Long before Extreme Makeover: Home got the idea to bring in hundreds of people to build a house in seven days, a Geodesic Dome which would be home to the Don Ho show for several decades was built in 24 hours in Hawai`i.
Having purchased the majority of what was to become Hawai`i’s largest hotel complex in 1961, Henry Kaiser made the decision to build a geodesic dome — one of the earliest in the United States — as conceived by the genius Buckminster Fuller.(Bucky). Geodesic domes were controversial because they were cheap and fast to build, and as solid as any building on the market. It drove the architects crazy. No one likes it when they see the possibility of the sun setting on their profession. BTW, Bucky said one of the biggest disservices we do to ourselves is to say that the sun “rises” and “sets” — a convenient untruth that shapes our perspectives in ways that don’t help us one bit.
As the story goes, Henry Kaiser was prepared to fly to Hawai`i to see the dome built when word came down that the building permit for the Dome was going to be pulled. Since the materials to build it had arrived in Hawai`i builders set to work and erected it in one 24 hour day — before the permit was pulled and before Henry Kaiser had made it to Hawai`i.
The Dome stood for many, many years ~ until it was razed for a new tower — a tower that turned out to have mold in its walls which had to be remedied at an astronomical cost. The Dome hosted the Don Ho show (“Tiny bubbles…”), delighting tens of thousands (probably a million) visitors to Hawai`i.
In its dottage the Dome was the setting for an enactment of Bucky’s World Game — an interactive game that offered clarity about the distribution and consumption of the world’s resources. A giant map of the world was spread across the Dome’s floor, surrounded by 900 people, including Hawai`i`s then-Lt. Governor Ben Cayetano. The game culminated in a demonstration of the nuclear weaponry that already existed on our beautiful planet. At the time there were seven members of the nuclear-club, each represented by a citizen holding a cartoon-like bomb. The bombs marched in to their respective country’s national anthem.
Once all seven were in place, their national athems were played at once — an unbearable auditory cacophony. Chips representing nuclear tonnage were spread across the map while an ear-splitting quiet prevailed. Eventually, once witness jumped out from the balcony and started to pick up the chips. It wasn’t long before he was joined by several hundred people.
The World Game at the Dome had a profound effect on everyone who attended — even The Star Bulletin’s noted editor Bud Smyser ~ who wrote the next day that he wished that Reagan and Gorbachev had been there. Not long after, the Berlin Wall came down.
The legendary Hilton Dome was an important part of the Waikiki landscape. It was demolished to make way for the Kalia Tower and the beginning of the “revitalization of Waikiki.”
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Gloria. Circa 1955.
Gloria. Circa 2012.
Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.