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ISLAND HISTORY: Hula Girl canned tuna and the Nawiliwili Canning Co.

From 1950 until 1955, when it ceased operations, the Nawiliwili Canning Co. packed its Hula Girl tuna at its cannery in Nawiliwili Harbor.

Supplying the cannery with fresh-caught tuna were the firm’s two sampans, the Tradewinds, skippered by Junichi Higashi, and Holokahana, with Ichiro Teramoto as its captain.

Solid-pack tuna in oil, flakes in oil and chunks in oil for the local and mainland markets were prepared in the cannery.

Typical local Hula Girl tuna prices for solid-pack cans were two for 69 cents, flakes at 25 cents a can, and chunks three for 83 cents.

Sam Wilcox was president of the firm, Charles Harker was its vice president, and Arthur Rice served as manager.

Wilcox was then an executive with Bishop National Bank (now First Hawaiian Bank), and in 1968 became the president and chief executive officer of his family’s Grove Farm Co.

In 1952, Wilcox appointed Kotake Company of Honolulu as distributor of Hula Girl tuna.

By that time, the company had been in the market since August 1951, and with Kotake it would achieve national distribution throughout the mainland.

During one week in July 1952, Nawiliwili Canning Co., which did most of its canning during the summer, canned 1,000 cases of tuna from 50,000 pounds of fish.

A year later, Henry Haserot of Haserot Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, became the Mainland sales representative for the company, and provided financial backing.

And, in the following year, 1954, the tuna-canning industry of Hawai‘i, represented by Hawaiian Tuna Packers, Ltd. and Nawiliwili Canning Co., had grown from a $25,000 business in 1922 to one worth more than $1,000,000.

Nawiliwili Canning Co.’s prospects for continued financial success seemed good in 1954.

It had a monthly payroll of $9,000 and employed 75 to 85 workers that year.

But, in December 1954, disaster struck unexpectedly when Haserot announced “that due to the disrupted condition of the domestic tuna industry, it would be unable to continue pack financing beyond the end of our current fiscal year, May 31, 1955.”

Alas, Kaua‘i’s short-lived venture into tuna canning came to a close.
Source: The Garden Island

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