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.
An Interview by Don Machado
November 21, 1981
Today is the 21st of November, 1981. It is a picture perfect Hawaiian morning at the Outrigger Canoe Club. I am Don Machado (DM), a member of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club, and I have the pleasure this morning of interviewing James Ward Russell (JWR) who was President of the Club from 1960 to 1964 a very critical time in the Club’s history. Ward, tell me, when and where you born?
JWR: I was born in Hilo, Island of Hawaii, March 19, 1917.
DM: Where did your people come from?
JWR: My mother was born in Stillman Valley, Illinois. She, my grandfather and grandmother, sisters and brothers came to Hawaii about 1896, I believe it was. My maternal grandfather and grandmother were married in Rockford, Illinois and moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming. My grandfather was in the cattle business and he was pretty much wiped out in the famous blizzard of 1887, I think it was. So he went into real estate with a man by the name of Deskey. Deskey made a trip around the world, saw Honolulu and told my grandfather what a beautiful place it was, so my grandfather came out to take a look. He fell in love with Hawaii, more particularly Hilo. So he sent for my grandmother and five children. They came across the continent, got a sailing vessel and came out to Hawaii in 1896 and settled in Hilo. My father come from New York State. He was an attorney, went to New York University and graduated in the early nineteen hundreds. That was during the period when the leading law firms in Honolulu were visiting the various colleges on the Mainland recruiting young, promising attorneys to come out and work in Honolulu.
DM: What year was this?
JWR: 1912, I think it was. Frank Thompson, who was the dean of the attorneys in Honolulu, had heard about my father, had interviewed him in New York, and had offered him a job in Honolulu. My father came out and accepted. My mother was Frank Thompson’s secretary. They were married in 1914, and my father practiced with Frank Thompson for several years. During the course of his practice he represented Parker Ranch and also the Dillingham Corporation. He tried a couple of cases for them on the Island of Hawaii. In Circuit Court there, won the cases, and was persuaded by A. W. Carter and Julian Cates of Kona that Hawaii needed a young attorney to come out and practice law there so they persuaded my father to move from Honolulu to Hilo, which he did I guess it was 1914-1915.
DM: What was your Dad’s name, Ward?
JWR: He was James Ward Russell, Sr.
DM: Ah, I see
JWR: I’m James Ward Russell, Jr.
DM: I see.
JWR: I might just comment: one of the reasons my mother (Eunice C. Pratt) was Frank Thompson’s secretary I think stems from the fact that she went to Punahou School and was a classmate along with Mrs. Thompson (Alice Roth Thompson). They were classmates, along with a number of members of the old island families of the day, so I guess it was a logical consequence that she went to work for Frank Thompson. Anyway, I am glad she did because an interesting commentary on that was that when I was a junior at Punahou the first job that I ever had in the summer of my junior year was as office boy for Frank Thompson. He was a great man.
DM: Now, when did you start Punahou? What grade?
JWR: I had been going to school in Hilo, and my parents died. My mother died in November of 1930 and my father passed away in January of 1931. I was taken over by an aunt as my guardian.
DM: What was her last name?
JWR: Josephine (Pratt) Paris. I was just 14 at the time and she brought me to Honolulu. That was in 1931. I was a sophomore at Hilo High School then, so I was enrolled at Punahou midway through my sophomore year. I was at Punahou in 1931, ‘32 and graduated in 1933.
DM: I assume the Punahou of today is a little different from the Punahou that you know
JWR: Oh my, yes.
DM: When you started.
JWR: (Laugh) A considerable difference. Just recently I had the pleasure of visiting campus again for the opening of the new athletic plant and when I compare the facilities that the youngsters at Punahou have today and what we had in the early 1930s there is very little comparison. The learning center, the library, so many more beautiful facilities. Yet the campus of that day was a very beautiful campus, it wasn’t crowded with all the new buildings. It was a beautiful campus and I have some very fine memories of the wonderful days spent at Punahou.
DM: How would you describe that impact of Punahou on you, perhaps from an educational standpoint?
JWR: Well, I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to go to Punahou. My mother and other members of the family had gone there in their early days. I looked forward to going to Punahou. I think the value of Punahou at that particular period was the number of acquaintances that I met, the friendships that I established that have stayed with me all my life. They were children, students, who in later years became leaders in our community.
DM: Can you name some of them for me?
JWR: Oh, I can name some of my classmates. There’s Judge Sam King, and let’s see, who else? “Swede” Stanley Larson, (Lieutenant) General in the Army, Dwight Lowrey, who was a trustee of Punahou School, Eric Reppun, Keith Brown, (Dr) Atsushi (Randal) Nishijima, (Dr.) Albert Ho, all of these are respected people in the professional field of Honolulu today.
DM: I understand that you had a long career with the Hawaiian Telephone Company. When did you first go to work for the telephone company?
JWR: Well, I graduated from high school in 1933, right in the middle of the depression, and not having been left very much money, as a matter of fact very little, I did not have the wherewithal to go on to college, though I had planned to go to college and had taken college preparatory courses at Punahou with the idea of going to college in mind. Without the wherewithal I decided the thing for me to do was to go to work for a year, save some money and then go on to college. I was going to be an attorney like my father and I made applications three places for a job — Hawaiian Pineapple Company, Canec – back in Hilo, and Hawaiian Telephone Company. When I said I made application, I was interviewed and accepted at those three places and I was offered $40 a month from Canec in Hilo. Hawaiian Pineapple Company offered me $50 a month and the telephone company offered me $60 a month so, of course, I took the telephone company as my first choice and after working there for about a year I became very much intrigued with the telephone business. I stated my career at the radio telephone station up in the Waianae mountains. This was our interisland radio telephone system. After 14 months I was transferred to Hilo were I worked for five years. My last position there was wire chief for the Island of Hawaii. Then from Hawaii I went to the Island of Maui where I was in charge of the installation of the dial system at Wailuku. I was on Maui for about a year. Then I went to Kauai to install some automatic dial telephone systems; came back to Honolulu in 1940, did some more installation work became an installation supervisor; and then went into the engineering department just shortly before the outbreak of World War II. I had various other assignments and ended my career as Director of Marking and then as Director of Community and Government Relations. That was two years ago, I retired in November of 1979 after 46 years.
DM: Well, I am sure, like Punahou School, you have seen tremendous growth.
JWR: Oh, my.
DM: Such a difference between our sophisticated system today.
JWR: I can remember when I joined the Telephone Company I think we had 52,000 stations and 600 employees, and now we have about 5,000 employees and I believe it’s, I can’t remember the exact number of stations, but I think it’s something over 700,000 stations, so it’s a substantial change.
JWR: Satellites. As I mentioned I went to work for the inter-island radio telephone system. We had one circuit to Kauai, one circuit to Maui, two circuits to the Island of Hawaii, and to the Mainland there were, at that point I believe, three single side band circuits. So three to the Mainland, two to Hawaii, one to Maui, one to Kauai. Now, of course, they number in the hundreds, both inter-island and trans-Pacific, so it’s a substantial change.
DM: Now, our communication with the mainland -was it by radio at that time?
JWR: Yes, we had single side band transmitters. At the time the cable — the first cable was installed which was in 1957, there were I think, twelve circuits between Hawaii and the Mainland. TASI was actually applied to the first cable. It approximately doubled the 36 original cable circuits.
DM: When I joined the company Jack Balch was president. He had a very distinguished career in telegraphy and telephony in the Islands and was instrumental really for the first inter-island radio telephone circuits. After Jack Balch there was Alvah Scott whose family I had known and grown up with on the Island of Hawaii. Then Bill Avery; then Ballard Atherton, who was my immediate superior for about ten years. I was Ballard’s executive assistant for almost ten years; I was Ballard’s executive assistant for almost ten years; then Doug Guild. Some of my peers at the Telephone Company were people like Bill Kea, Stanley Hodgins, Bob Lowrey, “Sherby” (Sherborn) Smiddy. Buddy Scott, Bud Schoen, and a bunch of these.
DM: I understand that you have had several careers. Another extremely important one was your political career. My understanding is that you were in the Territorial Legislature from 1951 through 1959, and you were a State Senator from 1959 to 1963 as matter fact you were a Senator in the first State Senate in the State of Hawaii. Is that correct?
DM: I guess I should ask, how did you happen to get into politics?
JWR: That’s a good question. Leads into a long story.
DM: That’s all right, that’s what were here for. (Laugher).
JWR: Well, my father had been in politics. My father was senator for the Island of Hawaii. He had represented Hawaii from I guess, from 1916 to 1926. Then he was defeated. He ran for election in 1930 just before he passed away. Anyway, I had always thought that some day I might go back to the Island of Hawaii, get into politics, and follow in my father’s footsteps. In 1984, sitting around the Pacific Club one day with an old friend of the family; a man by the name of Charlie Hogue, a very famous newspaperman, there was one — take it back — two vacancies in the House of Representatives in the 4th District; six seats in the 4th District in those days…
DM: What’s the Fourth District?
JWR: Well, at that particular time, the Island of Oahu was divided into two representative districts, the 4th and 5th representative districts. The 4th and 5th districts were divided by Nuuanu Avenue which ran up to the Pali then down to Kailua. As I recall the dividing line between the two districts on the Kailua side of the Island was the Kokokahi ridge. Everything to the east of that dividing line was the 4th District, and everything to the west, which took in the rest of the Island, was the 5th District. Both districts had six representatives and in the 4th District I remember Jimmy Glover, who had been a member of the House, decided to run for the Senate, and Walter H. Dillingham decided to run for delegate to Congress, leaving two vacancies, so Charles persuaded me that I should be a candidate for these vacancies. He said that I had been pretty active in the community, civic activities, athletics, and what have you but I was very reluctant. I said, no that if I went into politics I wanted to go back to the Island of Hawaii.
DM: What year would this have been?
JWR: This was 1948. He put the clincher on it. He said, you mean you want to run on your father’s coattails? I guess that sort of changed my mind. I said, no, I would rather do it on my own. So I entered politics as a candidate for the House from the 4th District. My first election was in 1948, and I will never forget it. About five days after I announced my candidacy the telephone company went on strike and I had to go back and work all during the campaign. That’s work at the telephone company all during the campaign. Anyway, then I found that there were sixteen of us running for the six seats. I came in No. 10 the first time out.
DM: Who were No. 1 and 2?
JWR: Oh, I cannot remember. I think Heb Porteus was probably one of the leaders in those days. There was Heb Portueus, Buster Mc Guire, Flora Hayes.
DM: Oh, yes, those names all ring some real good bells with me. You know, I am curious, you mentioned Walter Dillingham who was running for delegate to Congress.
JWR: That was Walter Dillingham, Jr. that’s Walter Sr.’s nephew, Harold Dillingham’s son. He is member of the Club today.
DM: I see, I take it he was not elected was he? Who did he run against?
JWR: No, he was not elected.
DM: I see.
JWR: He ran in the primary, as I remember, against Joe Farrington and he did not make it in the primary. Joe Farrington won.
DM: That was 1948? So then you ran again?
JWR: I ran in 1950, was elected in 1950 and then I was reelected in 1952; and 1954 was the famous defeat of the Republicans Party when the Democrats came into power for the first time in 50 years. Then I was reelected in 1956 and 1958.
DM: OK, Let’s see, you were in the House of Representatives.
JWR: I had five terms in the House, then I ran . . .
DM: From 1951 through . . .
JWR: 1958 no, 1959 was the first state elections and I ran for the Senate.
DM: I see, and you were elected a Senator in the first State Legislature in the State of Hawaii.
JWR: That’s correct.
DM: . . . and as Republican.
JWR: As a Republican.
DM: You were a State Senator from 1959 through 63?
DM: 1962. What do you consider as your most significant achievements or contributions during that period in the Legislature?
JWR: Oh, there were quite a number. I think the most significant, and the one that brings back some very wonderful memories was the fact that when I was in the House, before I was elected to the Senate and this was in 1954 when the House was controlled by the Democrats, I was selected by the House Democrats leadership to represent the House of Representatives in the Congressional hearing on Statehood. I went to Washington to testify before the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee on behalf of Statehood as a Republican as a Republican representing Hawaii’s Democrat House. This is interesting because my counterpart from the Senate, which was also Democrat-controlled that year was Oren Long (Democrat), so Oren and I testified for Statehood before Congress. That was early ‘59. There were other very interesting assignments. I was chairman of the Education Committees both in the House and in the Senate, and I have always taken some satisfaction in that I was the first to introduce the remedial reading program in the Legislature and also first appropriation in those days, I think it was something like $64,000. This was the first program.
DM: This was in the 1950s?
JWR: Yes, in the 1950s. Another extremely interesting assignment was as chairman of the Conference Committee on Government Reorganization. This was when we were establishing the framework for our state government. Under the Constitution we were mandated to reorganize the government into let’s see, what was it twenty operating departments. We had to take over a hundred various boards and commissions and departments and combine them into eighteen, leaving two available for future growth. So I was chairman of the conference committee of the Senate and met with the House conferees to iron out the final blueprint for our state government.
DM: Are there any bills, now law, which you introduced, that you can mention, you mentioned remedial reading and the program for the mentally retarded.
JWR: Off hand, I can’t think of any. During the course of one’s political career you are asked to co-sponsor an awful lot of bills. I image that if I went back to the record I could find some that I introduced solely, but for the most part they are programs that you work with your peers in developing.
DM: I guess what you are pointing out very clearly is that getting bills passed is an effort. It’s a combined effort. It’s not one person introducing a bill and getting it through, you know. It’s a . . .
JWR: Exactly. I enjoyed my Legislative career very much. I was never a headline seeker. That’s foreign to my nature. I preferred doing the behind the scenes work, and I think that was one of the reasons why I was chosen, particularly during my Senate years to be on the conference committees on the budget and the capital improvements programs because I had kind of done my homework. It was fun.
DM: The trip back to Washington to testify on behalf of Statehood must have been a very interesting trip. What was the reaction in Washington? Did you . . . was it completely favorable? Did you get any vibes, you know, when you were testifying before Congressional committees?
JWR: Well, we testified before the Interior and Insular Affairs Committees. This would be the Department of the Interior, correction, the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee of both the House and the Senate on the Statehood bill. These were hearings that were held on the bill. The group that went back, in addition to Oren Long and myself also consisted of members of the Hawaii Statehood Commission. That was chaired by Lorrin Thurston. Let’s see who also served in that group? Lorrin Thurston, Bill Quinn, Jack Fox and Katsuro Miho were all invited to speak to testify before the Committees. At least, we were all invited to speak before the Senate.
DM: What year would this have been?
JWR: This was 1958, ‘59, it was wait, a minute now, no, no, it was in it would have been ‘58 because I was still in the House.
DM: The Statehood Bill was passed in ‘59.
JWR: That’s right. These were the hearings on the Statehood Bill, which was 1958. Interestingly, all of us, the delegates had the opportunity to testify before the Senate committee. When it got over to the House, we had some very vociferous opponents. One was Pillion from New York who happened to be on the Insular Affairs Committee. There were a number on the Committee who were opposed to us. As a result they were hesitant to give us an opportunity to talk, but they agreed finally to permit two of us to testify and only two of us testified before the House, Oren Long and myself. The testimony of the others was read into the record. We, Oren and I, were permitted to testify orally. That was interesting because one of the opponents was a Congressman from Florida, Jack Haley. We knew that he was in opposition to the bill. He had the floor of the committee the day we were supposed to testify and he adjourned the committee the day we were supposed to testify, not permitting us to testify at the time we were scheduled. So I went to see him the following morning, I take it back, I went to see him late that afternoon, and had a long talk with him. I told him that I had to get back to Honolulu, that Oren Long and I had to get back because our Legislature was in session. I prevailed upon him to give us an opportunity to testify. He was really not basically opposed to statehood. Fundamentally, he recognized the merit of the issue, and he said it was a very political problem. It was a situation were he was in a political environment where it would have been very unhealthy for him to have favored statehood being from the south. Anyway, the next morning after this very favorable discussion he had the floor, as I said, when the committee convened and the first thing right out of the blue he announced that he had this discussion with me the previous afternoon and was very impressed with the people from Hawaii. He them moved that Oren Long and I be given the opportunity to make our presentations before the committee. That was the reason we were permitted to speak.
DM: Probably one of the little bits and pieces, you know, probably a very important bit that brought about Statehood.
JWR: Well, I like to think so, (Laugh). Now that we are talking about it, things are beginning to come back a little more clearly, and I remember this was during the Legislative session of 1957 that I testified before Congress. The reason I remember this is that Vince Esposito was Speaker of the House that chose me to go back to Washington, and I was minority floor leader in the next session of the House which was after the election in ‘58. It was during the 1959 session of the House when I was minority floor leader that statehood became a reality.
DM: Ward, I understand that in addition to your Telephone Company and political careers you also have been quite active in civic and community organizations. Can tell us about some of these activities.
JWR: I guess I am just one of those people who can not seem to say no. When I retired from the Telephone Company I was asked to submit a personal history sketch for a newspaper article and when I began to put it together I found that over the years I had been either an officer, president, vice president, chairman or a member in over twenty five different organization. They ranged from chairmanship of an Adult Education Advisory Council to president of Aloha Week to founding the Hawaii Council on Crime and Delinquency.
DM: You founded the Hawaii Council? How did that happen?
JWR: Well it was in 1968. A group of people headed by Mary Noonan, Mrs. John Knight, Libby Kellerman (Mrs. George) and Ray Belnap had decided that an arm of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency should be established in Hawaii. Ray, who was the warden of the Hawaii State Prison at that time, had worked with the Washington State Council prior to coming to Hawaii. The Washington Council had been very effective and Ray felt such a council could be very helpful here. Anyway, they had originally approached me as a resource person to suggest names of people who might be asked to organize and chair the Hawaii Council. Then, one day, they all trooped into my office and informed me that I was their choice and they would not take no for an answer.
DM: What did you do?
JWR: It was a most interesting and rewarding experience. We decided the initial council should be limited to twenty four members. These members to be selected from the leaders in business, education, labor, health, special welfare, church, the professions, and so on. Judges and active law enforcement personnel are precluded from sitting as member of the council.
DM: Why is that?
JWR: So as to prescribe the independence of the Council. These people can serve on advisory committees but not as policy decision makers which they would be if they were members of the Council. Anyway, it took me only twenty five calls to recruit the original twenty four members. I was really overwhelmed at the favorable response I received.
DM: Who were some of the original members?
JWR: Let’s see….. Henry Clark, Jr. A. A. “Bud” Smyser, Suyeki Okumura, Claude DuTeil, Jim Gary, Tom Flynn, Roland Sagum, Anna Perry-Fiske, Mineo Yamagata, Chinn Ho, I cannot remember them all.
DM: What would you say is the basic function of the Council?
JWR: The Council’s primary role is to serve as a catalyst in bringing together all the resources in the state that are involved in the administration of justice — to marshal and focus the attention of these resources on the problems of crime and delinquency.
DM: Is there any other organization in which you were involved that you would care to mention.
JWR: Yes. The YMCA of Honolulu. I just recently retired as vice-president-treasurer of the Y after serving twenty years in that position. It’s a great organization and I have enjoyed my long association with it ever since my high school days. I am still a member of the Metropolitan board.
DM: That’s interesting. Well, let’s get on to the Outrigger Canoe Club. What is your first recollection of the Outrigger Canoe Club? About what year, you know, what do you remember.
JWR: My first recollection of the Outrigger Canoe Club was in 1929. I was 12 years old, and my Mother had brought me to Honolulu to stay with my aunt, Josephine Paris, who lived on Hibiscus Drive just down the street from the Outrigger Canoe Club right on the slopes of Diamond Head
DM: This was your mother’s sister?
JWR: My mother’s sister. We stayed with her for that particular summer vacation. She was a member of the Club, I remember visiting the Club with her. That was my first recollection of the Club the old location.
DM: Describe what you remember of the Club.
JWR: Well, it was the old building. I particularly remember the lower part of the Club for some reason. My mind keeps seeing the canoes that were stored under the old Clubhouse. That’s really the only vivid recollection I have. Then when I came back to Honolulu in 1931 I did not belong to the Outrigger Canoe Club. I did not visit it very often — once in a while in the company of some of my classmates who were members, but most of the time when we wanted to surf we used to store our boards under the old Steiner house and we’d either cut class from school or on weekends we’d come down and change our clothes under the older Steiner house and surf from there. We really did not spend much time at the Outrigger Canoe Club except, oh, to see our friends. That was about it. I didn’t really surf too much in those days when I was going to high school and when I did, as I said, it was usually with some of my other friends who were not members. I think two of them were members of the Club.
DM: When did you join the Club? About what year was that?
JWR: Well, I came back from Kauai just before the war, and of course during the war years I was just too busy to do much surfing and I did not make any effort to join the Club. I guess it was a round 1949 or 1950 when I decided I wanted to start surfing again, so I joined the Club at that time to surf. I was in politics and wanted some exercise, and I really didn’t want to get involved in Club activities. For the first several years that I was a member of the Club I pretty much shunned getting involved with Club activities. I think I was prevailed upon to serve on one committee, I think it was Mess and Bar Committee. Then, I came in from surfing one day, this was in late 1957, and I ran into Chuck Schroeder. He was a member of the Nominating Committee and he (laugh) he said that the Nominating Committee had been looking for younger people to serve on the Board of Directors. That was flattering and . . .
DM: How old would you have been at that time?
JWR: Let’s see. Let’s see 1956-31.
DM: Now, you were president of the Outrigger Canoe Club from 1960 to 1964. Is that correct?
JWR: That’s right
DM: Probably one of the most critical periods in the Club’s history, and I wonder if I can ask you about that time, and perhaps lay the scene by saying that in 1954 the Elks Club had offered one half of its property with a 193-foot frontage on the beach, 395 feet deep, 73,800 square feet. I understand that there was an offer to buy the property in fee by the Outrigger Canoe Club for $450,000, and a counter offer of $600,000; and the lease on the old property on Kalakaua Avenue was to expire on 30 October 1963. Now can you tell me about that period?
JWR: Well, this is true. We did make an offer to purchase the property for $450,000. This was rejected by the Elks Club, and, in lieu of that they eventually countered with a proposal for a long term lease. This led to lengthy negotiations.
DM: So, there actually was no counter offer for the purchase of the property in fee simple by the Elka Club that you know of?
JWR: No. No. I believe that . . . I am not too certain about that. I am informed that at one point the Elks Club here, the authorities here the local trustees were amenable to the sale of the property. But then when they broached the idea of selling the property to the national trustees it was rejected. The national trustees, I believe, were the ones who said no they would prefer to lease the property. So the Elks Club approached the Outrigger with the idea of leasing the property for ninety-nine years at $30,000 per year. So that, as I said, led to the negotiations which were headed by Judge Wilford Godbold who did a magnificent job. We countered with a proposal to lease the property for ninety-nine years at a lease rental of something like $20,000-25,000 a year. They counted, and finally after lengthy negotiations the compromise was $30,000 a year (with certain concessions).
DM: We have a 99-year lease, now?
JWR: Yes, a 99-year lease. That’s correct. Its $30,000 for the first 50 years and then after that it is subject to renegotiation.
DM: I understand that the very akamai people who negotiated that lease have stated that the renegotiation will be based upon the use of the property as a club not, for example for hotel purposes or commercial purposes. Is my understanding correct?
JWR: I think you are right. Then there’s a three man committee — a representative to be appointed by the Outrigger Club, a representative from the Elks Club, and a third party to participate in the renegotiations for the lessee rent, and it’s predicated on a certain percentage of the value of the property as set for club purposes. Of course we are very fortunate that in the ensuing years since the lease was signed the Diamond Head Special Design District was established which placed a height limitation on all building constructed in this area. As a consequence the value of the property won’t appreciate to the extent that it would have appreciated had we not had the special design district. In other words, it is not going to have the value that one would attach to surrounding properties that have been used for condominium and apartments, So that’s something very much in our favor.
DM: Now, You were telling me a little bit earlier actually before we started the interview, that Outrigger’s lease which actually was with Matson Navigation Company was to expire 30 October 1963, but that Matson’s lease with the Bishop Estate was going to expire a year after that
JWR: No. our property was owned by the Queen Emma Estate. That is the Queen’s Hospital. They leased the property to Matson, and that lease expired on October 31, 1963. Matson, in turn, sublet the property to us and our lease with Matson expired October 30, 1963. There was just one day when the lease reverted back to Matson and then from Matson back to Queen Emma Estate.
DM: I see. I see.
JWR: This is very important because it led to complications in the negotiations with International Building Ltd. Maybe the best way I can lead into this subject is to tell you the situation that existed when I came on the Board. I was elected in 1958 and a lot of things had transpired before I got on the Board with which I was fairly familiar. Of course, I became more familiar as I got into the whole negotiations for the new Club. Here is the situation basically as it was when I got on the Board. First, the Waikiki Development Company . . .
DM: Let’s get the year now, this would have been 19…
JWR: 1958, when I got on the Board
DM: Oh, 1958
JWR: Prior to 1958, Waikiki Development Company, which was Murchison and Trousdale, had approached the Queen Emma Estate and had obtained the lease on the property at the time our lease expired. Now, when they approached the Queen Emma Estate, the Estate offered the Club the opportunity to match the Truesdale Murchison offer. It was so exorbitant that it was oblivious it was not within the ability of the Club to match the Truesdale Murchison offer. As a consequence Truesdale Murchison did acquire the basic lease on the property to take over when our lease expired. Do you see?
DM: Now, would this….. How does the Matson lease fit in on this now?
JWR: Let’s put it this way. When the lease with Matson expired, and Matson’s lease with Queen Emma expired, than Truesdale Murchison had the lease from then on. I am not certain what the terms of their lease was, but it would have been a long term lease.
DM: I see they would end up by being a successor to Matson Navigation Co.
JWR: Correct. You must remember also, at the time when I came on the Board, back in 1955 when Truesdale and Murchison had acquired the lease they approached the Outrigger Canoe Club and offered our membership the opportunity to stay on the property-to obtain a sublease from them when our lease from Matson expired in 1963, and they laid out the terms and conditions under which they would lease the property to us.
DM: These were exorbitant?
JWR: They were nearly …… well, they were in the eyes of the membership at the time exorbitant because, you must remember, our dues structure at that time was extremely low. I think we were paying something like $5.00 a month or $10.00 a month maximum dues.
DM: Do you remember what the figures were?
JWR: Um- not exactly, but I think they were in this range; something to the affect that the first year after they took over as a result of the increase in our lease rental our dues would increase to something like $15.00 per month. A few years after that they would go up to $20.00 and then a maximum, I think of something like $25 per month. Well, $25 a month in the eyes of our membership at that time was a substantial increase from $5.00 a month and as a consequence when the lease proposal was submitted to the membership for a vote, it was rejected. Another reason for the membership rejecting the offer was that the space that we would have occupied would have been substantially restricted. We would have had, I think . . . I can’t remember the exact number of square feet offered to us in the building they were going to construct on the property but we would have also had a restricted area on the beach which we would occupy. Plus we would have to give a right of way through the beach we would occupy. I believe it was at the Diamond Head end of the property for guests of any hotel that Truesdale and Murchison were going to construct on the site of the International Market Place — to provide access to the beach. So the membership had rejected that. This is a key point to remember — it is that an offer had been made — it was, in the eyes of some of the members –attractive — in the eyes of the majority at that particular meeting it was unattractive and they had rejected it. Now, when I came on the Board also at that point, John Avent, who headed the International Building Limited — John Avent was a contractor from Van Nuys, California — had acquired a sublease from Truesdale Murchison on the property and had offered the Outrigger Canoe Club a proposal under which they would vacate the property in advance of the expiration of our lease which was October 30 1963.
DM: I see. Now, in the midst of all of this though, a lease was signed with the Elks Club in 1956.
JWR: Yes, let’s see a lease was signed November 16, 1956, so we had the Elks Club property.
DM: OK. So no matter what happened you had the property available.
JWR: That’s right. We had that property. The membership had agreed to move the Club to that property. The membership had rejected the offer submitted by Truesdale and Murchison which would have permitted us to stay at the old Club site. So the effect was we could have stayed at the old Club site . . .
DM: I see.
JWR: . .If, Trousdale and Murchison had offered a more attractive offer or if somebody had come along with a more attractive offer. But at the same time we also had the Elks Club site to which we had committed ourselves to move.
DM: It was almost like an insurance. No matter what happened you had some place to go.
JWR: And, this was the source of a considerable amount of confusion in all those years.
DM: And as I understand it, this lease with the Elks Club provided for a $60,000 down payment so the Elks could build a new clubhouse. Weren’t they a little worried about the old Castle home?
JWR: Yes, they needed money, so as I said it was $30,000 a year for the lease rental for 50 years. They needed some money up front. So . . .
DM: . . . That’s what we’re paying now,$30,000.
JWR: $30,000 a year, yes. In order to get the money up front, they wanted a $60,000 down payment to help them build a new facility there. They agreed that the first, and I believe it was the fifth year of our lease would be free. In other words, two years at $30,000 each that they would give us free rental — if we would give them $60,000 in advance. So there’s were the $60,000 came in.
DM: Tell me more about Mr. Avent that spelled Avent?
DM: Avent. John Avent.
JWR: Well, now, John had acquired a sublease from Truesdale Murchison Waikiki Development Company and I believe under the condition of his sublease he had to include in any facility that he built on site an international club. His original concept, I believe was a substantial high-rise building here of some 20 odd stories which would be a condominium. And as I said, in as much as he had to provide for a club facility his ideas was to have a lower building, I believe right on the beach which would be an international club. His first idea, of course, was to get the Outrigger Canoe Club off its site so that he could go ahead and build his condominium. And so when I came on the Board, as I mentioned, he had made an offer to the Club to vacate the premises and had offered us $50,000 a year for the remaining four years of our lease. John had offered us $200,000 cash, plus a commitment to help us obtain an additional $200,000 in financing. This was pretty attractive. Part of the offer of course was so much down — I think it was $75,000 down, no $25,000 and . . .
DM: How many years of the lease was he purchasing for that amount?
JWR: Well, his sublease with Truesdale Murchison was, I think It must have been at least a 50 year sublease if he was going to build a condominium on the property.
DM: We could have moved out, how many years before our lease expired?
JWR: He wanted us to move out by the end of 1959.
DM: That would have meant about four years left on our lease.
JWR: Yes. That’s right ‘60, ‘61, ‘62 and ‘63. It would have been four years at $50,000 a year. As I remember now, it was something like $25,000 down $75,000 upon tendering of the sublease, that offer was that it was pretty much the entire subject of the Annual Meeting in February, 1958. The membership voted to accept Avent’s proposal and we authorized the board to enter into negotiations with Avent to finalize the details of the proposal with the idea of moving out. As a consequence, one of the things we did was began to liquidate our Building Fund, and we lost money because of the increased value that would have accrued in the Building Fund had we kept that money in our securities. Anyway this goes back now to the fact that our lease expired on October 31, 1963 that critical one day.
JWR: That’s correct. So what Avent had to do was get approval of Matson (to acquire our sublease) because they became the Lessors for that one day and in his negotiations with Matson, evidently, Matson asked for substantial consideration to give their approval for that one day. As a result his negotiations with Matson broke down and he withdrew his offer. In the meantime as I said, we had liquidated some of our securities.
DM: When was it contemplated that you would sell your sublease to him, and then where would the Club go?
JWR: We had approximately a year, you see. We were not supposed to get out until the end of 1959, approximately one year later, because at that point there was almost five years remaining. In that one year we would have had to adopt our plans for moving to the new Club and this is what we proceeded to do. We appointed an architect, a committee for the selection of . . .
DM: So the plan was to come to the present site.
JWR: That’s right. In 1959. And relinquish the property to Avent. Do you see? And, as I said when the negotiations fell through, why, then we were back where we started from. Although Avent did have . . . he had put $25,000 down, and I believe . . . I am not too certain as to how much of that he had to forfeit, but he had to forfeit considerable money at least 50 percent of that. So while we had some loss in our money that we . . . because of the liquidation, I think that we did make it back in the forfeiture that Avent had to make of his down payment.
DM: So if Matson had not thrown a road block into the picture then that arrangement would have gone through.
JWR: Exactly. Exactly. When that fell through then we started making plans, of course, to eventually move in 1963.
DM: I understand that another offer came into the picture. Sheraton offered $25,000 square feet of land at that time. It was the site of the Uluniu Swimming Club do you recall that?
JWR: Oh, yes well, now . . .
DM: That was around 1961.
JWR: Yes, Now, let’s see if I can reconstruct that on a chronological basis so we can have pretty good picture of exactly what happened. Let me try, it’s going to be a little difficult after 20 years. It gets a little hazy, Don, I am sure you appreciate that.
DM: This is a very complicated area, you know
JWR: Oh, it was, I can say…
DM: It took good leadership to get us where we are now. I will make that comment, you know. And I think the members of the Club today should be very grateful that we had such excellent people that were making very difficult decisions at that time.
JWR: We had some excellent people on the Board then. We had people like Les Hicks who was in charge of our Building Fund, a former president of the Club, and he had the vision and foresight to establish that Building Fund. The Board did, and if it was not for that Building Fund we would have been down the tube. We were able to . . . when we finally liquidated it was up to close to $700,000 — I think it was something like $689,000. Anyway, to go back to the end of Avent. The fact is that we did not accept that first offer. A few months later, in 1958, he did notify us that he was. . .
JWR: This was 1958, yes. He did notify us that he was going to have a proposed building there to house a club facility — his international surf club. And in that building he offered us some 19,000 square feet in the Diamond Head end of it I think on the second and third floors together with a certain number of parking stalls across the street and a certain amount of space on the beach would have been restricted for our use. I think we also would have had to purchase something like $250,000 worth of this debentures. In other words, if we were to meet these conditions we would have been committed to become members of this international surf club that he was going to build — include in his project. Now, when I say we would become members it would have been — there were certain conditions attached to that membership. I think it was restricted to our senior members and other membership were excluded. But the idea was that he was providing us now with an opportunity for our members to stay on Waikiki Beach not necessarily all of our members, but at least the senior members of the Outrigger Canoe Club.
DM: And this was after the negotiations broke down with Matson?
JWR: Yes. This was December, 1958. Now — remember now — our membership had rejected the Truesdale-Murchison proposal earlier which was really more attractive than Avent’s proposal. So, because it was more attractive — because Avent’s proposal was less attractive — it would, in the judgment of the Board, have followed that if it had been submitted to our membership, they would not have accepted it. So the Board rejected Avent’s proposal. As I say, this was the latter part of 1958. Subsequently. Avent made a number of proposals. In effect, what happened was that he made something’s like six or seven different proposals, all of which were never sufficiently definitive that we could have made an economic study and made projections for operating cost and dues that could have legitimately been submitted to our membership for their approval. So this is one of the things that I kept trying to get Avent to do — pin him down to something that we could submit to our membership that would have been attractive. Now, finally at the end of 1960, he did come up with another proposal again to purchase the remaining portion of our lease and that fell through.
I think just about that time he also came up with still another one — this was together with a member, John Chamberlin. They got together and Chamberlin, in really good faith, wanted to find a way in which those members of the Club that wanted to stay on Waikiki Beach, could stay on Waikiki Beach. Now, this was something that was difficult at that time. You have got to understand that we were never really against moving away from Waikiki Beach. If we could have found a way to have stayed at the old location under favorable terms we would have done so. But, as I said earlier, the membership had rejected certain conditions — terms that had been submitted by Truesdale and Murchison — so unless we could come up with something that was more attractive that we could submit to our membership it was just another waste of time, a futile exercise. And, then at the end of 1960 and in January 1961 Avent and Chamberlin came up with, again, a plan under which, rather than join the international surf club, we would merge with the international surf club. It would have been a joint membership, all classes of membership would be accepted into this merged club. We would have representatives on its board of directors, and it was really a beautiful facility. They had reached the point of having a model which was presented to our membership showing the various amenities and layout of the club, and it was a beautiful facility. But it was only a plan — so as a result of that we had special membership meeting in which we discussed it, gave John Chamberlain an opportunity to present it to the Club to the members. This was one of the largest turnouts we ever had.
DM: Now what month, what year
JWR: I think this was January of 1961, because it was before the annual meeting. There were over 270 members at that meeting we had it over at the meeting house of the Princess Kaiulani Hotel. Well as a result of that meeting the Board asked Avent to come up with something specific. In principle it looked a pretty good idea — but to give us something specific that we can study and present to our membership for their approval. Well we never did get that.
DM: So he never really gave you a specific proposal that you could really get your teeth into and see exactly what were getting into.
JWR: At this time, though remember we were looking for a means of staying of Waikiki Beach.
DM: Although you had as insurance…
JWR: We had insurance, but we recognized the fact that there was a big segment of our membership that wanted to stay at our old location. They wanted to be in a position to enjoy the surf and swimming and canoeing at the old location because this was considered one of the drawbacks of the new location. It did not have the beautiful surfing beach, swimming beach, rather, and surfing facilities that were available at the old site. So, Sheraton and Bishop Estate were both, of course, very cooperative. They wanted to find a means by which we could stay at the old location. Now, the Uluniu Club, adjacent to the Outrigger Canoe Club, was on Bishop Estate land leased to Sheraton Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Their sublease was with Sheraton and it expired around the end of 1960. So what Matson did was to offer us the opportunity to lease the Uluniu Club site as a base where we could stay — which we could, which would provide us with an outlet to Waikiki Beach. Actually, I would say Matson, I have to correct myself Matson was out of the picture. Sheraton had taken over and so Sheraton now had the lease, so it was Sheraton who offered us the opportunity to stay. As a matter of fact we received a letter from Sheraton at the end of 1959 that . . . well they were negotiating with Bishop Estate for an extension of their lease with Bishop Estate for the property. Now, their lease with Bishop Estate expired in 1975, so their offer to the Outrigger was along these lines. They would permit us to lease the Uluniu Club site for 15 years.
DM: 15 Years.
JWR: 15 years, from 1961 to 1975, 15 years when their lease would have expired with Bishop Estate. So they offered us the remaining 15 years, 25,000 square feet — the rental to be based on 4% of the value of the property being set at $10 per square foot. That was pretty ridiculous because it worked out to be a very, very low lease rental. Now, if Sheraton and the Bishop Estate came to terms on an extension of their lease and if Sheraton wanted to build on that property, part of the conditions were that the Outrigger Canoe Club would relinquish its lease to Sheraton. However both Bishop Estate and Sheraton said that if they did come to terms on the extension of the lease and we relinquished our lease on the property before 1957, any building that Sheraton built on the property would provide facilities for the Outrigger Canoe Club. Well, this sounded very attractive, so we did have then, at the point, a means of staying on Waikiki Beach. However, what finally happened was — to make a long story short — after we had committed ourselves — rejected all of Avents offers to come down to go to the Elks Club site — we still tried to find a way in which we could provide an outlet to Waikiki. The Uluniu site was our opportunity to do so. But because of the restrictions placed on the lease there was a big question on our mind as to whether or not we could afford the Uluniu lease. So one of the things we did was this. We offered the members of the Uluniu Club the opportunity to join the Outrigger Canoe Club for a very nominal initiation fee. They would have had to pay regular membership dues and we set a requirement of 300 people that would have to accept the proposal. This was necessary in order for us to finance the Uluniu Clubs site and its lease. Well, there were several requests for an extension while the leadership of the Uluniu Club canvassed its members and tried to determine if 300 members would be agreeable to joining the Outrigger Canoe Club. In the final analysis, they could not get 300 members and so, after a lot of soul searching, we finally notified Sheraton that we could not accept their offer.
DM: What year about now are we at?
JWR: Lets see, we decided to build a Club-only facility at the new Club site on May 17, 1962. We continued our negotiations with Sheraton, and if my memory serves me correctly, it was about the end of 1962. As a matter of fact, I believe an announcement was made at the Annual Meeting of February, 1963 that we had finally notified Sheraton that we could not accept their offer. (Note final decision was not made until July, 1963.)
DM: So, at that point it was full speed ahead.
JWR: Full speed ahead.
DM: A new facility on the present location.
JWR: That’s right and of course, during 1961-62 particularly in that period in 1961 when Cline Mann was Chairman of the Planning Committee, and into 1962 it was an extremely critical period because we had to determine what kind of Club we were going to build and how we were going to finance this Club. It was a period, probably, when we had more meetings of the Board, the Executive Committee, the Finance Committee, the Planning Committee, and the other various committee. I think I have never worked so hard and attended so many meetings in my life as I did during that period, even more so than during my political career. (Laugh)
DM: What names come to mind people who worked with you like Cline Mann, who else very instrumental in…
JWR: Among the leaders Cline Mann was a pillar of strength in our Planning Committee. Oh, there were a lot of great people who served. Les Hicks of course, former president, was on the Building Fund Committee. Wilford Godbold, former president and Board member was outstanding. We later hired him as consultant to the Planning Committee, legal consultant to the Board. There were people like “Yabo” Taylor and Vin Danford, Fred Steere, R.Q. Smith, Marty Anderson. Oh, let’s see — not on the Board but who served and did a great job for the Club, particularly the Building Committee – “Buck” Schmuck (General Donald Schmuck), Keith Wallace, Walter Collins, Tom Wells – that was the Building Committee. Cline was Chairman and I was also a member. We named ourselves “the Elegancia”. Their names are enshrined on the plaque at the entrance of the Club.
JWR: We called ourselves that. After the Club was built we decided that we would continue to meet each year and so we named ourselves the Comitee Elegancia, Emeritus. (Laughter) Comite Elegencia, anyway “Elegancia” for short.
JWR: Well, there were a number of other people who where … Incidentally, when I look back at some of the names of our past presidents, many of them, during that period served on various committees oh, people like Jim Beardmore and Tom Haine, Don Avery, Tom Arnott, Ron Sorrell. I’d say most of the past presidents of the past ten of fifteen years were members of the various committees who worked on the new Club and then, of course, we had so many old timers, Buzz Rainalter, Jim Stockford. Let’s see, Archie Carswell, George Freitas, Charlie Pietsch, LeRoy Bush, Dickie Thacker, Gordon May, Hal Whitaker. It’s hard to remember…
DM: When you think about it, what you were really doing was making a decision on the type of Club, the facilities we would have perhaps for the next 99 years.
JWR: That’s right. In that connection we did as thorough a job as we possibly could. At the same time we did everything in our power to keep the membership informed as to what we were doing and I think this was one of the most significant parts of our accomplishment. We had special reports to the membership constantly in the Forecast. The Forecast at that time is the Outrigger today. We had special meetings of the membership to let them know that was going on. We made all sorts of canvasses and surveys. We sent out a questionnaire to the membership to find exactly what kind of facilities they wanted. At one point in time the new site Planning Committee had the idea that the best utilization of the property would be to put up a combination residence club facility which would provide apartments.
DM: Was Cline Mann the Chairman?
JWR: Let’s see. There were a series of Chairmen. I think when I first came on the Board Jim Stopford was chairman, then Buzzy Rainalter was chairman in 1960. It was his committee that recommended the resident club concept. I put in Cline as chairman of the Planning Committee in 1961. We had various subcommittees. There was a beach subcommittee, a facilities subcommittee, quite a number of different committees. And then there was a Finance Committee. We had some real tough people. I remember, the last Finance Committee chairman was Dickie Thacker, and Jack Magoon was a member. Who else? A lot of names come back to me.
DM: It is my understanding that in 1961 a $1 million building, with 100 cooperative apartments, 20 stories high, was being considered — designed by Val Ossipoff and Pete Wimberly, Architects. Is that the kind of plans that were coming through?
JWR: That was a residential club concept which had been recommended by the Planning Committee. So we pursued that idea and in the pursuit of that idea Val Ossipoff came up with a beautiful design which was submitted to the membership at a special meeting. I think I remember this was late 1961. The question was how could we implement that concept? One of the problems at the time, as I remember — was a real estate slump — an economic slump — and the question was whether or not our membership could afford these apartments. We sent out one questionnaire which resulted in a feeling there was a considerable number who would be interested in buying those apartments. The problem was that under our lease with the Elks Club we could not utilize the property for commercial purposes. It had to be the principal location for the Club. The Elks Club indicated that if we should proceed with a high rise concept and sell apartments that they would object to such a use. So what we had in mind — an alternative was to lease apartments. We had this idea that we would sell bonds. For example, if you purchased $40,000 worth of bonds this would entitle you to occupy, say, a two bedroom apartment.
Now we had to get approval from the Internal Revenue Service for this particular concept and we had hired Milton Cades and his firm to submit an application to the Internal Revenue Service to obtain their approval for such a procedure. Well, this was in early 1962 late 1961. While the residence club concept was very attractive we were faced with tough problems. The money market was tight, the legal problems extensive, the uncertainty as to whether we could finance it, and the uncertainty as to whether we could get approval from the Internal Revenue Service for this particular concept. So, finally, on May 17, 1962, the Board, after considering all of these different problems plus the results of a questionnaire which we had sent to the membership in March or April of 1962 — this was really the clincher — the results of that questionnaire indicated that there would probably not be enough members in favor of purchasing apartments to make the thing go. As a result of all of these factors, on May 17, 1962, the Board decided to go full speed ahead with a Club only concept.
DM: In retrospect would you say that was the best decision?
JWR: I think so, yes, I think so. It’s hard to say — it’s had to say. I think the way things have developed in the Diamond Head area, the way things have developed in Waikiki, that this has probably been the best decision. I think it was the better decision.
DM: So then it was full speed ahead which meant architects, plans . . .
JWR: Oh, this was — this was a remarkable achievement, I think. It started in May, 1962. This only gave us a very short time to formulate and implement our plans.
DM: Because the Club had to be out by…
JWR: It had to be out theoretically by October 30, 1963. From May 1962 what was it? 17 months 18 months? Something like that.
DM: And you were president at the time?
JWR: I was president at the time. Well, the committees really went to work. They got architects. There had been, of course, a lot of preliminary work and they were prepared to come up with the club only concept, and came up with a beautiful design. We had . . .
DM: The Architect was Val Ossipoff?
JWR: It was a joint effort, a partnership of Val Ossipoff and Pete Wimberly. Val did the basic design work and Pete was the technician on the project. It was an excellent partnership. We have a beautiful Club as a result of their efforts. They did an extraordinary job in the short time available to them. Their work resulted in the plans going out to bid in March of 1963 and the contract was signed with Pacific Construction on April 1, 1963. Construction started shortly thereafter.
An interesting thing was that when the contractors submitted their bids, we were quite surprised. We had anticipated that the whole Club, on the basis of the concept that the architects had developed from the results of the questionnaires to determine what the membership wanted, indicated that we would probably have a Club building costing at least one million dollars. Let me see, how should I put it?
Prior to putting the plans out to the contractors for bid we had done some preliminary work. We had already created a beach. We had dredged the area in front of the new site for the beach. There were actually four phases involved. Incidentally, we spent pretty close to $100,000 in building a beach which today would cost several million dollars to build. One of the interesting aspects of that particular construction was that we knew there was beautiful sand on the new Club site, so what we did was to prepare the site for the building at the same time we were building the beach. We excavated excess sand from the building site, stock piled the sand, dredged the swimming basin, the yacht basin — used the coral dredge to build the foundation for the beach, and took the excess dredge and put it into the area which we had over-excavated for the basement of the new Club. The remaining sand was used for the beach. This was done in advance of putting the plans out for bid. So, as I said, site preparation had been done which probably resulted in the bid coming in lower than we had anticipated. We thought the bid would come in pretty close to a million dollars. As a matter of fact I think the bid came in at $799,000, say $800,000 a good $100,000 was left on the table so we were really over joyed at the bid.
DM: Who was the contractor, who got the bid?
JWR: Pacific Construction got the bid to build the Club, Hawaiian Dredging dredged the beach and did the site preparation work.
DM: You mentioned the $600,000-$700,000 in the Building Fund. This was money that was available to be used.
JWR: Yes, there had been an assessment against the membership for years and as a consequence of that assessment when we finally liquidated the Building Fund it was $689,000. So when we received the $800,000 bid from the contractor for the building, we already had another $100,000 tied up in the beach for a total required outlay at that point of a little less than $900,000. We still had to defray the costs of materials, supplies and furniture and what have you. As I recall we had originally estimated the total cost of the new Club would be $1,100,000 to be financed by $700,000 from the Building Fund plus a $400,000 bank loan. Because of the favorable bid on the building we upped our sights on the Club’s facilities and equipment and were able to obtain a loan of $500,000 from the banks. Later on we had to obtain another $50,000 so our total bank loans amounted to $550,000. The total cost of the new Club came in at $1,248,000.
DM: Really a very beautiful result.
JWR: Oh, it was very gratifying. Yes, indeed.
DM: Now at this point the construction began. What were your memories of that period? I am sure you must have come and checked on what was going on as other members did.
JWR: Well this was critical period. We started construction in April.
DM: And you had October to worry about when you were supposed to be out.
JWR: Yeah, this was April of 1963 we had to be out in October. April, May, June, July August, September, October – seven months. When we knew we couldn’t get out in October we went to the Waikiki Development – Truesdale and Murchison – and got approval from them to continue to occupy the old site until we were ready to move. We thought we would be out by the end of the year, and as I remember, they gave us the right to occupy — permission to occupy the old facilities at $668 a month after October. However, even this arrangement with Waikiki Development Company was still in doubt As I mentioned earlier, John Avent had obtained an option to sublease our old site from Waikiki Development Co. under which he had to provide an international club in the facility he was going to build there. He had broken off negotiations with us after his early 1962 proposal because he did not have enough time to come up with something specific before his option expired. Evidently, Waikiki Development had given him extensions as he did make offers to us to accelerate our move on a couple of occasions in 1962 and early 1963, which we just turned down.
Well, because Waikiki Development was still negotiating with prospective developers we did not know who was going to be the new lesser. At the time we were pretty sure Avent was out of the picture and so we were dealing with Waikiki Development Company. As I say, they offered us the opportunity to stay at $666 a month. And then we were dealing with Waikiki Development Company. And then we heard they we were negotiating with a Seattle Company for a sublease. Then just about a couple of months before our lease expired we found out that Roy Kelley and his outfit had taken over the lease on the old site. Kelley was a great friend. As our new landlord he was most cooperative. He told us that we didn’t have to worry that we could stay on and I can’t remember if there was any consideration involved. We said we thought we would be out by the end of the year and he said we could stay on until January, 1964. As I remember, the only condition was that we would loan him any surplus furnishings and equipment that we didn’t need for a period of one year. That was the condition under which we continued to occupy the old Club.
We did not finish in time, we had to stay on. We did not move until January. Actually the construction ended, as I remember on December 23 in time for us to have our traditional annual Christmas party at the new Club site.
DM: That must have been a great day.
JWR: In certainly was one of the interesting aspects of that event was our concern about the furniture. Some furniture we had ordered from the Mainland, some furniture we had ordered was coming from the Philippines or Hong Kong, I can not remember. This was the wicker furniture, the McGuire furniture we had for so many years. Anyway, the two shipments arrived virtually the same day and we had furniture and equipment in the Club in time for the Christmas Party that was December 25, 1963, and the Club was opened for business on January 4, 1964.
Oh, you did ask me about that period. As I mentioned, Elegancia was appointed. We changed the name of the Planning Committee about the time we signed the construction contract — from the Planning Committee to the New Site Building Committee which subsequently became Elegancia. The Committee was appointed in March of 1963 to go to work as the New Site Building Committee, and that committee, the six of us, during the period between the time that construction started and we moved into the Club, I would say, met on an average of at least twice a week. We had at least one meeting scheduled on site every week to go over with the architect and with the contractor any problems they might have encountered in the construction of the building. There also were some new concepts, new ideas. For example, the construction plans called for chunks of coral to be imbedded in the concrete. This was the first time it had ever been attempted. The original specifications called for ten percent of the wall surfaces to be of this coral block. When we took a look at the first sample the ten percent could hardly be discerned. It was just little blobs here and there, so we changed it and I think in the final specification it was closer to thirty or forty percent which, of course, gives that delightful texture to the walls. You can see how the reflection of the sunset illuminates the coral. Well, we met at least once a week, on site, and then of course we had other meetings with architects to go over problems and plans. We met with suppliers to check on the type of equipment that was going to go into the facility, even to the point of determining the size and height of bar stools (laugh). It was a very, very interesting period. That committee did, I think a tremendous job. Cline Mann cannot be thanked enough for the fantastic job he did.
DM: It was interesting that you mentioned Elegancia. I know that we have brought people here, you know, as guests from the Mainland, and one comment that was made by a friend of mine was that it was an elegant Club in an understated way — and I think that is very true. It has a kind of subtle elegance. It does not leap out at you — it is not ostentatious
DM: Well, Val subsequently did receive an award, an AIA award — national recognition– for utilization of space in his design of the Club. As in any building when you plan ahead you can not anticipate all of the things that you are going to run into. There were certain shortcomings, but by and large I think it is an excellent building. At least it is a beautiful Club building.
DM: It is, it is. Now is there anything else that we should cover, that we have not covered? Maybe how you see the Club’s future, the dreams for the Club.
JWR: Well this is a difficult question to answer. I have some certain feelings about the Club and its future. I did appear before the Long Range Planning Committee a few days ago during which they asked me to expand on my feeling with respect to the direction that this Club should take in the future. I mentioned earlier in our interview that one of the things that is advantageous to us was the creation of the Diamond Head Special Design District which does put a sort of an encumbrance on the value of the property. In other words, a limitation on the value. We know that it will not appreciate in value to the extent that it would have appreciated had it not been for the special design district, so that consequently, come the time when we have to renegotiate our lease with the Elks Club, the value of the property will not be as high as it otherwise would have been. However, there is no question but the value of the property is going to be substantial.
The renegotiation of our lease will come up in twenty five years. The twenty five years since we signed that lease seems like yesterday to me. Twenty five years from now I know people listening to this comment will probably say the same thing about my remarks. The point I’m trying to make is that time is short and we have to plan for the twenty five year period. The value of the property is going to be substantially increased. We are going to be faced with coming up with a proposition which the Elks Club will be amenable to accept twenty five years from now. The negotiations, I think are going to be difficult. They are going to try to get as much money from us as possible. Hopefully we may be in position it acquire the fee. Or we might be in a position to get a favorable lease from the Elks Club. I think the answer is to be capable or negotiating from a position of strength, a fact that I mentioned to the Planning Committee. I think every effort should be made to build a financial reserve — a building fund, again if you wish. Do the same thing we did twenty five year ago to put the Club in a very strong, healthy financial position so they can deal from a position of strength. So I suggested to the Planning Committee that we might think in terms of not only a reserve to take care of the maintenance and repair of the facility, but also a new Building Fund.
My recommendation for the Building Fund based upon my feeling is that if we had such a fund and are faced with the prospect of a substantial increase in our lease rent it could be used for two purposes. One, to prepay the lease rent for a considerable number of years so as to relieve the burden on the members who naturally would be asked to pay higher dues in order to meet this increased obligation. To hit them with an immediate increase in dues based upon the higher rent would be a rather traumatic experience. Maybe we could use the fund to lessen, or ease the traumatic experience and prepay the lease rent until such time as we could increase the dues to be on a supporting basis. Secondly, that fund could be used, possibly, as a means of acquiring the fee. Anyway my basic premise is that we should be in a position to operate from a strong financial position.
The other point I made to the Planning Committee was one with respect to expansion. There is no question but that Honolulu is going to become more and more a Mecca of the affluent and the elite people who going to come here to establish residency.
DM: The elegant.
JWR: The elegancia — who will want to join the Club and will exert a considerable amount of pressure on the Club to expand its membership and to expand its facilities. This worries me. I don’t think we should think in terms of expanding in size. If anything we should expand in quality, not in size, this is going to put some very severe pressures on the forthcoming members of the Boards of Directors of the Club and my message to them was: Tread cautiously, be careful, don’t expand for expansion’s sake because when once we begin to build more facilities, more locker rooms, et cetera, then you have to take in more members you know, it will continue to grow like topsy.
I also commented to the effect that I thought they were in an excellent position with computers and modern technology to make a more through study as to the actual capacity of the Club for increased membership. Don’t just increase members without having some real basis on which to calculate what the actual capacity of the Club is under certain economic conditions.
DM: Well thank you very much, Ward. I am certain that those words you gave to the Board will be considered carefully. I always feel we should learn from history and I think you have given us an excellent account of the period in the Club history that was extremely important. A period when some very wise decisions were made, and of course, it would be my hope that wise decisions continue to be made in the future. Thank you very much.
JWR: Don, there’s only one thing more that I can say. (laugh) Something I learned long ago in my political career. When you are in an interview or when you have been asked to make a speech there are always three types of interviews or speeches you give. There’s the interview or speech that you planned on giving, and then the interview or speech that you give, and afterwards the interview or speech you wish you had given. So, I know that there are a lot of things I have left out and I will probably in the days ahead think of many things that I would have liked to have added to this interview, and the many, many people I would like to have recognized for the wonderful contributions that they made to the Club during that very critical period in this history.
DM: Remember, we can always have Chapter 2 we can always do that in the future. Thanks again Ward.
JWR: Thank you.
Board of Directors
1959 Vice President
Building & Grounds Committee
Planning Committee (New Club)
New Site Building Committee
1981, 1982, 1984, 1986 Member
Judges of Election
Long Range Planning Committee
Service to Punahou
Punahou Alumni Association
Board Member, 1950-53, 1956-59
Board President, 1951-52
Class Agent 1970-80
Punahou O Men’s Club
Selection Committee for Hall of Fame, Chairman
Service to Community
Territorial Legislature: Representative, 1950-53, 1958-59
Chairman: Education and Public Utility Committees
Testified before Congress on Hawaii Statehood Bill 1957
Minority Floor Leader 1959
Hawaii State Senator, 1959-62. Chairman, Education Committee,
AAUW, Past member Hawaii Education Study Committee
Adult United Way, Past Vice Chairman Service Division
Aloha Week Hawaii, Past President and Director
Arts Council of Hawaii, Past director
Citizens Corrections Inspection Committee, member
Consumer Committee Special Education D.O.E Past member
Downtown Improvement Association, Past Vice President
Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, Trustee
Engineering Association of Hawaii, Past member
Friends of Iolani Palace, past Director
Girl Scouts Council of the Pacific, past Treasurer and Director
Hawaii Council of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency,
Founding Chairman 1986 and Director, Hawaii Association of Industries,
Past Vice Chairman
Hawaii Association of Industries, Past Vice Chairman
Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, member Government Affairs Committee
Hawaii Criminal Justice System SAC, member Advisory Committee
Hawaii State Capital Architects advisory Committee, past member
Hawaii State Capital Architects Selection Committee, past member
Hawaii State Law Enforcement Master Plan, member Court Task Force
Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, Past President (3 terms)
Honolulu Community Theatre, past Chairman 3years and Director
Honolulu Junior Chamber of Commerce, Past member
Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Past Director
Independent Telephone Pioneers Association, Past president Hawaii Chapter
Mental Health Association, Past Director
Metropolitan YMCA of Honolulu, Past Vice President and Treasurer
National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Past Trustee
National Legislative Conference, Past Director and Executive Committee
Nuuanu YMCA, Director and Past Chairman
Oahu Development Conference, member Comprehensive Planning Committee
Rehabilitation Center of Hawaii, past member Placement Committee
Saint Andrew’s Priory, Past Chairman Fund Raising Drive
Sales and Marketing Executives of Hawaii, past member
Volunteer Service Bureau, Past Vice president
Other Achievements, Contributions or Services
Hawaiian Telephone Company 1933-79 (46years) — 24 different technical, managerial and executive posts
Oahu Country Club, member
Uluniu Club, member
Pacific Club, member, four times Board of Government and Past Secretary Representatives club, president
Fraternal Order of Red Men
Improved Order of Red Men
PUNAHOU’S “O” IN LIFE AWARD
At the Punahou Alumni Associations annual luau June 12, 1982 Ward Russell was recognized by presentation of the school’s highest alumni award the “O” in Life. A single graduate is selected each year for this honor which is based on accomplishments and contributions to Punahou and the community which have been outstanding enhancing the growth and stature of Punahou and the community which it serves.
J. Ward Russell/State Legislator
Former Senator’s life
Spent helping others
The former executive at Hawaiian Tel wore many hats, but he always helped people. J. Ward Russell a former state senator and Hawaiian Telephone Co. executive who was active in various community organizations, has died. He was 84. Russell died July 23 at One Kalakaua Senior Living in Honolulu, said his cousin Joy Woolaway. “He was the most kind, sweet, generous, most lovable man,”. Woolaway said. We questioned if he ever slept because of all the activities he was involved in. Russell retired from Hawaiian Tel in 1979 after 46 years with the company. A member of the territorial Legislature from 1951 to 1954 and again from 1956 to 1959, Russell served as a state senator from 1959 to 1963. Throughout his life was active in community service, taking on leadership roles in at least 25 service and civic organizations, including Friends of Iolani Place, the Hawaii Council on Crime and Delinquency, the Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, the Honolulu Community Theatre, the Downtown Improvement Association and the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association.
Born in Hilo, he graduated from Punahou School in 1933 and later served as president and board member of the Punahou Alumni Association.
Friday, August 3, 2001
Ex-state Sen J. Ward Russell dead at 84
J. Ward Russell, a former state senator and Hawaiian Telephone co. executive, died July 24 at his home. He was 84. Russell, who was born in Hilo, graduated from Punahou School in 1933. He was active in dozens of community organizations throughout his life and was also active in politics. As a lobbyist, he went to Congress to press the case for Hawaii statehood. He was the state coordinator for the Richard Nixon presidential campaign in 1962. Russell was a life member of the Outrigger Canoe Club and was its president from 1960 to 1964. He was on many boards for museums and the arts, in addition to the YMCA, the Girl Scouts, the Mental Health Association and the Rehabilitation Center of Hawaii.
Survivors include his close friends Alexis Ausmus and Harold Sexton; hanai sister, Tita Speilman of Waimea on the Big Island; cousins, Stanley Woolaway, Joy Woolaway Jane Bray, Carroll Smith Coke, Sila Bray and Kihei DeSilva, and special friends, Gen Buck Schmuck, Marion and Charles Bockus and Bettus. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to the Punahou Scholarship Fund, 1601 Punahou St., Honolulu, Hi 96822 or to the American Heart Association of Hawaii 245 N. Kukui St. Suite 204, Honolulu, Hi 9617. A funeral service will begin at 10.30 a. m. Wednesday at St. Andrews Cathedral. Family and friends may call again Thursday at the Outrigger Canoe Club, where a service will begin at 8.30 a. m. Scattering of the ashes will follow. Arrangements are by Williams Funeral Services.