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The Centenarians

Over the past year, a surprising number of major local institutions have turned 100—from farms to schools to military bases. What does it take to last a century?


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HC&D trucks pouring concrete to form the roof of the Kaneohe Shopping Center roof in 1958.

Photo: Courtesy of Ameron Hawaii

If you lived here in 1908, you would be one of roughly 50,000 Honolulu residents, under the governorship of Walter Frear. You would have been able to take a taxi (provided by the Hawaiian Automobile Company) to the Stangenwald Building on Merchant Street, to visit our first skyscraper. Or, if you had the means, you could apply for a driver’s license—newly available in 1906—and drive your own car. 

That same year you would have had the novelty of telegraph communication with the Mainland or dialed a telephone serviced by Hawaiian Bell Telephone Co. On the weekends you might have seen a silent movie at Joel C. Cohen’s Orpheum on Fort Street, unless it was Sunday, when showings were prohibited.

Within that year you would have also witnessed Hawaii transition into the 20th century, as many of the state’s major institutions formed at this time. Social clubs, a hospital, military bases, a college and more. Here’s a look at some of the organizations that have turned 100 through this past year.

Ameron Hawaii

You can see the massive, 416-acre Kapaa Quarry of Ameron Hawaii as you head north on H-3. Chances are, you’ve also walked on a floor or leaned on a wall built with Ameron concrete. The company began in 1908 when John Belser, who owned a Moiliili rock crushing plant, and William Foster, a retired sea captain and Port of Honolulu Harbor Master, formed the Honolulu Construction & Draying Co. From supplying construction materials on horse-drawn wagons to pouring concrete for the Pali Tunnel and the H-3 Freeway, Ameron Hawaii, as the company is now known, has helped solidify the infrastructure of our state.   

Photo: Courtesy Ameron Hawaii


Here are some of Ameron's major projects:

• Pali Tunnel - 1956
• Kaneohe Shopping Center - 1958  
• Honolulu Tower II - 1987
• Hawaii Prince Hotel - 1990
• Harbor Court - 1994
• First Hawaiian Bank - 1996
• Hawaii Convention Center - 1996
• H-3 Freeway - 1997
• Ford Island Bridge - 1998
• Honolulu Design Center – 2007  



Meaning “ocean product” in Japanese, Suisan started out as a small fish market at Hilo’s Wailoa Harbor for Japanese fishermen to sell their catch. Although Suisan Co. Ltd. has since expanded on a global scale; business has remained within the family for the past 101 years.

It all began on September 17, 1907, when Kamezo Matsuno became an associate of a fishing cooperative started by fellow Japanese fishermen. He had arrived in Hawaii five years earlier and, after making his way to the Big Island, began peddling his uncle’s fish.

In three years, the market’s fish auction became a staple seafood provider in Hilo and in 1911 the founders of Sui San Kabushiki Kaisha—the company’s original name—decided to build a second, more modern, fish market. To help bring in the market’s prized ahi, yellow fin tuna, or onaga, long tailed red snapper, it also bought several sampans, says Cary Tahara, a sales consultant and public relations assistant at Suisan.

However, a booming business was no match for the massive tsunami that destroyed both fish markets in 1923. Suisan rebuilt, but World War II threatened to dismantle the company next. Martial law was declared in Hawaii, prohibiting Japanese fishermen from operating their fishing vessels. Tahara notes that many of the company’s Japanese employees were taken to internment camps, including Matsuno.

After a second tsunami in 1946, Suisan rebuilt yet again, and in 1950 Matsuno become the company’s president. Under his leadership, the company further expanded before he passed it down to his son, Rex Matsuno, in 1967. In July 2001, Suisan closed down what got it all started, the original fish auction market.

Today, the company distributes much more than seafood, including frozen food, produce, meat, snacks, pasta and rice, desserts, nuts, soups and non-food items, such as paper products and supplies.

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Honolulu Magazine March 2018
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