August 23rd, 2014 / posted by paularath

Monumental Mysteries

Sometimes the phone rings and I am totally surprised by the person on the other end.

Here’s a perfect example. The other day I was called by a guy named Eric. He said he was calling from New York and he worked for a TV show called “Monumental Mysteries” which airs on the Travel Channel.

Oops. Sorry, but I had never heard of it.

It turns out he is researching a story on the origins of Aloha Friday, which they credit with the entire national and international movement toward Casual Friday.

Oh, okay. That sounds cool. What it has to do with monuments I don’t know, but then how can I judge when I’ve never seen the show?

He told me he wanted to pick my brain and we set up an appointment for a phone interview. I also suggested he call Dale Hope (he already had) and Mary Foster, whose husband, Bill Foster of Malia, originally took the idea to the Hawaii State Legislature back in the early ’60s.

Of course I checked out the show and I was really impressed with it. The episode I saw featured a wide variety of subject matter: the inventor of the TommyGun, a profile of Blind Tom the pianist,  a history of the WASPS (women aviators) and their role in WWII and the accidental invention of the Snurfer, which morphed into the snowboard. Wow. Quite a variety. So it’s not just about buildings; it’s about ideas and inventions.

So why not include the concept of Aloha Friday?

After an hour of pleasant conversation, I didn’t feel I contributed very much but Eric was happy with our interview. It was fun to wander down memory lane – into the ’50s when I was a little girl and  Daddy and I walked up Bishop Street hand in hand to his office at Union Oil in the Dillingham Transportation Building. He always wore a brown suit and a hat with a feather lei.

In the ’60s, men’s wear in offices from Bishop Street to Hilo to Lihue and Kahului made a radical change to aloha shirts on Fridays. It was an initiative that began with the fashion industry (through the Hawaii Fashion Guild) and was embraced by tourism and other industries as well.

The reverse print aloha shirt helped make Aloha Fridays possible, bringing a more conservative version of the formerly loud aloha shirt to the forefront.

It will be fun to watch this show and learn more about how that change came to be in Hawaii. Can’t wait to see what they use for historical footage. Of course I will write a blog if the show gives me advance notice so I can alert you to watch it.

– Paula Rath


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