in the late afternoon sun on Oahu, a quiet, gentle
scene away from the center of Honolulu.
— What happened to the watercolor dream?
the dream that Matson built. Matson, the passenger and
shipping company, practically invented Hawaii tourism.
1908, the first Matson passenger vessel joined its fleet,
and the elegant white ships were soon sailing people from
Los Angeles and San Francisco to this new tourist
destination called Hawaii.
the moment the Aloha Tower, the Hawaiian Gothic clock and
light tower at Pier 9 winked into view, you could feel the
excitement. Suddenly, bronzed boys and men were diving for
quarters and half- and silver dollars tossed from the
ship; you could hear the strains of the Royal Hawaiian
band, and when you disembarked, you’d be draped with
leis so fragrant you’d swear you were in heaven.
many ways, you were.
could stay at a Matson-owned hotel. When it was time to go
home, you reboarded a Matson liner and threw your lei into
the ocean, perhaps promising yourself you would return.
your memory of the trip began to fade, you had only to
look at the gloriously decorated menus from the Matsonia
or the Lurline or one of the other ships in the fleet,
menus you had framed and then hung on the wall of your rec
room. The light never dimmed.
look at Honolulu today and you wonder whether paradise has
disappeared. The boulevards’ high-end shops mimic those
in Vegas, as does the traffic; Honolulu’s ranks among
the worst in the nation. Northeasterly trade winds blow
about 80 fewer days a year than they did 40 years ago,
according to a 2012 University of Hawaii study, leaving
the city hot and sticky.
is "hugely cosmopolitan," said Theresa
Papanikolas, who curated the recent exhibition "Art
Deco Hawaii" for the Honolulu Museum of Art, which
featured some works commissioned by Matson.
aspects of the city she now calls home are relaxing,
Honolulu has "the same problems as anywhere on the
mainland," said Papanikolas, a former L.A. resident
who worked at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
can still find the stuff of dreams. On a recent 48-hour
trip, I revisited some of the cornerstones of that early
vacation vision, found some new favorites and, as always,
delighted in the people and places that keep the light on
Kehaulani Kam, director of cultural services for Starwood
hotels, including the Moana Surfrider and the Royal
Hawaiian, soothed my troubled soul at the end of a tour of
the Royal, which was once owned by Matson. When people say
"aloha," she said, the meaning is deeper than
hello or goodbye.
‘Alo’ is the physical part of what the person sees —
the smile, the nod — it’s the person coming close to
you," Kam said. " ‘Ha’ means breath.
you put that word together, what you are telling that
person is ‘Take all of me … .’ You are giving all of
yourself without the expectation of anything in