Welcome to Honolulu (circa 1960).
Back in the early 1960s when I first arrived in Hawaii, Honolulu International Airport (it was John Rogers Field back then) had six—Count ‘em: six!—parking spots for the huge, new Boeing 707 jets that had started coming here. They were bringing a lot more tourists and also a lot of people like me who thought they wanted to live here and were looking for work.
Honolulu was a much smaller town then, and not just in terms of population. Everyone knew everyone else. Not literally, of course, but the best way for some young guy from the East Coast to find a job—someone like me, just off the boat—was to meet a few potential employers, then make the rounds. The word got around by way of “the coconut wireless”.
If you were lucky, you had a few names when you arrived, established local people who would agree to meet you—not hire you, just meet you. These could be friends of your mainland friends and, if you seemed like a responsible person with some potential, they would refer you to one of their friends here. That person would meet you, then send you to someone else, and so on. I don’t think I ever once checked the local newspapers for want ads. I never needed to. Within ten days or so, I was hired by Iolani School, a private boys secondary school, as their combination Alumni Director and PR person.
Without a personal reference of some kind, getting a foothold here 50 or 60 years ago wasn’t easy. Employers preferred hiring locals because too many of us new arrivals didn’t last when our vision of living in a cute little cottage on the beach turned out to be a concrete block studio apartment overlooking a freeway. Statistically, something like half of the new arrivals went back home after 18 months or so. Potential employers knew that and many were reluctant to spend money and time training a new arrival only to have him or her quit a year later and go back to the mainland.
For many of us, it also was startling to suddenly find ourselves subjected to racial discrimination, although by mainland standards it was pretty mild and in no way mean-spirited. I clearly remember looking through the newspaper for an apartment to rent and seeing that many of the ads were tagged with the phrase “Orientals Preferred” or “AJA Only” (the abbreviation AJA meaning American of Japanese Ancestry). I can tell you that for a lot of Caucasian people, especially those from the South, being on the short end of racial discrimination came as a jolt. That said, in my personal opinion, it was an eye-opener for us haoles (white people) . . . and it was probably good for us, too.