This oral history interview is a project of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The legal rights of this material remain with the Outrigger Canoe Club. Anyone wishing to reproduce it or quote at length from it should contact the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions that are not factual.
An Interview by J. Ward Russell
April 10, 1991
JWR: It is April 10, 1991 – My name is Ward Russell (JWR) and I am a member of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The Committee has, for some time, been conducting oral interviews with a number of the long-time members of the Club and today it is my pleasure to interview one of the Club’s outstanding lady members, Miss Pamela Anderson (PA).
PA: Thank you.
JWR: You are welcome Pam. Good afternoon.
PA: Good afternoon, Ward.
JWR: Let’s start off by asking about you and your family background. How long have you been a member of the Club?
PA: Since 1949.
JWR: 1949 – forty-two years.
PA: That equates to forty-two years.
JWR: When were you born?
PA: I was born in 1931, March 19.
JWR: The day I was born.
PA: Same day you were born.
JWR: Right. Here in Honolulu?
PA: Here in Honolulu.
JWR: Tell me a little bit about your parents. Your father is . . .
PA: Is R. Alex Anderson and my mother, Peggy Center Anderson, whose brother is “Dad” (George) Center; my uncle and marvelous member of the Outrigger Canoe Club for many years.
JWR: lncidentally, I didn’t plan this but if you will look over to your right, there is his paddle.
PA: Oh, yes!
JWR: How about that?
PA: That’s great!
JWR: I walked in and there it was sitting there, and I thought well, this is very appropriate. . .
PA: That’s just super.
JWR: . . . interviewing his niece this afternoon.
PA: Yeah, that’s just marvelous.
JWR: Tell me about your dad, Andy Anderson. There has been so much written about him, it has been in the Journals of the Club and I know that he was interviewed for the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. He was for many years with Von Hamm Young Company.
PA: He was, uh huh.
JWR: And, of course he has been one of Hawaii’s greatest composers of songs.
PA: He composed songs as a hobby. That was not his vocation, it was his hobby.
JWR: As a matter of fact he has written a couple of songs for the Club.
PA: Yes, he has.
JWR: I am not going to spend too much time on your father because he has already been interviewed and a great deal has been written about him, but you know one of the persons we’ve never interviewed was your uncle “Dad” Center. Let’s talk about him for a few minutes. What can you tell me about “Dad” and his relationship with the Club.
PA: I guess I would have to put that together with when I first became a member. He officially sponsored me in 1949 when I was only about 17-18 years old. Actually, I was around the Club long before that as he used to look after me because mother and dad in those days I don’t think were members. Some point in time they dropped out of the Club and then they came back in later – so he used to keep an eye on me. He was at that point Club Captain. I guess he was Club Captain . . .
JWR: . . .For years.
PA: . . . for years, and I used to follow him around the beach and watch him tie canoes. He was there every day of his life, going out either in a canoe with Duke (Kahanamoku) or with a bunch of his friends. They used to go out every day, and then, of course, we paddled for him, trained under him, all the years that I paddled, steered with the Senior Six. I steered after Duke steered us for quite a while and then they finally allowed gals to steer and Dad helped train me to do that. He was quite an inspiration.
JWR: Let’s go back a little bit. When is your first recollection of the Club?
PA: What year, you mean?
JWR: About how old were you?
PA: Oh, I think probably around eleven or twelve.
JWR: Between that time and the time you officially became a member, you spent a great deal of time with Dad.
PA: I was down there a lot because we lived right down here where the Center Apartments are, 2987 Kalakaua. That was the family home, Center home which Uncle Dad – it was left to him when their mother passed away and we were allowed to live in it. My three brothers and I grew up there and Uncle Dad gave us a small three-man canoe so we used to paddle down to Waikiki a lot. So I started going around the Outrigger . . . I was around there a lot before I became a member, and that’s why I remember him so vividly.
JWR: That was the old Club.
PA: That was the old Club, right.
JWR: So you paddled from where you lived near Diamond Head down to the old Club.
JWR: In a three-man canoe.
PA: In a three-man canoe.
JWR: Who, you and . . .
PA: My brothers, either…two of them.
JWR: Allen, Leith and Bob.
PA: Allen, Leith and Bob.
JWR: I think Bob has been interviewed, because, of course, he is a past President of the Club.
PA: I think he has been.
JWR: Tell me – I understand from this letter you have here that they are going to honor Dad, is that correct?
PA: The International Swimming Hall of Fame is going to induct him into their Pioneer category in May – over May 9, 10 and 11 at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, along at the same time as Dick Cleveland who you may remember at the Outrigger. He lives on Maui now.
JWR: Yes. “Spoofy”.
PA: Right. Richard “Spoofy” Cleveland; he’s going in in their regular category. Two of my brothers, Allen and Leith, are going back with me to be there and I am going to accept for Uncle Dad which I am thrilled to do.
JWR: That’s wonderful. That’s absolutely wonderful. I can remember him when I was going to Punahou. He was swimming coach.
PA: I’ve heard that from a lot of people.
JWR: He had the privilege of kicking me off the team once. [Laughter]. It was all my fault because I was a diver and I would often see how close I could come to hitting the swimmers as they swam their laps. He didn’t appreciate that at all. [Laugh]
PA: He was pretty strict as far as his intentions for coaching and somebody learning.
JWR: Fortunately, he welcomed me back with open arms. Let’s go back a little – about your education – where did you go to school?
PA: I went to Punahou from kindergarten to ninth grade, and then I think my mother and dad decided that maybe they should see if they could get the sand from my toes so they decided to send me back East for my last two years of high school. I went to the Master’s School, it was then called, at Dobb’s Ferry, New York, and then from there I graduated and went to Finch Junior College in New York City; then came home, came back here to go to work at Hawaii Visitors Bureau, my first job. I was just going on 18 when they hired me. I was there about a year-and-a half and then went to work for Northwest Airlines. Along with surfing, and paddling and volleyball at the old Club, I used to play tennis at the Royal Hawaiian, and the manager at Northwest Airlines needed someone on his counter at the Young Hotel building and he hired me and l spent two years at Northwest. Then I wanted to see the world so I left Northwest and went to Europe for four months. Upon coming back from there I went to work for United in San Francisco and they eventually transferred me back so I worked in the United office right outside the Outrigger Canoe Club. [Laughter]
JWR: That was convenient!
PA: Which was too bad. [Laughter] I was able to spend my lunch hour surfing and it was just great. I was very fortunate. Then after that I went into real estate about 1959, I guess it was; and have been in real estate ever since.
JWR: Tell me about your athletic activities at the Club. What did you participate in?
PA: I paddled, I surfed – in those days there were only a very few of us gals that really rode the big waves; Pat Honl was my great surfing pal, also Pat Barker Kameny; some of the girls who were not members of the Outrigger – oh, Jane Wiley was doing some surfing with the Club and Helen Haxton, but a lot of the other girls who rode the really big waves were like Ethel Kukea, “Blue” Makua’s sister Vi. .. let’s see, there were about four or five of us I guess that rode the big stuff with all the beachboys and everybody.
JWR: I can remember you out there.
PA: And you.
PA: We had a lot of fun out there.
JWR: Sure did.
PA: . . . and then we’d come in and during the day we’d do some volleyball playing, and I played in a lot of the mixed tournaments, and I think you and I played a couple of times together. I played a lot with Harry Cusack. . .
JWR: Yeah. Yeah. Remember that.
PA: . . . because he was tall and he had a pretty good slam.
JWR: I didn’t play much volleyball. I surfed most of the time – surfed and swam.
PA: Then in late afternoon we’d start training for the canoe races. So the days were long and hard. Leith, my brother Leith, was an island tennis champion taught by Elizabeth “Bunny” Ryan, who used to teach at the Royal Hawaiian. I would go over there and pick up what tips I could while he was having a lesson with her and then I got to playing tennis; and I used to find my way across the beach with my tennis racket under my arm and sometimes play on the Royal courts during the day.
JWR: I can remember specifically that when boogie boarding first came into being you almost gave up surfing . . .
PA: Remember the mats. Remember the mats?
JWR: I sure do.
PA: We had Rosalie Barlow, Earl King, Bob Bush – there were about five or six or seven of us, we called ourselves the “Hat, Mat and Distribute the Fat” set. [Laughter] We did a lot of that, and I don’t see those small mats anymore – they don’t seem to make them. I still have one. I take it out sometimes off here.
JWR: When did your folks move up to Makalei Place?
PA: That was during the War. Dad sent us out. On December 7 I was out walking off the reef here, and things looked so bad here he sent mother and me – Bob was away at college, and Leith finished Punahou in ’41, so Allen and I and mother went to Palo Alto, and we lived there for two years, going on three years, and then when we came back Dad bought the house at Makalei. That was about 1943 – the last of ’42 or ’43.
JWR: There were some wonderful parties there.
PA: Oh, my! Closing up the Outrigger and ending up there…
PA: . . . or Queen’s Surf, one of the two.
JWR: Or Queen’s Surf. When did you start taking up golf?
PA: Well, Uncle Dad was a factor there. My dad belonged to Waialae and tried to introduce me to the game, without success. Later, I had developed a bad shoulder as a result of an earlier problem – fell off a horse and broke an arm. I used to ride across here at the stables, and gradually as I got older those kind of things give you problems, as you know, so I was looking for something where I didn’t have to hit overheads or reach for a ball with a tennis racket or volleyball – Uncle Dad one day said, “Come on I want you to come out and play Waialae with me”, so we went out and he had a six-pack of Millers High Life, and it was on a Tuesday which was Ladies Day. In those days the water coolers at Waialae were just no ice, no nothing and they got them cool by putting ice down in the ground, and so he would chip off the ice to pack his beer which made the ladies at Waialae not too thrilled with him. [Laughter]
There were a couple of holes, I’d dump the ball down the fair way and think it was a stupid game, and he’d say, “Come on let’s have a beer”. So we’d have a little beer and he’d say, “Now you must move, now watch the ball, watch the ball.” Gradually I started hitting the ball a little farther and a little longer and I got captivated with the game. So he was one of the ones who originally got me out there.
JWR: What’s your handicap now?
PA: My handicap is eight now.
JWR: Eight now.
PA: I’m not playing as much as I have in the past, but I seem to stay around eight to ten – around there.
JWR: Let’s see, you joined in ’49, that was after you came back from the Mainland.
PA: Well, I’d been running around down there. I think I’d just been getting away with not being a member.
JWR: Yeah, I suspected as much.
PA: Going in with my brothers, or going in…
JWR: You were always there.
PA: I was always there…and I served on just about all the committees there were through the years . . . served on the Admissions Committee several times. Ran for the Board at the same time that Mariechen (Weheslau Jackson), I think it was Mariechen.
JWR: Mariechen Jackson.
PA : Or maybe it was somebody else.
JWR: You and Mariechen.
PA: I think we ran.
JWR: I was instrumental in putting your name on the ballot.
PA: I think you were. I think I followed somewhere close there but didn’t quite make it. Then I served on House and Grounds. I served on Entertainment. Here at this Club I served once on the House Committee. I forget what all else in this location. For the last 15 or 20 years I haven’t had the time to do anything, but hope to get back to doing something at some point in time.
JWR: Well, you had the benefit of the years at the old Club and then of course – it is hard to believe, 1964 to 1991, almost 30 years at this new Club, an all new generation.
JWR: What was your reaction in respect to the move from the old Club to this location?
PA: I think you always have to have some change and those things do happen. The area you are in for some reason becomes unworkable, so you’ve got to make the move, but there will never be a better location, I don’t think, than Waikiki Beach. My nephews today tell me that they go down there and there is still no place like it. The water off Canoe Surf and you look at that beach and you realize what a marvelous landmark it was. It was just a fabulous location. Being between the two major hotels you saw all the celebrities.
JWR: And the surf can’t be beaten.
PA: . . . and the surf can’t be beaten. So many different types of surf.
JWR: I surfed at both places and surfed down at Old Man’s, but I would paddle over, it was a long paddle, but many a time I just paddled up to the old Club just to surf the old surf.
PA: Ah, there’s no place like…..
JWR: It was a long ways from…
PA: . . . from out here at Public Baths?
JWR: Beyond Public Baths, the other side, down in front of the Halekulani.
PA: That was Populars?
JWR: Populars, yes.
PA: Populars was a great place to go.
JWR: Yeah, I used to enjoy surfing there.
PA: Go out there and work your way over across to First Break.
PA: I remember once going out early with Pat Honl on a very big zero break day at Waikiki about 7:30 in the morning. She was surfing a hollow board in those days and I was on a balsa redwood, and we went out through what we called Baby Surf, remember?
PA: We worked our way behind Blow Hole all the way out over towards Papanuinui. They were awful big out there. About that point in time we saw some big things coming up and decided we’d better catch a wave and get out of there. She got on the first wave, but I missed it and the ensuing two or three waves, I finally got on one and I was going so fast down the side of it that I finally ran off the back end of the board. I had no skeg in those days, no fins ….
JWR: That’s right, there were no skegs.
PA: And so you had to come down at a fairly good angle because you couldn’t hold in otherwise. I got bounced around pretty badly for about three or four waves and no board, and finally I was about to go down for the last time – everything was black and I heard a whistle and out came -· do you remember “July” the old, tall beach boy? He was a lifeguard down there at Kuhio Beach and he had seen the two of us, saw what happened. He had a long hollow board with a rung in the back of it and he came out, pushed the board to me and said he’d go get my board. I grabbed his board and finally made it to shore. I tell you, I crawled up on the beach and I knew I’d had a pretty close brush with.. .
JWR: That’s a story I’ve never heard before.
PA: I ran into “July” about four years ago coming out of Queen’s Hospital. The poor soul, he had become a street person. I was going in at that point in time to get my dad from the radiation department and I didn’t have time to talk with him and tried to find out from him where I . . . he recognized me and said, “Pammy”. I turned around and looked at him and I said, “You know I wouldn’t be here today, July, it weren’t for you”, and he laughed. He took up golf later on in his life.
PA: And then I told Harry Cusack about seeing “July” when he was back about a year ago – he and Anne, his wife, and I had dinner – and he went down to try to find about him because he had also enjoyed him, and “Rabbit” and Jama Kekai – we were all kind of surfing together – and found out that he passed away about a year and a half ago. Poor soul, he became a street person, he just didn’t have the means. I wished I’d known sooner, maybe I could have done something to help him.
JWR: Who was it you said was out with you at the same time, was it Pat Honl?
PA: Pat Honl.
JWR: She passed away, didn’t she?
PA: She passed away, she became quite a downhill skier and almost made the Olympic team. She unfortunately had an accident with a tree, I think, in one of her downhills, and they had to put a plate in her head and that stopped her skiing. She married and had a girl and came back a couple of times and then developed some form of cancer and passed away.
JWR: I remember running into her in Aspen and a couple of times when she came home.
PA: Great water person. Marvelous swimmer and very good in the water.
JWR: A good athlete. Much too young to die.
PA: Yes, she was.
JWR: What other experiences did you have on the waves?
PA: Well, I can remember once when we went with Uncle Dad – we went with the whole paddling group to Kona, to the Territorial Championships.
JWR: Oh, wait a minute, I remember that, I was there. You wrote your name in the waters of Kealakekua Bay…..[ Laughter]
PA: We had a little problem with the buoys drifting which was what the story was. I was steering for the gals and as we came around a turn we hit the Kona Club canoe with our bow, hit the stern and knocked off the back coping on the canoe and it fell in the water…..
JWR: This was the Kona canoe?
PA: This was the Kona canoe and there was a lot of talk about disqualification, but Uncle Dad, in his inimitable fashion, proved there was considerable movement of the buoy and there was no way it could have been avoided, so they presented me with the [Laugh] whole back end of the canoe that night. [Laughter]
JWR: That was one of your first races that you steered, wasn’t it?
PA: Yeah, I think it was, it was . . .
JWR: Because somebody was saying [Laugh]
PA: Writing my name all over the bay!
PA: Well, the currents weren’t very easy over there either. We went along the coastline and there were swells – quite a bit of movement, and I remember quite vividly it was hard to hold that boat straight and to paddle at the same time.
JWR: Do you remember what year that was?
PA: I think that that was in the early Fifties. I don’t see it right off in the book, but it has to be early Fifties (referring to personal scrap book).
JWR: Which crew did you paddle for?
PA: Junior and Senior.
JWR: Junior and Senior.
PA: Yeah, Junior and Senior. We had in our crews Pat Honl, “Blondie” Boyd, “Rusty” Thomas – here’s a picture right here, you might recognize these girls, too. . .
JWR: There’s Pat.
PA: There’s Pat, Ivanelle Mountcastle, “Blondie” Boyd, and er…..
JWR: I can’t remember her.
PA: Gosh, I’ll think of it in a minute. That was one of the great all-time girl crews and we set a record, I think, with Duke as our steersman. One, two, three, four, five, yeah this was . . . Oh, here’s Tommy Kiakona who also steered us, this is Tommy in the background here.
JWR: This was the Fourth of July races.
PA: Fourth of July races, along the coast. One year they had the finish lengthwise along the coast. We set a record that took them many, many years to catch.
JWR: You never paddled across the channel, did you?
PA: We were the first bunch they considered doing it with. We were asked to do it, but the Club in those days felt it was too risky for us and too risky for the canoe. They really hadn’t figured out the means of using escort boats. All those things really hadn’t come into consideration, so they turned us down. I always wanted to but we never got to do it. But that was a great crew and we had…and those were also the days of the great men’s crews, you know, Pflueger and Bob Bush, Jamie Dowsett, Tommy Arnott… those crews were incredible.
JWR: (For the record, Pam is referring to some pictures in her marvelous scrapbook. It is about six inches thick at least and has pictures going way back to the early Fifties and up to the present time, showing many of the old crews, various Club activities, etc.)
PA: Here’s 1952. This was the Gala Kona Championship Regatta. “The Julian Yates Hawaiian Canoe Paddling Championship Races were held on Saturday, August 11, 1952” and our crew consisted of Beverly Blom, Mary Bugbee, Pat Shanahan, Pat Honl, Rusty Thomas and Pam Anderson. That was our famous crew.
JWR: What was your position?
PA: I usually paddled four. Pat paddled three and I paddled four in most of the races and then they switched me to steersman. It was just a great, great time.
JWR: Can you think of any incidents at the Club that would make good listening?
PA: Oh, gosh, there were so many of them. Oh, we used to have great… you probably were in some of those, I am sure, the double canoe parties we used to have at night. We’d take off the ama and the outriggers and put a platform between the two hulls and go out and anchor off of Blow Hole and (Neal) Ifversen was the shuttle. He’d take the little two-man canoe and shuttle people back and forth in the dark to the party on the platform. We’d come in about 11 or 12 at night, sometimes catch a wave and come all the way on in.
JWR: You know, when you just referred to the double canoe platform my thoughts went back to the ceremony we had when we came from the old Club to the new Club and for some reason that reminded me of Dad Center’s funeral rites. I was President of the Club at the time and I was honored to be asked to take his ashes out to sea in the lead canoe.
PA: We weren’t here. Mother, dad and I were in Europe and I don’t know how it happened that we weren’t here for it. I can’t understand how that happened – the timing, I don’t know why we didn’t wait or somebody didn’t wait, but anyway I missed it. I am sorry about it.
JWR: It was a beautiful afternoon, everything went just picture perfect, couldn’t have been better. The flotilla went out, we were the lead canoe and it was Akaka (The Reverend Abraham) if I remember correctly who conducted the services. I was very honored.
PA: I am glad you were there to do it, Ward, it made it very memorable.
JWR: What specifically is Dad being inducted into?
PA: He’s being inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame and when they wrote this letter back in June of 1990 it said, “They share the joy with you over your uncle’s selection as a 1991 Pioneer honoree for induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame,” and they give the dates from May 9 through 11, 1991. “This much deserved recognition will focus an entire weekend on Dad’s achievements as part of the ceremonies and an exciting and emotional video replay of his career highlights will be presented. The Hall of Fame produces this video with materials provided by you along with information from our own archives.” So I hope to bring this back to the Club. “The video will introduce each honoree at the Induction Ceremony and become a treasured memento for you and your family. It also presents a record of Dad’s career which future visitors to the Hall of Fame can view on our new video screen technology being installed as part of our modernization and expansion program.” So it’s an exciting thing and I am sure looking forward to being there.
JWR: It’s a wonderful thing to have recognition being given to somebody from the Islands after all the Olympic champion swimmers that he coached here. I wish he was alive to be interviewed.
JWR: I have some wonderful recollections about him. I can remember once a whole gang of us went over to Francis Brown’s at Keawa iki. One day he and I were fishing together with nets in the fishponds at Kalahu i puaa for small baracuda. He never forgot the fact that I was his fishing and drinking companion that day. He used to reminisce after about that wonderful weekend. It was a weekend!
PA: As they got older Uncle Dad and Duke – because there weren’t too many kids around there to help them out during the day – if they wanted to go ride the waves they had to do it themselves. So they’d get out his Veedol, his little engine, and they’d put that on the six-man canoe and they’d put me up in number one and we’d go putting all the way out to where the waves were. This one particular day, we went out to Public Baths and almost to Old Man’s which was Castle’s actually – Castle’s was down on that side. We were on the edge of Castle’s and as it was forming they ran the engine just enough to get the canoe going on the wave and told me to paddle like crazy. The two of them would sit back there and steer, help each other steer. Doing this we got on some pretty good size waves just the three of us in a long six-man canoe. It was a great thrill.
JWR: I remember that.
PA: A great thrill with the two of them in the back of the canoe, and I never forgot it. And then, of course, when we moved out here and as Duke got older, three or four of us, including Henry Ayau – every time Duke wanted to go paddling, he was winding down in his life and getting pretty tired and not too well, he liked to paddle out around Diamond Head buoy – we’d go with him and we’d stay with him so he could do whatever he wanted to do. He’d paddle all the way out there and the minute he’d get close to the buoy, he’d jump off the board. I wanted to pick my toes up and put them on top of the board . . . [Laughter] Then he’d be slapping the water and, you know, playing around out there like a kid, get back on the board and we’d paddle back into shore. That made him happy.
JWR: I can remember when I was sailing I crewed for him a number of times.
PA: I raced against him.
JWR: Oh, did you?
PA: Yeah. In my scrapbook here I have a notation where I won the regatta. This particular day it was David (Kahanamoku) I was racing against.
JWR: What kind of. . .
PA: They raced a lot in the S-boats.
JWR: Yes, the S-boats.
PA: And we had a little – Dad had a little Mercury that my brothers and I used to sail up here. One day we surfed it in the San Souci Channel. Dad was coming home from work and he saw us with a 500-pound keel boat coming on a wave up here at Diamond Head and he nearly had a fit. [Laughter] He figured we’d rip the keel out of the boat. The Mercury had an overlapping jib. It was an 18-foot little boat with a little dog-house cabin and David used to like to race in that boat. I think I have a clipping in here that says I won the regatta. I have fun looking back on this because my mother made this scrapbook for me.
JWR: Oh, she did?
PA: It’s got pictures of Pan Am – a Pan Am photographer took pictures of me surfing off of Waikiki for a documentary thing they were doing…Here’s a picture of Uncle Dad on a wave in the old bathing suit.
JWR: Oh , yeah.
PA: That’s Gay Harris with him. In the back here it says, “Off Queen’s Surf”. So many memories. . . Oh, here it is, “Wahine skipper to compete on Sunday” Mercury Class “Louis Abrams takes the tiller, Dr. Louis Gaspar’s papio, Howard Cook, John Monty and Lorrin Thurston have filed entries in the race.”
JWR: I crewed for Ballard Atherton.
PA: That’s right, I remember you did.
JWR: I crewed for him for about four years.
PA: Long time, yes.
JWR: We used to race against Duke. Duke would have an S-boat, or some times he would take Paul Withington’s PC…
PA: Or he had Earl Thacker’s S-boat.
JWR: Earl Thacker’s, yes, that’s right. One day we were going out the channel in Ballard’s PC – Ballard, Don Rogers and myself – and Duke didn’t have a crew. He asked for a crew member and Ballard, told me to go with Duke. I’ll never forget, we beat them – Duke and I beat them badly. I was so pleased over that. [Laughter]
PA: Do you remember out here when we were doing some sailing and Cross, er. . .
JWR: Billy Cross?
PA: Not Billy, but Jackie Cross, calling us “Corinthians”. We started out with a little Sunfish and Jack . . . we used to have races around the buoy out here and race for a case of beer, and Barry Pritchard was my crew . . .
PA: And we’d race against Jackie Cross and a man who came every year from Australia – I forget his name now – he was a guest, and he loved to sail. We just had a marvelous time racing out there. This Club has brought a lot of – when you think back about the Outrigger, what a fantastic club it has been for all of the types of things it offers, you know – in the water, the paddling; in volleyball, the greatest volleyball players in the world. It’s been a marvelous, marvelous club.
JWR: You claim the distinction of being one of the real outstanding women athletes of the Club.
PA: Well, that’s very nice, Ward, I appreciate that.
JWR: With your surfing activities, volleyball, tennis, golf. . .
PA: Somewhere I’ve got all the medals, they are all there, in a box.
JWR: I bet you have, and you have a bunch of trophies I am sure.
PA: Yeah, I think so.
JWR: Dld your dad do much surfing as a youngster?
PA: He did. He didn’t do as much as we did because in those days he was working for Von Hamm Company and . . .
JWR: He was raising a family.
PA: Yeah, he was raising a family. His uncle, Conrad Von Hamm, was a taskmaster and dad was working his way up in the company. When he wasn’t working he was either playing golf or he was pretty much writing music.
JWR: Golf was his. . .
PA: He loves golf and he still plays to this day at age 97. I take him out and we play nine holes together at Walalae.
JWR: Really! He’s still playing?
PA: He’s still playing. His eyes are a problem, he can’t see too well but if you set him on the shot he can hit a pretty long way.
JWR: That is remarkable.
PA: He loves it, just loves it.
JWR: Amazing. Talking about your dad reminds me of different things that have occurred over the years. I know that after this interview is over other things will come back that I wish we’d talked about.
PA: You and I probably should have talked earlier before we started in on this. [laughter] Things come to mind. Uncle Dad told me once about how his mother, three or four properties beyond this property where we are now, was a great friend of the Queen, and the Queen used to come out and have tea, and he said, “Tea, hell, they drank okolehao.” He said: “I know because I used to put them in the carriage when they went back home.” [Laughter] So I guess the Queen used to have her moments – she was very close to Flora Center, my grandmother. Came right out here to the end of the park, this was the end of. . .
JWR: . . . the trolley line. When I first came down here from Hawaii I lived on Hibiscus Drive.
PA: That’s right you did. We used to play football in the park over here, and bicycle polo, right opposite this Club.
JWR: When I came down from Hilo as a youngster, I was given a bicycle for Christmas when I was staying with my aunt on Hibiscus Drive and l learned to ride the bicycle in the park – my first traumatic experience was when my uncle pushed me on the bicycle and I tried to make the corner at Hibiscus Drive and Poni Moi. Remember those fir trees on Poni Moi? I plowed right into them, gashed myself on the forehead [Laugh] and cried.
PA: Happy memories!
JWR: What other things come to mind?
PA: Gosh, at this point I can’t think of anything else.
JWR: I’ve conducted a number of interviews and people recalled historical events – what happened this particular year, and so on – but there was no color like yours! You have talked about the things you did and the people you knew. This is great.
PA: Well there were some pretty colorful people who worked for the Outrigger, if you remember those days of Del.
PA: Del, the Maitre D’, one night we got up in the bar underneath the hau tree and Clarence Philpotts had been having a party, and Del used to go into a little closet next to the bar – do you remember that?
PA: None of us could figure out what he was doing in there. It turned out that he was going in there to have a little nip, so Clarence Philpotts locked him in. We left him in there and forgot about him. [Laugh] Then about an hour later somebody said, “My gosh, you’ve got to let Del out of the closet.” We let him out and he was absolutely smashed [Laughter]
JWR: He couldn’t get out so he made the best of it.
PA: And then there was the time when they put somebody up in the canoe over the bar . . .
JWR: Oh that was – who was that now? What was his name?
PA: Some big guy, I am trying to remember who that was.
JWR: Pat Wyman.
PA: Pat Wyman, yes. I think he was asked to vacate the Club for about a month after that one.
JWR: I remember a number of members of that generation on occasion were suspended, but they came back and they lent a lot of color to the Club.
PA: There were lots of celebrities who came and went. “Chick” (William Daniels) used to bring them over from the Royal and they would sit on the Hau Terrace at the end of the day. One of the great things about being around there was that you got to meet them all.
JWR: Can you remember any of those that you met?
PA: Oh, let’s see, oh Panama (Dave Baptiste) . . . Panama was the character of all times. He was always bringing celebrities over. There was Dick Powell, he was there one day and did some partying with us all. David Niven, he and his sons were there. John Wayne used to love to come to the Outrigger. In fact he used to do a little bit of suckin’ ’em up, as everybody said at the Outrigger. I don’t know how he got in, somebody brought him in as a guest. I think maybe Tony Guerrero brought him in. I am sure if I think back long enough I could come up with a whole batch of names.
There was the story about Panama when they met the boats off shore – remember that story? He went out and portrayed himself as the King of Something-or-other coming in.
JWR: Oh, yes.
PA: Remember that?
JWR: Sure do.
PA: The press took pictures of him and somebody determined later on that he was Panama on the beach. [Laughter]
JWR: There’s a book that was just written on the beach boys. I think that story was in it.
PA: There were never ending funny things that happened.
JWR: It’s been a great institution.
PA: And you could go so easily, you remember, from the Royal right along there into the Outrigger and then down to the Moana. Do you remember the great things we used to do after surfing on Saturday? We’d go to the Hawaii Calls program. Come in from surf just in time to go sit over there at the Moana and listen to all the greatest music that came out of Waikiki.
JWR: You know I have some fond recollections of Christmas Day.
PA: Christmas Day. Christmas Day was Uncle Dad’s birthday.
JWR: That’s right. Tell me about that.
PA: Yeah, the “gang” used to gather right next to the . . . in between the Moana and the Outrigger. It was his birthday and it was John D’s birthday (John D. Kaupiko) so all the beach boys would start early in the morning, get cranked up and go all day. Had a marvelous time. Every Christmas Day they started out down there.
Let’s see, what were some of the other great stories? Right at the moment you don’t think about them; later on you probably do.
JWR: This always happens. I know your brothers were quite active in the Club. Bob was President shortly after I was President.
PA: Leith – I think Leith was on the Board, I am not sure.
PA: Leith, I think was on; Allen was away quite a bit in those years working with Standard Oil in various places. I think he gave up his membership for a while and rejoined later. Leith was a very good surfer.
PA: In fact he and George Downing used to love to ride canoes on the big waves. Remember what a hairy thing that was? Bob and Jimmy Pflueger rode the big ones in a two-man canoe.
JWR: Yep. (Laugh]
PA: On those heavier boards we had in those days you didn’t have maneuverability, so you had to set it and forget it.
JWR: What surfboards did you start off with?
PA: With a balsa-redwood. Uncle Dad was manager of Davies Sporting Goods – so mother and dad gave me my first surfboard and it had my name on it. Uncle Dad was instrumental in getting it. Those boards in those days were . . . the outsides were redwood and the insides were balsa.
JWR: Yeah. I had one.
PA: Called Swastika, I don’t know where they got that from. Mine was, I guess, 12 feet long. Pretty heavy. They got me a big one to begin with – didn’t weigh too much at the time, so it was a long time before I could weigh it down. I wouldn’t have a problem now, weigh it down in order to keep it from pearl diving as we called it. [Laugh]
PA: But then when you went either way – I was a goofy footer. . . ..
JWR: Oh, really?
PA: You know, right foot forward. I don’t know how that came about. I am the only one in the family who is, everybody else was left foot. You could always tell Leith going right, and George Downing, because they were skinny. You become a goofy footer when you are going right with the left foot forward. You are facing into the waves and you could tell people who did that – there weren’t too many of them come flying in from way out of First Break try to make Blow Hole and go all the way into Queen’s. That was considered quite a ride.
JWR: Oh yeah.
PA: I remember you and I used to do that.
JWR: Oh, yes, yes. Another accomplishment was to come from Castle’s across Cunha’s and all the way in to Queen’s.
PA: Another little stunt we all used to do and I was doing quite a bit of it until I was taught a very sad lesson, was going behind surfing canoes. Remember that? Where you come through and the canoe ran down to the bottom of the wave; just before feathering, you’d make a shot right behind the steersman and pause ever so slightly between the ama and the main part of the canoe and go around the outrigger and then make it – hopefully?
JWR: Yes. [Laugh]
PA: Well, I’d been doing that a lot one day and towards the end of the day I went out to get the last ride when the sun was setting and the wind had dropped. Kalakaua (Aylet) and Steamboat (Mokuahi) came out and they each got aside of me. We caught the same wave and of course I loved riding waves with them. It was just like being in heaven. As I went to make my turn left, one of them came right on me and the other one came left and chopped me in the ankles. [Laugh] I went flying, the board went flying, and by the time I swam in and got the board and got in on the beach I was totally in tears, my feet almost unable to be walked on. I crawled up on the beach and a little later on one of them called me over and said, “You know why that happened?” No, I didn’t know. Well, they said, “You’ve been going behind us on that board and making it, but one day you are going to miss it, and when you miss it that board comes down and it’s going to come right down on somebody’s neck. You could kill somebody or very badly hurt them.” So that made the point.
JWR: It drove it home in a very hard way.
PA: It drove it right home, and it took me about a week before I was at it again. [Laughter] Kids, you know, you can’t stop ’em. I was more careful.
JWR: [Laugh] Oh, Pam!
PA: But then I was going to say that my mom just absolutely adored this Club. Her happiest times, in the last few years of her life, were coming down here to dinner at the Outrigger. We would bring her up in the elevator in her wheelchair and she’d just sparkle, eyes light up, and just adored it. So this Club has been fantastic. Life, that is what it is.
JWR: It has certainly been wonderful to me over the years. And our birthday parties!
PA: We were lucky, weren’t we Ward? Very lucky kids.
JWR: Yeah, we really were.
PA: The best of the Forties, Fifties and Sixties.
JWR: Those were great years.
PA: Great years. I think people for decades will keep returning and referring to those years because those were the “softness” of Hawaii. Hawaii hadn’t become the big business mecca that it is now.
JWR: There were just enough tourists to make it interesting and fun.
PA: Yeah. The pace was slow.
JWR: Yep. The pace was slow and you fraternized with them. You went to Waikiki to see them and enjoy them. Now there are so many of them that you stay away from Waikiki.
PA: That’s right.
JWR: Well, Pam, I think we’ve pretty much covered the waterfront, and if there is anything more that comes to mind that you’d like to have recorded for posterity, just let me know. We can always have a rerun.
PA: Great. I hope to bring back, as I say, some sort of memorabilia from the International Swimming Hall.
JWR: I’d be interested to… I am sure it’s Genie McMahon who has been working on Dad’s background. It came up at one of our Historical Committee meetings because there was some question as to when he joined the Club, I think. Did they consult with you on that?
PA: They showed him as a member back in – well, he rowed for the Myrtle Boat Club in 1905, and in 1908 he joined the Outrigger Canoe Club where he was immediately appointed as their Athletic Coach. Then he was declared Club Captain, a position which he held for two decades. That’s when he turned out the swimming greats like Buster Crabbe, and Mariechen (Weheslau Jackson) and Helen Moses, and he also went to the Olympics as coach of the U. S. teams. in 1927 he again served as swimming coach to the All-American team in Japan.
JWR: He coached me in ’31 and ’32 at Punahou.
PA: Did he?
JWR: During my last year, ’33, “Dope” (Harold) Yap was my coach.
PA: I was sitting next to somebody at luncheon the other day, Ruthie Judd I think it was, and she told me that he had coached her. He loved to help young people. He had a great knack for doing it. If he saw them going in the wrong direction, he recognized it and tried to act as a buffer, a senior counselor, to point them in the right direction.
JWR: He had a great sense of humor.
PA: A marvelous sense of humor, that means a great deal.
JWR: Well, again many, many thanks.
PA: I hope that this will help to be some sort of a memorabilia for people in the future.
JWR: It sure will. It’s the type of interview that I’ve enjoyed very much. Some of the people I’ve talked to have been like pulling teeth to get anything out of, really. You ask them a question, you get a short answer and you sit there and look at each other. [Laugh]
PA: Well, those were the happiest days of my life. Often I think about them, when I am driving along looking at the coastline or having dinner here looking back down there to Waikiki. I was out with Tommy and Marion Arnott following the last Molokai race in Tommy’s boat and we anchored off Waikiki. We talked at great length about all the good times we had and a lot of things we were talking about today.
JWR: Leith and Jean live over on Molokai? I see them in town occasionally; I see them here. How frequently do they come to town?
PA: They come to town to see the grandchildren and their children, oh, maybe once or twice a month. He has an airplane that he flies over.
JWR: Oh, he does?
PA: Uh-huh. A single engine plane. They also live very close to John Weiser who has station KUMU, I think it is. John has a twin engine plane and lives just above Jean and Leith at the west end of Molokai and has his own air strip.
JWR: Oh, he does?
PA: Air strip and hangar.
PA: He lives there and goes back and forth every day and every night – every morning and every night. So they occasionally will fly down with him. So they’re lucky, they have a means of getting here.
JWR: They must enjoy it over there.
PA: They love it. On the beach – you should stop in and see them.
JWR: Yeah, well they have asked me to…..
PA: I know several of the OCC gang who go there, they call them the Boat People, [Laughter] Jimmy McMahon and crew. They go over, swim ashore, and spend the night with Jean and Leith.
JWR: I think we are just about. . .
PA: We’d better wind this up, I think.
JWR: Wind this up. Many thanks.
PA: Thank you, Ward, very much. Aloha.
The following addendum to Pam Anderson’s oral interview of April 10, 1991 was conducted by Ernest H. Thomas (EHT) following Pam’s attendance at her late uncle “Dad” Center’s induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Ward Russell, who did Pam’s original interview was on an extended trip at the time.
EHT: This is July 26, 1991, and Pam Anderson is here. Pam what is it you are going to do?
PA: Well, I am going to tell you about the very inspiring and marvelous Honorary Induction weekend and aquatic extravaganza, May 9 through 11, 1991, where they inducted my Uncle Dad Center into the Pioneer category of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. It was extremely exciting for me to be there because I accepted for him. It was a very extensive weekend program. They started on Thursday with a Women’s one-meter springboard event and a Men’s 10-meter platform event. The next day – more diving – with the men’s and women’s three-meter events. All of these kids were just out standing Olympic performers as well as National Championship swimmers, and they were putting on this meet as all of the induction was going on.
The first night was the Pioneer Induction. It was done in the Museum itself, where the International Swimming Hall of Fame is expanding quite rapidly and very nicely. When you walked in you saw a life size picture of Uncle Dad and Johnny Weismuller standing next to each other, and then you looked around the walls at all the trophies and various memorabilia of the former Olympics and past champions. That’s where they had the induction for him on Pioneer night. One of the nice highlights of that occurred after I had accepted for Dad – incidentally my two brothers were there, Leith and Allen. A man stood up and was introduced as Harry Glancy – and Harry Glancy said he would like to present Dad Center’s niece with a Xerox clipping from the Japan Times and the Japanese Shimbun of 1927, when he, Harry Glancy, was the captain of the team Dad Center took to Japan.
PA: This man’s wife was on the team and was the first lady swimmer of any country to perform in Japan. Harry Glancy had stayed here in Hawaii and he admired Uncle Dad very much – he’s now 87. That was one of the great highlights.
The next evening, Friday, as they continued the induction program they had a large TV screen on which appeared a video of each of the athletes – you saw their historical background and pictures of them in action. The athlete himself, if he or she was present, stood up and gave their own memories and talked on how they became the successes they were. The last night was the general induction of the rest of the honorees which included Dick Cleveland (who, I think, years ago was a member of the Outrigger, but lives on Maui now). I met a number of people who were in the Pioneer induction. One lady was 87 years old and she was from Argentina. She was just a marvelous person. She got up and made an inspiring speech on how she trained very hard to be what she was. Another, June Taylor, pioneer synchronized swimmer she was inducted in Uncle Dad’s category. And there were water polo people – plus others in water sports that would some day make a name in the International Swimming Hall of Fame. I understand next year they are talking about getting into surfing. I think they are considering inducting Tom Blake.
EHT: I think they should.
PA: It was one of those things that was “chicken skin” while you are there. When you come back home you try to put it into perspective. You think about these things happening seventy years ago, and it becomes more and more historic and meaningful. You get a deeper feeling for it as time goes by.
EHT: Approximately how many people are in the Hall of Fame now?
PA: I think there are at least a thousand, if not more. Considering that inductees include swimmers, divers, coaches and others who contributed to swimming since the turn of the century it really mounts up. Pioneers alone are a large group. They are chosen from the years prior to 1928.
EHT: Oh, I see.
PA: I think it is something that perhaps the Outrigger should have closer touch with. The top officials were very pleased that I was there and wrote a letter to that effect, which I thought was very nice of them.
EHT: Very nice.
PA: We will be getting a video which the Club may want to look at. . .
EHT: Oh, yes.
PA: It was the one they showed at the induction.
EHT: We might want a copy in the Historical files.
PA: It would be marvelous for us to have it.
EHT: As a matter of fact you could keep in touch with them for the Outrigger too, couldn’t you?
PA: Sure. I’d be happy to do that. I am going to write to Bob Dunkel who is the curator, a very nice fellow – a young guy. The directors are all ages and come from all walks of life. There are some who are presidents of major companies – fabulously interesting people, and here they were Olympic athletes. They’ve gone on to great things, and they all credit – most of them – their families, their mother and father, which I found to be really great. It was a very inspiring thing for all of us. My brother, Leith, who was a diver, couldn’t get over watching these kids. They were doing practice dives off the platforms and you know, they’d go into a series of spins.
EHT: I know they do the darndest things.
PA: You know, one after another, and it was quite a weekend. They do a fabulous job.
EHT: Well, are people nominated by someone to be there. . . is there a board to select?
PA: If we wanted to nominate people from here I think we could just write to them with a name. We might check with Allen Stack who was inducted some years ago. I believe his name was submitted locally. I think, possibly, canoeing at some point might even be included.
EHT: I would think so. Sure, why not.
PA: The next major thing they are planning to do is to expand their library. It is going to be right there in Fort Lauderdale where they have a beautiful big swimming pool. They conduct many swimming events there during the year. The events go on for quite some time . . . through every month there is something going on there. In 1991 participants came from Japan, Canada, and there was a diver from Russia. Getting back to the induction – Harry Holliday, who I remember swimming during the days of Dick Cleveland, was inducted. There was another fellow, Felipe Munoz from Argentina, who I remember was a famous swimmer during the Fifties. He was inducted. He couldn’t come because he was running for politics, so somebody came for him.
EHT: Are there very many Japanese in the Hall of Fame?
PA: Quite a number. In this particular group of Pioneers, there was Katsuo Takaishi, and in the main other category that Dick Cleveland was in they had a girl – let me see, what was her name? Satoko Tanaka, she was a swimmer and a diver. Incidentally they have a complete history of each one of the athletes who are nominated and inducted. Oh, Sammy Lee, the diver. Remember Sammy Lee?
EHT: Yeah, I remember Sammy Lee.
PA: He was there. He gave an honorary award to a fellow who was being inducted as a member of “Friends of Aquatics”. (thumbing through the program). They have all sorts of videos you can get. It is truly a great organization. Well, think that just about does it.
EHT: OK, Pam. Thank you very much.
July 10, 1990
In response to a request from Pam Anderson, the following is the Biographical Information of Mr. George David “Dad” Center, which was researched by the Outrigger Canoe Club’s Historical Committee.
Beginning in 1905 at the age of nineteen, “Dad” Center rowed for the Myrtle Boat Club of Honolulu, which was located at the Honolulu Harbor, adjacent to the present site of Pier 11.
In 1917, he joined the Outrigger Canoe Club, where he was immediately appointed the Athletic Coach of the Club, wherein he assumed the leadership of Volleyball, Swimming, Surfing and Canoeing.
Soon thereafter, he was declared the Club Captain, a position which he held for two decades.
During his career as Club Captain, he proved to be a most capable leader. He helped to develop such famous swimming greats as Mariechen Wehselau, Helen Moses, Janice Lovett, and Olga Clark and such male stars as Buddy and Buster Crabbe.
He was considered a pillar of the Club. Under his tutelage, he was a personal inspiration to many young surfers and paddlers.
“Dad’s” biggest thrill was that of serving as Coach of the 1920 U. S. Olympic Swimming Team, which participated in Antwerp, Belgium. Included in the team were such outstanding swimmers as Mariechen Wehselau Jackson, Duke Kahanamoku, Pua and Warren Kealoha, Stubby Kruger, Helen Moses and Joseph Atherton Gilman.
In 1927, he again served as Coach of the All-American Swimming Team to Japan.
“Dad” was born on Christmas Day in 1886 at Kipahulu, Maui. He has admitted that his happiest moments occurred when he observed youngsters in various types of competitive athletics.
In 1932, following twenty years of active leadership in athletics at the Club, he submitted his resignation, following which he was recognized by the Club’s Board of Directors as the “Honorary Club Captain,” a position which he retained to assist in his dedication to the revival and advancement of Hawaiian Aquatic Sports.
He passed away at age seventy-five, in 1961.
In accordance with his wish, funeral service was held at the Club, following which his ashes were scattered off Waikiki Beach by a flotilla of canoes. “Dad” Center was loved by thousands who knew him as an exceedingly thoughtful, kind and a most gentle person, who lived with a Heart of Gold.
He was an inspirational and dedicated Leader of Athletics in the development of many men and women throughout his adult life.
International Swimming Hall of Fame
CONTACT: Laura Hatfield
DATE: September. 20, 1990
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“DAD” CENTER TO BE INDUCTED TN THE INTERNATIONAL SWIMMING
HALL OF FAME AS A PIONEER MAY 9, 1991
FT. LAUDERDALE, FL – George David “Dad” Center, former United States Olympic coach will be inducted as a pioneer in the world of swimming on May 9, 1991. Upon his induction, he will join swimming greats Mark Spitz, Tracy Caulkins, Johnny Weissmuller and Esther Williams.
Dad Center was a modest, gentle man who simply enjoyed coaching young athletes. His inspirational nature allowed him to encourage young athletes to participate in a variety of sports, including swimming and surfing, although his true love was for canoeing.
Beginning in 1905, Dad rowed for the Myrtle Boat Club in Honolulu. In 1917, he joined the Outrigger Canoe Club where he was immediately appointed. as their athletic coach. Soon thereafter, he was declared Club Captain, a position which he held for two decades.As captain, he turned out swimming greats Buster Crabbe, Mariechen Wehselau, and Helen Moses.
Dad’s highlight of his career was coaching the 1920 U.S. Olympic Swim Team in Belgium. He tutored world class athletes Duke Kahanamoku, Moses, Pua, Warren Kealoha, and Stubby Kruger. And in 1927, he served as the coach for the All-American Swimming Team that competed in Japan.
Dad served with many clubs, most often without pay, until his death in 1961. His efforts were compensated by seeing young athletes taking part in aquatic activities. Upon his death, his ashes were scattered off Waikiki Beach by a flotilla of canoes. Dad was loved by all who knew him.
Dad Center’s niece, Pamela Anderson, will travel to Fort Lauderdale in May to receive the Hall of Fame honors on behalf of her uncle.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE OUTRIGGER CANOE CLUB
Admissions & Membership Committee