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 may be found below the video.
An Interview by Marilyn Kali
April 7, 2017
MK: Today is Friday, April 7th, 2017, and we’re 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 committee’s projects is to do oral histories of longtime members and employees. Today, it is my pleasure to be talking to Demetrio, or better known as Domie Gose (DG). Domie was the maintenance supervisor at the Club for more than 40 years, and the person responsible for remodeling and upkeeping our Koa canoes for many years. Good morning, Domie.
DG: Good morning, Marilyn.
MK: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, when and where you grew up?
DG: I grew up in Ilocos Sur in the Philippines and was born on June 21, 1946. I dropped out in high school, because of lack of support (from my family). I went to work as a bakery boy, baking bread. When we finished cooking, I used to deliver the bread to other places, to other families. That’s how I learned about riding a bicycle, because that’s the only way I could deliver it. I worked in the bakery for seven years. This was when I dropped out of high school.
MK: How old were you then?
DG: When I dropped out of high school, I was only 13 years old.
MK: Oh my goodness.
DG: Seven years I worked in the bakery. When there was no bakery work, I used to go help the fishermen, where we catch all those kind of little, they call it ipon in our place, and then go back again to the bakery in the morning and do the cooking, and deliver the bread the same day. When I finished my work in the afternoon, I used to go to college, like a vocational school, and I graduated from a manpower program, as a machinist. That’s how I learned how to work with metal. When I was doing those things, I was also a blacksmith. I did a lot of things in my life, in the PI. I was also a farmer, planting tobacco, and that was the hardest part of my life, to plant tobacco.
MK: What an interesting life you’ve had, Domie.
DG: Because I didn’t have any support from my family.
MK: Did you have brothers and sisters?
DG: I have a brother in the Big Island right now. He’s older than me, and he’s the one who brought me here. He come over here in 1971, no, ’70, and he brought me over here in 1971.
MK: You were how old by then?
DG: I was 24, coming 25.
MK: Well, you had a number of different jobs doing all kinds of things. You talked about being a blacksmith. Did that mean you were shoeing horses?
DG: No. We made bolo knifes. Chisel, a wood chisel, and we used to make the military knife. They call it, the tabak. Tabak is like a Filipino military knife that’s a special made kind, in only one form.
MK: How do you spell it?
MK: That’s interesting. You … I always think of blacksmithing as making shoes for horses …
MK: This was during World War II?
DG: No. This is after already, because I was born after the World War II.
MK: What about guns? Did blacksmiths make guns in those days?
DG: When I finished the vocational school as a machinist, that’s the time I learned how to make guns.
MK: You had a story about that’s how you lost your fingers.
DG: Yes, one of my friends asked me to repair his gun and I never thought that something was real bad inside the barrel. It was so rusty, and when I fired it, the bullet never came out, it exploded with my hand holding the gun.
MK: Well, you’ve certainly done a lot in your career since then, even without some of those fingers, so …
MK: I bet it was a rough time, though, for you …
MK: You came to Hawaii in 1971. How did you get to the Outrigger Canoe Club?
DG: I was rejected as a painter because of my fingers. We went to the employment agency because I was new here, you know. I didn’t know where to go. They told me that there was an opening at the Outrigger Canoe Club to level the volleyball court. This was in August, because that’s the month when we get a lot of tournaments on the volleyball court. When we are in the employment agency, they tell me to go to the Outrigger, so we come here right away, and I was hired right away. They never let me go home anymore. This is Mr. Peter Van Dorn. Do you remember?
MK: He was the manager then.
DG: He was the GM at that time, yes.
MK: Well, tell me, what does leveling the volleyball courts mean?
DG: The sand, the place where they play, when they jump like that, the sand pops out. It goes to the side, so the middle of the volleyball court is uneven. So because of the tournaments that they do, they like the court to be level.
MK: You move the sand around to make it level.
DG: Just to get it the place where it’s too high and bring it sort of in the middle for that whole lower area … And that’s what I did.
MK: We still do that, but we try to get all the kids up there to help with their shovels and their buckets and …
DG: Yes. After that, we used to use the tiller. We used to till the sand and it would also level it at the same time. But the last time they used the tiller, the members did it.
MK: Question for you. I was reading Ron Sorrell’s oral history, and he told all the trouble they went to to find the right sand for the volleyball court, when they were building the courts in ’63. Have we added sand to the volleyball court since then?
DG: I think so. We did some while I was working already.
DG: We used to bring the sand from the garage to that gate up there.
MK: I’ve got to ask about somebody who knows what kind of sand they used, because …
DG: No, I don’t know either.
MK: They were so particular about the right kind of sand to be able to jump, you know, and spike the ball and all that, and I didn’t know if they had ever added sand to it, or if, but you think they did.
Well, Domie, you’ve been here around the athletes for a long time. Were you ever an athlete yourself?
DG: Yes. While I was delivering bread, that’s how I become stronger as a biker, and when we had the town fiesta, we used to have a bicycle race, beside the horse race, and walkathon race, and a running race. I joined the bicycle race, and I won six times.
MK: How long were the races?
DG: The most maybe like about fifteen kilometer. I don’t know how many miles that is.
MK: That’s a long race.
DG: Just one way. That’s only for the town fiesta. It’s not a big deal, but I went also into the provincial meet, but I didn’t make it good because I didn’t have the right bicycle.
MK: Well, that’s fun. Do you ride bicycles now, or is that long past?
DG: I haven’t ridden a bicycle for a long time. I used to go from the Club to Waimānalo and come back. The last time I got into an accident right here by Diamond Head, I stopped completely, because hey, I don’t want …
MK: Too dangerous.
DG: Yes, too dangerous.
MK: When you came to work for the Club in August of ’71, and as you said, you were leveling the volleyball courts, and you’ve been here ever since, so what other kind of jobs have you had here?
DG: Well, when I finished doing the volleyball court, Mr. Van Dorn used to tell me to go pick up some rocks from the beach, because there were too many rocks where the people lay down, so I put them in a wheel barrow and brought them right by the driveway and put them in the truck and back and forth until, you know, I removed all the rocks from the beach, and every day, also, I do it like that.
MK: Well, I can’t believe there were that many rocks.
DG: Yes. We had plenty rock at that time.
MK: Was this in the sand, or was this down on the beach part?
DG: In the beach part, yes.
MK: Well, and then, after that, what kind of jobs did you do?
DG: The leveling wasn’t that hard anymore, because I leveled it every day. Then I’d go to the sand and pick up the rocks again. Because I was only part time, I’d be finished already. So I used to go help the other guy, the custodian boy (Peter Tica) in the dining room. One day, when I’m doing that, he asked me if anybody told me to go and help him, and I said, “No, nobody, I just come and help you.” That’s the time he went to the GM. That’s Mr. Norman Riede , because Mr. Van Dorn, only lasted for a couple months at that time. He went and asked Mr. Riede if I could be his partner, and he granted, and I become full time already. I really liked being a full time at that time.
MK: Was the general manager your boss, then?
MK: Ah, we didn’t have a maintenance department back in those days?
MK: That came later. What other jobs did they ask you to do over the years?
DG: Well, when I’m working in the dining room as a custodian, Mr. Van Dorn, no, Mr. (Jay) Harding and (George) Brangier they are the two members taking care of the garden before, and they came and asked me if I can help them plant something for the garden, and I said, “Why not?” I told them, let’s go, and I helped them. After that, I went back to work in same place, like the custodian.
MK: How did you get into carpentry, then?
DG: This is a long story, also, because when the old man … Do you remember Yoshi Asato? Okay. He was the Japanese gardener before, and he was ready to retire. When he retired, Mr. George Brangier and Jay Harding brought that up to Mr. Riede, to let me take over his place. I was granted to be a gardener, and when I worked in the garden, I didn’t like using a water hose for the whole day, because that’s what I saw the gardener doing the whole day, watering the plants with the water hose.
I didn’t like that, because, I wanted to get to different areas like trimming or planting, instead of watering the whole day, so I tried to find out if there were any sprinklers. First thing right here in front of the Lobby, I saw the three sprinkler valves that were sticking out over there. When I did work in the garden, I checked everything that needed to be cleaned or picked or trimmed. That’s when I found those valves, and I tried to open it, and no water came out. I heard the water come out from the valve, but into the garden, there’s nothing. I opened the valve and gave that a little bit longer, to find out if any water came out from the ground, and that’s how I found out. I used to go and get the screwdriver, and I borrowed a screwdriver in the maintenance and tried to dig the place where I noticed it’s leaking, and that’s how I found out that there was a sprinkler. It was buried already. It was covered with dirt.
Then, one time, me and my uncle in where I live, went someplace in their own working area, where they would get the sprinkler, just to see where the sprinklers were, and figure it out, how long is was? How much distance? I figured like about 10 feet, so I used the first one that I found, I took a tape measure, and took a measurement where the ten feet was, and then I tried to dig it. I used to stab the dirt like that. If I hit something I dig it. Sometimes, rock. Sometimes I’m lucky and the sprinkler is right there, and then I dig it.
Then I measure again, until I’d finished the whole thing, that’s one valve only, that’s one valve. Then, when I found all those sprinkler heads, I took off the head, but they are under the dirt already. The only way to make this work, I said to myself, is to extend the pipe, up, and I didn’t know where to get the pipe, so I asked to one of the managers that’s Ray Ludwig before. He didn’t believe me. He didn’t believe me at all, because, maybe because it, he thought that I didn’t know about the sprinklers. That’s the first time I worked with a sprinkler. Then one day I went and talked to Mr. Jay Harding, because he was the one who put me into this position, and I said that I needed their help to get the pipe, and they gave me the pipe after I talked to them.
MK: That’s how we got sprinklers in the …?
MK: Well, why did they put dirt on top of the sprinkler heads?
DG: What I understand, according to the maintenance workers before, when they built the Club, okay, this is the dirt before, but when they cover it, they put more dirt, more dirt, more dirt, and that’s how happened it’s covered. That’s how it is.
MK: They forgot.
MK: You worked on the sprinklers, and then …?
DG: Then, when I finished one valve, and then … No, no, that;s when Mr. Jay Harding talked to them and they gave me the pipe and I fixed it, then I went to the next one, and the next one, until the whole Club is controlled by sprinklers already. Even the coconut trees outside, there is a sprinkler, but they decided not to do it anymore, because when I turned it on, it flooded the walkway.
MK: Watered the canoes and the …
DG: Then when I finished the whole thing, Mr. Riede told me to, “Hey, Domie,” after lunch there is no place to work in the garden”. He asked if I could go to the shop in the afternoon. I asked him what kind of job that I’m going to do up here, you know? He told me that, “Just go over there and if they ask you to sweep the floor, or to hold the wood or anything that they want you to hold, just to nail it or something like that, or to clean the paintbrush or whatever they want to tell you,” and that’s what I did.
One day, the carpenter guy talked to me, “How much they give you?” I told him the truth. He told me that, “Hey, we get only quarter different, and this is not fair, because I’m a carpenter and you are a gardener, and I’m not only a carpenter, I’m also an electrician.” That’s what he told me. It’s not fair. He told me, “If they don’t give me a raise, I’m going to have a leave of absence.” He went and asked them and they never gave him. Then he left. If you going to leave, get the okay from the GM or something like that, or the manager, is going to terminate you right away. That’s what happened. They terminated him. That was the time we needed a new counter in the women’s locker room. Mr. Riede asked me if I knew a little about carpentry. I told him I think I know how, because me and my brother, finished our own house in the PI. Give me the hacksaw and a tape measure. I told him. He told me, “Domie, there’s no hacksaw over here. We got a machine.”
Well, by looking at our maintenance shop at that time, and using the machine, I think I knew how, so I asked one of the maintenance men and asked about the safety. He mentioned to me that there was a book that you can buy about this kind of machine, and learn about the safety of the machine, and that’s what he said. Mr. Riede gave me the project already of the woman’s locker room counter, and gave me the drawing, the design that he liked. I went to look at that place, in the woman’s locker room, because they have only a table. When I took the measurements, and compared them to his measurements, his measurement was bigger by an inch and a half, so I looked for him right away, and told him that, “Hey, Mr. Riede, your measurement is bigger by one inch and a half than my measurement.” He told me, “Just do whatever you think is proper to do,” so I did it, and we made it good. After that, I made everything, okay, in the woman’s locker room, then he told me, “Do this. Make a busing station.” Anything now, like, every, cabinet, plenty, he gave me those kind of projects now.
At the same time, I do the garden in the morning and in the afternoon I go in to maintenance and the same thing, until he tell me, “Hey, Domie, forget about the garden already. Stay permanent in the maintenance.”
MK: Well, you went from a cabinet in the, a tabletop in the women’s locker room …
MK: . . . To the most beautiful pieces of furniture. You did the beach desk. You carved that. You know, that’s a gorgeous thing. The front desk, the different places throughout the Club, you’ve made wonderful wooden things, and somehow, you got started on the canoes.
DG: Yes. You didn’t mention about the portable bar in the dining room.
MK: That’s right.
DG: The busing station in the Hau Terrace. The computer stand in the Hau Terrace, in the Bar, in the dining room, and the chafing dishes in the kitchen. I don’t know if they’re still using it. They are all, to me, they are all good ones.
MK: They’re beautiful.
MK: Works of art.
MK: Domie, you’ve become one of the top people in Hawaii in remodeling and repairing Koa canoes. How did you learn about Koa canoes?
DG: I looked at it, the canoe, and also from listening, to coaches like Steve Scott, Walter Guild, and also listening to the words of other members that paddle, like the Downings, (Mark) Rigg, (Steve) Van Lier Ribbink and (Chris) Kincaid, when they make a comment about those canoes. That’s how I think about why are they saying this? Figured it out because the problem is, the canoe doesn’t turn. I asked, when I started working on the canoes, I would ask them to bring me the aspect, the measurement of the canoe.
By thinking about it, if you have a longer water line, and you have a longer wood in your hand, and you go down in the water and try to turn it underwater. When the wood is longer, it’s harder to turn, and you get shorter wood, it’s easier to turn. That’s my logic. When they mentioned to me about the Kaoloa, that it’s hard to turn, and I found out the waterline of the Kaoloa is so long, and I keep asking, I keep telling Joe Quigg (the designer and builder of the Kaoloa) that the waterline is too long. That’s the reason why it doesn’t turn, but Joe Quigg doesn’t want to touch the canoe, and doesn’t like for us to, you know, mess around with his job. When I did the Kakina and the waterline is shorter, and wider, the wider bottom, and it turns so good. That’s where we get the faster canoe, turning, a low, shorter waterline, is turning better. Longer waterline, and it turns harder. That’s how I learn.
MK: How did they come to trust you to do this in the first place?
DG: I think because what I already showed them I could do it by making the model canoe. Everybody was asking me to make one for them, you know, because they loved the canoe. The little mini canoe, you know, and that’s how they came to trust me.
MK: Okay, so the first canoe that you worked on was the Kaoloa.
DG: Yes, ma’am.
MK: Joe Quigg had built it from a log that the Club won, and I know he started it in ’85, and we dedicated it in ’86, and used it at, the first race, I recall, was at Kaneohe Bay, and I guess that was the Hui Nalu race. I remember you being there that day and watching it as it went in the water, and everybody was so curious, you know, how would it work? Was it a good canoe or wasn’t it? Immediately, there was some problems with it, and you started working on it later that year.
DG: First they gave me the job to make it straight, because a lot of members didn’t even want to paddle in it, and they brought it to me to fix it, and I did fix it, and made it straight and lighter. I understand also that, at that time, the members, the paddlers didn’t want to use it, until one day at the race and Walter (Guild) brought the canoe after I finished everything. That’s the time they won. They won the race, the regatta, and what I heard, also, from one of the members, if I’m not mistaken it’s Mr. Bruce Ames, that of eleven races we won ten times. I don’t know about the girls, the younger division or what, because we used to bring the Kaoloa for the kids, and Leilani for the upper division. I think that’s the time they trusted me to do the canoe already, because when I fixed the Kaoloa, everything was working good.
MK: They liked what they saw.
MK: Okay, so, after the first year with the Kaoloa, you straightened it …
MK: And you got the weight down to 400 pounds.
MK: Now, was it finished then, or was there still work to do?
DG: There’s nothing to be done already, but some of the higher division crews used it, and they complained about being hard to turn, and that’s when I mentioned to them the waterline is too long. We need to cut down and the only way to cut down in my opinion is to take off the okole (stern). So I made it a little bit sharper in the back, make it sharp, so it would turn faster. It still doesn’t turn fast like the other canoes, so I mentioned to Walter and Joe to make it wider. They gave me the okay to make it wider, and I asked them, can we make it four inches wider? They told me, no, just two inches. After I made that one wider, by two inches only, Walter talked me again, “Hey, Domie, it’s still skinny.” Well, I told you I wanted to add four inches, but you guys said only two inches. The last word of Walter is this. When we decide to make it wider, when you are already retired, do you want to come back and make it wider? I said, “Yes.” I even saved hau tree wood already, because if I make it wider, I’ve got to take off that cover (bulk head), you know, under the manu? I gonna use a Hau tree and a Koa to plug that place, because if I make it wider it is going to break that one, I’m going to replace that, what it is. I saved some more of the wood if they ever want me to widen it, but I don’t know.
MK: Well, the women still complain it’s too narrow.
DG: There you go.
MK: Then, the last time it was worked on was in 2006, when we needed to comply with HCRA rules and take out everything that was non-wood.
MK: What did you do then?
DG: Well, I purchased Koa wood and I started making the manu first, and then I made the gunnel. This is the time Courtney Seto, do you remember Courtney Seto? He would joke to me, before I do that, he would joke to me that, “Domie, can you put a wooden rail, instead of the plastic?” Now the plastic is not legal anymore for the OHCRA.
MK: Now, this is to secure the cover for the canoe for distance races.
DG: When he mentioned to me, at the same time he’s laughing, and I’m laughing too, because how do we make that rail in wood? His words really stuck, you know, and really got in my mind. I used to wake up, “That’s impossible,” you know? One afternoon, when I’m lying down at home, waiting for my wife to call me to go have dinner, lying down, and then when she came and said, let’s go eat, I held my hand like this just to make like a hook, and she took that hook in my hand and picked me up just like nothing.
I said to myself, “That’s it.” What you mean, “That’s it?” Then that’s when I sat down, I took a paper and a pencil, and I made this drawing about the rail already, and then I thought about it over and over and over, and I said, “This is going to work,” I said to myself. I said, “Yeah, okay.” When I came to work in the morning, I saw Gordon Smith, and I mentioned it to him. He agreed with me that, when I explained it to him, that the cover doesn’t pull this way, but the cover is going to pull up this way to break it. He told me that, “Why don’t you mention it to Walter?” That day, I saw Walter and mentioned to him, also. He told me, “Why don’t we try it?” I make a sample out of wood, you know, in the shop. I put the hook, you know? It doesn’t come out, no matter what. Then I started making it. I saw Courtney Seto at that time, not that day, but I mentioned it to him, I told him, it works, “It going to work,” I told him. He says, “Nah.” “Yeah,” so I did it. The first one that I made, the rail for the Kaoloa. That’s the first one.
MK: Everybody was amazed.
DG: Yes, and then, after that, hey, I did it to the other canoes.
MK: Then people started copying what you did …
DG: Yes. Yes.
MK: Or wanted you to do it for them.
DG: Yeah. Also, Hui Nalu. Bobby Puakea did also his canoe.
MK: He copied you, too?
DG: Yeah, he did. I saw some of the others, I don’t know which clubs, but I saw it in the regatta when I go to Keehi Lagoon. Hey, the cut.
MK: You should have copyrighted it.
MK: Well, it was a great idea, and it certainly has worked.
DG: Yes. Now, you can put a rail not plastic anymore. You can use wood to do it.
MK: When you work on Koa canoes, what kind of tools do you use? Do you use the ancient way of doing it, or do you use modern tools?
DG: I use the modern tools, like the grinder, and sometimes, when I do the manu, by making the shoulder, I do it by the table saw with the angle joining, to make it the curve, and then when I grind it, I make it, I put a thicker wood, and then when I grind it, I just make it like a shoulder, you know, that one on the manu, the curve one in the side, and also from the inside, also from that. I have to get thicker wood to do that, and instead of one whole log to do those things, but it’s very hard.
MK: You don’t use any of the ancient Hawaiian,. . ?
DG: No, no.
MK: You use what you have?
DG: Yeah, I just use my planer and my grinder, and …
MK: A lot of muscle.
DG: Yes. Yeah.
MK: Is there anything else that you did on the Kaoloa...?
DG: Well, the Kaoloa, when Billy (Philpotts) damaged it, he asked me to help him, and I told him, “Why not? Let’s do it.” We brought the Kaoloa canoe to Kaneohe and fixed it up there. This year. A couple of weeks ago, we found more cracks from the inside, so we just poured the glue to make it, seal it, because it’s not that critical anymore, because it was patched from the outside, because we were patching the outside. I did go right through, because it’s not going to be a big job. We just sealed again.
MK: It was damaged by cracking?
MK: What part of the canoe?
DG: In the hull of the canoe, in the bottom. When we brought the canoe to Kaneohe, I patched it. No, no, no. We fixed it first at Jay Dowsett’s shop. Then, after that, we brought it to Kaneohe. This year, we just do the refinish.
MK: It’s in good shape now.
DG: Now it is good.
MK: Are we going to be able to race it this year?
DG: Oh, yes.
MK: Okay. Well, anything else about the Kaoloa?
DG: The Kaoloa, this is again, the Kaoloa, when the blessing of the Kaoloa is in the air, there were a lot of new paddles coming to the Club that made me wonder how they made them. They were so nice. Wow, and so light, but when they used them, they broke, because I think the wood was too thin. That’s how I started to make paddles, because hey, if this nice paddle is light, and it broke, if I make it a little bit heavier, maybe it won’t break. That’s how I started making paddles.
MK: You have some famous paddles.
DG: The first paddle that I made didn’t work properly, because I never thought that it would be too heavy. I gave it to, I gave that paddle to Henry Ayau and he’s the one who guided me to make a better paddle, because the paddle that I made first is like 37 ounces, and I asked him, “How many ounces are you guys using?” He said “Between 24 to 20,” but the paddle that broke, the new paddle that broke is 18, 16. He told me it’s too thin, so that’s how I started making paddles.
MK: Our senior paddlers used them in the Molokai race, and had great success.
DG: Yes. Before they went to Catalina, they went as, no … In 1990, the paddlers that used the Kaoloa asked me if I could make a Koa paddle for them, too, to be all Koa. I make a Koa paddle for them, and that’s the time they won. They brought the paddle to Catalina and they won, and that’s the time they asked me if I can make a lot of paddles already, and I said, “No. The paddles that I make are for the members only, not for a business.”
MK: Okay. Let’s move on to another Koa canoe that also has a long history at the Club. That’s the Kakina.
MK: It goes back to 1936, when Dad Center went out and got us new canoes, so it’s one of the oldest that the Club has. It’s been damaged and repaired a number of times over the years, and after the Kaoloa was built, it sat in storage for a while. As I recall, Walter Guild and Bill Danford of the Canoe Racing Committee decided that the Kakina should be updated into a more efficient canoe that would be capable of keeping up with some of the modern canoes. They were looking for something that would be a good downhill surfing canoe. In 2001, the committee asked Joe Quigg to provide a design template for the canoe that would provide the best features of the Bradley and the Mirage fiberglass canoes. Then they asked you to carry out the update. Can you tell me about that?
DG: Yes. This is what happened. Joe Quigg and Bill Danford brought me right by the Kakina in a rack in the garage. While we are up there, they were talking together. You know, I didn’t know what they were talking about it. I didn’t even know they were going to make it longer. At first, but they were talking about it, they wanted to make it like the Bradley. No, not Bradley, but the Mirage. Bill Danford said we had to make it longer, so we’re going to make it longer like the Mirage.
MK: Now, the Mirage is a fiberglass canoe that was being used for long distance races …
DG: It’s like more popular now to be a longer canoe at that time, also, so when they started talking together and they turned around and looked at me and asked me, “How are you going to make it longer, Domie?” I mentioned to them, the only way I could think of, to make it longer, is to start from here, groove it, and extend the wood longer than the canoe, both sides, front and the back, so not only the one side. It has to be both sides so that you can make them uniform together, how you want it, because they want it like the Mirage.
I mentioned that to them, and then we proceeded like, okay, right, we do it right now, because I explained it to them from the beginning and also, you know, everything was all ready, how do I lay my wood to make it longer. If I put the groove in the side, both side now, and join together and glue it, groove in the middle and, you know, I have to make the slope already, the curve of the front, and also in the back, and then join together, glue it together. When that one is hard already, then I started to patch into the side already, until I finished patching the whole thing. At that time, when we were doing the Kakina, I’d do the patching in the morning, and all the way until I came back to the Club, then Joe Quigg would go in the evening and grind it.
DG: That’s what we were doing together. We didn’t see each other. I’d go in the morning. He’d go in the evening. When I’d go back in the morning, everything was smooth again. I could start patching again. That’s how we did it.
MK: I’ve seen some video of that process, and that was incredible. There was paper, there was string, there was all kinds of things that were set up for this template.
DG: I even put a spacer, to get the form of the Mirage. I put a spacer and also put wood over it, you know, and the old gunnel was still inside there. I just used that one as a jig to hold my wood. I used a screw to make a spacer. When I finished every day, then Joe Quigg would go and smooth them down outside, the old gunnel is still inside, so then we’d turn around and take out the whole old canoe inside, by grinding away. I used to get the grinder … I think its the most dangerous tool I ever used, because the grinder is like a chainsaw blade, and if you make a mistake, you’re going to make a big gouge in the wood, but Joe Quigg asked me, “Hey, how did you make it? How do you do those things,” because it was so dangerous, you know? I thought it was easy as long as you concentrate on what you were doing, and be careful. Be patient. Just don’t go too deep. Just easy by easy and you, finally you finish. When we, when I took off … Did you see that picture, about how I made the stern of the Kakina? I have the picture. I think you have the picture.
MK: How long did it take to do this?
DG: To do that, just to do that, Joe Quigg and I took three months, three months, because after … Yeah, exactly three months though.
MK: So this was the only time you worked on the Kakina?
DG: In the warehouse, yes, finish already, but when OHCRA wanted the canoes to be all Koa wood, I made a Koa wood manu, because the gunnel, it was wood, also. Joe and I put the new manu in the new gunnel, but it was made of, some of it’s made of glass, fiberglass. We put also the rail, the plastic. I put the plastic. Oh, and it’s very hard for me to explain about how I made again the … If you remember the red gunnel, of the Kakina, there is also a rail already. I did that one. Joe did the manu. I did the gunnel with the rail, and we put it together into the canoe.
MK: I didn’t realize Joe worked on it with you. I thought all he did was the template and then you did all the work …
DG: He did. He made the manu, the glass manu, both sides, front and then back, but I made the gunnel.
MK: Would you say that the Kakina is as good as it can ever get, or is there more work to be done?
DG: Right now, I think he’s in good shape.
MK: Let’s see. When you lengthened it, you took it from 38 feet to 44?
DG: 44′ 11″ and three quarter, quarter inch to be 45.
MK: Big difference. Now the Kaoloa is 44 feet …
MK: And the Kakina is …
DG: They are almost the same, the length, everything is almost the same. By only a little bit, like maybe quarter inch or one eighth, something like that.
MK: Okay. Anything else about the Kakina?
DG: We just refinished the Kakina, me and Billy (Philpotts).
MK: I saw you down in the garage working on it.
MK: That brings us to our third Koa canoe, the Leilani, which is a favorite of many people at the Club. It’s also one of our oldest canoes, again bought by Dad Center in 1936. The Canoe Racing Committee heard that you were thinking of retiring, and they said, “Whoops, we better get this thing up to date, because we want Domie to do it.”
MK: Tell me what you did.
DG: Well, I’d been waiting to start doing it, and being the member’s favorite, yes, I do believe it’s my favorite also, because that’s the canoe that gave me a lot of problems, because even when I started to take the measurements, it didn’t cooperate. I couldn’t believe it, and when the second time, I did the measurement, and it still didn’t work, and then I thought, “Hey, something is really happening in here,” so I went out for a wine to the bar, and the person that when gave me a wine, if I’m not mistaken, was Mr. Norman Ho.
I brought that little wine glass right here, on top the canoe, and I made a little prayer, and poured it, and then when I started doing, remeasuring by myself now, and it came out proper. Everything is okay. I said to myself, “This is very alive.” You know? It needed something to be done before you start working, and that’s how I started to do those things. What they wanted to do is make it like the Bradley now. I did the measurements, and when I started it, I started from the middle. I put in new wood, big wood in the bottom, like about four inches by twelve, if I’m not mistaken, to make the width that we wanted it to be, like in a Bradley, and that’s how I did.
MK: A Bradley canoe has more of a calabash shape. Is that …
MK: That’s what you were aiming for.
MK: Okay. The canoe cooperated with you after that?
DG: After that, yes.
MK: Is it traditional to have a blessing for a canoe before you work on it?
DG: I have no idea, but because all the mistakes that we made, I thought about it. I heard before that they need to be blessed a little. I don’t know. I totally don’t understand exactly, too, but when I mentioned that, and it worked, and everything came smooth, properly, then I …
MK: You’re a believer now.
DG: I am a believer already, you know?
MK: What all did you wind up doing to the Leilani?
DG: Well, the Leilani is the one that gave me a lot of problems. When I did the Kaoloa, it took me less labor, you know, like days, weeks, months, but when I did the Leilani, it took almost seven months, nonstop, every day. Every day, I’ve was working on it. Not only that, I also did my job in the shop, the more important to be done while the business is running, then when I do those things, then I go back just like constantly, you know. If I finished a job that wasn’t the canoe, I’d go to the canoe. If I didn’t have anything to do, and I gave it to the other people, that job, I’d go to the canoe, and this took me almost seven months, and by myself, now. The only way I got help was when somebody came and picked up the rubbish, you know, just like the sawdust, everything that we did, to put away everything that I needed to work in the canoe. That’s not all the help I got, but to do some kind of planing, grinding …
MK: Joe Quigg wasn’t there to help you with that.
DG: Joe Quigg was not there. Billy’s (Yasay) not there. Everything is me.
MK: Well, I saw you working on weekends, too.
DG: It’s a very tough one, but at least I finished it, and this is also what Mr. Gordon Smith, he told me that, “Domie, you’re really a fighter,” and I tell him, “Hey, I love a challenge.” I like a challenge, because everything, to me, in front of me, that’s come, you know, anything that I want to do is always a challenge to myself, because you know, if I succeed, it’s my own.
MK: Now, you lengthened the Leilani as well.
MK: I can’t remember how long she was to begin. I think it was 39′ to 40′.
DG: No, I think it’s like 40′.
MK: She was 40?
DG: The old measurement is like a 41′ or 42′, but they like it 45′, or almost 45′.
MK: You replaced the manu and the gunnels.
DG: Everything, yes.
MK: Everything was replaced with Koa.
MK: Did it have a lot of fiberglass in it?
DG: I even found some kind of fiberglass inside the wood that you cannot even see. It was like a sandwich. I think Wayne (Faulkner) did that because knowing that the canoe is thin already, he put the glass inside, and then he put the veneer inside, and I didn’t even know that there is a glass inside there, until I used the router.
MK: Well, it was damaged pretty badly in ’66 in the Molokai race, and they had a hard time putting it back together again, so maybe that’s when all that happened.
DG: Yeah. I even took off some kind of, you know, the brass nail.
MK: There were still some of those?
DG: Yes. I see some that kind of, by using the router, and I hit it.
MK: You widened the canoe by four inches …
MK: And you made the ends shallower and sharper, and developed that calabash shape.
MK: The waterline changed, also, with the new shape.
DG: Yep. It became shorter.
MK: Let’s see. What about a new rocker?
DG: Yeah. Everything changed.
MK: How much of the original wood is still left?
DG: Oh my goodness. I think, if I go by percentage, it’s like maybe that old wood that was still there maybe about 30%.
MK: Of the original?
DG: Yes, also with the Kakina. Yes.
MK: Now, as of 2017, all of our three Koa racing canoes are in compliance with HCRA rules.
MK: Now we’re racing which canoes? The Kaoloa and …
DG: The Lei …
DG: No. Right now, in the regatta, they are using the Kaoloa and the Kakina. The Leilani is meant for the distance. That’s what I do understand now.
MK: Okay, so we are still racing in Koa in the Molokai race.
MK: We’ve one of a few clubs that still enters a Koa and we do real well every year in the Koa.
MK: Our Koa canoes are competitive. Do you think Koa will ever be competitive with fiberglass canoes?
MK: You do think so?
DG: Yeah. I think so. I think they don’t like to use the Kaoloa to cross the channel, but to me, in my own opinion, I don’t paddle, but my own opinion, I think the Kaoloa is better than either of the two canoes, the Kakina and the Leilani. I think the Kaoloa is better, because the reason why I’m saying is, the weight is all the same. It’s straight from Molokai to over here, is just like a straight line. The Kakina, according to the steersmen, is wobbly, you know. You move anytime you like, probably because the waterline is shorter. The Kaoloa is longer and faster in a straight line, so I still believe that the Kaoloa, when you get a strong paddler, I think he can go too.
MK: It’s the better one for that?
MK: By the time you finished the Leilani, everyone was calling you a master craftsman …
MK: A wonderful carpenter, and other canoe clubs were trying to steal you away from us.
DG: Well, to tell you the truth, I helped Hui Nalu Canoe Club. I told them I’ll come and help you, but you do the work. I’ll guide you, then show you how. You do the work, and that’s what they did.
MK: What canoe did you work on for them?
DG: I don’t know the name. They did it, not me. I just started it for them, cut it and that’s it. You do it already, because they were afraid. They were afraid to start, to do the gunnel. They also replaced the gunnel when we there. They blessed it before they cut.
MK: Well, I remember talking to George Downing one time, and we were talking about canoes, and he said that, at Surf Club, they were planning a remodel of the Malia. He said, “We got there, we were all ready to go, and not one of us had the heart to actually cut into the canoe at that point, and so we just, we didn’t do what we were going to do, because we just couldn’t bear to …”
DG: Somebody just has to start it, because once you start it, they’re going to do it.
MK: Yes, once they start it, but it was just that first, initial, “It’s a beautiful canoe. Why are we doing this?”
Domie, you’ve done great work on our six man racing canoes, but I’ve also been really impressed with the model canoes that you’ve made. I know you made the first one for your wife Lisa, and then you made one that you donated to the Club. Tell me about those.
DG: When I was working on the Hokulea, for my wife one afternoon, Greg Moss came to the shop, and he saw what I was doing, and he mentioned to me if I could make something like that for the Club, also, as like a remembrance from me. I told him, “Why not?” Just get the wood and get the okay from the Board, if I can do it here in the Club, then I’ll do it.
I even mentioned to him to ask Karl Heyer IV about the wood, and if he can give it to you, and let’s proceed and do it. He came back to me and told me that everything is okay, so I’m the one who asked Karl Heyer about the wood, and I even mentioned to him, just call me for him to give me the wood, that if we finish, we’re going to put your name, also, into that canoe. That’s the time he gave me the wood, so I …
MK: The Koa came from the Big Island?
DG: That’s what I understand.
DG: Yes. As soon as I got the wood, then I started doing it. For the whole thing, it took me like 120 hours. All done.
MK: It’s beautiful.
MK: Can you describe what you created?
DG: It is a sailing canoe. I call it because the one I made for my wife, I called it a warrior, so this one I made it also a warrior, because members in the Club are like, they are good in sports, and sports are like a warrior. That’s why I made it that kind of a canoe, and also what I believe is like a warrior. When I got ready, when I get started, even when I look at it right now, the lighter wood, the lighter wood is, the gunnel, I mean, it’s lighter wood, so I made it like that also, as a replica of our canoe that the canoe is white that we got, that glass, and you know, and the glass is white and the gunnel of our, glass gunnel, is red, so I make it this, I make it like you can see which one is gunnel and which one is the hull of the canoe.
MK: Beautiful, two-toned.
DG: Luckily, the wood also, the white, the lighter wood from the gunnel is also from the wood that Karl Heyer gave me.
MK: It’s Koa as well.
DG: It’s all Koa, even the paddle, the one in the back, is from him.
MK: Then the sail is absolutely gorgeous out of curly Koa.
DG: Yes, the same wood, the same wood.
MK: That came out. It’s just spectacular. Then you put it on a base.
MK: Why did you decide to make it a double hull?
DG: Because the double hull, is like the Hokulea, that I see in the picture that’s a warrior, and that’s the way I did it. The members here are good in sports, and I believe they are warrior too, so I starting to do these things.
MK: Then the base is a replica of the island?
DG: The island, yes.
MK: Island of Oahu.
MK: There’s a honu (turtle) poking its head out from underneath.
DG: The reason why I made the base of the canoe, because the Hokulea is here in Honolulu. Okay, so that’s why I would make the Oahu as the base. The honu, the reason why I would put that one too is because I know they are also here in the Club. When I’m sitting down in the dining room, I used to hear a honu pop up like that, and I didn’t like that. There is a stand holding the canoe in the front, but I would use the back with the honu where the canoe is holding it, so that it doesn’t fall down. That’s to just make, like, the canoe is floating in the air.
MK: It does. It looks just like that.
DG: It was resting on top of the honu, because it’s swimming, I make it so it even can turn. You can redirect the honu, if you make it face this way, it can go, this one.
MK: Oh my goodness.
MK: Oh, I have to go check that out.
MK: Now, I remember you telling me, when you were building this, that you used to have dreams about things that you could do to it, and then you’d come in the next day and you’d try to carry out what you had dreamed about the night before.
DG: Yes. I was always thinking something to make what I’m doing easier. If I do, if I get a project, I always think of, what is the best thing for me to do it so that make it faster? I used to make my own tools, you know, something like, to make it smooth in the inside. Do you guys know this, also? The inside of this canoe is very smooth, and you know, the thickness of the wood, also, is very, very precisely like almost all the same, because the tools that I make now, the homemade kind of tools, like, that’s not the Hawaiian style now. It’s homemade kind … I make a wood and this round in the bottom, and I staple a sandpaper around it, and that’s the one I use to …
MK: To make it smooth?
DG: You cannot see that one in any store.
MK: Well, Domie, it’s absolutely beautiful. You’ve also made other things for the Club. You’ve made, lots of paddles, ceremonial paddles, to give to people, and plaques, and you’ve worked on our trophies.
MK: Have you built any of the trophies from scratch.
DG: Yeah. I built the trophy for the Makule … I don’t know if they’re still using it, but I understand from …
MK: Kawika (Grant)?
DG: Kawika, that they going to use for a different race again.
MK: They’ve retired the old Makule trophy that you made, but they’re using it now, they’re going to make it for the Dad Center race …
MK: For the, I think the first Koa finisher.
DG: Yeah, but that’s gonna be a perpetual trophy, or the trophy going to be in here, no matter who win the canoe?
MK: Yes, a perpetual trophy that’ll stay here.
DG: So they can’t take it away from the Club?
DG: No. Okay.
MK: Yeah, it stays here.
DG: I have the canoe right now, because I’m planning to replace the ama, because when I made the first ama I didn’t know you had to make the real shape from the ama, so I make a, I don’t know if it is good, but I’m planning to replace that, so the canoe is in my house right now, but the wood that I’m planning to put is like maybe a Koa wood, but going to be light, like, you know, like the ama that we’re using right now that’s a white one. I’m planning to find a white Koa to put in it.
MK: Oh, how cool. Now, that canoe on that trophy, is that the Leilani?
DG: It’s the Leilani.
DG: I make that one, too.
MK: You made that, too.
DG: I made a trophy for the sailing canoe before. Not sailing canoe. I think a sailing trophy, but I don’t, I never see that one anymore.
MK: Maybe it’s been retired.
DG: Yeah, maybe. I made a perpetual trophy for the sailing canoe that I gave to Mike Muller, but according to him, it was given to the Bishop Museum already. I have the picture. I’ll show you later.
MK: Well, Domie, you’ve done so much for the Club, and I know that everybody appreciates what you’ve done. When you retired, everybody was sad to see you go, but after 40 … How many years?
DG: Forty-two years.
MK: Forty-two years you’ve retired. What did you like best about your job here?
DG: Being with you guys. Meeting the members. Everyone’s so nice.
MK: Well, I think it goes both ways. Let me …
DG: About the job, to me, it’s not the one to hold me back, but being, working around you guys is really that I really like. I really love it. Just imagine, a lot of members were so kind to me, they give me a lot of things, you know: fruits, venison, fish. The other day, Dean Stowell gave me squid. They give me a lot. People, members gave me a lot, and that’s … You know, to me, when I receive things like that, I believe that you must care, very care, so that’s the one when holding me a lot, besides my job. My job, I love most of my job.
MK: Now, you met your wife, Lisa, here.
DG: Yes, ma’am.
MK: She’s the manager of the Snack Shop. How did you two get together?
DG: Well, my first marriage … Our kids were very sick, they’re handicapped. My doctor kept telling me, “You better stop smoking. I didn’t like …” Besides the kids being sick, and then I smoke, they got more sick, so I told myself, “I better stop smoking.” I did plenty of times, you know, but I could not. One day, I asked my doctor, “Okay, prescribe me a patch.” He gave me the patch. Still doesn’t work. For me to stop it, I have to do something else. Okay, I used the patch and I went jogging, and that’s the way I’m doing it this time, because I really like to stop smoking. One afternoon, when I going already, if you remember Martha Ting in the Logo Shop, mentioned to me that, “Hey, somebody wants to lose weight also. Do you want to go walking instead of go running? She’d like to come with you.” Who is this person? She mentioned to me, she said Lisa (Yoshimura).
I said, “Lisa. If she like to walk with me, all right, but, you know, I’m married.” You know? When I gave the okay, and then she come with me, and I tell her right away, “Hey, I’m married.” “So what? We are not doing anything. We just go walking,” so that’s what we did. We just keep walking. We even climbed Diamond Head. You know? That’s what happened, but while, at that time, also, my kids were still alive, you know, so I’ve got to go home and do my work. I finished working here, I went to work part time, then after I finish my second job, I came back in here, because only from the Club to the corner, and when I come back here, I go do some work with my project, like a paddle, fix a paddle, and then after that, I gonna take a shower, then I go home. That’s what I used to do, and on my day off, Lisa liked to go walk around with me. Sometimes we climbed Diamond Head.
I mean, that’s happen like that, only when I get the time to go. I tell it to her that, “Hey, I go climb the mountain today,” and, “Okay, I come,” but we had to when she got enough time, because I cannot, she cannot come with me when she’s working, so we find a way of going together walking and hiking, something like that. My boys were getting older, you know, and getting heavier, and harder to take care of. They went all the way to 16 years old, you know, and then the first boy passed away, then the second boy passed away, and I kind of didn’t know what to do next, because I lost my two boys.
Then my wife went to work, and I came to work, and I didn’t have to go home in a rush already. I quit my second job, because I didn’t have too much to worry about. My boys already, they passed away, and my wife got a job. So at that time, really, me and Lisa got more time to go together walking already. While my wife was working, she found another guy. We finally divorced, and …
MK: The rest is history. You and Lisa …
MK: Got together, and you had two wonderful sons (Justin and Jayson).
MK: How old are your boys now?
DG: Well, my older one is going to be 23 this November, and the second one is going to be 19 this November.
MK: Wow, and they’re in college.
DG: They are in college. Last week, last Sunday, my second boy just come back from Japan. The college sent them to Japan, and the college paid everything.
DG: Yeah. The entire college, there were only seven kids who went.
MK: Why did they go?
DG: According to him, just like an environmental, something like that. I don’t know exactly. I would ask him, but he doesn’t tell me exactly what he went for. Just like, yeah, environmental, that’s what he told me.
MK: Well, let’s see. Both boys are members of the Club.
DG: Yes, ma’am.
MK: Do they participate in anything?
DG: They are not so interested in the water.
MK: Do they surf or anything like that?
DG: No. My younger boy doesn’t even know how to swim.
MK: Shame on you. You should have taught him.
DG: They go, once in a while, they go in, I don’t know where, it’s this Maunalua Bay.
MK: Maunalua Bay in Hawaii Kai.
DG: That’s what I thought. They used to go over there and pick up the algae. I don’t know, environmentally, something like that, that’s what they mention to me. They go over there, clean the water, pick up the algae.
MK: The invasive species.
MK: You retired in 2013.
DG: Yes. January 1st, 2014.
MK: Are you enjoying retirement?
DG: Oh, yes.
MK: You have plenty to keep you busy?
DG: Yeah. My job right now is to drop my wife and my boys at school and pick them up in the afternoon.
MK: Then you come down here and help with the canoes and …
MK: And other little projects that they say …
DG: Anytime, I said to Billy (Philpotts), anytime you need me, just call me. I’ve got nothing to do at home.
MK: When you retired, in appreciation, the Club gave you an honorary membership.
MK: That’s wonderful, because that way, we get to enjoy you after retirement. Were you surprised?
DG: I am. I am so proud.
MK: Well, Domie, I want to thank you for taking time to talk with me today. I’ve really enjoyed our visit. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we finish?
DG: No, I think that’s it. Thank you, also. I appreciate.
MK: Thank you.
DG: You’re welcome, ma’am.