For some thirty years, the annual Thanksgiving Day football game pitted Honolulu’s two outstanding high school teams for the championship of the old Interscholastic League of Honolulu. Known as the Turkey Day game, it was the undisputed centerpiece of the Hawai‘i sports calendar.
Both public and private schools played in the old I.L.H.—public schools such as Roosevelt and McKinley, Kaimuki and Farrington, along with private schools such as Kamehameha, Punahou, St. Louis, and ‘Iolani.
Many of Hawai‘i’s finest athletes played in the Turkey Day game over the years. It drew capacity crowds of 25,000 to old Honolulu Stadium, the hallowed wooden amphitheater on King Street affectionately known as the Termite Palace.
In 1965, Coach Tom Kiyosaki’s Farrington Governors were matched against powerful Kamehameha in the Turkey Day game. Coach Kiyosaki did an unprecedented thing for a high school team: he took his whole squad to a hotel in Waikiki the night before the game, signing an I.O.U. for the bill. Coach Kiyosaki also took his players to a restaurant for a pre-game meal and signed an I.O.U. for that, too. His players were so unfamiliar with Waikiki restaurants that when they finished eating they took their dirty dishes out to the kitchen and offered to wash them.
The kids from Kalihi won the game, the last public school team to win the I.L H. championship. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin celebrated the event with a banner headline on the front page, “The Day the Govs Won It All.” And an anonymous reader paid the I.O.U. for the Farrington team.
By Jim Becker