Saddle Road

Yesterday I had occasion to drive the Saddle Road – the new version, and it made me think back on what it used to be like. When we first started coming to the Big Island, driving Saddle Road was a bit of an illicit thrill. The rental car companies, for the most part, had as a part of their contracts that you were not to take the rental car over Saddle Road, and it was an exciting trip! There were huge pot holes, numerous one lane bridges, narrow lanes, huge dips and steep hills – almost like a roller coaster in spots – and hairpin turns. The road appeared to have been laid out by a drunken cowboy following a panic-stricken herd of cows, plus it ran right through the Pohakuloa Military Base and you could sometimes be driving by during live fire exercises.  Add to that that the high elevations of portions of the road (up to around 7,000 feet) frequently resulted in being in fog, mist, or rain – sometimes all three, and that the Dark Skies County ordinance forbade lighting of the road so as not to interfere with the telescopes atop Mauna Kea, and you had a recipe for one treacherous road, particularly at night.

I got curious, then, about the history of the Saddle Road, and here’s what I found out.

In May 1849, Minister of Finance Gerrit P. Judd proposed building a road directly between the two population centers of the Island of Hawaiʻi. Using prison labor, it started near Holualoa Bay at 19°35′57″N 155°58′26″W and proceeded in a straight line up to the plateau south of Hualālai. After ten years only about 12 miles (19 km) were completed, when work was abandoned at 19°38′38″N 155°45′12″W when the 1859 eruption of Mauna Loa blocked its path.[2] Although destroyed at lower elevations due to residential development, it can still be seen on maps as the “Judd Trail”.

While planning for the defense of the Hawaiian islands in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U. S. Army hastily built an access road in 1943 across the Humuʻula plateau[3] of Parker Ranch at 19°41′44″N 155°29′8″W.[4] Since it was not intended as a civilian road, the simple gravel path was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the US Army Corps of Engineers in case of an invasion.[5] Military vehicles of all types and treads traversed the Island for the next three years.

Following the end of World War II in 1945, the Army turned over jurisdiction of the road to the Territory of Hawaiʻi and it was designated “State Route 20”. However, the territorial government had few funds to maintain the road, let alone upgrade it to civilian standards. Much of the paving dates from 1949.

About the same time, Tom Vance, who had earlier supervised building a highway up Mauna Loa named for Governor Ingram Stainback, secretly used his prison laborers to start a more direct Hilo-Kona road. He started at a camp 19°38′12″N 155°28′52″W (still called “Vance” on USGS maps) which was exactly midway between Hilo and Kealakekua. The road extended in a straight line, heading for the pass between Hualālai and Mauna Loa. In 1950, the camp caught fire after construction reached 19°37′17″N 155°35′57″W. The public refused to allocate more funding when they discovered about US$1 million had already been spent, so the project was also abandoned.[6]

After islands became the State of Hawaii in 1959, Saddle Road was handed to the County of Hawaiʻi and for many years only minimal maintenance was performed, leading to generally poor conditions and the source of the road’s notorious reputation.

Old poorly maintained Saddle Road
Old poorly maintained Saddle Road



Since 1992, there has been increased attention on the road, with efforts to rebuild and renovate the highway into a practical cross-island route. This resulted in repaving some sections and complete rebuilding of others.

Between 1992 and now, the road has been largely realigned, and it no longer goes through the base, but rather skirts around the back side and doesn’t cross the training area any more, either. It is, hands down, the nicest stretch of road on the island and about the only one where you can easily and comfortably maintain a ‘highway’ speed of 55 without worrying. The newer sections have guardrails, the ‘rollercoaster’ hills are gone, the hairpin turns smoothed out.  The only remaining issues are on the downhill portions on either end, where you have to be careful not to drift into too high speeds as the road reaches pretty steep grades and it is easy to have your speed get away from you. It isn’t the Saddle Road anymore, either, having recently been renamed for the late Senator Dan Inouye who was responsible for ‘bringing home the bacon’ that funded the realignment and repaving.


New Daniel Inouye Memorial Highway (Saddle Road)
New Daniel Inouye Memorial Highway (Saddle Road)

It is still a spectacular drive over some amazing terrain, but, for the most part, the thrill is gone.



Scenery along Saddle Road
Scenery along Saddle Road
Scenery along Saddle Road
Sunset Saddle Road

Whale Season

The humpbacks have been in local waters for a few months now – the first ones, usually young males, arrive as early as November, the pregnant females started arriving in December, and they have been giving birth off the coast here since January.  As we move into mid-to-late February and March, though, our winter visitors become much more visible.


Mother and Baby Humpback
Mother and Baby Humpback

We’ve been seeing the moms teaching their babies how to swim and breathe for a while now. Most of what is visible from the shore or the whale watch boats has been the top of the ‘hump’ and spray from their blowholes and the occasional fin slap, or tail when diving.  Now we are starting to see the mating behavior as the males start trying to get the attention of the females.


Breaching Humpback
Breaching Humpback
Spy Hopping
Spy Hopping
Pectoral Fin
Pectoral Fin Slap

This involves the more spectacular above the water behaviors – spy hopping, breaching, fin slaps, and tail slaps.  Yesterday, when I was driving along the coast road – a dangerous thing to do at this time of year, as the tourists can, and do, make spectacularly stupid moves in the pursuit of whale watching  while driving – I saw a group of about six whales competing, with multiple full breaches, and lots of fin and tail slapping.  The tourists, meanwhile, were stopping in the middle of the road, pulling on and off the shoulder randomly and without signaling, and in one case, making a full turn in the middle of the road without regard to oncoming traffic.  And then there was the guy with one of those small video cameras on a monopod, held above his head, walking backwards across the road without even LOOKING for traffic.  You can understand the whales and all their commotion since they only breed once every two or three years, but what gets into the people???

Some general facts about our largest winter visitors:

A baby humpback is about the same size as a Volkswagon Beetle at birth.

Humpback whale milk is 50 % fat, and pink in color.

Our particular population of humpbacks migrate to the Hawaiian islands from Alaska every year to mate and give birth, and they fast during their stay, feeding only when they get back to Alaska in late spring or early summer.  Only the Indian Ocean humpbacks fail to migrate.  Most humpbacks migrate up to 6,000 miles a year.

Humpback Migration Map
Humpback Migration Map


You can identify individual whales from the shape and markings on their tails – these are just like fingerprints – no two individuals are identical.

A typical adult humpback is 40 to 50 feet in length – females are larger than males – and weigh in at 25 to 40 metric tons.

Humpbacks are baleen whales (no teeth) and feed on small fish and krill.

Females are sexually mature at 5 years, males at 7, and they live from 45 to 100 years.

Gestation is 11.5 months, and females typically breed every two to three years.

Humpbacks, along with many other of the large whales, were hunted to near extinction, but populations are slowly recovering, although still facing threats from entanglements with fishing gear, pollution, and noise pollution.

For much more information, some great pictures, and recording of the songs of the Hawaii humpback whales, you can go to


Time for another update on the lava flow


Pahoa continues to conduct life at the edge of the lava flow. It is still largely stalled, with little or no advancement of the flow front, and multiple breakouts at higher elevations and on the surface of the existing lava pad.  Some of the businesses that were evacuated when the flow front was active have reopened, and the lava viewing area around the transfer (trash) station has been suspended, and the transfer station has reopened.


Pahoa Lava Flow Feb 5 by USGS
Pahoa Lava Flow Feb 5 by USGS
Infra-red showing active 'hot spots' in flow
Infra-red showing active ‘hot spots’ in flow  Feb 2015 USGS


Here’s the briefing and overflight from yesterday:


The Grande Dame of the Kohala Coast is 50 this year

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, the first of the destination resorts on the Kohala (Gold) Coast of Hawaii Island opened for business 50 years ago this year. The resort was conceived in 1960 when Hawaii’s Governor William Quinn invited American venture capitalist Laurance S. Rockefeller to visit the Big Island and scout beachfront sites for potential resorts.


Mauna Kea Beach
Kauna’oa Beach 1960



Already known for his involvement with conservation causes and his love of the outdoors, Mr. Rockefeller believed that buildings should conform to, not intrude on, beautiful natural surroundings. As they flew over the white sand crescent of Kauna‘oa Beach, Mr. Rockefeller asked if he could go in for a swim. From the water, he looked upslope at the towering summit of Mauna Kea and was inspired to create a great hotel that reflected the spirit of this special place.

The property was part of the huge Parker Ranch, the largest land owner on Hawaii Island, and Mr. Rockefeller promptly signed a 99 year lease and set about hiring his team to create the Mauna Kea Hotel. He contracted Belt Collins, site planners and engineers, Skidmore Owings Merrill, building architects, Davis Allen, interior designer, and Robert Trent Jones, golf course architect, who pioneered a technique of creating soil from lava rock. The Mauna Kea Golf Course debuted with a televised “Big 3” match between Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player before the Hotel opened.


Opening of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, 1965
Opening of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, 1965

When it opened in 1965, The Mauna Kea was the most expensive hotel ever built at the time, at a cost of $15 million. Praised by travel writers and critics worldwide, the luxury resort hotel was named one of the “Three greatest hotels in the world” by Esquire magazine, one of “10 best buildings of 1966” by Fortune, and presented with an honors award by the American Institute of Architects.

A noted conservationist and lover of the outdoors, Mr. Rockefeller believed that buildings should conform to, not intrude on, the natural surroundings of a place. His original concept for The Mauna Kea luxury resort was a cluster of individual cottages along the beach-with no televisions or air-conditioning to interfere with the natural experience. SOM produced a dome-shaped model that was almost washed out by a tropical storm, so they literally went back to the drawing board for a single-building design by lead architect Charles Bassett. The resulting final design followed the topography with a pair of stepped back, open air galleries, surrounded by gardens. As the resort neared completion, Rockefeller took a motor boat offshore to look back at the bay, beach and hotel, backed by a snow capped Mauna Kea, and decided that the paint was too bright. He ordered a repainting of the building to make it more harmonious with the surrounding landscape. While air-conditioning proved to be a must in the warm South Kohala climate, the Hotel operated contentedly without guestroom televisions until 1995.


Mauna Kea Beach Hotel from the bay
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel from the bay

As the final touch, Rockefeller installed throughout the hotel and grounds a collection of museum-quality Asian and Oceanic art and artifacts. Typical are the 18th-century gilt bronze Thai Buddhist disciples that flank the entrance to the lobby; the 18th- and 19th-century Japanese tonsu chests; the New Guinea and Solomon Islands drums. Some 30 Hawaiian quilts commissioned by Rockefeller himself hang in the fifth- and sixth-floor corridors. The collection’s centerpiece is a several-ton 17th-century pink-granite Indian Buddha (its counterpart resides in the Art Institute of Chicago) that reposes on a plinth at the top of a flight of wooden stairs beneath a bodhi tree, his stomach blackened from good-luck rubs, folded hands invariably holding an orchid, the traditional offering. (Once a year, the sculpture is ritually bathed by the hotel’s Buddhist employees.) These treasures, displayed in the open as Rockefeller insisted rather than entombed in Plexiglas, are not labeled, but in each guestroom there is a scholarly book detailing the collection. According to Don Aanavi, art history professor at the University of Hawaii, “Rarely does one find such a large collection of significant art works in a resort hotel.”


One of the 1600 pieces in the art collection
One of the 1600 pieces in the art collection

All was not without controversy, however, as the developers of the property sought to keep access to the beautiful Kauna’oa Beach restricted to guests of the hotel. In 1973, a suit was filed by four plaintiffs, claiming that their traditional gathering rights as Native Hawaiians had been violated, due to the development of the resort. After eight years of litigation, public access was granted and a small parking area, and eventually, a trail, showers and rest rooms, were put in by the resort. Public access, while given, is still somewhat begrudging, with a maximum of 30 parking spaces set aside and access controlled by security at the resort gates.

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel rapidly became one of the most celebrated hotels in the world, and developed a fiercely loyal clientele, now reaching into the second and third generations of returning guests. A recent attempt to replace the bright orange beach towels with something ‘less 70s’ was met with such a storm of protest from the guests, that the proposal was quickly dropped.  Even now, televisions are discretely hidden behind cabinetry so as not to intrude, should the guests prefer not to access them.

The hotel has had two major closures in its 50 year history. The first was for a renovation in 1994, which was undertaken following the opening of the neighboring Hapuna Prince Hotel (and where all the employees of the Mauna Kea were sent, pending the reopening) and included the placement of televisions in the rooms for the first time in the Mauna Kea’s history, and the second, a few years later, in 2006, as a result of damages sustained in a significant (6.7) earthquake whose epicenter was just a few miles from the hotel. This closure was for two years, and involved major structural repairs, as well as remodeling of guest rooms and updates and upgrades to bring the hotel closer to contemporary standards, but without losing the ‘look and feel’ of the original 1965 resort. In the process, the entire art collection was also cleaned and restored.  In total, the rennovation costs were ten times the original cost of building, at something over $150 million.

This year, many special events are planned for the property, including golf tournaments, and ’50 Acts of Aloha’ events to give back to Hawaii Island. We should all age as gracefully as this Grande Dame of the Kohala Coast!

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel today
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel today

Hawaii’s Poet Laureate

And You?

They tell me Hawaii has changed…it’s no longer the same.
Of course, it could not be the same, though it changed not at all.
Is the moon of heart of young spring the moon of late fall?
Same eye, same heart, same moon … but what of the flame?
Life, now a business of living, was then a bright game.
Passion, a whispering echo, was once a clear call.
The surf, once a maverick stallion, a challenge to tame
Is a maverick still, but my steed is a horse from the stall.
Am I the man of my youth, though I bear the same name?
Hawaii…and life…and I…ever-never the same.
And you? and you?

Don Blanding, born an Oklahoman, but a kama’aina in his heart, was, among other things, an ad-man, an artist, an author, an illustrator, a journalist, and, in, and above all these things, a poet, often referred to as the poet laureate of Hawaii.  He first came to Hawaii as a young man, struck by the romance of the islands as observed in a stage production he saw in his native Oklahoma, and stayed until his enlistment in the Army and service in World War I.  After the war, he returned, writing advertising copy, designing for a local pottery maker, illustrating brochures for a variety of local business enterprises, and, eventually, becoming a columnist for the Honolulu Star Bulletin.  It was in this role that Blanding probably had his most lasting impact – the invention of Lei Day – still celebrated on May 1 each year.  Here are his collected columns from 1928 as he introduced the idea:

~ ~ ~ MAY DAY IS LEI DAY ~ ~ ~

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
February 13, 1928


Blanding Proposes Happy,
Spontaneous Period To
Be Observed Each Year

Fete Would Be No Solemn
Anniversary; Would Not
Be a Propaganda Day


It’s percolating in my mind for several years, this idea. Now that it has crystallized and formed into some degree of clarity, I must spring it. I want to see what you think of it. Here it is.
Honolulu should have a day that is distinctly, particularly and individually its own. A Honolulu day in flavor and gayety, in laughter and friendliness, in aloha and mirth. Not a solemn anniversary of some historical event. Not a seriously minded “eat a peach a day” day. No propaganda or commercial drive. Just a bubbly, happy, spontaneous expression of the joy of living in Hawaii, which is the essence of Honolulu.

What shall it be? LEI DAY!

Lei Day! A day when every man, woman and child wears a lei. A day on which leis are given and received. When hostesses may give Lei Day dances and dinners. When skilled lei women compete for prizes for the most beautiful leis. When amateurs spend their energy and skill creating beautiful flower garlands for friends.

Rest Our Active Lives

It would be a day in which we stop and think how delightful it is to live in Honolulu, when we really rest our active lives a moment and inhale the perfumes of Hawaii and are fully conscious of the sunshine and the blueness of Hawaiian skies and the friendliness and aloha of this enchanted spot.

We are too much inclined to take things for granted. With such lavish outpourings of nature’s generous gifts we are inclined to be spoiled and petulant, demanding more and more instead of appreciating the gorgeousness of what we have. We should stop and consciously realize the happiness that is immediately at hand in these islands.

When should it be? That’s for you to decide.

Shall it be in the flowering season when Honolulu is most beautiful. Should it not be a day followed by a full moon. Should it tie up with some day like Kamehameha Day or should it belong to itself and bear no national flavor, but be a day in which all nationalities have a part. Should it be during the tourist season? Perhaps they’d catch the infection of our joyousness and spread it broadcast throughout the world.

This is not Pollyanna-ism. We do live in one of the most contented, easy-happy places on the globe. Why not throw out our chests and declare to the universe that we know what a fortunate people we are.

As for leis! They are the first things that greet us and they are the last token of farewell. They are as much Honolulu as the very air. They lend fragrance and beauty to parties, luaus, dances. They are a summary of and symbol of the word aloha.

Leis for Everybody

How gay the streets would look. I defy anyone, unless he be a congenital sour-ball, to wear a lei without a degree of happiness. One would recall neglected friends to whom one might send a lei and resume old contacts. And for the stranger, unfortunate to have made no friends, let there be leis and lei givers to look after them.

The downtown stores could display the prize leis as incentives and inspiration to others. The poets would undoubtedly burble about leis. People would think “lei” and with the thought, enter more delightedly into the celebration of the day.

New Orleans has its Mardi Gras. There are Rose Festivals in other places. Honolulu can have a day which will win world-wide notice with its Lei Day. Don’t you think so?

I’m going to interview a lot of you and get your thoughts on the subject, so please collect your ideas.

Do you like the idea? When should it be? What suggestions have you for developing it? Think seriously about it . . . not too seriously, because we want to keep it frivolous.
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
February 16, 1928

Proposal For Lei Day In Hawaii
Meets With An Instant Response

Kamaainas and Malihinis Stop Blanding To Register Their
Approval and Kokua of Plan Which He Suggested; Might
Be Combined With May Day, Is the Suggestion of One


Hurrah for Lei Day. It really looks as though we might be able to launch it judging from the enthusiastic response on all sides. Kamaainas and malihinis have stopped me to say that they like the idea and will kokua to put it across. It is interesting to hear the different slants on the time, manner and development.
In case you missed the Monday Star-Bulletin I’ll briefly outline the idea again. Lei Day is proposed as a typical individual day for Honolulu to celebrate as its very own; as a symbol of the day of festivity and happiness every one is to wear a lei; leis are to be given to friends; competitions for the most beautiful leis will be conducted and every person will stop for a bit to realize that he is mighty lucky to be living in Hawaii. Hostesses will give lei day parties and dances; old friends will be looked up, and every one will have a good aloha time.

Grace Tower Warren responded with the proposal that Lei Day be on May Day with leis instead of May baskets. And the idea is good because Honolulu is especially beautiful at that time. Lei Day May Day would be different and significant.

Col. R. M. Schofield, of the territorial fair, offers kokua in every way, suggesting that it might be tied up with the school children’s festival at the fair. This would tie up with the May Day idea. Lei dances and ceremonies could be colorfully incorporated into a beautiful pageant.

Melba Likes Idea

Dame Nellie Melba, to whom I outlined the idea, agreed that it was quite in line with the movement which should be conducted to bring more Hawaiian flavor to the outward dressing of Hawaii. She mentioned that almost every city of Europe has a celebration or festival which carries the flavor of the place.

Mrs. Marion Budd, of the Little China Gift Shop and who travels extensively in the Orient, thought the idea an excellent one and mentioned the Cherry Blossom time of Japan and the Firefly Viewing festival as examples of lovely “days” with charm and attractiveness.

She suggested that the Lei Day be during the tourist season so that others besides ourselves might enjoy it. Of course we still have tourists in May so that does not conflict with the May Day idea.

Mr. Thayer of Thayer Music Co. cheered the idea and thought it good and open to large development. he also emphasized the necessity for retaining something of the old time flavor of Hawaii.

I quote from a letter from “L. A. R. W.” of Waialua. Your idea of keeping keeping the leis in glory is appropriate. The old custom of giving and wearing leis is fast fading into obscurity. So vivid are the old days when I lived in Manoa valley in my mother’s garden of glorious bloom. In those days leis had prominent place in Hawaiian love making. Every maiden had a lei in anticipation of her lover and it was a crime to let him leave without his favorite flower.

“Then the fathers and brothers too had fresh leis tied around their hats each day.

“Grandmothers spent hours chatting and laughing over leis for their visitors. The art has almost been lost to the florists. It’s the flower without flaw that makes the perfect lei. L. A. R. W.”

Everyday Custom

Any number of people have hoped the launching of Lei Day may revive the wearing of leis for everyday custom. A lei on the hat or neck has decorative value and is a pleasant reminder that someone’s kindly thought is following one during the day.

Some have thought that Lei Day should not be a holiday. It shouldn’t in my opinion. The day could be made lovely with leis without making it an actual holiday and the evening would be gay with parties and dances and visiting and song. I still favor a day that is followed by a full moon which would make the actual date movable as in the case of Easter. Possibly the governor could declare the day each year.

Write in your opinions. Only by collecting all comments can we arrive at your ideas about Lei Day, and only by hearty kokua from all can it be made as beautiful and as “Honolulu” as it should be.
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
February 27, 1928

Lei Day Idea Growing In Favor;
Everyone Seems to Kokua Scheme

Not a Voice Raised In Protest To Proposal To Inaugurate
a Distinctive Honolulu Festival; More Suggestions and
Hints From the Public Are Desired Urgently


Not a voice raised in protest; everyone seems to be in favor of Lei Day. Malihinis and kamaainas join in offering kokua to make Honolulu’s Lei Day a thing of joy and festivity. Hostesses have seized on the idea as a motif for gay parties and the school children are guaranteeing to proffer leis by the armload for the festival.
The general opinion seems to be that Lei Day should be during the flowering season, May or June preferably, and the opinion is about evenly divided between Kamehameha Day and May Day. I personally would like to see Lei Day happen at a time when people would be on the downtown streets and the leis would be in evidence wherever one looks. However, as I say, that’s for you to decide.

Mrs. James Castle writes a charming note of kokua:

“I think your idea of Lei Day is most alluring. It would give us a day which would be individual and distinctive. It could be made so much an expression of the islands, with its poetry and romance and develop a quality of appreciation which lies dormant in so many.

“I hope you will be able to create this day and give us an hour in the garden of the gods with the commercialism left out.”

No Propaganda, Ballyhoo

“With the commercialism left out.” Yes, indeed! Let’s keep Lei Day a day of blissful burbling and frivolity with an undertone of quiet appreciation of the beauty of Hawaii. No propaganda, no ballyhoo.

Another letter which brings an idea:

“Dear Don Blanding:

“After reading your letters in The Star-Bulletin last evening I do so wish that we shall have a Lei Day and that if we do, all the leis will be made of fresh flowers and positively no paper leis on that great day.

“Yours respectfully,


Certainly no paper leis. Those are for malihinis and tourists. Fresh flowers, heavy with the exquisite perfumes of the islands.

Of course Lei Day would offer hostesses a chance to have pre-Lei day parties at which all guests would join in the making of leis under the instruction of kamaainas who understand the art.

George Armitage writes for the tourist bureau:

“We couldn’t think of anything more peculiarly Hawaiian or more individual than some local ceremony which will feature the lei. We suggest that it be inaugurated in conjunction with the forthcoming festival of flowers and that it be used as a headliner to advertise our flowering trees. Each year the tourist bureau is giving more attention to our gorgeous springtime and some day we all should make a great carnival season out of it. We stand ready to feature Lei Day in any way possible in our publicity and advertising.”

Would Be a Festival

A festival! Of course Lei Day would be a festival. Honolulu will have decorated herself without our help in honor of the holiday. There will be golden shower, poinciana, jacaranda, pink shower, hibiscus everywhere. We should do our best to rival nature if possible.

Dawgone it, there’s color in the idea. Honolulu can make Lei Day a world known event if it will turn its mind to it.

Come on now. Speak up. Will all you people of Hawaiian blood respond to a day which is the very expression of your own generous hospitality and aloha. Of course you will. That means hundreds of leis in sight. Will all you school children turn your skillful, nimble fingers to lei making. Shuah! I can hear the hundreds of shrill voices raised in assurance. Will all you kamaainas join in with parties and visitings and lei gifts to old friends. I know you will.

Let me hear from a few more of you. When shall it be? That’s the question to decide. And it’s up to you.
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
March 17, 1928

May Day Seems To Be The Choice
Of Honolulu For Its ‘Lei Day’

Tuesday Is the Date and It’s To be Expected That Every-
one Will Be Seen Downtown Wearing a Lei; Also Plan
Surely To Give Lei To Some Friend; Everyone Helping


“What’s become of LEI DAY?” A hundred people have asked me that question during the last week. Lei Day is not forgotten in the least. We’ve been waiting for you all to decide when it is to be. Now you’ve had your say, let’s go!
Out of the bushels of letters which poured in in response to the Lei Day idea fully 80 per cent seemed to favor May Day for Lei Day. You are the judges so, what do you say, let’s put May 1 down as the day for Lei Day. May the first is Tuesday so everyone will be percolating around the streets wearing leis and smiles and Honolulu will look like a moving garden of loveliness.

“May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii” — what a cheery colorful slogan. It behooves us to live up to it. There are going to be thousands of visitors of the fleet to carry the word throughout the world, telling of the joyous place that Honolulu is.

Things To Be Done

But let’s get down to details. here are the things that Honolulans should do to support the Lei Day idea and put it over big and glorious.

Every man, woman and child should wear a lei all day. Every one should give at least one lei to a friend. As many as have time and skill should make leis. But EVERYONE should wear a lei.

The school children are going to support the idea. I have their word for it in dozens of quaint, delightful letters. And what leis there will be when nimble happy fingers get to playing with bright petals and gay flowers.

The Hawaiians are not going to let their most loved symbol of aloha be slighted on that day. I can see the exquisite flower arrangements which will come from hands that are born with the skill of flower arrangement in their finger tips.

The stores should, and many have promised to display leis, offer prizes, decorate their clerks, and in some cases offer leis to friends and patrons.

There will be lei-decorated automobiles carrying color through the streets. The hotels are going to see that their guests wear leis.

Lei Day Social Affairs

A dozen prominent hostesses have declared themselves for Lei Day parties, teas, luncheons and dances. Three real kamaainas are having “before Lei Day” parties at which all guests will participate in lei making. Can’t you hear the reminiscences and “do-you-remembers” that will mingle with the flower garlands?

Various clubs and organizations are begining to speak of lei Day and are pushing the idea loyally and efficiently.

Oh, it’s going to be a great day, equalling if not surpassing any flower festival or rose carnival in the world for the lei is a different sort of thing, it has more significance and charm than any bouquet or wreath in any part of the world.

This is not sticky sentimentality. A lei brings with it an association of friendliness, and friendliness in these days of rush and hustle is needed badly in this old world.

Incidentally, now is not too soon to commence laying plans. Even with all the flowering trees and the thousands of flowers of the Honolulu gardens there may be a dearth of flowers to fill the bill, since there will be, not hundreds, but thousands of fragrant lovely leis lending their beauty to our beautiful city.

Enchanted By Scene

I can imagine myself as a visitor walking down these streets, enchanted by the spectacle. I think that we will all be so delighted with the idea that maybe every day will be lei day in Hawaii. Who knows? Here’s hoping.

Just to get a better check on what you’re planning to do, I wish you’d fill out the following blank with your name and your idea of what you can do to make LEI DAY the loveliest day in Honolulu.

Name …………………………………………
Address ……………………………………..
I will kokua with Lei Day by
(Address the envelope LEI DAY, c/o The Star-Bulletin.)
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
March 21, 1928

Bank of Hawaii Gets Behind the
Plan For ‘Lei Day’ in Honolulu

Financial Institution Declares Its Approval and Intention
To Support the Proposal Heartily; Will Offer Prizes For
the Different Sorts of Leis Which May Be Displayed


Spendid! Splendid! Just the sort of kokua that’s going to make Lei Day memorable in Honolulu. You saw the announcement made by the Bank of Hawaii in yesterday’s Star-Bulletin declaring its approval of Lei Day and its intention to support it heartily.
In case you missed the announcement I’m going to repeat it for you and you can realize what this help will mean to the Lei Day movement.

“Speaking of Lei Day,” says the Bank of Hawaii, “the Bank of Hawaii is heartily in favor of Lei Day and extends its kokua in assisting in the preservation of a beautiful Hawaiian custom.

“The choice of May Day for Lei Day is most appropriate and the bank is happy to have the opportunity of offering its banking room to the public on Lei Day for the display of leis — whether of flowers, feathers, shells or other materials. Many old-fashioned and original leis will undoubtedly be forthcoming.

“The bank is offering prizes for the different classes of leis which will be announced in the near future in our regular advertising space.

“Let us all make Lei Day the success it should be and everyone wear a lei on Lei Day.”

A Chance to Learn

That means that Honolulu is going to have the chance to learn about rare, unusual and precious leis which will come from the hands of oldtimers who know the beloved flowers of Hawaii which, in olden days, were used for aloha garlands, but which through disuse have faded from general knowledge.

There will be groups of Hawaiian fruits and flowers in colorful array. I know some of the bank’s plans for lei Day and can assure everyone that the display will be one of the most unusual imaginable.

Experts and authorities are being consulted and scouts sent out for the purpose of assembling leis which most of us have never seen.

When an institution of the importance of the Bank of Hawaii recognizes the value of a worthy and fine sentiment and supports it as a community asset, we may feel encouraged.

Now what are YOU going to do? You’re going to wear a lei, of course.

Merchants! You are going to display leis in your windows, aren’t you? And you’re going to see that your people have leis to brighten the stores and delight your patrons, both malihinis and kamaainas.

Teachers! You are going to encourage the children to turn their nimble, clever fingers toward lei-making, aren’t you. Those youngsters will respond, and it will plant the idea where it can grow and attain significance.

Hostesses! This is a rare opportunity to stage a beautiful festivity. Leis for your guests. If you are clever you will find the color of your guests’ frocks and pay them the nice compliment of having a matching lei for each one.

Kamaainas! You are going to help keep a lovely idea alive and preserve the old joyous charm of Honolulu. I’ve heard you express regret that many of the old friendly gestures were disappearing from the islands. Now is the time when your regrets should take active form and constructive direction.

Part of the Picture

Malihinis! You will enjoy being part of a novel and beautiful ceremony. It will be something which, in the telling, will entertain your friends on the mainland.

Clubs and organizations! Are you going to see that our fleet visitors, the defenders of our nation, are decorated with aloha welcomes on Lei Day? You should. Honolulu has a tradition of hospitality to uphold, and this is an excellent way and time to do it.

One phase of the idea which seems to please kamaainas is the gesture of giving leis to friends on that day. We realize guiltily that we have neglected some old friend, have forgotten to call or telephone or say hello for a long time. Lei day offers a chance to make amends, and how much lovelier a lei would be than a cold impersonal card of greeting.

BUT, let me give warning. Begin to make your lei arrangements now because, even with all the flowers of Hawaii, there’s going to be a heavy demand and if you want some particular kind you should order now.

Just visualize the streets as they can be on Lei Day. Hibiscus leis in red, yellows and pinks; ilima leis like necklaces of Hawaiian gold, gardenia leis heavily fragrant; pansy leis, rose leis, mamo, lehua, mokihana, lauhala, stephanotis leis.

There’s not been a dissenting voice raised. Now let’s see how many are going to join in. “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii.”
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
March 24, 1928

Lei Day Plans Assuming More
Definite and Promising Form

Suggestions Come From All Sides; Girl Scouts To
Celebrate With an Elaborate Fete in Grounds of
Waterhouse Home in Keeaumoku St.


Every day now our Lei Day is assuming more definite form and promising to be as colorful and dekightful as we planned and hoped for it.
First, the Bank of Hawaii announces its plans for celebrating and although they have not been made public yet, they are on a scale which, if all else failed, will give Honolulu a rare treat in floral and lei display.

Now come the Girl Scouts with Miss Agnes Judd as councillor, announcing an elaborate Lei Day–May Day fete in the beautiful grounds of the Waterhouse home on Keeaumoku St. Mrs. Walter Nelson outlined some of the scheme and it includes floral dances and national dances by the various people of Hawaii. Lovely costumes, pretty girls, quaint folk dances, and flowers, flowers everywhere.

There will be a Lei pole dance which will be an Hawaiian version of the May Pole. Further announcements will keep the public informed of what it may expect in diversion for Lei Day.

Mr. Hyatt of the Hawaii Music Co. told me apropos of Lei Day, that each steamer day he provides the people in his music store with leis and that the malihini tourists are enchanted with the idea and wonder that it is not in more general use all over Honolulu.

Returned Many Times

If I were appealing to the commercial sense rather than the sentiment of merchants of this city I should offer the argument that the money spent for leis would be returned many times in the interest and delight of tourists who constantly pass news of “finds” from one to another and will be grateful for a bit of local color which Honolulu conspicuously lacks considering its possibilities.

Now comes the question. What organizations are going to see that the fleet visitors who are in town on that day are provided with leis. Ad club, Rotary club, Elks, what are you going to do about it? Are these visitors going to be made welcome. Leis are going to carry the message of aloha better than banners and placards.

From a publicity standpoint Lei Day offers chances for local writers to get stories off to the magazines and papers all over the world.

The Polynesian version of May Day is certain to interest readers who are already curious about Hawaii.

Miss Lorraine Kuck, the society editor of The Star-Bulletin, tells me that many hostesses are seizing on the idea of Lei Day parties eagerly and are developing plans for unique festivities.

Grace Tower Warren, who was born on May Day, is going to celebrate with a Lei Day birthday party. I doubt if she’ll be able to wear all of her leis at one time, but will have to relay them through the day.

I know that a good many people are beginning to check lists of friends to whom they intend sending leis. And I know this, too, that you should begin making your arrangements for ordering leis now. The lei makers are going to be busy people providing loyal Honolulans with leis.

Would Be Well Spent

The hotels have promised to provide all guests with beautiful leis for Lei Day. The money would be well spent if they had a daily lei for those who showed any inclination to wear them.

Kamaainas who have real regard for the time-honored customs of Honolulu are hoping that Lei Day will so emphasize the charm of lei wearing and lei giving that the general use of leis will be increased throughout the year and not be confined to May Day alone.

Let us hear what your plans are. Everything you do will encourage others to follow on. We can’t foozle the job. And the news is spreading. Miss Jean Hobbs of the West Coast Banker magazine writes in congratulation and cheering of the idea. She promises to wear a lei in San Francisco on that day. That’s loyalty, isn’t it, and she was only a malihini, who became kamaaina in a short time.

Certainly we who live here cannot fall short of such example.
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
March 26, 1928

Whole Territory Getting Behind
Plan to Observe ‘Lei Day’ Here

Hundreds of Orders Already Given To Florists For Leis of
Unusual Sorts; Intermediate Teachers Lay Plans For a
Pre-Lei Day Luncheon at Waialae


Any lingering doubts about he success of Lei Day are dissipated like clouds before the bright Hawaiian sun. From every part of Hawaii and from every nationality come assurances that Hawaii is going to celebrate her symbol of aloha in a manner worthy of the lei.
Roxor Damon, of the Bank of Hawaii, tells me that in addition to the beautiful display in their own lobby here in Honolulu, the Hilo branch will represent Lai Day in Hilo and that kamaainas are welcoming the opportunity to revive old lei customs which have fallen into neglect. Maui and probably Kauai will take up the idea and on May 1 all Hawaii will be gay with leis and flowers.

Swamped With Orders

One prominent florist reports that kamaainas are swamping him with orders for leis of the most unusual sort, leis for friends and relatives and guests. They are asking for leis of flowers which he had almost forgotten existed. Mamo, gardenia, orchid, pansy and many varieties of the fragrant leis are in favor. All of those who work in flowers are going to strive to create unusually lovely leis and feature them in their shops and windows.

Which brings up an important point. You must make your lei arrangements now if you expect to have the sort of lei you want on Lei Day. Even with all the wealth of floral beauty in Hawaii there will be a scarcity on that day because, apparently, every one in Honolulu is going to be decorated.

Miss Palmyra Reis, speaking for the intermediate teachers’ association, tells me that there is to be a pre-Lei Day luncheon at the Waialae Golf club April 28 at which plans will be perfected for the celebration of Lei Day with the school children.

Gosh, I wish I could be a malihini arriving in Honolulu on that day. Think of it, what it must mean to people who have never seen leis. As far as that is concerned we who live in Hawaii are going to be amazed at the beauty of the leis which will be forthcoming then.

Display at Academy

Mrs. Cooke has offered the Honolulu Academy of Arts with its beautiful [text missing from original article] . . . There, too, the loveliest and most exotic as well as historically interesting leis will be featured.

In response to the Lei Day questionnaire which was sent out last week, I have had a bushel basket of slips which say, “I will wear a lei and say aloha to friends on Lei Day” (this one from Thomas A. Kelii); “I will give a friend a lei” (Fuji Yamoto); “I will make leis and give them” (Manuel Rigo). Of course Lei Day will appeal to everyone because friendliness is part of every one.

One of the encouraging things is the frequency with which old timers say “Count on us for Lei Day.”

And the lei women — God bless them — are going to be frantically busy for days beforehand assembling flowers for all of us to wear.
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
March 28, 1928

Leis For Personnel of Fleet On
‘Lei Day’ Looms As Big Problem

Suggestion Has Been Made That School Children, Making
Extra Lei Each, Can Fill the Bill Giving Welcome Which
No Other City In the World Would Be Able To Duplicate


Every day adds to the promise that Lei Day is going to be rather memorable in Honolulu. One after another of the firms, schools and individuals promise to come forth with lei displays which will be a revelation to all who view them.
One charming person in Honolulu known for lavish and splendid gestures of entertainment has ordered 300 leis for the party which she is giving on that day. Which reminds me, hostesses who plan parties for that night had better start asking their guests now or they’ll find them hard to get, because invitations are going broadcast all over town.

Honolulu is well known for doing things in a large way. As yet no organization has solved the problem of giving our fleet visitors leis on Lei Day. It’s a big order, but it can be done.

Possibly the schools can manage it. If each child makes an extra lei and all the leis are gathered it will make a magnificent number. No other port will offer just such a welcome to the fleet.

The display at the Honolulu Academy of Arts will be unusually lovely since, I believe, the leis are to be entirely from Hawaiian sources. It’s going to be fun browsing about seeing the infinite variety of flower combinations and colors.

Plans are developing rapidly for the Bank of Hawaii’s display, which will be on a lavish scale. Rare old historical leis, curious and unusual leis, fragrant leis, shell leis, feather leis, all varieties of leis will be grouped with cards explaining their meaning and association.

Anyone who has any brilliant ideas and will send them in will be given full credit for their ideas. They all help the common cause of creating a day which will beautifully express that word which means Hawaii to all the world, “Aloha.”

Copyright © 2001 Cadia Los – Revised April 30, 2001