O‘ahu in 1955: 40-Foot Lava Fountains Sent Kapoho Families Fleeing to a Shelter at Pāhoa School

For 133 years HONOLULU Magazine has kept its readers and advertisers at the vanguard of fashion, insight and fun. Starting out as Paradise of the Pacific in 1888 with a commission from King Kalākaua, we’re the oldest continually publishing magazine west of the Mississippi. Here is a look into our archives.
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On Feb. 28, 40-foot lava fountains sent Kapoho families fleeing to a shelter at Pāhoa School. Mary V. Neal of the Hawai‘i chapter of the American Red Cross writes that after a restless evening, 118 evacuees are eating “in utter silence: grapefruit slices, toast, eggs. Wordlessly, they search the sea of new faces for one who may answer the vital question, ‘Has my home been wiped out?’ One elderly man of Korean descent is suffering from arthritis. The nurse has recommended hospitalization but he pleads to stay on, in the shelter. Lacking English, he manages a graphic appeal in sign language. ‘The food is good. The bed is warm. The shelter is nearer home.’”


The first recorded U.S. lava flow in a populated area continued for 88 days, destroying 21 homes. But houses were rebuilt. By comparison, the eruption in 2018 carved a destructive path through more than 700 buildings. 



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