Abraham Fernandez was a merchant, serving as Manager/Treasurer of Hawaiian Hardware Company (1903.)
He joined the Mormon Church in 1895, after a missionary blessed and miraculously healed his daughter. Fernandez went on to serve in many Church leadership positions in Hawaiʻi, as well as hosting missionaries and visiting authorities at his home in Kalihi.
Fernandez Street, in Kalihi is named for this full-blooded Hawaiian man. He was born in 1857 to a woman named Kalama Mahoe and adopted by her second husband, Peter Fernandez.
Abraham was appointed to the Privy Council by Queen Liliʻuokalani. His wife Minerva Davis Fernandez was one of the few people allowed to visit the Queen while she was imprisoned in ʻIolani Palace following the overthrow; they baptized the Queen into the Mormon faith just a few years later.
On July 16, 1907, Fernandez was one of the petitioners joining Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaʻole for the formation of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I.
Later advertisements note the company Abraham Fernandez & Son (Importers and Dealers in Agricultural Implements (1911.)) But, it’s the son noted in the family firm’s name that is the subject of this summary, and the company he formed that carried his name.
“Eddie” followed the family in their faith and attended Brigham Young University, Utah, that school’s first Native Hawaiian enrollee (1903.)
He, reportedly, was also called “Keiki Kiʻi Oniʻoni” (the moving picture kid;) he went to plantation camps and entertained workers by projecting scenic silent films onto bed sheets. He later set up an open-air theater in his back yard and charged admission (his films were later projected in the local theaters.)
He later branched out to “talkies,” fairs, carnivals, circuses, rodeos, stage shows, burlesque, boxing matches, bullfights and any other attraction he thought would draw a crowd.
Eddie held his first circus and carnival in Honolulu at Aʻala Park in 1915, with 20-performers and six acts. The star attraction was “Alice Teddy.” (Alice Teddy played other Hawaiʻi venues, as well.)
“(I)t was ‘Alice Teddy,’ a 400-pound wrestling and skating bear who beckoned Fernandez into the circus world. He brought the bear over to the islands from Los Angeles as an added attraction to his movies.”
“‘She stole the show.’ he said. ‘Most of the people had never seen a bear before, and the shows were packed. It was then that I decided to bring a circus to Hawaiʻi.’”
“To prepare for the venture, Fernandez traveled with the Ringling Circus, watching and absorbing everything he could about putting on a big show.” (The Daily Telegram, May 21, 1969)
By the end of World War II, Eddie (Edwin Kane ‘EK’ Fernandez,) was being called “the Barnum of the Pacific,” and EK Fernandez Shows “crossed the Pacific with tents, elephants and ice-making equipment to transport entertainment to Guam, Tokyo, Manila, Hong Kong, Singapore, Java and Shanghai.” (The Daily Telegram, May 21, 1969)
The company’s first amusement ride was a steam-powered merry-go-round called a Flying Jenny, which EK Fernandez introduced at the Maui County Fair in 1915.
The first elephant at the Honolulu Zoo was named Daisy (1916) and was one of the elephants that came to Hawaiʻi to perform in an EK Fernandez show.
He produced Honolulu’s first circus, imported Hawai‘i’s first ice show, first bullfight, first boxing match and first rodeo.
Rose and Margaret Nearing were a balancing wire act brought to Hawaiʻi by EK Fernandez in 1927. In 1930, the 18-year-old Rose was crowned Miss Oʻahu.
Margaret went on to make motion pictures in Hollywood. Rose remained in Hawaiʻi and, in 1933, became Mrs EK Fernandez.
Eddie Fernandez was a Punahou graduate. But his professional association with the school began in 1936 with a carnival that had one ride — a Merry-Go-Round. (Today, the Punahou Carnival is the company’s biggest two-day attraction, drawing more than 30,000 people per day.)
Some of the most famous acts to perform in an EK Fernandez production were the Flying Wallendas and their seven-person aerial pyramid, the wild animal trainer Clyde Beatty, and the famous clown Emmett Kelly.
In 1949 EK Fernandez signed an exclusive agreement with the Honolulu Junior Chamber of Commerce to operate the “49th State Fair,” even though Hawai’i was still a territory. (After Alaska got there first, the name was promptly changed to the “50th State Fair.”
Today, EK Fernandez Shows is a locally-owned, third-generation family business that operates a large assortment of kiddie rides, family rides, thrill rides and spectaculars. (Lots of information here is from EK Fernandez, Wood and Foley.)