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. A full transcript of the video may be found below.
An Interview by Barbara Del Piano
August 4, 2017
BDP: Today is Friday, August 4, 2017. I’m Barbara Del Piano (BDP), a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club’s Historical Committee. One of our projects is to conduct oral histories of long time members, or former members, who have interesting memories of the old Outrigger. The one that was located on the side of the Outrigger Beach Hotel, from its inception in 1908, until it moved to its present location, here at Diamond Head. We’re here in the Club’s Board Room, and today, I’m interviewing Lorraine Brown Williams (LBW), also known as “Brownie”. It’s a pleasure because Brownie and I are high school classmates and very good old friends. Good morning, Brownie.
LBW: Good morning, Barbara.
BDP: Before we get into your memories of the Outrigger, could we get some background? Brownie, where and when were you born?
LBW: I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, August 23, 1926.
BDP: What is your nationality?
LBW: I am Hawaiian, Chinese, and English.
BDP: Can you tell us something about your ancestors, your grandparents’ parents?
LBW: Well, my grandparents on my mother’s side, they came from the Big Island, Waimea. They lived … He was a Chinese man, that came in from China, my great-grandfather, and great-grandmother was Kapaau. She lived there, in Waimea. That was where my grandmother, they were there, her parents, my mother’s mother.
BDP: Oh, interesting. Where did you grow up?
LBW: I grew up in Waikiki.
BDP: In Waikiki.
LBW: Well, most of my young years.
BDP: What are some … Although, I remember your telling me about growing up near, was it rice patties?
BDP: Where was that?
LBW: When I much younger, that was … The rice patties, there was Kalakaua Avenue, King Street, Keeaumoku, and Kapiolani surrounded the rice patties. We lived near the rice patties. Near enough, so that the water flow from the mountains came down and went right by our property, to take water down to the rice patties.
BDP: Oh, my goodness. Then you moved to Waikiki. What was it like living in Waikiki in the pre-war days?
LBW: It was wonderful. There were little cottages, all along, block after block, very few large buildings. I believe there was the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Moana Hotel, the Niumalu, and … Gosh, I can’t remember.
LBW: Halekulani, I mustn’t forget the Halekulani, and that was it. The two largest hotels, of course, were the Royal and the Moana Hotel.
BDP: And the rest of Waikiki along the beach?
LBW: Along the beach there were a couple … Well, there was one private home, that I know of. Yes, it was the Steiner Home, which was right there … Let’s see, near the Tavern, which is a restaurant.
BDP: Well, tell us about the Tavern.
LBW: The Tavern was a wonderful restaurant. We loved going there for lunch, and breakfast, dinner. It was all at … The front part of it facing the ocean, was all open, completely open to the little beach that was there, or Waikiki Beach.
BDP: So, did you go to the beach a lot?
LBW: When we were living there, in Waikiki, in Liliuokalani, we always ran … there was always a group of children. We all were together a lot. We would say, “Okay, let’s go swimming.” We’d get our towels and walk down to the beach. There’d be not another soul on the beach, nobody. The beach, it was nobody on the beach. It was just incredible to think about it.
BDP: What part of the beach?
LBW: Kuhio Beach.
LBW: We’d go swimming, go out to that wall, and jump off of it, and so forth. Then we’d be there, I would say, maybe spend an hour or so. A group of us, maybe about six, or seven, or eight of us. When we were finished swimming, having fun, we would go up to the beach, pick up our towels, and walk home. Cross the street, and walk up the few blocks to our homes. Nobody else on the beach.
BDP: Oh, my heavens.
LBW: It’s unbelievable.
BDP: How about the Natatorium? Did you ever go down there?
LBW: We used to walk over to the Natatorium too, as a group of children. It was not very far. We would have to pass … Oh, I can’t think of that fellow’s … That one, well-known, very wealthy man that had his home there.
BDP: Chris Holmes?
LBW: Chris Holmes. We used to … I remember going by there, and was fascinated by his gates. They were huge surfboards, maybe, each gate would have several surfboards put together. That was very attractive. We’d get over to the Natatorium, always a lot of people there. That was where we all learned to swim. We’d hang onto the sides, and let go, and swim to the next little catch, that we would hang onto. Then finally we realized we didn’t have to worry about getting into deep water. We all learned to swim that way.
BDP: Didn’t you go to the beach down where the Hawaiian Village is now?
LBW: Yes. That was called The Wall. There was always this very big wall that was down, from Kalakaua down to the beach. We would swim there also. But it wasn’t as good as the rest of the beach because it
was corals. But, could I tell you a story about that beach?
LBW: This happened about 1940 something. Is that okay to tell you that?
LBW: I was going to work. I worked at Fort Shafter, so that would’ve been just after the war. I looked out to the beach, as I driving, on Kalakaua. There was no water. There was absolutely no water in the ocean. It had gone way out, out past the surf, way out, all sand. We have never heard of tidal waves.
LBW: I didn’t know any about a tidal wave. So, we looked out there, and I say, “Oh, what happened to the water?” Then went on to work. It was after that we found out about how awful the tidal wave was, especially in Hilo.
BDP: Oh, yes.
LBW: That was my little story of the tidal wave.
BDP: Yeah. Then I remember your talking about walking down past Gray’s Beach and the limu.
LBW: Oh, yes. We would love to walk along Gray’s Beach on our way to Fort DeRussy, because they had a raft there, and we used to love to go there. But as we … When we got to the Halekulani it was very, it was wonderful to look in and see people having breakfast, and so on. Of course, you walk right by the tables, and so forth. But we would stop there, and go into the water, and pick limu. The limu, which was manauea, was so tall in the water that it was, you could see it floating at the top of the water. As the water came in, it would do this, back and forth. Well, that limu was beautiful, healthy. So, we would always take, pick at the top, never from the bottom, and enjoy it. On our way back, we’d pick some to take home.
BDP: I see. Oh. Brownie, what school did you go to?
LBW: I was, when I was younger, I went to Sacred Hearts Convent on Fort Street. Then you’d have to go enter the convent by opening these huge doors. That was, I think, just until the sixth grade. They were French nuns, I believe, and they-
LBW: Okay. They also … Our Lady of Peace, a beautiful Catholic cathedral, was right next to the convent. That whole block was all, the church and the convent.
BDP: Right. Then after the sixth grade, where did you go?
LBW: Oh, let’s see now. I … Oh, my god. I can’t remember. Sixth grade … I went to Saint Augustine’s. It was easier to get me to school, I could walk to school. Saint Augustine’s was on Ohua Avenue, in Waikiki. It was a wonderful school. It wasn’t very big. The nuns who were there, they were wonderful. My mother, evidently, liked me to go to the Catholic schools.
BDP: That’s where the Waikiki Community Center is now, right?
LBW: You’re right. I believe they still have Saint Augustine’s church there.
BDP: Well, they moved it closer to the ocean.
LBW: Oh, that’s right.
BDP: Well, maybe that’s where it was originally. The little old lattice church.
LBW: It was a lattice church. It was beautiful little church.
LBW: They had a beautiful little school there.
BDP: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes. So, Brownie, now when and why did you join the Outrigger?
LBW: Well, I believe, I was about maybe fourteen, thirteen, or fourteen. My mother and my stepfather, I guess, decided that they wanted me to join. Maybe I did say something that I would like to join the Outrigger. So, I understand that Charlie Amalu and Whittle, Willie Whittle, sponsored me. Charlie Amalu was married to Mrs. Shingle, who was at one time my stepfather’s mother-in-law. So, there was a connection. I’ve now realized the connection.
BDP: I see. So, when you joined the Outrigger, did you get involved in any of the water sports?
LBW: I did. I learned how … Because of a wonderful Johnny Hollinger, who was … He took care of the canoes and the surfboards for the Outrigger. I believe that his job. He was always there for us and he was always willing to teach us some water sport. I learned how to steer a two-man canoe because he taught me. I was able to catch waves in a two-man canoe. He also was our coach, and we were in the first Macfarlane Race in 1943.
BDP: You actually paddled in the first Macfarlane Race?
LBW: Yes. He was our steersman, also. All the boats had their coach were their steersman. I believe there were four of us that paddled. It was a kind of a different race (Open 4). We did win that race. We were all given … First, the club got a silver cup, but we were all given silver cups also.
BDP: Oh, do you remember who your crew mates were?
LBW: Well, I think there was Lois Gilman, Yvonne, Blondie (Boyd).
LBW: Blondie and … Let’s see, let me think. Now-
BDP: How about Loretta?
LBW: Loretta was one of them.
BDP: Loretta Carter.
LBW: She was. Yes. Was there another … I kind of forgot. Was there another … I think there were four of us and the steersman.
LBW: We did win that race. I was very proud of the fact. It was, I think, the first canoe race after the war.
BDP: Yes. How many teams, how many different crews competed?
LBW: Oh, there were many of them, but I can’t recall that. I can’t recall how many. They had the, of course, it was Duke Kahanamoku’s famous team. Then there was … He had a girl’s team also. We didn’t enter all the other races. We just entered that one.
LBW: But there were many others.
BDP: But there was, what? Hui Nalu.
LBW: Hui Nalu.
BDP: Waikiki Surf Club.
LBW: Waikiki Surf. There weren’t that many in those days.
LBW: It might’ve been just the three of them.
BDP: Yeah. I think so.
LBW: I think so too. But it was exciting.
BDP: Yes. Absolutely.
LBW: It was in honor of Macfarlane.
BDP: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
LBW: Who was the first president of the out … Was he the first president of the Outrigger?
BDP: Alexander Hume Ford
LBW: Yeah. That’s right. That’s right.
BDP: But he is the one that saved the Outrigger from bankruptcy.
LBW: Who is this?
LBW: Oh, Macfarlane.
BDP: Walter Macfarlane. So, he was quite a hero.
BDP: Tell me, do you remember Duke Kahanamoku and Dad Center?
LBW: I do. I remember both of them. They were very well-known in the Club, very active. Duke Kahanamoku’s team always won, his senior men.
LBW: And I think senior women.
BDP: Uh-huh (affirmative).
LBW: They were both around to help out with the racing, and so forth.
BDP: Do you remember the founder of the Club, Alexander Hume Ford?
LBW: I do remember him. I don’t know how old he was, but I know he was maybe in his nineties. But I do remember him.
LBW: He was around here.
BDP: Did you ever play volleyball?
LBW: In the baby court. We loved it. There was always … We were always in the court, were one of us. I know that some of the young men would join us, and it was wonderful. It was well used.
BDP: Yes, and you could watch it from the lawn.
LBW: Yes, and there was our famous lawn. There was always somebody lying there in a towel, enjoying the sun, the chit chat. It was a famous place.
BDP: Oh, yes. How about the club employees? Do any of them have any-
LBW: Well, we loved Eva (Pomroy) and Malia (Lutz). They were the ladies that took care of us. Whenever we walked into the club, greeted everyone. They were the greatest. We had … We were very … We really loved them. There was Richard (Ota).
BDP: Tell us about Richard.
LBW: Oh, Richard, he was special.
BDP: Where did he work?
LBW: He worked in back of the fountain, where the …
BDP: Snack bar.
LBW: Snack bar, the snack bar, and he put together the rice and stew gravy.
LBW: Oh, how we loved that. I think it was like fifteen cents.
BDP: Those were the days.
LBW: Yeah. They were the days.
LBW: Now, I was just … Just came to mind. Do you remember, there was a surfboard that we’d all … Funny little, funky surfboard that we always used. It was made of balsa wood. Do you remember that?
LBW: Oh, it was kind of falling apart but it was our favorite to catch the little waves on, right in front of the club.
BDP: Oh. Who was the general manager?
LBW: We really, really liked him. He was really a very fine manager. He was very kind to all of us.
BDP: Good. Did you see a lot of movie stars on the beach in those days.
LBW: Oh, we did. You know, they were wonderful. There was so many of them. They would always … They would call us over because they’d be sitting right in front of the Royal. We walked, and seemed shy about going out to see … They would always call us over, to want to talk to us. I’m just trying to think of … Oh, one day I was on the terrace. In the corner was a fellow sitting, and he looked so familiar. So, I waved at him, thinking he was friend. He waved back, but it was Jimmy Stewart.
LBW: I thought I knew him as friends, you know, because he looked so familiar.
BDP: Oh, gosh. How about the old beachboys? Do you remember them?
LBW: I do. You know, they were wonderful, helpful. I remember the Young brothers. They were Hui Nalu, connected with [inaudible 00:20:36]. I remember the two Young brother at the Moana Hotel. I wonder if they were lifeguards. I can’t remember. Then there were the others, Chick Daniels, who was so popular, Panama … Oh, gosh, the names are beginning to …
BDP: Turkey Love.
LBW: Oh, there was old Turkey, very handsome Turkey.
LBW: Blue, and Ox, and …
LBW: Steamboat. And the last one that was, that I did try to get to our Old Timers. Harry Robello.
BDP: Oh, yes.
LBW: They were all very, very wonderful and helpful around the beach there.
BDP: Great. Do you have any other memories of the old Outrigger or Waikiki at that time?
LBW: Well, let me see …
BDP: You mentioned walking past the Moana at night.
LBW: Oh, when we were … Because we lived in Waikiki for so long. One of the things that we used to do every Friday, I believe it was Friday night, Friday evening. Many of the people in Waikiki, that lived in Waikiki, especially, the Hawaiian people, used to love to go to the Moana Hotel to listen to the Beamers play Hawaiian music. It went on every Friday evening. There were always the local people that went there to enjoy it. The two boys used to do the hula.
BDP: Who were the two boys?
LBW: There was Milton. Was it Milton? I can’t remember. I’m sorry. Mahi. Mahi and his cousin …
LBW: Keola. They were … They did the hula and their parents played music. It went on every weekend, every Friday. We were always there, walking over from our homes, finding our way in between the hotel. There was a little curios shop right on the other side of that lot. We walked around to the beach, and walked in, and made ourselves comfortable, and enjoyed the music. It was a treat.
BDP: Oh, I’m sure it was. How about some other places in Waikiki that you went to? How about Waikiki Theater?
LBW: Oh, we went to Waikiki Theater. We went to every … Every time the new movie came on board. But we had to wear shoes. That I remember. Couldn’t go barefooted, like at Kamakee or Kapahulu Theater. There was pee wee Golf.
BDP: What about, if you didn’t have shoes, and you wanted to go-
LBW: Oh, yes. If we didn’t have shoes, there would be somebody on the outside waiting at the door. So, the shoes you wore would be passed out to someone else. The same thing happened until everybody got in the theater.
BDP: Oh, gosh. How about other eating places? Remember-
LBW: Oh, one of our most favorite place to go and have, even dinner, would be Unique Inn. Unique Inn was across from the, what we call, the part of the beach, was The Wall. I believe they still call it The Wall. It’s on, of course, Kalakaua Avenue. It is the second to the last block, before you turn up Kapahulu Avenue. They were a Japanese family that had this little restaurant. Their children, the girls, would serve. Now, they had pipikaula and poi for 15 cents.
It was the most delicious pipikaula you could ever imagine. For dessert, you got a piece of shimmering custard pie, which was the ultimate. It was much later, years, years later, I came across one of the girls that served us in that little restaurant. She told me her father had met a Frenchman at the Moana Hotel and they both decided to open up this restaurant. So, they both were back there cooking and that’s why the food was so good.
BDP: Oh, amazing.
LBW: That was a secret. Nobody ever told us that before.
BDP: Now, how about the jobs that you had?
LBW: I was working in town after I got out of high school, went to work for the telephone company. It was very boring, very boring. I found it very boring. Then I decided, “I think I’ll go and work for Hawaiian Airlines.” So, I went out to the airport. They have a little … Their office was in a little cottage, right by the run way, in that area. I walked in and saw Ruby [inaudible 00:26:27]. She was in charge. There was not another soul applying for a job with Hawaiian. No one but me.
LBW: Now, there’s thousands that apply, at one time. So, I was hired immediately. At the time, they flew the DC-3, twenty-five passengers. We wore uniforms, like the pilot. There were just a handful of us that worked then. Well, after I started, many of my friends applied. So, they increased their … I guess, they must’ve bought more airplanes and they needed more, they called them, hostesses. Today, they’re stewardesses. That was a wonderful job. But once you got married, you could not stay on working.
LBW: So, after I got married, I didn’t go back.
BDP: Now, tell us about your husband. How did you meet him? Who was he?
LBW: I met him one evening … Well, Alex Williams had a photography studio on Fort Street, Forever. It started with his grandfather and then his father took over. Then my husband eventually came back from the mainland, after going to photography school, and took over the business. But Fort Street was the most wonderful street in the whole world. We all loved it. We spent many, many, many Saturdays there, go there sometimes afterschool. But getting back to the photography business, we were very well-known. It was called William’s Studio. I do believe that every high school had their graduation picture taken there. Then, eventually, my husband turned it into a commercial photography business, and it’s still going.
BDP: Isn’t that wonderful, after all those years?
BDP: Oh, now, when did you leave the club?
LBW: I left the club … Let’s see, let me think. Now, that was … fifty … Around in the fifties to the sixties, around there. I can’t remember the exact year. I found that, we moved to Niu Valley, and there, was all the boys needed, as far as being around sports and so on. Right in Niu Valley, there, there was such a large group of boys and girls. So, I didn’t feel that I needed to belong any longer. I am sorry that I gave it up. I wish I didn’t. But I could’ve joined it, I know, when Barbara joined it at that time. But I didn’t make an attempt.
BDP: I see.
BDP: Yeah. But you do miss it.
LBW: I miss it very much because I still, I look at everyone and I say, “These are all my old friends,” and I’m so glad Barbara and I have kept our friendship up. I have others that I’m very friendly with, and I’m glad that I had something to do with bringing everybody together from the forties.
LBW: By putting together the Oldtimers, I have brought together, we have brought together, all our old friends, and it’s wonderful.
BDP: Oh, that’s wonderful. Now, so tell us, now, about that breakfast you had with Joy and Bill Barnhart, and what was the idea you came up with?
LBW: Well, we sat around chatting about everyone, always talking about old friends, Outrigger friends. Then I remembered … Well, let me see. I’m trying to remember the years and it’s hard to remember exactly. But we were invited at my … This is after we left the club, or we might’ve still belonged. I’m not sure. We were invited to come to the Outrigger for a party. They had worked it out so you paid your own. You didn’t have to charge it to anyone. I think you were able to get something that you used to buy your drinks with.
LBW: Yeah, script. This was all put together by a friend of ours. His name is Pat, and I wish I could remember his last name. But I’m going to make an attempt to find out who he is. I haven’t really done it, but I will. He did that, he brought in all of the Beachboys, also. It was a wonderful gathering. We had a lot of Oldtimers, like myself, and the Beachboys. I remember, at the end, we sang the Beachboys, beach, their song, [inaudible 00:31:41], and others. Then, I think it happened twice, I do think it did. Then it was forgotten.
BDP: Now, that was at the new club.
LBW: At the new club. Yes. It all happened at the new club. Then, later … I think we’ve been going now for seventeen, eighteen years.
BDP: Something like that.
LBW: Yeah, our new gathering of the Oldtimers. I was sitting there with the Barnharts, and I wasn’t a member, but they were. I thought, “This is a good chance, maybe, to do it again, to pull together all of the Oldtimers. Just to see them again. To be with them again.” Because we really enjoyed the Outrigger, and many of them have left the Outrigger. So, they said they would talk to the manager, and so on, and see if we could do that. They did, came back to me, that it was possible.
That was when I went out and got Rita [inaudible 00:32:45] to get all the Punahou group together, because there were a lot of Punahou students. I got others to help. Barbara, you came in to pitch in, help us, Barbara Del Piano. We got everyone to pitch in and we put it together. But, we first had to get permission, as I told you, and that was Joyce and Bill’s job, and they did that. Then the rest just fell into place.
BDP: People came from the mainland, from the other islands.
LBW: They came from all over, Maui, Big Island. You’re right, and they loved it, and it’s still going strong.
BDP: Although most of the Oldtimers are gone, it’s still …
LBW: Amazing enough, there’s still a lot of Oldtimers that attend the gathering.
BDP: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes. That’s wonderful. How about anything else you can think of?
LBW: Let me see. We love the old club and the new one, so much. I wish I could remember everything because they’re really … Oh, yes. One thing did happen, and it seems, unfortunately, I am the only one that remembers it. Malia and Eva were there. It was one morning, early, at the Outrigger. But they were there, so the Outrigger was open. We were all in the … There were a number of us, plus Malia and Eva … in the lobby. Someone yelled, “Tear gas,” and we could see the haze from it. I don’t remember it popping, if it does that at all. I don’t think so. We didn’t know what to do. We ran into … Someone said, “Go in the showers.”
So, we ran into the shower. But we were already burning from the tear gas. You couldn’t get rid of it. Then they said, “Well, what about going into the ocean?” So, all of us ran. I don’t know what Eva and Malia did. They must’ve been a terrible way. But we all ran into the water, the ocean, but it didn’t make any difference. It burned. It burned your eyes. It burned you all over. It was very uncomfortable. It took a while for it to all dissipate and for us to be relieved from it. To this day, I do not know who set off the tear gas bomb. I wish I could find other people that have witnessed it. But it seems nobody remembers it.
BDP: Well, there was so few people there.
LBW: Yeah. There was just so few people. But I wondered if we talked about it more if somebody will come forth. Because I am, now, 90, going to be 91 in a few days. All the others must be older, you know, that were there. So, I don’t know. There must be some way we could maybe find someone.
BDP: Well …
LBW: It’s a mystery.
BDP: It’s a mystery.
LBW: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
BDP: Do you have any other stories you’d like to tell us?
LBW: Well, let me see. I think I did tell you about Johnny Hollinger, what a gentleman he was. I did tell you that. He took care of all the canoes, and so forth. All of the young people really, really liked him. He was so wonderful to them. He was the ultimate gentleman. I salute him for being so wonderful.
BDP: That’s great. Okay. Well …
LBW: Well, I wish I could think of more because there’s a lot more.
BDP: Well, if we don’t have anything else, we’ll bring this interview to a close.
BDP: But your stories were wonderful, Brownie, and I thank you so much being with us today.
LBW: Well, I loved doing it. Thank you for asking me.
LBW: Now, the stories will go on.
BDP: Yes. This will be a wonderful addition to our archive.
LBW: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. Because of you, it’s happening. Because of you, a lot of wonderful things have happened.