Roger and I Go to Hawaii

Sunday, December 27, 2020

So, ok, we’re going to ask you to humor us

Rather than describing a new exotic locale for you to rush out and visit (we’re still in Covid times after all!!!), we want to take you back in time to a different world and a place that may be well-known to all of us today; but was relatively unfamiliar and untraveled, albeit utterly romantic and seductively fascinating back in the day. 

Let us explain. 

Christmas morning, we opened an incredibly special present—a framed vintage advertising poster of the Matson Lines titled:  Roger and I Go to Hawaii (I kid you not!)  This is a very meaningful gift for us–our very first trans-oceanic cruise was aboard the Matson Lines’ SS Mariposa II, not to Hawaii but returning to the mainland after we had been based there early in Roger’s Air Force career.  By the time we sailed aboard the Mariposa II she had already been sold to Pacific Far East lines (in 1971), merely as a prelude to her being sold again in 1978 to haul cargo before being scrapped in 1996.  But we will always have 1975 and our memories of a truly luxurious, glamorous, lavish and totally extravagant voyage!!!

What a totally amazing Christmas present!!!
The RovingRaconteurs embark on their very first trans-oceanic cruise aboard the SS Mariposa II in 1975.

May we share some history with you?

The Matson Navigation Company was founded by William Matson in 1882 to carry cargo between San Francisco and Hilo.  The company grew to encompass oil exploration, mining, several plantations, and a bit of passenger service along with the cargo operations.  As Hawaii started to attract tourism, Matson expanded the passenger operations by launching the 146-passenger ship, S.S. Wilhelmina in 1910.  At the time of William Matson’s death in 1917, the Matson fleet had grown to 14 ships and had become one of the largest, fastest, most modern Pacific passenger-freight operations.  Although most of Matson’s fleet was requisitioned by the government during WWI as troopships and military cargo carriers, at the end of the war Matson engaged in massive expansion.  By 1925 Matson had established the Matson Terminals to provide stevedoring and terminal services for its rapidly growing operations.  From 1927 to 1978, Matson constructed and operated luxury passenger liners, the White Ships, in the Pacific.  Among them were the 4 ships designed by William Francis Gibbs—SS Malolo, SS Lurline, SS Monterey, and SS Mariposa.  Matson Lines changed tourism in Hawaii forever.

The SS Mariposa II, built as a cargo carrier in 1952; sold to Matson in 1956, operating as a “White Ship” till 1971 when sold to Pacific Far East Lines; sold to cargo carrier in 1979; scrapped 1996. (Photo by Walter E. Frost City of Vancouver archives.)
Sail-aways were once an extremely festive occasion!!! (photo from Matson Lines History)
These murals are inside Pier 11 at Honolulu Harbor. Don’t know the artist but he certainly captured the spirit of cruising in the day!!! This particular panel depicts the band and Hilo Hattie.
We never get enough of the Honolulu Pier 11 Murals! We make it a point to view them every visit.
Sadly, the streamers are no more. I believe they were viewed as as a pollution menace.
The iconic Aloha Tower has been welcoming visitors to Honolulu for nearly 100 years!!!
Built in 1926, the Aloha Tower is now a retired lighthouse but remains a welcoming beacon to Honolulu. Located at Pier 9, it stands 184 feet tall (with an additional 40 feet of mast). It had been the tallest building in Hawaii for 4 decades!!!
This is a view from the ship anchored in Honolulu Harbor in 2010 and looking towards Diamond Head. Yeah, it’s obscured now. Honolulu is a large and bustling city!!!
The Art Deco Exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art shows the Aloha Tower in 1927 (at far left, by Elias Shura, Bishop Museum) and The Royal Hawaiian Hotel in 1934 (far right, by N.R. Fabman, Bishop Museum)

But then, the luxury hotels may have had something to do with enticing tourists to Hawaii!!! It is interesting to note the very first hotel in Hawaii was built in 1846.  It was a one-room grass structure built on the Big Island.  Known as the Volcano House it was on the rim of the Kilauea Volcano overlooking Halemaumau Crater.  Expanded in 1866 to a four-room wooden structure, it was mentioned by Mark Twain in Roughing It, as neat, roomy, and well-tended.  The first luxury hotel on Waikiki Beach opened in 1901 and still hosts guests as the Westin Resort Moana Surfrider.  But it was the Royal Hawaiian Hotel that reigned as the queen of luxury accommodations from the day of its opening on February 1,1927.  And it just-so-happens, it was built by the Matson Navigation Company!!!  The intent was to boost the tourism trade.  And it did.  The “Pink Palace of the Pacific” (as the Royal Hawaiian was known) drew an affluent crowd from the ocean liners operating in the Pacific.  And then, after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, it was leased by the U.S. Navy and transformed into an R&R center for Navy personnel.  After WWII, it was restored to its original opulence.  This is an iconic hotel.  Built on 15 acres with magnificent beach frontage, it lives up to its reputation as a destination of romance and luxury.

Volcano House Hotel circa 1866, at the edge of Kilauea volcano. Mark Twain stayed here and wrote about it in his book “Roughing It”. (National Park Service)
The Moana Surfrider was the first luxury hotel built on Waikiki Beach. Today, it is a Westin Resort.
Here we are, visiting the Moana Surfrider in 2010. More than 100 years after its opening, it remains a must visit landmark in Honolulu.
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel was built by the Matson Navigation Company in 1927. (wikimedia commons)
Still a luxurious and charming hotel, the Royal Hawaiian remains the “Pink Palace of the Pacific”!!! (the pink palace, Janine, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Ah but, our favorite hotel “back in the day” was the Halekulani Hotel & Bungalows.  Known today simply as The Halekulani (because it has undergone extensive renovation and the bungalows no longer exist), it is an exclusive and luxurious beachside resort.  But it began as a private home.  It was built by Robert Lewers in 1883; the original 2-story building was purchased in 1903 and converted into a small hotel; The Kimball family acquired the property in 1917 and built the bungalows expanding the complex into a stylish beachside resort.  This is where Earl Derr Biggers penned his first Charlie Chaplin novel, House Without a Key, based on the Honolulu Chief of Police at the time, Chang Apana.

The Halekulani Hotel began in 1883. On this diagram, bldg. 4 is the site of the original structure and the main building of the complex. Of course, it has been renovated many times but the rich history of the site has been preserved.
An outrigger canoe fronting the Halekulani Hotel. You can see one of the bungalows on the far right.(photo from Hawaii State Archives)
This postcard shows one of the bungalows of the Halekulani Hotel. The renovation of 1981 did away with the bungalows and started the highrise hotel of today.
The Halekulani Hotel today is a large highrise structure but the veranda and “House Without a Key” retain the charm of the early days. (TastyPoutine CC BY-SA 3.0)

And then.

After WWII, the world was changing.  Matson Navigation undertook a $60 million shipbuilding program that produced the new South Pacific liners Monterey and Mariposa.  They built more  hotels in Waikiki.  However, although more than half of all tourists coming to Hawaii in 1955 stayed in a Matson owned hotel; only 20% of them came by ship!!!  The airlines could deliver the travel experience faster and marketed this advantage successfully.  Matson started selling ships and hotels. Pacific Far East Lines bought the SS Mariposa II in 1971. 

The photobook, “Hawaii as the Camera Sees It, 6th edition” was published by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 1941. This was another Christmas present and truly reflects the romance of Hawaii.
The book is a compilation of photos. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is at the bottom left; the Halekulani Hotel is bottom right.
And the photos tell the history of Hawaii along with the rise and spread of island travel.

Your RovingRaconteurs had lived in Hawaii for several years and we make it a habit to return and re-experience the pleasure of paradise often.  We have witnessed the changes; the growth; the crowds; the fluctuation of the islands’ economy.  We always make it a point to be on the beach at the Halekulani for a sunset cocktail while we recall the many evenings spent there listening to Emma Veary sing traditional Hawaiian songs. 

There is so much to love in Hawaii. Like Diamond Head, seen here from Waikiki Beach.
Or Iolani Palace the former home of royalty as well as the setting for the iconic TV show Hawaii Five-O.
Punchbowl Crater is home to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. It honors those who served in the United States Armed Forces and those who gave their lives doing so. Such a serene ,calm, beautiful place.


Absolutely every American should visit the Arizona Memorial.
The Honolulu Museum of Art. We have been known to spend an entire afternoon here. We have also been known to spend the entire days’ travel budget in its amazing gift shop in mere minutes!!!
There is, of course, more to Hawaii than Honolulu. The old Banyan Tree in Lahaina was planted in 1873 to mark the 1823 arrival of the first American Protestant Mission. It is the largest banyan tree in America.
Maui’s historic Pioneer Inn, built by George Alan Freeland in 1901, was the first hotel to be built in Lahaina. Built in the Hawaiian Plantation Style, it presents the tranquil lifestyle of an elegant past.
So, OK, just couldn’t resist. Here are the RovingRaconteurs being silly in front of Bubba Gump’s in Lahaina.
Drinks at sunset at the House with No Key at the Halekulani Hotel. Sheer heaven!!!
Our last visit to the Halekulani was in 2017.

Roger and I Leave Hawaii.

Back in the day, before we sailed out of Honolulu for the first time, we stayed in one of the bungalows at the Halekulani.  After boarding the SS Mariposa II, we threw streamers from the deck to our friends on the dock.  Leaving the harbor, we looked back at the Aloha Tower and then threw our leis into the sea. 

Memories of 1975–a live band no longer played as the ship departed–but the loud speaker blared the music; we threw streamers to our friends on the dock; and we tossed our leis into the sea, vowing to return. Often!!!
We knew we would!!!

Roger and I go to Hawaii.

We have booked our next big cruise which will include ports-of-call in Hawaii.  We hope you will follow along with us on that adventure in 2022.

And as we celebrate the arrival of 2021, there is no doubt we all look forward to travels and adventures in the new year.  Whether they be big or small; long or short; by car or cruise ship or airliner; whether to foreign lands, to distant family, to luxury resorts or off-the-beaten-path camping……


Here’s to Hawaii! To adventures, finally, in the New Year. And our best wishes for a wonderful 2021!!!