A day never to forget; Ben Parker students parade; On the 37th anniversary


POSTED: Monday, August 17, 2009

It was a day that people will never forget

The Star-Bulletin asked readers to send us their thoughts on statehood or their memories of the day Hawaii was admitted to the union.

I had the great pleasure to participate in the informal parade held on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki on the day statehood was announced. My then-boyfriend was released from duty as a Navy pilot, and I, a teacher, had been given the day off (school closed in celebration of our becoming the 50th state). He drove me to my place and told me to pick up one of my bras (they were quite large in those days). He then attached the bra to his car aerial and drove to Waikiki.

My boyfriend had a big, red convertible, and so we merrily drove down the major street of Waikiki, screaming, yelling and, yes, waving my bra. The place was packed with cars and people, and it was glorious.— Mrs. M.W. “;Mew”; Michael, Pearl City

In 1959 my father was stationed at Schofield Barracks, and my sister and I went to school at Waialua High School. I was 13, and my sister was 16 years old. I remember that the Hawaiian people wanted to be a state in the worst way to the point they thought they would beat Alaska and become the 49th state. I have a 45 rpm record with the Hawaiian 49th State label on it and knew that when Alaska was made the 49th state that I had a real collector's item!

Forty-three years later my sister and I came back to Hawaii, and what a change we found. The Hawaiian people didn't enjoy being a state anymore, and there was a movement to secede from the union. Many people felt the lower 48 states somehow took advantage of the Hawaiian people, and we were truly saddened by that feeling.— Roylene Wright Neal, Fredericktown, Ohio

I was only 10 years old when Hawaii became the 50th state. My father was stationed at Pearl Harbor. My family was fortunate to be there for seven wonderful years. I want to send my heartfelt congratulations to the beautiful state of Hawaii and all of its wonderful people. There has always been and always will be a very special place in my heart for the aloha spirit that is uniquely Hawaii's.— Anita Marie (Smith) McFadden, Escondido, Calif.

As history was being made in 1959, I can proudly state and I fondly remember that I was there.

I was stationed at Schofield Barracks and was then a staff sergeant with Mortar Battery, 25th Infantry Division, Quad D. We had just finished three days of survival training exercise on the East Range when it was announced that Hawaii had been admitted as the 50th state.

Our Battle Group, the 35th Infantry, was selected to participate in a statehood parade.

After some practice at Schofield, we were bused to old Fort DeRussy at the exact site of the Hale Koa Hotel. We lined up for one of the most memorable parades I ever was in during my 29 years of active duty.

We marched from Fort DeRussy down Kalia Road, Kalakaua Avenue, down Ala Moana Boulevard to the Aloha Tower. The sidewalks were lined with thousands and thousands of lovely Hawaiian people cheering and celebrating statehood.

Yes, I was there, and I will never forget those days in 1959 in lovely, beautiful Hawaii.— Al Eisner, Silver Spring, Md.

I grew up in Tupelo, Miss., the home of Elvis Presley. I lived about one mile from his birthplace and went to the same school. I first came to Hawaii in July 1959 as a Boy Scout on the way to the 10th World Jamboree in the Philippines. We stayed in the Princess Kaiulani Hotel, toured the island, surfed at Canoe's in Waikiki and even went to a party at the home of then-famous neurosurgeon Dr. Ralph Cloward. In fact, his son, Kerry Cloward, and another Scout from Ewa Beach, Ronald Nakasone, accompanied us on the trip to the Orient.

We flew on the Pan American Clipper and even had to stop at Wake Island to refuel on the way to Tokyo. On our way back to the United States, we stopped off in the Territory of Hawaii, which was soon to become a state!

I was so in love with Hawaii that two years later when I graduated from high school, I applied to and was accepted to the University of Hawaii. This was the beginning of my 48 years of life in Hawaii.— Bob Lundy, Sunset Beach




Ben Parker students went on parade

The news that Hawaii would become the 50th state arrived on March 12, 1959. I was a third-grader attending Benjamin Parker School in Kaneohe. This was in the days of telephone party lines and no live TV. I guess the news came over the radio. I remember that school was halted and everyone (or so it seems) was given something that would make noise. I had an empty tin can with a wooden spoon. All the students left their classrooms and assembled for an impromptu parade through Kaneohe town on the sidewalks. Just as we reached Kaneohe Bakery, I saw the city workers across the street. I knew it was them because there was my father with his noisemaker. It seemed so strange to me to see him banging away on whatever he had in his hand. He was deaf, but boy could he keep a beat. He spotted me and waved. It was a grand celebration.

I think my father picked us up because even the city and county employees were let out of work. We went home. My parents were very excited about statehood. That's all they could talk about. That was the news on the radio. We couldn't go to town for the celebrations, so we just stayed home. That night there were fireworks on the Marine base.

We still had to write “;Kaneohe, TH”; on our mail. It was kind of a trip when statehood became official, to write “;Kaneohe, Hawaii.”; There were a lot of changes after statehood, but it wasn't until I grew older that I understood that those changes came because of statehood—tremendous, rapid, almost out-of-control building. An overly ambitious plan for the Windward side called for extensive building from Kaneohe to Kahuku, including dredging of the Kahaluu fishpond, a nuclear power plant, widening Kamehameha Highway to four lanes. I'm glad all that was beaten back.

In 1960 my parents got to vote for the first time in the national elections. It was a thrill for them. The race was between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, and, of course, Kennedy won.

I can't say I've liked everything about statehood, but overall, I'd rather be a part of the United States of America than any other country on this earth.

—Robin Makapagal
Social worker
Queen Liliuokalani Children's Center




On the 37th anniversary

In the summer of 1996, as Hawaii approached the 37th anniversary of Admission Day, Star-Bulletin columnist A.A. “;Bud”; Smyser wrote this column recalling how Hawaii achieved statehood. In a journalism career spanning 55 years at the Star-Bulletin, Smyser was at the center of many of the great debates touching Hawaii, including the push for statehood. After he retired in 1983, he continued to write his column “;Hawaii's World.”; This was his column for Aug. 15, 1996. Smyser died at age 80 in 2001.

How Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959

Only a minority of Hawaii's residents, me among them, can remember what it was like before statehood was won 37 years ago.

It took 25 years of blood (literally), sweat and tears to get the bill through Congress, primarily because of reservations caused by our mostly non-Caucasian population mix.

U.S. statehood had been considered even by King Kamehameha III before he died in 1854. But after 1900, when Hawaii became a U.S. territory, the ruling Caucasian establishment minority was happy with the status quo because they had leverage in Washington to influence appointments of our territorial governors and judges.

Most of the elite weren't willing to trust their Asian workers with voting equality.

This smugness changed in 1934 after the Massie rape-murder cases brought forth proposals to have a naval commission govern Hawaii and a sugar act by Congress treated us as foreign.

The moment was seized by Joseph R. Farrington, 37, whose father published this newspaper, and Samuel W. King, 47, a part-Hawaiian retired naval captain. They were for statehood all along but had to settle for incremental steps like getting Hawaii into the federal highway program under an “;equal rights”; banner.

In 1919 Farrington, on bended knee, proposed marriage to a fellow University of Wisconsin student with the caveat that his life would be dedicated to statehood.

King was elected delegate to Congress in 1934 and Farrington to the territorial Senate. They pressed the cause in Washington and at home.

King got two congressional delegations to come to Hawaii for hearings. Then World War II delivered Hawaii into military rule. King activated with the Navy. Farrington took his place in Washington, selling Hawaii to the point that Harry Truman played the piano at the Farrington home the night before he learned he was president.

The war record of peace and order on the home front after Dec. 7, 1941, and of remarkable heroism in bloody combat by Hawaii's soldiers of Japanese ancestry ended loyalty doubts for all fair-minded people. Prejudice then took refuge under a cover of fear of communism in Hawaii's labor ranks.

A 1950 state Constitutional Convention was organized to show Hawaii as true blue American. King was its president.

Nevertheless, in Washington, Southern Democrats lined up against us, correctly seeing us as a civil-rights state whose senators would dilute their filibuster power. With help from GOP conservatives they produced frustration after frustration—stopping bills in committee when they could or linking Hawaii to Alaska on the floor to unite under one banner the opponents of each.

In 1956 Jack Burns, Democrat, was elected delegate to Congress by defeating the widow of Farrington, who had died of a heart attack in 1954. Burns had the political courage to risk something the Farringtons never could have stomached: let Alaska go alone to be the 49th state, even though it had far fewer qualifications than Hawaii.

It worked. Alaska statehood passed in 1958 with a Democratic congressional leadership commitment that Hawaii would follow in 1959 if President Eisenhower, a Republican, OK'd Alaska. It worked. On Aug. 21, 1959, Ike signed the Hawaii bill and unveiled a 50-star flag.