Section 11343, Revised Laws of Hawaii 1945, refers to the playing of prohibited games. This statute provides that every person who participates in or who conducts, either as an owner or employee, any specific type of game or any game in which money or anything of value is won or lost is guilty of a misdemeanor.
So read the February 7, 1957 letter from Dan Liu, Chief of Police (signed by Arthur M. Tarbell, Deputy Chief of Police), to Dr. John Fox, President of Punahou School. Walter F. Dillingham, President of the Board of Trustees, and Mrs. Robert S. Lowery, Carnival Chairwoman, were copied on the communication.
At issue was a January 1957 court ruling, made by Judge Harry R. Hewitt, that gambling is involved in “any game in which money or something of value is won or lost.” Because Carnival games offered prizes to its winners, game players were gambling and would, as stated in Chief Liu’s letter, be subject to the possibility “of embarrassment attendant to arrest and prosecution of any individual concerned either as operators or as participants.”
With this news being delivered on the eve of the start of the February 8-9 event fifty years ago this year, it seemed that the Carnival much attended midway was doomed.
What to do? Actually the answer was quite simple. According to Carnival Chairwoman Lowrey, “We just took the gambling out of the games.”
Signs were posted at each booth to explain the change: in exchange for the payment of a dime, 15 cents or a quarter, a “favor” was exchanged and a chance to test your skill at the game was offered. Said Mrs. Lowrey, “There’s no gambling at all. Everybody gets something every time, and everybody seems to be happy. We have our games. The police are satisfied. And the people are having fun.”
News reports agreed with Mrs. Lowrey. The Honolulu Advertiser wrote that “Police vice squadsmen skulked the great white way of the Punahou school carnival … but didn’t bag a single undergraduate criminal.”
As for enthusiasm, the change “didn’t seem to take the starch out of playing interest” as record crowds were reported. The game midway was one of the busiest Carnival spots as players converged to play “Heart Attack,” where bean bags were thrown through a heart cutout, to shoot a candle flame with a water pistol, and to smash phonograph records (notably none of them by Elvis) with golf balls.
By the time the receipts were totaled, the event was deemed a “smashing success” with a record gross intake topping $31,000.
The following year “Prizes” would receive its first designation as an assigned home room booth. Mr. Bowers’ sophomores would be the first of generations of Punahou students to receive the assignment.
Letter from Dan Liu, Chief of Police to Dr. John Fox, President of Punahou School. 7 February 1957. Punahou Archives.
“Punahou Carnival Finds Answer: ‘No Gambling’ as Everyone Wins.” The Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 9 Feb. 1957.
“Law Keeps Eye on Games At Punahou’s Carnival.” The Honolulu Advertiser. 9 February 1957.
“Everyone helps, Carnival over the top.” Oahuan. Honolulu: Punahou School, 1957.