"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Saturday, March 12, 2011

BEING THERE: Hawaii statehood, 1959

     You have to understand, son. This was different. This was NOW. This was 1959!
     There had been 48 stars on the flag all my life--and for years before that. That's what made it exciting to be living in one of two territories being considered for statehood when I was fifteen--just your age.
     All the other states had achieved statehood way back. No matter when they'd joined, they were history. We read about them in class, had to take tests on them.
     This, on the other hand, was an anachronism--our home, the Territory of Hawaii, being voted into the union on March 12, 1959! It wasn't a fait accompli, recorded in a book so we could turn to the last page and know how it came out. It was happening right then, while we were in journalism class at McKinley High School in Honolulu, gathered around the radio in our up-to-date crinolines and bobby sox.
     I wrote in my diary that evening, "The newspapers were ready, the congressmen were ready, the radios, the schools, the students, the tourists, the shopkeepers and planning committees were ready when today came."
     The year before, we had been rushing toward statehood neck and neck with Alaska and they had beaten us by a few months. We were so ready, we felt fifteen months pregnant!
     "Akuhead Pupule of KGU [radio station] promised to announce the news the exact second the Senate passed Hawaii's statehood bill, after which sirens, bells, horns and whistles would go off, shops would close, schools would free their inmates, there would be flares, fireworks, music, speeches and dancing in the street.
     "There was! In Newswriting class, where no one, at the thought of an almost inevitable two-day holiday, could concentrate properly on writing headlines, the radio was downed out with excited chatter and the PA system kept coughing and asking us please to keep calm--we'd have to stay in 'til after lunch for the special assembly anyway.
     "The radio started up a sudden roar of noise, clangs, sirens and cheers about ten o'clock. When its clamor had died down, it announced, 'Statehood has been unofficially affirmed.' The cheers were carried up outside, and car horns joined in. The PA broke in with breathless permission to accept the word as official and in class chaos reigned.
     "While [our teacher] Mr. Sakamaki smiled on and [Pinion editor] Cynthia showed composed happiness, Edwina leaped upon everone in exuberant abandon and Kazuo modestly waved aside the credit.
     "At 11:30 we had lunch with a festival atmosphere around us and the whole affair corresponding to a slightly confused New Years'.
     "The drill team and the band, prepared for this, set up their program under the flagpole and after a prayer and the anthem, the chorus struck up 'America the Beautiful' and Hawaii's liquid sunshine sent us all under the trees.
     "[The student body] set forth in full regalia. Waving signs which read 'About time!' and a banner the length of the crusade saying McKINLEY WELCOMES STATEHOOD, we all marched through town. . .
     "We came back  to the school flushed with heat, sore of feet, tired and damp--but still going strong. . .
     "Cars in Waikiki were dressed to the teeth--even the yachts at the yacht haven hoisted all their flags. The cars honked continuously, in glee. A '59 Chevy would start 'Boop-boop-a-loop-boop' and a jalopy would add its 'Ooga, ooga' while a sports car would finish up, 'Bleep, bleep!'
     "Men sat on cars as they rode through the streets, or waved streamers from convertibles and everyone had tied bushes to their bumpers, or a pair of old go-aheads and a hub-cap to trail behind or a beer can dangling from signs of  'We made it!'
     "Part of Kalakaua Avenue had been roped off into a section which included the most expensive hotels and inside of this, stages were set up in the uncooperative rain and the populace--noticeably haoli tourists and university students--gathered around to hear someone twang out Dixieland on a banjo. . ."
     Son, to you the admission of all 50 states is just data in your history book. But it really wasn't like that with Hawaii. It wasn't like that at all.        

Hawaii officially became the 50th state on August 21, 1959.

Today I am thankful for beds that don't sag in the middle.

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