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!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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……
WE WISH YOU JOY AND HAPPINESS
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!