The Black Cat Café & Bar, Honolulu 1930s
During the 1930s, thousands of American servicemen were posted to Hawaii as part of the defense of the Pearl Harbor naval base against attacks by ‘enemy sympathizers.’
A favorite hangout for off-duty soldiers and sailors was the Black Cat Café in Honolulu.
This place, directly opposite the Armed Forces YMCA gym, was a taste of home for homesick military men. It served local Ka Moi coffee, but the food was decidedly American.
Hamburgers costs $30c and liverwurst sandwiches were a bargain 15c. There was an all-you-can-eat lunch for 35c and the most expensive item on the menu was a Porterhouse steak for 90 cents. Cheap beer and whisky were also on sale.
The café had a concession stall where military men could have their pictures taken with ‘hula girls’ to send home to their families as souvenirs, as well as slot machines and live music for entertainment.
The vintage menu cover illustration was probably modelled after Felix the cat, the cartoon character created in 1919 by Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer during the silent film era. Felix’s nephews were called Inky and Winky.
If you look online, you’ll find old black and white photographs of the Black Cat Café which shows different painted illustrations of the black cat with its eyes opened and also glancing sideways.
The surprise military strike on Pearl Harbor by 183 aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service took place on December 1, 1941.
The intention was to destroy as much of the Pacific Fleet as possible before it could respond to Japanese ops taking place on the same day against British, Dutch and US territories. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack. Some 20 American naval vessels were destroyed or damaged, including eight battleships, and over 300 airplanes.
The day after the assault, President Franklin D Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.
We know the Black Cat continued serving customers until at least the 1950s.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each print is accompanied by a copy of the interior menu or cover.