A Warm Welcome to Honolulu!
I arrived in Hawaii on May 1st of 1962. It’s amazing how different things were that long ago. Along with military spending and agriculture, tourism had been a significant component of the Hawaiian economy for several decades, but it was really starting to take off in the 1960s.
Two events occurred in 1959 that triggered our tourism boom. First, Hawaii became a state in August of that year. Second—and most significant—the airlines started flying the Boeing 707 between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland. Before those big new jets went into service, the flight from the west coast to Hawaii took 11 hours flying at 20,000 feet. By contrast, the 707s flew above the weather at 35,000 feet and the flight time was reduced to five-and-a-half hours.
In 1962, there were parking spaces for six intercontinental jets at the Honolulu airport and passengers deplaned down portable stairways right onto the tarmac. PanAm and United were the two major airlines flying between here and the U.S. mainland back then. Both airlines had photographers on stand-by, ready to get photos of celebrities—mostly movie stars coming from L.A.—stepping off the planes.
Both PanAm and United would dispatch one of their top executives to the airport to personally greet celebrities and other passengers of note. PanAm’s representative was cheerful, gregarious Ernie Albrecht, who, despite the spelling, pronounced his last name as “Albright”. Ernie’s hospitality didn’t stop at the airport, however, and he frequently brought people of note to City Hall for a courtesy visit with Mayor Frank Fasi.
That was an interesting bonus for those of us who were in and out of the mayor’s office during the day—the opportunity to chat with basketball great Wilt Chamberlin or comedian Red Skelton or cartoonist Walter Lantz, creator of Woody Woodpecker, while they were waiting to see the mayor.
After Ernie retired from Pan American, he was appointed “Personal Representative of the Mayor and Official Greeter for the City of Honolulu by Frank Fasi, the Mayor of Honolulu at that time. It was the perfect job for Ernie Albrecht.