center, and dedicated the 8,000-acre Puu Kukui Preserve to The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, helping to create the largest area of protected forest in the state.
A tenacious businessman, Cameron emerged as an industry leader in 1969, after he regained control of Maui Pine, previously an Alexander & Baldwin Inc. subsidiary. Cameron had worked as a Maui Pine manager from 1964 to 1967, when plans to develop a resort in Kapalua on land owned by the Cameron family were shelved by A&B in favor of its own larger development in Wailea. He resigned, then won a seat on A&B's board after a bitter proxy fight. Two years later, the Cameron family bought out A&B's share of Maui Pine and renamed it Maui Land & Pine, to reflect its interest in diversifying the use of its 30,000 acres of land. Needing cash after the deal, the family took the company public. That opened the door for corporate raider Harry Weinberg, who invested in 37 percent. Cameron proved his tenacity again when he shot down Weinberg's attempts to muscle his way onto MLP's board of directors by slashing the number of board members from five to two. Yet when it came to culture and the environment, he was known for his sensitivity, as seen in his 1989 decision to move the location of the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, when Hawaiian burial remains were found in the original location.
He was also a visionary, pushing for the Maui Research & Technology Park in Kihei for eight years, to wean the island from its dependence on tourism and agriculture. In June 1992, Cameron had a heart attack while swimming and drowned in the waters off his home in Spreckelsville. From his contributions to the tech park, nature preserve, cultural events and countless others, the legacy of the man who then-mayor Linda Lingle called "the heart of Maui" lives on.
Wo Fat was a Chinese spy-master, not a downtown Holulu restaurant. Chin Ho was a loyal police detective, not a powerful businessman. And Hawaii was the center of Cold War espionage and the home to pimps, prostitutes, petty criminals and beach bums. Welcome to the world of Hawaii Five- O.
Hawaii Five-O was first broadcast on CBS on Sept. 20, 1968, with arguably the greatest theme music and scenery in television history. When it ended 12 seasons and 284 episodes later, it became the longest continuously running police drama in television history. It was recently eclipsed by Law and Order, which just began its 13th season.
Five-O featured Steve McGarret (Jack Lord), a former naval intelligence officer, who led an elite, four-person state police unit that reported directly to the governor. (Ironically, Hawaii is the only state in the union that doesn't have a statewide police force.) McGarret and his multicultural crew chased crooks around the concrete jungles of Honolulu, which resembled the mean streets of New York City or Los Angeles, only were prettier.
During its hey day, Five-O was lauded for its intelligent writing and inclusion of local supporting players. By the end of its run, the ramrod straight McGarret and the show's no-nonsense plots had become anachronisms. However, subsequent Hawaii-based television shows have featured buffoonish characters and characterizations and written-from-a-hotel-suite plots. As cheesy and melodramatic as it was at times, Five-O's portrait of Hawaii as a complex place with complicated problems is probably one of the most truthful ever seen on television.
According to local legend, John Bellinger called all the offensive plays for his Roosevelt High School football team. The fact that Bellinger, who was also a track star and the commanding officer of the school's ROTC program, played wide receiver and not quarterback mattered little to his teammates in the huddle. The kid had a powerful personality and presence.
Bellinger would take his considerable leadership skills into the Islands' business world, joining Bishop National Bank as a teller in 1942 at the age of 18. Except for a five-year stint in the Army in the late '40s, he would spend his entire career at the financial institution, which is now known as First Hawaiian Bank. The executives in the boardroom saw the same qualities that Bellinger's coaches did, and he quickly rose up the corporate ladder. In 1969, he was named president and chief executive officer of First Hawaiian. At 45, he was the youngest president in bank history.
The affable yet blunt Bellinger, who was beloved and feared by his employees, brought a highly personal kind of leadership to the bank, one that was characterized by quick, decisive action. It was a style perfectly suited to First Hawaiian at the time, as the bank and the state underwent huge changes during his 20 years at the helm.
"John brought order into everything he did," says Wesley Park, former president and chief executive officer of Hawaii Dental Service and a dose friend of Bellinger. "He had absolute beliefs in what was right and wrong. He made the tough decisions, and he held himself accountable for his actions at a time when not a lot of people were doing that."
Bellinger, who believed in taking care of his employees and the community at large, would also be a role model for many up-and-coming executives. He built a $2 million recreation center in Makaha for employees and their guests and created a compensation and benefits program that was the envy of not only the industry but of the rest of the state's work force.
He also encouraged his employees to participate in civic affairs, paying membership dues and expenses as well as providing time off. But as he did with their day jobs, Bellinger expected his employees to not only participate in community activities, but to excel and lead.
Mauna Kea Resort
On his way to Alaska in 1960, Laurance Rockefeller, grandson of oil baron John D. Rockefeller, took up Governor William Quinns invitation to come visit the new 50th state. On the last day of his visit, Rockefeller took one last swim at the Big Island's Kaunaoa Beach, a private white sand crescent--shaped bay used by Parker Ranch workers. He was awed by the views of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.
Lucky for Hawaii that this Rockefeller saw his immense wealth as a means to bring his personal vision of conservation and commerce to develop internationally acclaimed, environmentally oriented resorts. The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel that he built in 1965 on that lovely stretch of beach celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Today's 500-acre Mauna Kea Beach Resort, now owned and operated by Prince Resorts Hawaii Inc., ushered in the resort development era for the Big Island's South Kohala-North Kona coast, now world renowned for its elegant luxury hotels.
The Manna Kea did more than set the standard for Hawaii's high-end resorts. A pioneer in venture capital, Rockefeller deliberately built his resort hotels in remote places where jobs were badly needed. Forty years ago, the Manna Kea's site was rugged lava rock and, at that time, was more than 25 miles from the nearest tourist center at Kailua-Kona.
A staunch environmentalist, Rockefeller insisted on open-air rooms to catch the trade winds and expansive lanais to view the breathtaking scenery. Even the resort's golf course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., is a challenging masterpiece that follows the twists and rolls of the lava rock contours. Rockefeller, who died in 2004 at the age of 94, wanted the Mauna Kea to be the embodiment of Old Hawaii and adorned it with his private collection of 1,600 Pacific and Asian artworks and artifacts, including Hawaiian quilts, tapa cloths and hand-carved tiki.
For visitors and local residents, one of the most memorable things about the Mauna Kea is its famous Sunday brunch with a chilled seafood bar and decadent desserts. What pleased Laurance Rockefeller most was standing at the end of the beach at the Mauna Kea at just the right spot, surrounded by nature, where he was unable to see his hotel.
Before cable, satellite TV and the Internet, radio brought Hawaii Calls into the homes of landlocked Mainlanders who could only dream of sitting near the shores of Waikiki at the Moana Hotel's Banyan Court.
The 30 minute program began with the waves, and emcee Webley Edwards announcing "a call from Hawaii," along with a gathering of Islanders and visitors under the banyan tree, who in turn greeted radio listeners with a hearty "Aloha!" Listeners were treated to the sounds of Hawaiian chants, ukulele, slack-key guitar and hapa-haole songs, including classics such as The Hawaiian Wedding Song, Little Brown Gal, Lovely Hula Hands and Sweet Leilani, a song that debuted on the show, then won an Academy Award after Bing Crosby sang it in the movie Waikiki Wedding.
Considered the most popular program in radio history, Hawaii Calls debuted in 1935 and has been largely credited with spreading the gospel of Hawaiian music worldwide. At its peak in 1952, Hawaii Calls was broadcast over 750 stations, from the U.S. mainland to Canada, Latin America, Europe, Korea, Japan, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Although the show officially ended its radio run in the 1960s, Hawaii Calls has found new life in cyberspace, through weekly rebroadcasts of its most popular shows, on www.hularecords.com.
According to USA Today, "[Matsy] Takabuki credited with making the Bishop Estate a player on Wall Street. The former World War II veteran, city councilman, business executive and Bishop Estate trustee had a quiet way of dealing with even the most controversial situations and has and had a hand in many of Hawaii's important institutions and deals in the past half-century.
Shanghai businessman Dean Ho, son of business icon Chinn Ho, remembers Takabuki's work for the Ho family's Capital Investment Co. Says Ho: "He was a magnificent businessman. He had a very quick, mathematical mind. That was in sharp contrast--he didn't appear to be a great businessman at the beginning of the conversation, because he was always so taciturn."
No question that, as a Bishop Estate trustee, Takabuki's engineering of a deal with Goldman Sachs put what is today Kamehameha Schools on firm financial footing for decades to come. Takabuki took point in negotiating the deal with former Goldman Sachs chairman Jon Corzine, who is now a United States senator. By some estimates, the investment returns from Kamehameha's original $500 million exceeded $2.5 billion by 2003 or were nearly 50 percent of the estate's $5.4 billion endowment market value that year.
In 2003, MN Capital Partners directors Bruce Nakaoka and Eric Martinson nominated Takabuki for the Kamehameha School's Order of Ke Alii Pauahi Award. Their supporting letter says, "In the early years of Mr. Takabuki's tenure, the trust was often referred to as "land rich, cash poor." Today, KS/BE is the sixth largest education endowment in the country, trailing only Harvard, Yale, the University of Texas System, Princeton and Stanford."
The endowment is a testament to Takabuki's focus on personal loyalties, as well as community service. When he was the first Japanese-American named as a trustee in 1972, the Hawaiian community erupted in protest. Takabuki and his family got phone calls threatening their lives. His daughter, Anne, says she asked him why he was giving up all the business opportunities he had worked hard for in exchange for going to work for less money and a group that clearly didn't want him. Anne Takabuki says, "He simply told me that there are some things you just have to do. Basically, it was his loyalty and commitment to his friends [Gov. John Bums, the Supreme Court justices and others] and his sense of obligation to make a contribution to his community, by giving the children of Hawaiian ancestry the opportunity for a first-rate education."
William S. Richardson
While judicial activism is a hot-button topic among today's political pundits, it's old hat for William S. Richardson, former chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court. Richardson is perhaps best known as the judge who gave the public greater rights to the state's beaches and waters, arguing that the "Western concept of exclusivity is not universally applicable in Hawaii."
In one landmark decision, Richardson's court ruled that water rights that had been fought over by two Kauai sugar plantations for 50 years belonged to neither of them. The public owned it, the court ruled.
In a 1982 interview with Honolulu Magazine, Richardson remarked, "I just cannot see Hawaii without free beaches. I can't see my children and yours not being able to use the beaches of Hawaii ... I think water is the same as light and air. It belongs to everybody. You take it for granted that you have some right to the air out there, and you have the same right to light. I extend it to water. I say, 'You have the same rights to water. It's ours."
Richardson served on the Supreme Court from 1966 to 1982. Later, he served nine years as a Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate trustee. In 1983, the University of Hawaii named its law school after Richardson, to honor his work and commitment to establishing the school.
"I think it's not too much to say that there would not have been a law school here in Hawaii if it weren't for his efforts," says Aviam Soifer, dean of the William S. Richardson School of Law. "He used his political clout, wisdom and practical sense to help build a law school that emphasizes diversity and looks toward Asia and the Pacific."
"His impact is immeasurable, I think, not just on the law school, but also on the laws of Hawaii," says Soifer. "He did things at the time that were not only unusual, but visionary. In particular, he asked why should we follow Anglo-American common law as other American jurisdictions do, when we have our own Native Hawaiian traditions. He's made our laws different in terms of access to beaches, water rights, gathering rights and a number of other areas. His impact is certainly a lasting one."
Richardson remains an active part of the law school. He maintains an office there and attends the school's social events, panel discussions and lectures. Says Soifer, "He's available for the students to meet a living, breathing example of history and how one can accomplish things by having a dream."
International Market Place
The famous Duke's, where Don Ho first gained fame, was once housed there. Don the Beachcomber, one of Waikiki's long-gone landmark restaurants, also called it home. And the incomparable Hal Lewis, the self-named "J. Akuhead Pupule," best known to Island radio listeners as "Aku," once broadcast his popular morning talk show from the tree house in its famous Banyan tree.
The International Market Place first opened in 1957. Envisioned as a new "Waikiki Village" by entrepreneur Donn Beach, best known as Don the Beachcomber, and featuring the arts, crafts, entertainment and foods of Hawaii's multicultural people, it may have been one of the earliest cultural tourist attractions in the Islands.
However, over the last half-century, as the rest of Waikiki evolved, the market-place has remained kitschy, with kind of a '60s vibe. Winding through the carts and kiosks of its vendors, hawking T-shirts, plastic hula skirts, volcano-shaped candles and other souvenirs, it may be hard to believe its 14 acre grounds were once the site of a gracious summer home for Hawaiian royalty, with gardens, loi patches and a running stream.
Ideas had been floated by its owner, the Queen Emma Foundation, to spruce up the place to attract today's more sophisticated visitors and bring back more local residents. But a 1988 proposal to put the convention center on its grounds sparked a protest rally by Korean vendors at the Legislature that turned into a riot. Some vendors even cut themselves to write protest signs in their own blood.
Beginning late this summer, change is finally coming to the International Market Place. Its long overdue transformation will shut the place down until 2007, while a new retail and entertainment center is built that's in keeping with Waikiki's broader improvement plans.
Aiming to restore "a sense of Hawaiianness," the new International Market Place will feature low rise structures, open-air shops and restaurants, paths, gardens, a storytelling hearth, a performance amphitheater and, yes, parking. And the banyan tree stays.
In 1959, Hawaii attorney and businessman Hiram Fong became the first Asian American to be elected to the U.S. Senate. The Hawaii Republican had already, had a distinguished career in the Islands, serving in the territorial Legislature from 1938 to 1954 and as Speaker of the House from 1948 to 1954.
His political career was marked by strong bipartisan support, even after the Democratic wave rolled over the political scene. He was recognized as a champion of immigrants and the working class, himself the son of Chinese immigrant parents and a hard worker who held various odd jobs to put himself through the University of Hawaii and Harvard Law School. In 1965, he co-authored the Immigration Reform Act.
Fong was also a founder of local lender Finance Factors. Daniel Lau, one of the cofounders, asked Fong to join their hui in 1952. "Because he came from a very, very poor family and really struggled to get an education and having, achieved that, rose as far as he had, he was a person that was quite well known and he was very happy to join our group," Lau recalls. Lau had known Fong from years earlier at the University of Hawaii, where Fong had been a member of the founding chapter of the Chinese fraternity Tu Chian Sheh.
Fong "retired" in 1976, by creating a 725-acre tourist destination and conservation site in Windward Oahu, called Senator Fong's Plantation and Gardens. In later years, he ran into family and financial difficulties, which forced him and his wife to declare bankruptcy in 2003. From 2001, until his death in 2004, Fong served as the honorary co-chairman of the Palolo Chinese Home's Capital Campaign.
Lau sums up Fong's legacy this way: He proved that minority people can become great and successful through hard work and education. Lau values this piece of advice: As much as you hate a person, or a person doesn't like you, he will always be a friend. Someday, that person can do you a good turn."
Polynesian Cultural Center
When Mormon church leaders were looking for ways to finance the education of Brigham Young University students in Laie, community members remembered their successful hukilau fund-raising to rebuild their burned chapel.
Busloads of tourists had traveled out to this rural community near Oahu's northern tip to watch the hauling in of the fishnets and enjoy the luau and entertainment that followed. The bukilau, Laie's homegrown fishing and feasting event popularized in the famous 1948 Jack Owens song, became the inspiration for what has been Oahu's most popular paid visitor attraction since 1977, the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC).
Dedicated in 1963, the Polynesian Cultural Center's 42-acre lagoon park complex today attracts over 750,000 visitors annually and has pro vided employment and educational enrichment to more than 12,000 BYU-Hawaii students. Visitors are treated to the lifestyles, songs, dances, costumes, architecture and recreated villages of seven Pacific Islands: Fiji, New Zealand, the Marquesas, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga and Hawaii.
In 2004, the "Keep It Hawaii" awards to preserve Hawaii's unique culture recognized PCC's Alii Luau, billed as Hawaii's most authentic traditional feast. Less known is that PCC boasts Oahu's only IMAX theater and provides cash awards as the longtime sponsor of the annual State Teacher of the Year award.
As part of an expansion and re-marketing effort, the PCC last year unveiled plans for a new hotel complex--the only one on Oahu's windward coast.
The hotel is aimed at attracting visitors to come stay in Laie, with more than 200 rooms, a restaurant, a pool, a retail facility, a visitor center and a museum. The bukilau may be gone, but PCC is looking to spend $3.5 million to expand and continue to attract visitors to this former Hawaiian fishing village.
Who would have imagined that one man's bout with chicken pox would forever change the course of private business in Hawaii?
Bob Midkiff recalls: "This was [in the late 1940s to early 1950s], when I worked at Hawaiian Trust Co. Ltd. I was on vacation in New York, and one of our clients, a New Yorker, wanted to start a profit-sharing plan. So I had to learn everything I could about profit sharing. We subscribed to a Prentice Hall loose-leaf service, and every week we got more pages. Well, after I got home, I came down with the chicken pox. I had nothing to do for an entire week except read, so I read every page on profit sharing. And I kept on reading after that. After a while, I knew more about [profit sharing] than anybody else."
Midkiff, now 84, is regarded as the "Father of Profit Sharing in Hawaii."
"That's the accomplishment I'm most proud of," says Midkiff, whose career resume includes serving as vice president of Hawaiian Trust, vice president of Amfac Inc. and president of American Security Bank. Before "retiring" in 1993, he was president and CEO of American Financial Services of Hawaii, parent company of American Trust Co. of Hawaii and Bishop Trust Co. Ltd.
"Back then," recalls Midkiff, "people said, 'Profit sharing? What's that? But in 1952, I put in profit-sharing plans for three companies Kaimuki Ben Franklin, Kaneohe Ranch and United General Finance--and from there it really took off. I think there's many people today retiring with over $100,000 that they never otherwise would have had."
Midkiff, who served as an officer on the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur during World War II, is still fighting the good fight. He is president of the Atherton Family Foundation and is heavily involved with the Good Beginnings Alliance, a nonprofit organization that coordinates early childhood education and care services in the Islands. He also helped found the Waikiki Improvement Association, Downtown Improvement Association, Lahaina Restoration Foundation and Friends of Iolani Palace. He was also heavily involved in building the Financial Plaza of the Pacific and restoring the Hawaii Theatre.
All along the way, he's made countless friends and few enemies.
"And," Midkiff says, smiling, "I believe I've outlived most of my enemies."
He was a lawyer, a state representative and chairman of the state Democratic Party. He served as campaign manager for former Hawaii governors John A. Burns and George Ariyoshi. Walter Dods once called him the "resident genius of Hawaii politics."
For state representative Marcus R. Oshiro, however, Bob Oshiro was, and is, simply "dad."
"My dad always used to tell us that politics was a noble endeavor," says the younger Oshiro, an 11-year legislator representing the 39th Representative District (Wahiawa-Poamoho). "He said we can help people and our community, and make life better for people. Every person is important and we all have the same basic needs and desires, whether you're a ditch digger or a CEO. We all have a place in society."
Bob Oshiro became a Democrat in 1954, the year of Hawaii's historic "Democratic Revolution." For the first time in the territory's history, Democrats held a majority in both the state Senate and House, control of the Oahu City Council and the majority in both the Maui and Kauai city councils. The Democrats have controlled the Legislature ever since and lost the governorship only twice, in 1959 and 2002.
Oshiro quickly rose up the ranks among Democratic leaders. He became state Democratic chairman in 1962. Eight years later, his tireless efforts in leading then-Gov. John Burns' successful, come-from-behind reelection campaign landed him in a hospital bed for several weeks. Of George Ariyoshi's 1978 triumphant reelection bid against then-Mayor Frank Fasi, Walter Dods remarked in Honolulu magazine, "When credit time comes around, the key guy is Robert Oshiro. It wasn't the media or the fund-raising. It was Bob Oshiro."
Today, Oshiro is 81 and enjoying retirement in Wahiawa, where he grew up. He retired a couple of years ago from his position as chairman of the board of Queen's Health Systems.
"He brought the Democratic Party together for a common cause," says Marcus Oshiro. "When you look at the gubernatorial races he was involved in, I think you'll find that the Democrats achieved those victories because they set aside their differences and were able to work together. I believe that will be his legacy in Hawaii politics."
Before Kaanapali became the worlds first planned resort community and home to six hotels, five condominiums, two championship golf courses, 35 tennis courts and the Whalers Village Shopping Center, Lori Sablas remembers the area simply as being the place to catch dinner.
"This used to be my dad's lobster grounds," says Sablas, who grew up in Kahana, just a stone's throw from Kaanapali. "I would always come here with him. He'd set the trap, pull it up and get a lobster--and that was dinner for the family."
Things really began "cooking" in 1959, when American Factors Inc. (Amfac) started developing the area. Kaanapali Resort opened in 1962 and its first hotel property, the Sheraton Maui, opened for business a year later. Today, Amfac has morphed into the Kaanapali Development Corp., and the 1,200-acre resort lures half-a-million visitors annually.
Looking to the future, Shelley Kekuna, executive director of the Kaanapali Beach Resort Association (KBRA), says, "Development would be a challenge for us, because we're pretty much 'developed out,' although we do have some land mauka and a little north that's part of Amfac's original land holdings. We're also faced with the same thing that everyone on the west side [of Maui] is faced with, which is our density and traffic issues."
To that end, Kekuna says, the resort and the entire West Maui community are working toward establishing an acute care medical facility in the area. She says the resort has more than 3,400 employees and annual revenues of about $400 million.
Sablas, herself a former KBRA executive director, who's entering her 16th year as director of Pookela, a program promoting Hawaiian culture, at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, says the resort has contributed much to Maui's economy.
"Amfac took this plot of land and turned it into a booming economic entity for the island," she says. "I remember Amfac's president saying one time that the plantation, Pioneer Mill, has 5,000 acres and employs 500 employees, while the resort has 500 acres and employs 5,000 employees. Kaanapali has definitely made an impact on the island.
"It's kind of neat to watch this destination evolve into what it has become. And even after all these years, I still love to talk to our guests and see them teary eyed when they have to leave after having the vacation of their lives."
One dollar per year. It's hard to believe, but that's how much Harry Baldwin and Angus McPhee, then lessees of Kahoolawe, charged the U.S. Army to sub-lease me southern tip of the island for bombing practice back in 1941. Of course, that original agreement became moot once martial law was declared several months later, following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The ensuing war gave the military the motive and freedom to drop hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs on the uninhabited island, without any responsibility for removing unexploded ordinance or restoring the land.
It wasn't until 1953, when the U.S. Navy gained absolute authority over Kahoolawe, that a plan was formed to restore the island to a habitable state--after the Navy no longer needed it. But engaging in the Vietnam War gave the military plenty of reasons to need it for target practice well into the '60s and '70s. "I think the island is of very little use for anything else," said Adm. John Hyland, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, in 1969, in defense of the Navy's continued bombing of the island.
Those in opposition to the Navy's use of Kahoolawe (primarily Native Hawaiian groups, environmentalists and politicians), who for years had been unsuccessful in their attempts to end the bombing, did not take well to that sentiment. In the mid '70s, a group of Native Hawaiians rallied around the cause and began a period of highly publicized protest. Dozens of members of the Protect Kahoolawe Association (now known as Protect Kahoolawe Ohana) attempted several unauthorized landings onto the island, but it was the attempt made on March 7, 1977, by activists Kimo Mitchell and George Helm Jr. that catapulted the issue into the public spotlight.
Helm and Mitchell, who paddled in together on a surf-board, disappeared in the waters surrounding Kahoolawe while trying to rescue some friends who were stranded on the island. Their disappearance helped attract national attention to the issue, paving the way for the eventual repatriation of the island. On May 7, 1994, Kahoolawe was finally returned to the state of Hawaii, ending more than half-a-century of military control of the island. Since then, the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission has been managing the cleanup and restoration efforts, along with the state and the Navy, with the state assuming control of the island upon completion.
In the late '60s, Roy Kelley was both revered as a friend of the middle-class tourist, and reviled as the culprit behind cheek-by-jowl hotels in Waikiki and traffic jams on Kalakaua Avenue. Until Kelley built the Islander Hotel in 1947, Waikiki had been reserved for the wealthy, with hotels such as the Royal Hawaiian, Halekulani and Moana.
Over the next decade, he added three more hotels: the Edgewater, beachfront Reef Hotel and Reef Towers.
In 1963, when negotiations stalled between Sheraton and landowner Queen Emma over the lease to the original site of the Outrigger Canoe Club--between the Royal Hawaiian and the Moana Hotel--Kelley readily stepped in. Included in the agreement were leases on three Waikiki lots that later became the Outrigger East, West and Coral Reef hotels. The Outrigger chain was born.
An architect by trade who had worked nights at the Los Angeles bus depot to pay for college, Kelley was unapologetic about his vision to make Hawaii travel more widely accessible. Famous for arriving in Hawaii with his wife the day the stock market crashed in 1929, he didn't believe in debt and spent what he earned. His idea of a corporate office was sitting behind the front desk of his hotels, supervising various departments, stepping in to do everything from greeting tourists to carrying luggage, if his employees didn't move fast enough. He expected his managers to do the same. His family was also expected to work at the hotels: seven-day workweeks were practically a family tradition.
In John McDermott's 1990 book, Kelleys of the Outrigger, one story told of the time a building inspector told Kelley to install hoods and fans in rooms with kitchenettes. He complied, but didn't install vents, because the inspector didn't tell him to. Maintenance included passing rugs from one hotel to another. "Everyone was happy, because everyone got new rugs," wrote McDermott.
Since then, the chain has gone international, upgraded its image and diversified its product offerings. Outrigger Enterprise Inc. reported $403 million in gross sales for 2003. David Carey, who is married to Roy's granddaughter Kathy, now heads the company. However, Roy Kelley will always be known as the patron saint of Waikiki's budget-minded tourists.
It was supposed to have been a one-of-a-kind spectacle--a public relations bonanza celebrating the near-completion of one of Hawaii's most controversial construction projects. The concept was ambitious: 100,000 people participating in a "fun run" on the yet-to-open the H-3 freeway. Instead, as runners gathered at the starting line on Sunday morning, May 12, 1997, they were greeted by a group of protestors shouting, "Shame on you!" and "You're walking on our mothers on Mother's Day.!"
The race drew 15,000 participants a good number, but far short of the original goal. For Hawaiian activists like Mahealani Cypher, it can be said that the H-3 freeway itself has fallen short of expectations.
Today, eight years after the freeway's opening, Cypher remains steadfast in her feelings about H-3, which links Halawa and Haiku valleys via a mile-long tunnel through the Koolaus. "The construction of the freeway was still a mistake," she says. "It destroyed an enormous number of [Hawaiian] sites, and a great deal of our heritage was lost."
The H-1 was completed with far less controversy. It is Hawaii's oldest freeway, with some segments being built--it was then known as the Mauka Arterial before Hawaii became a state. The first mile-long segment (located near the University of Hawaii overpass) was opened in November 1953. Freeway construction lasted until the late 1980s.
The H-3, meanwhile, has been a heated point of contention since 1970, when environmentalists objected to the clearing of vegetation in Halawa to make room for the freeway. Native Hawaiians joined the effort, saying the project cut through sacred burial and cultural sites.
The final price tag for the 16.1 mile freeway was $1.3 billion, making it the most expensive freeway in the state. Still, the freeway has its supporters. According to the state Department of Transportation, more than 100,000 motorists used the freeway in its initial opening weekend. In its first year, the H-3 reduced traffic on the Pali Highway by 10 percent and off the Likelike by 20 percent. Overall, the H-3 grabbed a 30 percent share of vehicle trips taken.
Of course, the H-3 hasn't completely resolved Oahu's traffic problems. If anything, it continues to be a galvanizing symbol on the island--a costly reminder of the balance between public necessity and protecting the environment. Recent talk of raising the state excise tax to fund a public rail system has people like Cypher shaking their heads in disgust.
"We studied the issue very carefully," she says, "and we knew that if they had built the transit system in the 1970s or '80s with the H-3 money, it would have been a much better expenditure of our public funds. I know that there were groups advocating a rail system on the Honolulu side as a way of protecting the environmental areas in the mountains. If they had transferred the (H-3) funds to the transit system, they would have been more well spent than building that concrete monstrosity."
It's safe to say that few public servants have had a more lasting impact on Maui than former mayor and native son Elmer Cravalho. Now CEO of the Kula Community Federal Community Union, Cravalho is celebrating his 50th year of service in the Valley Isle's business and political arenas.
"His legacy will be his ability to be a strong negotiator for the people of Maui," says Joe Souki, a fellow Maul native and a member of the House of Representatives since 1982. "He knew how to leverage, and I believe the island of Maui prospered under his leadership."
Cravalho began his political career in 1955 as a member of Hawaii's territorial House of Representatives. He also served as House Speaker (1959-1967), a delegate to the 1960 Democratic National Convention, Maul mayor and chairman of the Maui Board of Water Supply.
Much of Maui's development can be traced to Cravalho's term as mayor. In the 1970s, he was responsible for developing the waterline from Wailuku to Wailea, which enabled the development of Kihei. "Up until that time," Souki recalls, "Kihei was like a desert. The growth of Wailea was made possible through him, as well."
Souki says Cravalho also played an integral role in the formation of Maui Economic Opportunity Inc., a private, nonprofit organization chartered in 1965 to help low-income elderly, children and youth, persons with disabilities, immigrants, other disadvantaged people and the general public to help themselves. Souki served as the MEO'S executive director for 16 years.
"I was relatively close to him, although I never served with him in the House," says Souki. "I did sit for a while in his 'kitchen cabinet,' which was filled with friends, supporters and people who weren't too friendly. He'd listen to our different opinions, and he acted as a sounding board. He liked that. I enjoyed the interaction with him. He was smart, witty and very quick. He had both a business heart and a social heart."
Earlier this year, Cravalho was the keynote speaker at the United Filipino Council of Hawaii's Progress Awards dinner. He received a special Ating Kaibigan (Our Friend) honor during the event.
Honolulu was the first stop, in Japan Air Lines first commercial international flight from Japan to San Francisco, in 954. JALs plane, the Douglas DC-ISB, held 102 passengers and .allowed one-stop transcontinental service in 10 hours. Airlines appreciated the more powerful engines, larger capacity and operational efficiencies (read: more profits), while customers appreciated the quiet engine, smooth ride and general comfort. Still, it would take another 17 years before Japanese tourism would approach economic significance in Hawaii.
More than 30 years ago, Hawaii Business reported that--at 230,000--1971 projections for Japanese tourist arrivals represented a 400 percent increase from the year before. That year, widespread acceptance of jet travel dovetailed with the then-Japanese-government-owned airline's decision to slash round-trip fares to Hawaii in half. At the same time, the Japanese yen gained strength over the dollar, and the Japanese government allowed citizens to carry more than the equivalent of $100 in yen outside the country and introduced foreign investment incentives to reduce Japan's heavy dollar surplus. Another reason Hawaii had become popular was what Hawaii Business called "the well-oiled industry of Japanese operators," which brought tourists to Hawaii through tour packages pre-sold in Japan. That groundwork established the Japanese market as a mainstay in Hawaii tourism: today, Japanese tourists comprise about 20 percent of Hawaii's tourism market. In the 1970s, local merchants complained that the regimented tour packages limited their exposure to Japanese shoppers. Today, Japanese tourists outspend their Mainland counterparts by about 60 percent per person, per day.
Ah Quon McElrath
Mainland miners had Mother Jones and Hawaii has Ah Quon McElrath. Although small in stature, the earthy, blunt-speaking McElrath has tirelessly elevated social causes and the needs of workers in tins state.
McElrath was born to Chinese immigrants in 1915 in Iwilei. She went to work for union organizer Jack Hall in the 1930s and married Bob McElrath, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) information director for Hawaii, in 1941. McElrath became a pioneering force in Hawaii when she created the position of social worker for the ILWU's Local 142. McElrath told the ILWU in a 2004 interview, "Lobbying the state Legislature was also part of my social work for the union. I worked for increases in public assistance and I used to testify for the ILWU about human services issues.... We helped push through a little Wagner Act for Hawaii's agricultural workers in 1945, and later on improvements in workers' compensation and unemployment insurance, as well as the Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) act. These were exciting things that went to the nub of the existence of working people and their families."
Bill Puette, director of the University of Hawaii West Oahu's Center for Labor Education and Research, says, "I think the ILWU found her incredibly valuable and her ability to reach out to members and help them with problems that were beyond the contract and I think that's a perspective that's very helpful for the labor movement. It's not just the things that the law says you are allowed to bargain collectively. There are other needs and issues that a progressive labor movement should be involved in and Ah Quon has always been trying to move people in that direction by her example as well as by her continuous scoldings."
Those scoldings are received better when they come from someone with McElrath's standing in the community. Even in "retirement" McElratb has served as a regent to the University of Hawaii and was recognized as one of its distinguished alumni in 2004. She was one of the principals who fought to save the Honolulu Star-Bulletin from going under in 1999. In January, the 2005 Hawaii Women's Legislative Caucus dedicated its legislative package to McElrath, because of her longtime support of working people and economic justice.
McElrath tells the ILWU that there is value to teaching younger members about labor history. She said, "By learning our history we can develop new ways in which to enhance our personal lives as well as the collective lives of working people." Something she's been working on for the better part of her 90 years.
Over the last five decades, no other economic sector in Hawaii has witnessed such dramatic changes as agriculture. Where once waving green fields of sugar cane and tidy rows of pineapple covered the island landscape as far as the eye could see, now a spreading patchwork quilt of diversified farms threads throughout the state.
Once Hawaii's biggest industry, overtaken by tourism in the 1960's, agriculture today accounts for just 1 percent of the state's income. "King Sugar," at its production peak in 1930, covered 254,663 acres. Today, with just two plantations left (Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar on Maui and Gay & Robinson on Kauai), sugar production has shrunk to 47,500 acres. Pineapple, now limited to 19,000 acres and one cannery, at its peak in the 1960s spread over 76,700 acres, with nine canneries that churned out 80 percent of the world's output of canned pineapple.
Hawaii's former two crop economy transformed more than our Island landscape. Immigrant laborers brought in from Asia and Europe by the Big Five made Hawaii the U.S.'s most multiethnic state. The sons and daughters of those immigrants, in turn, through political reform, labor unions and military heroism in World War II, helped set off a tidal wave of social change in the Islands.
Hawaii agriculture today is a dynamic, expanding sector attracting business entrepreneurs, high-tech knowledge, organic production, ag-tourist activities and increasingly well educated farmers, with one in five likely to be female. The state's burgeoning diversified ag sector, ranging from vanilla beans, lavender and goat cheese to bananas, anthuriums and shrimp brood stock, rose to $386 million in sales in 2003, accounting for 70 percent of the state's total farm gate value of $553 million, the highest since 1990.
Even sugar and pineapple, facing changing times, have transformed their industries. Sugar is being explored as an alternative energy source for ethanol production. Pineapple's new low-acid, super-sweet, fresh fruit sales, up a whopping 16 percent over 2002, makes the "King of Fruit" the state's top commodity, with more than $100 million in sales in 2003.
Some things don't change about farming: it still takes land, water and capital--longtime challenges still facing Hawaii's farmers today. And it's still hard work.
There are few if any downtown buildings that are associated with a single individual. The 438-foot First Hawaiian Center, the tallest in the state, is one such building. It's the house that Walter built.
The former chief executive officer of First Hawaiian Bank and its holding company, BancWest Corp., was involved in every aspect of the building, everything from picking the architect to serving as the occasional on-site "supervisor." Completed in 1996, the center was designed to resemble a sleek ship, and it was Honolulu's equivalent of the Depression-era Empire State Building, offering soaring inspiration during stormy economic times.
However, as impressive as it is, the First Hawaiian Center is overshadowed by Dods, whose Dickensian life and times is the ultimate local-boy makes-good story.
Dods grew up in East Honolulu's Aina Haina and Kuliouou Valley, sharing a Quonset hut with his parents and his six brothers and sisters. He worked his way through St. Louis School and got a job in the mailroom at First Insurance shortly after graduation. He became an account executive before moving to the Dillingham Corp., where he rose to manager of advertising and promotion. In 1968, the year he received his degree in business from the University of Hawaii, which he had been attending at night, Dods joined First National Bank of Hawaii (soon to be First Hawaiian Bank) as its director of advertising and public relations.
There the charismatic, consensus-building Dods was quickly spotted by First Hawaiian's charismatic, authoritarian president and CEO, John Bellinger. Dods rocketed up the bank's corporate ladder and was named First Hawaiian's president and Bellinger's eventual successor in 1984. Five years later, he became head of the bank after Bellinger's unexpected death.
Under Dods' leadership, First Hawaiian was transformed from a modest, second-place Island institution into Hawaii's large and most profitable company. But Dods' influence was felt far beyond the balance sheet. Moving effortlessly within Hawaii's halls of power, he counseled leaders of every stripe and raised millions of dollars for various community organizations, winning loyalties for life. In short, he built a towering reputation that will likely outlast any piece of architecture, no matter how striking.
In the 1980s, Chris Hemmeter was Hawaii's answer to Donald Trump: both were self-made millionaires with larger-than-life personalities, developers who built monuments to themselves, symbols of a decadent decade. Both lived by the credo bigger is better. The son of an inventor, Hemmeter pioneered the budding of megaresorts.
These fantasy destinations were replete with extravagant touches, such as the faux tropical environment (dubbed "Disneyland West" by critics) at the $68 million Hyatt Maui, fountains with marble horse statues at the $350-million Westin Kauai, artificial lagoons, dolphins and a massive art gallery at the $310-million Hilton Waikoloa. Tacky? Maybe, but they also gave the nouveau riche glitterati new reasons to come to Hawaii.
Fortune magazine credits Hemmeter with influencing much of casino king Steve Wynn's plans for the Mirage in Las Vegas, famous for housing Siegfried & Roy's white tigers and an artificial rain forest. Hemmeter was only 33 when he developed the 4.5-acre, $100-million Hemmeter Center--site of the $70-million Hyatt Regency Waikiki, plus shopping and convention facilities--the largest private construction project Hawaii had ever seen. That was in 1973. By 1988, Forbes magazine had named him among the 400 richest Americans, with $225 million in assets. Houseguests at his East Oahu homes included former presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, for whom he designed and raised funds for the Carter Presidential Center of Emory University in Atlanta.
As the decade closed, financing for his projects fizzled, and the golden boy's halo began to fade. Hemmeter left Hawaii in 1991, after losing his bid to develop Aloha Tower. He tried to relive his glory days in New Orleans, with what was to be the biggest casino in the country, the Grand Palais, with 200,000 square feet of gambling space, almost double what was then the world's largest casino: Donald Trump's Taj Mahal. Instead, he became entangled in Louisiana's brand of old-boy politics and lost his fortune in the process. He filed for personal bankruptcy in 1997, reporting $87 million in debts and $720,000 in assets. He died of cancer in 2003.
Hemmeter's legacy is a double-edged sword: his over-the-top projects enhanced the state's image as a world-class luxury destination, but, in the process, eradicated the Hawaiian sense of place from the landscape.
Pan Am Airlines
If you were a school kid in the 1950s (and some of you in the '60s and '70s), there's a good chance you had a Pan Am flight bag. This was the decade when Pan American Airlines blazed the trail for commercial jets, at a time when most in the airline industry placed its bets on the turboprop as "the next big thing" in commercial aviation.
Instead, Pan Am founder Juan Trippe was the lone wolf, who demanded not only a commercial jet, but one that met his calculations of the minimum capacity and range needed in order to be profitable--pioneering an industry standard based on seat-miles--and one that would carry twice as many passengers as propeller transports while delivering more profits than the most affordable competition. Thus, the Boeing 707s were born.
That same decade, Pan Am introduced tourist-class fares that cost about half the luxury rates of the time, another boon to Hawaii's tourist trade. Pan Am's ties with Hawaii actually began 20 years earlier. Before there were planes capable of crossing the Pacific Ocean, Trippe noticed that Hawaii, Guam and Manila formed a line of steppingstones to Asia. By November 1935, the first commercial transpacific flight landed in Honolulu, establishing a San Francisco-Honolulu route that is still used today.
Pan Am's last great investment was also its downfall: the wide-body 747s, which flew both passengers and cargo. In the 1970s, Pan Am drove itself into debt when it purchased too many of these planes, coinciding with a world oil crisis and economic recession. The airline would dissipate slowly over the next two decades, selling off its assets in the 1980S and finally declaring bankruptcy in 1991.
Fast food as we know it today may not have originated in Hawaii, but we've definitely made it our own. Mainland tourists often look quizzically at the presence of Spam, saimin and--for a brief moment, plate lunches--next to Big Macs and Quarter Pounders on the McDonald's menu.
In the 2004 Hawaii Business Top 250 ranking, fast-food franchises generated $276 million in sales. Despite being a mainstay in Men's Fitness magazine's annual list of nation's healthiest cities, Honolulu's ranking is consistently downgraded for having more fast food restaurants per capita than the national average.
The city certainly has the market for it. In the mid-1990s, Restaurant Business annually ranked its citizens among the biggest fast-food spenders per capita. There's no doubt that the fast-food feast has become a way of life statewide. Time-crunched commuters spend more hours driving on the freeway than prepping home cooked meals in their kitchens, making it difficult to resist a quick, easy-on-the wallet trip to the neighborhood drive through on the way home.
With a population of fast-food fans since the bento of plantation days, Hawaii now plays a part in revolutionizing the fast-food business in the 21st century: At this moment, Hawaii's L&L restaurants and its clones are educating taste buds nationwide about the multiculturally inspired plate lunch and slowly--ever so slowly--winning Mainland converts to the Spam musubi.
"Tiny Bubbles" may be his signature song, but it's his giant, bubbly personality that turned Don Ho from a small-time local musician into an international superstar. From his earliest days as an entertainer, performing at a small Kaneohe tavern called Honey's, Ho exuded a charm and charisma unrivaled by any other local entertainer.
His magnetic personality and deep, melodious voice drew hordes of people from around the island, turning Honey's into one of the hottest, most crowded venues in its time. Ho's show became so popular that he eventually opened a new venue, Honey's Waikiki, where he attracted a heavy tourist following.
But it was after Ho was invited by the legendary Duke Kahanamoku to perform at Duke's nightclub in 1962 that he really hit his stride, gaining international fame. Backed by musical heavy hitters, The Aliis, and armed with his bottomless glass of scotch, Ho regularly packed the place with crowds of people eager to catch his lively performance, which married singing with humor and lots of audience participation. Ho's antics often involved raising his glass to the audience, urging everyone to "suck 'em up," and bringing fans onstage for kisses and hugs.
As word spread of Ho's electrifying performances at Duke's, he was thrust onto the national entertainment scene. He performed at high-profile venues across the country, made TV appearances with Johnny Carson, Art Linkletter and Joey Bishop and recorded a series of hit records. He even pulled off his own TV special, showing the nation what locals knew all along - that Don Ho was born for stardom.
These days, however, the living legend spends most of his time under a different kind of spotlight. Ho performs weekly, as he has been for decades, at the Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel, where The Don Ho Show (Waikiki's longest-running show), continues to attract new and lifelong fans alike. Other than the absence of his trademark cocktail (Ho quit drinking several years ago) and his star-studded backup band, not much has changed about Ho's performance. He still sits behind his organ, telling some jokes, sharing some stories and singing some songs.
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|Author:||Choo, David K.; Miyasaki, Gail; Tominaga, Lance; Torres-Kitamura, Maria; Trifonovitch, Kelli Abe; Yo|
|Article Type:||Cover Story|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2005|
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