King Kamehameha Day

On December 27, 1871, the Hawaiian Gazette published the following item:

BY AUTHORITY:  King Kamehameha V, on December 22, 1871, at Iolani Palace, Honolulu, proclaims Kamehameha Day, to be held in honor of his grandfather and predecessor, Kamehameha I, founder of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

The first observation of King Kamehameha Day was held on June 11, 1872. According to Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate’s recount of the history, “Early celebrations of Kamehameha Day featured carnivals, fairs, and lots of racing – foot races, horse races and even velocipede races.” Over the years, the events became more elaborate.

These days, those of us familiar with the tradition think of the lei draping of the King Kamehameha Statue and the parade with the pa’u riders. The King Kamehameha Hula Competition attracts hula halau (groups/schools) from all over the world.

The 2021 King Kamehameha Festival has been canceled, but we look forward to the event in 2021. To keep up with the news of the Festival and to read further about the history, visit the King Kamehameha Festival website by clicking HERE

Visit the King Kamehameha Hula Competition’s Facebook Page by clicking HERE.

King Kamehameha Statue, Hawaii State Archives. Year not speicifed.
King Kamehameha Day Celebration, year not specified.. Hawaii State Archives.
Joe Medeiros standing vigil at the King Kamahameha Statue, waiting for his King to come to life and step down from the pedestal. Hawaii State Archives. Year not specified.
King Kamehameha Day Parade on Bishop Street heading toward Honolulu Harbor.. The procession of what looks like a Hawaiian Civic Club is passing the Alexander Young Hotel. Hawaii State Archives. There was no information as to what year this photo was taken or who the people were in the procession.

The Last Royalist

Joes de Mederos, ca. 1914, Hawaii State Archives
A pupuli man posing in front of the Iolani palace

On January 17, 1893, Queen Liliuokalani was deposed and would be imprisoned on the second floor of the I’olani Place. The Hawaiian monarchy had been overthrown. Joseph Medeiros was 12 years old. His 13th birthday was on March 27 of that year.

It was at age 13 in this year of great change for Hawaii that he took up the solitary vigil that would become his life’s work. For more than 35 years, Jose de Medeiros, or Joseph Medeiros as he bacame known, stood near the Kauikeaouli Gate on Honolulu’s South King Street fronting I’olani Palace worshiping the gilded statue across the street, waiting for the return of Kamehameha. It was Kamehameha the Great, holder of much mana, who could restore the monarchy.

In the beginning, his parents tried to keep him home. “Momma, I have to go. Something in here,” he’d say, pointing to his heart, “makes me go. You can punish me, do anything to me, but I must go.”

Joe was never strong. He wanted to help his father, who was a stone mason, but the work was too difficult for him. And so this frail boy began to love the mighty Kamehameha and wish for his return so he could meet him.

King David Kalakaua was on the Hawaiian throne when Jose de Medeiros was born on March 27, 1880 on Sao Miguel Island in the Azores. Jose and his family arrived in Hawaii in March 27, 1882 on the bark Karl of Dalhousie; it was the same year that King Kalakaua completed the new ‘Iolani Palace. King Kamahemeha III first used the former site of an ancient temple as a palace beginning in 1845. Following the death of Kamehameha IV, the name was changed from Hale Ali’I which means Chief’s House to I’olani, Hawaiian for hawk. It was torn down in the 1870s due to extensive termite damage. The year Jose arrived in Honolulu, there would be a grand new palace.

In 1879, King Kalakaua commissioned Thomas Gould, a sculptor living in Italy, to cast a statue of King Kamehameha the Great. It was unveiled in front of Ali’iolani Hale in 1883. In 1883, no one could have foretold that Joe Madeiros would become a fixture in front of Kalakaua’s palace waiting for the gilded Kamehameha to come to life and step off the pedestal.

As Joe stood sentinel over the years, Hawaii moved further and further away from being the kingdom of his childhood. Upon Queen Lili’uokalani’s deposition, the Provisional Government of Hawaii, was proclaimed on January 17, 1892. The Provisional Government had taken control of Hawaii and took control of ‘Iolani Palace as well.

Both Queen Lili’uokalani and Princess Ka’iulani would lobby President Grover Cleveland to restore the monarchy, to no avail. The Republic of Hawaii began on July 4, 1894. ‘Iolani Palace was now in the hands of the Republic. With the adoption of the Newlands Resolution in the United States Congress, the Republic was annexed to the United States and became the Territory of Hawaii on July 7, 1898.

 Eighteen-year-old Joseph Medeiros still stood at the Kauikeaouli Gate waiting in attendance on Kamehameha. Behind the King, the American flag now fluttered above Ali’iolani Hale’s clock tower. ‘Iolani Palace now housed the Territorial Government.

The city bustled and swirled about Joseph. In 1908, William Matson’s ship Lurline brought visitors from the mainland and Joseph Medeiros still made his daily trek from his home on Sereno Lane off Kuakini Street to his post in front of ‘Iolani Palace.

Automobiles replaced horses and carriages and Joe, wearing tattered clothes and treading on bare feet still paced back and forth in front of the Kauikeaouli Gate. At other times, he stood motionlessly gazing at Kamehameha, a thin figure in faded denim overalls and faded jacket. A battered, old hat covered his thick, dark brown hair as it turned white over the years. He was burned by the sun and often drenched by the rain. And he was a tourist attraction, photographed many, many times.

In late 1930, the denizens of downtown Honolulu began to notice that the Statue Worshiper was not there. As people continued to wonder, it was remembered that Joe lived with this sister, Mary Caminos, and a reporter from the Honolulu Star Bulletin went to their home to inquire after him.

The thin, frail limbs that had once been clad in faded overalls as he stood vigil were now paralyzed by two strokes. After the first stroke, Joe continued to return to his post; after the second stroke, he could not. He lingered for two years.

On July 2, 1932, Joseph Medeiros passed away at the age of 52. A most unusual life had ended. A color from the fabric of the Hawaiian quilt of life in Honolulu had disappeared.

© 2021 Jeanne Alice Moore


“Hawaii’s Last ‘Royalist’ Nearing Trails End; Statue Worshipper ill,” Honolulu Star Bulletin, December 24, 1930, p 1

“Joe Medeiros, Worshiper of Statue, Is Dead at 52,” Honolulu Star Bulletin, July 4, 1932, p 9

“ ‘Statue Worshiper’ Goes to Join King He Venerated,” Honolulu Advertiser, July 4, 1932. p.1, c 6

Matson Company, History, Matson’s Contributions to Hawaii (website)

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Joseph Medeiros (Jose de Medeiros), 1899

Photo Credits::

The photo at the top of this blog is of Joseph Medeiros standing by the I’olani Palace gate. Title: King Kamehameha Statue; Description – “A pupuli man posing in front of the Iolani palace. Call Number is  PP-46-11-009 Date – ca 1914; Courtesy Hawaii State Archives. Link:

The photo at the bottom of the blog on the side of the statue is also Jose de Medeiros (Joseph Medeiros). Title – Kamehameha Statue; Description – Opera house is in the back; Call Number – PP-46-11-016; Date – ca 1899. Courtesy Hawaii State Arachives. Link:

Bygone Days: Charlie

Nu’uanu Valley was once the cornucopia that supplied the Honolulu area with most of its food. The taro lo’i (taro patches) were irrigated by auwai, a sluice-type irrigation system that carried water from the streams to flood the taro fields that terraced the mountains. In those olden days, passage from Honolulu into the lush valley in the Ko’olau Mountains was a trail. Hawaiians traveled it regularly by foot, but it was difficult for most others.

King Kamehameha III traveled over the Pali on horseback on June 27, 1845. The old footpath had been widened for travel by horseback. Accompanying Kamehameha III were Dr. Garrit P. Judd and the premier, John Young; their journey officially opened the Pali Road. Oahu residents could now travel between Honolulu and the Windward side without going around the island.

In the early 1900s, when Kauai-born Charles Kaulaloha began his maintenance career along the thoroughfare, the Pali Road was still traveled by horseback and horse-drawn carriages.

As a general laborer who maintained the road for the City and County of Honolulu, Charlie had plenty of work. Heavy rains caused minor landslides; stones disturbed by the high winds rolled down the hillsides onto the road. With his broom, pick and shovel, Charlie kept the road clear.

The city and county gave him the title “cantonnier,” which means “road mender” so that he would be paid a little higher than other general laborers. At the city offices, few people knew him by his real name, but knew him as “Charlie Cantonnier.”

Horseback riders and open carriage occupants had little protection against the wind. The wild and whistling gusts that ripped through Nu’uanu Valley knocking stones down the mountainsides into the road also carried off wayfarers’ hats.

Charlie retrieved the hats and collected them in his home at the bend where the road headed toward Kailua. People knew to come to see Charlie at what they called the Halfway House to retrieve their hats. To Charlie, the dwelling was Ku’u Home, Hawaiian for my home.

Visitors who came calling for their lost hats at Ku’u Home had time to stop and talk. Sometimes they’d bring gifts of food. Although Charlie lived alone, he had many friends in those days.

Times were slower then. Charlie patrolled the road on horseback; other riders had time to stop and visit. And while he was at work along the side the road with his boom, pick and shovel, he’d pause as each traveler passed and raise his hat with a courtly bow in greeting. Over the years, he became known as Hemo Papale, or Hemo ka Papale, the man who doffs his hat.

Closed-sedan cars changed the pace of life. It was faster. And there were no more stray hats, no more people coming to see Charlie to claim them and make friends. People were in a hurry; they no longer had time to notice Charlie.

But the lone figure by the side of the road still greeted each passing vehicle, raising his hat with a courtly bow.

On the morning of September 10, 1937, sometime between 5:30 and 6:00, Wong Pa, a friend and fellow workman, called for Charlie as he did every morning. On that morning Wong Pa found his friend hanging from a rafter in the tool shed behind his Pali home.  Charles Kaulaloha was 68 years old; he had been the Pali cantonnier for 28 years.

Charlie worked the day before as usual. He discarded his work clothes for his Sunday best. His bed had not been slept in and his home was spotless.

There was no suicide note, no explanation as to why he took his life. A widower, Charlie left behind six adult children, a nephew, nine grandchildren and three adopted children. He was buried at Kalaepohaku Cemetery in Honolulu.

Charlie’s Kuu Home was an isolated three-room shack beside a Nuuanu gorge near an auwai amid yellow ginger, kukui, banana other lush foliage. A family moved in briefly after Charlie’s death, then moved out. No one ever lived in Ku’u Home again. It became known as the Haunted House Along the Pali.

Lingering memories of suicide, the isolation, and the gusting, whistling winds sounding other-worldly in the dark could all have conspired the make the house seem haunted. It stood for 12 years after Charlie’s death and was torn down in September 1949.

These days, traffic speeds to and from Honolulu, Kailua Kaneohe over the Pali Highway through the Wilson Tunnel, bypassing the Old Pali Road. Pieces of the old road still exist although they are closed to vehicular traffic. The former road has reverted once again to a trail that is still used by hikers. The memory of Hemo Ka Papale is lost in times past, down that old road where the trees and lush foliage listen to the wind.

© 2020 Jeanne A. Moore


“Hemo Papale Is Cantonnier; Keeps the Pali Road Clear. ” By John Williams, Honolulu Star Bulletin, Saturday, March 16, 1935, page 1

“Death Takes Picturesque ‘Pali Hermit:’ Charlie Kaulaloha, Who Doffed His Hat to Everyone, Hangs Himself,” Honolulu Star Bulletin, September 10, 1937, Page 1

“Pali Highway, Once a Path, Was 104 Years Old Monday,” Honolulu Star Bulletin, June 28, 1949

“Haunted House Along Pali Will Soon Be Memory” by Mona F. Shephard, Honolulu Advertiser, September 12, 1949, page 1

“Nu’uanu, O’ahu,”

The Auwai of Nuuanu Valley,