By Dr. Ken


In April, HELMET HUT unveiled the authentic reproductions of the University of Hawaii football helmets from the suspension era [ see http://helmethut.com/College/Hawaii/HawaiiINDEX.html ] and on the home page asked the provocative question, “Anyone Dreaming Of Hawaii?” Living in a neighborhood where most adults might have thought that Kansas was just west of New Jersey, I can honestly answer that if anyone was dreaming of Hawaii, we didn’t know about it, at least not during my high school years.


The very beautiful collection with what can only be described as singularly unique decals reflects what had been an under appreciated football history and perhaps, an unappreciated venue for higher education. As a high school player, I cannot recall ever hearing the words “University of Hawaii” nor was any reference made to it relative to athletics or academics. Not a single high school nor college coach, not a teacher, guidance counselor, nor school administrator ever uttered the school’s name in my presence. This could probably be justified and explained by the fact that Hawaii was still considered an exotic, isolated locale on the other side of the world in the early to mid-1960’s. It achieved statehood in 1959 but to working class individuals in the New York City area, it wasn’t an event that actually touched their lives. Certainly the fellows I hung out with were far from a sophisticated or worldly group but over the course of a number of years, one might have believed that other than our geography lesson on the newest state in the Union, we would have had a minimal awareness that Hawaii actually existed. Even in 1959 World War II was still a fresh and talked about experience among many of the adults but with R & R taken primarily in the Philippines by the group of men that had service experience, Hawaii was very much of an unknown.


 My first exposures came from two young women in our area who made the decision to attend the University of Hawaii. I thought this was the most bizarre thing to do in part because it seemed as if it was literally a world away. One of the woman never returned to the mainland, having enjoyed her college experience on the Islands so much, and the other remained there for years while her boyfriend competed as a professional surfer. It was only when Bill Starr, a friend who was also a former national team coach of the U.S. Weightlifting Team moved to Hawaii and became their first strength coach, that I learned anything about Hawaii and the incredible number of great football players they had. Bill often talked about the potential for developing top rated lifting prospects due to the physical qualities that so many of the Islanders possessed. His 1978 book The Strongest Shall Survive was one of the earliest volumes dedicated specifically to strength training for football and featured many of the UH players he had supervised. Seeing the HELMET HUT 1974, 1975, and 1976 Hawaii helmets with their tradition-themed logos brought back memories of the work he did there, the many players he developed into NFL prospects, and the lifting tradition of the Hawaiian Islands, one that began long before Bill arrived there.



Bill’s education and athletic experience included academics and football at Southern Methodist University where he was exposed to the venerated Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine [ http://www.texasfootball.com/highschool/ ] the first magazine of its type to provide in-depth reporting on all aspects of high school football within the state of Texas. Dave Campbell’s “bible” became a national phenomenon and the magazine developed a widespread following in and out of the state of Texas. Bill followed a circuitous route after SMU through Indiana and Pennsylvania working as a youth counselor, magazine editor, and a number of other things while also becoming one of the nation’s best lifters before landing in Hawaii. Bill took the Texas Football Magazine format as a template and pushed one of his associates to develop a similar magazine for Hawaii Football. Once again, I was reminded of this bold adventure only after looking at the Hawaii helmets.



Of course, for the many fans of HELMET HUT, spending time looking at the various collegiate helmets, reading the seasonal summaries, and allowing one’s mind to wander through their own data bank of memories stimulated by the helmets, players, and events of the years represented is one of the wonderful properties of the HELMET HUT displays. The Hawaii collection and the wonderful story of overcoming so many limitations and obstacles to grow into a highly respected program makes this one more enjoyable by most.