This oral history interview is a project of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The legal rights of this material remain with the Outrigger Canoe Club. Anyone wishing to reproduce it or quote at length from it should contact the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions that are not factual.
An Interview by Barbara Del Piano
April 21, 2017
BDP: Today is April 21, 2017, and we’re here in the board room of the Outrigger Canoe Club. I’m Barbara Del Piano (BDP), a member of the Outrigger’s Historical Committee. I’m going to do an interview with Mitzi Murphy (MLM) who has some wonderful stories to tell. Good morning, Mitzi.
MLM: Good morning, Barbara.
BDP: It’s a pleasure to have you here. Before we get into your life at the Club, let’s have a little background. Where were you born?
MLM: In West Virginia.
BDP: Oh, and when did you come to Hawaii?
MLM: December of 1963.
BDP: 1963, mm-hmm (affirmative), and how did you happen to come here?
MLM: Well, my husband was pastry chef at The Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. One of the managers of the hotel came here to manage Sheraton Hawaii, and he invited Walter to come and be a pastry chef at The Royal Hawaiian. That’s how we got here.
BDP: Oh, and so how did you … You were an employee of the Outrigger for many years. How did you happen to get the job?
MLM: Well, first, I was told to try for a job at Sheraton. I went to the Minute Chef to meet this manager that was supposed to be a wonderful sweet lady and all of this. As I sat there drinking coffee and watching what was happening in the Minute Chef, a gentleman came in the front door, and the manager came from the back room. They greeted each other, and he says, “Gee, you look so tired. Don’t you have enough help?” She says, “No.” She says, “I’m not getting any applications these days, so I’m having to do extra work.” He says, “Nobody applies for a job?” She says, “Nobody but the goddamn haoles. Who wants them?”
Somehow, I knew I was in trouble, so I went outside. On the corner there of Kalakaua and Kapiolani, and I started across the street. Then, I looked up, and I saw an employment agency sign on the second floor. I went up there, and thank goodness, the lady was Caucasian and I felt like I could talk to her. I told her my story. She says, “I have just the place for you.” She called the manager of the Outrigger, and that’s how I got the job.
BDP: What was your first job at the Club?
MLM: I wanted to try being a waitress, and I did that for nine months. Then, the manager asked me to take the hostess job. I was just, from then on.
BDP: I see. Do you have any funny stories that happened when you were either a waitress or the dining room manager?
MLM: Let’s see. There were different people that were so interesting. Mama Helen, I always think she was a really interesting person. She had been at the Old Club, transferred up to this Club. I don’t know if it was superstition or if it was just really things that happened, but she said that there was a ghost in the locker room, in the ladies’ locker room. Well, we talked about it. She said, “It was a blond lady, long blond hair, and she just walked through the locker room every now and then.” She says, “I’ve seen her three times, so I’m not going to the locker room anymore after nine o’clock at night.” Then, another story she told was about the water, the angry sea. I’ve never heard anyone else ever talk about the angry sea.
BDP: Angry sea?
MLM: The water, it becomes angry. She says, “Look at it. Look at the water.” I said, “Well, I know I feel like it’s really strange today.” She said, “That is the angry water and angry sea.” I asked, “Well, why is it angry?” She said, “It’s going to take a life.” There was a young boy that went out. A Japanese boy went out on his surf board and didn’t come back. His family sat out on the front of the Hau Terrace, some of his family, for four days. The body came back. I just watched the things that she said like when Duke Kahanamoku died, she said that he had made a statement that the beach would be protected. All of Waikiki beach area would be protected for a year. His spirit would protect it. Nothing would happen. No accidents, no drownings, not anything. We watched that year, and it was true. Nothing happened.
BDP: Oh, what a wonderful story.
MLM: Wonderful. Good stories, mm-hmm (affirmative).
BDP: Oh, gosh.
MLM: Anyhow, and then, Marie Riede and I became best friends. We had a really good relationship all the years.
BDP: You’re still good friends, right?
MLM: We are still good friends for over fifty years. It’s just really been a wonderful relationship. In fact, we’re going on a trip to Alaska in July. I need to back up. I need to stop a minute.
MLM: Getting ahead of the story, I wanted to talk about the Board Room flood. Do you remember that, when it rained so hard, about 1970? The whole park flooded, and we were going down the Ala Wai, and you couldn’t tell where the Ala Wai stopped.
BDP: Yes, so what happened during that big flood?
MLM: Well, that’s when all the water came in here. It wasn’t sealed properly, and the water all came in here and lots of damage was done. A funny part of this that happened was we had this … I think we called him a gardener. His name was Yoshi. He took care of the grounds and so forth and janitorial work and everything. That morning, after the flood, the rain that night, I came into the Club and went out on the Hau Terrace. It looked like twenty-four inches of water on the Hau Terrace, and here came Yoshi round the corner with his hose and his boots that came up to his waist, wading the water. He was running the hose, washing down the Hau Terrace. That was his job every morning at a certain time, and he was going to wash down the Hau Terrace regardless. It was just so funny to see him in twenty-four inches of water, running the hose, but that was his job. I just never forget that picture.
BDP: He was doing his job, huh?
MLM: He was doing his job. He is so faithful.
BDP: That’s wonderful. How long did you work at the Club?
MLM: Seventeen years. When Mr. Van Doren came here, I was still a waitress. He is the one that asked me to take the hostess job. I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to stay because the kitchen was quite an ordeal to get food out of the kitchen. I suppose I was still being treated like a haole. One night, they burned my hands. Another night, little things happen like that, but anyhow, he guaranteed I wouldn’t have to go back in the kitchen if I would stay and help him because Christmas was coming. The children, the Christmas party for the children and all these things, so anyhow, I just got so involved. It was so exciting. All of the things that we had to do and the newness of it all and being in-charge of certain areas and bringing in new ideas and things like that. Because it was still the first year of the Club opening here, and a lot had to be done, it was a wonderful experience there.
Then, after I was there a little while, he asked me, “Do you know how to do flower arranging?” I say, “No.” He says, “Well, I suggest you learn because that’s going to be part of your job.” I had to make flowers for the different birthday flowers and things for the members and to make the large arrangement for the buffet table on Sundays. That was a really good experience there, but I had to work at it again, extra work. My afternoons off. We had split shift all the time.
BDP: Did you take any lessons in-
MLM: No, no.
BDP: You just learned that on your own?
MLM: I just figured it out.
BDP: I know you’re really a professional at it now.
MLM: Yes. Then, had no one to do the Christmas decorations, and he says, “Well, could you do the Christmas decorations?” You look around, and there’s so many areas, so many places that need decorating and so forth. Well, the only thing I could do was try. I’d have to spend my money to buy the decorations, and then have to wait until they decided to refund the money to get mine back. Of course, in and around, they made $325 a month at that point, so money wasn’t too plentiful back then.
BDP: Oh, I see.
MLM: Then, once he asked me to bring my sewing machine over and make a skirt for the salad bar because they just couldn’t buy all these things, so they needed me to go out and buy the material and make the skirt for the salad bar.
BDP: That was, again, your money?
MLM: Yes, for a while, a length of time. I really didn’t think that much about it because I worked for my mother and daddy for so many years. I never thought about money exchange. It just didn’t seem necessary to think about it or talk about money because we never had, working for mother and daddy, didn’t talk about money or didn’t ask for money or anything. It just continued on in my life like that.
BDP: When did you become a member of the Club?
MLM: There was a five-year waiting list when I put an application in immediately after I left the Club. Ward Russell was my sponsor, but there was the five-year waiting list. It seems like they had 2,000 members at that time, and they’d cut it off because they didn’t want to over-crowd. I’m not sure what happened after that.
BDP: I think it’s over four thousand now.
MLM: I think five.
MLM: In the neighborhood of five thousand. That’s what I heard. Anyhow, there was a five-year waiting list. Everyone that applied had to wait that length of time.
BDP: Why? Why did you quit the Club, your job here?
MLM: Well, I somehow decided it was time. I wanted to open a flower shop. Now, I had about fifteen years of experience working with flowers. I thought, “Well, that might be good for me to” …
BDP: Oh, where was your flower shop?
MLM: Downtown in the Davies Pacific Center in the financial area.
BDP: Did you wait the five years?
MLM: I did.
BDP: You did? Oh.
MLM: Mm-hmm (affirmative), but in the meantime, I was dating Spencer Murphy. He was a member, and I always came with him. I really loved the Club. I love this area. I just love being out on the beach here. It was just so beautiful. It just seemed like so much a part of my life. I didn’t want to be without the Club. Spencer and I came here all the time.
BDP: You came with Spencer?
BDP: While you were waiting to become a member?
MLM: While I was waiting, mm-hmm (affirmative), yes.
BDP: I see. How did it feel going from an employee to a member?
MLM: Actually, it felt good because I think when I worked here, I felt like I really wanted to be a member here. I thought if I ever leave, I will apply for membership here. That had been on my mind for quite some time.
BDP: Did you get involved in any water sports or volleyball?
MLM: No. Mostly, it was just running.
BDP: I see, running.
MLM: Marathons. Yes. I was out here practicing, running around Diamond Head. For almost a year, I’ve been running around Kapiolani Park and then around Diamond Head. It was getting close to marathon time, and I was talking to different people about it that have good experience. They said, “No, no, no. You don’t have enough miles in. You’re not running far enough,” and things like that. Everyone was discouraging me, except Fred Hemmings. I’ve always liked Fred Hemmings. I just know him from the time he was international (surfing) champion, let’s say, up to the time I was ready to run my first marathon. He says, “Well, go ahead and run.” He says, “Try. If you can’t make it, just drop out.” He says, “It’s no disgrace,” but he says, “Just take it easy. Go slow. Don’t try to rush.” He says, “Keep your spirits up.” He says, “You probably will make it.” I did.
BDP: You did.
MLM: It took six hours that first year, and I didn’t have a number because I’d waited too late because this is two days before that he encouraged me to go ahead and run the marathon. Anyhow, if I hadn’t run at that first summer, I probably would not have done it the next eleven. I did twelve altogether.
BDP: You did twelve marathons?
MLM: And a Tin Man.
BDP: Oh, that’s fabulous. Wow.
MLM: I did try to paddle, but at that time, I couldn’t swim, but they didn’t know that. We went straight out in front of the Club, out into the deep water. I looked down. It was so dark and deep. I was, “Oh my, oh my. If this canoe turned over, I would never be able to get back in the boat.” I just worried so much about that part. We didn’t turn over, but when we came back in, I just kept going. I didn’t come back to paddle again, but the next boat did turn over, so I was just so thankful.
BDP: Oh, wonderful. Did you join committees?
MLM: The Entertainment Committee first, but I met Helen Sheehan over in Kahala Mall one night. It seems like two or three weeks after I joined, and she said, “Oh, I hear you’re a member now.” She said, “Well, why don’t you come on our committee?” That started the-
BDP: What committee?
MLM: Then, I was on that for two or three years. Then, she encouraged me to come on to the PR Committee, which you were head of at the time, I think. It was just, they were both really, really good experience.
BDP: Yes, so that’s where we met then.
MLM: That’s where we met.
MLM: Helen was good about bringing people together.
BDP: She was excellent. She was our social director.
MLM: She was. She was wonderful.
MLM: That’s when Virginia came into our life, but she wasn’t on the committee. She was a wonderful person. She is a wonderful person.
BDP: Yes. When you were serving on these committees, did any special events take place?
MLM: Well, on the PR committee, they were having wine tastings here. They were fairly successful, but not really big attendance since I don’t think … At one meeting, I suggested, “Why don’t we do an art show or a craft show? There are so many people here that do so many things that we don’t even know about.” There were two of the ladies in the group that had experience at the Art Academy, and something else that would have to do with that. They picked it up immediately, and it was wonderful what they did with this show. It was a huge success. We drank very little wine. I think they said we drank half the wine that they normally drink because the activity there was just so wonderful. I don’t know why they’ve never done it again since then. They should.
BDP: Yes, that was a fabulous event.
MLM: Because I think there were so many more things that could be displayed, and members could show what they do.
BDP: Sure. Are you on any committees now?
MLM: Not at the present.
BDP: Not at the present, but you do spend quite a bit of time here?
MLM: Well, now, we’ve started the senior programs. I am doing a few of the senior programs, but it isn’t like being on a committee, but it’s really very enjoyable.
BDP: How has the Club influenced your life?
MLM: It is just such a bright spot in my life. I feel like it really opened a whole new world for me, just being here and meeting the people I’ve met. It’s just a different life, and I love it.
BDP: Good. What do you think the future holds for the Club as far as our lease with the Elks Club?
MLM: Oh dear, let’s see. Well, I always felt that way back and even in the early 1970s, the late 1960s or early 1970s, we talked about the lease and everything. I always felt like they should check into buying it back then when it might have been available. There were committee meetings, long-range planning, meetings and so forth about buying the lease. Anyhow, it was all voted down, and they didn’t. I don’t know if they will ever offer it to us. I don’t know. I just don’t know, but I don’t think they will ever tell us we have to leave this spot, but I think we will pay for it. As far as the Club continuing, I think it will continue because the growth and the interest and the children, we have so much, so much to work with and so much to go forward with. If they just take care of it and keep to some of the old values.
BDP: Yes, I think that’s very important.
MLM: It will. It will go on, but I think they need to always keep some of the senior members on the committees so that we’ll continue on and so that they will teach the younger people, but that’s what the Winged “O” does. The Winged “O” does that. They teach the younger people and the children and so forth. That’s wonderful.
BDP: Mm-hmm (affirmative). What other stories do you have to tell?
MLM: Well, I just remember when I first came here that everything was so new. There was no carpet in the dining room or anything. Anytime you dropped a spoon or anything, it was just so noisy. Everyone smoked then, so anytime the dining room had to be closed because of the weather, the smoke, it was just filled with smoke and so forth. Seeing all of these change, and on the Hau Terrace, there was no covering. The trees, the Hau trees were about an inch in diameter. There’s not one leaf on the trees. They called it the hot terrace. It actually took several years before the trees grew and the leaves came out and so forth. Anyhow, it was good when it finally did happen.
Oh, I know what I wanted to tell you about. Helen, her husband died when her … She had five children, and her husband died when she was working at the Outrigger. She had to raise the five children, so she did that and educated them. One of her daughters went off to Japan very early. One night, Babe Woollett, he was with, I think, Qantas Airline. He always came in with a group of people, and he always asked for Helen to wait on him. No matter whose station he was in, he demanded Helen wait on the table. This one night, he says, “Helen, if you could go any place you wanted to go, where would you go?” She said, “To Japan. Japan. My daughter’s in Japan. I haven’t seen her for thirty years.” He says, “Helen, I’m going to give you a ticket to Japan.” She came back and told me, “Oh, oh my goodness, Mr. Woollett is going to give me a ticket to Japan. I’ll get to see my daughter, finally.” She was so thrilled, so thrilled about this.” Then, he kept coming in, kept coming in. He didn’t mention that again. I said, “Well, Helen, I’m going to go ask him.” I asked him, and I said, “You promised Helen a ticket to Japan.” He said, “I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to.” I said, “But you told her you’d give her Japan,” and he says, “Oh, forget I said it. I couldn’t do that.” I was so shattered. I was just shattered.
I went back, and I talked to a couple of the other girls in the dining room. Then, I talked to a couple of girls at the Hau Terrace. I said, “We have to do this. We have to get it together.” We decided among ourselves we would donate towards the ticket. This girl in the Hau Terrace, she started telling everybody, “Oh, we’re going to buy Helen a ticket to Japan.” They said, “Oh, can we help? Oh, can we help?” Everyone wanted to help, and in the dining room, the same thing. I’d say, “We’re buying” … The old members though that, “We’re buying Helen a ticket to Japan. She hasn’t seen her daughter for thirty years.” Everybody wanted to help. In two days, we had the money for the ticket, and the manager came in. “What are you doing? What are you doing?” He says, “You can’t do things like that. You can’t ask members for money.” I said, “We didn’t. We told her what we were doing. We’re buying her a ticket, and they wanted to help.”
Anyhow, we bought Helen a ticket to Japan. She went to see her daughter, and what a thrill. What a thrill that was. The night we gave her the ticket, she says, “Well, I’m not going anywhere.” I said, “Well, open the envelope.” She opened it. “Oh my gosh, oh my God, a ticket to Japan. Listen, I’ve got to go home and get ready.” She left work immediately and called her son and told her son to be out front because I was sure she would not be … She wouldn’t be able to work. She’d be so excited. Anyhow, it was very rewarding.
BDP: Oh, I’m sure it was.
MLM: Then, Marie, when I first met Marie, she said, “Well, the only place I ever wanted to go on the Mainland was West Virginia.” I said, “Why in the world would you want to go to West Virginia,” because I had just come from there. For the time being, I’d had enough West Virginia. She said, “Well, I had a pen pal in West Virginia, and I just would like to go to West Virginia.” I said, “Well, Marie, if there’s any way we could arrange that, if I can save the money” … I knew she couldn’t save the money because she had a little baby and so forth. I went down the Holiday Inn and asked for a breakfast waitress job, so every morning, I went down there are five o’clock and worked from five to ten. Then, I came here at 10:30 and worked. After about four months, I had enough money for both of us to go to West Virginia. Anyhow, we had a really good time in West Virginia.
BDP: I bet she was so grateful. Oh, what a wonderful story.
BDP: You were going to tell the story about the board president that lived at the Colony Surf?
MLM: Oh dear. Well, he was very strict. He was a military person, and he’s the President of the Club. He lived at the Colony Surf. One morning, I guess there had been an occasion out on the beach or maybe not. Somebody had left a Coke can on the beach. He looked out there and saw that Coke can. He called Mr. Van Doren and said, “You get out there and pick up that can right now.” Mr. Van Doren went out and picked up the Coke can, and he told me what had happened. “I can’t believe that he would do something like that,” but it was just one of those happenings. Then, another night, he passed some rule that they couldn’t come in the dining room if their hair touched their collar, if it was below their collar.
MLM: The men could not come in the dining room. When the first man came in with his hair a little passed his collar, happened to be a movie star or a singer, and his hair was just a little passed his collar. I had to tell him he couldn’t come in the dining room. How embarrassing.
BDP: Oh my goodness.
MLM: Anyhow, that’s little things that happened just for the beginning years. They were trying to make new rules and regulations for the Club.
BDP: Oh, God. How many managers did you work under?
MLM: Managers, club managers, dining room managers and maître d’s and all that. I stopped counting at twenty-eight.
BDP: Oh, my heavens, but that was over seventeen years?
MLM: Yes. Well, that was a lot of changes.
BDP: I should say.
MLM: This one dining room manager, he called himself a maître d’. He came in. He was talking, teaching everybody how to do a Caesar’s salad his way. Well, we had been doing Caesar’s salads at the table. “Okay. Now, this is the way. We’re going to change what you’re doing, and we’re going to do it this way.” After you make it all and put the lettuce in and everything, so he decided the raw egg should go on top of the lettuce. Then, you mix it up. I was going, helping the waiters make the Caesar’s salads, and there was no way I was going to make a Caesar’s salad like that, so I said, “Well, I’m not going to make any more Caesar’s salads.” He says, “Yes, you are, and you’re going to do it my way.” When I made the Caesar’s salads, I wasn’t in his eyesight, so I made it my way. I couldn’t throw that raw egg on top of the lettuce.
Anyhow, oh, and then one, another one was teaching us how to flame, make steaks flambe and the big flame. We came out. The waiter would come out with a little stove and the steak. Then, he would pour brandy on the steak. The little heater would heat it all up. Then, the flame would happen, but this one night, Conrad Davis, a little Filipino waiter had been here a long time. He poured the brandy on. He had the stove on, but he poured the brandy on. He struck the match and nothing happened. He poured more brandy on and struck another match, and nothing happened. Then, at the third time, and by that time, the brandy was heated up, and the flame was so high, it hit the ceiling. I think it took his eyelashes, his eyebrows off and the front of his hair on the way, but it was so funny. It was so funny. All kinds of little things happen along the way. I wish I could remember some more really funny stories.
BDP: Oh God. Can you remember anymore?
MLM: Well, when they used to have entertainment over at the Elks Club, they had quite a bit of entertainment. As something really good was going on, there was a little path around the front lanai over on the Elks Club side. We could slip around that little path and go over and watch the entertainment. We’d take turns with that, going over there. We just stay a few minutes at a time, but it was fun.
BDP: Oh my gosh. Well, do you have anymore of your wonderful stories?
MLM: Well, I can’t think of anything at the moment, but I’m sure there are so many, so many things over the years that just … Oh, we’d have the German party?
BDP: October Fest?
MLM: October Fest, and I made all the costumes for the waiters. Their little vests, I made all those for the waiters and the waitresses and everything. That’s another little thing I did on my own. I went out and bought the felt and all the little trimmings and made all of them little vests. That was fun though.
BDP: Oh, I love that one.
MLM: They kept them for years.
BDP: What about Cinco de Mayo?
MLM: I don’t think I did anything other than maybe help decorate or something like that. I think we made big paper flowers.
BDP: Oh. We used to go.
MLM: After I was a member.
BDP: I think we often went together, mm-hmm (affirmative).
MLM: That’s after I was a member that we went together with Helen. She would always do the Mexican hat dance.
BDP: Helen Sheehan?
MLM: Helen Sheehan.
MLM: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).
BDP: We have two Helens.
MLM: We do, okay.
BDP: I don’t want to get them confused, yes, and she had this huge sombrero. She would bring it and put it down on the floor, and do the Mexican hat dance.
MLM: Yes, yes. She was wonderful.
BDP: Yes. Well, I guess that’s about it. Let’s see.
MLM: I’m sure when I get home, I’ll think of a dozen things I should have talked about.
BDP: Well, this has been wonderful.
MLM: It has been.
BDP: Thank you so very much.
MLM: Oh, thank you, Barbara. Thank you.
BDP: This will be a great addition to our archive.
MLM: Thank you so much.
BDP: Thank you.
MLM: You’re a wonderful person.
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