Shirley Temple in Hawaii

Star Shirley Temple had a special relationship with the Hawaiian Islands. In the prewar years, she made several tours of Hawaii, delighting local and military audiences.

Top Image: Shirley Temple at the Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, August 1937. The National WWII Museum, Gift of Jane Schlaht, 2011.124.049.

Shirley Temple was one of the most popular movie stars of the prewar period. The child actress was a top earner for 20th Century Fox with 10 number one box office hits and 33 top 10 box office hits between 1933-1949. She was the original child star with a merchandise empire focused on girls’ clothing and dolls, but extending far beyond. Many stores featured entire departments called Shirley Temple Shops, which would hold contests and parties celebrating Temple’s birthday. For the 1935 Christmas season stores advertised “Every little girl loves to be dressed in Shirley Temple frocks!…because of their charming styles, their dainty touches, and the perfect way they have of making youngsters look adorable.”

Temple’s appeal was recognized by President Roosevelt, who lauded her ability to lift American spirits during the Great Depression. He remarked, 

”as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.” 

Temple visited with and entertained the Roosevelts several times at the White House, in Hyde Park, and in Los Angeles. She even sang “Happy Birthday” and cut FDR’s birthday cake at his birthday party.

In July 1935, the busy six-year-old Temple and her parents took a working vacation, sailing from Hollywood to Hawaii. They were greeted at Honolulu’s Pier 13 by an estimated 10,000 Hawaiians, including a great number of children who “stormed the dock” as Temple stood by the rail of the liner SS Mariposa (which served with the War Shipping Administration in World War II) and sang her signature tune “On the Good Ship Lollipop” accompanied by the Royal Hawaiian Band. 

She repeated this song numerous times throughout her visit, including a performance from the Makia Balcony of the Iolani Palace for as many as 30,000 fans. She was declared a Colonel of the Hawaiian National Guard and was inducted as a Waikiki Beach lifeguard, where she was presented with a custom surfboard. Her friend, Hawaiian star, champion surfer, and Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku (who served as Sheriff of Honolulu from 1932-1961) accompanied Temple for much of her visit. This 1935 trip resulted in another sales offering, the publication of Shirley Temple: The Real Little Girl and Her Own Honolulu Diary.

Temple returned to Hawaii twice in the prewar years. In August 1937, she toured Schofield Barracks and visited the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor where she had an informal inspection of the crew of the USS Argonaut. Everywhere the star went in Hawaii, she was mobbed. Her love for the islands and the Hawaiian people continued throughout her life. In 1950, at a party in Honolulu, she met her future husband Charles Alden Black, a former Naval intelligence officer and executive for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. Another one of Temple’s ties to Hawaii is the claim by the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (disputed by The Brown Derby of Los Angeles) to have created the overly sweet mocktail named for the child star, The Shirley Temple, during one of her early visits.


Kim Guise

Kimberly Guise holds a BA in German and Judaic Studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She also studied at the Universität Freiburg in Germany and holds a masters in Library and Information Science (MLIS) from Louisiana State University. Kim is fluent in German, reads Yiddish, and specializes in the American prisoner-of-war experience in World War II.

Learn More