The Stock Market crash of October 29, 1929, ushered in a decade of economic depression. The Islands were less affected than the Mainland but still endured hardships caused by layoffs, bankruptcies, and shrunken resources.
In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt campaigned on a platform of “Happy Days Are Here Again.” In 1934, the thirty-second President visited Hawai‘i—the first president to do so—in order to reassure the sugar cane-growing territories fearful that sugar quotas would be imposed, and also to assert American naval strength in the Pacific—FDR traveled on the naval cruiser Houston. The Island power structure was solidly Republican and against the Democratic Roosevelt’s “New Deal” policies of providing relief, loans, and jobs through federal agencies. But his visit offered excellent publicity for Hawai‘i.Mainland newsmen and radio reporters covered the trip, and wirepress and newsreel photos showed a smilingly confident FDR, accompanied by two handsome sons, landing at Kailua, Kona, on July 25 and going fishing. Forty-three decorated fishing sampans greeted the Houston in Hilo harbor on July 26.
During his visit to Honolulu the next day, fat “ALOHA PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT” editions headlined, “CITY OPENS ARMS TO CHIEF.” American flags festooned the buildings, and huge crowds cheered his round-the-island motorcade. It was as if there were no Depression while the popular president—to be reelected three times—was in the Islands.
The following year, 1935, a Hollywood child megastar made Hawai‘i totally forget its troubles. Shirley Temple, the dimpled moppet, with blond ringlets and a charming smile, had appeared in Hollywood musicals—in 1934 alone, five of them, including Bright Eyes, in which she sang “On the Good Ship Lollipop.” By the age of seven, Shirley was among the greatest Hollywood box-office attractions of all times and spectacularly assisted in the manufacture of celluloid dreams. She was given a Special Academy Award for her contribution to motion picture entertainment.When Shirley and her parents arrived on July 29, 1935, on the luxury liner Lurline, the Star-Bulletin headlined, “Depression in U.S. is Ended.” Shirley was greeted by Sheriff Duke Kahanamoku, the captain of the U.S. Navy Yard, and ten thousand cheering men, women, and children, who jammed Pier 11. From dockside she sang “On the Good Ship Lollipop.” The governor welcomed her to ‘Iolani Palace, where she again sang the famous song. She monopolized the front pages during her entire three-week visit. As the newspapers said, she softened everyone’s hearts.
Shirley Temple later retired from movies and made other, quieter trips to the Islands. Her 1935 visit has remained a landmark, however, in enthusiastic Island welcomes for celebrities.
By Helen G. Chapin