Every now and then I open up my mailbag and answer reader questions and share their stories.
Two weeks ago I wrote about Ala Moana Center’s grand opening in August 1959.
Steve Miura told me that shortly after the shopping center opened, Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was in Hawaii on vacation.
“He stopped by the K-POI radio station to visit Tom Moffatt and Ron Jacobs. At that time, Elvis was still serving in the Army in Germany.
“Colonel Parker told Moffatt and Jacobs that after Elvis was discharged, he would bring him to Hawaii for a concert, if they could get 10,000 signatures from their listeners supporting this idea.
“Uncle Tom took a long roll of teletype paper over to the new Ala Moana Center and set up a table so that the K-POI staff could begin collecting signatures. It did not take long to collect over 10,000 names.”
After receiving news about the outpouring of support, Elvis Presley sent a telegram to Parker in Hawaii.
The telegram read as follows: “Dear Colonel: My sincere thanks to Tom Moffatt and Ron Jacobs and the entire staff of K-POI, and to all the friends and fans in the Hawaiian Islands.
“I am in full agreement with you, that if at all possible, we should make our first personal appearance, after I return from the Army, in Hawaii. Your pal, Elvis Presley.”
“On March 25, 1961, as promised by Colonel Parker, Elvis Presley returned to Hawaii for a concert appearance, that took place at Bloch Arena at Pearl Harbor,” Miura says.
This event was a benefit concert to raise funds for the building of the USS Arizona Memorial. It didn’t quite raise enough, so Presley wrote a $5,000 check to put the fund over the top.
After the concert, Presley stayed in Hawaii to film scenes for his new movie, “Blue Hawaii.”
The movie was about a young islander who was returning home to Hawaii after completing his military service.
Lucky Luck and Checkers & Pogo
Recently I wrote about family TV shows from the 1950s and 1960s. Wendy Tolleson told me her family had a beach house at Mokuleia between 1965 and 1969, and entertainer Robert “Lucky” Luck, pictured at left, had one down the beach from her.
“He used to hang out with the guys who starred on the kids TV show ‘Checkers & Pogo’ — Jim Demarest, top left, and Morgan White, below.
“I had watched ‘Checkers & Pogo’ since arriving in Honolulu, so it was kind of a shock to see them with no shirts on and alcoholic drinks in hand!”
White said in a 1970 interview that he adopted the name “Pogo Poge” before the TV show. He was nicknamed “Poge” as far back as he could remember.
“I added ‘Pogo’ about 1956, when I went into rock ’n’ roll radio. I grew a beard and was ‘Pogo Poge, the jumping deejay.’
“That was in Ogden, Utah. Once, I had a pogo stick race to Salt Lake City, some 40 miles. The ‘Pogo’ name stuck.”
What brought him to Hawaii? “I sort of followed a man here. He owned radio stations in Ogden, Phoenix and Denver. When he bought KGMB, he asked if I’d like to come over. His name? Cec Heftel.”
Last month I wrote about Kaiser Hospital, which opened in 1958 on Ala Moana Boulevard where the Waikiki Prince Hotel is today.
Louette Ames told me her Marine husband was transferred to Hawaii in the fall of 1959 when she was seven months pregnant.
“The Navy sent me to Kaiser Hospital for my delivery. Kaiser had been built only nine months earlier, and the maternity ward had just opened in December 1959. Our son was born on Dec. 4, 1959.
“The maternity floor was designed uniquely — only two women to a room; between two rooms was a nursery. There were usually four babies in each nursery.
“Babies were literally in a drawer which could be opened when the mothers wanted to care for them and closed when the mothers wanted to sleep or had visitors.
“When closed, the babies were cared for by a nurse. Nurses would close a drape over the window if they were caring for any infant.
“When visiting, fathers walked around the outside of the building via a lanai and entered the room from the outside through sliding doors.
“All rooms had views of the ocean, and we’d watch the Navy ships sail by.”
Mal Chan had an odd story about Kaiser Hospital. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Chan worked at central reservations for a local hotel chain.
Hotels were often overbooked with groups. Sometimes Chan had to divert them to the neighbor islands, “but at least once we put them up at Kaiser Hospital as a last resort. Well, they did have ‘ocean views.’
“They also had ‘maid’ service, meals, beds that could move up and down … and were still in Waikiki! I’m sure it made a good story to take back home with them.”
I didn’t ask whether they had to wear hospital gowns while in the rooms!
It’s the 50th anniversary of the first organ transplant in Hawaii this week.
Linda Wong, current director of the Liver Transplant Program at Queen’s, said, “The groundbreaking endeavor that spurred organ transplantation in Hawaii was driven by one man, whose lifesaving vision was shared by a team of daring physicians and surgeons and one courageous hospital administrator.”
The man, Livingston Wong, was her father. His partner was Sister Maureen Keleher and St. Francis hospital. The kidney transplant operation took place Aug. 9, 1969.
The transplant program was located at St. Francis for 40 years and expanded to liver, pancreas and heart transplants. It’s now at The Queen’s Medical Center.
Steve Miura also recalled the 1971 International Longshore and Warehouse Union dock strike, which lasted from July 1 to Oct. 6, 1971.
I remember that in the 1970s several of my friends had cases of toilet paper stashed away in case another dock strike occurred.
KPOI radio held a popular contest, Miura recalled. “Every time they played the song ‘Roll On’ by the New Colony Six, the first caller to get through to the disc jockey on the contest telephone line would win a roll of toilet paper.”
Dozens of ordinary folk came to collect their “prize.”
In his book, “Showman of the Pacific,” Tom Moffatt said that one day a Cadillac drove up to the station.
“The chauffeur got out of the car and went into the radio station office to pick up the free roll of toilet paper that his Kahala boss had won in the radio contest.”
Edwyna Fong Spiegel told me she remembers the 1971 toilet paper crisis well.
“My then husband and I won a case of TP from an Occidental Insurance Christmas party in Honolulu. I thought we landed the best gift yet!”
Have an interesting story, comment or question? Contact Bob Sigall, author of the five “The Companies We Keep” books, at Sigall@Yahoo.com.