This oral history interview is a project of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The legal right to this material remains 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 Alexander H. F. Castro, June 8, 1979
An interview by Alexander H. F. Castro
June 8, 1979
This interview by Alexander H. F. Castro (AC) of the Outrigger Canoe Club Historical Committee is being held in Kailua – Kona, Hawaii, on June 8, 1979, at the home of Lorrin Potter Thurston (LT), an early member of the Club and a two-time president.
AC: Lorrin, I appreciate very much your letting us interview you, and some day you’ll go down in history in Volume Two of the Outrigger. You were telling me that you were an early member of the Outrigger.
LT: I believe it was two weeks after the Club was first started by Alexander Hume Ford.
AC: Two weeks! That was in 1908.
AC: And how did you – what motivated you to join?
LT: Well, I had started to do some surfboard riding out at the Aquarium which at that time was run by my uncle, F. A. Potter, and so I used to ride the surf inside the reef and I decided I’d like to go in where there were a group of people around and my father told me one night that there was a club called the Outrigger being established – and would I like to join. I said “Yes” – and so I joined. He joined for me, rather, and the Club consisted of two grass houses, one which we kept the surfboards in and canoe paddles, and the other our bathing suits. And then there was a shack that we all dressed in, hanging our clothes on the floor. And that was my earliest recollection of the Outrigger.
AC: Two grass shacks?
LT: No, they were not grass shacks in my memory. Perhaps they were, I don’t remember off hand.
AC: We have a picture on the first pages of the Outrigger history – this book which I am showing you. Are those the houses that you remember?
LT: That’s right, they are. They are grass – well, they are coconut covered. They aren’t really grass shacks, but a facsimile of them, yes.
AC: And then did you do a lot of surfing and did you do any canoeing?
LT: Yes, I did a great deal of both and I paddled on the Outrigger’s crew down in Honolulu Harbor – about 1912 I believe it was. I can’t remember the dates exactly. That was about the last official race that they had. They gave it up and it died as a sport for quite a few years. In 1933, ’34 and ’35 E. E. Black came to me and said he had just finished the road from Kailua to just beyond Puuwaawaa Ranch. They used the first bulldozers in Hawaii, which were a great improvement over the old mule and shovel scraper. He made a lot of money on the job. I was at the Advertiser at the time. I was at that time assistant manager. And he asked me if I had any suggestions as to what he might do to show his appreciation to his employees and to the people of Kona for this job which meant a great deal to him. And after thinking it over for some time I talked with “Dad” Center and suggested that perhaps we might start canoe racing again. And he encouraged me. To make a long story short, I raised enough money to buy medals for all the races. I think there were seven. Princess Kawananakoa was one of the principal donors; so were George and Francis Ii Brown, and Harold K. L. Castle. I came to Kona and interested Julian Yates and Louis Macfarlane and what’s his name from Milolii –
AC: From Milolii?
LT: His name was Eugene Kaupiko.
AC: Oh yes, a very famous name.
LT: He is still the leader of the village of Milolii. “Chili” Childs, who was then head of American Factors, then became interested from the Kailua standpoint and I believe there was one other – Portugese – not Rodrigues – the name slips my mind. But in any event they organized canoe crews from Kailua, from Napoopoo, from Honaunau and from Milolii to compete against crews – and we were able to get the Hui Nalu interested and the Outrigger Club interested. The first races were held off the beach at Napoopoo across the bay to Captain Cook’s monument and back again for the longer races – it being very smooth water.
The second year, 1934, it was held in the same place. One of the problems involved was how to get the many boys – there were 100 – there. I didn’t have the money to pay for their Steamship fares and there were no planes. We finally worked out a proposition with the U.S. Coast Guard who were able to bring them over in daylight hours – not spending any night on board – and we were able to get facilities to house the boys at the home of Reverend Shannon Walker and a pavilion of the YMCA at Keauhou. The local boys had their own homes. The first and second races were held at Napoopoo, I think, were the greatest, and from the standpoint of attendance – the Inter Island Steamship Company ran a special excursion of the Waialeale. There were four or five official boats of the U.S. Navy – there were two from Australia – and probably 15 yachts.
AC: Did the Waileale go over to Kona?
LT: Especially to see the races – a special excursion – which was sold out.
SC: Right here, huh?
LT: And following the races the Kona Inn, which at that time was run by George Cherry who was always most helpful, gave a big luau and dance for everybody concerned, which I think was the biggest crowd of people I’ve ever seen at the Kona Inn – a perfect night! The second year the same thing happened, except that we had one of the heaviest rains I have ever seen in Kailua-Kona and we had quite a time getting the boys back to the Coast Guard – to the ship – to get out of the rain. There wasn’t any room at the Kona Inn.
AC: Did the Outrigger place in either of those races?
LT: Yes. As I recall it they won three out of the five races, I believe. The newspaper accounts would carry that. (see Honolulu Advertiser, August 12, 1933).
AC: Well, that is interesting. That was the rebirth of canoeing then?
LT: It really was, and it was a rebirth of the building of racing canoes, which I think was probably as important. Up to that time when the Outrigger had the Hanakeoki which was built under the supervision of Dr. Alford Wall. He had it built some years before that, the Liokeokea (White Horse) which was used by Hui Nalu Club and a wonderfully fast racing canoe. And that was about all we had to start with.
I donated a canoe of my own called the Kakina which I had bought in Napoopoo some years prior and it was not too successful but it was a good four-man canoe – too short really to be a six-man – but we were limited as to canoes. I believe it was “Dad” Center and “Toots” Minvielle that were basically responsible for getting enough interest together so that the directors of the Outrigger Club finally, I think, underwrote the cost of building a new canoe which in turn was called the Kakina. Kakina, K-A-K-I-N-A, means Thurston in old Hawaii – and they were kind enough to name it after me. My boat was retired to the use of the girls for a few years and now I think is hanging on the ceiling of some bar some place – I don’t know just where.
AC: Would that be the one that is hanging on the ceiling of the bar room of the Outrigger Canoe Club?
LT: No. No, that is not it.
AC: That’s not it.
AC: Well, that’s very interesting. And is the Kakina II still extant?
LT: The Kakina II is still well kept by the Outrigger Club.
AC: Going back a little bit, Lorrin – you said 1933. We skipped quite a ways between 1908 and 1933. You went to Yale didn’t you and you were a swimmer there of some note as I recall?
LT: Well, I went to Lawrenceville Prep School on a post graduate – post senior year at prep school. My father thought I was too young to go to college, and I think he was right. There I joined their swimming team and was quite fortunate enough to be a member of their winning prep school team. As a matter of fact, I defeated their captain in swimming, who had, up to that time, broken every interscholastic record. His name was Tom Luke. I don’t remember the times, but anyhow I got to Yale through the intervention of Jack Galt and his wife who were coming back from Yale on their honeymoon to settle in Hawaii – J. R. Galt who was president of the Hawaiian Trust and who was also a member of the Yale Alumni Association – and he suggested I should go to Yale. Well, I finally got in. My swimming record did not hurt me any. I classed myself more as a diver than I did as a swimmer, although I had swum for the Outrigger Club on a number of occasions in their relay teams and dived.
AC: The Outrigger had swimming teams? Where did you have most of your races?
LT: In Honolulu Harbor and —
AC: Honolulu Harbor —
LT: And —
AC: The YMCA perhaps?
LT: The YMCA – yes.
AC: We have a picture —
LT: The University of Hawaii tank was used on a couple of occasions but principally down at the YMCA and more importantly Honolulu Harbor around Pier 5 or 6. I tried out for the swimming team at Lawrenceville and the coach said “What do you do?” And I said “Well, I do a bit of diving”. They had only a one-meter board about three feet off the water and I used to dive from a board anywhere from 12 to 16 feet off the water and I said “I’m not used to such a low board; the timing is totally different”. The coach said “Well, try it out and see what you can do”. So I did the best I could but it was pretty poor, and so the coach said “You’ve done some swimming?” And I said “Yes”- and explaining how and where – Honolulu, at the Outrigger Canoe Club. Well, he said “Let’s see you swim up the pool and back”. He had a 25-yard pool. He called to a man by the name of Tom – Tom Luke, and he said “Here Tom, swim this guy up and back”, and I said, very naively, “Do you want me to swim for form?” He said, “No, beat this guy”, I didn’t know it but Tom Luke was captain of the Lawrenceville swimming team and had beaten every short distance interscholastic record in the East at that time. I beat him by about half the length of the pool coming back and the coach, who was “Daddy” Mann if the Detroit Athletic Club, said “My friend, you are not a diver, you are a swimmer”, and I never dove again. At Yale they had very fine divers – and high boards.
AC: What class were you at Yale?
LT: I entered in 1917, missed the majority of the year during the war, 1918, and graduated in 1921.
AC: And did Luke go on with you on the swimming team?
AC: This fellow Luke that you beat.
LT: No, he went to another school. I don’t remember where. I left Lawrenceville intending to go to Cornell, but I got talked out of it by Jack Galt and perhaps due to my swimming ability was able to get into Yale through the back door.
AC: Well, that’s a good way to get in.
LT: I am very grateful the door opened for me.
AC: Lorrin, when you got back from college were the swimming teams still operating at the Outrigger Canoe Club?
LT: Yes. I got immersed in my own business activities at that time and I did not take part in swimming there, as I recall, after I got through college.
AC: Well, obviously, because of business pressures you weren’t able to continue with your competitive athletics but you did keep up with your surfing? As a young man –
LT: Oh yes, it was my principal hobby.
AC: Oh, was it really? Do you have any of your boards left?
LT: No, I gave my – Let’s go back to the beginning. I started with a redwood board. I
remember the lumber cost me $8 and it cost me $20 to have it made by Edric Cook who was a long time member of the Outrigger Club. Later on some years – I can’t remember the exact date – why, I brought in the first balsa board ever to be used. It came from Brazil. “Dad” Center said it was too light – it would never work out – but he was the one that bought the second balsa board for Hawaii!
AC: As I recall, those balsa boards came in about 1932, somewhere in there.
LT: Yes, that is correct.
AC: I had one.
LT: That was about the time that Tom Blake was making his extra long paddle boards that were so successful in establishing speed records. But the light balsa wood which later was developed with Koa paneling or Oak paneling or some kind of hard wood in between the soft layers of balsa followed, and shortly after that Tom Blake got into the manufacturing of hollow boards and I think he was the first one to put on a tail skeg.
AC: That would be when – about the 40’s maybe?
LT: No, I think it was around the early 30’s.
AC: Oh, I didn’t realize the skeg was that old.
LT: I think it was the early 30’s. That was the one great criticism I had of my board. You got on a first break wave that was very steep and slid toward Diamond Head. The tail was liable to skid around in front of you, and you were pau! You go tank over tea kettle. But I gave my board to my son and he was the one to put the tail skeg on it and that just created a new board out of it. It had the lightness so that you could paddle and get good speed on it and the tail skeg held in the waves so that you wouldn’t skid on it no matter how steep the wave. I later gave that board to the Outrigger Canoe Club. They wanted it for their historic room and I have never heard whether it was used or it has been misused or misplaced or so on.
AC: Well, it’s interesting that you should come up to that point because I was talking with Sarge Kahanamoku the other day getting ready for a similar interview next week and he had the same experience and I suppose that those boards are somewhere – but at the moment I don’t know whether yours is identified. You have heard the talk, haven’t you, that they’re trying to get a surfboard museum?
LT: Well, what’s the name of the boy that ran all those surfing meets out at Sunset Beach and Makaha?
AC: Oh, Freddy Hemmings?
LT: Yes, he was the one that talked me into donating my board to the Outrigger Club. I had planned to give it to the Bishop Museum who had asked for it.
AC: Well, we’ll go in search of it. Maybe Fred or some of the surfers would know. It might have been put away for safekeeping rather than for use.
LT: Well, I hope so, because it was famous only from the standpoint that is was the first balsa board. And if the Outrigger Club has not taken care of it I’ll regret it very much because the Bishop Museum did want it in their surfboard collection.
AC: Well, I’ll promise you that when I get back I’ll make a personal search for it.
LT: Fred Hemmings should know. He was the one who I delivered it to the Club in his name and he was the one talked me into it, and I thought that certainly it would be the ideal place for a board which was an innovation to be a historic fact – but my feelings have been a little bit hurt. It has never been acknowledged by the directors, by the Club, or by anybody else.
AC: Well, you are going to get an acknowledgement, I can promise you that. Lorrin, when did you give up surfing, at what age?
LT: I gave up surfing at the age of 65 (Laughter), in 1965.
AC: Is that right? Well, I didn’t think there are many 65-years old surfers out there now, at least I haven’t seen any. So maybe you’ve got a record like that, one of the first to join and one of the oldest to stay.
LT: Yes, I guess I was there as long as anybody. I guess “Dad” Center was there a little bit longer that I was, but not very much.
AC: Well, you are still a member of the Club.
LT: Yes, they gave me a non-resident membership because I live permanently here in Kona and only get to Honolulu, oh, maybe once every two or three years. But I still maintain that membership. I have never used the present dressing rooms. I don’t even know where they are.
AC: Well, they are there, and they are very fancy compared to the ones in the old Club – certainly more fancy than the ones that you used in 1908. It is quite obvious in looking through our first book, here on page 109, there is a reference to you. Evidently in 1955 there was quite a soul-searching going on in the Club as to whether they should give up Waikiki beach by the Royal Hawaiian or move somewhere else, and you are quoted as stating that the Outrigger Canoe Club should stay on Waikiki beach and hoping, of course, that you might be able to stay – according to this article in our book – that you might stay there. Do you recall that difference of opinion?
LT: Yes, I do very definitely. I believe I even said that if the Club moves, I would not, but I later came to my senses on that. I think the Club could have gone ahead even though the cost was very considerable in those days, at its old site, if there had been enough power behind it – but there was not. I personally got in bad with the membership of the Outrigger because I was president when we were forced to raise the dues from one dollar a month to a dollar and a half – $18 a year, and that was not a popular move at all. That was during my second term as president of the Club and I think I am the only one that was the president for two years.
AC: That would be about what year?
LT: Around ’28 – ’29. I have been told that all records of my term of office have disappeared and are not available in the Club files.
AC: Well, we have gradually been finding some old records. In the move, evidently, there was a whole set of records that were lost or misplaced. Some of them have been found and we still have a big gap, and that is one of the reasons why we want these memoirs from you and some of the senior members of our Club because they are very valuable to us and your memory is very strong. But I think we will be able to locate them as we keep looking.
LT: Well, I believe I was a director or an officer of the Club for 18 years and I was the only one that was elected president twice as I recall it. That’s because nobody else would take the job. The Club was about ready to go under and was having a very hard time financially and I agreed to take it again. Fortunately, Walter Macfarlane came in at that time and it was through his enthusiasm and his ability that the Club as it now stands was finally financed and made possible.
AC: Well, that was quite a big drive around town wasn’t it – that Walter Mac was chairman of?
LT: Yes, and he did a marvelous job.
AC: Well then the Club survived the depression – and – let’s see, when was the last Club built there by the Royal, next to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel?
LT: Your records would be much better than mine. I don’t really remember.
AC: I think that was in the middle ‘30’s. No, it would have to –
LT: That’s going back about 50 years.
AC: Yes, that’s going back at least 35 years. Lorrin, so you lost the argument but you kept your membership. (Laughter)
LT: Yes, and I did not resign.
AC: Well, what do you think of the Club and where it is now?
LT: Well, I think it has done very well. So many things have changed today as compared to what they used to be. I still think that it would have been better had we been able to finance the old area between the Moana and the Royal but perhaps that’s it better use today than it would have been had the Club been there. I think the present location is excellent and we are very fortunate to have what we’ve got there.
AC: Yes, everybody – most people seem to like it very much and with the way that old area next to the Royal has gotten crowded up and so forth, it appears that the move was fortuitous because the parking lot certainly would have gone by the board –
LT: And it would have been land that was far too expensive to be used as a Club.
AC: Yes, that was, I think, the cost factor as much – well as anything else that made the move.
AC: We are going back again, Lorrin. I had asked you there – the tape was off – do you like the idea of having a surfboard museum there at the Club and the boards that you think are – What? You said you thought Duke Kahanamoku’s was there?
LT: Fred Hemmings, I believe, told me that they had Duke’s original board that you see him standing in front of with the name DUKE cut into the board. He told me they had that. I hope they have.
AC: Yes, I believe we have that board. And then you said you thought there were some other boards that might be available?
LT: Well, I think that Tom Blake’s original long paddle board should be there. I think the hollow boards that he was responsible for should be there. They were hollowed out of balsa with a redwood deck, as I recall, or some kind of a different deck glued on the top, just as a development of the surfboard. The putting of a skeg on the back of the board was purely a local inspiration by somebody. I don’t know who dreamed that one up.
AC: Yea – I don’t know the history of the skeg. Maybe we can find out about that. I was always under the impression it appeared after World War II but you say you think that it probably appeared before – maybe around the middle 30’s?
LT: Approximately then, I would say.
AC: Speaking of World War II, do you recall any incidents there? We have some pictures in our book of the barbed wire and all the rest of it that was there. Did you enjoy the Club during the war, or did you get any chance? Were you too busy?
LT: No, I fought the battle of Columbia, South Carolina, and Louisville, Kentucky, during World War I. I finished my training in field artillery and was commissioned a second Lieutenant and was awaiting orders to go to France when Armistice came. I was one of the first to get out and was very happy to. I can remember seeing the barbed wire barriers on Waikiki, although, of course, most of that time I was away at college.
AC: World War II – were you away in the service?
LT: No – World War I — I was away in service. It came during my college. World War II, I was in Honolulu the whole time. I served as a special liaison between the Army and the Navy and the civilian community – Chamber of Commerce and the special committee that used to meet in the Alexander and Baldwin building. Any problems that the community had with Admiral Nimitz or General Richardson usually came through me to them and vice versa.
AC: We had quite a few service men according to some of these old pictures – that were around the Club. Was there a service membership extended or anything, do you recall?
LT: I don’t remember.
AC: Or were they just guests?
LT: I don’t know.
AC: These pictures here in these middle pages – here of a bunch of sailors and so forth. The reason I mention that is, you know, just about two weeks ago you probably saw there was quite a series of articles on differences between the civilians and the military in certain areas, not Waikiki beach, at this moment, but the Ewa communities and so forth. Were there any incidents of that nature during World War II that you recall?
LT: No, not that I can recall, not particularly revolving around Waikiki beach.
AC: We are looking at a picture of the site of the present Club when it was then still the Elks Club in entirety, the old James B. Castle home. Do you recall that house?
LT: Very well.
AC: You say your father was –
LT: My father was James B. Castle’s attorney in some matters and he stayed in that home for, I believe it was about three years when it opened and thereafter. I knew Harold Castle and his wife, Alice, and of course, his son, Jimmy, as a result of that friendly contact with my father and James B. Castle and my acquaintance with Harold. I was surfing out in front of the present Outrigger Club long before the majority of members knew it was there –
AC: Is that right –
LT: With Harold Castle.
AC: They called it Castle Surf.
LT: Yes, they called it Castle Surf and Harold had a very beautiful canoe that he had purchased in Kona which was a good surfing canoe and he and his yard boy used to go out and surf into the channel which is now being used for the same purpose at times. And I believe his yard boy finally quit because Harold scared him to death by taking him out in the surf when it was too big. Harold was a dare-devil in the surf if there ever was one and there was nothing too big for him to tackle –
AC: Harold Castle –
LT: And he pre-dated “Dad” Center a little bit, I believe, in that respect.
AC: Well, I guess he was a little bit older than “Dad” although I think “Dad” died before Harold Castle.
LT: Oh yes, yes he did.
AC: Well, you old timers – so there is nothing new about surfing out there is there?
LT: Well, I’ve never seen as much surfing in that channel as there is now.
AC: No, that’s where we can find – you know the boys go out there and, except for going further – out to Diamond Head – they stay pretty close there.
LT: You’ve asked whether I can recall any funny incidents of my many years with the Outrigger Club. There is one that stands out. Ernest Tucker Chase of Punahou was one of the Club’s most enthusiastic volleyball players. He loved to play volleyball and was a good player. He came down one Saturday afternoon and he told the boys before going in to put on his suit that he had a new bathing suit which he just bought from McInerny’s. somebody got the idea – At that time the volleyball court was out between the pavilion – mauka of the pavilion and the beach with the dressing rooms around the volleyball court and the old commissary with Sasaki in charge – So he announced that he had a new bathing suit and so somebody got the brilliant idea of getting a bucket of dry sand and they went up on the roof right over the doorway where he would have to come out and two of the boys got a bucket of fresh water each and so Ernest Tucker, as he was called, came out and stood at the entrance of the men’s dressing room with his hands holding the shoulder straps on both sides and somebody dumped a bucket of water on him and then somebody else dumped a bucket of sand on him and his new suit became an old one very quickly. Well, of course, that caused no end of amusement – but he never looked up or down or sideways. He never cussed anybody. He just went in and took a shower and put on his old bathing suit and came out and he never said a single word. (Laughter)
AC: Ernest Tucker? He was on the faculty at Punahou?
LT: Yes, he was next to Arthur Floyd Griffiths in charge of Punahou.
AC: Oh, right there. Well it didn’t disturb his equanimity at all did it?
LT: Not in the slightest, to the disappointment of the boys around. They expected him to get wild and he didn’t.
AC: That’s great! A little while ago we were talking about your role in reviving canoe racing and you said that you had some newspaper clippings and so forth. Are there any of the old timers that we might also talk with that you recall? Do you remember?
LT: Yes, of those who paddled, I believe Sarge Kahanamoku was there. Who’s the fellow that has the tires for sale? Lex Brodie.
AC: Lex Brodie.
LT: Lex Brodie paddled in the Outrigger Club senior crew. I believe that Fred Hemmings was in the second or third race, not the first one. “Toots” Minvielle was one of the members – and speaking of “Toots” Minvielle, I wish that he could be gotten to help the curio venders to have produced for them Hawaiian canoes that were somewhere near what Hawaiian canoe should be. Most of those sold to tourists are horrible.
LT: They are just blocks of wood cut off at both ends and they have no shape. A real canoe was shaped like a koa leaf. There wasn’t a straight line top or bottom to it. They are curved so that the canoe would naturally slide down a wave and keep its bow out of the water. The canoe that I bought that was called Kakina was a canoe that could not surf at all. I was told that by a Hawaiian in Napoopoo when I bought the boat there in about 1917. He said it was no good for surfing. I didn’t believe him and I spent a lot of money on getting it fixed up. Along at the time there was another canoe I bought which was later bought by Case Deering and then by Judge Harry Steiner.
I had had canoes out for three years without swamping prior to my launching of the Kakina I. The boat was finally all polished and beautifully refinished in every way and we swamped five times in the first afternoon and she would not come up. She would get on a wave end she would go right to the bottom – and I learned from that the hard way that a canoe has got to be rounded. And if you look at the koa leaf you will see what the shape of a canoe should be. “Toots” Minvielle is the only one I know that has designed small canoes that are anywhere near like a good Hawaiian canoe should be – and certainly these water troughs that sell and call Hawaiian canoes I think are a disgrace.
AC: Well, we will pass the word along to “Toots”. You know he was due for an interview about a week or ten days ago and he is up here on the Big Island looking for a koa log to build a canoe. I don’t know whether he has found it yet or not.
LT: The last time I saw “Toots” was about ’32 and he was doing the same thing then.
AC: Well, some people never stop their favorite things.
LT: I think it would be terribly interesting if somebody like “Toots” who certainly understands the proper dimensions of a canoe better than anybody I know, could be interested in establishing a collection of miniature canoes for the Outrigger Canoe Club. There is a surfing canoe, there is a fishing canoe, and there is a racing canoe, and all of them have definite characteristics. I think “Toots” has the best concept of the whole and the designs which are very superior to anything that’s on the market and should be – should make an interesting alley or annex to the Club’s canoe history.
AC: Well, that’s very interesting. I don’t think anyone has ever thought of anything like that or at least I haven’t heard anyone mention it.
LT: Talking about canoes, the biggest canoe I have ever heard of – not heard of – I have read of bigger ones – but the biggest one I have ever seen was bought by Alexander Hume Ford from the Dowsett estate at Puuloa long before Pearl Harbor became a naval base. The remains of that canoe was brought to the Outrigger Club. It was badly rotted and I think “Dad” Center really deserves more credit than anybody else for having the guts to rebuild it. He had our famous old Japanese carpenter – I can’t remember his name – Yama – the man who repaired every canoe the Outrigger ever owned – rebuild the thing completely. As I recall it, it had eleven seats in it.
AC: Eleven – whereas our biggest are six with possibly seven. It was so deep that in front of the rear ama as a kid my feet would not touch the bottom. I have a picture of this canoe going out to surf, the day it was completed.
AC: I’ll be darned!
LT: And I had to practically stand to reach the bottom to paddle that canoe. Now what has happened to that, I don’t know. For many years it was used as a sailing canoe. It took two people to steer – I was out with “Dad” Center on the first trip it ever made in the surf. We waited for a big surf to come and we took it out the first break with a gang of real akamai paddlers and canoe steersmen and we caught five waves in from the first break to the Moana beach without the slightest trouble whatsoever. It was a beautiful canoe and it was undoubtedly made out of a redwood or a cedar log that had floated down here from Washington or someplace around Oregon. As all logs in those days were the property of the King, wherever they were found, and they were used for the big canoes. That was a very famous canoe. The second very famous canoe was the A’a – A-a, which belonged to Prince Kuhio and which was in the Bishop Museum for a long time and finally somebody, I believe on Maui, claimed it, and whatever happened to it I don’t know.
AC: I don’t either.
LT: There was quite a debate on whether it should be released by the trustees of the Bishop Estate to enter the canoe races after they moved from Kona to Honolulu. I did quite a bit of writing on that subject myself, and I remember we had a picture of the Bishop Estate trustees which was labeled “Why not take the rust out of trust?” The thing with this canoe which had been kept for many years by the Outrigger Club – the A’a should be used again for racing. It was a racing canoe.
I think “Toots” Minvielle is probably responsible for the design of every one of the new fiberglass canoes and the design is a very important feature of those canoes. Dr. Alford Wall probably did more than any haole I know of to perpetrate the racing canoe. He had two of them built, including the Hanakeoki which the Club still owns. He admitted to me that that canoe made out of heavy koa. There is a light koa and a heavy koa and the heavy koa is really heavy, and that canoe, if it were made of a lighter wood, would have probably been better than any other racing canoe in the water today. The old Liokeokeo “White Horse” which the Hui Nalu used for many years was built and designed by Dr. Wall made out of a light koa log. The Magoons also had a special surfing canoe which I remember going out in. it was in “Dad” Center’s care and the Magoons apparently did not take any interest in it. It was in “Dad’s” care at the Outrigger Club for many years – called the Magoon canoe. I have been out in it many times. It was a beautiful surfing boat. I don’t know what happened to it. There is an unwritten chapter in canoe history that should be written.
AC: Yes. Have you seen that book that was put out by the Bishop Museum on canoes?
LT: I have it here.
AC: It really is sort of a book that compares the canoes of the various South Pacific people and I don’t think it dwells too much on the Hawaiian canoe really.
LT: I agree with you. I’ve got it in my library. It is written by – not by a kamaaina or anybody who is used to using a canoe.
AC: No, it’s a compilation of two books and I was on a committee there at the Bishop Museum and we put in on to a paperback just for economy sake. But if you will notice those prints, those were old drawings, most of them. Maybe we can get “Toots” to go into this matter of the difference in canoes a little bit more so that when we get to our second book we might be able to get some of his sketches.
LT: I think it would be very wonderful to do.
AC: It would be a good project, wouldn’t it?
LT: Yes. There should be some – “Dad” Center had a sailing canoe built out of a log that he found up here in Kona which was probably one of the most successful sailing canoes I have ever known. It was a clumsy looking thing. It had a very large bulbous stern and of course they always sailed them backwards so that the highest part of the canoe would be up in the bow and what would normally be the bow was where you sat to steer. I don’t know what ever happened to that canoe but it was designed as a sailing canoe and it was very good.
AC: Well, as you say, there is a real gap in some of our chronology, of our history, and we are hoping to fill it with just such memories as yours and then maybe we can actually find some of the old materials or the canoes because some of them were either put away – or perhaps misplaced in storage and it’s kind of a mystery that we have around the Club.
LT: I agree with you. I would like to see it done and I think if nothing else, the Bishop Museum should have spent more time on that particular angle. The canoe they have hanging there, as I recall, the double canoe, is a beautiful piece of work – but that’s about as far as it goes. Their single fishing canoes were quite different from their four-paddle canoes and their six-paddle canoes and they were the most common and certainly the least attractive.
AC: Ummm! Utility.
LT: They were just a water trough, that’s all, to keep the water out.
AC: Well, it’s been a long time that you have been a member of the Club and we are all sorry that you don’t get in there more often. We would like to see you there, and I suppose your fondness for the Club will continue, let’s hope.
LT: Yes, it always will. I will always have a very soft spot in my heart for this Club. I will often wondered why my efforts in behalf of the Club have not been recognized. I still don’t quite understand it because it has always been for the best of the Club to the best of my ability – but I think it probably goes back to the days when I had to increase the dues by 50 percent.
AC: Well, I don’t think there are too many people around who remember that particular event, but maybe – In any event, I am glad you mentioned that because we can certainly follow up on it and I intend to. Our historical committee is gaining in stature every year.
LT: I would be glad to serve on that Historical Committee if I were asked.
AC: Would you! Well, I am asking you now.
LT: I couldn’t do much except to suggest ways and means perhaps of accomplishing certain things.
AC: Well, that would be a tremendous help, Lorrin, because most of the people that we have on the Historical Committee have far less experience with the Club’s ups and downs than you have had. We are all a little bit younger than you and lots of us don’t remember those events that you have mentioned here to me, so why don’t we just consider you a member of the Historical Committee and we will do so – put you in!
LT: Well, I would like to, and if I am invited to come to Honolulu to attend a meeting I assure you I would come.
AC: Well, that’s wonderful. We have a meeting every month on the first Thursday and I will write you a note. We can get out a calendar after this interview and take a look at the next meeting. I think the next meeting will be in July because we had a meeting just last week.
LT: Well, perhaps it would be better – In July we have got our big marlin fishing tournament coming up here, or is it late August this year – I forget. (Footnote #1). But I think perhaps in September after the school vacation might be a better time than right now when so many people would be away. I would feel that way.
AC: Yes – That would be great and we could have a little bit of a memory session.
LT: I think that it would be very important to have “Toots” Minvielle completely interviewed on the subject of canoe design and perhaps get the recollections of others who might be able to contribute even a knowledge of famous canoes, beautiful canoes of the past. I have outlined the names of a number of them that come to my mind. There undoubtedly are others that other members of the Club would know about on other Islands – There is a blank in that area completely.
AC: Well, we will certainly follow up on that and pass the word. And I believe that “Toots” –
LT: I believe, before we get off that subject, that the design of canoe paddles should perhaps be given some thought too and certainly Duke’s famous paddle – on why it was made and how it was made and so on should be remembered in some way – I don’t think the paddle itself is available.
AC: The only paddle that I know that’s got any place on the walls – at least on display – is “Dad” Center’s paddle which is behind the bar. Dad had that paddle made to handle that huge Dowsett canoe Alexander Hume Ford found at Puuloa. And Duke had a paddle of a different design?
LT: “Toots” might remember what happened to that old Dowsett canoe from Puuloa. It was found there in an old house on the beach.
AC: Well, as I say, “Toots” Minvielle is on the list to be interviewed and whether someone from the committee is interviewing him this week, I don’t know, but we will certainly follow up on your suggestion and maybe get him to give us another description. Nothing wrong with two interviews. And I think that about concludes out interview with Lorrin P. Thurston in his beautiful home at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. This is Alex Castro, on June 8, 1979. Thank you very much, Lorrin.
LT: You are welcome.
Footnote #1. I am Grand Marshall for the International Billfish Tournament this year. That is because they are celebrating the 20th year of statehood – and I was a member of the commission for about 18 years, and chairman for the final five years. I was at the signing of the Act in Washington, and own one of the pens President Eisenhower used to sign our Statehood Act.
Footnote #2. In answer to a later question on the origin of Hui Nalu, Thurston commented:
I believe Hui Nalu was started by George and Francis Li Brown and Harold Castle who helped Dudie Miller to organize Waikiki Hawaiians into a going beach organization. I believe Harold Castle or George Brown accumulated over the years some $40,000 for a Hui Nalu clubhouse – which never materialized.
LORRIN POTTER THURSTON
Born in Honolulu November 8, 1899, he is the son of Lorrin A. and Harriet (Potter) Thurston and a direct descendant of Asa and Lucy Thurston who arrived in Hawaii with the first company of missionaries in 1820. He graduated from Punahou in 1916 and from Yale in 1921. While at Yale he was captain of the swimming team. He served in World War I as a 2nd Lieutenant in Artillery.
After a year at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he joined the staff of the Honolulu Advertiser in 1922 and after progressing through various departments was president, general manager and publisher of the paper 1931-1961. He was also chairman of KONA-TV 1950-61 and president and director of Radio KGU 1931-61.
Lorrin was a long-time director of the Outrigger Canoe Club and served as Club president for two terms, 1928-30.
He was also a member of the Hawaii Statehood Commission 1947-59 and chairman of that group 1955-59. His other extensive community service included directorships in many groups and board concerned with civic planning, tourism, journalism, historical preservation, recreation, agriculture, real estate, employment, health and welfare.
He married Meredith Faithfull in 1927 and their son, Lorrin F. Thurston and daughter, Mrs. James Ramstead (Diane) live in Honolulu. After Meredith’s death he married Barbara Ford in 1950. He is now retired and they make their home in Kailua-Kona where he continues interest in community activities. His adopted daughter, Judi Thurston, lives in Honolulu.