Saturday, April 09, 2016

Honolulu in the 1950's

I finally decided to scan some vintage slides taken in Hawaii - Honolulu to be precise - in the 1950's. 

Here's a pretty view taken from "The Punchbowl"... a large volcanic crater that is also the location of the National Cemetary. The most prominent feature that we see is Diamond Head, a long-extinct volcanic cone that is familiar to so many people. While much of the adjacent area has been developed to some degree, it still has a pleasant, almost small town vibe. 

I looked online to see what this view would look like today, and found a pretty close match. The shrub to the left appears unchanged, but as for the rest of Honolulu... wow. So much for paradise I guess.

Now we're down on the beach at Waikiki, with the historic Moana Hotel looming over all. The Moana opened in 1901, and was the very first hotel on Waikiki, starting the tourist boom (prior to that, people had stayed in bungalows and beach shacks). Although there have been some additions to the property over the years, the main building seen here was restored to its original glory in 1989, and it is considered one of the premier hotels in the area.


Unknown said...

Joni says, "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot..." but I don't see the parking lot. Maybe it's too expensive even for parking lots.

Great pair of before and after shots there, Major.

Nancy said...

Such a beautiful place.....a shame to see that it would be the same view today. Likely many places have the same before and after look. :-(

The hotel on the beach is wonderful! That is what I imagine Hawaii would be like. I have always wanted to see Hawaii...maybe someday!

Thanks for these views, Major.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

Great pics Major, thanks for posting. Pic #3 is timeless. Mrs Alonzo and I were there for our honeymoon in 92' (some 40 years after this pic) and the beach/hotel looks the same. Time to go drop another $20 in the vacation fund. We'll get there again....someday.

Anonymous said...

Nice job matching the old with the new!

Pegleg Pete said...

Great pics today, Major - thanks. I always love some vintage Hawaii. Whoever gets that time machine up and running to take us all back to Walt-era Disneyland needs to equip it with a pre-1970s Waikiki setting as well!

Nanook said...

@ Pegleg Pete-

Save a seat for me. But in the meantime... as I always say: These are the good old days-! Find those places worthy of your love right now, and enjoy-!

Major Pepperidge said...

Patrick Devlin, it is hard to NOT think of that Joni Mitchell song when looking at that second photo. Such a bummer.

Nancy, I also have never been to Hawaii… I’d like to someday, but there are other destinations that are higher on my list.

Alonzo, wow, my understanding is that the Moana is very expensive, so you and Mrs. Alonzo did your honeymoon right!

Anonymous, I got lucky this time.

Pegleg Pete, imagine going to Hawaii right after WWII had ended, before the crazy construction boom had really started. I’ll bet it truly was like paradise.

Nanook, there is truth in what you say; and while some places might be “spoiled” by now, there are others that are still beautiful and charming.

Anonymous said...

My first trip was in 1967 and the changes to Honolulu, and the entire island, is amazing. It was pretty laid back compared to today. I liked it better then, but wouldn't pass up a trip tomorrow. KS

Chuck said...

In that first photo, you can just make out the pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel, which is right next to the Moana. Follow the outline of Diamond Head down to the right where it meets the sea; you'll see it just below the point.

Follow the shoreline beyond the Royal Hawaiian further to the right to a radio tower. Just beyond is the Reef Hotel, built in 1955 and eventually folded into the Outrigger chain.

The gap between the Reef and the next hotel (as well as the open field below and to the left of the radio tower) is Fort DeRussy, a former Coast Artillery facility that protected the approaches to Pearl Harbor through WWII. A portion of the property was developed into an Armed Forces Recreation Center during the 1960s (my parents stayed here briefly on my dad's R&R from Vietnam in 1970), and a large, military-run hotel opened on the site in 1975. The old artillery battery is now the US Army Museum of Hawaii.

The next cluster of buildings beyond Ft DeRussy is the the Hawaiian Village Hotel, built by Henry Kaiser. Kaiser sold the hotel to the Hilton chain in 1961; we know it today in greatly expanded form as the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

The white dome below the Reef and to the left of the Hawaiian Village towers is a Buckminster Fuller-designed geodesic dome, which Kaiser had the rights to produce. Prefabricated in Oakland, it was assembled in 22 hours in 1957. The recording site for many Exotica albums in the late '50s and '60s, it was demolished in 1999 to make way for additional guest accommodations.

TokyoMagic! said...

"And now, another view of Diamond Head, as we descend upon Honolulu from the heights above the city".

Beautiful pics today, Major!

Nanook said...

@ Chuck-

Thanks for the great tour-!

Major Pepperidge said...

KS, I would definitely go if the opportunity arose, but I would also want to visit some of the less-crowded places.

Chuck, this lot of slides has a beautiful shot of the Royal Hawaiian, so stay tuned. Thanks for the info on the other buildings… I was pretty sure that the distant dome was the Kaiser dome; do you have any idea what the larger (closer) dome is, near the center of the photo?

TokyoMagic!, is that quote from Dreamflight? I don’t know it.

Nanook, Chuck knows that island! I am surprised that we haven’t heard from Ken Martinez, who I believe is also very familiar with Hawaii.

Nanook said...


I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and say that larger dome is the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena. It was originally known as the Honolulu International Center and was opened in September, 1964 - which if true, would throw-off the date of the first image.

On the other hand, this arena is famous for the Elvis Presley's "Aloha from Hawaii" concert, held there on 14 January 1973. More interesting to me, at least is... "During a circus performance in 1994, Tyke, an African Elephant, killed her trainer and charged out of the arena in rage. The animal rampaged outside the arena for 30 minutes before police fired 86 rounds at the elephant, who eventually collapsed and died as a result of the shootings."

R.I.P. Tyke.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, that quote is from the 1967 version of America The Beautiful. The footage shown at that point in the movie could have been shot from the same area as your photo.

Chuck said...

Major, unfortunately, I don't know what that other dome is. It doesn't look familiar nor does it appear to be there any more.

I don't know THAT much about Oahu, but Waikiki's history is one of "those things" that I find interesting, particularly the pre-'70s hotel explosion era. Stories of my dad's many trips there as an aircrew member in the latter half of the '60s, my parents' R&R in '70, and movies like "From Here to Eternity" and "In Harm's Way" got me interested, and several trips of my own since the mid '80s have whetted my appetite further.

Nanook, the Blaisdell Center is a good guess, but the dome in the photo isn't in the right place. It's south and slightly to the west of the Punchbowl and Diamond Head is to the southeast, so if the Blaisdell Center were in the middle of the photo Diamond Head would almost certainly be out of frame.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, that is a good guess, but there is no way that this slide can be from as late as 1964, so I don’t know what to make of it! That elephant story is sad; I like elephants!

TokyoMagic!, it’s funny, I can almost hear the slide guitar music, and yet I don’t remember that line.

Chuck, my mom is really into Hawaiian history; her Uncle Bill spent time there in the 1920’s when he was in the Navy. I met him when he was 100 years old! I think his stories of the place resonated with my mom.

Anonymous said...

@Chuck, thanks for all that great information. I have a pretty good collection of Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman records, most of them recorded at live shows in the Kaiser Dome.

@Major, you're right, both the Moana and the Royal Hawaiian are out of my price range. We stayed across the street in a cheaper place and had our Mai Tai every night at the Royal Hawaiian bar. Good Times.

Great to read the comments, thanks everyone.