This oral history interview is a project of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The legal right to this material remain with the Outrigger Canoe Club. Anyone wishing to reproduce it or quote at length from it should contact the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions that are not factual. A full transcript is available below the video.
An Interview by Marilyn Kali
January 27, 2017
MK: Good morning. Today is Friday, January 27, 2017. We’re in the Board Room of the Outrigger Canoe Club on a beautiful sunny day. I’m Marilyn Kali (MK), a member of the Club’s Historical Committee. One of the Historical Committee’s projects is to do oral histories of long time members. Today, it’s my pleasure to be talking to Kawika Grant (KG). Good morning, Kawika.
KG: Good morning, Marilyn.
MK: Could you tell us a little bit about your background, when and where you were born, and when you came to Hawaii?
KG: I was born in San Francisco in 1939. My father was a surgeon and my mother was his nurse. That was the medical side of the family. My father was also in the Navy Reserves. When the war (WW II) broke out, he changed his clothes into his navy uniform and was stationed over at the Naval Hospital in Alameda. I was born in the French Hospital, which is now a part of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco. For those who are familiar with San Francisco, we lived in what’s called the Sunset District, two blocks south of Golden Gate Park, which was, for me, Sherwood Forest. I spent a lot of time in that park. My mother also had her own separate career as a professional nurse, and that was how we ended up in Hawaii. Not my father’s career but my mother’s. She spent most of her professional career with the Shriner’s Hospital. She finished up her tour of duty, I guess you’d say, at the Shriner’s Hospital here on Punahou Street. We lived up the street just above Punahou School. I went to St. Louis for my last year in high school. In 1958, from high school, I went to the University of Hawaii. I graduated in 1962 with a B.A. in Russian of all things.
MK: You got here roundabout. What year did you actually come to Hawaii?
KG: It would’ve been 1957.
MK: Where did you go to school … Oh, you went in high school at that point. You went straight to St. Louis and then to UH.
KG: Yeah. We got here after the school season had already begun. Punahou wasn’t interested in me. I only lived one block away, but St. Louis felt sorry for me, I guess, and took me in.
MK: Did you play any sports in high school?
KG: I didn’t play any of the sports that St. Louis is famous for; football, baseball, and their track. The way the school worked, at least in my day, was everybody had to participate in intramural sports because they felt that team sports was an integral part of character building. I did a lot of the intramural sports, volleyball and I ran. The school didn’t have a swimming pool. It doesn’t have one to this very day. I would go down to Waikiki a lot. My favorite spot wasn’t so much the beach, it was the Natatorium. I always loved that place. Of course, I wasn’t adverse to the beach. I got down to the area of the Outrigger Club and spent a lot of time sneaking in and being thrown out by Auntie Eva.
MK: You and many others.
MK: You actually swam in the Natatorium. It was still open in those days?
KG: Oh, yeah, lots of times. We’d crawl up on that huge diving tower they had. That was probably my favorite, jumping off the tower, making no half gainers but just having fun like kids.
MK: Was it in good condition then or was it starting to deteriorate?
KG: It was in good condition for a teenager. We didn’t pay any attention to that. The nice thing about the Natatorium was, it had lockers and locker rooms, which weren’t available. Otherwise, if you came down, you had to be dressed in your swimming attire and that wasn’t necessary at the Natatorium. You just go ahead and get a locker and change and go have fun. I spent a lot of time in there. I liked it.
MK: That sounds like a lot of fun. Now, after UH (University of Hawaii), is that when you went into the Navy?
KG: I did. After I graduated, there was a pause between graduation and the time when I actually went on active duty, but while I was at UH, the school at the time required everybody to take ROTC. It was either Army ROTC, or Air Force. I wasn’t interested in either one. I’m a Navy brat. No sooner had I got going in college than I went down to the Armory, Honolulu Armory, and signed up for the Navy Reserve. Most of the time when I was going to school at UH, I was in the Navy Reserve. A lot of people can’t remember that ‘Iolani Barracks, which is now sitting on the grounds of the Palace, at that time, was the Armory sitting on Hotel Street that went through where the State Capitol building is built. In order to build the Capitol, they closed off the street and dismantled ‘Iolani Barracks, moved it over onto the Palace ground. When I signed up in the Reserves, it was actually the Honolulu Armory right there.
MK: Interesting. How did you get from there to Vietnam?
KG: Well, that was somebody else’s decision. While I was going to UH, the Navy, of course, knew that I was getting a college degree. The whole time I was in the Reserves going to school, I was enlisted, but they were grooming me for an officer commission. The fact that I was studying Russian, certainly didn’t hurt. When the time slot came up, I went to Newport, Rhode Island to the OCS School there in the dead of winter. This was my first real experience with snow well over 10 feet deep, marching down tunnels of snow. Surprisingly, Richard Ferguson was in the OCS class right ahead of me at OCS. I didn’t know that because the two classes were not allowed to mix. I only found that out later after I became a member that we had been going to OCS in Newport at the very same time. Later, it turns out that he was on an amphibious ship in Vietnam and I was on an amphibious ship, and I didn’t know that either. We never interfaced, but that was one connection of Outrigger members and myself crossing paths.
My first tour of duty was on a carrier, USS Kearsarge, out of Long Beach. I reported onboard. Three days later, the ship got underway for a Westpac tour, carrying a very famous guest by the name of John Wayne who was coming to Honolulu to make a movie called, “In Harm’s Way.” Members of the cast, the director was Otto Preminger, asked the commanding officer of the ship, “When we get to Honolulu, we’re going to have a scene where we’re going to need 90 Naval officers. Would anybody be interested in doing that?” Put the word out, the ship had its own newspaper, so many people were on it. The instant I saw that, I went dashing down to the Engineering Department where I was assigned. Not so casually saying, “Oh, please. Oh, please let me go.” Sure enough, I got picked up. The scene was filmed above the Salt Lake. Well, it still had water in it, in the Damon home that’s up on the rim of the crater, the party scene where John Wayne meets the nurse. I have two minutes of glory with … Did I say two minutes? Two seconds, as the camera zoomed by. You can see my ear for about 12 more seconds after that. That’s cool to have been in a movie with John Wayne as my co-star.
MK: Who was also an Outrigger member, or a frequent guest if he wasn’t a member back in the old days.
KG: Yeah. He was a wonderful gentleman. The crew just loved him. You picture movie stars as being aloof and disdainful of the unwashed. He came aboard and paid no attention to the officers whatsoever. He spent all of his time down on the … He took his meals with the crew down in the mess decks. He went down to all of their working spaces. He went up into the main deck and did calisthenics with the Marines. He was very approachable and a wonderful, wonderful man. It was a huge privilege to have had the chance to meet him and be in that movie. This was 1964. After that, we went off to Westpac. We were in Japan for the Olympics that were in Tokyo that year. In the Gulf of Tonkin for the two incidences down there, they got us into the war, eventually.
On the way back, the ship did not pull into Pearl Harbor, but the admiral wanted to go play tennis with the commanding officer of Midway Island. I asked the admiral’s chief of staff if I could go along with the admiral to go to Midway and “Sure. Come along.” I went to Midway and got to see that place and then take the Navy flight down to Honolulu for my first R&R in six months and then went back to Long Beach. From there, I got transferred to San Diego to recommission an LST. Seventeen of them were recommissioned. In Vietnam, there’s very few harbors and the LST is the perfect ship for bringing the goods right to the beach. The bow door is open and the ramp falls. That’s what I did for five long grueling years on three different LSTs, one right after the other. Once you were there, you were like going to Devil’s Island and you were stuck. In order to get out of that, I had to retire from the Navy, give up my commission, which I was very happy to do after five years of that business.
Well, one of the things that’s unique, this is my other story, Timmy Guard was in the Swift Boats in Vietnam. One of the things that the LSTs did was support the Swift Boats. It’s entirely possible that we crossed paths, not knowing each other, multiple times there in Vietnam. I did not know this until I became a member and had a chance to talk with him. Here, it was two Navy people who I crossed paths with that ended up being important parts of the Outrigger for me. Two others, of course, Fred Rolfing who was my sponsor, one of my sponsors who was in the Navy Reserve himself. I met him many times in my reserve training while I was at UH. He was a mentor and an encourager. He knew I was heading, trying to get a commission, very helpful. As soon as I got out of the Navy and came back to Hawaii, finally, I met him again and he was “I’ll be your sponsor. Let me be your sponsor.” That type of a gracious invitation.
Also, in the Navy Reserve was Bill Johnson who was another one of my sponsors here at Outrigger. That’s my Navy connection with the Club.
MK: You got out. What year was that?
KG: I got out of the Navy in the summer of 1970. I had already decided that I was going to do that. I was fed up with the continual in-country duty. For most people, a LST tour was one year. That was a grueling year for almost everybody that was involved in that conflict. For people on ships, there wasn’t any one year. You stayed for a tour of duty and then when that was up, in my case, it ended up being reassigned to another LST, which ended up being reassigned to another LST and then finally, to a fourth. I was offered the commanding officer, to be the commanding officer of the first one. That was no inducement. I was not going to stay any longer and then I put my papers in.
In the meantime, I had applied for graduate school, which was my intent as soon as I got out of the Navy. I applied to Georgetown, which was my father’s university. My UH Russian professor, considered it high on the list of schools to go to for studying Russian. The second one was University of Washington in Seattle. The school I really wanted to go to was UCLA. To my mother’s great distress, because being a San Francisco lady, she wanted me to go to Cal. There was no way I was going to go to Berkeley. These are her very words. She was quite distraught that her poor boy was going to go to school in Babylon, but that’s where I ended up going. I stayed there for six years. I got a masters degree and a PhD in Russian from UCLA.
MK: What led you to a degree in Russian? What were you planning to do with it?
KG: Well, that’s an interesting story, not too much in connection with Outrigger. When I signed up as a freshman at UH, they were tired of people whose names were A, B, and C getting first crack at registration. The alphabet was scrambled in the year I registered as a freshmen. Gs were the very last in the day. This was 2:00 in the afternoon and the last day of registration. The school required everybody to take a foreign language. The only foreign languages that were left were Russian, Korean, and Chinese. Everything else was all filled up. I wanted to take Hawaiian, forget that. I can’t take French. I can’t take Spanish. I already had Latin while going to Catholic schools and these were filled up so I couldn’t take that. I took Russian. At the end of my first year, my freshman year, I had Ds in English and I had As in Russian. I figured, well, maybe I ought to consider sticking along to this subject line. It turned out to be my main subject of interest.
In my junior year at UH, in the Language Department, European Languages, you didn’t major in European language. You didn’t major in German. You didn’t major in French, like that. You majored in European language with an emphasis in French, German, Spanish, et cetera. They didn’t have one of those for Russian, but my Russian teacher recommended that I go in the summer of 1961 to what they call a Little Ivy League School in Vermont called, Middlebury College, which in the summertime turns their entire campus over to language training, an in-depth language. No English allowed. You speak English, they kick you out. You lose your tuition and your transportation and everything. It was total immersion for 10 weeks, in an isolated little Vermont Village. There wasn’t a hell of a lot to do except study Russian. When I came back, I was chattering like a bird. My Russian teacher was just beside herself. This is Ella Wiswell who was a member of the Club and my mentor at UH and here.
After I became a member, it found out that Bill Bright who I paddled with quite a bit had gone to Middlebury College. Except, he had gone during the deep freeze time of the year and I had gone during the beautiful summer. That was another connection that I had made, not knowing the people that I had met or not met, actually, turning out to be close friends and fellow members of the Club.
MK: You graduated with a PhD from UCLA, and then you …
KG: Then I came home.
MK: … came home.
KG: Finally. The University of Hawaii hired me as a Russian teacher. Of course, Ella Wiswell greased the skids, so to speak, but I was hired, initially, as a lecturer. And then I ended up as an assistant professor. Just at the time when the new interim president decided that it’s a waste of time for anybody to study a foreign language. Everybody in the world speaks English. We’re going to abolish the language requirement, which they did. And because I wasn’t tenured, I’d only been there three years, the first people who were let go were the ones who weren’t tenured. They were trying to cut back. I was cut loose but the Navy, of course, was still very interested especially, now, that I had degrees and because the subject was Russian. They hired me.
MK: Were you still in the Reserves at that point?
KG: I was. I was. I wasn’t planning on staying in the Reserves, but when I went to UCLA, I needed the additional income, the G.I. Bill was not enough to go to school there. The Navy put a full court press on me to rejoin the Navy Reserves, which I did but their interest was not as a line officer, which I was in my active duty tour but as an intelligence officer. I changed my designator to intelligence. When I came back here, I had credentials that the university felt were good enough to teach. When I got fired, the first people that were knocking on my door were the Navy, intelligence here locally. “We got a place for you.” I left Manoa and went down to Pearl Harbor and stayed there for the next 25 years. They hired me. I was U.S. Navy Civil Service. As an intelligence officer, I had to change my designator from line to intelligence. That was a complete change in the direction of my life but the one that turned out to be very fulfilling and I don’t know, paid the bills.
MK: You seem to have enjoyed. It’s . . .
KG: I did. I did.
MK: When did you decide to become a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club?
KG: I had always wanted to be a member of Outrigger even when I was in high school. At St. Louis, I’ll have to admit, there weren’t any members in my class, at least, who were members of Outrigger, but I was always on the beach. I was always intrigued by canoe racing. I was always intrigued about sneaking into the Club with a whole bunch of other friends to enjoy. Not the Club sitting down and having a drink at the bar but just to be a part of what was a very exciting thing to watch especially the races and everything …
MK: Did you surf back in the . . .
KG: … with Auntie Eva (Pomroy) tracking me down. It didn’t take her very long to figure out that I wasn’t a member. I was always dodging Auntie Eva.
MK: Did you surf in . . .
KG: I didn’t. I didn’t surf. I wanted to but I didn’t have a board. I swam and played volleyball. One day, I got in one of the canoes. It think it was the Kakina. It might have been Leilani. One of those two canoes was sitting on the beach. I made the huge mistake of stepping into it and sitting while the canoe was sitting on the sand. Here comes the Sheriff of Honolulu, beeline right towards me. “Oh my God. Now, I’m toast.” Duke (Kahanamoku) came up and was a perfect gentleman. He didn’t immediately say “Get out of the boat,” but he did it in a very gracious manner and talked to me. “Here’s the canoe and what do you think?” At that moment, I had been set to become a member of the Club. That didn’t work out because my mother said, “Well, I’ll tell you what. We will give you money for the membership at the Club if they’ll take you or you can go to college. Take a pick. You choose.” Outrigger Canoe Club had to stay for a while, but that was one of the things I was interested in as soon as I got back from school. I got out of the Navy in 1970 and I went right into graduate school, to UCLA. I got a masters degree in ’73 and a PhD in ’76. I came back to Honolulu and was hired at UH. Through my Russian teacher, I’ll have to admit, some strings were pulled but they did hire me and finally gave me the opportunity to try to become an Outrigger member.
MK: What year did that finally happen?
KG: Long later, long after but that was because the work at UH … They actually did hire me when I came back from UCLA. They did hire me and that was the first time when I had income where I could apply for the Outrigger. Of all people who sponsored me right off the bat was Fred Rolfing who was a Navy captain. I knew him from the Navy Reserve activity that I did here. He was just a marvelous gentleman. I attribute him to getting me in the Club as well as my Russian teacher who was a civilian member of the Club and her husband. They live right down here at the Tropic Seas. That was my entree to Outrigger and getting into all of the things. I immediately went into paddling, which I always wanted to do. That was my introduction to paddling because I got into that right away although, I was a little older. Elderly, by that time, I had to go into Senior Masters and that’s okay.
MK: Didn’t you start at novice like everybody?
KG: I started in Novice, Novice B, Novice A, and then went into the Senior Masters. Yeah, the Senior Masters.
MK: Tell me how you became involved with the Club’s trophies.
KG: Well, the first thing that I noticed was, they were very spotty and out of date. There were not very many trophies when I joined. There were big gaps. As soon as I got on the (Canoe Racing) Committee, we started saying “Well, if you’re going to have boy’s trophy for Boys 18s, you really have to have one for Girls 18s.” That sort of thing. The events were more evenly spread across all of the clubs that we’re competing for in the Macfarlane Regatta. We had two women’s trophies for Masters and Senior Masters, nothing for Men Masters or Senior Masters. Initially, my volunteer project was try to even the playing field so that everybody, men and women had an even opportunity to go for an award. There weren’t that many when we started out, but when we ended up, the whole field was pretty much covered.
I got tremendous support on this from Mrs. (Muriel Macfarlane) Flanders because Muriel thought that … As a matter of fact, one day she said, “Is this the best we can do?” In going over the trophies, there were gaps, no novice trophies. At the other end, the older paddlers, there weren’t any trophies for them. The first thing I started recommending when I got on the committee was just start filling in these gaps so that if there was a boys race then there was a girls race, or if there was a Men Masters then there would be a Women’s … A lot of the things were in place but it was very spotty. That was one of the very first things I did when Bonnie (Judd) pulled me into the paddling committee. It was because I had mentioned to her, who I knew well, that the trophies are very uneven.
All of a sudden, over a period of, I guess, my first 10 years of membership, the number of trophies that we were offering at the Macfarlane Regatta just ballooned up when we were … You have, “Here’s the men, you got to have a women. If you got to have a boys, you got to have a girls.” That was one of the things that I enjoyed doing to fill in the gaps. I had the full support of the paddling committee and the Board who was willing to fork over money so that our trophy table, which would hold only seven or eight trophies, now, all of a sudden, we’re having trouble bringing them down to the beach because they’re taking up paddlers space . . .
MK: How many perpetual trophies do we have for the Macfarlane Regatta?
KG: For the Macfarlane, I think, we’re up to 15. Mrs. Flanders herself, when I first joined the Club, saw that there was a dearth of trophies for women. Initially, all of the trophies were for men’s races. She wanted to even the field and she contributed three trophies for women’s competitions to get the ball rolling in that direction. She initially started to fill in the gaps and then I jumped in and started filling the rest. I don’t think we have any instance where there’s one trophy for one gender and not one for another. We tried to do it with some panache so that they look flashy. Surprisingly, the board was willing to fork over funds to do this. It was fun.
MK: You’re still involved with them after many, many years.
KG: Yeah. See, that’s the curse of bringing it up in the first place because now, I’m still … I don’t call it a curse though. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a pain in the ass. Because now, we have so many trophies that, when it comes time to update them all, it ends up being a major project.
MK: I know you were majorly involved in our latest Macfarlane trophy for the military race. What can you tell us about that?
KG: It was 1910, I was doing research. Barbara Del Piano was working on the … I was not on the Historical Committee at the time, but I know that she was working on a Club 100th anniversary history. I was trying to figure out the beginning of the paddling trophy. She was looking at the whole Club and I was more interested in paddling. I went through the research to find out. Well, when was the first 4th of July Regatta and it turned out to be 1910. She didn’t know that in her research. I just found it in the papers. It was very intriguing. Am I talking too much? You want to go into the details of this? I thought it was fascinating.
MK: Yeah, keep going.
KG: In 1910, there was no racing association. Outrigger, pretty much, paddled against itself and didn’t have, really, any major outside competition. There was no OHCRA. There were no other organized canoe clubs. There were a few but it wasn’t an organized effort. In 1910, the Club extended an invitation to three military ships in Pearl Harbor. Two navy cruisers and a Belgian training ship to paddle on the 4th of July to catch waves. Just to paddle against themselves. Not competition from club teams but to add another event. It turns out that the Belgians won. Both of the U.S. cruiser crews flipped over in the surf but the Belgians won. That was the first military race, 1910.
Fast forward to 2010, I was on the committee at the time and I suggested “Well, why don’t we initiate a special military race for the 100th anniversary of that first one?” Great idea. We did and it was so popular. All the teams in OHCRA were very enthusiastic. They wanted to sponsor a military crew. They did provide boats. They did provide steersman. It turned out to be a huge PR coup on the part of the Club to go out and recruit military teams to paddle in a special event on the 4th of July in 2010. We had a crew from all five military services; Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and the Coast Guard. I think we also had National Guard in there at first to fill in the seven lanes. It was the last race of the day. The surf was really pounding as it does by the end of the race. Here are total novices that hadn’t had any practice in a canoe. Some had, some did, but it was hugely popular and interest was high. The clubs stepped forward and they adopted a military crew.
Outrigger sponsored the Marines from Kaneohe. They showed up. They had T-shirts printed in red and gold, the Marine colors. All of their spouses and their children came down to see the race, the last race of the day. It was won by the Navy by less than a second. It’s just photo finish. Everyone so enjoyed it and OHCRA enjoyed it. We floated the idea “Can’t we make this a permanent special event?” You got it. That’s where the beginning of the military event came. Then, eventually, it was so popular that we decided “Well, we’ve got to have a trophy for this.” Because of my Navy connections, I went to the Navy and I had mentioned that Outrigger Canoe Club was sponsoring military teams to paddle in the 4th of July race and they gobbled that up. They thought that was just fantastic.
The PR for the admiral in charge of Pearl Harbor said, “Let me put you in contact with Jim Neumann who is the historian for Pearl Harbor.” They suggested “Well, maybe, we could get a little piece of the Arizona to make a permanent trophy out of.” Because a lot of people didn’t realize that half of the Arizona, not the half that’s underwater but the upper half is still in Pearl Harbor over in West Loch. After Pearl Harbor, the super structure was just cutoff. They moved the super structure out to West Loch and it’s still there. Military supporters in the country can go and say “We’d like a piece of the Arizona for the VFW in Dubuque,” that sort of thing. They provide pieces of the Arizona for things like that. Well, when this idea was floated and I met Jim Neumann, he said, “Oh, great.” I explained what it was for and what we were trying to do. The day he delivered the piece to the Club, I’m sitting in the lobby, I don’t know, with whom and here comes Neumann with his 50-pound beam from the Arizona, which was far more than we had anticipated getting, but it makes it a very impressive trophy.
Karl Heyer (IV) contributed the (koa) wood for its making. It was a labor of love to put this thing together. We took that down for the first … Well, we introduced it for the first time. It was won by USS Port Royal. This is the cruiser that went aground off of Pearl Harbor and had all kinds of negative publicity for the Navy. It was their crew that won that trophy for the very first time. These guys smiled from ear tip to ear tip. They were so thrilled to have done that. Now, it’s an event where we cannot accommodate everybody that wants to race. We have seven lanes. The last race, if the surf is down, we can actually have nine lanes. We’ll use the outside flags if the water is deep enough, high tide. They clamor to be in the race. It’s quite prestigious for all the Navy ships in Pearl Harbor that one of them was able to paddle.
MK: Well, I remember the year that we had five admirals in a canoe. That was so much fun.
KG: We have had five admirals for the past three races, I think. The last 4th of July, the admirals won that trophy. From USPACOM and they represent all sorts of branches up that command. There’s Air Force and Army people up there. I’m sure they’re just “How about giving us a chance, general or admiral?” Forget that. This is our kuleana.
MK: Well, that’s really interesting.
KG: That became one of, I think, the highlights for the work that I did on the paddling committee to get that started and it’s become a huge event. Not only is it popular for the military but what came as a big surprise is, it was very popular with all the local canoe clubs that clamor to, “We want to be a sponsor of one of the crews.” It turned out to be a great thing for Outrigger. It’s in our lobby right now. It draws an awful lot of attention because there is a piece of history sitting right there in front of us, a piece of the Arizona itself. Not just a little piece. It could’ve come from a derelict truck and sitting in somebody’s front yard in Waimanalo. There it is. That’s probably my proudest achievement for my time serving on the paddling committee to get that together.
MK: Well, there’s also another, I don’t know if you’d call it a trophy that’s in the bar. I know you had a lot to do with it. It’s an American flag that flew over Iraq. Tell us about that.
KG: I’m proud of that one too. I worked for CINCPACFLEET for many years as a civilian. We would have military people assigned to us or actually, the civilians were the outsiders. It was mainly military, but naval officers and enlisted folks. One young sailor who eventually became a Seal was enthralled by the Outrigger Canoe Club. He wanted to paddle and do all of the stuff, but he couldn’t possibly afford to become a member. When his tour was up and he went off to Seal team training, he came back on a visit for some reason. I think for training over in Ford Island where the Seal teams are located. I invited him to the Club. I brought him as often as I could. He would come watch Regattas and stuff like that. He asked for a flag from the Club because he was going to Afghanistan with the Seals.
I asked Don (Isaacs) if we could have a spare flag and I told him why. He went out to the pole as they usually do in the evening to haul the flag down and the Club burgee. He gave them both to me. I gave them to this sailor and he took them to Afghanistan. He’s holding the American flag and the Club burgee in a photograph that he sent back. Seal team members and Afghan people assigned to them, which you very kindly put on the cover of the (Outrigger) magazine. It was a huge thrill that I sent him there, as many copies as I could scrounge and send off to Afghanistan for him. He was so grateful for the time that Outrigger gave him before he went off to Afghanistan, that he flew those flags there, had that picture taken and sent them back to the Club. The flag that is folded in the triangle was folded by one of the people in the photograph in your magazine who was killed later in a helicopter that was shot down.
It was a Seal team that was deploying and then shot down and all the people were lost, not the kid who provided that information, but the one who folded the flag. He sent that to us. He sent the little statement saying that this has been flown by dada, dada, dada in such and such a day and such and such a place, which we have hung in the bar ever since. The flag you can see on the outside, the Club’s burgee is right behind it. A lot of people don’t know that, but they’re both inside that triangular box. It touched a lot of people. It was interesting to see this especially Walter (Guild) when he announced it for the very first time. His voice was cracking and he was almost to the point of tears to announce it when we put it up on the wall for the very first time. He said, “I would like everybody on the way out before we go down to the beach.” This was at the pep rally when it went up just before the pep rally. “I want everybody to go and touch that flag,” which they did.
Mainly the youngsters, the adults normally don’t come that early in the morning but they did. That was really a moving experience. The guy was absolutely thrilled when I told him this story.
MK: Well, I think, it’s something that Walter remembers every year on the 4th of July when we have the pep rally.
KG: Yeah, he does.
MK: It’s quite an experience and it’s quite a motivator for us to go out there and do our best to . . .
KG: It is, on that particular day. It is, yeah.
MK: Yeah. Speaking of the bar, were you-
KG: My office? Are you getting to that . . .
MK: Your office. I know you were involved in restoring the Ka Mo’i canoe that hangs in the bar. Can you tell us about that project?
KG: Yeah. That’s one of another one on my favorite things that I’ve done at Outrigger that I take great pride in, and that is the Ka Mo’i, which I can remember in Waikiki. It was used to take tourists out, mainly. When the Club moved here, it wasn’t really suitable for catching waves. It just ended up in the alley upside down, neglected and overlooked. It was beginning to deteriorate. I think one race, we actually took it down to Waikiki. The seams we’re opening and the paddlers spent most of the time bailing just to get it down there and back, and then it disappeared. With just a very minimal note that nobody noticed, I certainly didn’t notice it, that the Board of Directors had given the Ka Mo’i under a lease to a condo in Poipu on Kauai that Jim Peterson was involved in building. He was the president at the time. The Board had no objections. Nobody was using the canoe. It was taking up space.
The Club leased it to … I don’t know what the name of the condo was. They didn’t accept it as we would look at a canoe. It was a piece of furniture. It ended up being used as a salad bar. They didn’t bother drilling any holes in the bottom so that the water from the melted ice would drain out. The interior of the canoe was terribly damaged by wood rot from water soaking. Then the condo changed management or it went out of business for a short period of time. They passed the canoe on, with Outrigger not being aware of this, to the Hanalei Bay Plantation Hotel in Hanalei, which installed it in their bar similar to how we have it hung in ours. Then here came (Hurricane) Iniki. The hotel that it was in was totally destroyed. The storm went right through it from front to back. There was nothing but concrete slabs left.
No one at the Club was aware of this thing. I mentioned this to Tay Perry who’s very … He’s a scholar with the koa canoes, especially the Club’s koa canoes. Let’s try tracking this thing down. We went and looked in the Board minutes. There was only a slight reference to it being leased, a one liner, as a matter of fact. The Club had no lease papers in its safe. We went to Gordon (Smith, the Club controller). We went to the Club manager. “Do you know anything about this?” Nobody remembered. Jim Peterson had already moved on and there was no evidence that the Ka Mo’i had ever been a Club canoe. It just vanished. Allan Dowsett is a restorer as Tay is of koa canoes. From time to time, he goes to the outer islands looking around in people’s garages and under raised houses for old canoes for restoration. He brings them down to Friends of Hokulea and Hawaii Loa where they get refurbished.
In the process of doing this, he found out that the canoe that we had loaned this condo or hotel was in Poipu at the Hanalei Bay Plantation. He told Tay and Tay says, “Well, we’ve got to go check this out. We’ve got to get this canoe back.” The three of us piled on and, this is Hawaiian Airlines I guess at that time and went over there. Allan was busy doing his snooping around for canoes. Tay and I drove up to the Hanalei Bay Plantation, and sure enough there it was hanging in their bar. We met the club manager and explained the situation. All we had was a one liner from the Board minutes and we took a copy of that along with us and showed it to the manager. He said, “I believe your story and if you want that canoe, you better take it now because the hotel has been sold and it’s going to go to the new owner here in three days or less than a week. You better take it now.”
Well, Tay had friends or contacted, anyway, the Hanalei Bay, the civic club. They’re the Hanalei Bay Canoe Club. They heard the story and they said, “We’ll help you.” They brought their trailer down from Hanalei with a working party to get it down from the ceiling and they hauled it down to the Nawiliwili where we could get it on Young Brothers’ barge back to Honolulu. In the meantime, the entire staff, the Hawaiian staff is in the bar and they’re crying because here, the haoles from Honolulu are taking our kuleana away because they didn’t know the history of the canoe either. They just knew that it was there. They knew that it was traditional Hawaiian and they were sad to see it go, but it was in horrible, horrible shape. The inside was totally rotted out. The outside was gorgeous. They maintained the outer appearance. It was lovely hanging in the bar, but when it got here, it was a total ruin.
Tay took it upon himself to restore it. It required one third of the canoe to be cut out and replaced piece by piece. All those patches, you add it and its bottom is just a mass of patches. This is Friends of Hokulea and Hawaii Loa. Basically, Tay and I and Jay and Allan Dowsett working on it out there on Sand Island. It took us 18 months to finally get it restored and then brought down to the Club and had it blessed. We took it to the beach right next to the Natatorium and had it blessed, paddled out and then caught a wave to bring it into the Club channel. We had another ceremony, another blessing to have it installed in the bar. This was under John Rader (general manager) who had a great heart for things Hawaiian. He helped us every inch of the way, whatever we needed to get that thing installed.
Stephanie (koa canoe) came down, the Ka Mo’i went up and there it is to this day. It’s just a joy to see it every time I walk in there and to think that we had almost lost it forever. It wanted to come back to its home. It avoided that storm. It outlived its damage to be renewed and there it is.
MK: Well, it’s a beautiful canoe. How many seats does it have in it?
KG: It has nine seats in it. I’m not sure it was exactly intended for that purpose, but it was used for taking tourists out at the old Club. It has nine seats including one little one behind the steersman where a keiki could go out and ride behind the steersman. We restored it that way. When you crawl inside, it’s as it was when it was at the old Club.
MK: You guys did a beautiful job on it.
KG: I attribute that to Tay and Allan Dowsett because it was a labor of love on both of their part. All of us that worked on it. At least, Outrigger members, because we knew what that canoe meant to the Club and it was a joy to bring it back home.
MK: Have you ever worked on any other canoes?
KG: I actually worked on Stephanie. We took Stephanie down. It, too, was in terrible shape mainly from termites because it had gone up when the Club was built and brought over from the old Club. Hung up improperly with the bow facing in the wrong direction, which we corrected when Ka Mo’i went up. It’s bow points out to sea like it’s supposed to. Stephanie really needed a lot of work. Again, it was Tay who headed that up. Allan and everybody else down at Friends of Hokulea and Hawaii Loa who were free to work on it, to get it back in shape. When it was done, it still belonged to the Club. Normally, what they do when they restore canoes there, they lease them out to hotels and places like that that want a Hawaiian canoe and then they get lease money to keep the Friends of Hokulea and Hawaii Loa going.
In this case, it belonged to us. It belonged to the Club and we leased it to a hotel in … Well, on Maui. I can’t remember exactly where. Kihei, I guess. It was put in a hotel there and it remained there just for a very brief time, four or five years at the very most and then the hotel was sold. The new owners didn’t want the canoe. We brought it back and took it down and put it on display at … Initially, it was on display at the Outrigger Hotel in Waikiki, briefly, and then at that Waikiki Reef Hotel where it stayed on display with them paying lease to the Club. The money supported our … I don’t know what it was used for, paddling or whatever. We finally took it out of the hotel and provided them with a smaller one so it didn’t take up as much space.
Right now, it’s still down in Sand Island and is in need of repair again because it has been on public display so much that it’s got termites in it again. Now, Tay is in the process of beginning the restoration of that. I worked on that one. I’ll work on it again. Hopefully, the intention is not to lease it out but to bring it back to the Club. As you know, we’ve discussed this in Historical meetings and hope to use it for Club purposes when there’s a need for a koa canoe rather than take out our racers but to use that one. It has six seats. The same as a racing canoe.
MK: I know you’ve been involved with the trophies for many, many years but you’ve also been involved with other memorabilia at the Club. Tell us about the Daddy Haine Plaque, that bronze plaque.
KG: Okay. This was something I did on my own because Daddy Haine was a dear friend of mine. When he passed away, the volleyballers dedicated the volleyball court to him. They called it the Daddy Haine Volleyball Court and put up a very strange photo of him etched in plastic sort of like scrimshaw but not very well done. I decided, “Well, this just won’t do.” In working for a different project for St. Louis School, there was a foundry that I dealt with that can take a photograph and give it three dimensions so that it can be cast as a brass or a bronze plaque. I had one of those done for St. Damien for St. Louis where he’s a graduate of, by the way. A lot of people don’t know that, including the school itself, but I had that done and was so impressed with how well they had taken the photograph and put it into this three dimensional plaque that I decided that Daddy Haine deserved the same type of honor instead of the little scrimshaw plastic thing that went up. I had that one taken down.
I tried to get Marilyn Haine to give us a photo but not telling her what it was for. She went through all of the photos that she had. Her favorite one was one that … It was from the newspaper. It had all of those little dots. It was really not a suitable photo to make a casting out of but that’s the one that she wanted. That’s the one I had made and it was … I had it cast and I presented it to Marc (Haine) and Marilyn. It went up in the volleyball court and is still there to this day. The last time I was in there, I see now that they have Daddy Haine plaques around it for the tournaments that they have in there every year. The entire wall there is becoming a trophy for him. I really enjoyed doing that because I thought he deserved that honor for what he did for the Club. Not only as a president but for the support that he gave to volleyball. There it is. It’s another one of my favorite achievements.
MK: Well, tell us about the Norman Rockwell painting. It was so popular so many years ago and now, we have a copy of.
KG: Paul Dolan and Cline (Mann) were the two historians that I knew at the Club, with all of their stories about this and that, this and that, this and that. Paul Dolan was big on photographs. One day, he was showing me photos and it included one of those old fashion Kodachrome slides, color slide. He says, “Take a look at this.” It was Norman Rockwell’s painting of a canoe catching a wave in Waikiki with Diamond Head in the background. He told me the story. I was not on the Historical Committee at the time. He told me the story that a member of the Club had this painting that had been done by Norman Rockwell at the old Club site under a commission from Pan American Airways that had just reestablished around the world track or course, routing. They had commissioned Norman Rockwell to paint a series of paintings at these exotic places around the world that they could use in their advertising. Hawaii was the very last one.
Norman Rockwell went along. The way that he did art was to take photographs, pose people the way he wanted them to be, take photographs and then he could take his time in his studio back in Connecticut or wherever it was to do the finished art. He did that with Pan American taking him all around the world and the last stop was here in Honolulu. He was staying at the Moana. Well, this was the time we had members of Pan American called the Bourbon Leaguers who were … If they weren’t members of the Club, they were closely associated with his coming here. He was introduced through the Bourbon Leaguers to the Outrigger Canoe Club. He was absolutely fascinated by what he saw. He saw the canoe surfing. He saw the surf boards. He saw everything that was what the Club represents, the water sports. He decided that he was initially going to do a surf board and then said, “No, I want to do a canoe.” This is after somebody took him out and they caught a wave. He got to come in on it and said, “Okay. This is what I’m going to do.”
With the help of the Club, he got a canoe set up on the beach. I think it’s the Ka Mō‘ī li‘i the little one although, the name is not on it. He got one of our beach boys to sit in each of the seats, one through three, and then he had two tourists in four and five and then the beach boy steering in six. Photographed them all one at a time. He put them altogether into the finished product of a canoe, on a wave, Diamond Head in the background. The two tourists sitting in four and five, husband and wife, wearing their coconut hats and a Pan Am bag sitting in the lap of one of them. That was used as an advertising. He did more than four of those paintings but it was one of the four that they put in national advertising in the Saturday Evening Post.
Well, he (Paul Dolan) didn’t tell me who this was and it was after my … It happened before my time, but somebody here in Hawaii ended up with that original painting, Norman Rockwell. I’m guessing that it was one of the Pan American executives while they still came through here. He came to the Club one day at the Board meeting and offered it to the Club as first right of refusal because of the history of the Club in its creation. He said, “For you, a special deal I only want $1 million.” Well, they very politely said, “Thanks but no thanks.” He had taken a photograph of it in the frame that … A beautiful hand carved frame. He presented it to the Club to put in the archives as a photograph of the finished product. Paul Dolan eventually showed that to me.
On my own, I went online to look through old Saturday Evening Post magazines and I found it. Then, knowing what issue it was in, because it was in several issues, they ran quite a bit, I went on to eBay. I said, “Saturday Evening Post for dada, dada date.” It pops up. I bought it on the spot. It was very pale as magazine color was, his photograph of it was as Kodachrome film was. It was overly red and when you blew it up, the colors were … Maybe time had done a job on the colors, but the opposite was true of the magazine. It was very pale and full of all of the pixel dots from color reproduction in those days. I found an outfit who agreed to restore, color restoration, which they did. I paid for that and then they gave me the copy of it, which I sent to an outfit called, art.com, where they will take photographs and reproduce them in oil paints, which is what I did.
When it showed up, I had it framed and brought … By that time, I was on the (Historical) Committee, I brought it down and showed it to the committee. Everybody was just bowled over at how beautiful it was. The colors are just stunning. We decided after the meeting, “Well, let’s take this up and hang it up behind the Front Desk.” Tay and I take it up. We take down the LeRoy Neiman painting or poster, which is really a poster and put this thing up. This is in the evening, six o’clock in the evening. Seven o’clock the next morning, I get a phone call from the Club manager. This is (Michael) Ako saying, “You can’t do that. People have complained that we can’t have cartoon art greeting people at the Front Desk.” I’ve had it taken down and I put it in the women’s locker room because they have said they want art down there too because they got bare walls.
My first reaction over the phone is, “Well, you can call the maintenance shop to go into the ladies’ locker room and take it down because I want that painting back now. It belongs to me. I paid for it and I’m taking it back if you don’t want it. It’s not going in the ladies’ locker room.” He didn’t expect me to say that, but he did return the painting to me. I said, “This is Club history. I want some wall space where members of this Club can see this artwork. The story is going to be in the magazine. I don’t know if it was on the cover or not, but the members are going to want to see it.” He said, “Okay. You can install it in the Business Office.” That’s where it hangs to this very day where nobody can see it except the office personnel. That was the frustration that I have in many respects with the Club in wanting to do anything that changes the status quo.
One of them was, well, you can’t take down the LeRoy Neiman painting. Well, it’s not a LeRoy Neiman painting. It’s a poster that he did and you can buy it from poster.com. The only thing that makes it unique is that he did personally sign it, which is not on the original. He said, “That’s only for long distance racing. The Molokai race. We do other things.” How about this poster that was done for, not Hawaiian Airlines but whatever the name of the airline was before World War II, was an ad . . .
MK: Interisland Airways.
KG: Intersland Air. With their airplane chugging across in the background, but the topic of the story is the front of the Outrigger Canoe Club next to the Royal Hawaiian, next to the Moana. “Here is our beach boy sitting there with the beach logo on his trousers. Here is a canoe on the beach. He’s smiling.” This is also Club history. That one, I came across at work. A navy wife of one of my navy work colleagues, found a reproduction of that poster at a little bazaar that navy wives put together. The husband brought it to me at work and said, “This is Outrigger Canoe Club, isn’t it?” They really didn’t know. There was no story attached to it. It was just Hawaiian. I looked at that and said, “Wow. Where did you get that?” I showed it to Dolan and he gave me the whole background of the whole thing. I went online and I found it, a big reproduction of it and I bought that and had it framed. That lasted one day, but it was a legitimate day. We put it up for a Macfarlane Regatta. The same thing happened when the race was over, down it comes. It’s inside Joyce’s (Nobriga) office hanging on her wall, hiding our history. That’s the story behind those two things.
MK: Well, you’ve mentioned that you were also involved in paddling.
KG: I did.
MK: Did you start out as a novice like most of us?
KG: Novice B.
MK: Tell us about your paddling experiences.
KG: The paddling was … I became a member right at the end of the Regatta season. I missed out on that completely. I had to wait to the following year. I signed up for Novice B and I was a Novice B paddler for the Regatta season. Once I knew the basics of paddling, then I joined Bruce Ames and the Senior Masters crew that fall. They were getting ready for long distance and of course, their crew was already set. I got to paddle with them or practice with them on the Ala Wai, but not to be picked for the team. I didn’t care. I just wanted the experience. It was fun and I loved every minute of it. It didn’t take very long to find out that it was a one man show. It was Bruce Ames organizing a group of elderly over the hill paddlers who the Club wanted nothing to do with. They didn’t want us to paddle in any of the new good canoes. We were given the crappiest equipment. The covers in shreds that were no good for the Masters or open crews.
MK: They let water in?
KG: They were full of holes and ripped and just worn out. “Here, use this one.” The crappiest amas and ‘iakos, all of that stuff. The Senior Master said, “We’ll buy it ourselves.” With Hank Lass, under his tutelage, we actually built our own ama that was far better, far superior than anything that the Club had. “Oh, can we use that? No. How do you like that? No coming back.” We did let the Club use it but it was modern. Hank had got a leading edge designer like Tommy Conner to help come up with a design that was way ahead of what we were using more traditional amas. We had to buy our ‘iakos because the ones they gave us to use were splintered and crappy. We had to buy our own cover. It got to the point where Bruce was talking … Everyone was talking about buying our own canoe so that we could participate in races in a canoe that wasn’t leaking or that was water soaked, the water had gotten into the fiberglass and it was heavier than it should’ve been. That sort of deal.
Every road block possible seem to be thrown up in Bruce’s face. He just soldiered through and overcame. We would pay our own entry fees for all of the preseason long distance races before the longer events begin. They would be six mile, eight mile, 10 mile, 12 mile getting ready for the first long distance race, which was the Duke, 25-mile race. I did all of those, but I didn’t get a seat for the long race starting with Duke (race), but then I was in the escort boat. I would run change charts and stuff like that. I loved every minute of it. I got to participate right off the bat even though I was … I knew the proper way to hold the paddle but . . .
MK: Did you guys win any races?
KG: We did win races. We won lots of races. It didn’t matter because we were … This is in relation to the Queen Liliuokalani race when the Club would not sponsor us. Let’s say, wouldn’t buy our tickets over there. They wouldn’t pay our entry fee. They wouldn’t pay our hotel rooms. It wouldn’t do any of this stuff. We were told “You are not viable. Outrigger only sends crews to races that they’re going to win or place or show. You old fogies, we’re not going to pay for you to go out and have fun just paddling around.” Darcy Ames got us ball caps for the first Liliuokalani race that I went to. We went over there with no support at all. We had to get our own canoe. We got that from Kai ‘Opua.
MK: Kai ‘Opua.
KG: Yeah, Kai ‘Opua. They bent over backwards to help us over there, but Darcy got us ball caps with “Via-Bull” on it. It said, “Via Bull.” Well, we didn’t wear them in the race. We wore our Outrigger Club shirts and hats because we entered as Outrigger. They couldn’t say you can’t enter with Outrigger Canoe Club. It’s a name because we were members. We entered. The very first race that I had participated in there, it was the first year when Senior Masters had a division. It had a masters division before. We went the first year and we won the gold medal. That shut the paddling hunta up that was throwing up road blocks.
The next year, they added the Golden Masters Division. We went over and paddled that. We won that gold medal too. After that, the Club very reluctantly had to admit that these old farts are competitive. If I contributed anything to the Senior Master Program in that capacity, that would be my greatest achievement because I really enjoyed showing the younger kids that the old farts can perform and we did. We won lots of medals.
MK: That’s wonderful. You met Cline Mann early in your membership of the Club.
KG: I did.
MK: Tell me . . .
KG: It was at the trainer. You know the story of getting the trainer is almost as bad as the Senior Masters trying to establish themselves as a viable crew to represent the Club. There was great resistance against building a trainer. Cline fought tooth and nail against the Board. This is a past President of the Club and they’re just throwing up all kinds of road blocks. His solution to that was, do you know the story behind this, to bring the Board down from a Board meeting to the maintenance shop with the metal door that’s not used right now, but it’s in place down, the lights out and the Board of Directors standing there. All of a sudden, the electric garage door opens and inside are two Club paddlers, two of the younger paddlers in the canoe paddling, spotlit and the Board was just … Their socks were blown off. It became a permanent fixture out here. He (Cline Mann) designed it. He built it. He maintained it. He was always there cleaning it up. That’s where I first met him and he told me the story about the trainer.
I knew about the trainer because when I was later a novice, that’s where I learned how to paddle. Well, long distance season, it pretty much was being shut down as the Regatta season was over. I said, “Well, you need some help.” He said, “Sure.” In this process of closing down the trainer for the year, I learned all about the … Not only the trainer but I learned all about Outrigger Canoe Club from the master Club historian himself. I was enthralled. Once I met him there, then he would invite me to Corinthian Corner where he would hold court everyday and buy beers and tell us stories. I was fascinated by that. The first thing that happened after that where I really got to work with him was the (Honolulu) Marathon. He headed up the Marathon (Aid Station) Committee. He asked, “Well, do you want to help with the marathon? I said, “Sure.” He signed me up for that. That was a great thrill to see.
Everything that Cline did was meticulous down to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. He brought that to organizing the marathon down to the last detail. It wasn’t the first station running out, it was the second aid station, but coming back, it was the last one. We had to stay there all day long. He had it all organized. He brought out donuts. He brought out coffee. He brought out the tables and placed them in just the right place and you’re doing this and you’re doing that. He had that big banner, that’s stretched across Kahala Avenue. The biggest thrill on that very first experience was these exhausted people. Plodding back with the Dead Man’s Hill still to climb to get over Diamond Head down to the finish line. They’re all saying, “Thanks Outrigger. Thank you Outrigger, you’re great.” What a thrill it was. This just wasn’t one person. This was coming from all over them, almost like in a chorus of kudos and mahalos from that. That’s what set the hook for supporting Cline’s project, because then the next thing, he asked me to help him with paddleboard.
He was involved in all of these things and when you worked for him, he just sucked you in and gave you a meaningful job and made you responsible. “You’re in charge of this, do it. I got other things to do.” My reward for my first year was, he added me to the Pro Bowl Team. You know the team’s story. Cline went ahead a team of 11 players on the bench. He was the coach. He was the 12th, to buy tickets, to go out to see the Pro Bowl every year. When an opening came up that year, he said, “You want to be on the Pro Bowl team? Yes, sir.” He invited me and that was a great honor too. I participated in all of those until, finally, we gave up on it. Just as we did on the marathon. I don’t know how many times we did the marathon before we finally gave it up, but to get back to the marathon story, what the reason that did it was because we were the last station, we had to stay open.
At 4:00 in the afternoon, people were still coming across the finish line and the straw that broke the camel’s back one afternoon at 4:30, we’re looking down Kahala Avenue and here come the very last runners, a husband and a wife and a little two-year-old toddler between the two hobbling along, walking the whole length. They were going to do it and they did, but we had to stay open. Cline sent a letter of complaint to the head of the marathon and said, “Why don’t you just have a bus come along like all other marathons do and if somebody is not finished by such and such a time, just get them on the bus and bring them down to the finish line.” That’s not our marathon. Our marathon is for . . .
MK: The people.
KG: … the strollers. Yeah.
MK: Well, I remember one of Cline’s stories about finding out that somebody who was straggling at six o’clock had stopped for lunch at Kahala Mall or dinner. We were still sitting in there at the aid station while they’d had their dinner and were strolling slowly back to the finish line.
KG: Yeah. It could very well have been a shuffle.
MK: That was the year he said, “No more. That’s it.”
KG: “That’s it.” Yeah. Yeah.
MK: Twenty-five years for the Aid Station. You served on a lot of Club committees. I think you were on Canoe Racing, Paddleboard, Kayak, the Fitness Center, and even the Beach and Water Safety Committee. Anything special about any of those activities that you remember?
KG: I have an interesting story. I’m sure it’s not a part of Club archives about the weight room. I knew Hank Lass. I paddled with him as a Senior Master and a Golden Master. He was the one that set up the weight room. Again, like everything else around here, fighting an obstacle course, no one would support it. “No, you can’t do that. No, we don’t need a weight room. No, you can’t have parking spaces and to build one and all of the stuff.” He started off, with bits and pieces of old broken down weight equipment that people had in their garage, but he ran across a weight room in Pearl City where I live that had gone out of business and was selling all of its equipment. We went out there and looked at the equipment and it was pristine, as if it was right out of the box, beautiful set up. All the equipment that you could possibly imagine and it ended up really being the first real weight room that we had. All the stations were covered for all the different types of exercises that you needed to do. It was a complete set. It turns out that it was a front for a brothel. The reason the equipment was unused was because the people were walking in the front door and they were walking to the back and passing up all of this equipment. He got all of that equipment for a song and brought it in. I helped in the install with that one.
MK: No, I haven’t heard that story in any of our archives.
KG: Okay. Well, that’s how our weight room got its start.
MK: Let’s see. You were also on a lot of the standing committees. You were on Historical, which you still are, Buildings and Grounds, Judges of Election, Nominating. Eventually, you were elected to the Board of Directors in 1997. What were your assignments on the Board?
KG: My first assignment was Coordinating Director of the Historical Committee, which I thought was fantastic because then as now, they do so much for the Club and in the background and nobody really knows what is happening. They just see the end result. The end result is the history that we have to show for everyone. The perfect example of that, that I point out to everybody, was this last year’s Olympics when we put photographs of all of the Olympians in the Lobby. Actually, two shy. There were two we didn’t know of. There were two missing, but still, everybody picked up on that sign. It was one of the most popular historical venues that we had ever done. Lots of members didn’t even know that these Club members were Olympians or what they did or what years they were or won a gold medal, won a silver medal, won a bronze medal.
It was a perfect, to me, example of the good that the Historical Committee does. They don’t get thanked very often. “It’s usually just a bunch of those old fogies. They just sit down and drink their tea and chat about the good old days, but come on guys, you pick up that Club magazine every month and there’s a historical item in there or something is on display that just didn’t show up, fall out of the sky by itself.” I saw this right off the bat when I walked in the very first time. How dedicated the people are, who are on Historical. I was very grateful that that was the very first thing that I did. I’ve carried that with me ever since. That was when (Brant) Ackerman was the president. Then Mary Philpotts McGrath was the president the second year and she put me in charge of athletics, which I was very leery to do because the only real athletics that I had done were paddling and fringe things, not volleyball. I had never been fully engaged with volleyball, but it didn’t take me very long to get sucked into it to see what they do and what they accomplish.
The funding fell in my lap for sending them to places to compete, Haili is one, but going to the mainland and winning national tournaments, wow. That was really impressive. The Board, at that time, was very supportive of all of these things. When I would come and say, “We’re shy and can we transfer some money because it’s not quite enough to do this?” It would be done. When it came time to do the budget at the end of the year, I had all the inputs from everybody and they all, most of them … I’d say almost all of them were legitimate requests by athletes that wanted to do things. I submitted them all and the Board said, “Yes, we’ll support that.” I don’t know how it is now. I think it’s much harder because funding is more difficult to do, but that was a great thrill for me to support the Club’s athletics at that stage of the game.
MK: Thank you, Kawika. It’s been very, very interesting.
KG: Well, I hope I could share a little bit. There’s much more but the ride has been great and I’ve enjoyed almost every minute of it. There has been some bumps in the road, but that happens at every Club. The best thing about Outrigger is, no matter what the bumps are, we’ve always overcome them and moved on to do what we do best.
2015 Elected to Winged “O”
Kawika Grant’s Service to the Outrigger Canoe Club
Board of Directors
1997 Coordinating Director Historical Committee
1998 Coordinating Director Athletics
Judges of Election Committee
Beach & Water Safety Committee
Building & Grounds Committee
Canoe Racing Committee
Fitness Center Committee
1987 Novice B Men
1988 Novice A Men
1989 Senior Masters Men
1992 4th Masters 45
1993 7th Masters 45