Bonine brings movies to Kalawao and Kalaupapa, 1909.


On Thursday evening last a new miracle happened at Kalaupapa. On that evening R. K. Bonine, the moving-picture expert, threw his first picture on the screen before an audience of a thousand lepers, and there was a great gasp of awed astonishment and keen delight when the pictures really moved and did things. Cheers, tears, gasps and soul-satisfying laughter greeted the pictures in turn, and when the reels put aside for the first entertainment had been exhausted, the people of Kalaupapa and Kalawao, in a body, cheered their thanks to the man who had brought these wonders to them and to those in Honolulu who had through their contributions made these miracles possible.

It was a great day for the people of the Molokai Settlement, and it was a great day for Bonine. To the lepers had come a new marvel, greater far than the sight of the mighty White Fleet, which maneuvered past their shores last summer, greater than anything that had come to them. No place the world over have motion pictures made such a hit.

For the first time came to these people some tangible evidence of the fact that the great outside world was such as others had tried to tell them it was; for the first time some of them saw the streets of a city; saw places where the ground was white with snow, saw strange beasts and men and women doing deeds of wonder, and again and again rose the cheers of those who witnessed these marvels, cheers that were the surcharged feeling of appreciation.

Bonine will remain in the Settlement another week, on the urgent invitation of all the residents there. Now, the place belongs to him. “All the good will and everything else their souls and bodies can do for me are mine,” writes Mr. Bonine, “and it touches to the quick to see these people try in every way they can to show their feelings of thankfulness and appreciation.”

[Could this be what inspired that song in the previous post, “Ke Kii-Onioni o Kalawao”? It seems very likely.]

(Hawaiian Gazette, 3/23/1909, p. 3)


Hawaiian Gazette, Volume LII, Number 25, Page 3. March 23, 1909.

1 thought on “Bonine brings movies to Kalawao and Kalaupapa, 1909.

  1. In 1932, after Elk Guy Rothwell reported at a Lodge meeting that he’d been present for a recent Kalaupapa showing of an “all talkie photoplay program” (movie), Lodge 616 raised funds to have a similar showing at Kalihi Receiving Hospital on O’ahu. [Bonine’s films were of course silent] The Lodge was sponsoring a Boy Scout troop at KRH and later at Kalaupapa. Get the whole story at
    I am ever awed and humbled by the courage of these boys – nothing would stop them from being a scout

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