Editor’s Page: Pineapple Cannery Memories

When summer smelled like pineapple.
Photo: courtesy dole food co. archives


Photo: Adam Jung

Our jobs shape us in so many ways. Sometimes we don’t realize how much until years later.

For generations of Hawai‘i teens, that all-important first real job with a paycheck often involved time spent “working cannery.”

Until the 1980s, when the production of canned pineapple phased out in Honolulu, those jobs were plentiful, paid relatively well and were parent-endorsed for keeping kids constructively busy during the long, hot summers. While interviewing people in this community for more than 20 years, I often heard from folks who learned unexpected lessons at the cannery. Some people, after getting a taste of long hours on their feet and the grind of repetitive work on a line, worked harder at school so they could pursue a less physically demanding career. People who were shy and kept to themselves at school met people from all over the island and learned how to get along with those of different ethnic and economic backgrounds, which opened their eyes to a world outside their neighborhood. Even if you didn’t work there, you recall the pineapple-shaped water tower and the heavy, sweet smell of cooking pineapple that hung over ‘Iwilei.

For our cover story, Cannery Tales, we talked to a wide variety of folks about those memories, sweet and sweaty. We spoke with one of Hawai‘i’s top sumo stars, a bank president and his financier father, two state senators, including one who ousted a sitting governor, an economist and others, all of whom had stories to share. We checked in with Dole Food Co., which donated its archives to Hamilton Library and is still growing pineapple in Hawai‘i. Our thanks for sharing their resources and to the library staff, especially senior librarian Dore Minatodani in the Hawaiian collection, who helped us (me, senior art director Kristin Lipman and managing editor Michael Keany) pore through labels and photos, a treasure trove of information to help illustrate this feature.

Singer/actress Bette Midler worked as a pineapple trimmer before moving to fame and fortune in New York City. We had hoped to include her story but, with a new book out this year, her staff couldn’t squeeze us in before we went to press.

We still hope to talk with her about her Hawai‘i stories when she does have time.

In Courtside, we find out more about a man who has defined his job over four decades as the winningest coach in UH history. Dave Shoji is synonymous with Wāhine volleyball, and in this issue we get a first look into his new biography, Wāhine Volleyball: 40 Years Coaching Hawai‘i’s Team, which came together with the help of recently retired veteran sportswriter Ann Miller.

We’re also pleased to welcome back a familiar talent, author Lee A. Tonouchi, who brings us “Da Untold Story of Hawaiian Santa.” We are fortunate to present original (and holiday-related) fiction from the pidgin guerilla himself, whose award-winning stories have been published in our magazine three other times. And he has a new book out, too.

We’re sorry to see another talented writer leave our staff: Loren Moreno has been lured back to New York City. We thank him for his great work while he’s been with us full-time, reporting on issues ranging from politics, local authors and guns to education and, this month, Hawai‘i’s most endangered places. We’re happy that he will continue to appear in our pages, though less often.

Here’s hoping we will get some cooler weather and more frequent tradewinds to welcome our holiday season.

To see more historic photos from the Dole archives, visit bit.ly/dolephotos.