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
June 23, 2017
BDP: This is Friday, June 23rd, 2017. I’m Barbara Del Piano (BDP), a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club’s Historical Committee. One of our important projects is to interview long-time members who have made significant contributions to the Club. We are here in the Board Room and today it is my pleasure to interview Conne Sutherland (CS). Good morning, Conne. It’s nice to have you here.
CS: Good morning, Barbara. It’s great to be with you.
BDP: Before we get down to your service to the Club, I’d like to get some background. Conne, where were you born?
CS: I was born here, Honolulu, at Queen’s Hospital.
BDP: And how about your parents? Where were they from?
CS: My mom was born here, and my dad came during the early 40s. He actually was born in Calabria, Italy, and came here when he was about 21, and loved it so much he stayed.
BDP: What neighborhood did you grow up?
CS: Oh, several. But I remember Kinau. I remember Kinau Street when we were little. And then Aiea, and then after that, when I went to Kamehameha, it was … back down to Manoa, so Honolulu area.
BDP: What school did you go to?
CS: Kamehameha School for Girls.
BDP: So your mother was part-Hawaiian.
CS: My mother was part-Hawaiian, and dad is Italian, so Hawaiian-Italian, and probably a few other blood streams that ancestry.com is trying to find out about.
BDP: When did you join the Outrigger?
CS: I think it was when I married Jon Sutherland, which is 1974. I was a spouse member at that time. I just did a lot of committee work and cheering for the paddling groups, and then I became an associate member, I think in 1983, so I could paddle and play tennis and vote and be on committees. You know, all that we like to do.
BDP: What was your maiden name?
CS: My maiden name was Caruso.
CS: Like the great singer.
BDP: Oh, my heavens!
CS: Only he didn’t leave his talent with me.
BDP: So you did participate in water sports.
CS: Oh, yes. I loved it. Thanks to Liz Perry, I paddled for many years, and then I coached with Liz, and coached the children and the Novice B and A women, so it was fun. It was fun, but it’s long practices and long regatta days, but all part of the fun at the Outrigger, so I have great memories. The camaraderie was really the best.
BDP: How about volleyball? Did you play any volleyball?
CS: No, not volleyball. That wasn’t my forte. We cheered a lot for the dads and Daddy Haine and all the wonderful players, but we were involved in Club Day and a lot of events around the Club. The old parties. Liz Perry and I did the “O” parties, the Hollywood parties and fashion shows, but my favorite were the luaus. I love the luaus. We chaired and co-chaired the luaus, and decorated … One year we had a pig put in the ground, and Domie (Gose) helped us do that with all the boys, it was so much fun to take the pig out of the ground here at the Outrigger. We did it at 5:30 in the morning, and you had to have permission from the Fire Department because you get all this smoke coming up through the sand. It was something that we loved doing. It’s not something you can do often, to do an imu pit here on our grounds. But it was one of our best luaus.
BDP: So you helped with the food and also the decorations.
CS: Oh the decoration was fun. Henry Ayau was around at that time, so he helped us and Dale Hope has a wonderful backyard of flora and fauna so we could go up to his place and just pick ti leaves, heliconia and have fun just picking. Then you come back here and put it all together. We made lawai baskets, we hung [inaudible 00:05:04] from the pillars, put flowers everywhere we could think of. On the tables, we made ginger patches and banana patches all around the Club. It was fairly … like the old days. And we had lots of help. And lots of paddlers, lots of people around who loved to do that, who loved to do the old island style of decorating for a luau. It’s really my fond memories, fun times.
BDP: Yeah, the luau went through a phase though where it got really … touristy, with the macaroni salad and-
CS: Yeah, we didn’t like that, that’s why we got involved. Yes. You know, it’s hard for the management to do that and their daily things. You need the members. So we got involved, and I think it helps. Every year, I’d say it’s the last 20 years, 25 years, we kind of joined efforts with the management and the membership. We do the decorating, get the entertainment, make sure that there’s a lot of help and try to sell tickets, and talk up the luau so it’s a full house, but we have good food now.
CS: We’ve got wood dishes, as their plates instead of the paper plates. It’s gone through its growing pains.
BDP: That’s wonderful. What committee were you on when you got involved with the luau?
CS: Entertainment Committee. I was chair and co-chair many years with Liz Perry and I was also House Committee, so we could play with the menu, play with the … other things that the members have thoughts about. I’ve been on Historical, I’ve been on Tennis and Canoe, but my favorite’s Entertainment.
BDP: Wonderful. You sure do a great job. Are you on any committees now?
CS: Right now, no. Because I’m purging, getting ready to move to Kamuela (Big Island), so I’m taking a break, but we still attend a lot of the events and come down and cheer for the paddlers and participate in the events, and do ukulele lessons here, and a lot of gatherings here, but no committee projects right now.
BDP: This Club is really going to miss you when you move. When do you plan to actually move?
CS: The end of summer. But I’ll still be around. I’ll come down and get involved, and make sure that I get to the luau this year, and help with any kind of projects that we have. Especially I have a lot of friends still padding so we have to come and cheer them on, and get involved. But I’ll still be around.
CS: It’s not too far away, you know.
BDP: That’s true … In addition to all the volunteer work you do for the Club, you also have a catering business.
CS: It’s Sutherland Events, it’s really event planning. We do a little bit of catering for the clients that have been with us for a long time. I like the event planning. Coming up with the concept, the idea of it, and thinking of all the fun ways to execute it and then actually see it happen. I like event planning, which Liz Perry and I did back in the early 90s. And we had Old Waialae Road. We actually did the catering because one of our paddlers was having a wedding and she had not found a caterer. We said, “Okay, we’ll try it for you.” We did, and it became permanent. It’s fun to do the event planning. We just can dream of all the ways to present. That’s what it’s about, presentation. And food, and the ambiance, and music, and … sharing Hawaii. Sharing Hawaii, essentially, with all the wonderful things that we like about it.
BDP: In addition to weddings, what kind of events?
CS: Fund raisers, birthday parties, a lot of celebration of life. Celebration of life is fun. The client doesn’t complain, you know. It’s easy and the family is very indebted to you, but the family is so gracious and relieved to have someone help do that. Celebration of life is just a way to celebrate one’s good years, but with music and flowers and friends, and it takes the stress off of the family. And think when someone’s there to just do all the details, be there the day of and make sure that it’s running smoothly, gather the lei and the flowers that arrive, help with the friends that are not sure where to sit. It’s really about just being with the family.
BDP: I know that you took care of my sister’s celebration, and it was wonderful.
CS: Oh, thank you. I loved doing that. I like sharing that, because you do feel that you’re helping the family, most of all, and you get to do it the island way, with the lei and a few little pupu and a few little- island music, so that was a great way to send off …
BDP: That’s so true. So even when you move, you will be coming back and helping out?
CS: Oh yes. That’s still on my agenda. I plan to do that. I hope I can do it every month. I might be busy . . . but yes, I’d like to.
BDP: So you mentioned that you get the flowers from the luau from Dale Hope. For your other events, where do you get them?
CS: Dale is always wonderful. Backyard farmers, or the open markets, and some from my yard, and friends’ backyards, it’s nice and then, run up to Tantalus sometimes and steal ginger … but a lot of it, it’s from friends’ backyards, and nurseries. Some of the Big Island nurseries will send things if I can’t find it here, but mainly friends and backyards and … Chinatown. It’s all found traveling around and gathering from everywhere.
BDP: That’s fabulous. When you do these events, you have an outside caterer, usually.
CS: We have staff, and a Board of Health license to do that, but if we have something challenging, we’ll bring in, call or hire a chef. But my staff will do it. My staff do and we do-
BDP: You have a very large staff?
CS: Not now. Liz and I had Old Waialae Road Café, we had six at the café, and then we had a base staff of six, but it could go up to 30. Events and wedding that were at Lanikuhonua, we needed 30 because the weddings were 150 to 200 guests, so you need about 30 to decorate and set up the tables and chairs, and serve the food and the cocktails and then wrap it up. In that sense, those kind of events take a lot of staff.
BDP: Now, what was it you had on Waialae Avenue on that . . .
CS: It was on the corner. It was Old Waialae Road. It was Ted’s Kimchi To-go before that, but we came up with that name when we had gone to the lawyer to wrap up the legal paperwork and it said, “Café at Old Waialae Road,” and we thought, “That’s a great name. We’re going to borrow that name.” So we took that name, it was great. It was a café and a catering company, but we had staff that were left from Ted’s Kimchi To-go and they were wonderful workers. All Filipino workers who were dedicated, loyal. They came to work even when they were sick and we’d have to send them home, or take them home. But they did all the local things. All the teriyaki sauce, the kimchi, and all of the- we had a healthy menu. We had,Waimanalo baby greens, no Ajinomotos. We did both things; we did the event planning and the catering and the café from that.
BDP: Oh, wow.
CS: It was fun. a lot of work though.
BDP: When you’re not busy working, and I don’t think that’s very often, do you find any time to spend at the Club?
CS: I love to come and meet friends here, like to do that, but a lot of it is finding the time to do that. I’m on several boards, Uluniu Swimming Club, and the Daughters of Hawai’i, and plus with my business and my grandchildren, there’s not too much time left to come and play. But my earlier years were spent a lot at the Club because I wasn’t on the board. The children were growing up, my daughters Tiffany and Starr have been members since they were ten, they paddled. Now that they’re grown up, I’m not cheering down at all the races, but I come and cheer for the friends.
BDP: How many children do you have?
CS: I have two daughters. Tiffany Sutherland and Starr Sutherland. She’s now Tiffany Cheder and Starr Sutherland Maria. And I have grandchildren on the Big Island and grandchildren in New Hampshire, so that’s where my extra time goes. Yes, my extra time is traveling to see the mo’opuna.
BDP: Oh my goodness. Were you a member, or were you old enough when we were at the old club in Waikiki?
CS: No, I wasn’t a member then. When I married Jon Sutherland, I became a spouse member then in 1974. I wasn’t part of that, but I’ve heard lots of great things about that.
BDP: Your husband, Sutherland. What did he do?
CS: He paddled a lot. He paddled a lot. In fact, when we would cheer, he was- he paddled with Steve Scott and Jeff Avery and Nat Norfleet and Paul MacLaughlin … so many of them. They were wonderful. They had great times. But he paddled a lot. But he had a string of men’s clothing stores, it was his father’s, Ross Sutherland, so he did that as well. Then he became a realtor. I think it was the late 70s, he became a realtor. He was busy. And he golfed a lot, and paddled, and surfed, he was a good athlete. Lots of friends that he had here. He was a member since he was a child. We got to participate through his membership and be a part of it.
BDP: Oh, I should say … I gather then that the Club has been an important part of your life.
CS: Oh yes. It’s family. It’s family here and lots of good friends and lots of [inaudible 00:17:09], even the employees here, they’re family too. It’s been a very important part of my life. The other part- my sister lives in New York, so this has been my extended family as well. It’s also where I get to see all my paddler friends and friends who used to play tennis and participate in the luaus, so you get to see them all over again.
BDP: That’s wonderful. What do you think the future holds for the Club when the present lease expires?
CS: Well, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get through that. I mean, I’m hoping that they find a way to keep this site. I think lots of prayers are on for that. But I think it will continue, I think the membership is strong, and they’re going to find a way to keep this site. Or if we have to find another site, it’ll be what’s going to be good for the Club. But I think it’s … you know, all good. There’s a lot of interest, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of workers who are dedicated and the members will keep it up. So we’ll just pray for that.
BDP: Great. Do you have any other stories you’d like to tell us?
CS: Stories, oh my gosh. There’s fun stories. When the days of paddling, when people would get up in the canoe over the bar, and we make like we didn’t know who that was. “We didn’t see it.” We had fun times. Fourth of July was fun. Lots of water things, going out in the ocean to cheer our canoes. To cheer our Club. Fourth of July was wonderful. It was crazy, wild and … it’s tamed down a lot, but we do host them, the regatta, the Macfarlane Regatta is our regatta so we’re always there to sponsor and cheer, then bring it in the Fourth of July the way it should be, then of course the big party after is how we carry on all our winnings for the day. I mean, it’s so fun to be down on the beach and cheer everyone and get into the excitement of it, you know? Then come back to the Club and party again because we won. And even if we didn’t win, we’re still cheering down here. It’s all wonderful and it’s just … a very special place and I keep it in my heart.
BDP: Has it been important to your children?
CS: Oh, yes, especially growing up. From the time they were ten- it was their first experience, you know, with other children, being part of a team. Team sport was great. In those times, there wasn’t too much soccer. There was just things at school, so the team sport of paddling was good, so they liked it. They both live away now, so they’re not as involved, but when they come here, they’re happy to be back.
BDP: Oh, I bet they are.
BDP: What school did they go to?
CS: They both went to Punahou. Their father said, “If it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for the girls.”
BDP: Oh gosh.
CS: It was fun. Punahou was a good school for them at the time, and … we carried on. They both have graduated and have fond memories of doing Club activities and school activities, and we made it work. School, and paddling here, so coming here after school was fun. And they did a little volleyball. Starr did a little volleyball, because she’s tall and had a little bit of it at school, so that was a good way to carry on, to come down here. But you know, it’s a lot and when they were going to school, just trying to balance all of it and keep up with all their activities. We did a lot of that.
BDP: Yes. Do you have anything else to tell us?
CS: Well, I know that you’ve been doing a wonderful job with the oral history and capturing everyone. And I think it’s great that you can do this, you and Marilyn (Kali). It’s such an important part of our history, to be able to share these stories. I think … My main thought is that I hope to keep up with all the activities, all the luaus and keep up with the water sports, the paddling, the regattas. They’re all important to everyone’s life experience.
To be part of the Outrigger is to have a chance to share in the water sports. To be part of the ohana here. Whatever events we do here, just everyone participating is important. The ohana spirit of participating, whether you’re good at sports, or good at doing events, or just good at wining and dining, or you’re participating, do whatever you can, and whichever way that you can. Or being on the committee. That’s just great to carry on, by sharing the members’ thoughts and opinions. Just the only way we get to do that, by participating and being on the committees. You get to voice your thought. You have something to say? Get in, join and become part of the Club.
BDP: Oh, that’s wonderful, Conne. You really have expressed the feelings of a lot of people, but they don’t express it like you do.
CS: Oh, thank you. I know that there’s so many- I can’t thank everyone enough for all they do. Some- and as you. To do what you do. I’ve always been in awe. And Marilyn (Kali). I just think it’s amazing. You and Marilyn, just continue on. You are inspiration, and certainly, our heroes. Thank you for carrying on and doing the oral histories. And to be able to share with our members down the road, the years to come. They’re going to look at this and laugh. Isn’t it …
BDP: Thank you so much, Conne.
CS: Oh, thank you.
BDP: It has been such a pleasure to talk to you today. I want to thank you so much. What you’ve told us will be such a wonderful addition to the Club’s archives. Again, thank you very much.
CS: Thank you and I hope so. Thank you.