“The President will spend the day fishing off Napoopoo, Hawaii.” (July 24, 1934) Thus began President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR) visit to the Islands (the first sitting US President to visit Hawaiʻi.)
Earlier on his trip (on the way to the Islands, at Cocos Island off Costa Rico,) “Franklin Roosevelt Jr, had the best catch in the fishing yesterday – a 35 pound ono, the largest fish caught so far on the cruise. The president caught a bonito and John Roosevelt a pompano.” (Edwardsville Intelligencer, July 14, 1934)
The party fished off the island from the launch specially reconstructed for the president’s use. They didn’t have the same luck in Hawaiʻi. Some suggest the fish heard of the president’s wish to fish and “Good Fishing” advertisements.
The president’s Hawaiʻi catch was limited to only a few small fish. Local fishers noted, never talk about “it” in advance. The fish heard and they left. (Manning)
In July 1934, FDR traversed the Pacific aboard the USS Houston, debarked at both the ports of Hilo and Honolulu, and stayed in the Islands for several days (July 24-28, 1934) to tour both cultural landmarks and military areas.
The visit was a stopover on a cruise starting July 1, 1934 at Annapolis going on to Portland, with stops in the Bahamas, Haiti, Puerto Rico, St Thomas, St Croix, Columbia, Panama, Cocos Island and Clipperton Island.
When FDR arrived at Honolulu he was greeted by an estimated 60,000-people, including a flotilla of outrigger canoes. He was adorned with customary flower lei, was an honored guest at a traditional lūʻau complete with a kalua pig.
“Costumed as King Kamehameha the Great, Duke rode out merrily by double canoe to greet him, and showed FDR’s sons how to paddle an outrigger.” (NY Times) Roosevelt’s two sons even took surfing lessons with the legendary Duke Kahanamoku.
The battery at Fort Armstrong fired a 21-gun salute in his honor, while the Marine band played the National Anthem. A few moments later, the president engaged in a whirlwind tour of the island of Oʻahu.
He stopped in Kaʻaʻawa during a round-the-island drive on Thursday, July 26, 1934; the president was welcomed by teachers and students at Kaʻaʻawa School – he was entertained with a hula.
Prior to his arrival, the City of Honolulu used funds provided by FDR’s New Deal Project to create a city park along a portion the waterfront between downtown and Waikīkī (back then, it was a swamp and the Honolulu garbage dump.)
On July 27, 1934, FDR participated in the dedication of the new 76-acre ‘Moana Park’ (it was renamed Ala Moana Park in 1947.) He remarked, “I am very, very glad to take part in the dedication of this park and I know that it will be a great service and great pleasure to the people of Honolulu for many, many generations to come.”
On his visit to ʻIolani Palace, there were plans for the president to plant a memorial Kamani tree on the Palace grounds. A Kamani sapling was ordered from the nursery; however, mistakenly, the sapling delivered just before the ceremony began turned out to be a Kukui. (The Kukui tree is the Hawaiʻi state tree.)
Roosevelt’s tree is identified by a plaque, placed in 1959, which reads: “President Franklin D Roosevelt planted this kukui tree July 28, 1934.” It was later considered the “lucky kukui tree” and was credited by some with Roosevelt’s good fortunes in the 1936, 1940 and 1944 elections. (He also planted a banyan tree on Banyan Drive in Hilo.)
He made a stop at Shriner’s hospital and visited with some of the children who shared the infliction he had come to live with, polio.
On leaving the Islands (July 28, 1934,) FDR first proceeded to Molokai for fishing; after fishing there, he sailed for the mainland.
The FDR Presidential Library houses several gifts Roosevelt received during the 1934 visit, including: a desk lamp, given to FDR by the Māmalahoa Chapter, Number Two, Order of Kamehameha; a model of an outrigger canoe from the Hawaiian Japanese Civic Association; a coconut shell bowl from the Waipahu Filipino Social Club; a handmade calabash bowl from the Hawaii Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and a wooden canoe paddle inscribed in Hawaiian from the Royal Order of Kamehameha.
In his farewell remarks he noted, “I leave you today with reluctance, for the friendly spirit and the generous reception given me everywhere by the people of the Islands of the Territory make me greatly wish that my visit could be prolonged.”
“I leave also with pride in Hawaiʻi – pride in your patriotism and in your accomplishments. The problems you are solving are the problems of the whole Nation, and your Administration in Washington will not forget that you are in very truth an integral part of the Nation.”
“In a fine old prayer for our country are found these words: ‘Fashion into one happy people those brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.’ That prayer is being answered in the Territory of Hawaiʻi.”
“You have a fine historic tradition in the ancient people of the Islands and I am glad that this is so well maintained. You have built on it – built on it wisely – and today men and women and children from many lands are united in loyalty to and understanding of the high purposes of America.”
“And so, my friends, I leave you my gratitude for all the kindnesses you have shown me. I carry with me the hope that I shall have the opportunity to return. … Aloha from the bottom of my heart.” (Lots of information here is from FDR Library, Navy History, Manning, Chapin)