During the era of the China Clipper and later the Boeing StratoCruiser in the years before and during World War II, Pan American World Airways was the only carrier between the Orient and the Mainland, with Honolulu a favorite stop for R&R. Pan Am made one flight a week through Honolulu, landing at Pearl Harbor.
The crews had a week layover in Honolulu at the Royal Hawaiian and Moana Hotels that provided periods for the pilots, engineers and flight attendants to eat, drink, relax and play volleyball at the hotel’s next door neighbor, the Outrigger Canoe Club. The OCC Board of Directors established a special membership arrangement to accommodate them. They were at the Club from five to 10 days a month. When the Club moved to its Diamond Head location in 1964, the Pam Am’s had the option to transfer to Nonresident status and many of them did.
Dubbed the Bourbon League by the local members, the Pam Am group reciprocated for the Club’s hospitality by bringing unavailable items at the time such as volleyballs and volleyball nets, and “other necessities” such as their name implies in their planes. Their numbers and support of the Club facilities during the lean World War II years was invaluable. As the years flew by, the layovers became shorter and shorter. New domiciles such as Berlin, Hong Kong, New York, and Miami came and went with seniority. Fewer Pan Am pilots and their crews were seen on the courts and retirement set in for many crew members.
The idea of a reunion of all the Pan Am crew members from the “old days” at the Club was conceived by past President and Winged “O” Thad Ekstrand. The first reunion was held in May 1978. Leaguers would get together for a week to play volleyball, reminisce and toast the sunset. The reunions are still held during the first week of May every two years. Even though most of the original Bourbon Leaguers have passed away, their families continue to meet in Hawaii to share their Aloha and memories.
OCC Oldtimers still remember the Bourbon Leaguers with fondness and are grateful for all they contributed to the Club.