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.
Interview by Paul A. Dolan
October 21, 2008
PAD: I am Paul Arthur Dolan (PAD), a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club’s Historical Committee. For some time the Committee has been conducting oral interviews of prominent members of our Club. Today, it is my pleasure to interview James Clyde Peterson (JCP), a past president and long-time member of the Outrigger Canoe Club. We are at the Club’s boardroom on a beautiful Hawaiian day. Good morning, Jim.
JCP: Good morning, Paul.
PAD: How and when were you introduced to the Outrigger Canoe Club?
JCP: Actually, I was introduced to the Club when I was working with the Hemmeter Group in Waikiki in the early 1970’s. I was aware of the Club through my association with Don Avery when I worked for Alexander & Baldwin my first employer when I came to Hawaii to make it my home. At A&B I didn’t have much time for anything but work as I established myself in Hawaii. I really didn’t get a chance to become part of the Club until I was with the Hemmeter Group working on the Hyatt Regency at Hemmeter Center in Waikiki.
PAD: What appealed to you about the Club?
JCP: I did not know the history of the Club which I gained once I became a member. I was looking for a way of getting back into good physical shape. I was a waterman from my days of lifeguarding my way through college and the Outrigger was the water home for me. I was fortunate enough to know individuals that recommended me for membership such as Donald Scheuder and Donald Avery. At the time Mark Buck was the coach of the Novice crew and helped me through the admission process. Nobody on the committee knew me and I was fortunate enough to make the crew and become a member of the Club.
PAD: In your experience with the paddling group were you exposed to any “politics?”
JCP: Not really, in the early days. (Laughter) There was not much in my time as a paddler. When I became a coach in the later years it was not “politics”, as much as the blending of crews, especially with long distance crews.
PAD: You started off in what crew?
JCP: My first year was In the Novice B crew in 1974.
PAD: From Novice you graduated to what crew?
JCP: To Novice A. Actually, I was in Novice A for a couple of years. Then, I paddled freshman and that was great. The next year I wanted to move up and there really was no chance. The sophomore crew was fabulous at the time and was locked in and I couldn’t make the Junior or Senior crews. Fortunately, that’s when they started the Masters division. Nobody wanted to be in the Masters crew. The framework of the crew became Jaren Hancock and I, but both of us really wanting to be in other crews. However, we started winning all our races and we shut up. We said: “Why don’t we just take our gold (medals) and be happy.
PAD: So you just kept paddling in the Masters crew. Did you paddle in the Masters in the Molokai Hoe event?
JCP: We didn’t get a Masters crew for the Molokai Hoe until 1987.
PAD: The race began at Hale-O-Lono?
JCP: Yes it did. We had a great crew that year. Mike Holmes was steering. There was Joey Cabell as stroke and backup steersman and the rest of the crew were really great. We were amazed when we reached La`au Point—we were in fifth place. We all thought “Wow, what are we doing up here?” We didn’t end up fifth though. We ended up 12th I believe, but we were happy with that.
PAD: That was a fiberglass canoe? Now, they have two divisions, koa and fiberglass.
JCP: The Club would not trust us with a koa canoe. (Laughter)
PAD: My time in 1955. They let us have the Hanakeoki, a real barge. We also took off from Kawakiu Nui Bay which is south of I`lio Point on the northwest side of Molokai. The longest race was in 1976 from Kaunakakai. It’s going to be interesting what is going to happen in the future of the Molokai Hoe with Molokai Ranch closing down. The ranch could restrict access to Hale-O-Lono Harbor. That would change the course of the event.
JCP: Right now they are allowing access.
PAD: What was the change of crew provisions in your race? In my race we were allowed only two substitutes. Four of us made it all the way. Ugh! Took me a couple of days to recover and I was in shape. Thank goodness the weather was good. We came in fourth.
JCP: We had a nine man crew. As you know changing in open water has become an art form. Normally, a paddler will be in the boat for 30 to 40 minutes and then two to three fresh paddlers will make an open water change without slowing the boat too much. In big water the changes can be real adrenalin rushes.
PAD: You also got into kayaking at the Club, how did that happen?
JCP: I lived right down the street from the Club in the Castle Surf. In those days we didn’t have the surf skis. The one-man was not invented yet. A friend, and Club member, Dale Adams, was kayaking on the Kailua side. I bought a big yellow ocean going kayak. I kept it at the Club and in the early morning I would kayak down to Ala Moana and back. It was great fun. Dale Adams and another gentleman whose name I can’t recall started the Molokai-Oahu kayak race in the early 80’s, the Kanaka Ikaika Race. The next year Dale asked me to help him organize the non-profit corporation and the race. I believe that year we had six racers. The next year (1983 or 1984) the surf in the channel was really big on the day we were planning to move the kayaks and support boats from Oahu to Molokai. I was race director that year and canceled the race. Everyone was very “teed off.” (Laughter)
PAD: How many times did you do the Molokai race?
JCP: I did it twice in a six-man canoe and I did Kanaka Ikaika twice.
PAD: Now, you are crazy enough to get into the Marathon. How many did you do and your results?
JCP: Yes, I did five Marathons and then it dawned on me that it wasn’t very good for your body. The training was great and I believe that ten to twelve mile runs don’t do much damage to your body. However, I believe that the longer runs, particularly the marathon and longer are just not good for you, so I stopped.
PAD: What was your best place?
JCP: My best time was three-hours and twenty-one minutes. During that period Cline Mann suggested that we start a Club iron man event that would consist of a long distance rough water swim, a long distance paddle board race and a marathon to be completed within a twelve-month period. The first year I was the only participant. The next year Kimo Austin beat me and then the event died.
PAD: What were some of the characters that you ran into that you thought were real “jocks?”
JCP: There were so many “jocks” in the Club. Tom Haine, the Crabb brothers, Mike Holmes, and Joey Cabell were some. I can’t even name them all. I was fortunate that during the time I was paddling and during the ten-year period that I was able to devote a lot of time to the Club. I lived just down the street and got to know a lot of the top athletes.
PAD: Did you surf or play volleyball?
JCP: I surfed but never played volleyball at the Club.
PAD: What did you think of the Club when you first joined to what it is now?
JCP: Well, I’ve been living on the Big Island for the last ten years. Let me roll back the clock. Cline Mann was a professional surveyor doing work for us on the Hemmeter hotel project in Waikiki. I got to know Cline well and when I became active at the Club, Cline suggested to me that I sit down and go through the minutes of the past Board of Directors meetings to get a feeling for what the Club is all about. I spent hours going through the minutes and it gave me a feel of the Club. I looked for members that had joined the Club when they were eleven or twelve years old to determine if they were still active, nonresident or had quit. It was fascinating. Another thing that Cline suggested was that I get together with Ruby Yabiku (now retired 45-year employee) who had a book that tracked all the Bylaws and have her explain why the Bylaws were amended. I came to perceive the Club as a family-oriented athletic Club, not a social Club. During the time that I was active at the Club I tried to establish policies and influence events to keep the Club as a family oriented athletic club.
PAD: I think it’s still the same. It takes the social to support the athletics. That’s the key.
JCP: During my first term on the Board the stock market made some corrections that adversely affected the Club’s portfolio. At that time investments were in bonds administered directly by the Board. I felt the Club had a number of members that had the technical knowledge to advise the Board rather than have the Board trying to understand the financial markets. As you know when you want to make a policy change that can have long term effects on the Club it takes a long, long time, years to implement. If it’s not good for the Club it won’t happen, if it’s good for the Club it will get a life of its own. It took several years but through the Long Range Planning Committee the Finance Committee was formed and became a standing committee when I returned to the Board. One of the investment objectives was to build a fund to buy the land and if that was not possible to use the investment income from the fund to offset the dues increases that would be necessary as the lease rent increased. This would allow the Board the option of subsidizing the intermediate and younger regular members during the family’s growing years in order to maintain the family orientation of the Club and not have the dues force younger members out. I still hope that happens. When couples marry and have kids it’s their most difficult years to afford the dues.
PAD: Let’s take a look at all your committee membership and directorship activities, listed by year that you served?
JCP: I started out paddling first in 1974, just after I joined and paddled through the early 1990’s when I was president. I also got into running and I was member of the Running Committee in 1979. I was a member of the Entertainment Committee also in 1979. In 1980, I was on the Public Relations Committee. Hank Lass was the Club Captain and I was Assistant Club Captain. I helped Hank in achieving the reality of the Weight Room. It was a small thing, but a big deal at the time. I was active on the Kayaking Committee in 1983. Mark Buck, through the Australians, brought in the first surf skis at this time. When I was first involved in the late ‘70’s, there were a few open ocean kayaks stored at the Club. On the athletic side that is about it. In 1985, I was on the Building & Grounds Committee and also the Long Range Planning Committee. In 1986 I became its chairman. I was fortunate enough to bring together some individuals who were professionals. Doug Prior, Jim Stahl, Jack Meyers and a number of others in the industry. It was the first extensive long range plan.
PAD: It didn’t have to do with acquisition of real estate did it?
JCP: No. We made the assumption that we would never be able to acquire the fee simple ownership of the Club premises. What we did look at was a Herbert Horita development at Ko ’Olina. There was a club site. We were trying to make some in-roads to acquire that club site. Walter Guild and a number of other individuals were involved. It did not materialize.
PAD: Speaking of properties; what do you think of the acquisition at Aina Haina?
JCP: My initial reaction was that it was really stupid. (Laughter) Sites in the area were looked at before. However, individuals on the Board now are much more aware of what’s going on in real estate on Oahu than I am. I’m living on the Big Island now. I’m sure they made the best decision they could. In my opinion, the Club will end up selling it. In my life-time our Club will not relocate there. Jeff Stone, the developer of Ko`Olina still has that club site available. Disney just announced the big hotel development there. If the Club wanted it they could still acquire it and it may be the right place.
PAD: Leeward side, good ocean water access. Not much surf.
JCP: From a water point of view it’s probably OK. From a social or family side it’s not.
PAD: Now you get on the Board. When did that start? In 1987-88, I was elected to the Board of Directors for two years and was Coordinating Director of the Athletic and Membership Committee. Also in 1988, I was a member of the Ad Hoc Bylaws Review Committee. In 1989, I was a member of the Long Range Planning Committee. In 1990 I was re-elected to the Board of Directors as Vice-President in charge of Activities. In 1991, I was Vice-President of Operations. In 1992, I became President and presided over the Finance Committee. That’s when the Finance Committee became a standing committee. At that time the out-going president was also on the Board Nominating Committee.
When I became president I was told that my phone would ring off the hook. I think that members respected that I had a dream for the Club. It was a nice, positive dream and I was not going to destroy anything. So, they let me go about my business and my phone didn’t ring off the hook. In 1993, I again became Vice President of Operations and coordinated the Budget Committee. In 1994, I was a Director, on the Executive Committee and Coordinating Director of Long Range Planning Committees. Also in 1993-94 I was on the Ad Hoc Marketing Committee. In 1995, my last year as a Director, I was the Coordinating Director of the Long Range Planning Committee. I think these sums up my activity over these years.
PAD: Outstanding contributions! While you were President, what were some of your goals?
JCP: There were a number of things I wanted to accomplish. One of the items was to establish the Finance Committee. We had about $2 million in investments when I was first elected to the Board and now we have about $18 million. I didn’t have anything to do with that, but the Finance Committee did. I also thought it important that we organize on a business basis. We didn’t have job descriptions which is basic. We got the job descriptions done and put a review procedure in place. There was also not a formal review procedure in place for the General Manager. Ray Ludwig, the General Manager, had never been reviewed and I give him his first rating. I thought that was very important. From then on, the President had to review the GM. There was no policy manual. When one became a Board Member, there was no guidance. One just jumped in. I thought it important to have a policy manual to lay out what the duties of the Committees were. I hope it’s still in use. Another item I hope that is still used is the “retreat” as a planning and management tool. The early retreats were pretty informal. We established an agenda with handouts and a plan for the coming year. The staff, including food and beverage manager, and general manager attended, along with the Board. We would gather at various locations to decide what was going to be accomplished in the next year.
PAD: Where were these retreats held?
JCP: I think the first one was held at the Guild’s and Scott’s residences in Palihua in the Waianae Mountains. The retreats were also held at Mary Philpotts McGrath’s residence. The first one I attended was in Kahuku, someplace. It was great, but it was not formalized. We needed an agenda and the participation of everyone. Another issue that we addressed during my time on the board was that the older members were not using the Club facilities as we thought they should. An ad hoc committee was formed that worked with the food and beverage personnel to try to determine from the membership that they wanted. We then implemented the recommendations. It worked out great. These were items I felt were important and accomplished with the help of great individuals on the Board.
PAD: The president to hold the longest tenure was Judge Wilford Godbold (1946-1953). Since then we have had individuals hold the office for six years at the most. Walter J. Macfarlane, Tom Haine, “Rab” Guild, Peter Balding, Roy Kesner to name a few.
JCP: One of the things I mentioned to Tim Guard, when he was coming aboard as president, was that it appeared to me that every president who held the office was the right person for that time and place in the history of the Club. It’s amazing how it works out.
PAD: During your tenure, what was your evaluation of the members of the Board?
JCP: I guess the easiest way of saying it was that everyone was dedicated to the Club. Some individuals were on the Board just to sit there and look after the Club. Most of them were on the Board to achieve something specific for the Club. It appears to be much more complicated now than when I served.
PAD: To wrap up your experiences with the Club, what would be your highlight?
JCP: That’s difficult. I was fortunate to serve and share dreams with so many outstanding members. I remember at one retreat, Tom Haine was talking and we were all battling it out over something and then suddenly we all started laughing. No one was really battling–we all just wanted what we thought was best for the Club. We were all just looking at it from different prospective. I think the best thing I did for the Club was to create the Finance Committee.
PAD: Did you belong to any other organizations?
JCP: No, just the Club.
PAD: Now to your background. When, where and to whom you were born?
JCP: Well, it’s all mainland stuff. I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on October 2, 1939 to Grace Spearman and Vernon Peterson.
PAD: Did you have any siblings?
JCP: I have a brother, Vernon Peterson who is five years older than I living in San Diego, California. The family migrated to the west coast in early 1941. My father was a machinist and WW-II was approaching. I grew up in East Los Angeles close to Montebello. I was very fortunate to get out of there for my high school years. I went to elementary school in the East Los Angeles area. I then went to a small military school at a place called Altadena for a couple of years. I attend high school at the Army Navy Academy and graduated in 1957. I played football and received a scholarship to San Diego State University.
PAD: At San Diego State, what did you major in?
JCP: I was a marketing major. (Laughter) Also, I was captain of the rugby team, which is what I really majored in. I lifeguarded through college along the San Diego coast, mostly in the Mission Bay area. During the winter I would guard at Ocean Beach. I had a great time.
PAD: What a slacker? (Laughter)
JCP: I had a great time in college, however, when I was in my senior year Vietnam was coming around and I was concerned about being drafted. I received my draft notice. I did all the tests and I think I qualified as a truck driver in the Army and they needed truck drivers.
PAD: Did you have your degree yet?
JCP: No, I was in my last year of college. However, I had a friend who was just getting into the Marine Corps. He sent me to the recruiting office and they loved me. They let me finish college. Then I was sent to Quantico, Virginia for an eleven-week course. One finishes the eleven weeks as an officer or a private. So, one is motivated, being a college graduate, to be a 2nd lieutenant and not a private. I decided that I had better get my act together. (Laughter) One of the good things about the Marine Corps training is that after the eleven-week course you are given another six months of intensive training on how to be a Marine officer. I became an infantry officer and was sent to the Marine Base Kaneohe.
PAD: Was the base established at that time? It used to be Kaneohe Naval Air Station.
JCP: It was just beginning to transition to the Marine Base. They needed a “Ready Group” the first to go. It was great!
PAD: When did you hit Vietnam?
JCP: I was in the 1st Marine Brigade and we were activated in 1963. I was playing rugby on the weekends. We were called the Harlequins. We played at Church LDS College and Kapiolani Park. To make a long story short I dislocated my hip and ended up at Tripler Army Hospital. I was on crutches when the Brigade was activated. My company commander told me: (I was a platoon commander) that if I could walk up the gangplank to board the ship he’d let me go. I had to throw down my crutches and walk up the gangplank. That’s how I got to Vietnam. (Laughter)
PAD: You ended up in what location first?
JCP: Actually, I went to Okinawa first to plan an amphibious landing and finally made the landing at Chu Lai, Vietnam. The task was to clear the area and set up a temporary airstrip. When I hurt my hip the Corps sent me to embarkation school. Navy personnel do not plan the load of Marine equipment on the Navy ship. A Marine officer plans the load so we can get off what we need when we need it. That’s what I was doing at the time. I planned the loads of all the ships in the amphibious landing. As soon as the landing started I returned to my platoon.
PAD: Chu Lai, then where?
JCP: I was at Chu Lai for nine months. I then went to Hue just before the Tet Offensive.
PAD: Were you wounded or any close calls?
JCP: No. When I was on patrols there were no major engagements. The platoon would go out for ten days and stay in for five. When we landed I was a platoon commander. I later became the company executive office, however, we took some casualties and I took over a platoon again for awhile. I then became the company commander. I was a first lieutenant at the time. That was the best job I had in Marine Corp. When we were on patrol I had 240 men under my command with all the air support I wanted and the battleship USS New Jersey off the coast if I wanted backup.
PAD: Your last tour of duty was where?
JCP: My last tour was in San Diego, where I had gone to college and had a lot of friends. I was a Captain and the executive officer at the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot. That’s where I was discharged from the Marine Corps. As soon as I separated I hopped on a plane and returned to Hawaii.
PAD: So you are back in Hawaii, what happened?
JCP: I was a haole and I really didn’t know what I was getting into and I started looking for a job. I was fortunate to have a college friend I had played rugby with and had been in the Marine Corps with who lived in Hawaii. He had been an officer in the Hawaiian Armed Services Police (HASP). He had fallen in love with Elaine Frisbee, of Puka Puka Ota fame, a Tahitian living in Hawaii. They invited me to stay with them on the beach in Niu Valley, a place owned by the Pflueger/Lucas families on Kalanianaole Highway. That was great because it was a Tahitian enclave. Everybody from Tahiti would come and go. All the Tahitian girls would do all their practicing and continuously party while I was contemplating my unemployment. I stayed there while looking for a job. It was a fabulous entrée into Hawaii.
I decided if I was to work in Hawaii I would have to join a “Big Five” company. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Wilmer “Bill” Morris who was managing Travelers Insurance at A & B, Alexander and Baldwin, Inc. Bill hired me as an insurance agent. I was making “cold calls” and here am I, a haole, dressed in a coat and tie, driving into Kalihi Valley, having been given an address to call on. I stop my car, getting ready to make the call, and I am sitting and looking over at this house where a bunch of guys are sitting on the lanai, drinking beer, laughing and having a good time. I said to myself: “One of us is screwed up and I think I know who it is.” When A & B sold Travelers, Alan Wilcox decided they needed a “management training program.” They hired me, Eddie Oshiro and Bob Sasaki as trainees. They abandoned the program shortly after. I was with A & B for seven years and got to travel around the Islands in the industrial relations department I was Alan’s assistant through the pineapple strike, the longshoremen’s strike and the sugar strike. I learned a lot about negotiating and how it all worked. Buddy McGuire was with the Employers Council and the whole exposure was a wonderful experience for me.
Alexander and Baldwin decided to develop Wailea on the southeast coast of Maui. In those days there was nothing in the area except kiawe trees. They hired some people who knew what they were doing including Mike Brennan from Sheraton. Then they put me over there where I was able to learn the development business from the bottom up from some very talented people. Some of them are members of the Club to this day. I did Wailea for two years and then a gentleman from Minnesota who had property on Maui hired me to represent him on Maui. I represented him for about a year. Then Chris Hemmeter starting getting his project in Waikiki together and a gentleman that I had known at A & B, Mike Brennan, asked me to come over and run the project for him. I’m a good organizer.
PAD: Which project was this?
JCP: This was the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. That’s where I met Cline Mann. He was doing the surveying. That’s when I met others who were associated with the Club. The project got off to an interesting start for me. Chris, Mike, Henry and Diane Plotts were all in San Francisco celebrating obtaining the financing and signing all the documents. I wasn’t even on the payroll yet and I was asked to sit in on a meeting. I went to the meeting along with the contractors, Swineton and Walberg, representative a fellow named Reynor Schultiz. All the engineers and architects were sitting around the table with this fresh new face, me, and the soils engineer says: “You know, I’m not sure we can de-water the site.” At that point, the structural engineer says: “Wait a minute; if we can’t de-water the site, I’m not sure my structural calculations will work.” All of this is unraveling while the executives are in San Francisco signing all the documents. I’m sitting there not even an employee yet. I looked around the room and nobody knew me and I said to Rey: “We’re going to take a break. This meeting is not over let’s take a break until tomorrow and continue this discussion.” If they had walked out of there it would have been the end of the project. I got on the phone to SF and explained what had happened at the meeting. “What are we going to do?” Fortunately, Hemmeter was great. He was a member of the Club and a real visionary. Chris didn’t panic when these minor setbacks came up. He would say: “If it were easy anybody could do it.” What in essence happened, which I doubt we could do with today’s lenders, is that we redesigned the foundations and structural components as we proceeded with construction. That was my initial experience with the Hemmeter Group.
I then went on to start my own company. It was called Development Management Services. It was just me and I hired out to a developer. I was fortunate that there were not that many individuals in this line of business that could do a whole hotel project. An architect or an engineer would do his thing, but there was no one to pull it all together.
PAD: OK! You kept on with the same business until your retirement?
JCP: Yes. Chris Hemmeter hired me to do the Hyatt Regency Maui as a consultant. Andre Tatibouet was refurbishing some his hotels and also some shopping centers and he hired me to help him with those projects. The Sheraton Princeville Hotel project was coming on line and they needed some help with the FF&E (Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment) at Princeville. It’s complicated interfacing with the hotel operator and they needed someone who could work with the operator. Another interesting story…… The gentleman from Princeville was to come to Honolulu to interview me; we were to meet at 8 a.m. I went to the meeting at his hotel and he didn’t show up. Unfortunately, he was upstairs and had died during the night. Princeville then called me, asking me to take over the whole project, which I did.
We were able to take one of the old surfing canoes, the Ka Mo`i, and hang it in the lobby of the hotel. In those days the Club didn’t know what to do with the canoes, having so many on the premises and elsewhere. Walter Guild assisted in the matter. Lots of complication came about due to Hurricane Iniki. It was a $54 million dollar project and then the Australians bought the hotel a couple of years later. They wanted to renovate it. It cost $54 million to build and they wanted to spend $89 million to renovate it. They wanted the job done in six months and we almost made it but they went bankrupt. It then was bought by the Japanese. I’ve been doing this type of work up until a couple of years ago.
PAD: You retired in what year?
JCP: I have a different philosophy about work. I don’t have kids and what I do is work really hard on a project for a number of years and then I take a few years off. Like the ten years I spent working at the Club; those were kind of retirement years for me. When the money runs low I would go back to work. This time I will probably stay retired.
PAD: How long did you live on Oahu.
JCP: I lived on Oahu from 1967, with a brief break to Maui, until ten years ago when I moved to the Big Island. I wanted to live in the rain forest. Another member of the Club, Allen Beall, had a property up above the airport in Kaloko Mauka. I visited him a couple of times and I just loved it. I found a twenty acre parcel that was perfect and lived there for about five years.
PAD: You indicated you had no children and you were able to do all the great things. Are you married?
JCP: I first married out of college in 1962 to Diane Ryder and she was a school teacher, now retired. We were married for about twenty-five years. I then married in 1987 to Janet Callaway and we are presently living in Kamuela, enjoying life.
PAD: It was fascinating interviewing you. So many people at the Club still remember you, even Domi (maintenance staff) and other employees, along with Club members. Many, many thanks for coming to Honolulu for this interview. It’s been very interesting. Thank you
JCP: You (Historical Committee) do a great job for the Club. I appreciate what you all do. Thank you.