From Our Files
In 1888, King Kalakaua issued a royal charter, commissioning a magazine. Then titled Paradise of the Pacific, this publication became HONOLULU Magazine, making it the oldest magazine west of the Mississippi.
“Of approximately 57,000 school children of Hawaii some 27,000 are in Honolulu,” writes Paradise of the Pacific, the predecessor of HONOLULU Magazine. “Children of 43 nationalities have access to the kindergartens, public high schools and the university.” Arthur Powlison, then superintendent of Honolulu’s playgrounds, called educated children “Hawaii’s most important crop … while sugar and pineapple rank second and third, and tourists fourth.” During the summer in Honolulu, more than 35,000 children played at the city’s playgrounds every month; during the school year, that number of visits doubled. Hundreds of students even attended nighttime lectures sponsored by the Playground and Recreation Association of America. The association was founded in 1906 and exists today as the National Recreation Association.
Paradise reflects on the wartime history of the Honolulu Symphony as it prepared for its first series of postwar concerts. The symphony performed throughout World War II, which, “strange as it may seem, was the most successful in the history of the organization.” The directors of the Honolulu Symphony Society felt the concerts were “more desperately needed” by the people of Honolulu. The performances were also organized to accommodate the schedules of military members—two servicemen even played in a few of the concerts. “The concerts were held in the auditorium of McKinley High School and because of the curfew, they began at 3:30 p.m.”
“Time was when the only communication between Hawaii and the rest of the world was by whaling vessel,” reads a Hawaiian Telephone Co. ad in Paradise. “Messages to and from the Mainland took weeks and sometimes months to arrive.” By 1955, Hawaii residents had the then-modern luxury of making and receiving telephone calls. That year, more than 150,000 conversations to and from the Islands took place with friends and family in San Francisco, New York, Boston, Miami and more. A three-minute phone call cost “only $9,” ($72 in 2009 dollars!), or $7.50 on Sundays and during the evening hours. Thank goodness for nationwide cell phone plans.
HONOLULU Magazine sat down with Harry Owens, the man behind “Sweet Leilani,” who wrote the popular song on Oct. 20, 1934, the day his daughter Leilani was born. “A lullaby to a lovely baby is a soft, sweet thing and its writing is a simple thing when your heart is telling the story,” said Owens. Shortly after the song was written, the S.S. Lurline arrived from San Francisco, bearing the first sheet music copies of “Sweet Leilani.” Also on board was Bing Crosby. Crosby attended Owens’ nightly performance at the Royal Hawaiian and loved the song so much he requested it five times, even though he couldn’t pronounce it. Bing learned to pronounce it and sang it in the movie, Waikiki Wedding. It went on to win an Academy Award for Best Song.
“Today [the Royal Hawaiian] has, more than ever, become the outpost of tradition and comfortable old ways,” observed HONOLULU. “It has not been lost in the forest of concrete giants that have soared up around it.” The beginning of the Royal was attributed to San Francisco stockbroker William Roth, who envisioned the hotel as an extension of the Matson steamships. Millionaires used it as a vacation haven in the 1920s and, during World War II, the Navy commandeered it as an R&R site (the Royal grounds even had a baseball diamond during that time). “Changes have come to Waikiki over the past half-century, but the Pink Palace lives on.”
HONOLULU showcases photos published in Kaho‘olawe: Nā Lea O Kanaloa. In 1995, the magazine celebrates the one-year anniversary of the return of the island to the Hawaiian people. More than 400 ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs have been discovered on the island so far. “The western coast of Kahoolawe is one of the few places in the Islands where you can see broad white-sand beaches without a footprint,” writes HONOLULU. “Kahoolawe’s reefs also remain among the richest in the Hawaiian Islands.” This month, the magazine presents a photo essay by Franco Salmoiraghi—who also took photos on Kahoolawe—on page 112.