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 Marilyn Kali
September 15, 2017
MK: Today is Friday, September 15th, 2017. We’re in the Board Room of the Outrigger Canoe Club, and I’m Marilyn Kali, a member of the Club’s Historical Committee. One of the Historical Committee’s projects is to do oral histories of long time members. Today, it’s my pleasure to be talking to Geraldine DeBenedetti.
Good morning, Gerry.
MK: Would you please tell us a little bit about your background, when and where you were born, and where you grew up?
GD: This is pretty ancient history, but I was born in a very small town in California. This is a town of 2,000. Like Garrison Keillor says, “Where the women are strong, but the men weren’t always good looking, and the children were not always above average.” It is still a town of 2,000, and there is no traffic light, but my family has a fourth generation walnut farm there in an agricultural community, and it wasn’t very long before I was growing up that I realized I’d have to leave. There just was no place for me there, so I lived there until I got out of college, and other than visits, I have never gone back.
MK: Do you have any siblings?
GD: I do. I have one brother. He’s four years younger, and he and my nephew are the ones running the farm. It was started by my grandfather, and then my father, and they grow walnuts mostly, some cherries, but … been in the same location since Grandpa came from Italy.
MK: What is the name of the town?
GD: Linden, L-I-N-D-E-N, and nobody’s ever heard of it. They think I mean Lindsay or … It truly is a bend in the road.
MK: And that’s in California.
GD: In Northern California. It’s very near the Calaveras County line, which everybody has heard of, thanks to Mark Twain and the jumping frog, but that’s the locale.
MK: Where did you go to high school?
GD: I went to Linden High School and Linden Elementary School. It was the only one, and I graduated from high school in 1956, and because my daddy was a strict Italian farmer, he said I could go to college, but not very far away, so I went to College of the Pacific in Stockton, California, which is now University of the Pacific, and I graduated from there in 1960.
MK: Were you involved in sports in either high school or college?
GD: Well, no, because in those days, girls only did very light things, like badminton, and you won’t believe this, but in basketball, certain players could not cross the center line. Only the forwards went and the people in the back did not do that, because running was not supposed to be a good thing, and I recall vividly that the only running one ever did as a girl around the track was because you had violated some rule or committed some bad thing, and your punishment was to go once around the track, so none of us grew up thinking that sports was what one did. However, California did say you had to have physical education, so that was the 45 minutes a day that we did, playing badminton and half court basketball.
MK: I kind of remember. It was pretty much the same when I was there too. How did you get to Hawaii?
GD: Well, this is kind of a long story. It was my sophomore year in college. This was 1958, and two girlfriends and I came to Hawaii on the Matsonia because we had a fourth person here who was a member of the Outrigger. This was Patti Soule, who is Patti Soule Anderson. She’s still a member of the Club, and so we three came here to spend the summer with her, to go to UH. I was a coed, and had such a lovely time, and I knew immediately that this was my home and I had to be here. So how I came to Hawaii … Took me six years to get back, but my intention was to come back here because of that 1958 visit. So in ’65, I moved here.
MK: And when you moved, was it to go to school or to work?
GD: No, I was out of college at that time, and I got a job. I had worked briefly in California at the Public Welfare Department, so when I came here, I just went looking for a job. I had a bachelor’s degree. I had some work experience, and I got hired by the state, I think three months after I had been here, to work as a social worker for the Department of Human Services, which probably had a different name at that time.
MK: When did you join the Outrigger?
GD: Oh, let’s see, 1971. Yes, 1971. That’s when I first came, and I was pregnant with my son at the time, and I recall thinking, “Gee, I better not tell them, because if they think I’m joining to paddle or swim, they won’t understand that … here I am, pregnant,” but that’s when it was.
MK: Now what kind of a membership did you have then? Did they have women’s memberships?
GD: No, no. That came much later, in about 1978, or 1975. Memberships were changing. You’ve got to remember this was when women were saying, “Let me in.” Or certainly beating the door down, “Let me in,” and so my membership started out as an associate, and then I became a full member, and I don’t remember those years, because I had a lot going on.
MK: 1975 or 1978.
MK: Sounds good. How did you get interested in ocean sports?
GD: Well, I have always been a swimmer. Always, but of course that was pool swimming, and when I was in college, I swam all the time. I got a Red Cross certification, and I taught Red Cross swimming in the summer times, and so I always was a swimmer, but the beautiful ocean here, that was of course what I wanted to do. And I remember the first time I ever went out to the windsock, I had one of my kids come with me on a boogie board because it was so far out there, and there’s no walls, and there’s no lane, and there’s no lines. So I learned to swim to the windsock, and didn’t need my kids anymore to escort me, but that’s how I got started and then of course, when you’re down at Outrigger, you see the paddling, so one thing leads to another.
MK: The Club brought back the Castle Swim in 1973 and you were the only woman competitor in it. Tell me about the Castle Swim.
GD: Well, Fred Hemmings and I, we’re the ones who brought it back. Fred said, “It’s a shame we don’t have a Swimming Committee here.” I said, “What? I’ll be in charge of the Swimming Committee.” And so, maybe the Swimming Committee was he and I and that’s it – or him and I – and he said, “There used to be a swim called the Castle Swim,” and it went from next door where Castle’s house was – Harold Castle – and it was to Waikiki. And it was a mile and a fourth, and Castle gave the trophies. And so since we have nothing to do down there anymore, I said, “Well, let’s reverse the course. We don’t have to go that way. We can go the other way.” So we began the tradition in 1973 of starting the Castle Swim at the old Club. That meant we had to transport everybody down there. So we had to get drivers and cars and make those arrangements, and we just went down to the beach and somebody said, “Go!” And started the clock. And then that person drove back down here to the Club and started logging us in as we came across.
So that first year there were six guys and me, and my name is on the trophy as the first woman to finish. But I was the only woman.
MK: How many Castle Swims have you done?
GD: Twenty-five. And after twenty-five I said, “I think I’d better retire from this,” because I wasn’t coming in the front. I was coming in in the end and I said, “Not so much fun.” So I retired.
MK: What do you think people like about the Castle Swim?
GD: I think they like it because it’s just ours. We don’t let anybody else in. One of the rules I set up was that you can’t even swim that unless you are the member, so you have to have your own number. You can’t be a spouse or a child of a member. You have to have your own number. And I think that makes it popular.
The early Swim Committee did a lot to encourage participation of young people, because they too were swimming in swimming pools, needing the lines. We ran swim clinics. We would take them out in the Boston Whaler and they would tell us when they wanted to be let out to swim back into shore. It’s much easier to swim into shore than it is to swim away. So we just took the Whaler and when anybody said they wanted out, we let them jump in and then turned around and followed them all back in. So we did that for many years to encourage the kids to get used to swimming in the open ocean.
MK: We have a few kids that swim now in the Castle Swim, but not many.
GD: No, there never have been many. It is a struggle. And there was a big area in the era, I guess, where our swimmers were getting older and there was no middle swimming age. And we finally deduced that those older swimmers were the ones who had learned to surf with no leash, and that when they lost their board they had to swim for it. And after the leashes came into existence, you did not need to be a strong swimmer anymore. And so we blamed boogie boards and modern technology with changing people’s swimming abilities. But older swimmers always just swam horrendous distances.
MK: But those are the folks that are still competing, those older swimmers.
GD: They are. They are. And they’re the ones who are doing the (Waikiki) Rough Water (Swim).
MK: How long were you chair of the Swimming Committee?
GD: Oh, I would say, maybe, at least about five years or so. I think Ian Emberson took it over after me and Pam Zak was a chair. We all did about five years and then passed it on to somebody else, and I’m proud to say it’s still going. I’m still on it although I don’t do hardly anything at all, except participate and help at registration.
MK: Does the committee do anything besides the Castle Swim now?
GD: We have an invitational swim. They don’t do these workshops anymore, and the invitational swim is open to other swimming clubs. So we invite. It’s not a public swim. It’s not anybody can walk in and swim. We invite Waikiki Swim Club and any affiliated swimming club – I think there’s a swimming club in Pearl City – and we just send … It’s called the invitational swim. So we invite other swimming clubs. It’s very well attended. One hundred swimmers. And we do note that there’s very little Outrigger participation in it, because the Castle Swim is what they appreciate. And I think swimming with one hundred other people, it’s like the Outrigger of the Rough Water where you get kicked in the face. It’s not nearly as much fun.
MK: What about the Maui Channel Swim? I know that that started at the Outrigger Club.
GD: It did. There were some strong swimmers then and they, because I was the chair of the Swimming Committee, they came and said, “Can we get some money? We need to go to Maui and we need a boat and we need those things.” So I think during the time I was the chair, probably there were two or three swims that I appealed to the board for money and asked them for financing, because we had to have a place to stay the night before; your escort boat had to be with you the whole time. It was a six-person relay. That swim still goes on and Ian Emberson who now lives on Kauai, he has been in charge of it for ever and ever.
And people come from the mainland, they come from the Olympic Club in San Francisco, and the LA Athletic Club, and other states too. They love the Maui Channel Swim, and it’s also two days before the Rough Water. So they swim in the Maui Channel Swim, then they come over here. I think that’s Saturday. And then on Monday, Labor Day, they do the Rough Water.
MK: Now, where does the swim go? From where to where?
GD: It goes from Lanai Island to Lahaina Maui.
MK: And how far is that?
GD: How far is that? It’s six people and they swim thirty-minute legs. And so when your thirty minutes are up, the next guy goes in. And the faster swimmers, they are barely into the second round. I don’t know the distance.
MK: But Outrigger doesn’t have a team in that anymore?
GD: Has not lately. There’s no reason why not. It would be no different than entering any other race. You just ask for the money and go.
MK: Did you swim in that?
GD: No. I was on the escort boat for several years, but no, I have not participated as a swimmer. I’m not a fast swimmer. I’m an endurance swimmer, so that’s why my name does not show up on the Castle trophy – except that first time.
MK: I remember that we used to give out mileage awards.
GD: Well, I started those too. I had a chart in the Women’s Locker Room and in the Men’s Locker Room, and everybody was supposed to write down when they swam a mile. And it could be anywhere. It didn’t have to be here. You could swim at a master swim pool or anywhere and just log your miles. And so we started giving out wall plaques with your mileage, and then little plates added to go around. I don’t know if the current chair or the person who’s in charge … We still have a mileage chart in the locker room for the women, but I think the men’s has long been abandoned. To tell you the truth, they were very bad record keepers and they weren’t consistent and they didn’t write well. And so our chart in the Women’s Locker Room has been going on since I started it in the 70’s.
MK: Well, several years ago Bonnie Eyre got an award for 10,000 miles.
GD: Well, then if she had an existing plaque, which she would have, that would’ve showed up in a little metal plate that she would’ve attached to that. I also started the Transpac Award, which was swimming 2,500 miles, because we were really encouraging people to log their miles. And we picked the 2,500 miles because that is the distance of the Transpac sailing race and that’s what we called it. And gave several of those out when people were really consistently logging their miles, but I haven’t even swum that many miles. So I hope I’m still around. I keep track of my miles. I mark them on the chart in the Women’s Locker Room and I keep track.
MK: So just for reference, how far is it to swim out to the windsock and back?
GD: It’s a quarter-mile round trip. So if you do it four times, you’ve put in a mile.
MK: And how about to the channel entrance?
GD: Oh, I don’t go there. I don’t know. I get leery of getting too far away. I, too, am one of these swimmers that likes to see where I’m returning home, not going out. But my children, they both swim out beyond the sock.
MK: I remember that we used to have some biathlons and triathlons, with swimming being one of the components.
MK: We’re not doing that anymore.
GD: No. The Outrigger committee system is one where it depends on whether you have a strong chairperson or not. So when you have a good Swimming Committee chair and you have a good Running Committee chair … and I don’t praise Don Eovino for a lot, but I will praise him for that. He was a really gung-ho running chair, and so he would be the one that said, “Let’s have a biathlon!” Okay, so the Swimming Committee would do the swimming part, and he would organize the running part. And we did that for several years. But here, again, when the chair moves on, those things drop by the wayside and that’s why we have a very minimal Running Committee now. We used to have a Running Committee that had all kinds of marathon training. And now, they provide transportation to the marathon start line, but they don’t set up a tent in the park anymore and they only do the Hana Relays, and if somebody came along who wanted to do that, it would happen. That’s all it needs.
MK: Was Outrigger involved in the start of the Waikiki Rough Water Swim?
GD: I believe so, but I have to tell you in all honesty that was really before my time because the Rough Water Swim was many years in existence when I swam it the first time. And I’m going to say my first swim was probably about 1972, and I know there were Outrigger people involved but I think Waikiki Swim Club was the real originator of that swim. They were looking for things to sponsor and Outrigger helped, I think, with the Boston Whaler, helped with the markers. But Waikiki Swim Club, I think, were the real spear headers of that.
MK: Are you still competing in that?
GD: No. I did that for about ten years and it was taking too long, so I said, “I’m not doing this anymore.”
MK: But you’re still swimming every day?
GD: Not every day. I would say maybe two to three days a week. I love to swim and I just have to arrange my schedule. I have a lot of things going on. I go to school. I work. I have volunteer activities. So I have to put swimming down as one of my appointments and make sure I do that. And so I either try to do it at the beginning of the day or the end of the day, because that’s when it’ll fit in the best.
MK: Have you had any encounters with fish or sharks or anything during your swims?
GD: No. I have to make a confession. I do not swim with goggles. So when I put my face in the water, my eyes are closed, and I only open them to get a focus on what my target is. That’s why I like to swim back into the Club, because the Colony Surf is a really good target to aim for. But I used to wear goggles when I was doing the Rough Water Swim, and I would end up throwing them away. I must have half a dozen goggles out there and I finally said, “I’m not going to do this anymore.” So I swim with my eyes closed. And I know there are swimmers, like Bonnie Eyre, who comes in and says she sees this and she sees that. I don’t see anything unless I look up.
MK: What do you enjoy about swimming?
GD: Well I think it is a non-stressor on your joints, and as I get older I appreciate that. I think it uses all the muscles in your body and makes you feel very sleek and very long. If a monk seal weren’t so chubby I’d say it’s like being like a monk seal. But I describe – and this ocean’s nice and clean out here for the most part – so I just describe it as being like silky, and feeling like you are being pampered. And the salt doesn’t bother me. The sand doesn’t bother me. I don’t do any pool swimming because the chlorine does bother me. I don’t like that a bit. But I think swimming is a tranquil occupation.
MK: And enjoyable.
GD: Oh, yes.
MK: You’ve been involved with the Uluniu Women’s Swimming Club for many years.
GD: About forty or forty-five years.
MK: Didn’t it start out as the Women’s Auxiliary of the Outrigger Canoe Club?
GD: Yes. This is that little-known piece of history where Alexander Hume Ford started the Outrigger in 1908, and one of the first things he did – because boys don’t run things as well as they ought – he started the Women’s Auxiliary. He asked Julie Judd-Swanzy, who was the granddaughter of Charles Judd, to start a Women’s Auxiliary, and it was called the Women’s Auxiliary to the Outrigger Canoe Club. And they functioned side-by-side and doing things with the Outrigger and having parties and functions, and sometimes paying the bills. I came upon some correspondence from, I don’t know, 1910 to 1920 that we had in our file cabinet, and I just brought all that stuff out and I brought it down here to Outrigger to the Historical Committee, and they copied it all because no one had kept those kind of records.
But the Uluniu stayed as the Women’s Auxiliary until the 1930’s, and then I think they said – this is me extrapolating – “Too much drinking and smoking and spitting around here,” and they formed their own club called the Uluniu Women’s Swimming Club. It was still next door, but it was its own building and it was, I think, from the Queen Emma estate. And they severed their ties with the Outrigger. And it stayed the Uluniu Women’s Swimming Club until the 1960’s when both Outrigger and the Uluniu lost their lease and had to move because of the Sheraton Hotel. So at that point, the Uluniu completely changed their set up and they bought a house, fee simple, for something ridiculous like $33,000 on the beach out at Laie. And this changed the function of the club from being a day club where one takes your surfboard and your bathing suit and then goes home, to an overnight accommodation. And so the members now are able to stay up to five days at a time as often as they like when they make a reservation. And so it’s an overnight place.
MK: And where is it located?
GD: It’s just past the Polynesian Cultural Center. About point-two miles. It’s on the ocean side, it’s before Laie Point, and in an absolutely divine location because there are … In a mile distance on that beach there are only three right of ways to get to the beach, and you cannot see the beach when you are driving. From Pounders to Laie Point, you do not see the beach, and so people don’t just happen upon it. It’s not closed. There are three accesses to get to the water, but if you don’t know, you don’t go.
MK: Are any Outrigger members still involved with it?
GD: Oh, yes. I would say a third of our membership – over thirty people – we limit our membership to one hundred and I would say that at least thirty members of Outrigger who are also Uluniu members. And several of us are officers of the club and are very active. I would say, now I am more active in Uluniu than in the Outrigger.
MK: You serve as its president now?
GD: I am president now. I was secretary for about seventeen years and I resisted being president because I said, “Democracy is too time-consuming. I just want to tell people what to do and have them do it.” So about, I guess, maybe ten years ago I agreed to be president, and I said, “I’m only going do this until I’ve identified the person who’s going be my successor.” And she has agreed as soon as she retires from her current job, she will run for president, and I am more than willing to say, “Here. It’s yours.” I don’t need to be president for life.
MK: So you’re still president ten years later.
GD: I am president. Yes, I am. And probably for about two more years.
MK: And what other Outrigger members are actually involved?
GD: Oh, well, with thirty people you don’t really want me to list them all.
MK: Any of them on the board with you?
GD: Conne Sutherland is my house chair. Doug Ostrem is my grounds chair. Maile Ostrem is the Vice President. We have Hugh Damon, he’s a member. Tommy Damon’s a member. It’s like I said. There’s thirty people.
MK: In the old days, Uluniu used to sponsor swimming events. Do they sponsor any events now?
GD: No. The move to Laie put a terminus on that. The Uluniu used to sponsor high school swimming meets, and they have a wonderful, beautiful silver bowl, huge like a punchbowl, and when they moved they put that on permanent loan to Punahou because the Punahou Swim Club had won it so many times. But McKinley High School had won it a couple of times, and Roosevelt High School. So all these people have their names in little plaques on the side of the bowl. And they also sponsor the Swanzy Swim, Swanzy trophy, which was named after our founder Julie Judd-Swanzy. And we had marvelous pictures of her and all the other ladies on the wall out there, all in their hats and their big, white dresses and their corseted bosoms.
MK: It sounds like it’s … I’m glad that it’s still going because that’s quite a tradition in history.
GD: Two of our more famous members – one was Ellen Fullard-Leo who was the first woman on the AAU Swimming Committee, and Mariechen Jackson who went to the Olympics. And these two women in the Uluniu are the ones responsible for developing sensible bathing costumes for women, because women couldn’t compete when they were wearing those horrible black skirts with sleeves. So in the Women’s Locker Room there are four pictures of swimmers wearing that sensible bathing costume. They’re really lovely. They are huge pictures and these women have on these wool-knit tanks and they look great.
MK: They were wool, as I remember.
GD: Oh, yes. They were. I mean, what else could you make them out of?
MK: You have an interest in sailing as well, and you were involved in sailing at the Club.
GD: Well, that’s another first. There was no Sailing Committee and my husband and I had a sail boat – thirty-three foot ranger – and he said, “Why aren’t we sailing down here?” That was the era you’ve got to remember when the Hobie Cat came along. So when two people could have a little fun sail, you didn’t have to have a monster boat. You didn’t have to have a mooring. You recall all those little boats were out in front of the Outrigger-
MK: All the sunfish.
GD: People just went out there and dropped a chain and tied their little boats. And one time, I think it was taken out by a tidal wave, there was a pier out in front of San Souci, had a little gate on it, said, “No skylarking.” And you could walk out on that little pier and you could tie up your boat on that little pier, and that got washed away and all the boats got taken with it. And I think that maybe put a damper on the sailing, because you lost your little boat. But we ran races. We had little sunfish races and Hobie Cat things, and that didn’t last very long, because again, you lose your chairperson or that person moves on, and nobody’s organizing or asking for money or scheduling, and that’s one of the problems I think the Outrigger has with their sustaining committees. If it isn’t paddling or volleyball, you have to have a very strong advocate. You really have to have somebody who’s willing to beat the drum and ask for money and put up flyers and write articles, and volleyball and Outrigger don’t have those issues.
MK: Did you keep your boat here?
GD: No, it was a thirty-three foot boat. We kept it at Waikiki Yacht Club, and we used to sail. Adventuresome. I mean, we would go out just for fun day sails, but we used to go to Maui every year and we used to go to Kaneohe and to the sand bar, and fish and things like that. But after my husband died, I had to sell the boat. My son was a senior in high school at the time and he said, “No, no, Mom! Don’t sell the boat.” And I said, “Get real. None of us can start this engine. It’s thirty-three feet long. We need a little boat. Not big boat.” So, that was the end of my … Now I sail, if very little, but on other people’s boats.
MK: Are you a trained crew member?
GD: Well, yes. I’m not as strong as I used to be, but I still am a member of the Waikiki Yacht Club, so I do go down there fairly often.
MK: How did you get involved with canoe racing?
GD: Well, when you are at Outrigger and you see them having fun at parties and everything else, you think, “I think I will do that too.” So my first year of paddling was probably about … I’m going to just take a guess and say in the late 70’s, and I started as a novice, Novice B, the very beginning. And we had an adult women’s Novice B crew. We weren’t young girls. We were all … I think I was about 35, 38, and started paddling. And then the next year they started the master’s women program because the biggest problem with paddling was everybody kept getting older, and after senior women there was nowhere to go. And so they started the masters women. And so I moved from Novice B to Masters. And there were not many of us. Other clubs, maybe there were five clubs that could put together a masters crew because people aged out and just quit paddling, and this was their opportunity to come back again.
So we did very well at the beginning. Partly because we were good but also because we didn’t have a lot of competition, and that makes a big difference. And then what happened with the Masters was, there were so many of us and the other people were pushing up, pushing up, so then there was Junior Masters and Senior Masters. And then pretty soon there was Golden Masters. And so I paddled until I was seventy years old, and that was about thirty-five years, and I said, “Okay. Time to retire from that.” I’m a firm believer that people should know when to go and not wait to find out they’re not needed or wanted anymore. Go out with a blaze of glory.
MK: Was Di Guild your coach during those years?
GD: She was, and when paddling first started it was all men were the coaches. And Aaron Young was one of my early coaches, and then his wife Connie, she coached us. Joan Ka’aua coached us. But yeah, I paddled several years for Di. She was not the first women’s master’s coach, but she didn’t really want to do it because we were her mother’s age, and I think she began coaching us when her mother stopped paddling. But I may not have that correct. But, yeah, she was the age of our children.
MK: And that was not an issue? Or it was an issue at first?
GD: Well it was because she didn’t know how to be bossy. She’d been bossed her whole life and now you’re supposed to say, “Stand up straight,” “Bend over,” or, “Sit up.” “Pull harder.” “What are you doing?”
MK: Well now, I remember you were paddling but you weren’t always paddling for Outrigger.
GD: About three years I paddled for Waikiki Yacht Club, and that was became my husband and I had our boat down there. And that just seemed to work out. After he died and the boat got sold then I came back to Outrigger. But there were about three years where I paddled in the Hui Waa Association, because Waikiki Yacht Club doesn’t have a Koa boat.
MK: And there were years that you didn’t paddle because you paddled in the Ala Wai.
GD: Well I still paddled if I got to race, but I did not practice. So if practice was here at the beach, I would paddle. And if I was chosen to be in a regatta, I would paddle. But I would not practice in the Ala Wai. I thought it was a unhealthy environment and not good for my skin, and I saw other people getting staph or whatever.
MK: Staph infections.
GD: Yes. I said, “My skin is aging.” That’s the other reason you need to quit paddling. Your skin can’t do that anymore.
MK: Do you have any good paddling stories to tell after all these years?
GD: Well, the best ones were the ones where I was in the boat, because I wasn’t always in the boat. Two years I was on an escort boat for the Women’s Molokai. I never paddled the Women’s Molokai, but I did make the crossing two times in an escort boat. That was fun. I liked it when we had dolphins swimming along beside us. I liked it when we saw the green flash, and once I did experience seeing it twice because we were up on a wave and then we came down and we got to see it again. But I considered any time I was in the boat a good time because there were times when I wasn’t in the boat.
MK: When you went on the escort boat, did you have a job or were you just accompanying them?
GD: No, I was passing out hunks of watermelon and water and putting ointment on jellyfish stings and doing things like that. I was like the boat mother.
MK: Every boat crew needs one. Now, when I first met you, you had just started entering the Honolulu Marathon and running. How did you get involved in running?
GD: Oh, this is another one of those long stories I blame on my children. I had not been running at all, period. Nothing. And 1978, actually 1977, my daughter came home, she was doing track or cross country at Punahou, and she said, “Mom! There’s going to be this race just for women.” And it was an off-shoot of the (Honolulu) Marathon Association, which had clinics every Sunday. And she said, “There’s going to be this race. It’s a 10K and it’s just for women.” Well, I was so stupid I said, “What is a 10K?” I had no idea. Six miles. I don’t know if I could do six miles. So I began training out here in the park, and my goal was to get around Kapiolani Park. Well that’s 1.8. My goal was to make it without having to stop. So I would run to the tree, walk to the trash can, run to the corner, walk to the tree. And I worked myself around Kapiolani Park. And so that was my first training. And then I would start going up Diamond Head. Go up to the lighthouse, turn around and come back.
And so when January of 1978 came around, both my daughter and I entered the first ever Women’s 10K. And she entered them with me every year then until she got out of high school and went away to college. And forty years later, I am still doing that Women’s 10K every year. There are maybe eight of us that have done them all, and of course we’re all turning into old ladies. And I said I was going to be the survivor, but I don’t know if I can make it. But that is what got me started, and so when the Outrigger in those days was sponsoring and helping with the runners for the marathon, I said, “Okay, I’ll do that.” So in that same year when I had my first Women’s 10K, didn’t even know what that was, that December I ran my first marathon. So, that would have been ’78. And I think I’ve done a total of about five marathons. I did one in ’88 when I think I was … What was I, forty? Then I did every ten years. My next one is supposed to be next year, but I don’t know about that.
MK: Now, when you talk about entering races, are you actually running or are you race-walking?
GD: I started out running, but then my knees began to hurt and my husband said, “Well, why don’t you race-walk?” And again, I said, “Oh, what is race-walking?” Well, he said, “Look at those people out there that are doing that.” There were some Outrigger people race-walking. Denby Fawcett who’s not an Outrigger member, she was out there race-walking. So I just began to approach them and say, “Show me what to do.” And at that point, because running was so popular – as was race-walking – there were little clinics. You could actually go and get coached, and I remember a group that had us out on the Kaiser track, and they videoed us so that they could show you. “Look here, your hip’s too high.” “Look here, your foot’s off the ground.” And so I became a race-walker, and in those days because there were so many people participating, they actually had a race-walker category. They no longer have that, so when I enter a run, I am a race-walker, but I’m not entered as a race-walker. I’m just in my age group.
MK: Can you describe what race-walking is?
GD: You are always supposed to have one foot on the ground. You do not get airborne. And in order to do that there is a certain amount of hip-swiveling, and you use your arms as power. So that’s why people always laugh at race-walkers. If you see them in the Olympics, they always show them for comic relief because it is funny to see people race-walking. But it is not pounding. And I can actually pass people going up Diamondhead, because they’re running and bouncing up and down, and up and down, and having to take very short steps. Whereas, I don’t change my stride. I just keep on going, because you’re not pounding yourself.
MK: Are you still running on a regular schedule?
GD: Not as much. I did the Women’s 10K in March, and my daughter was here so she did it with me. And I have a couple of friends that do it with me every year, and we always come down to Outrigger and take nice hot showers and have brunch, and make a little party out of it. And I’m not sure what the future’s going to be. A new run that started five years ago is the Ka Iwi Coast Run, and that’s put on by Hui Nalu. And that is absolutely wonderful.
I just inadvertently found out about it when I turned seventy-five. The run was on my birthday, so I had been seventy-five for about six hours, and I entered that race and I won because I was the hottie, you see, the newest of the seventy-five to seventy-nine year old ladies. So that starts at Sandy Beach, uphill for two miles and then downhill for two miles, to end up at Hui Nalu’s Canoe Halau. And the second year I did it I came in second. I don’t know who that runner was, but she did not enter the last two years, so I came in first also. I am entered in the race for this year, so we’ll see. And next year I am sad to inform you I will be eighty, so we’ll see about going into a new age group.
MK: You’ll be the young kid again.
GD: The youngest eighty-year-old out there.
MK: The Club has sent teams to the Hana Relays for a number of years, and I’ve seen you all in the pictures for the Hana Relays. It looks like a lot of fun.
GD: Well, it is. And I, here again, there was never a womens masters group in the Hana Relays. They were always hotties. And I said, “We need a masters group.” So I went around to anybody who was of the qualifying age, me and five others, and we entered in the masters category. That’s the only Hana Relay I have ever done, and I’m happy to say I was on the finishing leg of that – it’s six people – because my son lives in Hana and so everybody said, “Well you must do the run end to the ball park so everybody can say, ‘Come on, Mom! Come on, Mom!'” So I did. But several years I went to Hana during the relay and stayed with my son, and we set up a tent and refreshments and, here again, it depends on who your chair is, Don Eovino was the chair of the Running Committee. He had masseuses. There were massage tables.
So I was involved then because I brought the food and the beverages, because my son was living there. And we hauled all that stuff down there. So we set up a tent, a finishers tent. And I think maybe I did that about three or four years, so that’s why you’ll see me in the pictures. But I truly only ran it the one time we had a masters women’s team.
MK: How long are the legs in that race?
GD: It varies because you break your rest point at a place where cars can pull out, and you have been on the Hana Relay – I mean the road to Hana – you know there are not a lot of places that you can stop cars. That race is limited to one-hundred entries because the road cannot accommodate. It fills up in five hours. Once registration is open, by five hours they’ve got one-hundred teams. And Dave Stackhouse is the one that enters the Outrigger’s name in there right away, the minute it’s time he gets entries in there. But there’s only a certain number of places where there’s enough road that you can have your escort van wait for you, and so some legs will be twenty minutes, some legs will be thirty-five. It just depends, so you try to put your better runners that can do thirty-five, and people like me who start to poop out after twenty minutes of concentration in a smaller leg. So that’s all mapped out and arranged by the breaks in the road. It’s not the runners that do it, it’s the road that chooses.
MK: My son lived along the highway on the road to Hana for a couple of years, and we said it was interesting to see people going through there. Traffic, but not like the tourist traffic going along the road. He said it was really fun to watch all the people in the race.
GD: It is. It is. It’s like a drama.
MK: Before we leave athletics, have you been involved in any other sports at the club or in Hawaii?
GD: Well, we’ve covered swimming. We’ve covered paddling. Running. Sailing. There’s nothing left except volleyball and I just never did that. Never did that.
MK: Do you have any other stories you’d like to share about your involvement in any of our sports?
GD: No, I think my biggest contribution was when there was need and nobody did it. I tried to fill it. That’s why I started the Swimming Committee and that’s why we organized … I’m not an expert sailor, but I am an expert organizer, and so that’s why we organized the Sailing Committee. And so things like that I have been very happy to say, “Okay, let’s do it. And this is what we need to do to get that done.” And it’s easy to participate. It’s much harder to organize.
MK: Well, one of my favorite things is seeing you writing numbers on all of these bodies. These nice, strong, male bodies. You do that so well.
GD: That’s what I like to do now and so I’m looking forward to that at the Invitational Swim, which will be in October, and then the Castle Swim in November. After people sign in and they get their number, they come over and I take my big marker and I get the thighs and the arms and write on people’s bodies.
MK: I always get a kick out of that, and you get such enjoyment out of that. I watch you.
Okay, now let’s move on to other Club activities. You’ve always been a strong feminist and you single-handedly took on the Club about ridding us of all of our sexist ways. How tough was it to change the Bylaws, the Membership Handbook, and all of that?
GD: Well, I tell you, I was on the House Committee for several years. Not a lot, but the House Committee does a lot of things. They do wine. They do the interior of the Club, and the reciprocals. I think people would be amazed when they realize that the House Committee’s got their finger everywhere. And, so one of the things was how the Club operates, and I took a look at the rules and the Bylaws and committee things, and everything was he, he, and him, him, him. And I said, “This is not what we are about. Women can be members of this Club. Women are serving in this Club.” At this time, there were no women on the Board. So you’ve got to start where you can start, and so I took on the project of re-writing all of that stuff. And it’s hard because you can’t just take out, “He,” and say, “He/she.” Sometimes it has to be, “Them.” Sometimes it has to be, “Their.” Sometimes you say, “A member,” instead of making it a personal pronoun.
So I can write. I can read. I can reason. And I just didn’t think there needed to be a way … We needed to keep on functioning that way. And you’ve known me long enough to know that I don’t permit personal pronouns in anything that I write. And so it does require a little bit of ingenuity to figure it out and change it and make it work. So I did. I made huge, big copies of everything and I restructured it, and there were people on the Board who were advocates. Chuck Swanson was one. Dan Williamson was another. These were people that were willing to see this happen, because I promise you there were more people unwilling to see this happen. Like, “This is how we’ve always done it. Why are we doing it any other way? How can a woman be a head of the committee because the committee’s chairs are supposed to move on to the Board and we don’t have any women on the Board.” And after a while it just gets nauseating.
So you’ve just got to put your wedge in where your wedge will go. And as anybody will tell you, language is the entry. If you teach Hawaiian, the Hawaiians get stronger. If you want people to remain with a cultural identity, you make sure their language doesn’t disappear from the earth. So if you write the rules and you write all the laws to imply that anybody is welcome, people will come and they will do that. So that was one of the things I did on the House Committee.
The other thing I did that I don’t think anybody knows about is, we had a fire in the Women’s Locker Room, and I don’t remember when that was. But the locker room had to be rebuilt, and so … And it has since been remodeled again. But I’m the one that was responsible for a sink wide enough to put a baby on so you could clean it up, and those were the days before those little baby dropper things, what do they call them? Koalas. Also, I said, “We need shampoo and we need powder and we need more lushy things.” And so all of the accoutrements that you get in the locker room these days like powder and lotion and kleenex dispensers and all of that, there was nothing. There was a bar of ivory soap when I went on the House Committee, and a dispenser of some liquid evil that you put on your hair. And so all of the goodies that came then about the Women’s Locker Room, that came as a result of that fire, because the House Committee was supposed to fix that up. So those were my two giant accomplishments in the House Committee, were spiffing up the Women’s Locker Room and taking the sexist language out of the operations of the Club.
MK: How did you get so interested in taking out the sexist references? I mean, I remember you being such an advocate in so many different things.
GD: Well, I’ll tell you. I started out in social welfare and the very first thing I began doing in Hawaii was adoptions. Judge Betty Vitousek who recently died, she and I were Gerry and Betty. We worked together that much. She as a lawyer and me with the unwed mothers. There was no abortion repeal at that time, so people came from the mainland here to have a “vacation in Hawaii” and give up their children for adoption. And then say they were attending Hawaii summer school or regular term and then go back to where they came from. Every week I was at Kapiolani Hospital taking out a little baby to go into foster care, signing the papers, witnessing the papers – and this is why Judge Vitousek and I were working so closely together.
This was the very beginning of the family court, because she was upset with the way things were, and this was the very beginning of my advocacy and my volunteering for Hawaii Planned Parenthood. I said, “Why are we having all of these little babies that somebody doesn’t want? They don’t need to be here if you don’t want them.” And so I began, while I was in graduate school, I began volunteering for Hawaii Planned Parenthood, and when Hawaii Planned Parenthood opened its first clinic at Queen’s Hospital, one night a week I was a social worker volunteer at the clinic. And that was 1968, I think. And then I got my Master’s degree in 1969 and I volunteered for just a little bit longer. But by then, Planned Parenthood took off and became a huge entity and I just couldn’t do it anymore and they had to pay people to do what I had been doing as a volunteer once a week. They started saying, “Come twice a week,” and I said, “I have a family and I have a job and I can’t do that.”
But that was the very beginning of me realizing that if you’re not in charge of your body, if you’re not in charge of yourself, you are not the one writing the rules. And that’s the way … If you don’t write the rules or don’t participate in writing the rules, someone will write them for you, and that will be where women can’t own property, or women can’t get divorced unless their husband agrees, or women can’t have this or they can’t have that. You have to have your husband co-sign things for you, because he is the rule-writer. And I said, “If you want to be in charge of what happens to you, you have to be a rule writer and you have to be making sure you’re there at that place where the wedge can go in.”
MK: Well that kind of leads into my next question. In 1990, you and Scrappy Lipton submitted petitions to be added to the ballot for the Board of Directors.
MK: Now normally, we have a Nominating Committee that does that, but as I recall there were no women who were nominated-
GD: And there were no women on the Nominating Committee, you see.
MK: So tell me about that.
GD: All right. So you have an all-male Nominating Committee nominating an all-male slate of officers appointed by a male President. And so I just said … You have that one year down, but I think I tried three times. You had to have a petition. And so, it’s very hard to find thirty-five friends that are willing to sign their name on something. Especially when you are raising rabble. And so I went around to the Swim Committee and to places where I felt safe to find thirty-five people. Remember you had to be a voting member and there were not a lot of women voting members. So both Scrappy and I did that. We didn’t do it because we were friends or allies. We just saw the place where you need to kick the door down a bit.
So I ran for office, I think, three times. She was the woman that got elected, and in that voting hierarchy I was the next in line with the votes, but not elected. And in, I think it was 1990, Marc Haine resigned from the Board and he moved to the mainland, and so Dan Williamson, bless his heart, said, “I am appointing the person who was next in line for the votes.” And nevermind that I’d run by petition. I had not been nominated by the Nominating Committee. I was next in line with the votes, so that’s how I got on the Board. And there was Scrappy, and so we did the best we could, and now I’m happy to say there are women on the Nominating Committee, there are women Presidents, and there are women on the Board. But, again, somebody’s got to be there first, making noise and saying, “Why? Why? Why not?”
MK: What were you hoping to accomplish?
GD: You’ve got to take a look at how the Club was operating, and up on the front door it says, “A place where men and boys can do whatever it is they do.” Women were not members. There were members, some women in their own right, but not a lot. I don’t know how to phrase this. What was I trying to accomplish? I was trying to accomplish recognition for the fact that women are contributors, women are organizers, women have good ideas. We had no women paddling coaches. All the coaches were men. Women could coach the children. 10 and under or 14 and under you could have a woman coach. But to have a woman coach like Di Guild did, like Connie Young did, that was a big deal. I was looking for equity. Women are fifty percent of the population. Why are they not fifty percent of the operation? That’s what I was hoping to accomplish.
MK: Obviously you did because we see that now. Not exactly fifty-fifty, but-
GD: No, but it’s there.
MK: It’s there.
GD: And you see women on Winged “O”. How about that? There was nobody there that did that because you can’t make a contribution to Winged “O” if you’re not a coach, if you’re not a head of a committee, if you’re not doing the things that boys were always doing. So in order to get parity you have to start someplace. So I was never … I did not suffer from a lack of courage.
MK: I would say that’s putting it mildly.
But you didn’t run for your seat in 1991. Why?
GD: Because I’m getting old, I can’t remember what was going on then. I either was starting my own business or I figured I was tired of the fight, or somebody else could do it now. Or maybe a woman was nominated. That very well may have been the catalyst. My goal was to create the opportunity, not to create me, me, me. So if a woman got nominated there’s no reason for me to run by petition anymore, because the running by petition was, “We don’t have any women on the Board!” So there was no reason for me to make a statement anymore.
MK: Well now you are also a long-time member of the Public Relations Committee. I think I counted 28 years that you were-
GD: Could be. I started as a member and then pretty soon I was the chair. And then when I was on the Board I was the Coordinating Director to the committee. And then when Ken Brown was on the board, he had been doing the calendar, and he said to me, “Why don’t you do this and we’ll make you the Assistant Editor?” So I thought that was a real turnabout because when I was the head of the PR committee and hired you to come on, I was your boss, and now here … By being Assistant Editor, you are now my boss. So I thought that was very poetic.
But all the years I was on the PR Committee I did a variety of things. Writing articles. I used to interview the employee of the month. I think computers changed a lot at that because doing the calendar now is a computer function, and it used to be a handwriting function where you’d get a big, blank calendar and write things down. There’s a function calendar for the Board Room up in the office. I am the one that put that on the wall. I said, “Nobody knows what in the hell’s going on around here.” You want to put on a swim, somebody will say, “How about the 12th?” Okay, but they don’t know that’s a volleyball tournament and there’ll be no place to park. Things like that.
So I said, “We need a calendar. We need a monthly calendar and we need a three month out calendar. And we need that calendar in the magazine.” People can’t come to a run that they don’t see in a little square saying there’s a run. So that’s how the calendar came to be on the wall, and there just seemed to be plenty of things to do on the PR Committee. And then that too, after a while, I said, “Okay, been there, done that. I don’t need to do this anymore.” So time to go.
MK: Wow. Twenty-eight years was a long time.
GD: Nothing like the forty years on the Swimming Committee.
MK: Yeah. But it seems to me like there was a lot more community involvement-
GD: Oh, there was.
MK: That was initiated by the PR Committee.
GD: We did. We were trying to, really, improve our image in the community as not being an elitist group of rich haole that sat there and drank and showed up in our big, fancy canoe. We had cleaning Diamond Head. And you remember that all those years it wasn’t the PR Committee that did it, but we had an aid station in the marathon. This was all donated by the Outrigger. We had things that we did, like … I call them outreach. And I think maybe that’s not necessary anymore. Maybe it is in one level, but we did. We would annually go clean up Diamond Head and gather trash, and then we’d come back to the Club and the Club would feed us. So we did things like that.
MK: Well, you touched briefly on my being hired as the editor of the Outrigger magazine.
GD: Oh, one of my greatest achievements. We had a male editor who was resigning, retiring, and I said, “I know somebody who can do this job better than he ever thought of doing it.” And that was you, and so I went to get you and said, “Come and do this.” And I know you started out small, but eventually you were the editor and that’s what I wanted to do, was get that magazine in good hands.
MK: Well, that’s been a long time, too. Thirty-two years.
GD: And I must say, for the record, that I sponsored both of Marilyn’s children as members of the Club, because they were the same age as my children. And so after that it was pretty easy to get Mama to come work here.
MK: Well you also sponsored me.
GD: Well, I know. But that was because you were going to be working here. Not because you were going to be a hot contributor, because you were a hot contributor and we needed you as a member.
MK: You also got my daughter involved in the PR Committee by writing the Junior ‘Rigger’s column.
GD: There you go. You see? Did we have any girl reporters prior to that time? No. So Marilyn’s daughter became our first girl reporter.
MK: You’ve been a member of the Club for a long time. Are you happy with the way women have taken their place in the running of the Club now?
GD: I think so. I think there’s always room for improvement. There’s always room for getting politics out of things. But I think it’s a given. And if you ever nominated a slate in which there was not one or two women, I think people would remark. They would say, “There’s no women running. Why is this?” And then you’d have somebody coming up with a petition – although I believe it’s harder to do now. I think you’ve got to do more hoops than thirty-five friends. But I see women as the chairs of committee all the time. Women are on the Board. Women are coaching. Yeah, I think it’s … I am happy to have been a pioneer. I really am.
MK: You take pride in helping us get to that point.
GD: I do. I take classes at KCC every semester and in a psychology class once a girl, eighteen years old, what does she know? She stood up and said, “I’m not a feminist, but.” And I was so outraged. I said, “If you aren’t a feminist, I want you to give me everything that you own, because it isn’t yours anymore. I want you to hand over your birth control pills. I want you to take place in society as a second-class person.” And she just looked at me as if I was a mad woman. I said, “You do not realize that it is my broken bones that enable you to do what you are doing now. You cannot say you’re not a feminist. If you’re walking, talking, breathing, and taking birth control, you are a feminist.”
MK: How did she feel about that?
GD: Well, I’m auditing, you see. I don’t get a grade.
MK: What else needs to be done?
GD: Marilyn, since I’m going to be eighty next year, I can say that some of the fight is gone. I leave those big battles with big sticks to other people. I advocate for things by, I think, making suggestions. I choose my battles now. I don’t need to fight them anymore. There are plenty of other people who are actually doing it better than I did. They don’t have to be quite as belligerent and the door opens more easily.
MK: Well, let’s change gears a little bit.
MK: You have two children. They grew up with mine. They’re lovely. Tell me about them.
GD: Well, they both joined the Outrigger when they were ten years old. As I said, I joined myself when I was pregnant. So I laughingly say my son’s first meal was in the ladies’ locker room, because I was nursing him. And his first glimpse of the ocean was when I said, “Baby, look at that water.” And I am happy to say he is an accomplished waterman. My two children, they’re both older than I am now, and they tell me what to do. And my daughter lives about a third of the time here with me in Honolulu, and a third of the time she lives in Fiji, and a third of the time she is traveling and having adventures.
MK: And her name is Cassie.
GD: That’s Cassie, and she is in her early fifties. My son Grant, who is in his late forties – they are eight years apart so don’t ask me to do the arithmetic here – he lives in Hana. He is married and he and his wife both teach at Hana School. And they’ve been there for about twenty years.
MK: And do you have any grandchildren?
GD: I have two hanai granddaughters, since my children – maybe because their mother was always out charging around – didn’t approve of my child-rearing practices, they have elected to not have children. So I had to shop around and find myself some grandchildren. And there is a nice family a block and a half from me who have a ten- and a thirteen-year-old, and I knew those children, actually both of them, in utero, so I have been Aunt Gerry to them ever since they were born. And they come to my house and we bake cookies.
The ten-year-old had a birthday party at my house yesterday, and she was thrilled. I got out all the good dishes and the good silverware and I poured apple juice into champagne glasses, and we had a birthday party. So I do have two granddaughters, and I’ve taught them to play checkers, and they come and play with me. And I call their mother and I say, “Can Helen and Lucy come and play?” And we do things. We go for walks. We go out to dinner. And we play games and we bake cookies. We do grandmother things. So, yes, I have two granddaughters.
MK: That’s wonderful. Now, you were married to Clair Folsome.
MK: Tell me a little bit about him.
GD: Well, he was a mad scientist. I mean in the best possible way because I don’t think scientists can be anything other than mad, otherwise they wouldn’t be so dedicated to what they’re doing. He was a professor at University of Hawaii – a full professor in exobiology. He taught genetics. And he just lived on another planet, or plane I guess. Unfortunately, he died when he was fifty-two, and that was why I sold the sail boat. And he was an associate member of the Outrigger, which I thought was good. I was the member and he was the associate. But he was a genius and he wrote books. I just regret that the world lost him at such a young age.
MK: Did you have any children with him?
MK: Now, Gerry, you’re one of the brightest, smartest women I know.
GD: Oh, boy.
MK: And you’re a member of MENSA. What is it? What is MENSA?
GD: Well, I am not tooting my horn now. I’m just telling you what MENSA is. MENSA is a high IQ society in which you must score on a MENSA test at a ninety-eighth percentile, and if you score in that test at ninety-eighth percentile then you are eligible for membership. I can’t remember when I joined that. It would’ve been like maybe the later 70’s. Took the test. It’s a proctored, monitored test, and if you get to that percentile then you are eligible to become a member of MENSA. They meet infrequently. I don’t participate much anymore, but I did for a while. I wrote articles for their newsletter. I started their book club. Things like that. My late husband was a member of MENSA. An Outrigger person who I know to be a member of MENSA was Barbara Marumoto, and she’s a woman I admire who has a lot of intelligence and has always been a pioneer, too, in her own field. So I have a hat in my car that says, “MENSA thinking cap.” And I occasionally put that on my head. But otherwise, I’m not very active anymore.
MK: And so, what do you do as a MENSA? What are the-
GD: You don’t do anything.
MK: You just get the thing and that’s it.
GD: That’s it. You can go to a meeting if you want to, but frankly, I found some of those people kind of nerdy sometimes. So I didn’t want to hang out with them.
MK: Well, you’ve been retired now for a number of years.
GD: Oh, no. I’m not retired.
MK: Well, you retired from your state job a long time ago.
GD: I did that.
MK: Tell me about life today. What are you doing?
GD: Well, I worked for the state for twenty-eight years, and then again I said, “I have been there and done that. I don’t need to do that anymore.” And I was only fifty-five. I took retirement at the earliest possible minute. The month I turned fifty-five I said, “Watch me walk out that door.” And I became a professional organizer. I joined the National Association of Professional Organizers, and the local non-profit administration agency – can’t remember what their exact title is – but that’s when I got hired by the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation to do their fundraising and their paperwork and their organizing. That was an all-volunteer board who, again, needed some structure. They would forget to do things. They would not keep track of things.
So I worked for them for about ten years as their … I think they called me their coordinator, and so I organized the meetings, I kept their records. I kept track of who they gave scholarships to. I did all of that, and after ten years I decided I would do professional organizing on an individual basis. And that may have been when I decided I didn’t need to be on the Board anymore.
But I had private clients for maybe about five years. This was a one-on-one kind of organizing. I didn’t like to do offices. I liked to do peoples’ homes. And people who had a problem. One of the most famous clients I had, for me, she was a flight attendant who had been injured in turbulence and she could no longer reach above her shoulders. So I had to help her reorganize every cupboard in her house so that the things she needed was at eye-level or lower. And you just think about your house and its shelves and cupboards, and how much lifting you do. And so I changed her life for her, and helped her live a normal house life.
MK: So you were involved in the very early years of the ODKF, right after it was formed.
GD: Yes. Let’s see. That would’ve been … I think maybe they were about ten years old, because there was still original board members on that board. And I enjoyed my time with them. I still donate to them whenever any of my friends dies, I make a, “In memory,” donation. When I had my seventieth birthday I sent out birthday invitations and I said, “No presents. Please make donations to the ODKF.” And I am happy to say that there was $2,000 there. So I thought that was very good that I had enough friends that would fork over enough money to give $2,000 to ODKF, considering that all my friends are like me and poor. But I am still working.
When people ask me if you are retired … Or, “What did you do before you retired?” I usually say, “Why do you think I am retired?” Oh, well, then they get all flustered because here’s the gray hair and the wrinkles. I say, “No, I am a Vanillera.” Again they pause, and I say, “That is a vanilla farmer. I’m a female vanilla farmer and I raise vanilla.” Oh, my god. Well most people know nothing about raising vanilla. They don’t realize that vanilla is an orchid. They don’t realize that you have to pollinate it yourself, that you have to cure it yourself, and I am really happy to say I had a crop this year that is really good, and I harvested my beans and I cured them and there are some in that banana bread I gave you today. There is a vanilla in there that I grew and cured myself. So I am a vanillera in Kaimuki.
MK: Do you sell them or are you … Do you just use them?
GD: Oh, I don’t have that much. I don’t have that much. I’m just a small, small little farmer. But I don’t tell people that. I just tell them I’m a vanilla farmer. Oh, my god! A vanilla farmer! And when you have to fill out forms and they say, “Occupation,” I put that down. Vanilla farmer.
MK: Nobody’s going to argue with you on that.
GD: Well I actually do have a business. I have a business license and this came about because of my husband. When he was at UH, he would get hired to do consulting jobs and private things like that, and he needed an entity. So his business was called EcoCulture Associates, and it was like a closed ecosystem and he advised scientific kinds of things. He would review journals. He would do all kinds of things. And when he died, my tax man said, “Oh, well just get rid of this company because you don’t do that.” So I was complaining to somebody. “Oh, well, I hate to give up Clair’s company.” And they said, “Get a new tax man.” And I said, “There you go.” So I got, as a matter of fact, a tax lady, and so I changed the focus of EcoCulture Associates so that didn’t have anything to do with science anymore. It’s really sounded like agriculture. But that’s what I used as my entity for my organizing business.
And then when Mokulele Airlines came about flying to Hana, which is where I need to go to see my son, and they said, “We will give corporate memberships to people who have a business.” I said, “Yay! Here is EcoCulture Associates.” So my children are my associates now and we all fly these sweet deals with Mokulele Airlines, and that’s fine for a vanilla farmer to have a business that says, “EcoCulture Associates.” So when people say, “What is this? What do you do?” I say, “I’m a vanilla farmer.”
MK: Now, this past year we started up the Senior ‘Riggers program for some of our older members who couldn’t paddle anymore, couldn’t surf, and were looking for activities. And you were one of the first to volunteer to help, and you started our Senior ‘Riggers Book Club and it’s been wildly successful.
GD: We are one year old in November.
GD: Well, thank you for saying that because if you have been listening to everything I’ve said for the last however many minutes, this was the wedge. The place you need to go in. Okay, if people would like to have a book club, who’s going to organize a book club? While everybody’s sitting around saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a book club?” I’ll organize the book club. I know how to organize. I know how to read. I know how to make contacts. And so we’ll do that. So the focus of this club is things Hawaiian. Either a Hawaiian author on any topic, or a non-Hawaiian author on things Hawaiian, or things in Hawaii or anything remotely related.
Next year we’ll have Katherine Nichols who is a triathlete member of this Club. She wrote a book about people that she knew growing up in Coronado, California. Has nothing to do with Hawaii but she is from Hawaii. We read The Three Year Swim Club by an author who has nothing to do with Hawaii, but The Three Year Swim Club was in Maui. And we have Outrigger members whose family were in that Three Year Swim Club. And so we’re reading The Aviator … We’ve read The Aviator’s Wife, excuse me. Next month we’re reading a book by James Houston, which is about King Kalakaua. We are not going to run out of things to read about and I’m working on the 2018 schedule now.
When I can, I bring in an author. When the author is either dead or too fancy for us, I bring in someone who knows something, who can make a contribution. In the case of The Three Year Swim Club, Lani Hearn who was an Outrigger member, her father swam. I said, “Please come and bring some of your daddy’s stuff.” She brought in medals and she brought in his swimming singlet. It was great. So Fred Hemmings is going to be our speaker in December. His book is called, Local Boy. We have all kinds of little nooks and crannies we can go to because there have been a lot of books written about Hawaii, there have been a lot of authors from Hawaii, and there’s always something going on. Last month was Lab Girl, in which a UH professor who is no longer here, so I could no longer get my hands on her, we talked about her book. But she was a UH professor and had a laboratory up at UH. And we had great attendance and great participation. Mike Town, the judge, he came. He said, “I’m buying this book for all of my children because this woman scientist is out there kicking doors down.” And he thought that was admirable.
MK: Well I’ve heard nothing but great raves about it and I, again, thank you for making it happen, because it’s great to have ideas but, what you said, sometimes it’s hard to find somebody that is willing to do it.
GD: I will turn this over some day to somebody, because I will not be able to read anymore.
MK: We’ve talked about a lot of things this morning. Is there something that we haven’t covered which you’d like to add?
GD: Well, I think I’d like to see the Outrigger move in a direction of worrying about what’s out there. And this is just a small, little thing. When I started the Swim Committee, we could schedule a swim any day we chose because there were no jellyfish. Now if you want to schedule a swim, not only do you have to look at the calendar and see when there’s not a volleyball tournament or there’s not a regatta, you have to look at the jellyfish window. And you dare not schedule anything in the water when there’s going to be that five-day danger. We should be worrying about this. This is our life out here, this ocean. We swim in it, sail in it, paddle in it, and we have swimmers coming out of the boats, into the escort boat in the Molokai, they’re being stung by these jellyfish. We need to worry about this, and if my husband were still alive, boy, you can bet what committee I’d put him on. Environmental impact, I would call it. Figure out what we can do about these jellyfish because this affects how we operate. This affects what we do.
Another thing is traffic. You can’t schedule a meeting anymore without taking into consideration how long it takes somebody to get here. So a meeting that used to start at 4:30, 5:00, you can’t do that anymore because people are lucky to get here by 5:30. And so the things that are affecting us, we’re not involved in. We think that’s somebody else’s problem, and you look at what our politicians have done to us, I’m telling you it’s our problem.
So those are the things I notice. That it’s getting a little hard to be the way we used to be because of things that are impacting us, and we are reacting to that instead of being proactive about some of that stuff.
MK: What do you think we should be doing?
GD: I guess I should be fifty years younger and then I could start out again. I don’t know.
MK: Well, awareness is the very first thing.
GD: Yes, I can keep saying what I’m saying and somebody will say, “I know what to do,” and they’ll go do it.
MK: Yep. But you got to start somewhere.
MK: Well, I have one last question for you.
GD: Okay. Make it easy.
MK: You’ve been an Outrigger member for more than forty years. What has the Club meant to you?
GD: Oh, Marilyn. I’ve got to say everything. When I demurred about the initiation fee, which was something horrendous like $600, the response I got was, “How many places are there in town where you can just walk in and you don’t need an escort, and you don’t need a dinner partner, and you want to have a beer and you’re by yourself? How many places can you walk into like that?” And I said, “None.” But the Outrigger, you can do that. You can come in here and you can go walk in the bar and there’s somebody you know. You can go out on the Hau Terrace and you can say, “Hello,” to somebody and they’ll say, “Are you going to eat here?” And you can say yes or no, and they’ll say, “Well, here. Sit down.” You can be on a committee and make friends. You can work somehow and meet new people. And I’ve made it a habit now, when I come down here to lift weights in the morning, instead of going home to eat breakfast, I take my breakfast out to the Snack Bar or I get something there, because I will run into people and I will keep my social network going.
The older you get, the smaller your circle gets, and it’s up to me if I want people to think I’m still alive, is to be where they are. So I talk to people and I talk about the things I’m talking about like jellyfish and traffic and so forth. So it’s meant everything to me because I have a place where I can go, and I have a place where people, hopefully, at the Book Club, will want me to be there or will say, “Thank you. You’ve done a great job.” That takes care of me in emotional levels, also. So it’s not just a place to come and swim and take a shower. It’s also a place to talk to people and meet people and stay involved. Because I think the older you get, the more frail you get, the stupider you get, the more forgetful you get, you need to make sure that you don’t just disappear. And that’s what I’m doing now. Trying to make sure I’m still here. And the Outrigger’s a perfect place to do that.
MK: And I’m sure you have some wonderful memories of raising your children here.
GD: Oh, I do. This was a safe place for them. I don’t know if you can safely ride the bus anymore, but that’s what they used to do. After school, get on the bus, go down to Outrigger. You can go get something to eat at the Snack Bar, you can go swimming. I want you clean in the Lobby at 5:30, and doing your homework. So, yes. It’s meant everything.
MK: It’s a family within a family. Well, Gerry, thank you for taking the time to do this oral history. It’s got some great memories in it and it’ll be a great addition to our archives. Thank you.
GD: Thank you. Aloha.
Service to the Outrigger Canoe Club
Outrigger Canoe Club Board of Directors
1990 Coordinating Director, Public Relations Committee
Public Relations Committee
1994 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
1995 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
1996 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
1997 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
1998 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
1999 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
2000 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
2001 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
2002 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
2003 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
2004 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
2005 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
2006 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
2007 Member, Assistant Editor, Outrigger Magazine
Admissions & Membership Committee
Judges of Election Committee
Macfarlane Regatta Winning Crews
2007 Mixed 55
1979 Masters Women
1980 Masters Women
1973 1st Woman
1975 1st W35-39
1976 1st W35-39
1977 3rd W35-39
1978 1st W40-44
1979 2nd, W40-44
1980 2nd, W40-44
1981 1st W40-44
1982 1st W40-44
1983 2nd W45-49
1984 1st W45-49
1985 1st W45-49
1986 1st W45-49
1987 1st W45-49
1988 1st W50-54
1989 1st W50-54
1990 1st W50-54
1991 1st W50-54
1992 1st W50-54
1993 1st W55-59
1994 1st W55-59
1995 1st W55-59
1996 1st W55-59
1997 2nd W55-59
1998 2nd W60-64