Editor's Page: Looking Back

As far as 1888, when this magazine was born.

yearbook photo: waipahu high school, 1986

We’re 125 years old—almost! First, my annual explanation for why we call our November issue the Holiday Annual. Seems a bit early for the holidays, after all. For many decades in the pre-jet-aircraft era, this magazine was known as Paradise of the Pacific and devoted itself to selling the Islands to a Mainland audience. Paradise went all out with a special holiday issue every year, usually the biggest issue of the year, packed with then rare and lavish full-color art and lengthy articles on Hawaii’s culture and history. In order for that gift of an issue to arrive by ship in time for the actual holidays, it had to be out by November.

We keep this anachronistic tradition going, as well as the tradition of lavish art and long-form history pieces in November.

Our cover story is a warm-up for our 125th anniversary year, starting in January and running though all of 2013. The first issue of Paradise of the Pacific rolled off the presses on Jan. 17, 1888. We wondered, what was life in Honolulu like back then?

Author Lavonne Leong spent months looking for answers to those questions. The results of her exhaustive research start on page 92 [of the print magazine.] Her article will transport you to the Honolulu of King Kalakaua’s reign—its sights, sounds and smells included. It was a city at once cosmopolitan, inhabited by people from around the world, and isolated. (For example, the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 6, 1888, was being closely watched by the Islands, but word of who won didn’t reach Honolulu until Nov. 25.)

Managing editor Michael Keany and I went to the Hawaii State Archives and the Bishop Museum archives to track down photographs to accompany Leong’s article. What we found was amazing, especially given that photography then was still relatively rare and expensive.

Also in this issue, I loved reading David Thompson’s “911 for the Life Aquatic,” about the network of volunteers who staff Hawaii’s marine-mammal rescue effort. In his article, Thompson describes how people in small, open boats chase whales in the Pacific, risking life and limb, to cut loose the nets and fishing gear in which some of them become entangled.

One of my favorite novels is Moby Dick, which grippingly describes the dangerous high-seas chases of humans in rowboats pursuing whales in the Pacific. How wonderful to hear that humans can still be so brave, now in their attempts to rescue whales instead of kill them.

Then there’s Martha Cheng’s ode to the Hawaiian plate lunch. Laulau, kalua pig, poi and more—where does it all come from? Who makes it? This may be the tastiest history lesson in the issue.

Now about the photo on this month’s Editor’s Page: Yes, that’s my high-school senior year photo (Waipahu ’86). You’ll find Keany’s yearbook pic atop his Afterthoughts. Embarrassing as this is, it seemed only fair. After all, you might find your high-school photo in Keany’s article, “Where You Wen Grad?”. This is local history, going back to 1914, as seen in yearbooks from Maui, the Big Island and Oahu. Keany dove into the treasure trove of yearbooks at the Hawaii State Library to curate a collection of photos and goofy yearbook captions that instantly conjure past decades. Frenz 4 evah.