February 20 - 1906 'Originals' enjoy Honolulu

After their final match on February 13th the 1905/6 All Blacks spent six uncomfortable days on board the Sonoma before reaching Honolulu. They received an official reception and had time for a good luck around. The ever observant Billy Stead recorded his impressions of the city and its residents.

Once aboard the Sonoma and out through the Golden Gate we felt that at last we were on the last lap of our great tour. Our party was reduced by this time by six players. Glenn and Harper had gone via Suez, Johnston and Seeling direct; Roberts, who took ill at ‘Frisco, and Wallace who stayed with him, are to come on by the next boat. The six days’ run to Honolulu was an atrocious one, the boat rolling every way possible but inside out, making deck games, etc. an impossibility. We had fifty first saloon passengers to Honolulu, including a party of ten of California’s best looking girls selected by popular vote, the expenses being paid by an American journal as a novel means of advertisement. A merry, expectantly, happy-looking group they looked as we steamed out through the placid waters of the bay, but there is no better boat that I know of than the Sonoma to spoil a girl’s interest in her personal appearance, and as a matter of fact the deck knew them no more till we were in sight of their landing place.

On arrival we got NZ papers up-to-date, and also found out, much to our surprise, that the residents had arranged to entertain us during our short stay. Had we arrived up to time, the Governor would have presided at a luncheon to us at the Hotel Moana, at 1.30pm, but we were an hour late, and although the luncheon went on all the same at 2.30 his Excellency’s presence had to be apologised for. A special observation electric car met us at the boat and with the Tramways’ Manager, City Inspector, and American Agent as hosts, we spent a splendid afternoon. I must try and describe Honolulu to you, as I dare say it will be to you what it was to me, practically an unknown quantity. The Hawaii Islands, of which it is the capital city, are of volcanic origin and are situated under the Tropic of Cancer, and they were doubly interesting by reason of the native race being akin to our Maoris. They were typically the same in outward appearance and customs, and the only difference, excepting local idioms in their “lingo,” is that they always pronounce the letter “r” as an “I.” Cunningham, who speaks Maori like a native, found that the traditions of both races coincide. Aoha the island on which pretty Honolulu squats on a reef-bound bay, has, I think, what must be the ideal climate of the Pacific. Can you imagine what it must be to exist in a temperature which is never lower than 68 degrees in the winter, and never higher than 86 degrees in the summer. A New Zealander five years resident there, told me that he had never worn a top coat or used an umbrella, for it happens that when it rains it is invariably about midnight. The great drawback on the island is the great proportion of Orientals there, for out of a population of 150,000 (of which Honolulu claims 40,000) 80,000 are Japanese and Chinese. The latter do almost all the tilling of the soil, while the former monopolise the fishing industry, and supply menial labour about the city. In strong contrast with these menial occupations, you find them in almost total possession of whole blocks of the best shops. Excepting the various tropical fruit indigenous to the island, the prolific luxuriance of the soil rather prevents than aids the successful cultivation of marketable fruit. Green peas, radishes, lettuces, spring onions, new potatoes, are available the whole year round; but plant an apple tree, and the taking of an average of three crops a year entirely depletes the bearing qualities of the tree.

High wages are paid to white men mostly as “gangers” over gangs of coloured labourers in the vast sugar-cane plantations, the sugar industry being the one and only industry of the islands. One such plantation of 25,000 acres pays £12,000 a month in wages and a dividend of 4 per cent every month to its shareholders — rather a substantial investment. Considering that you can get an elevation of 10,000 feet on several of the peaks, the Hawaiian Islands present the anomaly of tropical islands, jungle-covered shores, leading across long, even slopes, up to snow-clad mountain tops. They have a geyser which plays frequently, a waterfall of fair dimensions, and if, as I am inclined to think, our Maoris originally migrated from these charming isles, does it not seem strange that, 4000 miles away in NZ, they had found islands of a similar type.

Round and about the Moana Hotel, which is connected by a four mile stretch of tramway, a beautiful park fronting on a beautiful beach, has been made by the judicious use of native palms, etc. At night it was wonderfully pretty to see the inhabitants all dressed in white, squat round the band rotunda to listen to music discoursed by the sweetest toned band I have ever listened to. Interspersed with the band selections were items of the sweet simple Hawaiian songs sung by natives with band accompaniment.

From “Billy’s Trip Home” published 2005 by NZ Sports Hall of Fame p.76-77.