Remembering Charles K.L. Davis and the Wilson Tunnels

Remembering Hawaii

On Halloween 1991, opera singer and musician Charles Keonaonalaulani Llewellyn Davis died. He was 66 years-old.

Born in Honolulu in 1925 and raised in Waialua, Davis was a musical prodigy who learned to play the piano by age two. After serving in the Air Force during World War II he attended the University of Hawaii, where he was a member of the Honolulu Gleemen singing group and was chosen as one of the two outstanding students of music. He was awarded a voice scholarship to the Music Academy of the West at Santa Barbara, and then attended the famed Julliard School in New York where he studied voice and piano.

He toured nightclubs around the country with James Shigeta until Shigeta enlisted in the Marine Corps. He then took to the opera stage, impressing the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City who offered him a European tour. Davis declined due to a prior commitment to perform in Waikiki, which led to his first album Charles K.L. Davis at The Royal Hawaiian. He would later get a chance to perform in Moscow as part of TV host Ed Sullivan’s ensemble. Perhaps the feather in his career was his 1968 performance at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York to honor Kamehameha Day.

After months in and out of the hospital, he died of diabetes related complications. He was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

Also on this day in 1958, the Kaneohe to Honolulu side of Wilson Tunnel opened for the first time. It is 2775 feet long.

Named after John Henry Wilson, co-founder of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and three time mayor of Honolulu who oversaw construction of the Old Pali carriage road, construction on the tunnel and Likelike Highway began in January 1954 and cost $12 million to complete — over $114 million in today’s currency. Five people died during its construction. By November of 1960, both directions of the Wilson Tunnels were complete.

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