General Reasons Hawaii Makes You Feel Good

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BY J. ARTHUR RATH III – Ways Hawaii causes you to look, relax and interact are influenced by American Civil War Generals, Kearny, Butterfield, and Hawaii-born Armstrong.

Pull-on Identity: Loose-fitting “Aloha Shirts” are considered “dress-up” clothing in Hawaii. Pull-over shirts for casual wear make a statement–it might be “Aloha,” meaning “hello” or “affection,” or something dramatic such as “North Shore Surfing,” connoting courage since that part of Oahu has the biggest waves in the world!


“Identity clothing” began because Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny saw several Union Army officers resting under a tree in 1862. Assuming they were his officers, he administered a sharp rebuke, only to discover—to his dismay—they were not members of his command!

Shortly thereafter, Kearny ordered all his officers to sew a red lozenge-shaped piece of cloth on their forage caps, so that he could immediately distinguish them at a distance.

The division’s enlisted men liked the idea, without being required to do so, they voluntarily sewed patches on their caps. Kearny is remembered as the originator of all the divisional, corps, army, and other unit patches now worn on U. S. military uniforms.

A century after Kearny’s innovation, California transplant “Rick” Ralston helped transform T-shirts from underwear into fashionable outerwear by creating Hawaii’s coveted “Crazy Shirts.”

Reacting against standard clothes America’s Hippies of the Sixties wore Tie-dyed pullovers bearing hallucinatory images. Ralston’s “Crazy Shirts Hawaii” screen-painted designs made a fashion statement with Hawaii visitors. The look caught on big! “Crazy Shirts” has hundreds of designs, houses a large printing facility on Oahu and employs more than 400 locally.

Currently, the guise of a shirt reading North Shore Surfer is a big cachet, so is wearing a navy blue or orange jersey with number 18 and the words “Manning, Broncos.” People everywhere want “identity” clothing that associate them with hot names and places.

Musical Notes: To distinguish bugle orders meant for his brigade from those for nearby units, Civil War general Brig. General Daniel H. Butterfield composed distinctive series of notes for prefacing all calls. Soon his entire brigade was humming the introductory notes, “Dan, Dan, Dan Butterfield.” (If hopeless outnumbered soldiers change it to “Damn, Damn Butterfield.”)

Butterfield gained undying fame for his dissatisfaction, early in the Civil War, with the traditional Army ceremony of putting the troops to bed at night with a series of single drum taps. So he wrote another call and handed it to his bugler. Ever since, “Butterfield’s Lullaby” has bade good-night to American soldiers. It is known by the name given the original ceremony: “Taps.”

(Photograph jgeg) “Happy Hours Call” is sounded on a conch shell, “the Hawaiian bugle” by Alexandria Evangelista of Tiki’s Restaurant and Bar. She is standing on the top floor of the Aston Hotel sending mellifluous sounds to people on Waikiki Beach..

To create bugles, Stone-age Hawaiians dove deep to the ocean for conch shells. They cut the tip from the closed end blew the horn-shaped shell with a “bell” at the end as a trumpet. At 2:00 daily a Tiki’s staff member blows a conch shell to announce the arrival of “Happy Hours” (sic) when prices for drinks plummet.

I take full credit for Tiki’s accurate grammar. Other places please patrons with lower prices during cocktail hour and call it their “Happy Hour”–singular noun. So did Tiki’s until I returned home to Hawaii and visited Tiki’s. Lolling there into my second hour with a Laphroig single malt scotch sold at the same price as the first hour, I suggested proper grammar might help their business. That’s why Tiki’s tacked an “s” on menus and signage—offering being happy from 2:00 to 5:00.

Such quick response is a rarity in places operating under a national marquee in Waikiki. Although it’s in the Aston Hotel, the restaurant and bar is a locally owned and managed. They can apply a new idea without clearance from gimlet eyed bottom-line worriers in the offshore management hemisphere. (Same thing with their half-price wine on Wednesdays until closing.) That’s the kind of local management Smart Business Hawaii advocates: Involved and flexible! I hope other places read this and Hawaii drinkers will have more than one hour of happiness.

Family of Mankind: American missionaries brought 19th century Eastern U.S. education to Hawaii. Many of their own children returned to Northeast colleges after Punahou School. Samuel C. Armstrong was one of them. He graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts, then volunteered to serve in the Union Army. After Harpers Ferry and Gettysburg battles, Armstrong and then was put in command of the 8th U.S. Colored Troops that pursued the Army of Virginia. He became brigadier general of America’s black volunteers.

Armstrong was close friends at Punahou with Levi and Nettie Lyman, descendents of missionaries David and Sarah Lyman who founded Hilo Boarding School founders. This school for Hawiians was the forerunner of what in America became called “industrial arts schools”—vocational training.

Helped by missionary ties, Armstrong established Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, now known as Hampton University. He invited Levi and Nettie Lyman to join him in creating teachers with useful job skills who could help to advance Black Americans. Its industrial art training was similar to Hilo Boarding School, Hampton also encompassed the Lahainaluna, Maui, method of creating future teachers of all subjects.

Through Armstrong, the concept of “opportunity by education” was placed in the hands of Booker T. Washington, educator, author, and civil rights leader–one of the first to be universally recognized for fostering Black American Pride.

Armstrong, the third Civil War General had profound influence on how others within in The Family of Man became treated. This was nourished with Armstrong, Levi, and Nettie who knew how to do that from growing up in Hawaii where race relations were far advanced.






  1. I think this is the best vacation spot. I'm sure you leave there feeling like a million bucks. I wish I could go there.

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