Recently a colleague pointed out to me that King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) and Queen Rambhai Barni of Siam visited Honolulu in 1931. I did not know anything about that, so I decided to try to find information about it.
On Thursday, September 17, 1931, the morning edition of The Honolulu Advertiser stated that “huge aloha” was planned for the king and queen of Siam who were scheduled to stop in Honolulu later that same morning on their voyage back to Siam, after having spent a period of time in America and Canada.
When the royal couple arrived at 11 a.m., they were indeed greeted with “huge aloha.” Thousands of people had come to the pier to greet them on the land while planes welcomed them from the sky.
In its mid-day edition, the Honolulu Star Bulletin reported that “A host of more than 75 army and navy aircraft buzzed an aerial welcome this morning to King Prajadhipok and Queen Rambhai of Siam who arrived on the Empress of Canada homeward bound after a tour of the United States, shortly before 11 o’clock.
“At the pier the royal visitors were greeted by Governor Lawrence M. Judd, Rear Admiral Yates Stirling, Jr., commandant of the 14th naval district; Maj. Gen. Briant H. Wells, commanding the Hawaiian department of the army; Rear Admiral George T. Pettengill, commanding the mine craft, battle force, and Major Fred Wright.
“Immediately on arrival, their majesties were taken for a short motor ride, accompanied by the governor.”
Newspapers in those days published multiple editions each day. The mid-day edition recorded the above information and then it indicated what was planned for the rest of the day. They had a dinner scheduled for the evening, but “From 2:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. when they return to the Empress of Canada, the entertainment will depend on the wishes of the king and queen.”
In the newspaper the following day, readers learned what the royal couple decided to do – they went for a plane ride and then watched surfing at Waikiki.
“A bird’s eye view of the island was taken Thursday when the king and queen, members of their royal retinue and some of those in charge of their entertainment here flew around the island in two amphibian planes. . .
“The two big planes took off at 3:05 p.m. and headed for Diamond Head. They rounded that end of the island, flew north about to Kahuku, and then cut back to the John Rodgers airport across Schofield, landing at 4:15 p.m.
“Pleasure in their experience was written on the king’s and queen’s faces when they alighted after the ride. King Prajadhipok immediately produced his portable motion picture camera and took pictures of the planes and the pilots.”
The Honolulu Star Bulletin then reported that “Their airplane flight was taken after luncheon, but because of the time taken on this flight the royal party was unable to enjoy the delights of surfriding or swimming at Waikiki.
“They did, however, go to Waikiki following their airplane tour and were entertained there by Duke Kahanamoku and his beach boys, who performed innumerable surfing stunts and antics in the water near shore.”
Duke Kahanamoku was an Olympic swimmer and is credited with popularizing surfing. Today his statue stands on Waikiki beach.
After participating in these activities, the king and queen were then treated to a traditional luau. I will write about that next.