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It seems like a basic fact of life now: community colleges throughout the state, offering affordable, convenient access to higher education. But in the 1960s, it was a new concept, and Richard Kosaki, then a political science professor at UH Manoa, had to pitch the governor and the Legislature to get the go-ahead and the funding for his vision of a statewide community college system. “Many people were skeptical, but we felt that the emerging work world required something more,” Kosaki says. “The economy was growing rapidly, the whole world was changing.”
It turned out to be just what Hawaii needed; with tuition only $25 per semester, enrollment at the new colleges took off, and today, more than half of UH’s students attend one of the seven community colleges.
A Notre Dame vs. Michigan State football game might not be a huge event these days, but, in 1966, just about the entire state was glued to its television sets to watch the match on KHVH Channel 4 (now KITV)—the first live satellite broadcast from the Mainland.
Harry B. Soria Jr. still recalls the excitement of watching that game. “Back in 1966, we had three major stations and it was all in tape delay,” he says. “If we wanted to watch the game, we had to wait for the tape of the game to come to Hawaii a week later. And so this was an incredible moment for us. To see something live as it was happening was unheard of.”
Jet travel made Hawaii accessible and affordable, to a whole new market: America’s vast middle class. Waikiki wasn’t ready for the massive numbers of new visitors. The relatively small number of resorts had been geared towards the luxury travelers arriving by cruise ship, and suddenly there weren’t enough rooms to go around.
Roy and Estelle Kelly built the Outrigger Waikīkī on the Beach to meet this demand, offering value, not luxury. “Roy and Estelle Kelly built accommodations for regular people,” says economist Paul Brewbaker. “It was a successful strategy.”
The Kellys rented rooms starting at $8.50 in 1968 ($52 in 2009 dollars), at a time when their competitors were charging double the price. They would go on to open seven more similarly-themed hotels in the next decade. The Kellys soon gained the reputation as being Waikīkī ’s largest innkeeper, but was also criticized for “everything from zoning variances to poor esthetics to traffic jams on Kalakaua Avenue,” HONOLULU Magazine wrote in 1968. Indeed, Waikiki ’s evolution to high-rise concrete jungle had begun. That same year witnessed 1 million visitors to the Islands.
Zippy’s chili was almost Zippy’s wax-and-wash. When Francis and Charlie Higa, two of four brothers, left the family business, Higa Meat Market, to begin their own venture, they weren’t planning a 24/7 local restaurant, but a carwash. It was only after the two met saimin guru Shiro Matsuo (who taught them the ropes of the restaurant industry), that the brothers envisioned Zippy’s. “The 1966 Zippy’s was very much what it is today,” says Jason Higa, Francis’ son.
The original Zippy’s, located in McCully on King Street, was divided into two sections, a fast-food area and the sit-down Saimin Lanai. On the menu were many of today’s favorites, including chili and saimin. Content with the unexpected success of their restaurant, the Higa brothers were not looking to expand. But, in March 1970, Crown, a Kaimuki drive-in, approached the Higas and offered their business for sale. “The first few opportunities just arose,” says Jason, “but now we’re constantly on the lookout for further locations statewide.”