This oral history interview is a project of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The legal rights of this material remain with the Outrigger Canoe Club. Anyone wishing to reproduce it or quote at length from it should contact the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions that are not factual. A transcript of the video may be found below.
An Interview by Barbara Del Piano
September 1, 2017
BDP: This is Friday, September 1, 2017. I’m Barbara Del Piano (BDP), a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club Historical Committee. One of our projects is to conduct oral history interviews with long-time members and have them share a bit of our Club’s history. Today, it is my special pleasure to interview Joan Martin Rodby (JMR). Good morning, Joan.
JMR: Good morning, Barbara.
BDP: Before we get into your Club memories, I’d like to get a little background. Joan, where and when were you born?
JMR: I was born May 22, 1931, at Kapiolani Hospital, and grew up in Kapahulu.
BDP: How about your parents? When did they come here or grandparents?
JMR: My grandfather Charles Snodgrass Martin came from Kansas when he was in his early 20s. He left Kansas and came to Honolulu on a ship, worked on a sailing ship, and started raising cattle and built the first water well in Kapahulu on the property that he bought as he matured a couple years and married my grandmother.
BDP: Your grandmother?
JMR: My grandmother came from Germany when she was nine years old. And she came on the Pflueger, Jimmy Pflueger’s grandparents sailing ship which brought a lot of Germans from Germany on a sailing ship. She was nine years old. Her name was Amelia and it had to have been a very long trip. She came with her mother, and father, and grandparents. They went to Kauai and the grandparents worked there. Then they came back to Oahu.
BDP: You grew up where? What neighborhood?
JMR: I grew up in Kapahulu, right there by Diamond Head where a lot of the Hawaiian entertainers grew up because it was very close to Waikiki. As I got older and married Dick Rodby, we had Kemo’o Farm Restaurant in Wahiawa. We had a lot of the Hawaiian entertainers that would go out there.
BDP: Where did you go to school?
JMR: I went to Thomas Jefferson, it was English standard then. I went to Robert Louis Stevenson, which was English standard, and Roosevelt High School.
BDP: What about your memories of December 7th?
JMR: Oh, lots of them. Associated Press last year did a story on myself and Emma Veary. Emma Veary, we were very close growing up.
BDP: Emma Veary is?
JMR: Is an island entertainer. She was married to J. Akuhead Pupule. I can’t think of his … Hal Lewis was his name.
JMR: Associated Press took me over to Maui, and Emma and I did our story on Thomas … our gas mask basically. We all wore gas masks during the war and so they did something different. They didn’t talk about the survivors or the military men. They talked about the young children and what they had to endure; how we had to have our gas mask with us all the time even on the playground at Thomas Jefferson.
BDP: Didn’t you have air raids all the time or practice?
JMR: Air raids, yes, yes. December 7th, I was at Sunday school at the Salvation Army, which was an old barn where my grandfather would milk the cows from the end of Campbell Avenue to the beginning of Fort Ruger, and above Monsarrat Avenue. He owned that property, which is next to Diamond Head Circle. He had cows up there and a horse named Jerry, and a couple of pigs. Prince Kuhio would go and buy his pigs. He gave that up, and December 7th, we were at Sunday school. He donated his barn to the Salvation Army for a dollar a year, and that’s where we were December 7th.
Our teacher said, “Hurry, everybody leave Sunday school and church. Everyone leave immediately.” We ran across the street to my grandparents’ house, which is on Campbell Avenue. It’s a two-story house with a little widow’s walk. We ran over there and climbed the ladder on the second floor, and we could see Pearl Harbor ablaze. I was 10 years old.
BDP: Were you frightened?
JMR: Frightened yes, because my grandparents and my parents came down. We grew up on Wela Street. It was a lovely street then. My parents came down and we all stayed at my grandparents’ house. Yes, we were frightened but too young to realize what was going on.
BDP: Joan, when and why did you join the Outrigger?
JMR: I joined the Outrigger in 1950. My mother belonged to the Uluniu Club and we would go down there as a family. I would see people at the Outrigger, and I played volleyball, and finally joined. I was just out of high school. I joined with Billy Neal Baird , Gwen Davies, Melva Johnson, and we played volleyball with Cissy Jensen, Ann Monahan, Brownie Williams, Lorraine Brown, and so many of the young girls.
BDP: Do you remember who your sponsors were?
JMR: No I don’t, but Brownie Williams at the function the other night, the Old Timer’s event, she said that she was one of my sponsors.
BDP: Oh, really?
JMR: Yeah. She remembers us little rascals. She said we were probably five, six years younger than them, and I paddled. Johnny Hollinger was our steersman.
BDP: Oh, and how did you like Johnny?
JMR: Oh, he was wonderful, so active. Reminded me a lot of my dad, kind of my brother, kind of a small very active, very nice man, very nice man. I remember Duke and Dad Center, and (Sam) Fuller and all of the … Duke of course, we were lucky to live next to him as I got older for about two years, three years. My son Scott Ballentyne had the privilege of … He was just barely three when Duke would come knocking on our door, and Scott would run out with him. Duke bought a little bucket for him and they’d clean his car.
Scott to this day when he cleans his car, folds the cloth the way Duke taught him, and I think that’s so … Scott’s father was Clinton Sherman Ballentyne, he was killed. He was in the Air National Guard and on active duty. He was killed on … plane went down in Kaneohe. Scott was almost three, ten days before his third birthday; and I was pregnant with Nancy Ballentyne who married Lane Ciacci.
BDP: That must have been really tragic.
JMR: Well, yeah. We were both 25 at the time.
BDP: Gosh. How about siblings? Do you have siblings?
JMR: I just have one sister left. There were four of us children and my brother Charles Morse Martin and my sister Beryl Haxton, then me, Joan Martin Ballentyne Rodby, and my sister Anne Martin Wilson. She married Bim Wilson. Annie is gone and my brother is gone; so just Beryl and I are left.
BDP: Your brother was quite an outstanding steersman for the Club, wasn’t he?
JMR: Yes, he and Chuck Schrader. Yes, they were all about the same. Yeah, he spent a lot of time. I think he signed for my kids to join the Club and I found out that or I remember that Sergeant signed for Scott to join and my brother.
BDP: Did you paddle for a very long time?
JMR: Probably two years.
BDP: Okay. Who were some of the Wahine that you paddled with?
JMR: Anna Jean Altman, I think she was a year younger. Mary Gaspar, Mary Gaspar’s father was Dr. Gaspar and he was the doctor for my grandparents who both passed away up at Maunalani Hospital in the good old days. Now, it’s quite the hospital for people to be in retirement age.
BDP: Do you have any special memories about the old Club?
JMR: Yes. I remember, of course wonderful Eva Pomroy. She gave my two girls their Hawaiian names, and she was a family friend, a good friend of the Martins. Also, there’s a street off of Campbell Avenue named Makini, which is Martin in Hawaiian named after my grandparents. The interesting thing is it meets up with Trousseau, which is named after Dr. Trousseau who was a doctor for the royal family, the Queen Liliuokalani and Prince Kuhio.
BDP: Aside from Auntie Eva, do you have any special memories about other employees?
JMR: Yes, Richard.
BDP: Everybody remembers Richard.
JMR: He worked in the snack bar and he was such a love. He should have been in Hollywood, New York. He was such an actor. He loved to dance the hula, and at the drop of a hat would dance and put flowers in his hair, very, very mahu and loved every … We just egged him on each time, but he did a good job as an employee.
BDP: He sure did.
JMR: Yeah, he was adorable.
BDP: Who was the general manager when you …
JMR: I think it was Fred Mosher.
JMR: He was lovely.
BDP: How did you feel about when the Club moved from Waikiki out here to Diamond Head?
JMR: Very, very sad because we didn’t want to move, but we could see what was happening with more hotels and street parking. We used to be able to park right on Kalakaua. Sometimes, we’d have to park on Kuhio, which was a long walk then to the Club; but we hated seeing the Club having to move, but when we did, you get used to it. At first, you’re, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t like it,” but you learn to love it because it’s so much a part of your life. All of us belonged to the Club, us four kids; not my parents but the four of us and my three kids belong.
BDP: How did you meet your second husband, Dick Rodby?
JMR: Oh, I was a widow with two children and he had never married. His father, Leo Rodby Sr. had passed away. Dick was managing hotels, the Clift Hotel in San Francisco. His mother called and said, “You’re the only one that can handle the restaurant. If you’d like to come back, it’s yours. If not, we’ll have to sell it.” He thought a lot about it and decided to come back to Wahiawa. He was a bachelor running the restaurant for probably a year or two. Then, poor thing met me.
BDP: Where did you actually meet?
JMR: My sister Ann Wilson and Bim. Bim knew him because Bim’s brother Peter Wilson loved to race cars and so did Bim. Out at Mokuleia or Ewa, they had car races then. Dick would go to those to watch Peter Wilson, who he knew very well, race his car. My sister took me out there and when I first met Dick, I saw that he had on brown shoes and I didn’t know who he was really. I didn’t even know Kemo’o Farm because living in town, you never went out there. Then I saw he had brown shoes and I thought, “Oh my God, this guy is in the military.” He’s from Schofield, not realizing that he was a local boy. Then one second I saw he had brown shoes, then the next second I realized he was a local boy. It just went from there; such a wonderful man.
BDP: Just tell us a little bit about Kemo’o Farm. Maybe there are people who don’t know about it.
JMR: It’s a wonderful old restaurant that actually used to be a dairy. Then Dick’s father bought it and they have Kemo’o bottled. We have a couple of them still from the dairy, the gill sizes. It was a restaurant. Then they served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then Dick took over, and made it a Hawaiian type place where you could go … and the military went to it a lot and people from Wahiawa. It was still far to drive (from town) in those days, but then Dick started Hawaiian entertainment.
BDP: I remember that, wonderful.
JMR: Yeah, it was wonderful, wonderful. We’d have all the big time (entertainers) and to this day I still see them and they remember.
BDP: Didn’t you have Charlie Davis?
JMR: Yes, we had Charles K. L. Davis, yes. His father was a Caucasian doctor, and mother Rose was pure Hawaiian and a beautiful woman. They came every Friday night to the restaurant and had their own table. It was table number four, right on the corner where they could look at the lake and see everything else.
BDP: It was overlooking. What is that?
JMR: Yes, overlooking Lake Wilson. Then Charles had been to New York and the Metropolitan Opera and done very, very well; went to Europe with his singing. Then sort of semi-retired and came back home and his brother Francis was here also. Charles was with us. I don’t know, maybe 12, 15 years and people loved him. He was funny and giggling all the time. It was the place to be. One year, when Irmgard Farden Aluli had her birthday, they hired … Irmgard did or her family hired a bus and the Farden family went around the island and they stopped at Kemo’o. When they sing their song … Oh dear, what is it now? What’s the Farden song?
JMR: Puamana. They all got up at different verses. It was the most perfect beautiful, beautiful day. It was just one of those days that you never forget.
BDP: Oh, I’m sure.
JMR: Irmgard was just there in her glory, and they all had tons of leis on. Charles of course, master that he is, Charles K. L. Davis singing along, and playing, and giggling. He was giggling, wonderful, wonderful man.
BDP: Does Kemo’o Farm still exist?
JMR: It exists. When Dick got sick, we sold it much to our … We just kind of left. We left so much in it. Yes, it exists not the way we had it. None of us, the kids … Scott came back and ran it for a while, or helped run it and did a wonderful job. All the kids, we’d go to church at Central Union and then leave right after church and go out on a Sunday. The kids would all work at the restaurant.
BDP: Did you and Dick have more children?
JMR: Yes. We had a daughter Robin Rodby. Yes.
BDP: I see. Now, at this point in life, do you spend much time here at the Club?
JMR: Not as much as … When I do, it’s only to eat, to have lunch, or dinner. I’ve never had the breakfast and they’ve already closed it.
BDP: What do you see as the future of the Club? Where the lease runs out?
JMR: I wish we had bought it (the land). I think we had a chance to in the beginning, but I think the Elks Club kind of likes getting the money to … I don’t know if it goes to the local Elks Club or whether it goes to the main branch Elks Club; the money goes there or not, but I hope we’ll be able to purchase it. I don’t know the way they’re talking about the water taking over (global warming). I don’t know what we’ll have. The thought of not being part of the Outrigger, which was really my life.
BDP: It has meant a lot to you?
JMR: Oh, absolutely yeah. The kids gave me a surprised 85th birthday last year, a total surprise. I thought we were going to the Halekulani. They said, “No, no, no. We’re going to the Outrigger. We’re going to have a drink.” I said, “What? Go there and have a drink and then go down Waikiki and all that long drive, and traffic, and everything?” “Mom, we have it all under control. Don’t worry.” Allison Martin, my niece, my brother’s daughter is the one that said, “Oh auntie, come into this room.” I said, “Why? I’m going to the Hau Terrace to have a drink.” “No, come in here. My daughter just got back from college, so come in.” I went in, and there was everybody. It was wonderful surprise.
BDP: Oh, how nice.
JMR: I got three haku (head lei) and tons of lei, and I tried to not hurt anybody’s feelings and try to wear all three at once, but it doesn’t work.
BDP: Your head’s not tall enough.
JMR: Yeah, not.
BDP: Oh, gosh. Do you have any other memories of special things you like to say?
JMR: Oh gosh, I don’t have-
BDP: How about the Old Timer’s reunions?
JMR: Oh, we had one Monday night of this week, the 29th was it, or 27th? It was spectacular, spectacular.
BDP: Lots of-
JMR: The entertainment was wonderful, and who’s the girl that comes down to do the Paniolo Dance, the cowboy hula? Oh, dear.
BDP: I can’t remember.
JMR: Anyway, she does her wonderful hula. Brownie Williams does not dance but they had some wonderful hula dancers, wonderful. It was great seeing everybody. To me, they’re getting fewer and fewer old timers.
BDP: That’s for sure.
JMR: I noticed when people walk in to the (Club) Lobby, the old timer’s, the first thing they do is go to see who’s gone to heaven.
BDP: Yes. They all stop with that.
JMR: Yeah, the pictures. Yeah, they all stopped. A fellow just came by and he had on a Nakeu Awai aloha shirt, which they’re not many left.
BDP: What kind?
JMR: Nakeu Awai. He’s from Haleiwa, a good friend of Dick’s. He makes his own designs. Dick had 45 of his shirt, every tie shirts, aloha shirt. They’re wonderful. I have probably 20 of his muumuus. I sing in the choir at Central Union, so I wear different muumuu; one of his and a few PKs, Princess Kaiulani. We are supposed to wear muus. People don’t wear them anymore.
JMR: It’s so sad. It’s so tragic. When I go to the Halekulani to see Kanoe Miller and her husband, see Kanoe dance, I always wear a muumuu.
BDP: We used to wear them all the time.
JMR: I know. It’s too bad.
JMR: I mean, the island is losing a lot of its flavor.
BDP: Do you have anything else you like to tell us?
JMR: We’re hoping to name the park going into the new cooking area at Fort Ruger. You know where they have the-
BDP: The culinary school?
JMR: The culinary school on the right-hand side, right next to Trousseau and Monsarrat. They have a little park and we’re hoping to name that after my grandfather.
BDP: Oh, how exciting.
JMR: They have to find out who owns that park. Does the state own it? Does the university own it? Does, you know … As soon as they find out, we’re hoping to put a plaque up.
BDP: Oh, how nice. That’s wonderful.
JMR: Because he had all his cows up there.
BDP: Sure. Thank you so much Joan for being here today. I’m sure this is really interesting information. It will be a great addition to our archives.
JMR: Oh, my pleasure. I wish I could … I could probably go on for another 16 hours, but I think that’s it.
BDP: Thank you.
JMR: Thank you for asking me. I’ve enjoyed this very much.