The HONOLULU 100 – Kenneth P. Emory to Carl “Kini Popo” Hebenstreit

Kenneth P. Emory (1897-1992)

As the first chairman of anthropology at Bishop Museum, Kenneth Emory became fascinated with the origins of Hawai’i’s native people.

In 1950, Emory and his team, which included the current anthropology chair Dr. Yosihiko Sinoto, excavated a site at South Point on the Big Island–the first modern excavation in the Hawaiian Islands. Prior to this, scientists believed that tropical climates were too harsh to preserve artifacts. Emory proved them wrong. He was the first to use carbon-14 dating in the Pacific.

The origins of the Hawaiian people became a lifelong passion for Emory. He used genealogical research, linguistic studies and scientific dating to advance his hypothesis on when Polynesians arrived in the Islands from Tahiti. Sinoto says, “Emory was seeking the roots of the Hawaiian culture.”

photo: Bishop Museum


photo: City and County of Honolulu

Frank Fasi (1920-  )

“Fasi gets it done.” It was one of Frank Fasi’s many campaign slogans, and it was a remarkably accurate assessment of Honolulu’s longest serving mayor. Bob Dye, who served in his cabinet, says Fasi’s style was to cut through bureaucratic red tape. “Frank was never the type of guy to say, hey, let’s brainstorm this. He had already done the brainstorming by the time he got around to talking about something, and was ready for action,” Dye says.

In his six terms as mayor, Fasi accomplished quite a bit–city beautification, satellite city halls, TheBus–even if his blunt ways earned him an enemy or three along the way. As Dye puts it, “He wasn’t necessarily polite in his assessment of his opponents’ performance.”

Fasi is a politician to the core, but not a partisan one. Although he was a long-time Democrat, Fasi switched to the Republican Party to win back the mayor’s seat in 1984, and has also run under his own Best Party and Independent Democratic tickets. His yen for public service has never abated; more than a decade after last holding office, Fasi continues to throw his hat into the ring come election season.


Joseph James Fern (1872-1920)

In 1909, Joseph James Fern became the first mayor of Honolulu, laying the groundwork for the city and county. Fern, a Native Hawaiiian, was elected by a margin of seven votes to the office, where he served for nearly a decade (except for one term won by Republican John Lane in 1914).

Fern worked for more fiscal autonomy, successfully pushing for the transfer of water, sewers, schools, jails and other major revenue sources from the territory of Hawai’i to the city and county of Honolulu.   

The territory’s Republican Board of Supervisors, made up predominantly of transplants to the Islands, often opposed what they saw as nepotism in his cabinet. Yet Fern was popular among Hawaiians, who comprised a large majority of voters at the time.

photo: City and County of Honolulu


photo: courtesy of E.K. Fernandez shows

Edwin Kane “E.K.” Fernandez (1883-1970)

E.K. Fernandez. It’s an instantly recognizable name, a name associated with a million happy carnival memories.

Fernandez’s mother, Minerva, was descended from Maui ali’i, and his family was close friends with the monarchy–King Kalakaua gave Fernandez his Hawaiian middle name.

Fernandez started his entertainment career in 1903 by going around to local plantation camps showing silent films of O’ahu he’d shot himself; he became known as keiki ki’i oni’oni (the moving picture kid).

He would later gain the moniker “The P.T. Barnum of the Pacific,” by assembling a first-rate circus that featured live acts such as clowns, tightrope walkers, even a skating bear named Alice Teddy. The circus was his passion, but Fernandez was happy to put together any kind of exotic attention-getter, including boxing matches and bullfighting in Honolulu Stadium. He was also a member of the territorial Legislature for 20 years.

The show goes on. His son Kane developed the mix of big rides and midway games that have become so familiar at Hawai’i carnivals and fairs, as well as the video game arcades and the Fun Factory locations. His grandson Scott carries on the tradition.


Hiram Fong (1907-2004)

Kalihi-born Hiram Fong broke national racial barriers when he became the United States’ first Asian American senator in 1959. He was already a successful political figure back home, as a Republican lawmaker in the territorial Legislature between 1938 and 1954.

Fong strongly supported labor rights in Hawai’i, and helped pass the Little Wagner Act, which gave local agricultural workers the right to unionize.

Once in the U.S. Senate, he co-authored the 1965 Immigration Reform Act. His son Hiram Fong Jr. says, “One of his greatest achievements was getting rid of the immigration quotas for Asians. He was very active in civil rights legislation during the Kennedy administration.”

Fong was also a savvy entrepreneur. Before he became a senator, Fong co-founded the law firm of Fong, Miho and Robinson, as well as local financial stalwart Finance Factors. Fong-family real estate holdings, such as Market City and Ocean View Cemetery, kept him busy after his retirement, as did his pride and joy, the Senator Fong’s Plantation and Gardens in Kahalu’u.

photo: courtesy of Hiram Fong Jr.


photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Juliette May Fraser (1887-1983)

Juliette May Fraser, a master painter, printmaker and illustrator, who worked well into her 90s, has created some of Hawai’i’s most enduring artwork. Fraser’s frescoes are internationally known. One of her most well loved is at the entrance of UH’s Hamilton Library. Her lifelong friend, artist Jean Charlot, wrote of the painting, “She has built up an unforgettable image of pre-missionary Hawai’i. … Size fits thoughts, both being monumental.” Her work is also displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute. In 1962, she spent a year painting the walls of a Greek Orthodox chapel in Chios, Greece, with her longtime friend and artist David Asherman.

The majority of Fraser’s work has remained in the Islands, where she lived and worked for most of her life. Playwright Victoria Kneubuhl says, “She was always interested in promoting local artists. Hawai’i was her home.”


photo: courtesy of Kamehameha Schools

Dorothy Kahananui Gillett (1919-1996)

Dorothy Kahananui Gillett’s contributions to the city circle around her two passions: education and music. For years she combined the two, teaching music at her alma maters, Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawai’i. Gillett served as the first director of the KS Alumni Glee Club and arranged music for the student choir.

After retiring, Gillett took on a full-time volunteer position with Hui Hanai, publisher of The Queen’s Songbook, a collection of music by Queen Lili’uokalani. Gillett continued the project her mother, Dorothy Kahananui, began before her death in 1984. “She sort of lived the life of the Queen through these songs,” says a fellow contributor, Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell. Gillett worked tirelessly to complete the book, says Blaisdell, noting her commitment to fulfill the queen’s wishes to reach the Hawaiian people.


Jack Hall (1915-1971)

When Jack Hall arrived in the Islands in 1935, Hawai’i politics was ruled by a handful of sugar and pineapple companies known as the “Big Five.” The tough, plainspoken radical from Wisconsin came to organize workers on the Honolulu waterfront. But as head of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union for the next three decades, he accomplished much more, giving a voice to Hawai’i’s working class and changing Island politics forever. 

Under Hall’s leadership, the ILWU successfully pushed through the Territorial Legislature the Little Wagner Act in 1944. An extension of a federal act, the state law formally gave Hawai’i plantation workers the right to organize.

Though denounced by employers as a “communist agitator,” Hall led the ILWU to become one of the strongest political forces in the Islands, helping to drive the Democratic Revolution of 1954, which shifted control of the Legislature from the Republican to the Democratic Party. Six years later, the ILWU helped elect Democrat organizer John Burns as governor.

When Hall died in 1971, Burns paid him tribute, saying: “All Hawai’i is indebted to the ILWU and to Jack’s leadership for the full flowering of democracy in our Islands.”

photo: Ilwu local 142 archives


photo: Hawai’i State Archives

Thomas Hamilton (1914-1979)

Thomas Hamilton lived in Indiana, Chicago and New York for much of his life, but his close friend (and then faculty senate chairman and administrative aide), Richard Kosaki, calls him a “real kama’aina.” In 1963, Hamilton moved to Honolulu to take over the presidency at the University of Hawai’i. “I’ve never known anybody, coming from the Mainland, especially from New York, to adapt so readily to local mores,” says Kosaki.

Tirelessly devoted to his job, Hamilton spurred growth at UH, establishing the community college system and turning much of the university’s focus toward research. Hamilton also built solid relationships with Gov. John A. Burns and members of the Legislature to secure funds for the expansion of university programs. It was this sense of duty to the university that led Hamilton to resign in 1967, when the university was rocked by the controversial ties between an assistant political science professor and a radical student group.

While most presidents, after their tenure, pursue jobs elsewhere, says Kosaki, Hamilton stayed in Honolulu and headed the Hawai’i Visitors Bureau and worked with Kamehameha Schools. “You knew that his heart was really with Hawai’i,” says Kosaki.


Carl “Kini Popo” Hebenstreit (1929-  )

By late 1952, Hawai’i residents were itching to try the latest technology: television. So eager, in fact, that “people were watching test patterns,” says Carl “Kini Popo” Hebenstreit. “Of course, all of the sets were pretty fuzzy.” Hebenstreit was at that time a deejay with KGMB radio (his nickname means “right on the ball”).

With his first KGMB TV broadcast on Dec. 1, Hebenstreit made Island history, but it wasn’t just the audience that had a fuzzy view. “I wasn’t wearing glasses–there were concerns about reflection,” recalls Hebenstreit. “I couldn’t see the monitor, but I knew where I was supposed to be.”

Hebenstreit, who grew up in Walla Walla, Wash., hosted a daily variety show in Hawai’i from 1954 to 1961. Sunrise with Kini Popo, then later, The Kini Popo Show, were live. “We had zero budget,” says Hebenstreit, who gave a start to many aspiring performers. Later, Elvis, Liberace and Ed Sullivan were guests. Hebenstreit “thinks very fast on his feet; it’s one of the things that makes him so funny,” says a former business partner, Carl Lindquist.

Today, Kini Popo has changed his medium again; he’s currently the president and CEO of Trade Publishing, which produces magazines and newsletters.