Each week, I receive lots of questions or suggestions from readers. They had some interesting ideas recently, and I’ll write about them today.
The Tom Moffatt Waikiki Shell
Steve Miura wrote about The Waikiki Shell being renamed “The Tom Moffatt Waikiki Shell” last week. He said that the Waikiki Shell opened to the public on Sept. 8, 1956, with a free concert by military bands representing the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.
I thought my readers would be interested in some background on the Waikiki Shell, so I put it in my Rearview Mirror. I was surprised to find there were two proposed locations and many possible names generated in a contest.
In the 1950s, many felt that Honolulu needed an open air theater for entertainment events. Kapiolani Park, it was believed, was a logical location because it had less rainfall than most other parts of the city.
A possible location on Kapahulu in the area fronting the Ala Wai Golf Course was considered and dismissed.
The parks board wanted to replace an old park bandstand with something bigger. It was originally referred to as the Kapiolani Park Bandshell or Waikiki Bandshell.
The acoustic “shell” was designed to project the music out to the audience. Some felt it looked like Saturn’s rings.
The Bandstand Committee held a contest to name its new bandshell. The committee wanted something “short and easy, Hawaiian in feeling and as expressive as possible of the structure.”
Mrs. Koon Wah Lee won the grand prize of $10 for suggesting “Waikiki Shell.” Other entries included: Pupu o Waikiki, Rainbow Shell, Rainbow Theatre, Kapiolani Shell, Melting Pot of Music, Snail of Waikiki, People’s Aloha Theatre and Heavenly Spot.
The Waikiki Shell displaced two baseball fields and many frogs that used to live in muddy pools in the area.
When it opened in 1956, the parks board didn’t have enough money to put in seats. Everyone had to sit on the grass, which could be wet. The Hollywood Bowl didn’t have seats when it opened either, Honolulu Parks Board chairman Jack Creedon said.
It also had no shade and one anonymous letter to the editor called it a a “beautiful and costly monument to stupidity.”
Many of its issues have been resolved and, as of last week, it’s now officially the Tom Moffatt Waikiki Shell. Moffatt was a local radio DJ and concert promoter.
Moffatt brought Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Bruno Mars, the Eagles, the Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Elton John, the Grateful Dead, Santana and many others to the islands.
He also was one of the founders of the Diamond Head Crater Sunshine Festivals.
Pigs from the Sea
Dan Nakasone wrote to tell me about a wonderful act of generosity that took place 70 years ago this month.
The Okinawan community in Hawaii was concerned about its ancestral homeland of Okinawa that had been devastated by World War II. Many lives were lost, the island’s livestock industry had been particularly hard hit and the island was in dire need of assistance.
“In 1947, despite difficult economic times in Hawaii, a group of Okinawans decided to rally support and send relief and supplies to their kin across the ocean,” Nakasone told me.
“The island’s pig industry was decimated by war so the group raised $47,000 to purchase and ship pigs to help restart pig farms. On Sept. 27, 1948, after a treacherous, 28-day journey, 536 pigs arrived at White Beach, Okinawa.
“The pigs, a staple in Okinawan culture, helped to alleviate food shortages and has since become a symbol of the strong relationship between Okinawa and Hawaii.”
Local residents of all ethnicities also sent 151 tons of clothing, $10,000 in medical supplies and other relief goods to Okinawa via the U.S. Navy.
“Through a carefully managed distribution and breeding program, the number of pigs swelled and the hog farming industry in Okinawa was revitalized,” Nakasone believes. “It helped to solve food shortages and contribute to the postwar recovery.”
A monument in Okinawa honors the “men and women of Hawaii who, with love for their ancestral homeland and courage in their hearts, undertook such a monumental task and whose efforts yielded such incredible results.
“It was constructed in the hopes that this magnificent story, which shows the bonds between the people of Okinawa and their Uchinanchu brothers and sisters in Hawaii, will continue to be passed down across generations.”
Gov. David Ige proclaimed Thursday, Sept. 27, as Pigs from the Sea Day to remember those who did their part in bridging two cultures 70 years ago.
I wrote about Chico’s Pizza in Kaimuki two months ago. The site had been a Wigwam department store in 1959 and is now City Mill. Several intrepid readers remembered that, for a short time, it was a slot car racing business.
Slot cars were miniature sports cars, about 4 inches long, that had a peg under that fit in a slot in a track. The car was powered through the slot and raced other cars around tracks 40 to 120 feet long.
“Drivers” controlled their car with a hand-held device. Most of these companies charged 30 cents for 15 minutes of racing. Cars cost $5 to $12 apiece.
Tom Thumb was the first such company in Hawaii in 1965, with locations in Waikiki, Kaimuki, Kalihi and Kailua. Several competitors had another dozen locations. Even the First United Methodist Church near Thomas Square got in on the action, putting up a five-car track for its youthful members.
The fad swept the country in the mid-1960s and was gone nearly as fast as it came.
Jennifer Story of Punaluu asked me about her favorite statue. “Can you tell me about the sitting man on Bishop Street outside the Bank of Hawaii, downtown?
“Sometimes he is wearing a lei or a has a newspaper to read. What is his name? He intrigues me.”
The statue was created by Jodi Endicott and is named “What’s Next (Hawaii’s Journey; Wearing Our Past and Looking to the Future).”
It’s a sculpture of a man reading a newspaper at a bus stop. He’s wearing a hat and aloha shirt that has newspaper headlines from the year 2000: “Hokulea Sails to Tahiti,” “First Airplane Flight in Hawaii,” and “Moon Men Warmest Welcome from Hawaii.”
Another headline says, “U.H. Lab Clones Mice in Major Scientific Step.” It is accompanied with three brass mice resting on the statue’s shoulder.
The sculpture was commissioned by the Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts in 2000. Endicott said, “It represents all the ways one might get to Hawaii: by boat, plane, telecommunications, land, space — or you could be cloned.”
Classic Bowling Center
Rianna Williams asked me about a bowling alley she recalled in Kalihi that became a wildlife museum.
It was called Classic Bowling Center and it opened in 1958 on Dillingham Boulevard and Kohou Street. Jack Taniyama and James Miyake, who owned two other bowling alleys, were partners in the endeavor.
Bowling was very popular in the islands in the 1950s and 1960s. At one time, we had over 50 bowling alleys, but except for military lanes, only a few remain.
In 1992, Watson Yoshimoto took over the space and used it to house his collection of over 360 animals, all but two of which he had personally shot. It was called the World Wildlife Museum. It lasted only a few years.
Have a question or suggestion? Contact Bob Sigall, author of the five “The Companies We Keep” books, at Sigall@Yahoo.com.