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 complete transcript is posted below the video.
Interviewed by Barbara Del Piano
February 24, 2016
Good morning! My name is Barbara Del Piano (BDP) and I’m a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club Historical Committee. And one of our projects is to do oral histories of long-time members. So today it is my great pleasure to interview Hal Henderson (HH). Good morning Hal!
HH: Good morning Barbara!
BDP: Nice to have you here.
HH: Thank you.
BDP: Before we get into your association with the Club, can you tell us a little bit about your family background. How your family happened to came to Hawaii, etc.?
HH: On my mother’s side I’m a missionary descendent. My family arrived, I should know the date, but it was in the early 1830’s. Lowell and Abigail Smith were their names. They embarked from New London, Connecticut, but they were both from Massachusetts originally. They arrived out here in the early 1830’s. So that’s that side of the family.
My father’s side, he was born in Elko, Nevada, and the family had a ranch up there in Elko, outside of Elko, and … mother and dad met when they were both in college. Dad was at Harvard. She was at Vassar.
HH: So ah yeah. [LAUGH]. So they married… in the 20’s and I was born in 1933.
BDP: Oh but you’re um, the Smith’s? That…
HH: Smith? Yah.
BDP: Smith. Uh. Emma Smith? Was her name. Emma?
HH: Emma yah Emma. They had one daughter that survived. Emma.
BDP: She is the one that married…
HH: She married… Dillingham. Dillingham.
BDP: Dillingham. Yah. Which one? Ben?
HH: Ben, Benjamin.
BDP: And she is also the also the founder of the Daughters of Hawaii?
HH: That’s correct. Right.
HH: Yes. She was my great-grandmother.
HH: Never knew her.
BDP: That’s a pretty illustrious background I should say. What neighborhood did you grow up in?
HH: Up on the side of Diamond Head, Noela Drive here. It was a great place to grow up.
BDP: Peter Balding I believe was…
HH: Peter and Tommy Balding were just down the … a little ways away from us. And…the four of us, my brother Charlie and the two Baldings we played together all the time.
HH: We would take our trains over to their house and set up the whole deal and then we’d get into a fight and so we’d take our trains back home again. [LAUGH]
BDP: [LAUGH] And where did you go to school?
HH: I went to Hanahauoli to start with, and then Punahou. Hanahauoli goes up to sixth grade. Still does I think. And then I went to Punahou for seventh to ninth grades. And then my parents convinced me to go back East to boarding school. So I went back East to Massachusetts to Deerfield. And was three years in prep school back there.
BDP: And when did you join the Outrigger?
HH: I joined the Outrigger seventy years ago this month.
BDP: Seventy years ago! Wow! [LAUGH/LAUGH] That would have been when?
HH: [LAUGH/LAUGH] It was 1946.
HH: I don’t know the exact date. Joanne has it. But . . . tt was February of 1946.
BDP: You don’t remember who your sponsors were?
HH: No. No. Not a clue. Not a clue. My parents were not members. So . . . I don’t know.
BDP: Were you involved in any water sports?
HH: I paddled, not for too many years, because I was gone through my later teen years, but I did paddle as a youngster, yeah.
BDP: And then you went away to college?
HH: I went to Stanford.
HH: From ‘51-‘55.
BDP: I see. And did you do any sports at Stanford?
HH: I played polo.
BDP: That’s the natural thing for your family.
HH: That’s right. That’s right. I wasn’t here till after the war. They got started here again. As you may or may not remember they played in Honolulu Stadium…They played three aside.
BDP: I do remember that. We never missed a game.
HH: Yah… in the old Honolulu Stadium. But although I did play in college for a year. I just took it up in college.
BDP: Do you still have anything to do with horses?
BDP: Okay. Now what about your career?
HH: Well . . . after Stanford . . . I went in the Navy. And I was in the Navy for 3½ years. I went to Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. And then another posting. And then I was stationed in Japan for most of the time I was in the Navy. So I never went to sea.
BDP: Never went to sea?
HH: Never went to sea. [LAUGH]
BDP: Was there a war going on then?
HH: No. I was lucky. The Korean War was just over. And. . . nothing else had started yet. So it was a pretty benign time to be in the service.
BDP: So when you got out of the Navy, what did you do?
HH: Came back to Honolulu, and . . . had a short stint working for Hawaiian Electric . . . and then left them. Lowell Dillingham talked to me and said I should come work for the railroad, which was still then Oahu Railway & Land Company. Not much of a railroad operation anymore at that time . . . but we owned a lot of real estate . . . Sugar lands . . . a lot of that . . . areas like Pacific Palisades behind Pearl Harbor. That was all Oahu Railway & Land Company land at one time so we started developing that.
BDP: So when did you actually start getting involved at with the Outrigger as far as serving on committees and so forth?
HH: Well . . . I’m trying to think of the actual year. I was on the Buildings & Grounds Committee probably in the early 70’s.
BDP: Buildings & Grounds. . .
HH: Buildings & Grounds. Yeah.
HH: Served a couple of terms on that and then, And then . . . But see, this period of time, I was in and out of Hawaii . . . after starting with the railroad and then the two companies Hawaiian Dredging and the railroad merged to form Dillingham Corporation and we moved offices from Iwilei to Ala Moana Shopping Center and the 1441 Kapiolani Building. And . . . I was still working in the Real Estate Division but decided I probably needed some more . . . since my college major had been biology. . .
HH: Biology. Because I was thinking about going into the sugar business of course.
HH: Having taken a look at it after I came back from the Navy in the late ‘50’s early ‘60’s I figured it was dying.
BDP: Really? Way back then?
HH: Yeah. Yeah. You could scan the feeling . . . so I figured I should maybe do something else. Anyway. . .
HH: So anyway in 1964 I went back to Stanford Business School and left Dillingham and went back to school and then came back to Dillingham when I got out, when I got my degree in ‘66.
BDP: I see . . . how interesting. And so eventually you were elected to the Board of Directors here at the Outrigger?
HH: Yeah. That was many years later.
BDP: That was what?
HH: Many, many years later. [LAUGH]
BDP: [LAUGH] And became President. When was that?
HH: Let’s see . . . my last year was 2001, 2002, so . . . about 1997 or ’98, somewhere in there.
BDP: And how many terms did you serve on the Board?
HH: I served three consecutive two-year terms.
BDP: Oh my goodness.
HH: Which is pretty normal.
HH: Most people do that. You only can serve three consecutive terms and that’s it. I was President in my last year.
BDP: I see . . . and how did you feel about moving from Waikiki to Diamond Head?
HH: Well that’s interesting because . . . I was not opposed to it. Actually I felt that we should move. I didn’t think anyone really wanted to go, but if you looked carefully at what might happen to the Club if we’d stayed, I mean, I guess it was the Outrigger, that what they call the Outrigger Hotel chain now, was going to build a hotel on that property and they offered the Club space in the hotel building, but can you see what might have happened? We wouldn’t have long been a private club. Because it would have been too much connected with the hotel. It wouldn’t have had the same feeling that it had when we were there. I know a lot of people said well we can’t possibly move out of Waikiki then, which is what they were saying then.
HH: . . . but I thought we should move. I didn’t want to, but I think we obviously made the right decision.
BDP: Obviously. Were you involved with the Elks’ Club negotiation that took place a few years ago?
HH: I was involved . . . in the late 80’s early 90’s. I was on a couple of different committees that was looking at what we could do . . . how we could raise the money and if we could raise any money. And we made a couple of approaches to the Elks’ Club back then that were turned down flat. I realized that at that time, we were only negotiating against ourselves. Every time we went back we had a little better offer. And it didn’t really make sense. We felt at the time, and I don’t know if whether it will prove to be right or not, that once the old guard got out of there . . . They were the ones who felt that we’d given them a raw deal when we negotiated the lease. Well we didn’t. We used their lease draft to work from. I don’t think they had a leg to stand on there, but that’s the way they felt. The lease rent was set for a period of 50 years or 49 years, one of the two. At the market price in 1956. So the lease rent we were paying in 1990 looked ridiculously low. Which it was. But that was the terms of the agreement. So now we have the same thing. Now we opened the lease rent once, which was a few years ago. And it’s set now until our expiration in 2056 or something like that.
BDP: What do you think the future holds for the Club when that happens?
HH: I don’t know. I just hope there’s a way that we can stay here. I don’t know where we would go, if we couldn’t stay here. So there’s a lot of options that can be worked out. Hopefully one of them is that we can buy the property. The second one is that we can extend the lease, or something like that.
BDP: Do you have any children that belong to the Club?
HH: I have two boys. They didn’t spend much of their time growing up here, because I moved to England in 1974. And lived there for 12 years. So they were 7 and 8 when we moved, so they didn’t grow up here. They don’t have the same attachment to Hawaii that most young kids do, but they’re both members. I got them in as Juniors and Nonresidents. They maintain the membership and they enjoy it. They don’t use it very often. They both live on the Mainland. When they come, they both use the Club.
BDP: And your wife Gloria, she’s very active in the Club too?
HH: Yes. She’s very active. She was on the . . . I think she served on both PR and Entertainment for a long time . . . and for many years she’s been on the Luau Committee, which she’s chaired a couple of times.
BDP: Do you spend much time at the Club these days?
HH: Fair amount. I had to give up surfing because my neck got too sore holding it up. [LAUGH] With age comes arthritis. So I don’t do that, but I use the workout facility. I swim. So I’m down here a fair amount.
BDP: Do you live nearby?
HH: We live on Waialae Iki Ridge. It’s not too far away.
BDP: Do you have any other memories, any funny incidents or special memories?
HH: I don’t have the same sort of memories like Jimmy McMahon has . . . of being one of the gremmies on the side. He’s a lot younger. No I just remember the old Club and played a lot of volleyball. The two big courts and the little baby court. I just really enjoyed it. I surfed a lot, which is why I joined. Which is why Peter and Tommy Balding joined as well, because the surfing was right in front of the Club.
BDP: Thank you very much Hal. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you. I’m sure your memories will be a great asset to our archives.
HH: Thank you very much.
BDP: And our history.
HH: Thank you Barbara. I sure enjoyed it. Aloha.
2016 Life Membership