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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 6, 2010

News a colorful world for copyboy in '60s


By Wade Kilohana Shirkey
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Wade Kilohana Shirkey

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Let's go on a journey. The year was 1968.

The Advertiser and the islands it chronicled were changing daily.

And I was its new copyboy, still in school, still in my teens.

It was a newspaper world without Bluetooth or iPod, wireless Internet, Twitter or Facebook. Old, black, single-line phones without voicemail graced newsroom desks, connected to switchboards.

The Hawai'i of the 1960s was full of characters: Hot Dog Annie and Checkers and Pogo. Miss Robin and Lippy Espinda. Kahanamoku and Apaka. John Burns and Neal Blaisdell.

Concerts and wrestling were at the Civic (Auditorium). And the state Legislature met at 'Iolani Palace.

The "Great White Lady," Matson's SS Lurline, was almost a nautical synonym for the island's laid-back way of life.

The Waikīkī Biltmore was about to come down in an explosive signal of the high-rise Waikīkī to come, itself representative of Hawai'i's burgeoning influence in the Pacific. All roads led to Hawai'i.

Roads here were still slow and narrow, and the closest we got to a freeway was Lunalilo.

Pink Ford Mustangs were the rage, as were pink bulldozers Henry J. Kaiser's wife's favorite color, as he transformed a lazy agrarian valley into "modern" Hawai'i Kai. Some thought he was crazy.

Kapi'olani was still a maternity hospital and Straub a clinic. Blaisdell Center was H.I.C. Honolulu International Center.

No one questioned the Easter cross on Punchbowl for its correctness, and Christmas lights swung in the gentle holiday tradewinds across major downtown streets.

Lau Yee Chai and Stewart's Pharmacy and its orange bread reigned supreme in Waikīkī, while Wo Fat prospered among Chinatown's mah jong parlors, pimps and prostitutes and sailors.

Canlis had its kimonos and KC Drive-Inn its Waffle Dogs and Ono Ono Shakes.

At the "new" airport, you crossed the tarmac to your plane. Friends bestowed thick red carnation lei at the gate. The Pawa'a Sears store boasted the first escalator, long before the Police Department took over the building.

I joined a newsroom of mostly older, gray-haired people with funny glasses, old, black Royal typewriters and copy pencils.

"COPYBOY!," an editor would bellow and copy would be hand-carried back to Linotypes in the back to be transformed into stories, one molten lead letter at a time.

Paperweights, oddly, were the most common desk accessory: heavy foreign coins from reporters' travels, a dad's old pocket knife, a first Boy Scout badge. The reason: brisk breezes would dispatch news copy through open windows, to the building's open courtyard below.

If much-heralded city editor Sanford Zalburg didn't like your story, he'd simply dispatch the unacceptable copy out the window himself. Story killed.

The "ding-ding-ding" of UPI teletypes announced breaking news of Lyndon Johnson's death, various space exploits. Faraway events.

News pictures were yesterday's history, arriving by new United jets and handed over to a waiting copyboy on the tarmac.

Back in the day, our editors were among the movers and shakers in the community so much so that many were known by one name: George (Chaplin), legendary Buck (Buchwach), and (Thurston) Twigg (-Smith).

From the 1950s through 1980s, Scoops (Casey Kreger) moved from proofreader to the society page to feature writer to popular "Ms. Fixit" columnist.

Harry Lyons' pudgy li'l shorts-clad Island beachboy cartoon characters editorialized from a truly Island mindset and were as famous as Lyons himself.

Likewise, Eddie Sherman: If he didn't know the person, they weren't worth knowing and he knew EVERYBODY.

Meanwhile, curmudgeonly columnist Bob Krauss wrote about the "little people." And grumbled to everyone in the newsroom.

Heloise (Cruse) was a blue-haired military wife when she sweet-talked a job from Buchwach, soon to syndicate the world-popular "Hints From Heloise."

Forty years ago, as a teenager, I wondered how I'd tell my beloved parents it was time to "move out." About the same time, they divorced and left me. Decision made.

More recently, I faced another major departure, and wondered how or why I'd ever leave my beloved Advertiser.

Again, the decision was made for me. After today, my history with The Advertiser comes to an end.