This oral history interview is a project of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The legal rights of this material remain with the Outrigger Canoe Club. Anyone wishing to reproduce it or quote at length from it should contact the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions that are not factual.
July 26, 2001
Note: The interviewer edited the transcript shown below to add information that was not included in the original interview.
PAD: I am Paul Dolan (PAD), a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club’s Historical Committee. For sometime the Committee has been conducting oral interviews of prominent members of our Club. Today, it is my pleasure to interview Barbara Del Piano (BDP), long time active member of the Outrigger Canoe Club and writer of many articles for the Outrigger Magazine. We are in the Boardroom of the Club on this beautiful Hawaiian day. Good afternoon, Barbara.
BDP: Hi, Paul.
PAD: We have finally met for an interview this afternoon after a miss on a previous schedule. Let’s start by asking. “How did you get here in Hawaii?”
BDP: I was born here.
PAD: That’s good. How about your parents?
BDP: My mother came as a tourist before World War I. She went back to the mainland and decided she liked it here in Hawaii. She had to wait until after World War I until she could return. She was a secretary to Mr. Balsh, president of Mutual Telephone Co.
PAD: Your Dad?
BDP: He was on his way to South America and for some reason detoured to Hawaii, decided he liked it better and stayed. He was in the piano business
PAD: So they married?
BDP: Eventually. They met when they were both boarding at the Donna Hotel, which was a popular place for singles in those days.
PAD: How many children?
BDP: They had two. Me and my sister Betty Dorsam Beggs, who was married to Webb Beggs. They moved to Maui in 1957 and he has since passed away. She still lives on Maui.
PAD: OK. Your education?
BDP: I went to Sacred Hearts Academy, kindergarten through grade four, then to Maryknoll for the 5th through 8th grade. I was ahead of all my public school friends so when the war started, I skipped the 9th grade and entered Roosevelt High. I graduated in 1945. After that, I went to Michigan State for two years, at that time it was a college, not a university. Then a year at Mills College in Oakland and then I came back and did my senior year at the University of Hawaii and graduated in 1949. I was the youngest graduate in both my high school and college classes.
PAD: Gee! After graduation what did you dive into?
BDP: I graduated in the middle of the shipping strike, which lasted for six months, and there were absolutely no jobs to be had. I ended up going to graduate school for a while and had two part-time jobs at the University of Hawaii. One job was at the library and the other as a proofreader for the Office of Information and Publications. When the strike was over I went to work for N. W. Ayer Advertising.
PAD: How did you meet whom you married?
BDP: Well, I went to New York and worked there for a while for Seventeen Magazine and then went to Europe for a summer in the early 50’s, the same year as Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Came back too broke to come home, and didn’t want to start another job in New York. I met some people who wintered in Florida that were working in hotels. I went to Boca Raton and got a job and that’s where I met Tony.
PAD: He was doing what?
BDP: At the time he was the bell captain.
PAD: Then what?
BDP: I came home to Hawaii after the season. He was going to come over here, but he chickened out. I ended up going back to Florida and we were married there on January 26, 1953. We bought a house so he could no longer go to New Hampshire in the summer as he had previously. After my parents came on a visit, he kind of got up the courage to come to Hawaii so we packed up and moved with two kids and a cocker spaniel.
PAD: How about the children?
BDP: Mark and Monica were born in Florida and Maile was born here in Hawaii.
PAD: They are all married now?
BDP: Monica is divorced. Mark and Maile are married.
BDP: Three boys, all belonging to Maile. The girls live in California and Mark is in Alexandria, Virginia.
PAD: OK, how did you get introduced to the Outrigger Canoe Club?
BDP: Sometime in the 1930’s. I was quite young. The father of my neighborhood friend, Martha Stenberg, was very active in the Club and nearly every weekend they would take me with them to the Outrigger. Actually, the Outrigger was not the family club that it is today. Martha and I would go with Mrs. Stenberg to the Uluniu Club next door. That’s where we would change.
The Uluniu had a nice kitchen and dining lanai and Mrs. Stenberg always brought a picnic basket full of goodies. She would cook some wonderful dishes and Warren and Mr. Stenberg would come over and we’d eat together.
PAD: I remember sukiyaki and chicken hekka. What would you do?
Sneak over to the Club?
BDP: I guess so. We spent most of our time on the beach or in the ocean. There was a wonderful raft floating out in front of the Club and we spent a lot of time out there but of course we did go into the Outrigger. I remember the old building very well. It was very dark green, two stories, with canoe storage underneath and a great lanai upstairs. Mr. Stenberg was the Entertainment Chairman and there were frequent dances up there on the lanai. Of course we were too young to go.
PAD: You have a photo here of you and a horse at the Town and Country Stables at Kapiolani Park. Were you into horses?
BDP: Yes, for a number of years I was very much into horseback riding and took lessons at the stables.
PAD: Any competition or ribbons?
BDP: A few horse shows. The horse got the ribbon not me. I remember a service man who owned a horse and boarded it at the stables. Eventually, he was shipped out, and killed in combat. Sometime later I found out that he had willed me his horse, which was quite a gift. I was leaving for college and there was no way to afford the expense of boarding it so Mrs. Rich, of Town and Country Stables, took over the obligation. But I got to ride him whenever I was home on vacation.
PAD: How about water sports?
BDP: Not really. The only real team I was on was when I played volleyball for the Club on hard court. We practiced and played at the courts at the Waikiki Fire Station. Eva Hunter, May Borthwick, the Monahan girls and some others were on the team. Small Jack Ackerman was our coach.
I didn’t paddle very much but I remember being in a tandem surfboard race once. Eva Hunter and Jack Cross had been practicing for months. I wasn’t even thinking about it and on the day of the race, a guy from the beach named “Blackout” (Ed Whaley) (laughter) said: “You like go in this race?” “Sure!” So I jumped on the board and off we went. We didn’t win but we beat Jack and Eva. (laughter)
PAD: Where did they hold that event?
BDP: In the ocean in front of the Club. I used to surf a little bit too. One day I was out surfing at “canoes” and suddenly everybody started yelling and paddling in to shore. I couldn’t understand why until I happened to glance down in the water and there was an enormous stingray right next to me. Needless to say, I got in to shore as fast as I could.
PAD: Where’d you learn to surf?
BDP: At “baby” surf in front of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
PAD: That’s where I learned too. It’s also called “cornucopia” surf because of the way the waves formed an image by peaking due to two waves converging.
So you finally joined OCC?
BDP: Yes, but not until after the war. I was there an awful lot, avoiding Henry De Gorog (General Manager) but actually joined in 1947.
PAD: It was through the Stenbergs that you were introduced to the Club. Of course, when you went to the mainland all you had were great memories.
BDP: Right. Coming back for summer vacation, the first place to visit was the Outrigger. It was the gathering place for so many of us . . . a home away from home. One of the most wonderful things that I remember about the Outrigger was Friday night on the Hau Terrace.
PAD: Were you old enough?
BDP: No, but Andy Cummings and his group performed. And we just loved his music. There were other groups also. The place was packed and there was dancing and it was such a big event each Friday night during the summers.
PAD: That was the 1950’s?
BDP: No, before the ‘50s. We were home during the summer vacations. That’s when Andy was playing and I had never heard of him before.
PAD: Remember “Waikiki?”
BDP: Ooooh yes, and “Kaimana Hila.”
PAD: Do you remember who your sponsors were when you joined the Outrigger?
BDP: Oh no, I don’t, but I’m probably one of the few people left that actually remembers Alexander Hume Ford. (laughter) I don’t think there are many people around who do.
PAD: I always loved the condition of his lovely coat that he continually wore. It was in dire need of cleaning. He lived on the second floor of the Club. I think one of the most important achievements that the membership has enjoyed is your writing the many articles about the history of Club. How did you fall into writing?
BDP: Oh, I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a child. I wanted to make a career of it. In fact, when I was at UH I wrote a column for the Advertiser on things happening on the campus. When I graduated, the first place I went looking for a job was at the Advertiser. They laughed in my face, because the shipping strike was in progress and the newspapers were down to just a few sheets and very reduced in size because of the shortage of newsprint.
PAD: You have had some exposure to the Historical and the Public Relations Committees of the Club as a chairperson, in addition to being a member of the Entertainment Committee. So, before you became chairperson, you had to serve time as a member of those committees. You’ve seen quite a bit of activity within those committees. Have you counted to date the number of historical articles you’ve completed or published?
BDP: No, I haven’t, but I think it must be close to 50.
PAD: You know with Edwin North McClellan (a retired Marine colonel & journalist, now deceased) we have 101 articles that he wrote about the history of the Club and Waikiki in the old OCC Forecasts.
BDP: I have a long way to go to catch up with him. I loved his articles. He was a real historian.
PAD: What were your experiences as chairperson on the Historical Committee?
BDP: Prior to my tenure as chairperson there were many of us who had nothing to do. We just attended meetings. Anita Brightman had already started “This and That” (a collection of current news clippings). Marjorie Moore was transcribing oral histories. Ken Pratt and Ward Russell were doing oral history interviews. Kehau Kea was the Chair and had started the “Stew & Rice” presentations. The rest of us really didn’t do much.
At my first meeting as chairperson, I introduced a lot of changes. George Cook was the coordinating director and I think he was a bit apprehensive, but went along with me anyway. (Laughter) I established a lot of new subcommittees, which I felt were needed and which also made it possible for every member of the committee to have a specific job. Genie McMahon took charge of the photo committee. We had boxes of photographs but they were in need of sorting and labeling etc.
Mazeppa Costa volunteered to do the “Stew & Rice” nights. and she is still doing them. We created a library committee, a hospitality committee and also a trophy committee. The trophies had never been catalogued or cleaned so we had a party and everyone came and we made those trophies shine. We also revived a column in the Outrigger Magazine called Backward Glances and Cobey Black volunteered to do it. Most of the changes we made are still in existence as far as I know.
PAD: Yes, after the trophy-cleaning task each year we have a free lunch for all the participants.
BDP: Oh, really. We didn’t have it so good. Anyway, at that first meeting when I got through presenting all that, and people agreed to chair the various subcommittees, I was winding down the meeting and I started to feel strange, my heart was beating fast, and I was shaking and felt dizzy. I honestly thought I was having a heart attack. It turned out to be a panic attack. I didn’t realize how stressed out I was. (laughter) I’ve never had one since.
PAD: Actually, it was a successful two years.
BDP: Yes, I think so, very productive. We got a lot of things done and also established a feeling of camaraderie which I think is important. One year, as I remember, I was not chairperson. It was the year before and Bruce Ames was the coordinating director of the Historical Committee. We were the ones who recommended the first woman member to the Winged “O”, which was quite revolutionary. (laughter) It was a very close all-male group.
PAD: Who was it?
BDP: Diane Stowell, a very deserving individual. Another exciting thing happened in 1993. Atlanta, Georgia, Supreme Court Judge E. P. Tuttle, one of those “small boys” that Alexander Hume Ford approached one day in 1908 on the beach at Waikiki, and whose father, Guy H. Tuttle, was OCC president (1913-16), was coming to town and Cobey was trying to interview him. It so happened that he was going on an interisland cruise and she just happened to be booked for the same cruise and completed the interview at sea.
When they returned to Honolulu there was a dinner for Judge Tuttle and his wife at OCC, which included the president of the Club, Cobey, Tony and myself. Judge Tuttle was 96 years old at the time and sharp as a tack. Judge Tuttle had gone to school at Yale or Harvard. A classmate took him to his home in Atlanta for a vacation and that’s where he met his wife and eventually settled there. He was one of the proponents of the civil rights movement.
PAD: How about your years on the Entertainment Committee?
BDP: Gloria Keller was the chairperson when I first joined and she did a fabulous job. I worked on various projects and wrote articles about the activities such as the Keiki Carnival, the Halloween Haunted House, Cinco De Mayo and other social events.
PAD: That’s great. I think you really jumped into it when you joined the Public Relations Committee.
BDP: Well, I was on the committee for a couple of years, then moved to entertainment, and then returned to PR a couple of years later.
PAD: Was there anything exciting as chairperson of the PR committee?
BDP: Well, I’ll never forget the day Marilyn Kali, her daughter, Kehau, who was chairing the PR committee, met with you and I to come up with some ideas for the Outrigger Magazine to celebrate the millennium. Someone came up with the idea of a “time line” and other historical articles. I ended up doing them. That was a fun project.
PAD: Yes, that was an article a month and a lot of research and work. What other writing have you done?
BDP: I’ve also had articles published in Honolulu Magazine and two friends and I wrote the books E nei, Do You Remembah? and E nei, You Remembah Too!
PAD: We have them in our library
BDP: Yes, but you keep them all locked up.
PAD: Sure do. We have experienced books “flying away” for one reason or another and therefore do not allow public access without supervision. Even our trophies “fly away” and no way of knowing their disposition. So, last year February you received the Outstanding Service Award from the OCC Board of Directors for the historical articles you wrote.
BDP: Yes! What an incredible surprise that was. Especially since I enjoyed doing it so much, it was a real labor of love. The biggest job of all was the “time line” which covered all ninety-two years. It took forever to finish.
PAD: After all the articles were published in the OCC Magazine, how many people called you up to note errors?
BDP: You! You were the only one to do that. (Laughter)
PAD: Yes, I remember calling you about the paragraph on the Battle of Midway. You had the date one year later than it occurred. (Laughter) Really, was I the only person to call you?
BDP: Yes. There was another incident where a single word was changed, not in my submission, but changed in editing or printing, which changed the whole meaning of the sentence. It kind of bothered me but no one else seemed to have noticed.
PAD: Who started up the calendars?
BDP: The calendar was started two years prior to my chairmanship. It may have been started at the suggestion of the Board because it’s a Christmas present to the members from the Board; or the committee may have suggested it. I really don’t know how it started but it has become an annual project and gets better each year. It seems to be very popular with the membership and outsiders too.
The first year the calendar consisted of photos from the Historical Committee of the old, old Club. The second one was of people and crews at the OCC. If you didn’t know the people it didn’t have much appeal.
My first year, Myra Fisher was in charge of the calendar and she made “Activities Around the Club” the theme and it turned out very well. This year we have gone a step further and have hired a photographer to provide the pictures and they will be mostly of ocean sports, with a couple of pictures of the Club, still shots of canoes and great wave pictures.
Another thing—next February 2002 we are going to have an art show. We do have the photo contest every year, and now we’ll venture into art. It will be an exhibit of art in any medium and we expect to hold it in conjunction with a wine tasting event.
PAD: Will the art works remain with the Club?
BDP: No, I believe they will remain with the artists.
PAD: Anything else you might remember during your illustrious tenure as a Club member?
BDP: Just going back to high school days. Those were just great years. (Laughter) I really enjoyed the fun and events of that period. The regatta on Kamehameha Day was especially fun. They had a stage on the beach decorated with palm fronds and ti leaves and a “king” in a feather cloak, spear, helmet . . . the works . . . presided. I remember Sam Fuller was the “Ka Moi”, or king, one year. The prizes were bananas, papayas, and even a live pig. It was really very colorful.
PAD: Were your children brought up in the Club?
BDP: No, unfortunately the years we were on the mainland (Florida), I was a nonresident member. During that time dues were $10 a year. When we moved back here we lived on the windward side and simply didn’t get to Waikiki often enough to make it worthwhile.
PAD: You were brought up in Manoa. What was the street’s name?
BDP: Ka`aipu Street in Manoa, just across the street from the house your brother Phil bought later on.
PAD: Those were World War II years. They had just married and the oldest girl, Nancy, was on the way. When visiting them, I used to come over and borrow your bicycle to ride around the neighborhood.
BDP: My parents built the house in the early ‘30s’, when the area was first developed.
PAD: Any other thoughts abut the Club?
BDP: I really liked the way the old Club (’41-’63) was situated…it was so neat with the volleyball courts right there and the big lawn for sunning and watching the games. We spent a lot of time playing in the small court and had lots of fun.
PAD: That’s a woman’s point of view . . . my point of view was “that there were a bunch of good looking wahines on the beach and it was heaven!” (laughter)
BDP: We were always conning the younger boys, trying to get them to play volleyball with us in the small court. Guys like “Mongoose” (John Crites), the Auerbach brothers, Tommy Haine, the O’Conner brothers . . .
There were a couple of pretty major things that happened at the Club that I just happened to witness. I think I was not yet a member when Bill Smith, the Ohio State and Olympic swimming champion, brought another famous swimmer, Keo Nakama, to the Club for lunch. At that time there was an unwritten rule that Orientals were not allowed and he was asked to leave. It was a most unfortunate situation and it made the front pages of the newspapers. Bill, of course, resigned from the Club and so did many other prominent people. I think perhaps it was a wake-up call, because it wasn’t long before things began to change.
On a lighter note, I remember the first time a girl walked into the Club wearing a “bikini.” Well, mouths opened, jaws dropped and eyes “bugged.” I don’t remember who was manager at the time, or the wahine, but she too was asked to leave. (laughter)
PAD: Good fun Barbara. I thank you for sitting down and sharing your experiences.
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