Kilauea Volcano Erupts
January 3, 1983
In talking about events that have shaped the state, we would be remiss to leave out one that has literally been shaping the island of Hawaii for almost three decades. Since it first erupted in January 1983, the Puu Oo-Kupaianaha eruption on Kilauea has added 480 acres of new land, overrunning the Royal Garden subdivision and the community of Kalapana, destroying 202 structures along the way, and flattening old landmarks such as the Queen’s Bath and the black sand beach at Kaimu Bay.
It’s also proven to be a gold mine for volcanologists. Christina Heliker spent 23 years studying Kilauea at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, and says no one expected Puu Oo to stay active for so long. “The way we study eruptions has changed quite a bit, and a lot of that is due to this eruption. We’ve learned a great deal about how continuous eruptions influence lava-tube development, and had an unprecedented opportunity to see lava going into the ocean, which was pretty rare prior to this.”
Kilauea shows no sign of stopping any time soon; the Big Island may be much bigger by the time it’s pau.
Hawaiian Language Restored in the Department of Education
September 2, 1987
It’s strange to think now, but for much of the past century, the Hawaiian language was squelched and dismissed by the government, in efforts to standardize English as the common language. An 1896 law banished Hawaiian from Hawaii classrooms as a language of instruction, and entire generations were actively discouraged from speaking the language.
So it was a symbolic moment when, 100 years later, the state Legislature authorized the Department of Education to create Papahana Kaiapuni, an official program of Hawaiian language immersion.
There was a lot of catching up to do. “It was difficult at first, because Hawaiian was viewed by many as a dying language,” says Keoni Inciong, administrator of the DOE’s Hawaiian Studies and Language Programs Section. “There were very few qualified instructors available and no prepared Hawaiian-language curriculum. But there was a growing sense that Hawaiian-language instruction was a native right for citizens of Hawaii.”
The program started out small—35 students enrolled in two pilot kindergartens, taught by Alohalani Housman and Puanani Wilhelm. It’s grown tremendously since, and today boasts more than 1,800 students at 19 sites, from kindergarten through 12th grade. Thanks to Papahana Kaiapuni, as well as programs offered by Aha Punana Leo and the University of Hawaii, it looks as though the Hawaiian language will continue to grow and thrive.
Big Box Stores Hit our Shores
May 12, 1988
Hawaii’s first Costco in Salt Lake opened to throngs of bargain hunters hungry for discount electronics, economy-sized bottles of shampoo and dog-food-sized bags of white rice—the age of big box shopping had arrived.
“All of a sudden, everything was cheaper,” says economist Paul Brewbaker. “It was meaningfully cheaper and there was more stuff—stuff you never even saw [before]—and in bulk quantities,” he says, adding that local households in 1988 saw a boost in their purchasing power with more retail options and decreased prices.
Costco was only the first warehouse-sized retailer to set up shop in the Islands; within a few years Kmart, Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart would follow suit. Local businesses were forced to adapt to the new discount warehouse model, or face closure.
Voters Save Sandy Beach
November 8, 1988
Nineteen months of energetic sign-waving, community meetings and petitions finally paid off for the members of the Save Sandy Beach Initiative when Oahu residents overwhelmingly voted against condo development on the east side.
After the Honolulu City Council granted Kaiser Development Co. a shoreline permit for condo development along the beloved beach, the grassroots organization sprung into action. It filed a lawsuit against the city to prevent it from granting the permit, and collected 40,000 signatures to qualify for a ballot initiative that would allow Hawaii voters to weigh in on the issue.
“The thousands of person-to-person contacts made during the signature-gathering campaign was, I believe, a cornerstone to our success,” says Curt Sanburn, a then-SSB Initiative member. “After awhile, we began soliciting people who had already…signed the petition.”
The election results were so unprecedented, and so successful, that the state Supreme Court stepped in the following year to restrict land-use decisions to county councils. But the Sandy Beach initiative remained a breakthrough. “Defending a place had become possible in Hawaii,” says Sanburn. “Not every beach had to have a hotel or an exclusive subdivision on it.”
The Rainbow Warriors End Their Losing Streak
October 28, 1989
It was the game that broke the curse for the Rainbow Warriors, officially ending the team’s 10-game losing streak. The highly ranked Brigham Young University came to Hawaii, probably expecting to walk away with an easy victory. But instead the Warriors crushed the Cougars, beating them 56-14, marking the first victory against the 1984 national champions.
“I remember people dancing in the aisles [at Aloha Stadium] toward the end of the game, it was absolutely unbelievable,” says Bobby Curran, the sports director at ESPN 1420 AM radio station. “It was one cathartic moment.”
The next year, the Warriors, under coach Bob Wagner, did it again—59-28—although the Cougars caught up a bit. “That first game took the curse away for Hawaii,” says Curran.