Editor's Page: Our 50 Moments

This state has gone through a lot in its young life.


Linny Morris

How often is a golden anniversary celebrated these days? Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state in the union on Aug. 21, 1959. Since then, it’s been … well, who was it that said history is just one thing after another?

Hawaii has changed enormously since then, so, to commemorate this anniversary, we wanted to recall 50 turning points since statehood, moments about which we could say, After this happened, Hawaii was different.

Obviously, Hawaii was different after regular jet travel raised our visitor count past 1 million a year, after the 1978 ConCon, after the Japanese investment bubble burst in December 1990. We also wanted to find quieter moments, too, the less obvious events that changed Hawaii. For example, in 1978, Rap Reiplinger released his comedy album, Poi Dog. Was Hawaii a different place after that? We think so.

The 1970s loom large in this list, a truly transformative decade. I was too young to really be aware of what all the grown-ups were doing and what it all meant back then. Working on this feature did get me thinking about the moments in my own life when I’ve thought, Hawaii is different now. At least, my most familiar corners of it.

For example, when streetlights first appeared along the freeway behind Waipahu, I’m not sure when—in the late ’80s or early ’90s, as more development cropped up on the Leeward side. It used to be that, after Pearl City, the freeway was dark, the edges of the cane fields illuminated by your headlights as you headed Ewa. Lighting the freeway seemed to say Waipahu would never be country again; it had been absorbed by the Honolulu city lights.

When the Dole Cannery pineapple came down. What an astonishing piece of kitsch. Remember that water tank? More than a hundred feet high, it popped from the skyline like a goofy, Disney-theme-park decoration. And yet, where else but Hawaii would you find a landmark pineapple? It came down in 1993, after 60 years. Our skyline was definitely less fun after that.

When the Waikiki theaters closed. When Borders opened in Waikele (my teen years might have been completely different if that wide a collection of books and music had been available in the ’80s!).

When you could no longer go to the gates at the airport, for either lingering goodbyes or lei-filled welcomes. We’re all about the curbside pick-up now, and the hasty drop-off. “Good bye, good luck, I’ll miss … yes, officer, I’m moving my car right now.”

Now I wish we had incorporated that last change into the cover story. It’s a small thing, really, and Hawaii is not the only place that lost the experience of welcoming loved ones at the gate. It’s just that we had our own special twist on it here, and now it’s gone. Sept. 11, 2001, the day a little aloha died. Hawaii had blackouts during wartime after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but they ended when the war ended. This time, the attack was 5,000 miles away, and we still had to give up a tradition, with no return in sight. There couldn’t be a clearer signifier that tiny, remote Hawaii is more enmeshed in the 21st-century, globalized world than we realize.

If there are moments you think we left out of our cover story, or moments here you disagree with, please write us, e-mail us, comment online at honolulumagazine.com—the best part of an anniversary is when the “remember when?” stories come out; we’d love to hear yours.



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Honolulu Magazine August 2019
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