How Statehood Changed Hawaii!


Article Published by Time Magazine 7 Years  After Joining the Union

The life of the land is preserved in righteousness.*—Hawaii’s motto

In the village of Kilauea. on the northernmost Hawaiian island of Kauai. the workmen from the sugar plantation began to drift in to vote about midmorning. Tony Castro, 53, a naturalized Filipino-American, had been up since dawn, when he started the day by opening the mountain gates for the morning’s irrigation. As he edged through the throng toward the paint-flaked schoolhouse, he was besieged by election workers who begged a vote for their candidates. Castro shook his head wordlessly. Behind him, wearing dirt-streaked khaki pants, sweat-stained shirt and heavy shoes, Louie Pacheco, 44, operator of a harvesting machine, broke through the campaign workers with the cheerful promise to vote for everybody. “Hey, Louie!” yelled a friend. “See you pan hana [after work]? Plenty feesh at Kapukamoi!” Replied Louie in pidgin English: “No more da car. Da ole lady bin go Lihue today.” “I pick you up?” offered the friend. “Hokay!” yelled Louie, as he ducked into the schoolhouse.

Three hundred miles to the southeast, on the “Big Island” of Hawaii, workers from Kona coffee plantations and leather-faced cowboys from the Parker Ranch headed toward the polling places to mark, their ballots. On Kauai and the Big Island, and on each of the other luxuriant, diamondlike islands of the chain, the people of Hawaii were casting their votes in the first major election since Congress enacted the statehood bill last March. Never before had such a pageant launched an American state. To the polling places came men in bright aloha shirts and slacks, women in cotton-print Western dresses and loose-fitting, ankle-length muumuus.-They were Japanese, Chinese, Korean. Filipino, Puerto Rican, purebred Hawaiian and haole (Caucasian), and combinations thereof, and they represented together the broad racial spectrum that gives Hawaii its unique vitality.

Hello & Goodbye. As the hours passed, that vitality began to bubble and rise like an awakening volcano. In downtown Honolulu (est. pop. 311,000), impromptu motorcades crisscrossed the crowded streets, as passengers happily shouted campaign cries and drivers leaned heavily on their horns, all drenched with the celebrated spirit of aloha, that flavorsome. catchall Hawaiian term that means peace, warmth, kindness, hello and goodbye, and good luck. And this time, even aloha had an added special flavor injected by the general awareness that Hawaii was on the threshold of a new epoch, sharpened by the fact that there were 81 different elective offices at stake—in the state legislature (25 in the senate, 51 in the house), in the U.S. Congress (two in the Senate, one in the House), and in the posts of Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Biggest prize: the governorship, since Hawaii’s chief executive will control no fewer than 750 job appointments, and in this way affect Hawaii’s political posture for years to come.

By nightfall, the top candidates were counting the early returns, like sharp-eyed pineapple sorters in a canning factory. Well past midnight, the results began to show. Ahead in the gubernatorial race was a malihini (newcomer)—a handsome, smiling Republican named William Francis Quinn, only a dozen years in the islands, and for only 23 months territorial Governor, by appointment of President Eisenhower. Leading in the race for one of the U.S. Senate seats was former (1951-53) Democratic Territorial Governor Oren E. Long. 70. Way out in front for the other two congressional posts were two Hawaiians of Oriental ancestry: Democratic House Candidate Daniel K. Inouye, 34, World War II Nisei hero, and Republican Senatorial Candidate Hiram Fong, 52, a Chinese-American and a self-made millionaire (see box). Elected Lieutenant Governor: Big Island Republican Politico James Kealoha, 51. who is half Hawaiian, half Chinese.

Pinwheel Aurora. Now the volcano roared: one-armed Danny Inouye. victor with more than 111,000 votes—the most ever accorded any Hawaiian—rushed joyously into the Honolulu streets, kicked off his shoes and danced, and lit up a chain of firecrackers in the traditional Chinese celebration of good luck. At Bill Quinn’s headquarters on Kapiolani Boulevard, campaign workers broke out the soda pop and Primo beer, as a four-piece, aloha-shirted band hammered out Latin tunes with a fierce beat. With each bulletin feeding new totals into Quinn’s narrow plurality, came still more excitement. A stocky Portuguese-Hawaiian booster gaily swung the crowd into a chorus of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, and the band broke out into Roll Out the Barrel. And then it was official: Quinn was elected (by 4,000 votes) over the favorite. Democrat John A. (for Anthony) Burns, 50. territorial delegate to Congress, onetime Honolulu cop. one of the architects of Hawaii’s Democratic Party, a leader in the long battle for statehood, and just about the most sinewy politician in the islands.

Even as Quinn and his fellow victors were singing, they were celebrating another kind of victory, one that far transcended the glory of any one candidate or political badge. It was symbolized in the fact that 93.6% of Hawaii’s 183,000 registered voters—more than 170,000 of them—had voted in the elections (v. an alltime mainland-U.S. high of 77.4%), and elected to office 42 candidates of Oriental descent. It was a victory for Hawaii itself, and its meaning rent the Pacific skies like an aurora of blazing pinwheels. United in monarchy, nourished in benevolent feudalism, resurgent in the growing pains that shadowed its 59-year-long territorial status, Hawaii now pro claimed itself a dynamic entity—cross-matched by blood strains that converge from every corner of the earth, bound by the vastness of the sea, unified by democracy, strengthened by aloha and hope.

Benign Paternalism. Long ago the seeds were planted. Once, Hawaii was an island paradise of flowers and trees, of tawny Polynesian women and warrior chiefs, jungle fastnesses and snow-capped mountains. In 1778 Captain Cook discovered the islands, and was followed by lusty traders and, in the 18203, by the New England missionaries with their modest Mother Hubbards and their Protestant churches and teachers.

The missionaries, it was said, “came to do good—and they did well.” After building a basic, solid structure of up-to-date education and Christianity, the missionaries stayed on, became sugar planters. Sugar became big business, and soon the new landowners began importing Chinese coolie labor. By 1890, the missionaries-turned-businessmen were operating 72 plantations, exporting more than 25 million Ibs. of sugar a year. Born in the boom were the “Big Five” factoring companies, set up to handle the business of the sugar plantations. Gradually, they took over the functions of business agent, banker, labor supplier and arbiter of status. By 1941, the paternalistic Big Five—American Factors, Ltd., C. Brewer & Co. Ltd., Alexander & Baldwin, Castle & Cooke Ltd., Theo. H. Davies & Co.—hovered over a vast economy worth $309 million (v. a 1958 gross territorial product of $1.4 billion), and by virtue of interlocking directorates and interlocking marriages, controlled wholesale and retail business, agriculture, banks, land, shipping, society—everything.

Status & Change. Governor Bill Quinn was an ambitious philosophy student in St. Louis in the late 19305 when the first signs of Hawaii’s big change were beginning to come clear. The Chinese, longest established of the imported laborers, were slowly building up capital. Japanese immigrants were hoarding their slender earnings to get their children educated and on the road to citizenship. A young merchant seaman named Jack Hall jumped ship in Honolulu in 1935 and, forming an alliance with Red-lining Harry Bridges, boss of the West Coast International Longshoreman’s and Warehouseman’s Union (I.L.W.U.), waved the flag of unionism. Organizer Hall planned first to win control of the vulnerable shipping points on the docks, then move boldly inland toward the vast sea of laborers in the pineapple and sugar fields.

The roar and devastation of World War II, which crippled the U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor, sent a deeper shock through Hawaii’s way of life. Some first families, fearful of invasion, put up valuable land holdings for sale at bargain prices, and the Chinese were there to snap up the bargains and get the outsiders’ first big toehold in real estate. But most affected by the shock were the thousands of Japanese-Americans whose ancestry made them suroect, especially to faraway Washington and the apprehensive military. Intensely loyal to the U.S., crushed by the restrictions of martial law and threatened internment, the Nisei wallowed in confusion until their island friends came to their rescue, set up coordinating committees that satisfied the suspicious, promoted Nisei war-bond purchases and blood donations, talked encouragingly to 10,-ooo individual Japanese.-Notable among the helpful, friendly Caucasians: Jack Burns, the Montana-born Honolulu cop, who won a Nisei devotion that would have much to do with his future political fortunes.

By war’s end, the early distant rumbles of change had reached a thundering tempo. Servicemen who had spent their liberties on Hawaii’s beaches during the war returned with their families and began to build a new life. With wage restrictions lifted. Jack Hall and the militant I.L.W.U. (current membership: 25.-ooo) surged inland. The Nisei warriors were home again, recharged, proud and ambitious. All told. Hawaii faced a new fact of life: an exploding, new middle class, one that was bound to change the old ways forever.

Sensing this, the old, established, once complacent firms of the islands reached out for new blood, some of it Oriental, but most of it from the mainland. Traveling to the mainland to find a young lawyer to take into his firm, Honolulu Attorney J. Garner Anthony interviewed a promising young Harvard law graduate named William Francis Quinn.

Private Passion. “I absolutely detest doing anything unless I do it well,” says Bill Quinn. “It’s almost a character flaw.” And virtually from birth—in Rochester, N.Y. in 1919—he seemed to have the capabilities for doing well in a public way. He combined a friendly personality with a lilting tenor voice, a sense of theater, and Irish affection for his fellow humans. And beneath it all he had a private passion for self-improvement that left his easygoing friends in awe.

After the family moved from Rochester to St. Louis, he was to all appearances happily enrolled at Soldan High School. But he decided to switch to a different regime of study in his junior year, transferred to Jesuit-run St. Louis University High School, moved on after his graduation to St. Louis University. A big man on campus, intensely competitive, Quinn got the idea that his scholarship and outside activities (singing, theatricals) might label him something of a sissy. Characteristically, he solved that problem by entering a boxing tournament. He trained for a couple of weeks, and then, despite the fact that he was unprepared, he went into the ring, even made his way to the finals. In his final match, Light-Heavyweight (165 Ibs.) Quinn fought an athlete named Les Dudenhoeffer. Says Quinn: “He proceeded to put me on the canvas every time I got up. They finally stopped it in the second round. It was one of those things where by losing I gained.”

Searching for something more challenging than studies at the university business school, Quinn switched to liberal arts, turned to a major in philosophy, was particularly interested in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. Despite warnings from his teachers that the studies were too tough, Quinn took on a special-honors section, graduated summa cum laude in 1940, and headed for Harvard Law School.

The Prophecy. Pearl Harbor interrupted his second year at law school. In 1942 the Navy gave him an ensign’s commission. He married his high school sweetheart, Nancy Ellen Witbeck, and they were ordered to cushy shore duty in Chicago. But Quinn had a severe distaste for the battle of Lake Michigan, got himself a transfer, served in the South Pacific as an air-combat intelligence officer for the duration. He was discharged in 1946, just in time to catch the spring term at Harvard, was finishing up a year later when he began sifting through a sheaf of job offers from big and little law firms.

Doubtful about taking on Attorney Anthony’s offer in Honolulu, Quinn discussed it with an old St. Louis friend, Bill James. Remarking on the possibilities in growing Hawaii, James said prophetically: “If you go, you’ll be Governor in ten years.” The Quinns, by then parents of two children, talked it over. Says Bill: “That Boston weather was wet that winter, and the kids’ snow suits wouldn’t get dry, and Nancy wasn’t feeling very well—so she said, ‘Lord, let’s go!”;

The Push. The Quinns moved into a house on Portlock Road near Diamond Head, where many a newcoming mainland family settled down. A bright lawyer, gifted with exuberant charm and bottomless energy, Bill soon had his teeth sunk into virtually every aspect of island life that appealed to him—especially theatricals (Mr. Roberts, Brigadoon) and politics (“Politics is a happy combination of theater and law”). Some acquaintances say that Quinn was really a Democrat, but switched to the G.O.P. because the Democratic Party in the islands lacked stability and purpose. Says he: “I had a choice: I could either join the Democratic Party and drag my feet or join the Republican Party and push. I decided to push.”

Quinn had plenty of pushing room. Before long he was addressing meetings, joining the Community Chest (he later became chairman), becoming active in Roman Catholic Church groups. His trademark was his singing voice, and rare was the gathering that Quinn did not entertain with a sweet version of Ke Kali Nei Au, the old Hawaiian wedding song. “Boy,” says one friend, “if there was a microphone in the room, you could bet that Bill Quinn would wind up in front of it.”

Flowering Business. Just as Quinn was winding up for big things, so were Hawaii’s booming new enterprisers. Millionaire Chinn Ho, 55, became the first Oriental director of a major island estate, also heads his own investment and land-development combine. Others started up airlines, banks, insurance companies and scores of smaller businesses (“The poor Chinese,” goes a Hawaiian gag, “is the one who washes his own Cadillac”). From the mainland, too, came fresh capital and nien with big ideas. Pink-cheeked Millionaire Industrialist Henry J. Kaiser jolted the Big Five by plunking down $18 million for an apartment-hotel resort called “Hawaiian Village,” starting a $350 million “dream city” in Oahu’s Kokohead area. Sheraton Hotels took over four splendid Waikiki Beach hotels, including the Royal Hawaiian and Moana, and made them pay. The venerable Bank of Hawaii brought in a new president from California, Rudy Peterson, and Peterson in turn brought with him such surefire mainland business-getters as charge accounts for credit loans and a factoring system for a growing textile industry.

Another innovator was ex-Army Mess Sergeant Maurice Sullivan (now married to the daughter of a Chinese grocer) who combined with other small grocers in Oahu to buy food stocks by carload lot direct from mainland suppliers. Soon he eliminated Big Five middlemen, who had long controlled virtually all imports from the mainland, is now the owner of the modernistic, eleven-store Foodland chain of supermarkets.

Seats in the Sun. As the economic monopoly was broken, so was the political monopoly. Before World War II, island Democrats existed largely on the sufferance of Democrats in Washington, had a hard time holding rallies on outlying islands, because owners shut them out of the plantations. Now, under ex-Cop Jack Burns, the Democrats gathered steam, most of it from energetic Nisei, who remembered the sardonic, white-haired Burns and his aloha-style defense of the Japanese-Americans in the war’s early days. In 1954, Hawaii’s sclerotic Republicanism crumbled in the territorial legislature before the Democrats’ thrusting new onslaught-But then the Democrats, in turn, botched their sessions of the legislature and were almost laughed out of office.

The inexperienced newcomers wasted long hours arguing about whether they or the Republicans had got stuck with the sunniest seats in the legislative chambers, once flew off to the Big Island to watch an eruption along the slopes of Mauna Loa. While the Democrats fiddled, crusty, Eisenhower-appointed Territorial Governor Sam Wilder King sat back and waited for them to run out of time. On the 50th day of the prescribed, 60-day 1955 session, Sam King vetoed the only two Democratic bills. This so disorganized the bewildered Democrats that they squabbled along to the end of the session, had to stop the legislative clock while they fought in vain to override the vetoes. Legally, April 29, 1955 remained April 29th for 28 days.

Welcome Lightning. While the Democrats hobbled along, William Francis Quinn broke into a steady run. He ran a hot campaign for the territorial senate in 1956, and lost; but he learned enough to see that people liked his Irish charm and Irish tenor. As a member of the Hawaiian statehood commission, Quinn also made a good impression in Washington, where Interior Secretary Fred Seaton put him down on his list as a sure comer.

In 1957, lightning struck. Determined to exchange Sam King’s standpat Republicanism for some of his own kind, President Eisenhower sent for Quinn, offered him the governorship. The young lawyer confessed his inexperience. Said Ike: “You are a fine, clean-cut young man. Now you do your best, and that will be the best thing for America.”

Quinn took on the job as if he were born to it. He moved his family into the Victorian, open-porched-Governor’s mansion on Washington Place. In his inaugural address, he told Hawaiians: “The realization that I assume this office not by the will of the people’ prompts me to vow that I shall meet all the people of our islands and shall in fact be their Governor.” In his 23 months in the office, Bill Quinn has filled 560 speaking engagements, from one end of the archipelago to the other. When there were no speaking dates, he kept moving, visiting workers in the sugar factories, families in remote villages and farms. In the ornate loloni Palace—now one of the last vestiges of Hawaii’s monarchy—Quinn ran open cabinet meetings, tape-recorded them, had the recordings played on the radio. Says a Honolulu schoolteacher: “I’ve never known so much about the running of the territory as I have under Governor Quinn.”

By the time he announced for the first post-statehood gubernatorial election. Bill Quinn was perhaps the most widely known territorial Governor in the island’s history. Flanked by an eager organization, he redoubled his trips into the island precincts, remembered names, always had plenty to talk about in his chats with the voters. Nonetheless, in the June primaries Democrat Burns outpolled Republican Quinn by a fateful 3-2. This was just the kind of odds that suited Quinn bes’t. He cultivated the independents, pounded hard at the news that Burns’s powerful backer, the I.L.W.U., was flirting with the idea of an alliance with Jimmy Hoffa’s highly unpopular Teamsters. In the election, Quinn not only carried populous Oahu but captured thousands of votes that the I.L.W.U. was supposed to deliver from the outlying islands.

Land Reform. One reason Quinn ran so well in the outlying islands is that he managed to make a popular campaign issue out of a problem that of all others is peculiarly and basically Hawaiian: the land shortage.

Much of Hawaii’s richest acreage has for decades belonged to a few families and trusts, and most homes and office buildings are built on leaseholds. Quinn came up with a plan that he called the “Second Mahele,”*an imaginative land-reform scheme (denounced by his oppo. nents as “fanciful”) that ‘would permit Hawaiians to buy, “for as little as $50 an acre,” a total of 144,480 state-owned acres on four of the islands. “Hoax!” cried the Democrats, and even many a top Republican admitted that much of this land was either worthless or else so encumbered by long-term leaseholds that the plan would never work. Bill Quinn firmly denied that his scheme was just so much poi-in-the-sky, still promises to deliver.

Slums & Culture. As they move into statehood, Hawaiians have their share of juvenile delinquency, traffic snarls, slums and crime, but they also have an extraordinarily high literacy rate (more than 98%), a topflight university (coming soon: a $200,000 East-West Cultural Exchange Center), a fine art academy and a symphony orchestra; and bustling new suburban complexes, studded with ranch houses. They appreciate some of the typical social aspects of U.S. mainland life as well: they love baseball, guzzle more soda pop and eat more hot dogs than the people of any other state.

Governor Quinn’s promise of land reform—workable or not—points up the fact that Hawaii’s special problems lie in its great distance from the mainland and in its own peculiar island geography. Tiny (604 sq. mi.) Oahu is already hopelessly overcrowded (pop. 449,910), not only by the native population, mainlanders and tourists, but by Hawaiians from the other islands, who head for the city as agricultural mechanization cuts down the labor force (e.g., the sugar industry now employs 17,000 workers as compared with 55,000 in 1932). A system of state parks and development of small industry on the outer islands will help promote new tourism and new residents, with enough money to pay the tariff.

Despite the big spending of the venture capitalists on Oahu, the state as a whole still depends basically on income from sugar (1958, a strike year: $102 million) and pineapple (1958: $124 million) that has just about reached the outward limits of production. Nor can Bill Quinn escape the harsh fact that Hawaii lies at the end of a costly, 2,400-mile freight haul from the mainland. He is hopeful that mainland factories can be persuaded to open Hawaiian assembly plants to save money on shipping, help meet the demands of the expanding market.

Aloha. But Hawaii’s brightest outlook lies in geography and in its blissful weather (mean annual temperature 74.6°), caressed by the northeast trade winds—just as the future of the 49th state, Alaska, lies in its wealth of untapped minerals. In Hawaii the broad base of military spending of the Federal Government (1958 peak: $327 million) keeps the Pacific strong strategically, as it keeps Hawaii strong economically. And the profitable tourist trade (est. income for 1959: $100 million) will keep growing as long as the trade winds blow, especially as jets will put the islands only four hours from the mainland.

In the “old” Hawaii, the challenges of boom and bloom would have seemed remote, if not insurmountable, just as in the old Hawaii a driving newcomer like Bill Quinn would not have had a chance to grasp the challenges. The new Hawaii, building on the strong foundations of education and tolerance left by the old, knows that it has already survived upheavals in the economy, politics and racial structure that would have rocked many another land. Thus, for all of their challenges, Bill Quinn and the 50th state never share a moment’s doubt that they are heading toward a whole new future bright with aloha.