Statehood Changed Everything in Hawaii

Jerry Burris, the Honolulu Advertiser's editorial page editor.
Jerry Burris, the Honolulu Advertiser's editorial page editor.

HONOLULU (KHNL) -  The news dominated the headlines in the Honolulu Advertiser. In 1959 Hawaii joined the United States and everything changed.

"Back then there was tremendous excitement about statehood and if you think about it, why wouldn't you be excited," said Jerry Burris, the Advertiser's editorial page editor.

"You get to elect your own Governor, you get to elect voting members of Congress," Burris said.

Statehood meant more than just a new breed of politics. Hawaii would never look the same again.

"Everything changes in 1959," Burris said. "We use statehood as a metaphor for what was a huge year in so many areas."

Commercial jets started bringing waves of tourists to the islands, laying the foundation for a new economy.

"Ala Moana Center started to go up in 1959 which changed the whole landscape of retailing in this state with this huge new shopping center," Burris said.

Developer Henry Kaiser brought suburban life to Oahu when he started building a new housing project called Hawaii Kai. The face of Hawaii changed and so did the way people lived.

"Things were quiet and calm," Burris said. "You could park your car on Kalakaua and go to the beach, that kind of thing and that doesn't happen anymore."

Just driver around today, it's easy to see one of the most lasting changes brought on by statehood.

"Statehood kick-started a building boom," Burris said. "Kickstarted Uncle Sam come in start building freeways, it all began then."