Hawaiʻi in the 1950s

#104 in the Moʻolelo series

In the 1950s, one of the overwhelming issues was, of course, statehood, the drive towards which was a long one, as seen in this quote from the proceedings of the 1950 Hawaiʻi Constitutional Convention (please forgive its impartial nature):

On the Convention itself, presided over by the part-Hawaiian Samuel Wilder King, the proceedings written in 1960 describe the work done:

Airlines traveling to Hawaiʻi became more numerous in the 50s. As Honolulu Magazine noted in a guide for tourists at the time, “American, Canadian, Australian, British and Japanese transportation lines make Hawaii a mid-ocean terminal.” This included Qantas, Japan Airlines and of course, Pan Am.

The era of ships being the primary or only way of reaching Hawaiʻi was coming to an end, but Honolulu Magazine mentioned the famous ship Lurline in its overview of transport options:

HAWAIAN STEAMSHIP LINES — Tourist-type service between Pacific Coast and Hawaii due to commence mid-1955. ORIENT LINES — Frequent service provided from Sydney, Vancouver and San Francisco to Hawaii.

MATSON LINES — A sailing every 12 days of the “Lurline”’ between California and Hawaii. Mainland departures and arrivals alternate between San Francisco and Los Angeles, making a sailing every four weeks to and from each of these cities.

Honolulu Magazine, A 1950s tour guid to Hawaii

Color TV appeared in Hawaiʻi in 1959, as did jet travel (rather than propeller planes). So While Hawaiʻi had been a tourist destination since the 1930s, the sheer number of tourists was about to increase exponentially. Prominent Waikīkī hotels included the Royal Hawaiian, the Princess Kaʻiulani, the Surfrider and the Moana. (Bill Tapia speaks of playing at the opening of the Moana, dressed to the nines: “people today dress like bums!” he said in his 90s).

As I wrote in the post on John Burns, a concerted effort toward statehood was widely embraced, including by many prominent Native Hawaiians (though some, like Kamokila Campbell, opposed it). These supporters included Duke Kahanamoku and the Rev. Abraham Akaka.

In 1954, Democrats took political power in what came to be known as the Democratic Revolution of 1954 – they swept most of the seats in the Territorial legislature and Congressional delegate. They soon captured the Governorship as well. In August 1959, due in part to the collaboration of John Burns with the “Master of the Senate” Lyndon Johnson, Congress passed the Statehood Act. We still live in a society shaped by this revolution and the party that led it.

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