There were just a few hotels here - primarily the Moana, Halekulani and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel - to serve the increasing number of visitors.
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel may be identified with Hawaii as much as Diamond Head.
Back then the hotel's spacious front lawn extended to Kalakaua Avenue. And even though traffic was far less congested and noisy than today, the short walk from the Royal's entrance through the lobby to the beach still represents one of the great transitions from human chaos to natural serenity.
Hawaii's most famous hotel will underscore its 50th anniversary of the reopening with "Celebrating the Royal Hawaiian," with festivities today through Monday. (See details in accompanying box.)
In 1947 the hotel was already 20 years old but had been closed for 3-1/2 years when the U.S. Navy took it over after war broke out in the Pacific. More than 200,000 servicemen averaged a 10-day stay at the hotel during the closure.
When the Royal Hawaiian finally reopened to the general public on Feb. 19, 1947, the daily room rate - including meals - was about $15! (Today, the least expensive room is about $290, meals not included.)
To resume its role as a visitor attraction, the Royal Hawaiian underwent major redecoration and refurnishing, including converting the former main dining room into a new seaside terrace. The former Waikiki terrace became a luxurious garden; a new bar was built on the beach end of the main ballroom.
Prominent Islanders and mainland visitors traveled to the The "Pink Palace" for the reopening where a huge pink birthday cake was wheeled into the dining room as part of the celebration. Maestro Joe Reichman and his orchestra, the Blair and Dean dance team, Clara Inter with her comic hula and impersonations, Al Perry and the Singing Surf Riders, and the Royal Hawaiian dancers performed for the crowd.
George Sugden was 47 years old when he attended the Royal Hawaiian's reopening celebration.
"Oh, I had made several visits to the Royal before that closure and I was real disappointed that it shut down, but there was the war," said Sugden, now 97, making his seventh visit to the Royal. "Always liked this place, so lovely, and so dominant. There's nothing like it."
Sugden has traveled around the world several times and been on 17 African safaris. His first trip to Hawaii was aboard a Matson passenger ship.
"Got within 60 miles of the North Pole once," Sugden said. "Never made it to the South Pole. Well, not yet."
On this trip he's been at the hotel since November and leaves in another week. He spends most of his stays by the pool.
"I plan to come back later this year and maybe even celebrate my 100th birthday here in January 2001," he said, chuckling. "I'm looking forward to the anniversary celebration this weekend but the prices are a little higher than in '47."
This afternoon, a 150-foot flower lei that includes 1,000 anthurium, 1,000 red ginger and 1,000 pink ginger - made by 175 employees - will be strung from the oceanside Bell Tower.
Saturday, from 6:30 to 11:30 p.m., food stations featuring "Flavors of Hawaii" cuisine will be set up in the oceanfront Monarch Room along with a pink anniversary cake lit with 50 candles. The top of the cake will be shaped in the design of the highly recognizable Royal Hawaiian bell tower.
Entertainers for the affair will include Clyde Pound's Unison with Jimmy Borges; Gabe Baltazar; and singer Shari Lynn. The event is $100 a person.
A silent auction and a portion of the gala will benefit the Variety School of Hawaii.
The celebration continues Sunday afternoon when the Ocean Lawn will feature food booths, with items for purchase from $1 to $6. A keiki corner will have popcorn, cotton candy and soft drinks.
Entertainment runs 2 to 6 p.m. featuring House of I; Tavaesina; Aunty Irmgaard Aluli with Puamana; The Brothers Cazimero, and the Royal Hawaiian Band with vocalists Nina Kealiiwahamana and Tony Conjugacion.
A "Royal Luau" is featured on Monday, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. featuring Hawaiian artisans teaching guests how to make leis, weave baskets, and pound poi. Dinner will be followed by hula and fire dancing. The cost is $78 for adults.