This oral history interview is a project of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The legal rights of this material remain with the Outrigger Canoe Club. Anyone wishing to reproduce it or quote at length from it should contact the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions that are not factual. A full transcript of the video may be found below.
An Interview by Marilyn Kali
May 5, 2017
MK: Today is Friday, May 5, 2017, and we’re in the Board Room of the Outrigger Canoe Club. 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 is my pleasure to be talking to Norman Dunmire (ND). Good morning, Norm.
MK: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family, when and where you were born, and where you grew up?
ND: Well, my history about that is pretty complicated, because evidently what had happened was my father’s family came from somewhere in Sweden. When they came to America, they brought everything with them. In those days everybody would lease a box car and they would put all their furniture and all of their possessions in a box car. This might’ve been in 1880 or something like that, because my dad was born in 1904. Then they would get in a box car and travel the train across the nation looking for farmland because they were farmers.
Evidently, they’d see an area that looked good and they’d take the box car off onto a siding and look around and see what the land was like, and get back in the box car, get hooked up again off of a siding and go across. Evidently, they went to Shell Lake, Wisconsin and found a place for a farm, and that was the original farm. He was born in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, my dad. Evidently it wasn’t that good of farming, so they eventually ended up in Iowa. My mother’s parents were kind of missionaries. They came through Virginia, and were maybe bible thumpers, I don’t know what they called them in those days. But somehow they both ended up going to the University of Nebraska, where they got married.
Then back at the farm in Iowa, that’s where I found out later on that I was born somewhere in that area. But because I was a foundling, and I had Bruce Ames check up what a foundling was, researched it, and foundling actually has no real parents. I was adopted with no parents. I really didn’t know anything about this until I went to get a passport and all my birth certificate stuff was all incorrect. At that time one of my girlfriends knew a girl that worked for Senator Inouye. So she went to the office and tried to find out my background, how I could get a passport.
Long story short, he (Senator Inouye) gets hold of the Senator in Nebraska, goes into some courthouse somewhere, and some little girl comes up with a paper that sends the paperwork to Ava, Missouri where I was born. I’ve only been to Ava, Missouri once, which is kind of interesting, on a bike trip. I visited my aunt there, and it might have been my mother. You know how these people were in those days. Nobody wanted anybody to know about adoptions, and when somebody gave their child up, they were done with it. They didn’t want to be contacted again. This is 1934, there’s no records or anything.
Well, to make a long story longer, I finally got the passport, and it was through the paperwork I got from Nebraska, to Missouri, back to here again (Hawaii) to get a passport to get my birth certificate changed, to get Ava, Missouri on there. Because you just can’t have a passport with that blank or USA. It didn’t work. So that’s kind of how my whole … That’s the beginning of everything. It took so long to work this thing out. It was frightening to think I had to wait till ’92 to find out where I was born, but probably I’ll go back there someday.
MK: Where did you go to high school?
ND: Actually I went to high school in Fort Dodge (Iowa), because that was probably the closest town to our farm. I went to the elementary school though in a little farm town where the school bus would pick you up in the morning. I had a horse I would ride to the main road, because school buses don’t come down dirt roads in Iowa, and then there was a hitch there, I’d leave my horse there. There was a bus there, it took us to the little school, brought us back, jumped on my horse, go home. Because lots of times cars did not go good on those roads, and nobody, those old cars just weren’t designed for some of those dirt roads in Iowa. In Iowa there was a road every mile. Anyway, I’d ride the horse, get on there, and go to the little schoolhouse.
Then we moved to the big city because farming at the end of the war became … Everybody consolidated their farms because they were getting bigger tractors and bigger everything, so our farm was consolidated right after the war. Then my dad was relocated into Fort Dodge, Iowa where I went to high school, and where I graduated from high school in ’52. So that was kind of exciting.
MK: Did you participate in any sports in high school?
ND: Well, I was in the band. The band, you got PE credit for that, because we were marching every day, right? Then I went out for wrestling. But then again, I had lots of jobs. We all worked at a gas station, and you worked there because you didn’t have to pay for your gas, and when the gas station closed we could put our car on the lift and redo the car. So that started my interest in cars. All of us worked in a gas station that had a decent car, and so that’s what we did at night. Gas station would close, car would go on the lift, working on the exhaust, working on everything, doing body work, everything. So that was high school.
MK: That’s how you learned all that.
ND: That’s how we learned the cars, worked in a gas station.
MK: Did you go to college?
ND: Then after one year of JC (junior college) I went to Iowa State, because I wanted to get into engineering. That was a good engineering school, and it was an ag school. So you could go there and take welding, because you’re in the ag welding, and you’d be learning these … Farmers are bringing their equipment in, we’d weld it up for free, get experience. We would redesign, work on designs of farm equipment. So I ended up getting an Industrial Engineering degree there. It was perfect. We had so much fun there, and also we could take our cars in there and work on them. We had automotive technology. We could take the engine out of our car, put on a machine and do all the testing and everything else, put it back in the car, and it was like … We had more fun in college. It was pretty fun.
MK: Did you go into the military?
ND: We all got into the Army Reserve because we thought we were all gonna get drafted. That was kind of like, it was a good thing because it was the fifth Army, we all had friends in the fifth Army, and when we went to boot camp it was in Fort Linderwood, Missouri, and we all hung out in that area. It’s like being at home. Then we had the two week summer camp, and after our six months we had two weeks summer camp. That was always fun going to summer camp, getting out of your normal work style, changing your life, putting on a uniform. The summer camp was up at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. We all loved Wisconsin, good beer, good fun. Yeah, that military experience was great. I don’t know of anybody that didn’t have fun.
MK: Did you go active duty?
ND: No. I didn’t go active duty. We were lucky. The closest we came was when we were going to go … It was just between all the wars that were happening, so we really didn’t have to go to active duty. We were ready to go at any time. The Bay of Pigs, we all had our duffle bags ready to go at the airport, but nothing ever happened. So never had to go in the military, which was kind of a shame because in Oregon I tried to go into the American Legion, and so I took them all my paperwork and they said, “You have to be in the military when there’s a war going on. You don’t have to go to war.” So I never could be a member of the American Legion. I can still go there anytime I want, but it was funny. They were so strict on who belonged to the American Legion.
MK: Interesting. How did you get from Iowa to Hawaii?
ND: Well, what happened was, this company I was working for was a precast beam company, and this was when prestress first started. This was in ’57, and I was designing precast beams for roofs and floors and all this kind of … It was just a kind of a new business then. What was happening was, the contractors were not following the guidelines set by the manufacturers, and I would have to go and inspect these jobs and do this and do that. What had happened was, a couple of jobs I’d go to, say it’s the middle of wintertime and these guys are pouring concrete on this precast slab. They’re not supposed to pour concrete if it’s a certain temperature. I’m trying to write these guys up for doing this kind of stuff. This floor is gonna fail, can’t be pouring concrete at 28 degrees, all this kind of stuff, and it was … I was becoming a nervous wreck over this job. This one particular job I just knew that, oh … So anyway, I terminated my job there.
All this time I had been looking for something else to do. Then I’d interviewed already for a job in Hawaii, and then I got a map of National Geographic and I said, “Look at this place, it doesn’t have any roads on it, and I have all my cars and everything. What am I gonna do there?” So I kind of put it off. Finally I did get a job in Honolulu, and I got a real map. So after I saw really there were a lot more roads here than I thought. Then it kind of gave me incentive, so I went back to college and got a teacher’s degree, which was easy to do. Then at that time, they had set vocational education as a big deal in Hawaii. One year of teaching experience for every year in the industry, and they also gave me my six months in the military. So I had five and a half years of working, six months, I had came here with six years of teaching experience.
I started at Kaimukī High School, I saved my first paycheck, it was $380 a month. But then they evaluated all my experience, because I had letters from all my employer and my military stuff, and it became a good deal. And, I’m in the shop fixing my car again in the auto shop. The auto shop for my cars, I got the wood shop to do this, and that really … It’s like getting paid for something I do for free.
MK: What year did you come to Hawaii?
ND: Yeah, ’61.
MK: Well, you were a teacher for a lot of years at …
ND: Oh yeah, 34 years. I paid my dues. It was fun. No but, it was really, it was fun. At that point computer technology was going faster than I was willing to go. That was kind of the kiss of death for me, because I was … At one time I finally got into architectural drafting and building construction. So we would build all kinds of things on the campus. We put the fence around it. We built a daycare center for the children, that bring the kids to school, a daycare center, we built that. We built marquees, we did everything. We surveyed the campus. I had surveying class, and surveying.
But the computer technology was just … The kids were getting smarter than I was. It was a shame that they would come there with all their lessons done on a computer, when I’m still with a drafting machine and a parallel ruler. So I knew I was doomed. I had one big last amount of money, so I bought everybody a computer, then retired. So everyone of my students had a computer, and it had a CAD system that I couldn’t even use for … They were just getting smarter that I was.
MK: When did you retire?
MK: That’s a long time ago … Do you miss teaching?
ND: Not really, because I’m always teaching. That’s why people kind of get after me, because I just can’t leave the thought of teaching alone. That’s probably why a lot of people say I talk too much because they ask me a question, it takes forever to finish it. Usually, because I was in a shop for so long, I talk too loud, and a lot people say I’m talking too loud and bothering everybody. So it just … You work in a shop, you talk loud, because the kids don’t listen and you have to get yourself known. These people, the people that complain about me have never really worked in a shop with all the noises going on.
MK: You’ve been a long time member of the Elks Club. When did you join the Elks?
ND: Well, I joined the Elks, it was in ’66 or ’67 till ’71, and we joined the Elks Club. Wally Young joined the Elks Club. I joined … A group of us joined the Elks Club, it was funny. The Outrigger had spent all this money on the Club, but they did not have an electrical outlet on the beach. The Elks Club had an electrical outlet on the beach. We could work on our boats. They loved the sailboats, and they loved the whole situation, because Nick Czar owned McWayne Marine. So they loved sailboats. They welcomed us.
The Outrigger did not want us around, type of thing, because we couldn’t get electricity on the beach, they didn’t want us riding fiberglass, they didn’t want us doing this. So we all joined the Elks Club and went down, took our boats down there to work on them, and then most of the boats out there were Elks Club members. The sailing was quite a thing in those days, but we really went to the Elks Club … I went to the Elks Club because I didn’t even know about the Outrigger very much. Because I had a boat down here, we wanted electricity, and I wasn’t an Outrigger member, so I joined the Elks Club so I’d have electricity for my boat. Then they welcomed us with boats over there. The Outrigger did not welcome sailboats here at all.
MK: Well, are you saying you just moored your boat out there with …
ND: Well, in those days there was no rules on mooring. The only rule was, 72 hours you had to move your boat. Well, we sailed every day. When you’re sailing every day, you’d probably would never have to move your boat, because it’s being moved every day. At that time we kept our boat down at Sans Souci. Wally, Tom (Reiner) knew all those guys down there, because he showed me a picture once when he’s sitting on the porch there of the house that had the railing that’s now the railing at the New Otani.
Here they are sitting in that house they were renting, so they were almost the beginning of the Outrigger moving down here, because they had the first catamaran off the beach for the Club, and they were known watermen, they’re pilots, they’re knowledgeable, they got their captain’s license, and they were somebody. So we all joined the Elks Club at about the same time, and then we started Beach and Water Safety at the Elks Club. We did that so we could keep our boat … We kept their boat out there, now my boat was down by the Sans Souci.
MK: What led you to join the Outrigger?
ND: Well, the Outrigger story is interesting because there was a time between ’71 and ’74 that I spent all my time at the Outrigger. Everybody thought I was a member. It was one of those things. I’m here every day, first guy here in the morning. By then, I had moved to the wood shop (at Kaimuki High School), and I had the metal shop and the wood shop, and more and more boats were coming in here. Then Wally, I was helping Wally make trophies. So I had the wood shop up there, and we’re slicing up all these pieces of wood for trophies.
Then I go into our shop here (at OCC), and I see our head shop guy (Domie Gose) with two fingers missing. Then I’m looking around at the equipment, I said, “What the heck is going on here?” Because I had spent years in shop safety, setting up all the shops at Kaimukī, making sure the distance from the band saw was a certain distance from the table saw, making sure the push stick is hanging by the table saw, making sure the guide is set right on the bandsaw. I go and look at this shop when I’m working with Wally and I see one of the guys with two fingers missing. I’m just scared to death looking at that shop. So I redid the entire shop, tried to make it full on shop safety.
Then everybody really thought I was a member. I’m with Wally, I’m with Tom, I’m fixing everybody’s boat. “Come and have a beer, you fixed my boat,” welding some guy’s piece up on his boat up at school. Doing these things for about two years and floating around here, not being a member. Finally they, “You got to be a member sooner or later.” So there it was, Wally and Tom got me into the Club.
MK: So you joined in 1974?
ND: Mm-hmm (affirmative), ’74.
MK: Well, it seems like you joined the Beach and Water Safety Committee right after you joined. How did that come about?
ND: Tom and Wally. They were the guys, because they could see that this Club needed it. We started it at the Elks Club. When you have a swimming pool with nobody ever there, of course they still don’t have anybody there. But you could see a need for some kind of safety on the beach, because the guys with the Hobie Cats, the canoes going … There weren’t that many Hobie Cats then though, but the canoes going in and out, all of these things. There’s so much activity going on in the beach, now that the Outrigger’s here. You just figure, you now doubled the amount of people on this beach, and so you’ve got to have some kind of control over this whole thing. It was just, we did it at the Elks Club, I just moved right down here and did it here.
MK: What was the purpose of the Beach and Water Safety Committee, what did you do?
ND: Well one thing, we tried to get these guys dealing with their boats, bringing them up on the beach. At that time we had a big raft out there, making sure they didn’t go on the other side of the raft, making sure when they came to the beach they would make sure they had help when they got to the beach, and have certain safety when they’re coming in the channel, sailing in this channel. When they brought their boats to the beach, make sure they put the sail down if they’re gonna be leaving their boat for any time at all, to wrap the sail up, and double checking life preservers. We had a $2,000 budget every year, and we would use it up, and then saving it for later on, but we used up that money all on beach services. Of course, now it’s a whole different deal, but at that time, Wally and Tom just did about everything. I was a Johnny come lately, but three of us really did the beach and water safety.
MK: Well, that was back in the glory days of our sailing program at the Club. We were racing Sunfish, and P Cats, and Scorpions. The Club had quite a fleet back then, where did they keep all those boats?
ND: Some of the boats were all helter-skelter out there. Then our moorings went all the way down past the Sans Souci. Also, the Sunfish, we made cradles for them. I made them in the wood shop, and so we kept three Sunfish on the beach in cradles ready to go all the time, because Cline Mann liked to race those Sunfish. So I made cradles for them here, and I made some for the Elks Club, because they had Scorpions, we had Sunfish. The Hobie Cats were all moored, all helter-skelter out there. Then the other Sunfish that we had were up against the wall back there in the back, and they’re lashed against the wall. They had a little cart you’d set it on and wheel them down to the beach, big fat tires.
MK: That was in Canoe Alley?
ND: Yeah, it was all in Canoe Alley. That wasn’t that crowded then, because there was no surf skis there, or one man canoes.
MK: So you said you were a sailor as well, what kind of boat did you have?
ND: Well, actually I had about five P Cats, because they would wear out because of the fiberglass in those days was not very sun resistant. The first one I had in the early ’60s, and I kept that at the Sans Souci. I got to know Wally and Tom because I had a P Cat with Claude Enran who was my ceramics teacher up a UH in the ’60s. So we’d go sailing all the time in that orange P Cat, and we kept it Sans Souci. Then Wally kept their boat over here in front of the Outrigger. So the boats were just kind of helter-skelter in those days, nobody had real assigned moorings. The P Cat was the beginning of catamarans, and that was brought about by in ’66, the Endless Summer, because all the surfers had never seen a catamaran. In the Endless Summer, a P Cat, we did some things out here with a P Cat on the Endless Summer, and the surf was-
MK: Now, just a minute. The Endless Summer was a movie, a surfing movie.
ND: Yeah, the movie Endless Summer.
ND: People had never seen … There’s a Malibu Outrigger canoe, which is very similar to our Outrigger canoes. But in California, these guys are surfing those things, and sailing those things, and in Hawaii for somebody to see a Malibu Outrigger punching through the surf and riding waves was pretty overwhelming, and to see catamarans, like the P Cat at that time, there were no Hobie Cats then, catching waves, meant that, “Gosh, I can surf a boat, and surf a surfboard.”
So there was a full on movement there, and about that time, then the Hobie Cat came out. Then a lot of the guys says, “Now I can have a Hobie Cat, I can surf that.” Nobody thought you could do that, but here’s a boat you can surf and sail. So the Hobie Cat people weren’t sailors. That was kind of too bad, but anyway it just, that’s probably why it didn’t last that long. They just weren’t into sailing. You had to be a real sailor to mess around with those boats, and it was just typical that even people that sailed mono hulls, never went for the catamaran, just two different cults.
MK: Now we’re sailing catamarans.
ND: And sailing canoes have taken the place. It’s just overwhelming, yep.
MK: I know you were involved in the development of the anchorage that we have out in front of the Club. Tell me about that.
ND: What was happening was, more and more boats were going out there. These guys are bringing engine blocks down, leaking oil, and transmission cases, and cement blocks. It was almost like a graveyard out here of rubbish that everybody’s using to anchor their boats.
MK: They just dropped it on the …
ND: Just went out and dropped it out there, put it on a floater to help, dropped it off, and then put a chain on it or something. Swimmers didn’t like it. They’d go out there put their foot down on top of an engine block, or a transmission case, or anything. So Tom and Wally went out to Kilgo’s one time and picked up a whole truckload of weights so that everybody would have the same weight. It was a pretty good weight too, it was about a three inch thick steel plate that they put on the back of a forklift to balance it out, so when a forklift picks up something it doesn’t tip over.
They were worn out, they were excess, something left over from some whatever it was. They were at Kilgo’s, so we bought them all. We replaced a lot of these people’s moorings with these flat plates, because they had a hole in the middle to fit over a rod that went down the back of the forklift. So they were perfect to hook up your boat to, and so we started replacing everybody’s boat anchors with these plates. They were pretty good, because they’ll drag around the bottom a little bit, and the boat will move and shift a little bit, but not too much. They also sink in the sand, disappear, which probably most of them have disappeared now, but they were perfect anchorages.
Then one by one we’d get the rubbish out of there, but that still wasn’t really permanent, but it was a good in between thing. Then at that time we sponsored one of the catamarans, The Glass Slipper, which won the Transpac race. We kept it in front of the Club, and we made a special mooring for that.
MK: Then you set up a system of cables at some point.
ND: Yeah, the whole idea was try to organize this thing, because you could get so many boats on it if you would just make sure that all the boats were … You know, when you go to a harbor and you look at a boat, a good boat harbor, they’re all lined up in a nice row. So what we did was, we got the Sea Engineering guys to come out and put some pins down, and we got some stainless steel rope, wire rope, stainless steel cable, and put two rows down as a trial.
Then we measured every 25 feet and put a clamp, 25 feet, put a clamp, and so we could try to get these guys all lined up in a row, could get so many more boats in and be safer for everybody, because boats are pulling on at a different time. Also what we were able to do was put a boat on the back of another boat, so if this boat pulled forward, it took the other boat going the other direction. You see what I mean, we’re trying to get boats pulling in two different directions, so now we can get two rows of boats in. But it started out with just a trial basis, with just two lines down with pins.
Well what happened was, the wire rope sawed the pins in about a year, the wire rope had sawed through the pins, just that moving back and forth, and we found out we didn’t need pins in the middle. We kept the pin on one end, and the other end we put a pin. Only needed two pins with this wire rope and a come along to make it nice and taut. Then nobody anchored anywhere near the pin, because the pin would probably pull out. But we had Sea Engineering guys put the pins in, and so they did a good job. After we had that two row, we put in a third wire row in there, and that was perfect.
Everybody was 25 feet apart, and we’d already figured out the biggest boat was supposed to be 20 feet if you got a 15 foot scope on each end. We designed it for the P Cat of course, since our boat was the first boat out there. So it was 50 feet apart, each boat had 15 feet of scope, and that’s kind of what’s required for a 20 foot boat. So now we have a 20 foot boat with 15 feet on the front, 15 feet on the stern, so that worked out perfect for everybody. They were all lined up in a nice row, and it was quite successful.
MK: How many boats were we able to-
ND: Oh, there might have been 60 out there at one time. It was just outta … It was a lot of boats out there.
MK: Who paid for all that?
ND: That all come from our Beach and Water Safety money.
MK: So Outrigger paid for it?
ND: Yeah, Outrigger paid for everything. A lot of the volunteer work though, I mean for all the labor and everything.
MK: Did we need a permit to do that? Because I know the Harbor Commission at that time regulated a lot of the coastline. Did we need permission to do this, or was it something that we just did?
ND: Well, it’s like when you hire a contractor with a contractor’s license. Really nobody, because his license is at stake, he does everything right. I think because Sea Engineering guys drilled these holes, that’s all we’re talking about. I think because Sea Engineering did it, I don’t anybody ever questioned the fact that we weren’t really disrupting the coral or doing anything that was too far out of control. We made a set of drawings what we were gonna do with the cables, and at that time they were kind of happy we were doing something because the objective of it was to get it designated as a small boat harbor.
So the Sans Souci guys were happy to get our boats out from underneath there, from front of there. There were several boats, and there’s no control over these boats, and now we’re organizing it. We’re making three rows of cables to take care of all these boats, and the safety factor is taken care of. We don’t have some boat wandering into another boat, or some anchor picking up and getting into a swimming area. We now have a designated area, all the cables are in, and it was very successful, it worked.
MK: Were they reserved places for each boat, or was it just first come, first serve?
ND: Well, what we tried to do was, because there’s 20 foot boats, which ours is 20 foot boat, we tried to get … So there’s a 20 foot boat, and then maybe a Hobie 14, or maybe a Hobie 16, or maybe a Hobie 18, another 20 foot boat, we tried to stagger it so that there was plenty of room for everybody. We staggered the placement of the boats, and they would come up, of course it was first come, first serve type of thing. So we had the number one spot right on the corner, the best spot there was, because we could sail away from it and sail to it.
Because we didn’t want to go to the beach, the 20 foot boat shouldn’t be coming up on the beach like that. So we didn’t want to go to the beach. That was, we tried to give people that sailed the most the easiest place to leave their mooring and go sailing, to be able to come back and go up to the mooring. So those people got the choice places. The guys that hardly ever sailed would be down the line somewhere. So if you used your boat a lot, you got a front row so you’re not coming up on the beach all the time with your boat.
MK: Is the anchorage public, or is it private?
ND: Well, what we had to do was anybody can put their boat out there. Anybody can put their boat, they give us their name, we register it, and we found out later we have to have a name, plus we need an emergency name. This guy’s on vacation, his boat wandering around out there, so we now have a form, the person’s name, and emergency number to call. We also have an incident report, your boat banged the boat next to it, your boat put a mark on another boat, your boat put a hole in another boat. So we now have a full on form for that. They put their number down, their emergency number, and at the bottom if their boat does an incident report we log that in there too. I don’t know what we can do, but we still log it. We keep track of it, at our beach stand.
MK: Do we charge, since Outrigger paid for it, do we charge for doing this?
ND: No, we don’t charge anything. Anybody can put a boat. That was part of the deal, because of the fact that the Coast Guard did not want just boats put any old place. People were just taking advantage of the ocean more or less, and they were putting boats all kind of places. They’d put it on Kahala Beach somewhere. They would put it Diamond Head, they were just … Once this was designated a small boat harbor, they say, “Put it in front of the Outrigger.” Of course they never did, or they could if they wanted to, but it was open. Anybody could put their boat out there that wanted to.
MK: Then they closed the other areas for mooring boats.
ND: Totally. Totally closed the other areas.
MK: So we had the only small boat-
ND: Harbor on this side.
MK: … harbor on the South Shore, basically.
ND: Yep, mm-hmm (affirmative).
MK: I remember when hurricane Eva hit in 1982, and a lot of the boats were ripped out of their moorings.
MK: Is there any protection for the boats there?
ND: Not really. Our boat was the only boat left. Only one boat was left, and that was our P Cat. It survived because we had hooked our boat up differently than everybody else, because those big blocks I was telling you before, on the back of our boat we had one of those blocks, which when the wind really switched, it could drag that block along. The other boats were fixed, they couldn’t move around. We had put a chain through that hole before it went to the cable, so our boat was able to rotate clear out of position, where none of the other boats could because they’re only allowed so much swing each way. Then the cables came up, and so when the cable came up those boats were goners. Our boat, because we had that extra weight on there, survived.
Everybody put their boat on the beach, which is a mistake, because it wasn’t the wave and the surf and everything, it was the wind. So if you put your boat on the beach it was doing cartwheels down on the beach. There were boats scattered all the way to Waikiki, and that’s when we lost our raft out in front, our big swimming raft with the Outrigger emblem on it. That was all scattered up and down the beach, chunks of foam all the way down to almost Kewalo basin. I mean, just all these boat pieces.
MK: Was the cable system damaged?
ND: Oh yeah, it was pretty bad. It was all twisted and a couple of things weren’t nice, was the fact that one of the pins we had put in had taken a giant chunk of coral out, probably could go to jail for that. But anyway, one of those pins had taken a chunk of coral out this big, because it was just, the wind was so fierce and the swell was so bad that the pin stayed on the ocean floor but it picked up this big chunk of coral. So we never replaced that pin, because underneath that was nothing structural on that end. We end up putting an anchor down at the end and not a pin.
So on that end, we ended putting anchors, put anchors down on that end and left the pins on this end, but put the anchors on the other end. So the anchors could move a little bit and not be so fixed. But anyway, the mooring system was never quite the same after that, and then everybody got discouraged in sailing after that. They were just, it’s hard to get something kick started again, and it was the end of an era. That hurricane just about did it for everybody, and it took us so long to try to get the moorings back into shape again. The cables were strewn all over the place and it was a real problem just getting the cables up enough so the guys could put their boats back out there.
It was also about that time, what was happening is the wind surfer came along. That was, “Who wants a Hobie Cat, or any kind of a catamaran, when you just put this thing on your car and have 10 times more fun?” That just hurt sailing. The whole sailing community basically went down the tubes. “Why should I take my dad’s sixty-foot yacht out for a day of sailing and spend six hours cleaning it up afterwards, when I can just put a windsurfer on my Porsche and go to Diamond Head and have ten times more fun, put it back on top of my Porsche and go home?” So the windsurfer came along at just at the right time. Nobody wanted to sail anymore, they wanted that, because now, “I can surf, I can sail, I can do all of that, and that’s the end of it. I just go home.”
MK: Doesn’t cost as much either.
ND: Doesn’t cost as much either.
MK: So you did fix the cable system after hurricane Eva?
ND: Marginal. Marginal because we had not planned on that at all. It was almost a difficult fix. The cable, cable is great when it’s straight, you put knot in a cable or a kink in one of those cables, especially a half inch cable, if you put a kink or a knot in it, it’s almost impossible to deal with. We had extra cable at the end for just example that something like that happening, but it wasn’t enough. We just never got it back to the same situation. The cable is there, but it’s not quite the same as it was.
MK: Then just ten years later, we had Hurricane Iniki, and did we have boats out there?
ND: Yes, but then all the die hards then, that was the kiss of death. When that came along they said, “That’s it.” A few of the guys came back, put their boats out there. As I said, during this whole time, because the anchorage was not 100%, everybody just went another direction. They might have gone out and bought a dirt bike or something, but the kind of athlete that was sailing in those days was the type of guy that had a dirt bike, had a windsurfer, he surfed. It was just downsizing your sports activities. Then again, there were so many other sports coming along about then, people just had a lot more things to do than mess around with a boat down here. So it was almost the end of it.
MK: You were chairman of the Beach and Water Safety Committee both hurricane times-
MK: What was the committee’s recommendation after that, not go back and fix it, or?
ND: At that time there was really no recommendation because there was just no demand. There was really no demand to go back out there, and about that time it was just before that, we had finally gotten our power boat permission out here. We got that kind of because the Hobie Cats were getting into trouble all the time. They were really kind of a pain for everybody, because they were going out there and having to get rescued. It was somebody getting into a situation they couldn’t handle.
These people couldn’t sail the Hobie Cats very well, and several people who were very poor sailors were going out there, getting into trouble, and the Coast Guarders were getting tired of rescuing these guys. Because actually, a life guard has a hard time trying to save somebody in a sailboat, and I think the Coast Guard was getting tired of rescuing these guys too. So that’s kind of about the time they said, “Why don’t you guys get a rescue boat and rescue your own guys, so we don’t have to keep going down there to save some Hobie Cat guy that’s upside down and have to tow him to shore?”
So that was about the time we got our power boats in here. That might have been, I forgot what, but probably right after ’82 or something like that. Now we have a power boat in here to save all these … No, we had our power boat before that, but it was basically as a rescue for Beach and Water Safety. So the committee was the one that decided about the power boat. They said, “We need a rescue operation here at the Club for these people.” We rescue Elks, we rescue everybody of course. But mainly, the Hobie Cat guys are getting in trouble all the time.
MK: Well, did the Club own any Hobie Cats, or were they all private?
ND: What happened, we had the Hobie National Championships here, and they gave us a Hobie Cat, Hobie 16. We kept it up there where the Dad canoe is now, and you could qualify for it and take it out. Of course, that didn’t last long because you know, it is, you have to be a sailor. Even if you’re qualified, you can make a mistake so easy on those boats. I mean, you look at the people sailing around on a lake, and you see them sailing here, and even like in Endless Summer you see them sailing. You come to Hawaii, and this is a whole different thing. This was not designed … It was designed … A P Cat is about right. A P Cat has a solid wing on it, and you can put three people on a P Cat to help balance it out, but the Hobie Cat was really too narrow for the design. The design of a catamaran is supposed to be, one is supposed to be the width of the boat, two is the length of the boat, and three is the mast. So if it’s 10 feet wide, 20 feet long, 30 foot mast, and the Hobie Cat didn’t fit those.
So it was designed only as a recreational thing, not for a real serious sailor of catamarans. So the only guys that were really serious were Tom Reiner and Wally Young. They were serious. Then you have a few other guys, Jim Growney. You have a lot of guys were serious sailors, but all those guys were not serious. They were just surfers, and that’s why it was just end of an era. They went in on something else.
MK: We still have boats moored out there, how would describe our anchorage today?
ND: Very sad in a way. It’s just, they’re still hooked to the cable because it doesn’t matter where the cable is going. The cable is all over the place out there, but the cable is still a good thing to anchor to. It’s there, it’s just not in a straight line. So they go down, find a cable and hook on to it, and they figure the vantage to move around and everything. So it’s still good anchorage, because everybody’s pulling at a different time on the cable, and since the cable is all hooked up on one end, it doesn’t have to be hooked up on the other end because it’s just people pulling on the cable at different times, it’s able to adjust.
Then some people have their boats hooked one way, and one the other way. It’s helter-skelter, but somehow it’s working. But there are plans now to kind of revamp the whole thing, because it’s getting crowded. If everybody put their ama on the same side, one got the ama in this side, one guy has the ama on the other side. If everybody, if it was organized, and you could have a 16 foot canoe and then a 23 foot canoe, and then some are trimarans. So it could be done. I had a drawing once where you could really fit everything out there. If everybody put their ama on the same side, and everybody had their boats facing the same direction, anything, but just to make it organized again.
It’s too, there’s no organization now, but sometimes no organization is better than organization. But this seems to be working, it’s amazing how well it’s working, because now we have a 45 foot canoe out there, but they put in their own pin. They go to the cable, and then they put their own pin in, because like I said, you have a 45 foot canoe on a cable that’s 50 feet apart. So they put their own extra pin in, Bruce Black, these guys put their own pin in. Anybody could put one pin in, you come out with one of those underwater drills, zzzt, epoxy, zzzt, pin.
MK: Isn’t Dean Stahl doing that for most-
ND: He’s gonna be doing it now. He’s the one that helped us before. Sea Engineering helped us before, and he’s gonna be working on the new project. But the main thing, number one, is the power boats, because they’ve never been moored correctly. So they’re gonna do the power boats first, and then they’ll do the cables next.
MK: How many boats are out there now?
ND: Oh, it’s hard to keep … They keep coming and going all the time. We must have at least 30 boats out there.
MK: But a lot of them are just canoes.
ND: Right now, see because another thing that was kind of … See before when there were sailboats out there you have to a HA sticker. So then they would have to come down, the DLNR would come down to check our HA stickers. They were out of date, they’d have to write a ticket for the boat. I don’t think they enjoyed that, but all the P Cats had to have a sticker. The canoes, because Hawaii outrigger canoes did not have to have a sticker.
So that meant that you could put a canoe anywhere, you didn’t have to have a sticker, so we became very slack in that. So the canoes don’t need a sticker, maybe if it’s a commercial canoe, if it has an engine on it, you need a sticker. There’s only one out there that has an engine on it, so it needs a sticker, HA, and it needs certification and all that. But everything, just the canoes you don’t need anything. Anybody can put a canoe out there.
MK: Does Outrigger still manage the moorage?
ND: We still keep track of everybody that’s out there. If a canoe is loose, we call the person, “Get down here. Your canoe is loose.” If we have to, if it looks bad, we’ll go out and do a jerry rig to make sure it doesn’t bang somebody else’s. We really keep track of that. We have the telephone number of everybody that’s got a canoe out there so we can get ahold of them. That’s important, because if they get loose, the canoes are … The Hobie Cats were very fragile, and the P Cats were very fragile. These canoes are bulletproof. They’re heavy, they can really raise havoc with each other when they start punching each other with the ama, or the manu start banging into somebody. They can do more damage than a little sailboat. You really have to monitor those boats to make sure they’re not touching each other, that in kona wind they swing a certain way, trade winds, they swing another way.
MK: So the only motorized vessel out there though is Outrigger’s Whaler?
ND: Yes, and that one big canoe, which has an HA sticker on it.
MK: That’s Bruce’s (Black).
ND: Bruce’s, yeah.
MK: Is the small boat harbor under DLNR?
ND: Probably, but the fact is they probably don’t want to have to be responsible for this, because they came down and wrote tickets, but they’ve stopped all of that. They have never come down … They come down on the jet ski, but they’re not looking at HA numbers or anything like that. I think that this was just another problem for them. It solved one problem from having boats everywhere, but then again, now that it’s a small boat harbor, they’ve gotta check the HA numbers. “Has this guy paid whatever it is, and is this boat safe?” So they kind of shined us off. I mean, the jet ski guys used to come down here and look at the boats, now they can’t wait to get away from the boats. They don’t want to deal with these boats at all down here.
MK: Well, we’re talking the ocean front in front of the Club, what about the windsock? Do you recall how that got installed?
ND: Well, that was the very first thing that went up. That was the very, and then everybody complained about that. We had everybody, “Oh, look what you’re doing to the reef. Oh my, oh this thing is moving around in here.” All kinds of people took pictures of it from the Sans Souci, from the Colony Surf, “What are you trying to do to our reef? We see you guys out there.” So a lot of controversy over that. One of the things that we wanted to do, and that’s the first thing we did, was when we said, “Okay, we’ll make this a small boat harbor, but we want the windsock grandfathered in.”
Because that time this whole idea was Wally and Tom would get the windsocks out at the airport for free, Shell Advertising. Get the windsocks for free, and we built the first one in our shop here. I made the top of it up at the machine shop up at Kaimukī High School. All Teflon bearings, we still have the same one today. So we built that, but then everybody complaining about it. Well, we made a deal when we got a small boat harbor, we want the windsock grandfathered in.
That time we got Doug Carr to come down from the Big Island, and we made it permanent. The bottom pipe is permanent. They just mixed up some concrete, put it in a plastic bag, dove down, and make like a cake thing, and squeezed out the concrete into the bottom of that thing, and kept it from moving around and damaging the reef. Now that, the basic stem in there is permanent, and it’s grandfathered in. So nobody can touch that windsock, and everybody, people got used to it. You look out there and you see this thing out and you’re, “What’s that orange thing doing out there?” You don’t sail, you don’t swim, you don’t want to look at that. But everybody got used to it, and so now it’s grandfathered in. Nobody’s saying anything about it, and it’s really kind of a windfall that we get to keep that there.
MK: Well, I’ve seen it’s gotten knocked off a couple of times.
ND: That’s because the people that surf the canoes, Outrigger people, it’s supposed to be a … You know, when you shoot the gap, everybody’s always trying to shoot the gap between the windsock and the Diamond Head side, because there’s a slot in there where there’s no, because it’s kind of a flat area. They’re always trying to shoot the gap over there, and then once in a while they clip it. So it just everybody’s just fooling with that windsock. Another time about ten people trying to make a human thing out of it, they’re climbing on it and a wave hit them and it went over.
Because the windsock is meant to break off so we don’t hurt the big pipe that goes clear down in there. So it’s kind of like a breakaway thing anyway. So we don’t care if somebody hits it, and … Well, we do care, but we keep an extra pipe back there. So if somebody hits it we can go right out, put a new pipe in, put the basket back on top, and we’re good. So we’re ready for that, but everybody tries to shoot the gap. Canoe can lose it in fact, try to get close and then lose control and take it out. But right now, the bottom part is pretty set, and it’s made to break off and bend real easy.
MK: And it survived the two hurricanes.
ND: It survived the two hurricanes.
MK: How far is the windsock from the beach?
ND: It’s out and back is a quarter of a mile. So it’s pretty close, everybody uses the windsock.
MK: Now, we also have a swim buoy.
ND: The swim buoy is because we had a beautiful mooring we made for the (swim) platform we had out there. So when the platform … That was kind of our swimming area. That was our marking for the swimming area. So when our platform got taken out in the first hurricane, we put the swim buoy there. So on the same mooring line that we had designed for the platform, the big Outrigger platform. That was a windfall, and now we have a place we can tell people that says, “No swim area,” to keep all the canoes out of there.
MK: Do you know how far it is to the swim buoy?
ND: Oh, the one right out in front, oh I don’t know how far that is.
MK: Okay, so not quite as far. Do you have any knowledge of the groins that were built on either side of the Outrigger? The one in front of the Colony Surf and the one that was by the Elks Club.
ND: Well, the one in front of the Colony Surf was done by John Barkhorn. In those days, we’re losing guys like that, but those days all these people knew everybody. You could do anything. It was almost like when we had a bulldozer in here bulldozing the reef. You could do about anything you wanted to do if it was done in a hurry, and probably on a weekend. John Barkhorn was kind of somebody in the town, and he knew Andy Anderson, he knew all these guys.
So they put that groin in, in just a heartbeat they put that in. Then it was cherried out. The first 70 feet is cherried out, because we have a permit for the first 70 feet. You know people used to, “At 70 feet, let’s just make it 100, who knows what 70 feet is?” Nobody measured it. So the permit is for 70 feet, but somehow it ended up going all the way out there. So if you look at it now, we just had it refurbished after the hurricanes, but only the 70 feet which is permitted.
But the one in front of the Elks, over there that was put in because when they’re putting the pilings for all these buildings, they cut the tops off. What do you do with them? So we got some pilings that had been cut off, and put them out there. Of course the first thing gonna happen was, the wave knocked one of those pilings over. So Cline Mann had kind of designed that, and the pilings were starting to move. So we got a hold of cables, stainless steel cable, and some come alongs, and put cables and cable clamps around those ends of pilings so they couldn’t move. So they were there for a long, long time until we had to take them out.
MK: That was to kind of protect our beach.
ND: Yes. It was just that the water would start at the Elks Club and get up a lot of speed by the time it hit our beach hitter thing grow out. So it was just kind of a deterrent. We don’t know if it worked or not. I think the Elks Club might have lost more sand than the sand we gained from that. We did lose sand when we took that out.
MK: But it’s been gone since 2002, I think-
MK: … then is when they took it out. To your knowledge, they dredged the lagoon in the early ’60s, I guess.
ND: ’62, ’62.
ND: It was classic.
MK: Is when the dredged it, has it ever been dredged since?
ND: No it hasn’t, because now you can’t do anything like that. I mean, now to do anything in the ocean is just prohibitive. You can’t … Like say they brought in sand down Waikiki, but that was a completely different setup. You can’t do any dredging. The only way you can do anything is like with our moorings, if you were to put in those moorings today, you probably couldn’t, but you certainly can fix something that’s already there. So the answer to saving our moorings possibly is to just repair what you have. You can always do that. You can’t add anything to that ocean nowadays, or somebody’s gonna take a picture of you and you’re gonna be on Facebook or something, who knows? But they watch you, everything that goes on that ocean, people watch.
MK: Thank you for sharing your knowledge of our beach and our lagoon out here. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
ND: Well, what happened from all of this is, we have gained a lot more beach attendants, and their expertise is way beyond what we ever thought would be possible. I mean, they can save people’s lives. I mean, they’ve done so much, and it’s really taking it more than one step further, because we kind of had a cap on everything we did. We only could do so much. We’re not gonna swim out there and save anybody. We can’t put a tourniquet on anybody. We can’t use a defibrillator. We can’t do any of that.
But an offshoot from the Beach and Water Safety is what we have today is a group of people that can save lives. We just had another thing in our parking lot. These guys can do anything. We’ve had guys go down with heart attacks. It’s just, what the Club has done with our beach services has probably improved more than anything in the entire Club. It’s just, they’re on everything all the time. I mean, they’re getting the boats, checking this out, helping with this, helping everybody with everything. It’s just, it’s taken it way above and beyond what we could’ve expected at the Club, and it’s really been a windfall.
They can do things that nobody else can do, and they’re all certified for all kinds of emergencies. They’ve all learned boating techniques. They’ve all learned surfing techniques, and canoe techniques. It’s just, it would be hard to imagine Tom or Wally ever thinking that these guys can do what they do today. They just really deserve a lot of credit for everything they’ve done. You could write a book on what these people have learned and what they do with our beach.
MK: They made it a much safer place.
ND: Oh, yes. People feel more confident just swimming in that, and because they help with the races, and they help with all types of things down here. They’re just not here to just put the back rests out and things like that. They’ve just gone way beyond that, so they really deserve a lot. It’s just overwhelming what they’ve come up with.
MK: Well, that’s wonderful. I’m sure they will appreciate that approval because they get maligned a lot for a lot of other things. So I think thanks for the pat on the back for them. You spent a lot of time at our Club, and you’ve been really active in all of our ocean programs, where did you start? With surfing, or canoe racing, what was your first sport?
ND: It would be sailing, because before I was a member I had a sailboat here. Of course, everybody thought I was a member. But it was the sailing, because what I was trying to do when I came to Hawaii was do everything I couldn’t do back in Iowa, and it just seemed like sailing was there. Surfing was okay, but surfing was a little more of a problem, learning how to surf. Sailing seemed to be more natural, and I was very lucky, wherever I was there was always a sailboat. You get to know people at the Waikiki Yacht Club, so there’s always sailing, and it seemed like there was more of a challenge in sailing than anything else. So it really started out in sailing. Used to sail like almost every day down here.
MK: What did you start out with, what kind of boats?
ND: The P Cat, started out with a P Cat. Just crewing, and then finally got my own, and then eventually had five of them.
MK: Why did you have so many?
ND: Well, because the technology in those days was so poor that the ultraviolet, somebody took a picture of me one time and my boat was bending in the middle, just because it was getting ready to break in half. Also, we were lucky that Charlie Martin, who was kind of helped with us at times out here, because he had a canoe and wanted to look after it. Was with Pan Am, and so every time we’d buy a new boat, he would just put it in Pan Am. They would stop down here, down at the airport they’d stop and some big Samoans would come out and we’d get the boat whaler and go down and they would toss it in the water, and we’d go down and get a new boat.
We’d use the same rig every time. So we’re talking about $2,000 for a brand new boat, and each time the boat would be better because the materials were better. The epoxys came out, aluminum bar epoxyed into fiberglass, who ever heard of that? But every boat was updated from the boat before. Then the last boat they made me was a full on 10 feet wide, so it matched the catamaran specs. So it was actually 10 by 20 by 30. That was perfect. The only reason it was never 10 feet wide was to trailer it down the road.
So they made me this was a one-off boat, 10 feet wide, which meant it didn’t tip over as easy, and it meant that the whole thing was more stable. You didn’t have to be sitting out, hiking out, doing all these tricky things. We figure it was more of a gentleman’s catamaran. It was so much easier to handle. It was just a dream to have, and that’s what I had until the end.
MK: Was it caught up in one of the hurricanes?
ND: No, it wasn’t. Finally, what had happened was, I had no sailing partners anymore. Tom and Wally were dead, nobody was really in … It used to be the girls loved to go sailing. Now, they have so many other things to do, nobody wants to go sailing. They’ve heard so many horror stories about catamarans they say, “You think I’m going …” it was just an end of an era too. The catamaran was just, it was all over for catamarans. Nobody wanted to go sailing. You can’t sail them by yourself, and you need somebody that knows how to sail to go sailing with you. It took two people. You just couldn’t just grab somebody off the beach on a P Cat, because they’ve gotta handle the jib, they gotta know when to let go, they gotta know everything. Those people just weren’t around anymore, and it was just at the end, so I just finally sold it.
MK: So sailing was your first love.
MK: You mentioned that you didn’t surf much.
ND: Yeah, I didn’t because it was dealing with the surfboard. I’d just go down and get one from the beach and go surfing out in front in Waikiki, and then when I was here we had some racks. I was an Outrigger, we had racks at Sans Souci. They’d let us use the racks out there, so I surfed out in front here, and in fact one of the guys that lived in our shack over here, Oscar Teller, taught me how to surf out here at Castles. He’s the guy that they named Old Mans after, Oscar Teller, and he lived in there with the hippie houses with Tommy Holmes and all those guys. But it was, that part was good. I learned how to surf really when I came down here more than I did in Waikiki.
MK: Tell us about your surfing bus.
ND: Oh yeah, the surf bus. That was because the Minns had, Gilbert Minn, Albert Minn, and Phillip Minn, they all were into ocean.
MK: There were the beach . . .
ND: Well, Al Minn was our swimming coach at Kaimukī High School. He ended up going to the other side with college over there eventually, and Philip Minn had the beach stand down here. So we got talking to make us suits for Kaimukī High School surfing team. So I became the surfing instructor, only because I had a PUC license to drive the bus. So he bought the school a bus and I cut the top off in my metal shop. Then we put surfboard racks all around the side of this school bus.
Then we all had our shorts and everything, and we’d go to Makaha, and they’d see that Kaimukī bus coming in there with all these surfboards and all these guys on there. They almost got a bad name. Then we’d go to Haleiwa, we’d pull in there with a school bus, all these kids and their surfboards and everything else. But then I gave up my PUC license because it got to be if anything went wrong, all this kind of stuff, too much responsibility, driving that school … I could just see me getting into trouble doing this, so we kind of phased out the surfing program, but the bus lived on.
In fact, Al Minn, they had a big article about him in some newspaper or something not too long ago. They were talking about that surf bus because they continued to use that for his Summer Fun program. He started Summer Fun in Hawaii, long before Punahou had it. Where he could go to Punahou and get a credit. Take the surfing, diving, and everything else, and they would take this bus on those expeditions. It’s kind of classic. But Al Minn started that whole thing.
MK: Lots of fun for the kids.
ND: Oh, yeah.
MK: You got involved in paddling, like most Outrigger members, when did you start?
ND: Well, I started right away paddling in ’74 as a novice. Of course, you were a novice until you got a gold medal in those days. So we were novices for quite some time, and then finally we did get a medal there at Kaneohe Bay, and so we moved up in through the ranks. But our group was kind of lucky because there’s a certain core of us. Of course, headed up Bruce Ames, legend. I mean, he’s still paddling. But what happened was just about the time, of course we were Novice As and then we got our medal in Novice A, then you start moving up, but about that time, they came out with the Junior Master’s, that was 35. So we were golden, you just came out and we were all about 35. Then the Senior Master’s when we were all 45. So all these years we were getting gold medals and having a good time. I think we just out aged the paddling program, because now we’re 65, and we don’t really have anyplace to go at that time.
Then also at that time, the older guys had moved to the Ala Wai to paddle, and we didn’t want to go there because of infections and it just was not a pleasant place to paddle. We all want to paddle in front of the Club. The older you get, the less you want to … the more you want to be around the Club, paddle in front of the Club. Going to the Ala Wai I was just not our idea of fun. So we phased our … Our age alone took us out of the program. We just aged out, so that was it.
MK: You did two Molokai’s.
ND: I did a lot of Molokai’s. What happened was, Bruce, we took our crew and paddled for Keaukaha (Canoe Club) on the Big Island for about another four or five years. Norman Ho, we all got together because we were just aged out here, but on the Big Island they loved us. There were a lot of Outrigger guys that have moved to the Big Island. Somehow had joined Keaukaha, and also we had Peter Greenwell with Keauhou over there, and he has his own canoes. So he can paddle within his own club. So we paddled Keauhou with Peter Greenwell, and on this. So we paddled a lot of Molokai’s, but not with Outrigger. But like I said, we’d aged out here, but those guys, we still had fun over there, and they didn’t have to win, they just wanted to paddle. In fact, they have no paddling season. Every day for them is paddling. They don’t wait for the paddling season. You could go up there this weekend and they’ll have a race, they’ll be doing something. Probably they just want to get out of the house. They paddled in the bay all the time, there’s canoes going, not just during the season.
MK: So are you still paddling with them?
ND: No. What had happened with those guys was, they are now our age, they’re not giving up their seats anymore. It’s amazing. We go over there now and they got the same guys, and even though a few guys have died, they are more set in their ways than the younger groups. So we’ve gone there a couple of times and paddled in the mixed, because they don’t want the paddle with a woman kind of thing. They’re just, they’re all set. So we can paddle with the mixed, any mixed crew you can get in. So you can get in mixed with the juniors, you could get in that crew. Just there’s a thing that those guys are not quite ready to paddle with the women, and the women are probably happy with that. They don’t their canoe interrupted with a bunch of guys either, so it really is … But they’re set in their ways on the Big Island. It’s hard, you can’t get on a crew anymore. I’ve gone down there a couple of times. So I took a one man over there. I keep a one man on the Big Island.
MK: And you go play with them.
ND: Yeah, and they got a place I can put my canoe right with them. It just so happened my canoe was yellow. I bought it from George Pray here, and it’s yellow. That’s their colors, yellow and white, so now I get to put it in their lockers down there.
MK: Well, that’s fun, but did you enjoy paddling?
ND: It was fun, because people like … There’s an arrow where you like to do your own thing, and that’s why a lot of people start running, but there was a certain thing that in paddling, where you do have a group of guys. Like we had the Knights of the Morning Round Table that used to run this Club, and it was Bruce Ames and all of us guys that they would come to us and ask us what to do with the Club. Mike Town, we had judges, we had three lawyers, we had two judges, couple of school teachers, you know, it was just a well-rounded group.
We had Linc Scafe who was club chairman, and we was in canoe committees one after another, and every time there was a party we had our own table, always had our own table. When we went paddling, we got the bus, because we’re on the committee, so we would get the Club van. We didn’t have to drive to the races, we took the Club van, we towed the canoe. We did this, we did that. We had such a nucleus of guys that just hung out only because of the paddling program. It was such a nucleus for a bunch of guys.
Then the fact we all had our coffee before practice, then we’d all have our beers in the afternoon together. When there was a luau, we had our own table. Any function of the Club, we had our own table. In the morning nobody ever sat at that table over in the corner where we sat, and the manager would come over and ask. If there was problem, he came to us. We had the answers. It was pretty classic. End of an era.
MK: You were also got involved in paddle boarding.
MK: I see your name on a trophy that we have.
ND: Paddle boarding, Cline Mann came up with paddle boarding. The reason I got into paddle boarding was, a lot of the Australians were coming here with contests for anybody to get them interested in beach and water safety. What they had was swim, paddle board, surf ski. So I had a surf ski, and I had swimming, and the paddle board I didn’t have. So in order to really enter the event, you really needed your own tools. You didn’t want to borrow somebody else’s. So Joe Quigg designed me a paddle board that was fabulous.
So I got into paddle boarding just for the triathlons. It wasn’t just … Now on surf ski, I was pretty good on the surf ski, but a lot of the guys who were good on the surf ski weren’t very good in paddling, and you had to be good in all three in order to come in pretty good. I know one time they said, “Hurry up and go down to Kaimana Beach, we see there’s nobody in senior master’s division.” So I went down there, and then everybody found out I got a gold medal. Well, the next year Nappy (Napoleon) was down there and all of our buddies were down there.
But it was interesting, but you could at that time, all these triathlons were going, it wasn’t just a single event. They wanted more than one event. In fact, some of the Australians, you had to run down the beach, sprint between each leg, you had to sprint down, grab your paddle board, sprint down, get your surf ski. So they were exciting events. I entered them just to be entering, and I had the paddle board and that was it.
MK: Did you enter … Well, you entered the 10K paddle board races too.
ND: Yeah, I remember. I still have the one that Nicky Black did the drawing for that, still have that hanging. What an etching he did for the winning of that race, that was … Cline Mann was really into the paddle boards. They were trying to make it an Olympic event, but because there were so many different designs out there, they couldn’t agree on a design. Even some of the designs were pretty radical designs, but they couldn’t … That’s kind of what killed it. Nobody could have a design that they thought would be good for an Olympic event, so it just … It’s kind of an end to it, and now it’s an open division where almost anything goes.
MK: Tell me about the surfboard that Joe designed.
ND: It was because everybody had like a what you call boiler plate, because they were working all the time on getting this thing into the Olympic category. So those paddle boards were kind of a knock off on the olden days. Looked like a cigar box kind of thing, and they were meant not for speed, but they want the strongest guy to win, who could paddle the strong.
There was really not a lot of technology going in on those surfboards. George Downing had one he designed he wanted everybody to use, but nobody liked it, really. But it was part of this concept of having the same board. But then there was time when guys would take a surfboard, but don’t glass the top of it, and put a T-shirt on it so they don’t … Just to have a different design. So I had Joe Quigg design me one. It was a beautiful thing.
It was like 11’6″, had a balsa with the green, he always liked to use different colors of glue, balsa strip down the center with green glue on the sides. One layer of 10 ounce glass, nobody had ever done that, because I didn’t believe in kneeling on it, putting a dent in it. So it had one layer of 10 ounce glass, and on the edges, on the rails, it had one layer of 10 ounce glass. I was able to win with that because it was just one notch ahead of everybody else, because there was no rules quite yet.
MK: Yeah, the rules didn’t come in until the late ’70s, I guess. When did the … Cline came up with a design for a stock board, 12 foot stock board, and I think they pretty much made that the standard after that for all the races that the Club sponsored.
ND: I don’t remember that stock board too much, because those boards, nobody really believed in those boards, because now everybody was getting, it’s just like surfboards. Everybody is starting to get radical designs out. I mean, you can’t stop somebody from … Even if you have an open division now, who’s gonna paddle a stock board? It’s just, nobody wanted it. It was like I said, that board was designed for trying to get something that would be standardized. How do you standardize? You can’t really, and so nobody went for it. I mean, they used them. But nobody really was, it didn’t really make a difference.
MK: What happened to that board, to the Quigg board?
ND: Oh, Jimmy Dean. He won races with it, and then I think Ian Emberson even used it and won some races in it. But I don’t know, I just got out of that because I had to get into something else.
MK: You gave it somebody else?
ND: Yeah. Yeah, I just … Jimmy Dean wanted it and I says, “I’m tired of it.” I thought I was gonna put a dent in it or something, and you couldn’t really kneel on that board. By then guys were getting into longer races where they would kneel part of the time. If you kneel on that board you’ll put dents in it. It was good for like a 10K, but if you wanted to go to longer races, it wasn’t good because you gotta to kneel to take a break once in a while.
ND: So it really wasn’t good for that.
MK: You also got into ocean swimming. That’s a long way from Iowa to do ocean swimming.
ND: Well, my ocean swimming was only for trying to get into these triathlons, or to save my life when the canoe tips over or something. It was not, to me it was probably not an enjoyable sport. We only did it because we wanted to be able to swim. Canoe, gotta swim. Sailing, gotta swim. To compete in any event, usually any triathlon, you’ve gotta swim. So the whole idea of swimming was just to be able to go into triathlons. It’s probably the most unenjoyable sport that there is. Unless you got a face plate on, you can look at the sea life.
MK: Well, you swam in the Castle Swim a number of times.
ND: But that was pretty … Well, that was because …
MK: You were training.
ND: No, I really … No, because Cline Mann came up with that trophy, the Cline Mann trophy. No, that wasn’t a … The Cline Mann trophy was the 10K marathon and it was a rough water swim, not the Castle Swim. So you took all those times and added them up, and you’d get the Cline Mann trophy, which was … They finally discontinued that trophy. They said it was meaningless, because I was the only one that entered all three. So it wasn’t fair, which is okay. It was just that idea that it was … They said, “Oh, that trophy doesn’t mean anything.”
MK: Was there an actual trophy?
ND: Well, it was the trophy that was the … I have it in my place. It was the trophy that was, when they were putting them on the porcelain pieces. What I did was I made cubes out of those, and I have artwork sitting on those cubes. It’s on one of those plates, it was embossed in there. That was Cline Mann …
MK: Yeah, I remember that.
ND: It was classic.
MK: I couldn’t remember if there was an actual trophy.
ND: There was a trophy, I talked to Kawika about it, but they got rid of the trophy because it was meaningless, and put it on one of those squares, which was better because they take up less room. Besides, they just didn’t do it anymore.
MK: You also said you were into the surf skis when they first came out.
ND: Yeah, that was because when Hayden came over with the surf ski I let him use my apartment and he gave me a ski. He’s the one that started this whole thing from Australia.
MK: What’s his first name?
ND: Hayden Kenny.
ND: That’s it, Hayden Kenny. Started the surf ski, and both of his sons were Olympians.
ND: So he started this whole thing, and I got the first one when they came over here. So it was very user friendly, because they wanted to get them in to Hawaii. They were user friendly because of the Molokai Channel and everything else. They didn’t want anybody falling out of them all the time and all of this. They’re very user friendly. The ones today-
MK: They’re stable.
ND: Right. The ones today I can’t even sit in. So I took my Hayden to Oregon, and I took another surf ski up there too to Oregon, because nowadays they’re so fast, they’re so skinny, and they aged us out of those things. But they were fun, they were fast, and they had a big bill on the front of them so it’d go through a wave, it would part the wave. When you came down a wave they wouldn’t purl, because they had like a platypus, a big piece on the front. You came down the wave it wouldn’t purl, it would push out to the side. But again, they weren’t fast. Everybody’s after speed, first one to finish. So they keep improving them, making them narrower, changing the rocker in them, and now they got it so only a professional can sit in one of those things. If you don’t surf ski for a month, you get back in it, you’re starting all over again. The learning curve is terrible. Whereas you can jump in a one man canoe and paddle off into the sunset. You don’t have to worry about anything. But the surf ski, the learning curve is really difficult.
MK: So did you move on to OC-1’s then too?
ND: Then I went to an OC-1. Yeah, that was the only way to go, and it was … I had another, I had both. I had another one made by Karel (Tresnak) made me a surf ski. Actually, I got it from Carol Wilcox. Also, the surf skis are made to fit you. If they’re one inch too big, you can’t reach the pedals. If they’re one inch too small, your knees are too high. You have to sit and have them made for you. Now she got this one, and it was one inch too long, maybe it was too short, I forgot. Anyway, it fit me perfect. So it was all carbon fiber, it was beautiful. You know, they don’t fool around, right? So I bought it for $1,000. It was like a $2,100. So I used that quite a bit, but then we had stalls here, you can only have one. So I had to decide if I wanted to keep the one man or the kayak, so I took it to Oregon. It’s up there now, I use it all the time.
MK: You also were a runner. You entered I don’t know how many marathons.
ND: Oh yeah, 22. I actually, 22 marathons, and then I quit in ’95. When I retired I said, “I’m retiring from running,” because it just required too much work trying to keep up, because the first time we were putting in running 10 miles three times a week. In order to be good at the marathon you really had to pay your dues. Bruce and I are run … Bruce is still running marathons. I quit at 22, and he’s still going. It was just that it takes a lot of time for any kind of running like that. You can’t cheat. You can’t cheat. There’s no way to cheat. You gotta put your dues in, and that’s why the running was like, oh just too much time. Didn’t have the time.
MK: Well, you had some pretty good times, you had sub four minute times.
ND: Well, but that was my whole life was taken up with running. It was just ,you run three times a week, you run to Hawaii Kai, this type of thing. It was just in order to do that just takes too much time.
MK: You also were a bicycler.
ND: So then I kind of got into bicycling, because bicycling was something I always wanted to take advantage of, and when the gas war came along I bought a bicycle. Of course, one of the owners of the University Cyclers, club member, I got a rally bike and started riding a bike. Then I started taking it seriously, and then I started really training on the bike. I was trying to go 60 miles a day. I would go Sandy Beach in the morning before school, sandy beach in the afternoon after school. Trying to put in 60 miles a day, and I did that for about a year to ride my bike across the United States, because I didn’t want to be the last one in this. It was a bike centennial, it was 1976. It was about 4,500, 5,000 miles. Started at Newport Beach, Virginia, and wrote your name across the United States, end up in Astoria, Oregon. So that took about 60 days to do that trip. That kind of got me started in bicycling, because I’d never seen the country like that.
So since I had trained for that, and I did it so easily with no hiccups, the following year I did another trans-Alaska trip. Then I had a bicycle … The trip across the United States Viscount bicycle, Japanese company got me the bike. I was testing this thing out. It turned out the bike really wasn’t as good as they thought it was, and they recalled it and never made another one. The pedals were giving out, everything was like … I was pretty good, but the bike was terrible. Then I went to Specialize to make me a bike for Alaska. I had one of the first Stumpjumpers made, and I worked out on that for a year. Then I went to Alaska from Fairbanks down to Anchorage, over to Valdez, up on to the glacier, up through Yukon, into the Canadian Rockies, all the way down the Canadian Rockies, ending up in Missoula, Montana. That was a classic trip because all my other trips, Missoula, Montana was the bike center of the nation.
Kennedy set that up years ago, so you’d have a place you go take a video, watch something, “Don’t take a picture of this guy, he’ll shoot you. Don’t molest these people. The hook and eye Dutch, they hate bicycles because they think you don’t belong on the road.” We have a course that you take so you don’t upset people on the road. “They hate bicycles. They’ll turn their dogs loose on you. They’ll do everything.” So anyway, we go through this indoctrination thing in Missoula. So the whole idea was this one run I did was to end up in Missoula. But the year before I had used this bike one more time, that Japanese bike I had, I hadn’t finished with it yet.
I had it rebuilt and I took it on the Louis and Clark Trail as a trial. That was from Missoula to St. Louis, following Missouri River down, which was kind of interesting. But that bike was worthless. But the Stumpjumper now is a whole different world. Fat tires, two and quarter inch tires, knobs on the tires, and it was really beefed up. That’s what I did on the Alaskan trail. The interesting thing was, I came into Missoula late that day, and I’d spent so much time at the bike inn, because we were talking to guys, telling them about Hawaii, all this kind of stuff.
I go to where the bike inn was, put my bike in the rack, go up there and throw myself on my favorite little bed, and in the middle of the night some gal come in screaming. They had sold the house to somebody else. I didn’t know it. The bike rack was still there, and two doors down was the regular bike inn. Here I had put my bike up on the porch and flopped down on the local bed they had in there. They had just purchased this house, somebody had, they didn’t tell the bike guys that they had purchased another house. That was pretty classic.
But, yeah. I saved that bike for one more run on the Chilkoot Trail, which is a pretty famous trail. That’s up in the Yukon. I took a ferry up the San Juan, to Skagway, and there was a trail that the miners use, and it’s supposed to be try and live in the 1800s. Trying to go on the same trail that the miners went on. But there was a bike trail, it’s a dirt road kind of a thing that the miners took, to get to Dawson City when they would get off the ferry there at Skagway.
So anyway, this mountain bike was perfect for that road. So that took me up to Skagway, up to Dawson City, over to Haines, and then back to Haines Junction where I picked up the ferry ten days later. But this mountain bike, it was interesting because nobody hardly knew anything, this was ’82, nobody knew anything about mountain bikes. For anybody to see a tread on the side of the road with knobs on it they would wonder what in the world that is. But yeah, I still have that bike today. That was my classic bike to end all bikes. Stumpjumper, now everybody has one.
MK: You’ve really had something amazing adventures.
ND: Oh, yeah.
MK: So I know you love cars, and you’ve been building them and fixing them since you were a kid, but you also got into a lot of car racing here in Hawaii. How about-
ND: It kind of started on the mainland when I had this job, they’d buy me a new Corvette every year, and the people at this engineering company, you were dealing with architects, you were trying to show off a little bit. So you have a real nice … They bought me a new Corvette every year, and so you’d go talk to a Corvette, “Use our pile beams. Oh, by the way, you want to try out my new car?” This type of thing. So it was kind of a write off for the company, but it was mine to use. I got spoiled, because I had a ’76, ’77, every year I got a new Corvette, and I got spoiled on sports cars, since the company paid for it and everything.
Then we started racing them in gymkhanas and stuff like that, going around hay bales, and finally got one to get a competition license. But I bought my own car for that, I bought an MGA for that. Tried to get a competition license. Thank goodness I didn’t, because I found out I am not a competition driver. I don’t have the guts to do … Also, the poor MGA was in the same class as the Porsche, and so you’re never gonna win a race, and you’re always gonna come in last. So that ended that racing.
Came to Hawaii, I got into racing because I had an Austin-Healey here, and I raced. I raced my Karmann Ghia because out at the Bellows they had a race just for Volkswagens. It was something to see, like fifty Volkswagens racing in this strip that they had out there at Bellows. It was a blast.
MK: Is that the old airfield?
ND: Yeah. First of all, you had to put tape all over the front of your car. Then you had to have a roll bar on it. You tape up the front of your car, of course you had the helmet and roll bar and safety belts. But I mean, seeing all these Volkswagens racing out there was a kick. Of course, the Karmann Ghia would go a little faster, you could tune up the engine a little bit and maybe go a little faster than most Volkwagens. That was a kick racing out there. Until then, they closed it down.
Then we all went to Hickam, which was interesting because they had the straightaway there, where a car … Then I got an Austin-Healey, took it out there. They had a straightaway where you could really open up your car. It was more, when they went to Hickam, they changed it to the gymkhana style, where you just went by your time. You didn’t race anybody. So you’d hit a stopwatch, run to your car, jump inside, start your car, do the course, jump out of your car, run to the stopwatch and stop it. It was that gymkhana style. So that was really fun for a while. Then they closed that down. Now I don’t know where they go, but they do go somewhere out there. But that kind of ended my racing around here. That was just a …
MK: It was fun.
ND: It was fun. I had my fun. The idea was to do something and get it out of my system, and then move on to something else.
MK: But you also liked to restore cars.
ND: Yeah, I’ve always liked since we used to always work on cars in high school, when I came here I’d buy a car for like 100 bucks. Then I would take it in to the auto shop with my kids and give them a live project to work on. Then I’d rent it out. I’d rent these cars out to people. It was just a hobby, and it gives these kids live projects to work on. I paid for everything, it’s just that we had these engines sitting all over the place, there was no live projects. Because they didn’t want you working on somebody’s car and mess it up and being stuck with the bill. So I would buy these cars from a parking lot for 100 bucks or something, bring them in. I bought a Triumph for only $50 once from some kid up at UH, had the kids restore it, and sold it, and things like that. But I would restore them, sell them, do whatever I had to do, but it was just like live projects. It was kind of fun.
MK: Bet the kids enjoyed it.
ND: Oh yeah, because it’s live project. Now you could never do that. They don’t want you messing around with somebody’s car.
MK: Well, probably all the electronics in them, you probably can’t do too much.
ND: Well, the thing is, the kids now are becoming very computer wise. You can put a machine on a car, and they even have a place on the car where you plug it in, and there you go. That was the end of an era too. Now that the auto shop … But then I moved out of the auto shop because your hands get too dirty, and then you’re afraid somebody’s gonna get hurt. Every time you go in the shop you’re afraid, you have to look around and see what can happen to a student in there. Same with the wood shop, you go in there and you see something in there that’s not safe. It’s scary. In Hawaii, safety always seemed to be like a second hand thing. Nobody ever would think about, “How can I do this safe?” I would always think, “Now, what’s the worst thing that’s gonna happen to me here?”
MK: Now, you have a second home in Oregon?
ND: That was interesting because there was a movie out, Robert Redford I think that came out … I don’t know what year it came out (1972). Jeremiah Johnson, and we went all went to that movie at one time or another. Same way all at the morning round table, and somebody was saying about Oregon or something, and somebody says, “I don’t know.” Anyway the bottom line is, we got seven guys together to buy this place. Kind of started with one guy … they’d condemned his place on the Rogue River. Guy Harrison, he’d condemned his house on the Rogue River, making it into a scenic view area. They condemned it, and then he said, “Find something equal to this, and we’ll buy it for you.”
So Wally graduated from Medford High, he had a buddy that sold real estate, so we go on a hunt to find something for Guy Harrison. Anyway, we gave him all the ideas that he would want in a place like this. We gave them to this guy, and we spent about a year trying to find something. Finally this guy said, “I found a place, but it’s not for sale.” Well, when you divide something by seven guys, it is for sale. We did find this unbelievable place, and it’s a total thing out of Jeremiah Johnson.
Because we he finally found the place for his family, it had water on one side, and a mountain on the other side, which means you now have drinking water, you have fish, you have everything in the water, and you have a mountain for all your animals and all the game you ever could want. This place that we bought finally was the home of Elijah Davidson owned this house. It was the guy that discovered the Oregon Caves in 1890. It was a cabin, and anyway it’s like eight acres. So we bought this place, and it was only like about $35,000. So we all kicked in a couple, so it was easy for us to buy it.
Since then, they kind of dropped out one by one. I think we were just having too much fun up there. Guys couldn’t wait to get there, and then the wives didn’t like it at all. Snakes, poison oak, wild animals, and most of the women did not like that place. In fact, every time I took a girl there, they would never go back. It’s just one of those … Everybody says, “Oh, let’s rough it,” and it just a good example of those Alaska things they have on TV. It’s good, but after a while, if everybody’s having fun and you’re not, why am I here?
Wally was lucky, his wife liked to go to Reno. Reno’s a one day’s drive up to here, and people would go there and hang out, but everybody got tired of it, and so one by one I bought them out. So finally I had the whole thing. So now it’s, I have two little rental cabins I have there and they look after the place. They do all the hard work, and hopefully I can go up there and just vacation, which I haven’t done yet. But that’s my plan, but it ended up still staying in the family.
It’s still a lot of fun, and someday I’ll probably just hook it up with the National Parks, because they come over to my place once in a while and bring people over because Elijah Davidson is a legend in southern Oregon. Shot the biggest bear, shot the biggest cougar, and they have pictures of him everywhere, and I’m just lucky enough to have his cabin.
MK: That sounds like fun… How often do you go up there?
ND: Well, I was up there for three months this time. I usually go during the winter for one month to trim the fruit trees, because as soon as it snows, or you get a freeze, you have to trim your fruit trees. I got about 150 fruit trees. Then I go up there in the summer hopefully to do work that I can’t possibly do in the winter time. But then, in the summer times, if there’s a fire season going, you really can’t do too much. You can’t use the weed eater or a chain saw, I can’t drive my dune buggy, I can’t drive my tractor, because they have a curfew during fire season. So that’s only happened a couple of times, but they do limit you as to what you can do during the summer. So I have to do that in the winter.
MK: Well, there’s one question I just have to ask. How did you become so in love with palaka? Everybody knows that Norm wears palaka hats, shorts, shirts. How did you come to love palaka?
ND: I think it’s just … it was trying to have something that’s recognizable, that is kind of your signature. Because in upper Oregon I would never wear this. In Oregon, even Outrigger, you wouldn’t wear anything Outrigger. No Balboa Bay Club, nothing with something like this, symbols. They’re against all that. In Hawaii, it’s different, your hat is who you are. In Oregon, you have a John Deere hat. I finally got a John Deere hat. I have a Stihl hat when I bought my chainsaw. I have a CAT hat from the neighbor gave me when he bought his Caterpillar. Those are the hats you wear.
I had no idea that hat was who you are. Oregon in ’74, this hat has saved me on the Big Island. How many times this hat, the shirts have saved me. In Captain and Cook I go to use the laundromat or something, and someone in Captain Cook tells me, “Don’t use that machine, it takes too long to fill up. Use this one.” This is a signature thing of Hawaii, and I just picked up on it luckily. You walk in the airport with this hat on, you know it can only come from one place. All the palaka is just totally something that’s a signature thing, to make you known.
A lot of this stuff came from Arakawa’s. I went out there, they closed down. I bought everything they had, and then it was Miura’s, out in the other side of island, out in Haleiwa. They’re trying to bring it back, but nobody wants to make these hats, because of the fact everything has to line up. Nobody wants to do that. Nobody wants to make a shirt, those pockets have to line up, everything has to match, and it’s too much work for the computers nowadays.So it is amazing how palaka’s lost a little bit, because of just the fact being mass produced. How do you mass produce a shirt that, where the pocket has to line up with the squares? How do you make a hat where all the Vs come together? So it’s just, it’s a lost art. You won’t find it very much anymore.
MK: Yeah, since Arakawa’s closed I don’t think I’ve seen any palaka in stores.
ND: They’re trying to bring it back, but because it’s made in, I don’t know where it’s made, it’s just you’re not gonna see the detail in it. You’re not gonna see all the blocks matching up. They don’t worry about that. In the olden days, all the blocks had to line up, no matter how the shirt is sewn, the buttons, everything, it all has to line up. That’s why anything plaid, anything like that, it all has to line up. With computerized work that they do today with machines, the hand of man is gone. Nobody wants to take the time to try to line it up. The only reason we got this hat made, Cal Lui, the guy that did the hats for the Olympics in Peiking make these hats. They don’t make them anymore.
MK: Did they wear them for the Olympics?
ND: No, they made them for us. He took him to Waialae golfing and then we went to Kaimukī Dry Goods and bought all the palaka they had, all of it, the real paloka, and he took it with him and had these hats made when they were making the hats for the Olympics, but they were just for us.
MK: How cool.
ND: Yeah, it was. That was cool. We have our own hat.
MK: You’ve been a member of both the Elks and the Outrigger for many years, and during that time the Club has had to try to negotiate a lease extension. What was that like being on both sides of the fence at the same time?
ND: Well, one thing is that there is a division of people over there at the Elks Club, a definite division of these layers of people. Like millenniums, all of this. So there’s that one layer, which that’s the only layer we have to worry about. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to break through that certain layer. But sooner or later, I think that the next layer coming up is a whole different set. I mean, the next group below these guys is going to be a very interesting group that are trying, they’re trying to now get into canoe racing. They bought a brand new Ultra Canoe. They’ve got a kid over there that is hooked up with the Outrigger that’s in charge of the program. We’re getting more and more members over there, and people are realizing the Outrigger’s not that bad.
In the very beginning, when Outrigger played softball with those guys, half out were all the guys who joined the Elks Club, they joined the Outrigger. There was that group of people on the very bottom that when you join, there was no problem. But the next layer of people that came along was a problem. But now the people that are coming along are people that are very, thinking much differently about the Outrigger. It’s interesting how the mood has changed, because they call me Mr. Outrigger over there. I can’t help, but Blue Makua over there and he calls me Mr. Outrigger. I can’t get away with it. He’s over there every day, but he loves the Outrigger. See, it’s guys like that. Some of the older people love the Outrigger, they remember what the Outrigger has done in the past, and they remember all this.
But then there’s the next group that came up that just thought the Outrigger did them wrong. Then like I said, the next group is getting better. Each group is getting better, and I think that eventually by the time we get ready to negotiate, there will be a group of people that think completely different than this one layer of people. I bet you there’s probably only 25 people in this one layer that feel that way, but it’s amazing how they feel is just not a slight of hand. These people really have a problem. I just can’t believe they think the way they think, but it is, it’s just that one certain group of people, and there’s not that many. Of the whole club I bet there’s only 25 that think like that.
Everybody else, “Outrigger’s no problem.” I see Outrigger people go over there all the time. A lot of people are members of both. I never realized that until I got my membership back and got reinstated. So it’s just, I’m working my way through the loser’s bracket over there. That’s what I tell those guys. Then I said, “Oh, they don’t want me at the Outrigger because I talk too loud.” Then they say, “Yeah, you’re right.” “I’ll fit right in with you guys, won’t I?” So I don’t let them get away with anything.
MK: Well Norm, thank you so much for taking the time to do this oral history today. I have one more question for you. What do you like most about the Outrigger Canoe Club?
ND: Well, it’s because we do have our own little … It’s probably an offshoot of the Knights of the Morning Round Table. Because we had our own shirts, we had our own coffee cups, and we had our own, you know, the Mike Town people, and the Bruce Ames guys, and all of us paddlers together, Norman Ho’s. We had a group that was so tight. We would have guys try to get in our canoe to try out. We know guys that wind out, we don’t want him in our canoe, we’ll just take the thing. That’s what we’ve … We’ve had that forever almost here, a group that is just so tight, and really sticking together a lot different than helter-skelter, what you have today when you don’t really have that full on tight group like that. Somehow we’ve held it together, although we’ve become a little splintered, because we might be aging out. We get older, we got something, we may not get up as early, may not make it down for coffee. So we might be in trouble, but thing is, we’ve gotten this far with this group, that’s pretty much like they say “thick as thieves.”
MK: How long have you guys been all together?
ND: Well, as long as we paddle together, we were together. I would say until … When was the last medal we got? Might have been in ’02 or something. But the last 15 years, we’re losing out.
MK: But before that how long …
ND: Well, ever since day one, the morning coffee group.
MK: From the ’70s.
ND: Oh, yeah. Frank Walton down here, Olympic people that we’ve had in our group, and we used to have lots of credibility, but here we’ve gotten watered down over the years, we’ve lost our credibility. They say we’re octogenarians, they don’t want us in. We’ve been kind of booted out, because we’ve aged out of everything. So we’re trying to hang on by a thread, but it’s not easy because we are literally maybe not matching up to the younger generation.
There’s something about that younger generation that maybe have different goals. So it’s a difficult thing I think, but we are splintering. We’re not the same way we used to be. But at least we had that nucleus, and that was the most important thing, always had a gang to check on. You got a need a lawyer problem? We have lawyers. You go to court, we know somebody that’ll help us out. We need a doctor, we always have a doctor, always have a couple of doctors down there. So we’ve always had input from everything in that group, and all of our problems were solved in our own group.
MK: It’s like a family.
ND: It is, and that type of … You just don’t get that anywhere, and it all started with the paddling, because you’re all depending on everybody. We gotta there on time, if we’re not on time, we’ll lose out, and the guys that are late, they end up losing out. That’s really with that bonding that you get through competition and traveling and paddling, but it’s the paddling that did it. The sailing guys could never get together, but the paddling I think is the most important of anything. It’s good, it’s Outrigger Canoe Club for heaven’s sake.
MK: Well, let’s wrap this up. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we …
ND: I think I’ve said about all I can say. It takes a while. This has been good for me to kind of line my ducks up in a row. I’ve always been thinking about this and trying to get everything lined up, so this has really been a good experience for me to get everything lined up like this, and probably it’s gonna help me do some more adventures.
MK: Write your book.
MK: Thanks so much, Norm.
Norman Dunmire Service to the Outrigger Canoe Club
Beach & Water Safety Committee
Judges of Election Committee
OCC Athletic Participation
1992 4th Masters 45
1993 7th Masters 45
Macfarlane Regatta 1st Places
1983 Masters 45
1981 1st, Masters Men Winter 10K