This is a short series of articles about Aloha Park, which was in the Waikiki section of Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. This first article is about the history of Aloha Park.
From September 14, 1922, until October 1925, there was an amusement park in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, initially called Aloha Park. The park featured a carousel, a Dodg’em, an airplane swing called Seaplanes, a Noah’s Arc, and a roller coaster called Big Dipper.
The park was a financial failure, with the original ownership group turning the park over to a new company called Waikiki Park, Ltd., who renamed the park Waikiki Park on February 1, 1924.
Waikiki Park went into bankruptcy in April 1925, but the park continued to operate as normal. On October 10, 1925, the park was placed for sale at a foreclosure auction; the park was purchased by the Bank of Hawaii for $18,000. The original investment on the park was $170,000.
Aloha Amusement Company
The Aloha Amusement Company was established on April 5, 1922, with the intention to build an amusement park called Aloha Park at the intersection of John Ena Road and Kalakaua Avenue. The general manager of the amusement company was W.A. Cory, who was formerly a secretary for the Motion Picture Exhibitors Association of California. The directors of the company were Alfred Castle, George P. Cooke, W.A. Cory, F.D. Lowrey, Stewart Johnson, W. H. McInerny, and Howard Worrall.
They wanted to build an amusement park because there wasn’t a permanent location where attractions and amusements could be held at. Their plan was to acquire a number of rides including an airplane swing, roller coaster, carousel, a steam miniature railroad, as well a dance hall for a respectable house jazz band and a Japanese garden. The intention was to open the park on July 4.
However, there was some local opposition to Aloha Park. A local organization called The Outdoor Circle was in favor of having an amusement park, but not the particular location chosen in Waikiki. Further opposition came from the misconception of what the park was going to be. Many thought the park was going to be a nature park, not an amusement park. When people learned it was going to be an amusement park, some were concerned the park would ruin the scenery of the area.
These challenges, which included requesting the local government withdraw permits for the park, occurred in late April into May of 1922. They were ultimately unsuccessful in forcing the park to relocate. W.A. Cory remained in Hawaii to defend the Aloha Amusement Company throughout this process – this likely prevented him from traveling to US mainland to acquire amusement rides.
Getting Aloha Park open
W.A. Cory hired Ralph E. Woolley to build most of the park; then he eventually made his way to the mainland to acquire rides for the park. He acquired a handful of rides, which are listed below. Cory acquired:
- Church & Prior roller coaster for $43,000 ($639,000 in 2017 US Dollars) which was named Big Dipper
- Cory hired Mark Hanna to supervise construction of Big Dipper
- 58 animal carousel with chariots for $18,000 ($267,000 in 2017 US Dollars)
- airplane swing ride for $7,700 ($114,400 in 2017 US Dollars) which was named Seaplanes
- 10-car Dodg’em (bumper car ride) for $13,900 ($206,500 in 2017 US Dollars)
- Noah’s Ark for $12,000 ($178,000 in 2017 US Dollars)
In order to drum up interest in the new park, Cory booked the American Legion Carnival to be on Aloha Park grounds July 1, 2, and 4 (July 3 was a Sunday). The carnival provided rides for the site, and by all accounts, the event went well. However, the park was supposed to open on July 4, which ultimately never happened, since most of the rides for Aloha Park hadn’t even been delivered.
For example, construction on Noah’s Ark didn’t begin until the end of July. The Seaplanes weren’t delivered to the park until early August. The trains for Big Dipper weren’t delivered to the park until late August.
Aloha Park formally opened on September 14, 1922. The Big Dipper was very well received, being considered “breath-taking.” Mark Hanna, construction supervisor, described the ride:
This Big Dipper is my special pet. It is an improvement over anything that has yet been built and there are only three as large on the mainland, at Venice, Idora Park, Oakland, and on the beach at San Francisco.
This one is better than any others The first drop is 10 percent steeper, the cars run faster and the safety devices are more carefully worked out. There are no straight-aways, thus making the ride faster, and more of a thriller. We have put the dipper through every conceivable test and when doing so placed for men in each car, or 36 to a train, when a train is supposed to carry but 18.
— Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 14, 1922, p3, 6
There was also high praise for The Dodg’em bumper car ride, which was a relatively new ride at the time.
The cars go forward, backward, sideways, spin in circles and collide with one another. You do not know at what angle your car is going until you have mastered the steering wheel. There is something different going on all the time, the actions of the riders in their frantic endeavors to control the cars result in a turmoil of driving, each one trying to “dodge” the others, find themselves bumping into their neighbor’s car instead. “The Dodg’em” is one of the latests amusement devices and has been christened “the every-which-way” ride.
— The Honolulu Advertiser, September 12, 1922, p3
Noah’s Ark didn’t open until November 5.
On February 20, 1923, The Bank of Hawaii filed a debt claim of $1875 against Aloha Amusement Company in court. This was the first sign of trouble for the company. This was followed by the sudden retirement of W.A. Cory on March 5, 1923. Cory was forced out in “a sort of mutual parting of the ways,” according to company president Cooke.
Cory was replaced by the assistant cashier of the Bank of Hawaii, Edward W. Carden. The only comment made by company president George P. Cooke was that it was, “a sort of mutual parting of the ways.” Carden’s appointment as general manager was only on a temporary basis. On March 16, Carden was replaced by D. Orville as general manager.
Cory was forced out due to financial mismanagement. It was shown in court that Aloha Park made a profit each month it operated. The sudden debt claim by the Bank of Hawaii was not easily accounted for. When Aloha Amusement learned Cory was going to be moving from Hawaii back to the US mainland, they sued him so they could get any accounting information.
Specifically, Aloha accused Cory of pocketing profits off games he acquired without authorization from the company.