10/5/12

A CRUISE TO HAWAII a long time ago


With this week's Sepia Saturday subject being ships I couldn't resist posting some images about what it once meant to take a cruise to an exotic location in the 1930s. Several of these images were posted in 2009.

The Matson Navigation Company is credited with introducing mass tourism to Hawaii with the opening of the historic Moana Hotel (now known as the Moana Surfrider Hotel) and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki on the island of Oahu.
William Matson (1849–1917) was the founder of the Matson Navigation Company. He was born in Lysekil in Västra Götaland County, Sweden, and orphaned during childhood. He arrived in San Francisco after a trip around Cape Horn in 1867. Working aboard the Spreckels family yacht, he struck up a friendship with tycoon Claus Spreckels, who financed many of Matson's new ships. In 1882 the three masted schooner Emma Claudina ran to the Hawaiian Islands. The enterprise began in the carrying of merchandise, especially of plantation stores, to the islands and returning with cargoes of sugar. This led to gradually expanding interests at both ends of the line. Increased commerce brought a corresponding interest in Hawaii as a tourist attraction. This interest in Hawaiʻi as a tourist destination soon prompted the construction of the Moana Hotel in 1901. More steamships continued to join the fleet. When Captain Matson died in 1917, the Matson fleet comprised 14 of the largest, fastest and most modern ships in the Pacific passenger-freight service.
The decade from thee mid-'20s to mid-'30s marked a significant period of Matson expansion. In 1925, the company established Matson Terminals, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary, to perform stevedoring and terminal services for its fleet. With increasing passenger traffic to Hawaiʻi, Matson built a world-class luxury liner, the S.S. Malolo, in 1927. At the time, the Malolo was the fastest ship in the Pacific, cruising at 22 knots. Its success led to the construction of the luxury liners Mariposa, Monterey and Lurline between 1930 and 1932. Matson's famed "white ships" were instrumental in the development of tourism in Hawaii. In addition, beginning in 1927, with the construction of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Matson's Waikiki hotels provided tourists with luxury accommodations both ashore and afloat. To generate excitement and allure for Hawaii as a world-class tourist destination, Matson developed an ambitious and enduring advertising campaign that involved the creative efforts of famous photographers such as Edward Steichen and Anton Bruehl. In addition, Matson commissioned artists to design memorable keepsake menus for the voyages, as well as during their stay at the Royal Hawaiian.[1] For a brief period following WW II, Matson operated a luxurious airline using DC-4 aircraft between the Pacific Coast and Hawaii. The airline ultimately ceased operations because of political pressure from Pan American World Airways, which resulted in inability to obtain federal government scheduled operating authority. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
As a child my family sailed to Hawaii, our second time, on the Matsonia. It was on that ship that I met the little girl who was to become my life long friend. We have wonderful memories of running around the ship together getting into all sorts of trouble. It was a grand adventure for a child. Imagine what it was like for adult women in the 1930s.



I don't know when this photo was taken of the Royal Hawaiian and Moana hotels. When I moved to Hawaii the Royal Hawaiian and the Moana, the hotel on the right, were still standouts in Waikiki. Now you can barely see them. I'm saddened for what Waikiki became, but glad I got to see it before the palm trees gave way to cement. Once upon a time the grounds of the Royal stretched to Kalakaua Ave. and were a magical place to visit. Not much left of it anymore.

Waikiki_tatteredandlost
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I have an album of photos that belonged to a woman named Jean who took a trip from San Francisco to Hawaii aboard the S. S. Manoa back in the late 20s or early 30s. She probably stayed at one of the Matson hotels. What an adventure she had far from her everyday life.

Go Jean, go! Shake it baby, shake it! Kick up your heels and let your hair down. Go native and feel the lahala mat beneath your bare feet. Catch the scent of a plumeria as the tradewinds blow by. What happens in Hawaii stays in Hawaii...except for the gossip the whole way home aboard ship. 

Jean doing the Hula_tatteredandlost

Here we have another snapshot of Jean on her Hawaiian adventure. Ukulele's were very popular at the beginning of the last century so maybe she already knew how to play before her exotic vacation. I sure wish she'd taken the opportunity to go a bit more native in her clothing. She should have kicked off her shoes and gone a little wild and left the pearls at home. But casual Hawaiian clothing for tourists was still a few decades away. Think Aloha shirts and brightly printed muu muus. Let her hair down, put a flower behind her ear, a brightly colored dress, and bare feet, and the folks back home would have thought she'd gone absolutely pagan.
Jean playing ukulele
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I don't know who these fellows are, but I'm suspicious they were drivers for either the Royal Hawaiian or the Moana. Tourists could get a package deal by going on the Matson ship to Hawaii and then staying at one of Matson's hotels. I'm imagining it was the job of these fellows to drive the visitors to various spots on the island and bring them back happy and exhausted each evening to a nice meal at the hotel and the setting sun.

playing ukulele
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And nothing said Hawaii to a Mainlander more back in the 1930s than Bing Crosby with his faux Hawaiian songs. These old songs and old clips for me are as much ephemera as the printed piece. I know technically they're not, but they're all part of times long ago now all but forgotten. They put the people in the photos in some sort of context and it gives me a moment to step-back-in-time and experience that world.



Jean must bid adieu to her Hawaiian adventure and head back to San Francisco to her real life. Did she throw her lei overboard hoping it would reach the shores guaranteeing her return to the islands? We'll never know. She had at least four and a half days of seaside pleasure before sailing back into the Golden Gate. There's a very good possibility that she did not sale beneath the Golden Gate Bridge because it might not yet have been built.

Aboard the S. S. Manoa_tatteredandlost
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And here are two ladies that are not from Jean's album. I'm guessing this was taken as they left Honolulu aboard a Matson liner, most likely in the 1930s. Festooned with leis, you can see the remnants of the streamers that had been handed out to everyone to throw from the ship to those left behind on the dock next to the Aloha Tower. I can tell you it was a grand sight to see and even more fun to do. Many times during the years I lived on Oahu we went to the dock to welcome new military families or to say goodbye to those that were leaving. My best friend and I would gather up streamers into a big pile and cover ourselves with them. Wonderful memories.

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And a final glimpse of Waikiki and Diamond Head long before the developers had a chance to destroy it. True, much of Waikiki was a swamp, but it seems these days it's just a swamp of another kind.


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25 comments:

  1. Just great, my favourite was listening to Bing Crosby sing again!

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    1. You know you can download for free a lot of his old music at http://archive.org/

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  2. This are great! I just love the Gracie Allen film clip and the lady in the grass skirt! Now, where did I put my ukulele?

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  3. This was a fun trip back to when Hawaii was becoming Hawaii. Scrolling slowly through the pictures again while Bing was singing put me THERE in the moment.

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  4. A very interesting post; I had not heard of the Matson Line and do not know much about Hawaii other than what has appeared on TV. It sounds as though developers have a lot to answer for there as well. Jean looks a good sport.

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  5. A very entertaining post - Jean looks happy! What a pity that so-called "progress" has affected Waikiki, so I'm pleased you got to see the Old Waikiki :-) Jo

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  6. Wonderful post! The photos of Jean remind me of when my mom's friend went to HA in the late 60's, leaving her new husband at home. Before getting too sunburned to walk, she went to see Don Ho,and got an autographed picture from him and sent it home. It arrived home before she did and her husband became so jealous that he tore it up, no knowing who Don was or about Tiny Bubbles, lol.

    Kathy M.

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  7. You made very clear that not all change is for the better, alas! But don't worry, it's called progress ;)

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  8. I love the photos of Jean, she looks as though she was enjoying every minute of her trip. Best of all is the fact that you made a lifelong friend aboard ship, I wonder how many do that.

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  9. A fun trip to Hawaii! Maybe Jean lightened up a bit after a day or two. All dressed up to play the ukelele, but when dancing in the grass skirt, she was without hat, pearls and jacket.

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  10. I have never been to Hawaii. I wish I could have visited there in the old days. I had a grade school teacher who had previously taught in Hawaii and I was really impressed with how exotic Hawaii sounded--that was more than 50 years ago.

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    1. I first passed through with my parents in the early 50s when we were moving to Midway Island. Then we moved to Hawaii, Oahu specifically, in 1959. It really was amazing. Very magical place.

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  11. I think taking a ship to Hawaii would be the best way to appreciate such remote and exotic islands. Do you think Alan, our Sepia theme master, will bring his ukelele and tap dance a song on the deck of his cruise ship?

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    1. It was very special. Sadly there are no cruise ships to Hawaii anymore. Once the jets started flying to the islands everything changed.

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  12. Great post. Ah! The old MGM movies...I love those classic movies from the '30s and '40s.

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  13. Thank you for this post. You sent me rummaging through old photos to compare my dad's two trips to Hawaii. How things have changed!

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  14. I have yet to get there, but it does appear they had a wonderful time. Such lovely family photos!

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  15. As much as I've enjoyed the pics and vids, it is your personal comments which I've enjoyed most.
    Thanx 4 sharing!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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    1. The place left indelible memories in my heart and mind. The magic of the place has never been forgotten.

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    2. Must be great to remember it in an almost pristine state, rather than the tourist trap that seems to now be the requisite around the world...
      Good for you!!
      :)~
      HUGZ

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    3. Which makes it twice as heartbreaking.

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  16. I've never been to Hawaii even though I have relatives there. Your enjoyable post has gotten me interested in making the trip. Maybe next year.
    Barbara

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    1. Sadly there are no cruise ships sailing there anymore. However, maybe there are something like tankers that ship out from Long Beach to Oahu. I've heard that going as a passenger on some of the commercial vessels is really nice.

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  17. I visited Waikiki Beach in 1987, sadly long after it had become "another kind of swamp." I also spent 3 days doing a circuit of the island in a rented Ford Transit van, along with half a dozen other "backpackers." What fun that was, snorkelling in Hanauma Bay, looking for evidence of Magnum, watching the surfers, dodging the beach police at night etc etc

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    1. I understand completely. We used to do the same thing when we'd go on vacations and R&R to other islands. And we looked for Elvis at Hanauma. Hawaii is still a grand place to make memories.

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