Thursday, November 26, 2015         

Rearview Mirror

For articles after August 3, 2011, see the Premium Archives »

Hostess Twinkies' bankruptcy in the news last week reminded me of a story Jon de Mello told me about Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, who loved Twinkies and struggled with overeating. Jon was his producer and lifelong friend.

Retail guru Glenn Kaya brought GEM to Hawaii in 1958. A lot of people think it was local, but it started in Denver in 1957, Kaya said. GEM stood for Government Employees Mutual, and you had to be a member to come into the store.

With 20,000 APEC delegates in Hawaii this week, I thought I'd focus my column on some little-known but amazing things that people from Hawaii have accomplished.

Kauai native Lex Brodie's first business was with Sam Kahanamoku, giving tourists rides in outrigger canoes, in the early 1930s.

Sixty-five years ago this week, Ruddy Tongg founded Trans-Pacific Airlines, which later became Aloha Airlines. Tongg picked the name because he initially had an interest in flying routes to China. However, the communist revolution in 1949 put an end to that.

Ninety-nine years ago this week, Duke Kahanamoku competed in his first Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. He won the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle swim and a silver medal with the relay team.

During World War II, all the paper money in circulation in the state was stamped in big outline letters across the back that said “Hawaii.” The fronts had smaller renditions of “Hawaii” stamped on them. And instead of green, the seal was brown. Why did the government do that?

Most Rearview Mirror columns are old photos and stories about them. This time, we decided to run an old map. This one dates to 1922 and shows Moanalua Gardens when it was three times its present size.

This body of water no longer exists. The picture was taken in central Honolulu on a private estate that is now long gone. It might look a little like the Ala Wai, but that is a few miles to the east. Where is it?

Which Honolulu church has Jesus surfing in stained glass?
Many churches have intricate stained-glass windows with biblical scenes portrayed in brilliantly colored mosaics of light. But only one might show Jesus on a surfboard.

Who is Robert's Rabbit mascot waving to" We've all seen Robert's Hawaii's tour buses. On the side is a rabbit running in profile. On the back, it's waving. Who is it waving to? The story starts in Tijuana, Mexico.

The most popular and successful restaurant chain in the islands from 1939 through the 1970s was Spencecliff, which owned more than 50 family places.

The Columbia Inn was an island favorite in Honolulu for nearly 60 years. It was opened in 1941 by brothers Frank Kaneshiro and Fred "Tosh" Kaneshiro, about where the Chinese Cultural Center is today.

Today we know it as Wailana Coffee House, but before 1969 it was Kapiolani Drive Inn.

A persistent rumor about Tripler is that the pink color was a mistake; the wrong paint was ordered or delivered.

Who's that handsome man with Gov. John Burns? It's none other than the Saimin King, Shiro Matsuo. Shiro learned to cook during World War II.

Ah, the Ala Wai. The Ala Wai Canal drained the swamps of Waikiki and allowed our $11 billion tourism sector to thrive.

Question: Whose idea was Magic Island?

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