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 transcript of the video may be found below.
An Interview by Marilyn Kali
July 7, 2017
MK: Today is Friday July 7, 2017. We are in the Board Room of the Outrigger Canoe Club. I am Marilyn Kali (MK) a member of the Club’s Historical Committee. One of the Historical Committee’s projects is to do oral histories of longtime members. Today, it’s my pleasure to be talking to Bruce Ames (BSA) who has been a Club member for 64 years. Good morning, Bruce.
BSA: Good morning, Marilyn.
MK: Thanks for doing this with us today. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family? When and where you were born and where you grew up?
BSA: I grew up in Kahala here in Honolulu. Before the Second World War, my Uncle Duke Johnston was an army colonel and he shipped our family out of Oahu in August of 1941 I guess because he had an inkling of things to come.
My family and my grandparents all lived in Kahala went to New Jersey. I was born in Montclair, New Jersey in 1943 right in the middle of the war. My sister Cynnie Belle was born in Rochester, New York. I don’t know how that happened in 1941. Right after the war is over I guess in ’46. We came back home to Hawaii and lived in three houses on Kahala Beach. One was my grandparents, Percy and Belle Johnston. One was my Uncle Duke and Aunt Cecily’s, formerly Cecily Freitas, and then my mother’s house. Incidentally, next door to us was Barbara Buscher who is now Barbara Stehouwer, the former president of Outrigger. We all lived there and that’s where we grew up.
MK: What was your father’s name?
BSA: My father’s name was Roger Ames and he was a businessman here in Honolulu for many years. He was on the Public Utilities Commission. His sister Libby Stofford lived here also with us and her husband, James Stafford, my uncle, was the president of the Gas Company where Jeff Kissel was president for some time, small world department.
MK: Your mother’s name was Dorothy, her maiden name?
BSA: S-T-O-N, yes.
MK: Neither your mother or father were born in Hawaii?
MK: Do you have siblings?
BSA: Yes, I do. I have my oldest sister Cynnie Belle who was a member of the Outrigger and my younger sister Laurie who was a member of the Outrigger.
MK: Cynnie Belle was married to Henry Ayau?
BSA: Cynnie Belle was married to Henry, yes.
MK: They met where, in high school?
BSA: In high school, yes.
MK: They had four children?
BSA: Four children, yes.
MK: What were the kids’ names?
BSA: Bruce and David were twins, Patrick was the oldest son and Kathy, who was the oldest one of all, was a daughter.
MK: Then Cynnie Belle had another child?
BSA: Yes, she did, Leslie.
MK: Henry adopted her?
BSA: Henry adopted her, yes.
MK: Leslie was a member of the Club also as I recall.
BSA: Leslie was a member, yes. All the kids were members.
MK: They all paddled.
MK: Very active members. What about Laurie? You said she was a member. She’s married.
BSA: Laurie lives in Louisville, Kentucky. She’s a member and she paddled. She was a steersgirl. She had a colorful career. She ran her canoe one time in a race into a woman by the name of Tuffy Cabalo who was the Roller Derby Queen at the time. She was a real life character person and later in life, my sister Laurie contacted her in California. It’s a nice side story but she injured her.
MK: Oh no. This was an Outrigger canoe that she …
BSA: Yes. Outrigger Canoe Club canoe race. I think George Downing was the coach.
MK: Now, what about your family? You’ve been married several times.
BSA: Yes. I’m married to my third wife now, Shree. We’ve been married about twenty years. I was married when I was twenty and had four children with my first wife, June (Sailor), who lives here in Honolulu. My second wife, Darcy, we never had any children together. Shree and I don’t have children together.
MK: The names of your children.
BSA: Belle is the oldest, Steven and Kent and Bonnie.
MK: I remember them being involved in Club activities.
BSA: Yes. They were the … Cline Mann called them the Endless Summer because the kids are always down here. I told them, “Don’t call me dad. Call me uncle.” They did and their trick was to go to the Snack Shop and get a chit and come out and find me and get me to sign it.
MK: All kids do that. They learn early what a chit is. What are your kids doing these days?
BSA: Belle my oldest daughter runs a store on Pensacola (Street), La Parisienne, which is a curio shop of some sort. They sell just about everything. My oldest son Steven manages a cattle ranch in a place called La Veta, Colorado. He moved to the mainland. My son Kent is a contractor here in Honolulu. My youngest daughter Bonnie died young.
MK: How many grandchildren do you have?
BSA: Seven grandchildren and four of them are here. Oldest son Steven has three girls. None of whom are members of the Outrigger. My grandson Noah is a member of the Outrigger. My grandson Max is not and my granddaughter Savanna, her application is in right now as we speak.
MK: We hope we’ll be having some more paddling Ames.
BSA: Yeah, yeah.
MK: Where did you go to school?
BSA: I went from kindergarten until eighth grade at Punahou. Then there was a brief ceremony and I was retired there.
MK: Do you care to tell us why?
BSA: Well, one Sunday there’s First Break at Canoe Surf and couple of us hatched a plan to cut out of school Monday morning and which I did and came late. I had to go to the office. Had to explain myself to the principal and the question to me was, why were you not in school this morning and I gave it a long thought and I could have said well, my dog ate my homework or missed the bus or something, but I just told him I went surfing. His follow up question always stunned me. He said, “Why did you do that?” Of course, I didn’t have an answer for such a question. Why does a kid go surfing? Come on.
I graduated from Iolani High School in 1961 and then I attended the University of Louisville Undergraduate School. I was a philosophy major, but I got a degree in business because time was running out. I was taking too many courses. I entered the University of Louisville Law School and graduated in May of 1968. Came back to Hawaii and I took the Bar in November, passed the Bar and started practicing law. I went to work for a law firm, Frank Padgett’s law firm, which was exciting. A couple members here also worked for Frank Padgett. Chris McKenzie, who also became a judge later on. Then after a couple years of working for Frank Padgett, I opened my own practice which I had for many, many years. I don’t even know how many.
MK: What kind of cases?
BSA: Initially, I did a lot of criminal defense work. I did trial work. Mostly trial work, both plaintiff’s cases and criminal defense cases. Then my law firm grew. I had to spend more and more time tending to law firm affairs and whatnot. I can’t remember the exact date, but around 1987-1988 I was appointed by Chief Justice (Herman) Lum to a district judgeship and I was a District Judge for almost fifteen years and then I retired. Since that time I’ve been pretty much fully retired although once in a while I take a case or two.
MK: For arbitration or …
BSA: No. I usually get involved in the plaintiff’s case, personal injury cases and I associate with an attorney on Maui, Jim Krueger who incidentally also worked for Frank Padgett. He’s a member of the alumni there.
MK: Is Jim Krueger the swimmer?
BSA: Yes he is the swimmer, yes.
BSA: We were always good friends.
MK: Do you have any good stories about being a judge that you can share with us?
BSA: Well, I’ll tell you one but it’s long. They had what they called at the time the Makua evictions out in Maili where the District Court is. At that time, Ron Moon was the Chief Justice of the (Hawaii) Supreme Court. I didn’t know that they had served all evictions and all the cases were going to be heard this particular Monday morning. There were a lot of Hawaiian activists out there. I went out and it was an unruly group of people. They were stopping traffic on Farrington Highway and the situation looked volatile. We had only one sheriff for security.
I decided to brave it out and I knew some of the participants in the protest. Dennis Kanahele was one and I had dealt with him in the past. I knew I could get along with him so I told the clerk to please call Dennis’ cases first because I knew him. Hopefully, they’d behave in court and they did and I got through them. Then the next group of court cases was, I guess, Maxwell from Maui. I can’t remember who the activist was at the time, but they started disrupting the court room getting violent.
I put my head down and I said, one-minute pule. Everybody was listening and so everybody in the courtroom put their heads down. We had a minute of silent prayer and after that, I managed to get through the whole thing. The next weekend, another one of our district judges, Ambrose Rosehill, a member here, went out there and he was full of bombast and tough talk. He starts lecturing the audience who were now getting unruly and it was getting out of hand. One of the cases, the guy stands up and tells Judge Rosehill. “Judge, I don’t think we like the way you act in here. I think we like the judge we had last week. The one with the beard, looked like one billy-goat.” He was referring to me of course. After that I got the nickname the billy-goat judge. It was all in good fun. Things worked out.
MK: There was another fun story. You want to tell us that one?
BSA: There was another story. You’re not supposed to spear a lobster. I had a case where a guy was arrested by the DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) for spearing lobster. He wanted to plead guilty in my courtroom. He said, he wanted to plead guilty with explanation. I said, all right. He says, “Your Honor, I went inside a puka (hole). I’ve seen the bugs in there,” means lobsters. “I was just going for a grab one.” Grab it with a glove. “I look and there was a puhi right there and I didn’t want the puhi to bite me so I poked it with the spear.” I said, “Well, with all due respect, even if there’s an eel in the hole, you can’t spear them.”
He says, “Well, then, Your Honor, how do you expect I suppose to get the lobster?” I said, “Well, you might do what we did when were kids. We took a dish mop, stuck it in the hole and turned it around. The lobsters got all entangled and then we pulled it out.” He goes, “Oh, Your Honor, mahalo, mahalo. Thank you.” I said, “Thank you very much. That’s a $50 fine.”
MK: Guilty. That’s some good stories. Now, I’m told that while you were in Kentucky, you became a Kentucky Colonel. Can you tell us what that is?
BSA: Well, Kentucky Colonel is a position commissioned by the governor of the State of Kentucky whoever the governor is. It’s like a political reward system. For instance, those who worked for the governor might be awarded a Kentucky Colonelship or people who worked, benefit the Commonwealth of Kentucky qualify. It’s a philanthropic organization and they do charity work and whatnot. It’s honorarium kind of thing.
The way I was commissioned, there was a governor, Ned Breathitt, running for governor and I worked on his campaign. He was running against a man who was the former baseball commissioner A. B. Happy Chandler. During the course of the campaign I made up a little limerick sung to the tune of Alouette and it went, Ned Breathitt, Ned Breathitt, jolly Ned Breathitt. ABC which is ABC Happy Chandler doesn’t sound too good to me. ABC nah, Ned Breathitt, so I made this little song and it caught on, became part of the campaign thing. I got a little credit for that and Ned Breathitt did get elected governor and to reward me for my little song he made me a Kentucky Colonel which I accepted graciously.
Then when I came back to Hawaii I told my good friend, childhood buddy Kent Giles and he wanted to become a Kentucky Colonel. I couldn’t figure out how he would qualify but then I thought well Kent was a liquor salesman. I wrote to then governor of Kentucky and told him that I had this person that was a worthy aspirant to become a Kentucky Colonel and his contribution to the Commonwealth was that he sold more Kentucky bourbon in the Pacific Area than anyone and so they made Kent Giles a Kentucky Colonel.
MK: Oh, my goodness. No other Kentucky Colonel in Hawaii.
MK: Let’s talk a little bit about Outrigger now. You joined the Outrigger in November 1953 at the age of ten. Do you remember who your sponsor was?
BSA: I don’t remember who my sponsor was. I hung out at the Outrigger from the time I was about five or six years old. I guess I was a little rug rat running around. You could become a member of the Outrigger at age ten at that time. I think it was ten dollars, I’m not sure. I don’t know who my …
MK: Your parents were members?
BSA: My parents were members and my Uncle Duke was a member and my cousins were all members. They married Outrigger members. My cousin Diane Johnston married Jim Beardmore who was a member here for years and Dr. Beardmore.
MK: Volleyball player.
BSA: Volleyball, canoeing, surfing.
MK: You were a member while the Club was still down in Waikiki.
MK: What are your earliest memories of the Club?
BSA: Well, my earliest memories are that there was a parking lot between the Outrigger and the Moana Hotel. There was an old time beach boy. He called himself a beach boy, his name was Sunshine. I remember him because I was just a little kid. Right in front of the parking lot was a big hau tree. There was a group of old timers that hung out under the hau tree and they had a club within a club called Hui Hau. At the same time, the Outrigger had a club within a club sort of thing called Kama’aina Hui which most people don’t know about anymore. The Kama’aina Hui was succeeded by the Winged “O” club within a club that Cline Mann was instrumental in setting up.
I do remember that at the Hui Hau, old time members like Gay Harris and Johnny Hollinger, Dad Center, they were all members of the Hui Hau which was a close-knit group. They made me the president one time and I was only like ten years old. The reason they made me the president was they got me to get my mother to bake a chocolate cake each weekend and bring it so I paid dues.
I think one of the members of the Hui Hau was a man by the name of Joe Akana who was a beach boy, older, and Joe was an old timer. He took me and another member, Gilly Halpern under his wing when we were little kids and Gilly never learned, but he taught me to steer at about age seven so I was the youngest person that was allowed to take boats out and surf them in the Canoe Surf.
MK: That’s how you learned to steer?
BSA: He taught me at that time. The Ka Moi canoe which hangs in our bar now was on the beach at that time. There were two other boats and I was trying to remember their names, one was Elepaio and I can’t remember the other one’s name the Ilikai, I think. They were the three main surfing boats, they were koa and the beach boys would take the tourists out.
On the Ka Moi, he had a small little jump seat behind the steersman’s seat. Because the Ka Moi was so big and difficult to handle, only a couple of people could do it. One was Steamboat Mokuahi who worked for the Outrigger Beach Services but he thought it was funny if he put me in that little back jump seat and had me steer the canoe out to Canoe Surf to the lineup.
All the tourists in the boat thought I was the one, this little kid in charge of things. Of course, I wasn’t and it’s funny because the Ka Moi was refurbished by Tay Perry in my warehouse up in Palolo some years ago and when they brought the boat up, I was looking at it and it brought back some memories. I said to Tay, I said, “You know, I remember this boat but I remember a little seat behind the steersman seat and it wasn’t there.” Then, Tay took the boat apart, he took off the back manu and sure enough, right there was that little seat that I sat on. That seat is in the boat now. It hangs in the bar.
MK: Well, that’s cool. Do you have any memories of Duke Kahanamoku?
BSA: Yes, I do. Duke had a sister, Anna, that hung out at the Outrigger, a brother David. He had another brother, I can’t remember his name, and then he had a brother that had a birth defect, a hunchback and politically correct stuff wasn’t around in those days and his nickname was Hunchie and nobody thought anything of it. He was like one of the guys but you couldn’t say something like that today.
Duke was always a very friendly person, nice to kids, and he was always the center of attraction to people. He was kind of a celebrity and he was a celebrity and very, very, very pleasant. He had a powerboat and they used to go skin diving off of Waikiki and he also had a sailing catamaran at one time and we used to go on that. He rode around on that.
MK: He’d take the kids with him?
BSA: Yeah, not any kid but you had to be in his good graces.
MK: How did you get in his good graces?
BSA: I don’t know how I got in anybody’s good graces, Marilyn, in those days because I was a very kolohe kid and always in trouble. I think because I took to the water so, I could steer the canoe, and I could surf, that I was kind of accepted.
MK: What was the Club like for a kid growing in the ’50s in Waikiki?
BSA: Well, at the time, you didn’t realize it but it offered great freedom from your parents and your discipline at home. The Club is like a home away from home and there was a certain order that kids had to behave obviously and the ethics and morals of growing up in the Club were good. You didn’t steal, you didn’t lie. You weren’t supposed to smoke cigarettes but some of us did and it was a place to eat, a snack bar, and there is a place to keep your surfboard. It was a safe environment, responsible adults around, and there was a group of kids that grew up at the Outrigger and it was a good place to grow up, I thought, I still do.
MK: Who was your gang of kids growing up?
BSA: Well, there was a quite a mob, the Hemmings family, all of them, Butchie, Cynthia, Aka, Heidi later on, she was young, Gilly Halpern and Ash Hartwell, Doug Kilpatrick, Donnie Schick, John Marshall, Billy Danford, Kent Ludwig, Donnie Smith, kids that grew up there and some are still around. John Marshall, I believe he lives in Bora Bora but he comes back home a lot. We all grew up together at that time.
MK: What was a typical day for a kid?
BSA: Come down the … ride your bicycle from Kahala to the Outrigger and your bicycle was known as your crate and you didn’t have a kick stand so you threw it on the ground outside the entrance to the Club, went in there and probably got breakfast at the snack bar or checked out the surf right away. If you knew the surf was up, you’d came early and go surfing before you went to the snack bar.
Then if the surf wasn’t happening, we’d play volleyball in the sand courts. Summer times, they had a summer fun program. It was administered one year I remember by (Bill) Mullahey, another year by George Downing and they’d take all the gremlins, the kids, on field trips and go to different places around the island and take care of all the kids, get them out of their parents’ hair, I guess.
MK: Did you participate in those?
BSA: Yes. It was good fun.
MK: Did they have organized activities for the kids or was it mostly just you on your own?
BSA: The organized activities mostly in the summer time was the paddling. You could start paddling, I paddled in my first race when I was about eleven years old and they had the youngest group at that time I think was thirteen and under and we had people paddling in it and then all the age groups and then the summer fun programs and of course, the other things that the Club offered like playing volleyball, surfing mostly at Canoe Surf and canoe surfing.
At that time, the Outrigger had maybe thirty hollow surfboards you could sign out and that’s before they had the balsa wood surfboards and you can go out there and run over tourists with them.
MK: During your teen years at the Club, was it a different culture for the teenagers?
BSA: I think it was mostly just a transition. You just became a teenager. I remember we all would go to movies at the Waikiki Theatre and Kuhio Theatre on Saturdays. New movies came in on Saturdays and one was shown at one o’clock and one was shown at three o’clock. We’d go to the Kuhio Theatre at one, see that movie and run down to the Waikiki and see the next one. You had to have at least slippers to get into the movie theatre. No one even had slippers then so we had to scrounge around and borrow slippers to get into the movies.
MK: Had the drug the culture hit Waikiki at that point?
BSA: No, it hadn’t.
MK: Do you remember when the coeds used to come during the summer?
BSA: Yes. When they came, of course, the Lurline and Matsonia came between the West Coast and here all the time. In the summer time, they always brought a group of students and lots of them would hang out at the Outrigger and of course, the older boys would be Romeos around the Club and were always courting them and taking them for surfing lessons and just that and the other. I guess we were a little young to be courting the coeds. They were all college students.
MK: Too old for you guys.
MK: The Outrigger had its Beach Services in the 1950s. Do you remember much about the beach boys?
BSA: Yes, I do. There was a Beach Service that was on the Royal Hawaiian side of the building next to the Hau Terrace there and it was run by a man named Sally Hale and they had beach boys, regular beach boys that worked for the Outrigger Beach Service. One was a man by the name of Curly (Cornwell), one was Turkey Love, there’s Steamboat (Mokuahi), Earl King and Duckie Holt and a bunch of other old timers. I knew them all because that’s how you got your surfboard if you didn’t own one.
I do remember there was an old time beach boy, his name was Eunice. Eunice actually worked for the Royal. He was an older Filipino man. He raked the sand up into berms for the tourists to sit on. He died. He was the first person I knew or was cognizant of that died and it stuck with me. They had a typical Hawaiian burial at sea for him. I remember going out in the canoe at the time and really trying to understand everything that was going on because I was only about six or seven at the time, maybe eight.
MK: Did the beach boys play music at that time?
BSA: They all had their routines, play music. A lot on the entertaining I guess with beach boys went on at night at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel where the tourists were. During the day, they mostly took tourists out for canoe rides, surf lessons, strutted around the beach and look good.
MK: To attract attention.
BSA: Yeah, I guess.
MK: Any particular beach boys that you were pals with?
BSA: I was pals with Joe Akana. Like I say, he took me and he’s the one that gave me so much personal attention on how to steer. When George Downing became the coach … Oh, incidentally, our first coach was Charlie Martin who has since passed away but he was an old-time member of the Outrigger and his kids are members and he coached our winning thirteen and under crew. When we were kids, we were so proud, so big and George Downing became the coach.
At that time, George Downing became the coach, I was paddling for (Waikiki) Surf Club because I had disciplinary problems at the Outrigger off and on, and would get suspended. I had a fallback canoe club to paddle for. We paddled for thirteen and under with Nappy Napoleon and a bunch of them there but George asked me to come back and steer the fifteen and under crew. Of course, I was only thirteen at that time and they were the big boys. I was very much impressed with George Downing and I was very flattered. He was an idol to the kids because he was such a good waterman and he took care of the kids. George knew how to handle kids and he did things his way but he kept you out of trouble.
MK: What about Rabbit? Did he ever coach?
BSA: Rabbit (Kekai)? I grew up with Rabbit from the time I was about eight years old. He was a friend of our family’s and my mother didn’t drive. We had an old, I remember 1955 Mercury station wagon and she would lend it to Rabbit and Rabbit would take us out to Makaha to go surfing, spend the night at his auntie’s house in Maili and he really took care of the kids too. He was very kid friendly for an adult, both he and George but Rabbit was the perennial Peter Pan. He never grew old and everybody loved him dearly and we always had a real good time with him. He would send you over the falls in Makaha when you were too young to do it.
MK: Can you tell me any specific stories about Rabbit?
BSA: Rabbit told so many stories that departed in varying degrees from the truth that it was hard to keep up with the man but he was a great, great storyteller.
MK: What about George, do you have any specific memories of him?
BSA: George was a little more of a disciplinarian, Rabbit wasn’t. Rabbit was, like I say, a Peter Pan. Everything was let’s just have a good time. George wanted discipline, paddling discipline, get in shape and he had paddling regimens and routines. I think he was the first guy that ever looked into nutrition and had us eating protein pills and like I don’t think we really needed them in our teenage years. We ate them any ways because he said to and he was good. He ran things.
MK: What was paddling practice like in those days?
BSA: Well, most of it took place right in the Canoe Surf and we trained in the Kakina and in the Leilani. George redid the Leilani. Outrigger had another canoe at that time called Hanakeoki but I don’t believe we used that. We used Leilani and the Kakina and we trained right in Waikiki and that’s why so many of our steerspeople are good canoe surfers. That’s how Freddy Hemmings, who is one of the best ever, learned how to do what he does so well because that’s where we paddled. Later on, Waikiki got crowded, we moved down to the Ala Wai. We paddled down at the Ala Wai and there you could mark off courses and push tires around and do all kind of the things that people use to train to paddle canoes.
MK: Have the paddles changed over the years?
BSA: The physical paddles, yes. All paddles nowadays, they either have a palm or T-top. They had a straight shaft when I was growing up. The blades were wide, the shaft was straight. The paddling style was different. It involved a long stroke, leaning way over and twisting. The transition of paddling to a shorter stroke, quicker stroke. The paddles got smaller, the blade. Cline Mann used to call them ice tea spoons because it was small compared with the older paddles.
They had T-tops. Some of them had what they called a dehydral or bend in the shaft. Gimmicks to maybe make it go faster, I don’t know, but the paddles did change.
MK: Paddles changed.
BSA: Still changing, I think.
MK: The stroke changes all the time.
BSA: They’re into the new John Puakea stroke this year.
MK: The first race that we have you winning is in 1955 in the thirteen and under crew in the Macfarlane. Did you win any races before that?
BSA: I don’t know whether we won races before that. In those days, there weren’t that many races. There was a race in Honolulu Harbor put on by the Propeller Club and there were a couple of races in Honolulu Harbor that we went into, and we had a crew that year and also, they had a Territorial championship. In fact, we won the Territorial championship in Kahului one year when we were seventeen with the Bobby Beck, Butchie Hemmings, Ash Hartwell, Ron Duran, myself. I have a picture of it showing the long paddles and the long strokes. We all went to Maui and spent the night there.
MK: Well, in this thirteen and under race that you won in the Macfarlane, your crew was John Marshall, Bill Danford, Nat Norfleet, Bob Fischer, and Mike Lemes.
MK: Not too many of them are still around. They’re all living different places and …
BSA: None of them live here any longer. The last one of that group besides myself to paddle was Billy Danford but he stopped paddling maybe fifteen years ago.
MK: He moved to Oregon.
BSA: He moved Oregon.
MK: You were a steersmen from the beginning?
BSA: Almost always, I steered although I have been a stroke, I have paddled. When George Downing was the coach, sometimes he stroked me but I was on the small side compared to a lot of the other paddlers so I was more efficient as a steersman because I didn’t weigh that much.
MK: A lot of weight in the back?
BSA: They didn’t have to drag around a lot of extra weight.
MK: Now, you came back to Hawaii when you finished school and that was 1968, you said?
MK: You started paddling again?
MK: Did you come back in the summers during law school?
BSA: I think I came back one summer.
MK: I couldn’t find any records of you paddling during those years.
BSA: I believe I came back one summer. I had gotten married in college and so I was married and I lived in Kentucky. When I graduated from college, of course when you go to law school, it’s a twenty-four/seven deal. You live and breathe. You don’t have time to do anything else but then when I came back to Hawaii, I got back into the ocean, surfing and everything.
MK: You started competing in regattas and did you start doing distance races then?
MK: You got involved in other activities in the Club like you were on the Surfing Committee for a long time?
BSA: I was on the Surfing Committee for a long time. Jimmy McMahon was on it. The main thrust of the Surfing Committee was we held an Outrigger Surf Championship every year. At that time, Neal Ifversen was the, I don’t know whether they call him consul general or … He was the legal liaison between the nation of Peru and the United States and he was a Club member.
There is a club in Lima, Peru called the Waikiki Surf Club of Lima, Peru and it had several members that were also Outrigger members, Felipe Pomar, Ricardo Pomar, and they had a surf contest every year. It became the rule that if you won the Outrigger Surfing Contest, the Outrigger sent you to participate in the surfing championship in Lima, Peru.
That, to me, represented a goal. I wanted to go do that and I know that Mike Holmes went, I think Paul Strauch went, Freddy Hemmings went, Brant Ackerman went and finally one year, I managed to win the Outrigger Surfing Contest and I thought, “Oh, boy! I get to go to Lima, Peru,” and that year they cancelled the program. I don’t know whether it was because it was me or not but I didn’t get to go to Peru.
MK: Oh dear. You raced your first Molokai in 1975.
BSA: I may have gone before that a couple of times because I went with George Downing when we spent the night on Papohaku Beach and when the race started from there, I think I went twice. The one that you cited, I think we started at Hale O Lono and I think maybe George Downing was the coach then too in ’75, yeah.
MK: George wasn’t our coach by then?
BSA: Maybe not. Maybe it was Albert Lemes. It might have been Albert Lemes was the coach. I don’t recall.
MK: How many times have you been across the Molokai (Channel)?
BSA: I’ve participated almost every year, not always for the Outrigger. This year will either be my thirty-ninth or fortieth crossing and we’re already preparing for that. I’ll be seventy-five years old so this will probably be the last year, climbing in and out of boats in the Molokai Channel is maybe a thing in the past. I paddled for Outrigger a number of years and then I built a home on the Big Island, in Volcano, and I spend a lot of time on the Big Island and Norman Dunmire and I joined the Keaukaha Canoe Club in Hilo and I steered their Molokai crews for maybe, I don’t know, fifteen times and then I retired from them and then at one point I had knee surgery and eye surgery so I was out of commission for a year or two but then I went back again to paddle for Ka Mamalahoe, which is was a canoe club with Hui Wa’a. Ka Mamalahoe of course is Kamehameha’s Order of the Broken Paddle and I have steered their Molokai effort for about eight or nine years.
MK: That’s who you’re paddling for in distance now?
BSA: Yeah. Ka Mamalahoe’s an interesting little club. It’s run by one of the Thompsons, Scotty Thompson. I know his cousin, Pinky Thompson’s nephew. Among other notables from the Club that have paddled for Ka Mamalahoe are past (OCC) president Marc Haine, Jimmy Foytich, John Finney, Kimbel Thompson, Uli Klinke, Dave Wadsworth, Barney Robinson, just quite a contingent off and on paddling for Ka Mamalahoe.
The reason is that periodically at the Outrigger crews fill up and only six people can participate and you might have ten or more wanting to paddle in the same crew but there’s just not enough room so that way they get to paddle.
MK: What’s been your most memorable Molokai crossing?
BSA: Well, they all have their highlights and difficulties and fun. The roughest year I went was in 2002 which is right after 9/11 (September 11, 2001 terrorist incident) and the Coast Guard told Michael Tongg, who was the race director, that they couldn’t offer any assistance because they had their hands full with fighting terrorism or whatever. The ocean was huge, the winds were over forty knots, the seas were like … Ground swell was like twenty feet and the seas were like twenty to thirty feet, it was huge.
I have a picture at home of our canoe coming down a wave. The canoe is forty-four feet long and it’s only part of the size of the wave so it was big and it was quite exciting as far as the challenge. That will never happen again. Like this year, they canceled the women’s Molokai because of insurance purposes. They won’t insure boats if the winds are over, I think, thirty-five knots. If the seas are bigger than ten feet, it’s a no go and that’s what happened to the women this year. Getting conditions like that again probably will never happen. I think in ’86 (’66), the Outrigger didn’t finish the race, the canoe broke up because the surf was so big but that won’t happen again.
The most memorable perhaps was when we started a tradition with Keaukaha of stopping off of Diamond Head just as the race was ending and having a short pule and ceremony for the paddlers that we have all paddled with that are deceased. We would steal every plumeria blossom from the Hotel Molokai and put them in plastic bags, put them on the escort boat and then take them and we’d stop the escort boat. The crew would continue on into the Hilton and then have our ceremony. I remember one year, John Finney’s son died and we took his puolo, ti leaf and whatnot. We took some pictures of the plumeria blossoms floating out from the boat and the lei and there was a rainbow and Tiare (Finney) had given us a gift that floated out and we got a picture of it all going underneath the rainbow. It was pretty spiritual.
MK: That’s kind of chicken skin time.
BSA: Yeah, it was.
MK: Wow! A lot of people in the Club give you credit for starting the Club’s Masters program for distance. How did that all come about?
BSA: Probably because we were legends in our own time and as years went by, the older we got, the better we were and we just couldn’t stop paddling. We knew we still had it in us to cross the channel so I’m not sure. We started entering distance races here, Lanikai race, Pokai Bay race, Kaena Point race and we got … so we were pretty good.
There was a cadre of paddlers, Hank Lass, Ken Stehouwer, Chris McKenzie, Joe Dubiel, myself, Norman Dunmire, Kawika Grant, a number of older paddlers. We started participating and then it was a natural progression to go into Molokai. We did all that. We did a lot of self-promoting to get the program going and we had to do a lot of leg work because the Club didn’t sanction it at first but then when we did so well, the Club started getting behind it.
So did the OHCRA organization, Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, they started getting older divisions, 35 and older. Now, I think the oldest division in Molokai is 60, maybe even 65 but it’s gone up over the years. There were other clubs and Nappy Napoleon of course will never quit paddling and other old-time paddlers that helped the sport progress as people got older. Maybe we were all a part of it.
MK: Well, in his oral history, Kawika (Grant) talked about having to buy your own covers and your own `iakos and amas. Buy your own plane tickets and entry fees.
BSA: I think the first year we did it, first or second year, we were self-sponsored. The canoe we used was the Onipa`a and the reason I know that is that ten or twelve years ago I bought the Onipa`a from the Outrigger when they were upgrading their fleet and I own the canoe to this day. It’s a Hawaiian Class Racer, was made by the Fiberglass Shop. We used that boat back then when it belonged to the Outrigger. The ‘iakos were ours and ama was ours. In fact Hank Lass designed the ama. It was called a Channel Master and it was state of the art at the time. And also the covers.
After that, the Club started kicking in for that sort of thing. This year I’m going to take the Onipa`a across and not only will it be maybe my fortieth crossing. It won’t be the fortieth crossing for the Onipa`a but it will be the fortieth year of its first crossing. I’m having the canoe redone. It’s going to look good.
MK: What club will you be paddling for?
BSA: With Ka Mamalahoe. Outrigger doesn’t have an older effort.
MK: That’s probably the reason our older paddlers are going to other clubs is because …
BSA: Well, Tay Perry and Glenn Perry paddled with Keahiakahoe but they came back to Outrigger this year because John Finney talked them into coming back and we also got Pokii Vaughan to come out of retirement. They have a seventy-year-old crew which had been doing pretty good this year. The Big Island organization Moku does not have a seventy and over category, neither does Kauai or Maui. OHCRA is the only organization that has seventy and over. Hui Wa’a doesn’t have it. The end of the road for old paddlers, I guess.
MK: In 1986, you competed in the … you had a forty-five-crew and you competed against the thirty-fives in Molokai.
MK: You did really well.
BSA: Yeah. I think we won the thirty-five race one year. I don’t see it down in your notes. Ken Stehouwer, his wife Barbara Stehouwer was a past president, he paddled with us and I think that year we won … Mike Holmes was our escort and it was right around that time. I can’t …
MK: Okay. We’ll have to check and make sure that’s right. After you guys started winning that you said the Club was more supportive.
MK: You had to do a lot of fighting of the bureaucracy to get the program going.
BSA: Well, it really wasn’t that difficult. There was a lot of interest. All the paddlers were really into it. They wanted to do it. There were a lot of hands that worked on it. It all fell together. It was like a normal transition of things.
MK: You chaired the Canoe Racing Committee back in ’84?
BSA: Yes, I was on the committee a number of years.
MK: You were on it for a number of years and then you were a Club Captain.
BSA: I was a Club Captain, yes.
MK: In ’85. What were the biggest challenges back in those years?
BSA: Well, the chairman of the Canoe Racing Committee, the committee is charged with all of the logistics of running the canoe program which is difficult. For instance, you run a Macfarlane race you’ve got to get shoreline permits from the state, from the city, permission to put your canoes on the beach which is so many rules that you have to abide by. The Canoe Racing Committee runs the whole canoe racing program and Outrigger has a huge program. It’s a big show. It’s a lot of work. Tow canoes from this race to that race and whatnot.
MK: Do all the other mundane things.
MK: Getting steersmen and boat holders.
BSA: Yeah, the whole thing. Outrigger has a pretty good organization. When we were running things, every crew had its own coach I think. We had an overall coach. Every individual crew had individual coaches and things really went … for a while now, we won everything. It was exciting.
MK: It was lots of fun back in those days. What’s changed in the last thirty years in canoe racing?
BSA: Well, I’m not sure anything’s changed, except growth. It’s gotten bigger. There’s more and more races. The equipment has changed. For instance, two of our racing canoes, the Leilani and Kakina, were rebuilt virtually by Domie Gose who is a master koa canoe builder, I guess you could call him, to make them look like Bradley Lightnings, the modern glass boat.
Both OHCRA and Hui Wa’a have now a whole series of pre-regatta distance races, iron man, only six in the boat. They have the post- season races on all islands now. The sport has grown tremendously. There’s like one hundred and ten entries in the men’s Molokai each year. In the Queen Liliuokalani race, we got close to two hundred entries. It’s huge and people come worldwide. I can remember being at the Hotel Molokai when there’s a crew from Russia of all places.
MK: Oh my goodness.
BSA: We’re all trying to learn Russian words then.
MK: I remember the year the Illinois Brigade won. We’re thinking how in the world can someone from Illinois beat all the crews from Hawaii, but it happened.
BSA: Then of course the Tahitians have been dominating and the local canoe clubs are working hard. They’re trying to replicate the stroke the Tahitians use. They pretty much can copy it but for some reason the Tahitians have some magic or some technique and maybe they work harder or whatever they do. They’ve won Molokai, I don’t know, the last ten years or something. They’re hard to beat.
MK: They sure are. Have you done any coaching of crews?
BSA: Yes, I have. I’ve coached all the master’s crews. I did take a little sojourn off and coached the Boys 12 As and Bs one year which was a whole experience onto itself. The participants in the program were men like Matt Kresser, Matt Buckman, Jones, Hunter Eggers, it was a whole crew of these gremmies that are twelve years old.
We practiced at the Ala Wai and I tried to maintain discipline, but they knew I was a pushover. One afternoon I guess they had planned it. They tackled me in the dirt and wrestled me to the ground. Then they got in their canoes and paddled them down to the beach tributary to the Ala Wai. I’m not going to tell you what they did there but they were bad. It was all on my watch. They came back and I never said anything because I didn’t want to be in trouble with the parents.
MK: Did they get in trouble for what they did?
BSA: No, they didn’t get caught but I knew what they did. They’re not innocent.
MK: Were you ever involved in any of the canoe renovations?
BSA: Well, the only part of that was when Tay Perry, redid the Ka Moi up in my warehouse in Palolo and I really wasn’t a part of it. I just observed it all. Also, I observed Domie (Gose) working on our canoes here at the Club. I remember when he (Domie) pretty much finished the Leilani, he forgot … We call it, the gunnels on a canoe are called a mo`o and they connect to the manu. The manu sits on the ends of the canoe and then the front has what they call a palewai which is a splash guard and in the back of the canoe, there’s a little piece that juts out. When I was growing up that was referred to as the Menehune seat. The Menehune sat there and caused trouble for you.
When Domie finished the canoe, I noticed it didn’t have a Menehune seat. I told Domie, I said, “Domie, I think traditionally a Hawaiian canoe is supposed to have a Menehune seat back here.” He took that very seriously. A couple of days later, there was a Menehune seat in the back of the canoe and it’s there today. Maybe I did have something to do with it.
MK: Did you have a favorite canoe of all the canoes you paddled?
BSA: When I was a kid there was a canoe called the Leokai which was a four-man surfing canoe. In those days there were very few smaller canoes to surf in. I was the only one allowed of the kids to take it out because I could steer to surf it. One day foolishly I took it out in a Kona wind day with a girlfriend of mine, Didi Osorio and we dropped in on a wave and the canoe never came up. It went straight down and hit the bottom. I put some stitches in the Didi’s head, she didn’t mind but the canoe split in half. That canoe was the pride of some of the old timers like Neal Ifversen. He had his picture on the postcard and the canoe for many years in front of the Halekulani. Today, they would have repaired it but in those days, George Downing was the coach, I think, and he turned it into a salad bar at the old Club and I suffered from that for many years and a lot of old timers would never forgive me for breaking the canoe.
MK: Did you get bill for it?
BSA: No, I don’t believe I was ever billed for it.
MK: Today, they’d fix it and send you a bill.
MK: I want to go back to surfing a little bit. Who taught you to surf?
BSA: Probably Rabbit was the most inspirational. I surfed before Rabbit. Joe Akana taught me to surf but Rabbit was a hot dogger and he was really an innovative surfer and he liked to take the kids surfing and we’d go with Rabbit and we’d learn a lot of stuff.
MK: That’s when he was a beach boy.
BSA: Even before that. Not here but down at the old Club.
MK: Right. What were your favorite surfing spots?
BSA: Well, most of us surfed at Canoe Surf. In fact, all the Outrigger members did. All the older members like Peter Balding. They all surfed at Canoe Surf. Mostly, they loved the rights there. Also, we surfed at Queen’s Surf and every once in a while if we had enough energy we paddled out to Populars. In those days we didn’t surf … Ala Moana hadn’t opened up as a surfing venue or the other places like Paradise and Number Threes. Now, they surf everywhere of course. For us to venture out of Waikiki, the first time we did we went to Makaha with Rabbit and then we ventured to Yokohama and then later on to the North Shore.
MK: How old were you the first time you went out to Makaha?
BSA: Probably about twelve or thirteen.
MK: How big was it?
BSA: It was way too big to make me comfortable, scared to death.
MK: You went out anyway?
BSA: Rabbit made you. You didn’t have a choice.
MK: He’d push you into the wave?
BSA: No. You can catch your own wave, but he would give you pointers how to stay out of trouble.
MK: Was it a good day or was it one of those …
BSA: Well, it’s exciting and then after a while you figure it out. Then some people became very good at it. Paul Strauch, Freddy Hemmings, of course, was world champion. Evie Black was a world champion.
I remember I took Walter Guild out and Dana Moss when I was older and they were like twelve years old and I did the same thing. I took them out to Makaha on maybe a ten-foot day. Told them go for this wave knowing that of course they’re going over the falls and crash. Just something to get their sea legs so I did the same thing to them.
MK: I’m sure Walter will do it to somebody else.
BSA: Yeah, I’m sure he’s done it to somebody else.
MK: You mentioned that you rented surf boards from the beach boys, didn’t you have your own board?
BSA: Well, initially, they didn’t rent them. They just signed them out. The Club had hollows with no skeg or anything, but you can catch a wave. Then I think I got my first surf board from Earl King when I was about … I don’t know eight or nine. It was a redwood balsa board and I remember it being extremely heavy. I could hardly carry it to the water. I had that for a while and then …
MK: How long was it?
BSA: It probably was about nine and half feet long. Then the balsa boards came in and then that was a big transition in surfing. I got a balsa board. It really changed surfing.
MK: When the Club moved here, was the surfing as good?
BSA: The Club moved here in 1961 I believe.
BSA: ’64. I was in college in law school at that time. I didn’t experience the transition from surfing at Canoe Surf to Old Man’s until I came back from law school. I think the surf here, some of it it’s more challenging, for instance Rice Bowl on a big day is pretty critical. Castles gets huge. The surf’s all good. Canoe Surf or here. I think here, it’s good for the Outrigger members because it’s like in our own backyard and we don’t have as much competition for for waves.
MK: You have any good surfing’s wipeout stories or shark stories to tell?
BSA: I’m sure everybody’s got a bunch of shark stories. I remember once when the gremmies were surfing at Tonggs, a place called the Winch. I caught a wave and there was a shark on the same wave with me and he was right next to my board. When I got off the wave I told the kids out there. I think it was Jimbo Beaumont and some of others, Freddie Hemmings, some of the kids out there. I said, “Hey, there’s a big old shark here. You better get out of the water.” The kids were all about ten or eleven, all cocky. “Yeah, we’re not going to. Besides that shark is not a problem.” I said, “Why, what makes you think that particular one’s not a problem?” “Well, that’s old Sam.” I’m thinking to myself, these kids are just pulling my leg. “How do you know that’s old Sam?” He said, “Because he has a dent taken out of his dorsal fin.” They recognized him. I think it was a shark. It was a tiger shark that hung out there and the kids all knew it, didn’t bother them.
MK: Was it old Sam, the one that Cline Mann always talked about?
BSA: Probably. I think it hung around the Diamond Head buoy and Tonggs. It was in that area.
MK: Now you entered surfing contests?
BSA: Yes, I did.
MK: Club contest, did you …
BSA: I used to enter in the Makaha International contest. I never did win, but I’d enter.
MK: Do you enter the Duke?
BSA: The Duke.
MK: That was after Makaha. It was out …
BSA: No, I didn’t go into Duke.
MK: You were in college at that time, I guess. What about tandem surfing, you were into that?
BSA: I learned to tandem surf simply by watching Rabbit and his other surfer, Matt Warner. Of course Freddy Hemmings knew how to do it because he was good at just about anything. I learned how to tandem surf and I would practice with Kisi Haine. There was a reason for that. One, Kisi was a precocious child surfer. She was a real good water person and really good surfer plus she only weighed about eighty pounds. In tandem surfing, the rules are you got to have three different carries. Well, I couldn’t lift a hundred-twenty-pound woman over my head. I wasn’t strong enough, but I could lift Kisi.
I remember we entered a tandem surf contest and Freddy Hemmings was in the contest. Somehow Kisi and I won the contest and Fred was fit to be tied because he was Mister Surfer.
He comes over and he knows that the rule was the partner had to weigh one hundred pounds and he knew Kisi didn’t weigh one hundred pounds. I mean he didn’t know how much she weighed, but he knew she didn’t weigh one hundred pounds. He comes up to Kisi and he says, “Kisi, how much do you weigh?” Kisi looks at him, she goes, “One hundred pounds.” Of course, she didn’t. She goes, “Fred, how much do you weigh?” About that time Fred was weighing in at about two hundred and thirty pounds. Fred goes, “Well, a little over two hundred and Kisi goes, “Fred, I weigh one hundred pounds just like you weigh a little over two hundred.”
MK: You also got into sailing for a while.
BSA: Yes. I had a Hobie Cat. I didn’t get into the sunfish and stuff like Cline Mann and them did but I had a Hobie Cat. Then, at that time all of us or a lot of us at the Club rode motorcycles with Jimbo Beaumont. We did motocross, TT racing at Hawaii Raceway Park. We had some real good riders. Walter (Guild), excellent rider, of course Matt Kresser was a world champion. John DeSoto was not a member of the Club but a member of the group that went motorcycle riding. Every weekend we went motorcycle riding.
One week I bought a twenty-nine-foot Islander sailboat, full keel, ocean-going sailboat. Kent Giles and I sailed it over to Kaunakakai. Fished on the way over, drank beer, just had a grand old time and then on the way back, coming back down the channel, we’re sailing along and I’m thinking, why do I ride motorcycles every weekend when I could be doing this. At that point, that Monday I sold my motorcycle and all my equipment and got into sailing and got into blue water sailing. I took Evening Star. I’ve sailed it all the way to La Perouse Bay once in Maui. I would sail it to Molokai all the time.
Then I traded that boat in on a forty-foot Columbia. At that time, I owned the Hellion Bar in Kaunakakai, Molokai. I would sail my boat over on the weekends. In fact, one weekend there was a barge strike and I sailed over two hundred cases of Olympia beer. My bar had the only beer on the island. The local people in Kaunakakai came down in their pickup trucks and unloaded my boat, threw the beer in the back of their trucks. I thought I’d never see it again, but they took it all to the Hellion. Opened the beer and then they brought all their pupu and food and had just about a luau for the whole day. Drank all the beer.
Then, that boat I took with Bruce Soule, he is a member of the Club, on a number of trips to the South Pacific. Bruce and I sailed from Ala Wai, for instance, to Taiohae Bay in the Marquesas twenty-four days of hard weather The boat stayed upright, but you couldn’t go on deck without a harness. That was exciting. Of course you get out of the sight of land. You’re on your own. Helicopters can’t fly five hundred miles.
We sailed all over the South Pacific. We sailed through the Marquesas, went to every single island every day. Went all through the Tuamotus. Of course, we went to Societies a number of times, about three times I sailed to Papeete.
I went south to the Cook Islands and I went even further south one time to the [inaudible 01:15:29] and sailed back. Each time I’d sail back to Papeete and re-provision to sail back to Ala Wai. It’s about a twenty-two-day trip from Papeete to Ala Wai.
Interesting new story about the French, last trip I came back from Papeete, no one on board. It was just my wife and another woman. No one drank beer except myself and of course, I gave myself a daily ration like any good sailor. I realized I needed so much beer for a twenty-two day trip back to Honolulu so I did the calculations. I figured out how many cases of beer I needed. I went to the Hinano Brewery in Papeete and bought the cases of beer and brought them back to the quay. Load them on the Evening Star. Set sail for home and about two days out I ran out of the beer I had on board and I had to open up the first case of Hinano beer and I blame it on the French. Sorry about it but the French are directly responsible for this. There were not twenty-four bottles in each case like we were accustomed to. There were only twenty bottles and not only that. They weren’t twelve-ounce bottles. They were eight-ounce bottles. Marilyn, I had to go on beer rationing right at that moment and it was traumatic.
Another time I bought another boat, a bigger boat, a fifty-three-foot, twenty-three-ton steel catch. One time my wife and I sailed it down to Palmyra and Palmyra is close to a thousand miles south of Ala Wai. We stayed there two weeks, a week longer than we had planned, and then to come home. When I came out of the lagoon at Palmyra, you’re supposed to go south of the island and go east and get your easting.
The wind was blowing so hard I thought I could make two-hundred mile plus days going home because the boat I had was a powerful boat, could handle big weather. I started heading north. We made two-hundred mile days but we couldn’t come east. Consequently, instead of an eight-day trip back to Honolulu from Palmyra, it took us thirty-three days to get back which was quite a long time to be at sea. It was just my wife and I, Darcy at the time.
Well, we were gone so long that her mother called the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard said, “Well, we don’t have anything to go on. We’re not even sure where Bruce went.” Of course, I told the Harbor Master where I went and how long I’d be gone so I’d have my slip when I came back.
Anyways, at some point, the Honolulu Advertiser decided that I was lost at sea. Freddy Hemmings has been a lifelong friend and he thought it was appropriate on Memorial Day to have a service for me out in front of the Terrace like they do each Memorial Day. He did my eulogy. Of course, like Mark Twain, it was a little premature.
MK: Was it a good service?
BSA: I don’t know, I wasn’t there.
MK: What did he say when you came back?
BSA: Everybody was very glad. I was a little mystified that everybody had missed us. I didn’t think it was that big a deal.
MK: Any other good sailing stories?
BSA: Wait, Bruce Soule and I had one adventure after another. We really did and he had an expression when we got into a rough situations. He’d go, “Your boat, Ames.” Yes, it is. Bruce Soule was an excellent sailor. Excellent blue water sailor, no question about it. He is a member here of course.
MK: Right. He’s Aileen (Riggin Soule’s) son.
BSA: Aileen’s son, yeah.
MK: You were also a paddleboarder.
BSA: Yes. Growing up, the Diamond Head Paddleboard Race was a big event. It was held on Christmas Day and it went from the Moana Hotel, around the Diamond Head buoy and back. It was won by people like Hobie Alter and George Downing, maybe Rabbit. I always liked that but I never paddled it and then when I come back from college, Cline Mann had four paddleboards and he was resurrecting the paddleboard program.
I used one of his boards for maybe three years in the Diamond Head Paddleboard Race and I came in maybe two thirds in the second and then one year, I just assumed that Cline was going to lend me one of the boards for the race because Brant Ackerman, Dale Hope, and Aka Hemmings, Joey Cabell, they all paddleboarded.
Then Cline told me that no, he’d given the board away. He gave it, I don’t know who he gave it to but … I didn’t have a board but I remembered George Downing had a board. I called George and I asked him if he still had his board and he said, “Yes, he did” but it had a big hole in the front of it. It fell out of its rack and crashed but I could use it if I wanted. So I picked up his board and it had a big hole and I cut open a Budweiser beer can and I made a patch with it, some duct tape, got the thing going. Then I had to learn how to paddle it because it was state-of-the-art board. It was better than Cline’s board, no question. then that Christmas Day I entered the race and against Brant (Ackerman), Dale (Hope) and Aka (Hemmings) and I won. I won because I was in really good shape. I really did practice for it but also, I think I had the best equipment, that really helped. It was like a childhood dream because I really practiced hard for it.
MK: To do something your heroes had done like George and Rabbit.
MK: Did you enter any other paddleboard races or was the only one?
BSA: That was the only one I really entered.
MK: You’ve met your goal and you stopped while you’re ahead.
BSA: Yeah, quit while you’re ahead.
MK: What about one man’s. Were you into …
BSA: Yeah, I still am.
MK: … surf skis or one man’s?
BSA: I have a surf ski, a Hayden, and I still have a one man. I’ve had several one mans and I used to enter the one man, in the Ikaika Kanaka races but I never was able to do very well. I was too old I guess but I entered them and had fun and a lot of people from the Outrigger did and I still paddle my one man once a week or so, once or twice a week.
MK: Do you still surf?
BSA: You know, Marilyn, I quit surfing about six or seven years ago because I lost, I couldn’t balance. I don’t know why. As you get older you can’t balance as well. I used to ride a skateboard. In fact, I used to carry my infant children around riding a skateboard to upset my mother-in-law. No, I don’t surf anymore.
MK: We had the Surf Contest last week and Joe Dubiel was telling me he can’t stand up anymore. He rides it on his knees but yet, he managed to get up once. He was so proud of himself. You were also the winner of the Castle Swim twice revived, or three-time revived Castle Swim.
MK: How did that come about?
BSA: We had some Club members, Ian and Craig Emberson. Ian lives on Maui and he’s still quite a swimmer and Craig lived with me and we got into swimming distance so I was kind of doing it. Craig and I, three or four times swam from Portlock to the Outrigger.
BSA: We swam along outside of Kahala Reef, just take your time and then, I won Castle Swim, I guess it is. But I don’t swim anymore like that.
MK: Well, you got a lot of single honors.
MK: Well, you got in the water again for Harry Huffaker. You helped to escort him on his channel swims.
BSA: Yeah, Ron, Haworth and I, John Marshall, Bob Lundy, Ricky Steere. We escorted Harry on his swims. I’ll tell you a story. You want to know a story about shark and things. Harry was attempting to swim from Upolu Point on the Big Island to Kipahulu on Maui and we got a boat, they did, from Zanderbadge and we caught … the name of the boat was Spooky Looky and we were motoring from Honokohau Harbor, all the way up to Upolu.
On the way up, I asked John Marshall, I said, “John, isn’t Upolu Point where Ken Bowman has his shark kill each year? Where they kill a cow and they float it out and the cow is decomposing and it attracts all these big old sharks and then they pull the cow in and harpoon and shoot the sharks, big shark kill. Right there at Upolu Point,” and he goes, “Yeah, that’s where it is.”
I went, “Oh. Have they had it this year yet?” He goes, “Yeah, this is a Tuesday now. They had it Sunday.” I was oh dear. We get up there and I thought Ron Haworth and Ron Sorrell were supposed to start to escort Harry. We had two big tandem boards. I had a shark stick on mine and a light and John, on the other boat, we had a light but it ended up just being John and I. We didn’t get sick for probably … That’s how they got out of having to do it because they got sick.
We didn’t get sick so we launched with Harry and the thing was you had to go in and touch the ground or whatever to start to swim. It was a beautiful night, absolute malia ocean and stars were out. It just was beautiful. We started out and Harry’s, we had him between our two boards because Harry didn’t swim with a shark cage or anything. He just swam. At night time because we started at midnight, you don’t want to lose your person in the ocean so we’re right next to him.
We’re out about twenty minutes, thirty minutes, all of a sudden Harry jumps out, jumps out in the water and he goes, “Wow, what was that?” “I don’t know what.” He says, “I just saw this blue swath streak underneath me.” The swath is the phosphorous in the ocean, blue, and some big animal passed under him going pretty fast. I went, “Oh shit. This doesn’t sound good.” At about that time we were telling Harry, get over here.
Harry’s all covered with Vaseline and Vaseline’s getting all over the surfboards and we’re trying to get Harry up on the board. We’re trying to contact the escort boat to come over. About that time, this big old fin goes right across the front of our boards and I’m like, “Oh no, boy, now we’re in for it.” We’re trying to wrestle Harry up on the board and he’s slipping all over. We’re just convinced that it’s the big old shark from Ken Bowman shark hunt that they didn’t get. Then moments later, another big fin comes on the side of us, only this time it blows and it’s just a giant porpoise. Big sigh of relief but then you’re thinking gee, a porpoise swimming at about twenty-five-thirty miles an hour, if they bang into you, that’s not going to be good either. They weighed four hundred pounds.
MK: Oh my goodness.
BSA: Now, we went with Harry. We had a doctor on board and we swam . . . we’re in the water over twenty-three hours and when Harry came out of the water, we brought him up on the deck of the boat and he immediately went out. Harry can sleep while you’re talking to him. His heart rate’s something like thirty-eight at rest and he just barely goes.
The doctor is attending to him, thinks he’s going into shock. Get his feet up. Got some blankets on him. He’s going into shock because he’s been in the ocean twenty-three hours and I said, “Wait a minute. Why do you think he’s going into shock?” The doctor looks at me like I don’t know anything. He goes, “Well, his heart rate is way down. I said, “Well, what is it?” He says, “It’s only forty.” I said, “Well, his normal heart rate I think is thirty-eight, right in that range.” He goes, “What?” I’m like, “Yeah.” Harry just got some kind of heart deal that’s why he’s such a good swimmer.
MK: That’s why he could go for long distance.
BSA: Yeah, he’d go forever, yeah.
MK: And you’re out with him on all of his channel swims?
BSA: I think, yeah. I was just talking to Ron Haworth and he said, he and I were the two that went on all of them. I know there’s one time I went and they didn’t take precautions. No, I didn’t go in the first one I don’t think. Anyways, we went and they didn’t take precautions which disturbed me because I had a shark gun and a light but I also knew that ocean-going beings don’t like Clorox so I brought a couple of bottles of Clorox onboard which is illegal you’re not supposed to have Clorox on a boat because of fish bombing but if it’s me or sharks it’s going to be the Clorox.
When we got over to Penguin Banks off in the west in the Molokai, I think Ricky Steere was in the water with me. We looked down and down below Harry in about fifty to sixty feet of water, there’s a big old shark, and we could see it right … he’s down there underneath us. We’re watching real carefully and the next thing you know, he’s underneath us and I had already grabbed a bottle of the Clorox and I put it in and he was gone in an instant. He just … he just took off. Never came back. Didn’t bother Harry at all.
MK: You love the ocean. You were a fisherman?
BSA: A fisherman, yeah.
MK: And you scuba dive?
BSA: I did some scuba diving but mostly free diving. I used to go with Henry (Ayau), my brother in law. I could tell you some stories about Henry. Henry was on the Board of Directors with me and we’d use to take the Outrigger canoes and go off to the Natatorium or go down to Suicide’s, Tongg’s and go night diving. Henry loved to dive but he’d also go by himself. One night Henry took the canoe and I guess the statute of limitations has run and Henry is deceased so it doesn’t matter. He took the Outrigger canoe and he went off toward the Natatorium to get lobster because it was … nobody ever fished there. That’s when Henry was on the Board with me.
At some point Henry came back up to put his fish in the boat, the boat was gone . . . Outriggers’ four-man canoe, somehow it had come loose and disappeared. Well, Henry came in and I don’t know what he did but … he reported that he lost the boat and they think it had gotten stolen so they brought the matter up in the Board and so while they were discussing of course I knew what happened. Henry had taken the boat and didn’t secure it good and it floated away. I made a motion and I think … what was the name that ran the gas company that was the president?
MK: Jeff Kissel, no. Harlan …
BSA: Or was it Hawaiian Electric.
MK: Yeah, Hawaiian Electric.
BSA: Hawaiian Electric.
BSA: Yeah, Dan Williamson.
MK: Dan Williamson.
BSA: He was the president so I make a motion that we form a committee to look into the matter of the lost canoe and everybody thought that’s a great idea. Then they said, “Well, who’s going to head up the committee.” I said, “How about we have Henry head up the committee.”
MK: Whatever happened? Did you ever find the canoe?
BSA: Never did.
MK: You never did. Oh dear. Any other ocean sports that we’ve not talked about?
BSA: You want to get back to Kisi Haine. One time when she and Marc Haine were kids, maybe nine and ten or eleven respectively is when there were so many Hobie Cats anchored out in front of the Outrigger and one Sunday afternoon, it appeared to those on the (Hau) Terrace that there was a couple on the trampoline of one of the Hobie Cats near shore, sunbathing and they’re nude.
So Kisi Haine and Marc Haine took it upon themselves to paddle out to the Hobie Cat, untie it and while the people sunbathing nude on this Hobie Cat were unaware, towed the boat in right next to our seawall there and had the boat there and there was a crowd on the Terrace watching their shenanigans. I guess that comes under the ocean sports.
MK: Oh dear. Anything else? You’ve been one of our most prolific runners. You’ve entered how many marathons?
BSA: Marilyn I don’t know exactly how many. I do know that Freddy Hemmings and I ran the second Honolulu Marathon on a bet and we didn’t train and that’s where I learned what the expression, “My kingdom for a horse” means and after that we started running marathons, it became very popular at the Club. I’ve continued off and on. I ran the last three or four years after my knee operations and I ran last year and I’m going to run this year. How many? I don’t know but close to forty probably. Not all of them. I run about four or five Maui marathons.
MK: Do you train for them?
BSA: Yes. Now, I run once a week usually and I run fourteen miles. I have a course I go on but I don’t run every day and I think when you’re older if it’s kind of like being … a major league baseball pitcher gets three days off after starting the game and they’re in their youth so it takes a while for you to come back after you run long but it seems to work for me.
MK: You’re going to keep entering?
BSA: I don’t know. I’m going to be seventy-five my next birthday and I don’t know. The thing about running marathons Marilyn is that it’s akin to carbon credits if you’re familar with that concept because for every mile you run, you get a credit of two Heinekens and so you build up a Heineken credit kind of like a carbon credit.
MK: You’ve got to run to enjoy yourself later.
BSA: You burn up those credits pretty quickly.
MK: You were elected to the Board of Directors in 1987?
MK: You served on the Board (of Directors) for six years.
MK: You were secretary and treasurer …
MK: … and Coordinating Director of Athletics and the Historical and Entertainment Committees. What were the major concerns of the Board at that time?
BSA: I guess everyday operation of the Club. The Club, the Club runs efficiently. Runs pretty good but it needs to be monitored and of course the Board is charged with that responsibility and I think they do overall a pretty good job. If you look at other clubs like Waikiki Surf Club or Hui Nalu, they’ve been around … when did we start, 1908? They’ve been around almost as long and what do they have to show for it? Nothing. Yet, we have this beautiful Club and that’s because of leadership and good guidance and people working together so I think the Club has always been in really good hands. Of course we have rocky road every once in a while, we witnessed the Club furniture, the big rhubarb over that but I mean that’s probably nothing.
MK: Little pebbles?
BSA: Yeah, yeah.
MK: I remember that the smoking ban went into effect while you were in the Board?
BSA: Yeah, yeah.
MK: … someone insisted there be a designated place where people could go smoke?
BSA: They started phasing out the smoking, started with the dining room I guess. I don’t know how it was and I was anti-smoking and in those days it was very fashionable. Anyways, I was a reformed smoker too so that made it worse. I remember one meeting, I’m not sure who they … maybe it was Johnny Goss the president. Discussion was going around, well, we’re in the Club, shall we have smoking areas, and where should you not have them? I just thought, well this is ridiculous. Let’s just ban the whole thing so I made a motion, we ban the whole thing.
When I came on the Board, they didn’t really follow Robert’s Rules of Order very closely but when I came on I brought my Robert’s rules with me and always had it on the table. If things got a little dicey, I’d always make a motion towards Robert’s rules and they check themselves up but anyways, after a discussion they decided that they’d limit smoking to one little area up on the top parking deck.
MK: And there’s a bench up there.
BSA: Well, I’ve heard that but I don’t know too much about that.
MK: Well, I heard it’s called the Bruce Ames’s memorial bench.
MK: That’s where smokers are exiled if they insist on smoking.
MK: Were there any other major issues for the Club while you were on the Board?
BSA: Well, off and on we talked about trying to buy the fee from the Elk’s Club and committees to do that and it never seemed to work. We didn’t really have any big crises. I remember when I was first on the board, Howdy Goss … Was it Howdy Goss or Johnny Goss?
BSA: John Goss, asked me to survey private clubs around the country about their memberships like the New York Athletic Club, the Balboa Bay Club and all these clubs and they had a list of them to check on their memberships. Pretty much, Outrigger was the only private club of stature that had a waiting list for membership. The other ones were always having membership drives and things but we never needed to do that. We’ve always had a good membership.
MK: We had a change in management during your term. John Rader came in as the general manager.
BSA: John Rader was a good man. He’s real good friends with my brother-in-law, Henry (Ayau). In fact, he was here when Henry died right off the Terrace. Yeah, John Rader had some health issues. He had to retire.
MK: He’s passed away since then.
BSA: Yeah, he passed away.
MK: Henry, as I remember, drowned . . .
BSA: Well, probably he drowned but he had, I guess, he had heart issues. He never told us. He had some kind of a seizure.
MK: He was found floating off the Club.
BSA: Yeah, he’s found floating face down.
MK: Do you remember the Outrigger Foundation Auction?
BSA: Well, I did read your notes, Marilyn, and I saw where apparently, I attempted to donate a free uncontested divorce.
MK: Yes, you did and it even appeared in the newspaper.
BSA: Which I thought was generous but I’m not sure anybody ever took me up on it.
MK: That’s what I was wondering. If anybody ever bid on it, I couldn’t remember.
BSA: I can’t remember.
MK: Then to counter it, another member.
BSA: Offered a marriage.
MK: Decided to offer a free creative marriage.
BSA: Yeah, yeah, that’s funny.
MK: Now one of my final questions for you, you’ve been wearing a full beard and mustache for as long as I can remember. Your hair … in fact in the years, I’ve known you, has gone from black to gray to white. Is it true that your children and your wife have never seen your full face?
BSA: My children never saw my full face and only my first wife saw my full face.
MK: I have a picture here that I’ll show to you.
BSA: Yeah, I’m seeing this picture, Marilyn.
MK: Yes, that’s a picture of you with your chin showing. You still had a mustache. Can you think about what year that might have been?
BSA: It’s probably in the late ’60s. One thing to be noted that the other people in the picture, Dave Rocklen, Big Fred Hemmings and John Marshall, including myself, we all bear a striking a resemblance to Errol Flynn. Big Fred would always tell us that.
MK: Here’s another picture that I got from your friend Bill Danford, showing you two as very kolohe children.
BSA: Yeah, yeah. I don’t know where I-
MK: Can you describe the picture to us?
BSA: This is a picture of an observation deck on the Diamond Head side of the old Outrigger and the background is the mast of the sailing canoe, the Mariah. Seated at the table are Gay Harris and Duke Kahanamoku and the other gentleman I believe, I don’t know who it was. I think he was the manager of the Club. On the railing on the back is Billy Danford and myself, and I believe they’re going over a set of plans for the new Club. Of course, the move from the old Club to here was not without controversy and concern. People had been on the beach at Waikiki for years and years and years and here we were moving almost like to another country but of course, as it turned out, it’s a greatest thing in the world.
Billy Danford and I are probably there being kolohe.
BSA: Eavesdropping, yeah.
MK: Anyway, it’s a great picture of you and the gang at about age, what, ten or so?
BSA: Probably around ten.
MK: We know it was before ’64 because …
BSA: I was ten way before ’64.
MK: Yeah, so. Before we wrap this up, is there anything else that you might like to add? Any memories that we haven’t talked about?
BSA: Oh Marilyn, I think you’ve covered almost everything. I’m sure there’re anecdotal stories from every member of the Club that grew up here about this, that and the other and …
MK: It’s fun remembering them and sharing them with others that will come in the future.
MK: I have one last question for you. You’ve been an Outrigger member for many, many years, what has the Club meant to you?
BSA: Well, the Club is not just an institution. It’s like, among other things, an extended ohana, extended family. It’s certainly been a center of activity for growing up and being an adult. It’s also a microcosm of Honolulu society that lives here in East Honolulu and meets here. There are many, many Club members and they all pretty much know each other so it’s almost like a little town, a community so it’s way bigger than just a Club. That’s what it’s called but it’s an institution.
MK: Then you’ve enjoyed your membership?
BSA: Certainly, certainly.
MK: Made you the person you are?
BSA: I don’t know.
MK: Thanks for doing this oral history, Bruce. We really appreciate it.
BSA: All right, thank you.
Athletic Contributions to the OCC
Molokai to Oahu Canoe Race for OCC
1975 18th Open
1988 44th Open
1989 2nd, Senior Masters
1990 2nd, Masters 45
1991 3rd, Masters 45
1992 4th, Masters 45
1993 7th, Masters 45
State Canoe Racing Championships
1956 Boys 17
1959 Freshmen Men
1960 Freshmen Men
1970 Freshmen Men
1974 Junior Men
1977 Junior Men
1979 Men Open 4
1981 Masters Men
1983 Masters Men
1984 Junior Masters Men
1985 Masters Men
1988 Senior Masters Men
1992 Senior Masters Men
1996 Golden Masters Men
Macfarlane Regatta Championships
1955 Boys 13
1958 Freshmen Men
1960 Freshmen Men
1974 Junior Men
1977 Junior Men
1989 Masters Men 45
1995 Masters Men 45
2001 Masters Men 55
1956 First Place, Boys 12 & Under
1973 First Place Overall
Diamond Head Paddleboard Race
1973 First Place Overall
Service to the Outrigger Canoe Club
Board of Directors
1987 Coordinating Director Athletics
1988 Assistant Secretary, Coordinating Director Entertainment
1989 Coordinating Director Entertainment
1990 Coordinating Director Historical
Beach & Water Safety Committee
Canoe Racing Committee
Public Relations Committee