Wednesday, November 25, 2015         


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Islanders' accomplishments exceed their home's beauty

By Bob Sigall


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.

Everyone knows we have beautiful beaches, Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor and active volcanoes. The Hawaiian culture, hula, the aloha spirit and flower lei are readily apparent. However, there are many things APEC members and even locals might not know about Hawaii.

For instance, Hawaii had schools 15 years before California and before any state west of the Rocky Mountains.

Lahainaluna on Maui opened 180 years ago in 1831. California's oldest school opened in 1846, and by then we had Pohukaina School (1832), Royal School (1839), Punahou (1841) and Saint Louis (1846), all on Oahu.

California families even sent some of their youngsters to Hawaii to be educated at the time.

The first head of state of any country to make an around-the-world trip was King Kalakaua in 1881. He met with Emperor Meiji of Japan, Pope Leo XIII in Rome, William II in Germany, Queen Victoria in England and U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, among others.

King Kalakaua was a lover of technology. He met with Thomas Edison in New Jersey on his around-the-world tour, two years after the invention of the light bulb. Kalakaua asked Edison to bring electricity to Hawaii. Because of that, Iolani Palace had electricity four years before the White House or any royal palace.

Nearly every king and queen of Hawaii has left something that is still around doing great work, including hospitals, schools, homes for seniors and children's centers.

This includes the Queen's Hospital, Kapiolani Medical Center, Hawaiian Electric, Parker Ranch, 'Iolani School, Punahou School, Kapiolani Park, Lili'uokalani Children's Center, Lunalilo Home and much more.

Hawaii residents played key roles in creating four major sports: surfing, baseball, volleyball and basketball. Hawaiians were surfing when Capt. Cook arrived in 1778.

The father of baseball, Alexander Joy Cartwright, moved to Hawaii in 1849, three years after creating the rules to the modern game. He lived here the rest of his life and is buried at Oahu Cemetery.

Luther Gulick Jr., a missionary descendent, while an instructor at the Springfield, Mass., YMCA in the 1890s, encouraged his staff to create games that could be played indoors. Two years later James Naismith came up with basketball. Five years after that another student, William Morgan, invented volleyball.

Hawaii residents invented two musical instruments: the ukulele and steel guitar.

The all-nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team became one of the most highly decorated regiments in the history of the U.S. armed forces. Though many of their families were interned during World War II, they fought with unprecedented valor in Italy, France and Germany. Twenty-one of them were awarded the Medal of Honor.

Local boy Hiram Bingham III discovered the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu in Peru, in 1911. His son, Hiram Bingham IV helped more than 2,500 Jews escape Nazi-occupied France during World War II.

Hawaii has given the world St. Damien, Duke Kahanamoku, Barack Obama, Bette Midler, Jack Johnson, "Hawaii Five-0," canned pineapple, teriyaki, Kona coffee and aloha shirts. The list could go on and on, and readers are invited to add their thoughts.

While you're here in the islands, APEC delegates, look beyond our beautiful sunsets and see the serious side of paradise. Hawaii's contribution to the world is considerable.

Bob Sigall, author of "The Companies We Keep" books, looks through his collection of old photos to tell stories each Friday of Hawaii people, places and companies. Email him at

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