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 is available below the video.
Interview by Barbara del Piano
October 14, 2014
BDP: This is a Tuesday October 14, 2014. I am Barbara del Piano (BDP), a member of Outrigger Canoe Club Historical Committee. We do Oral Histories on many of the old time members. Today it’s my pleasure to interview Peter Balding (PAB). Hi Peter.
PAB: Good Morning
BDP: We are in the Board Room of the Outrigger and I have a whole lot of questions for Peter so let’s get started. Actually this is the second Oral History that Peter has done. The last one was eighteen years ago — 1996. The interviewer was Ward Russell. I am sure it was quite different — it was just you, Ward and a little tape recorder. So, Peter, the last time you were interviewed — you’ve done just about everything in the Club. You’ve participated in competitive sports for the Club, you’ve served on just about every committee, you served on the Board, and you were the Club President. Since then have you been involved at all?
PAB: I served on just one Committee at the moment — with my good friend Gerri (Pedesky, GGP)— the Judges of Election.
BDP: So you are still serving on Committees.
PAB: I believe I have served on the Judges of Election Committee for about seven years.
BDP: The one major event that has occurred since your last interview is you were elected as a Winged “O”. Was that a big deal for you?
PAB: It certainly is one of the great honors of the Club to be a part of and it is an honor for me to be elected. I believe it was in 1970.
BDP: Yes, that is a very special thing. And are you still into water sports?
PAB: Yes I am. I am still surfing and still swimming in front of the Club. No longer paddling or in the one-man canoes, just regular surfboard.
BDP: Do you play volleyball anymore?
PAB: I haven’t played volleyball in some time. No, that’s one thing I did drop about twenty years ago.
BDP: How do you feel about the volleyball courts being located “up there” as compared to where they were at the old Club?
PAB: Well, it’s very different because at the old Club as you walked into the Club and walked down the stairs, headed for the dining room, you had to really dodge the volleyballs. Coming across, there was no fencing and it was really a focal point in the center of the old Club. Everyone sat on the lawn with their families and all — and we were all much more part of it. Now, unfortunately, once in a while you hear that there is a tournament and you hike up the stairs to see the game.
BDP: I’ve never seen a game since we moved to the new Club.
PAB: I think that in the design of the Club though, I do not know if we had many choices. That was an area that we could make available for volleyball — as the new Club is configured so much differently.
BDP: In your first interview you talked a lot about playing on the Baby Court. We (the wahine gang) used to play on the small court. And we would try to lure you guys like Pat Wyland and Tommy Haine, Billy Baird, and there was a guy named Mongoose. What happened to him? Was his name Johnny Creighton?
PAB: Might have been! Was he one of those “honorary” members we were talking about?
BDP: I am not sure. He might have been.
PAB: Do you remember Chippy Chase? Mr. Chase used to like to take on us Junior Members, but he always wanted to play “one on one”. He did not want to play “doubles”. In those days we handled the ball quite differently. We use the “clam” and we face passed it a lot more, and we dinked around a lot.
BDP: I noticed that the rules are a lot different than they were.
PAB: Yes, they are a lot different.
BDP: As I said, the wahines tried to get you younger guys to come and play with us, but I remember too that at four o’clock all the business men would come out and take over the big court. They’d try to get you to play with them too, didn’t they?
PAB: Yeah, only if they needed an extra person. It’s sort of a similar structure as it is today upstairs. We have the Baby Court which is the starting area and then we have the Second Court and the Main Court. There is sort of an agreement that the Main Guys will always play on the Main Court. At the Old Club it was the same way — on the Number One Court.
BDP: When you started in water sports was there anyone in particular who was your mentor?
PAB: When we started paddling back in the mid-Forties, the individuals in charge were like Charlie Martin, Chuck Schrader — some of those guys. They were involved with the canoe racing program then. When we first started paddling, we paddled parallel with the beach — starting at the Kuhio groin and paddle to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. I believe that at that time they were steering us. We did not have a Junior steersman at that time.
BDP: Who was your steersman?
PAB: I believe it was Charlie Martin.
BDP: Did you have personal contact with men like Duke Kahanamoku, Toots Minvielle, Dad Center?
PAB: They were always about fifteen or twenty years older than we were, but we always interacted with them. We obviously respected them. They were the outstanding watermen of that time. Johnny Hollinger was a mentor. He used to enjoy helping all of us young people out, arranging the canoe load and taking all of us down to a surf spot and sitting patiently while we surfed. Duke was very supportive of us, particularly in 1956 in Australia. He and Nadine were down there and we were all together — and he was obviously a big supporter of our crews.
BDP: How about Toots Minvielle?
PAB: Yeah, old Toots was always around. Yeah, he was always kidding with us. He was a man to be respected, too. He was a wonderful gentleman.
BDP: And how about the old Beach Boys?
PAB: Yeah, we always interacted with the old Beach Boys. They ran the show there actually. Sally Hale was the head man and he had a lot of old timers working for him. In the late afternoons they would migrate over to the Hau Terrace to share some fun times with the members. Some played ukulele and that was a fun time. It seems like we were a closer ohana at that time. Obviously our membership was a lot smaller. It was a lot more manageable to be a closer ohana at that time.
BDP: Who were your coaches when you were paddling for the Outrigger?
PAB: As I mentioned before, it was Charlie Martin, and Chuck Schrader and those guys. In addition to being the steersmen, they were also the coaches. Those are the only two that I can remember who were very instrumental.
BDP: And how about the employees of that time in the old Club?
PAB: They were wonderful people. Well, we have a similar situation here in the Club — like the office group. We have a lot of employees that have been with the Club for many years. And they are wonderful, wonderful people! At the Old Club it was the same way.
BDP: What did you think of Sunshine, the parking lot attendant?
PAB: Well, that’s an interesting question too. Because, in the early 1950’s, I worked for the Club in the Summer as a parking attendant. In the daytime, I would work with Henry Takematsu. He was a heavy set Japanese man who was a very kind guy. I’d work from 10 to 2, through the lunch hour to assist. That’s when our parking lot was where the International Marketplace is today. Then I also got a free employee lunch, so that fit into my schedule very well! If they had parties or special occasions, I’d work with Sunshine in the evening as we needed additional help for the events. That was actually my first job.
BDP: Oh, interesting! How about Richard at the Snack Shop?
PAB: He was pretty bizarre. Yeah, Richard and Clara. Richard was sort of on the “other team” – he was a pretty bizarre guy.
BDP: I know it was after you had stopped paddling, but when they started the Molokai race, it was quite controversial at first. Outrigger was against it. How did you feel about it?
PAB: You know, that was Toots Minvielle, who was the actual guy who held a steady hand on the concept and brought it to fruition. I was a little young at that stage to participate in the race. When they started the Men’s it was an ironman race, so it was six men all the way. Obviously it has changed now to nine person, and also I don’t think they ever thought the women would race the Molokai Channel. And look at them today. It’s a … they are in terrific shape and they do a great job.
BDP: In your earlier interview, you talked about the shortage of space for canoes and surfboards here. Has that improved or not?
PAB: Well, I think that if the architects at the time could have foreseen how the Club would grow. . . When Val Ossipoff and his team were designing the Club, the number of members that I always heard was around 2,500. Now we are at 4,800 members. So, if we had been able to anticipate that growth, we might have designed for more lockers. And then the activities have changed dramatically. The one-man canoes are so popular now that we have to keep adding bays in the garage to accommodate them. On the backside where we had more surfboard lockers, they’ve eliminated two or three bays there, but we also have a waiting list for forty or fifty surfboard lockers. When you make space for five boats, you lose space for twenty surfboards. This facility has just been crammed in every aspect. Back in the late Eighties, we had to add a couple of layers of parking to meet our parking needs. Then we will have problems in the locker room eventually, and the kitchen can only support so many meals. We’ve been squeezing ourselves, that’s for sure.
BDP: In the past eighteen years since your last interview, there have been three major events that have taken place. The first one was the attempt to put through the huge remodeling of the Club called OCC2C. Were you involved in that in any way?
PAB: Not really, no. I wasn’t in favor of it — particularly when they were discussing putting the exercise and weight room over the bar. I was not in favor of that at all. That was very controversial.
BDP: Very controversial — and particularly since at that time the lease renegotiation had not been consummated. And that (the lease renegotiation) was another major event, where the rent went from $30,000 per year to $830,000.
PAB: We actually anticipated that it was going to be up there, and actually at the $830,000 we are talking $70,000 per month. We were originally looking at $110,000 possibly. So the new lease is very much in our favor. We knew it would have to step up quite a bit. But in turn, that is good for another 45 years. So it is very favorable for us.
BDP: The new lease expires in 2055. Do you think that the Elks will give us a new lease? They are kind of bitter right now.
PAB: Well, I would hope that we will be able to buy the property.
BDP: Do you think there is a chance?
PAB: I think there is a chance. I think we have to allow a little time to transpire because a lot of the people who are involved from a leadership stand point may be “wounded soldiers”. They feel like they did not get what they should have gotten. With a changeover in leadership, I am hoping that we would be able to buy our property and stay here. Plus, there are so many restrictions now on this land out here with the shoreline setback and the 25 foot height limitation —- what you see is what you get. The way the Elks may go internationally over time, we may be able to buy their place. You can never discount that.
BDP: How do you feel about the purchase of the Kalanianiole property?
PAB: I was not in favor of that. It was two concepts. They were talking about land banking the last large piece of property to which we could move the Club. In my view, the Club would never be a Club there. The beach was so short and the water so shallow that you could never work with canoes or other water sports, etc. In addition it would be very difficult to maintain a food and beverage operation there — in a residential area. I was dead against that. It has been a tremendous anchor against the Club for a number of years. We were so lucky to be able to move that property.
BDP: Then again, if the Elks refuse to give us a new lease, we are left without anything.
PAB: That will be for the people who are still here to deal with. Can’t project that far.
BDP: We won’t be around, that’s for sure. Well, how much do you use the Club these days — you and May?
PAB: I am probably here at least four or five times a week. We use the Club more often in the morning hours and through lunch. We are usually not around in the late afternoon.
BDP: So it seems that all in all, the Club has been a major part of your life.
PAB: Absolutely! It has been my one and only Club. I am very proud to be a member here. It is one of the finest Clubs in the nation — as you know.
BDP: When the Club moved from Waikiki, how did you feel about that?
PAB: Well, you know that’s a good question. I think it was handled very well. We had a lot of meetings at the Princess Kaiulani. We had excellent leadership at that time: Wilfred Godbold, Cline Mann, and Ward Russell. We put our trust in them. We could have had a couple floors of a high rise building on the site of the old Club, but parking would have continued to be a problem. Actually, at our ages our kids were just getting to the age to use the Club, so the move was very good for us at that time. They never got established at the old Club. And when we moved, they got established here. It was an excellent move. We trusted in our leadership and we had the right people in the right places.
BDP: Ward Russell was the President at that time.
PAB: They convinced us that we would have all new facilities, and new lockers, etc.
BDP: And who was it that negotiated that fabulous lease?
PAB: I think it was Judge Godbold. Some of the wording in that lease is unbelievable.
BDP: We were so lucky!
GGP: Peter, what about the 1950s. It was before statehood and everyone had free rein. The Club was such a focal point for any famous person who came to Hawaii. You were in the midst of it. You and Tommy Haine, and Chippy Kealoha were right front and center, always could steer a canoe, take people out, when the beach boys could not.
PAB: We were the free ones. If you used the beach boys, you had to pay. Tommy Schroder was also part of our group.
GGP: Do you have anything you remember vividly about that time?
PAB: We just loved the Club so much in those days. We could not get enough of it. I used to ride my bike down from Noela and Tommy Schroder would call his mom and tell her that he was staying at my house and I’d call my mom and say that I was staying at Schroder’s house, and we’d stay at the beach all night. Yeah, we’d sleep under the canoes out in front of the Club. It was all real safe in those days, we did not have to worry.
GGP: There were about ten big canoes that had canvas covers, they were upside down. You’d just crawl underneath them and spend the night.
PAB: We were the last in the water at night and the first into the water in the morning. We even surfed at night in those days. If there was a full moon and some surf, we’d surf. And then, we did not have a lot of spending money, but at the old Club they had a deck out on the Diamond Head side. We’d go out there and we always ordered rice and gravy. It was the thing that would fill us up the most and was the least expensive.
GGP: For a quarter.
BDP: I think it was only fifteen cents.
PAB: Might have been our dinner on a number of occasions.
GGP: I remember that spot. Paige and I were up there one time and we saw this gorgeous guy walk out from underneath across the beach. It was just before the time the coeds came to Hawaii. During coed time, if a guy was going with a girl, when it came coed time he’s say: “I’m sorry, but I am taken for the summer”. And then they’d go check out the coeds. Your brother Tommy usually got engaged every summer.
PAB: We’d go to dances for the coeds at the Ala Wai Boathouse and all the guys would be on one wall. They’d start looking across, but there were a lot of connections made and a lot of fun in those days.
BDP: I know that I lost a lot of boyfriends during coed season.
GGP: Yeah, it was dried up for anyone who lived here during coed time. And if you remember, you could not walk from the Club to the water without stepping on someone’s blanket. It was a sold mass of girls on their blankets. The big thing was to have a really nice blanket — and big.
PAB: Well, in the old Club even on the volleyball courts in the evening on Wednesdays we would have stew and rice and have mixed volleyball tournaments. Sometimes they would even put a blanket over the net so you could not see where the ball was coming from. We used to have more fun. We used to go to the beach every day after work. We just lived down there.
The employees really took good care of us in those days — and they also kept us in line. I will always remember one of our managers at that time, his name was Gay Harris — think he might have been an Olympic swimmer (BDP: His brother, I think was, but he was a very good swimmer). They all took very good care of us.
BDP: Do you remember Friday night dances on the Hau Terrace. They always had good musicians. Andy Cummings played there for months.
GGP: Remember the Kumu Club?
PAB: Yeah, I was Jack Palance.
GGP: Peter’s contemporaries formed this Club and they all had a shirt with their movie star names on it.
PAB: Yeah, on the front it was “Kumu” , “Kumu Club” and on the back was our Hollywood name, or whatever you want to call it.
GGP: . . . and all you guys played the ukulele. Everybody had a ukulele. And there was dancing, Bobby Lou Furtado (Schneider)”.
PAB: Sometimes right on top of the tables. But it was all related to we were really a smaller group and a lot more ohana, a lot closer situation. Now it’s pretty commercialized. I am sure a lot of us old timers feel that way which is why we kind of skirt around the Club at the hours we are a little more comfortable.
BDP: At the old Club you kind of walked in and you knew everybody there. Here, it is not so.
PAB: On the left side as you walked into the old Club, there was that grass lawn and everybody used to sit there in their beach chairs. They used to warn people the women not to sit on the lawn ’cause that’s were all the babies were …. it seemed were … But we had our own little bassinets. And we’d just sleep ’em right there behind us. It was real “family”. It was a very strong family Club.
GGP: Remember the luaus? The luaus were on sand of the volleyball courts — sitting on lauhala mats. It was a real luau — real Hawaiian style.
PAB: Just take the nets down and have it right there. . . Do you remember the snack bar when it was over by the canoe shed? Someone would hit the volleyball and whoosh — into the snack bar. It was all over there by the canoes, then they moved it over by the Men’s locker room — later on, when they made it larger and much improved.
GGP: I don’t know how it is today on the water, but when I was out there it was very shallow — so you could walk way out. And the surf, you know, you could fall off your board and you’d be touching. So you could fall off your board and get back and go out and come in easily. Do we still do that these days?
PAB: Well, depending on the tide. You can walk in a lot of the areas like at Cornucopia (in front of the Royal). I am sure that a lot of the sand from Waikiki has shifted out. You know, the beach has changed dramatically. The tides and they put in a couple of extra groins. Even at our own Club here, with all the high tides we have been having, the waves have been coming across our beach. Our groin out here, the sand goes almost halfway out now. It has made a big peninsula for us. Especially since we think our neighbors required us to take the groin out on the Diamond Head side. You know, that messed them up a lot more than it messed us up. It would be a blessing for us to still have that. In front of the Terrace, we would still have sand. Who knew, that’s what happens.
BDP: Peter, how long has your family been in Hawaii?
PAB: Well, they originally started in the 1830s when they arrived as missionaries. The missionary family was the Clark family. My great great grandfather eventually became the third pastor at Kawaiahao Church. His name was Ephraim Clark. Matter of fact, if you are in the sanctuary there at Kawaiahao on the left hand side there is a picture of him. From there my grandmother who was a Clark married a Balding who was from the mainland. They ended up in Hilo on the Big Island because he was involved with the plantations. And that is where my Dad was born. My dad was born in 1904 in Hilo and they lived there the first part of their lives and then they moved to Honolulu, and my dad went to Punahou (Class of 1922).
BDP: And on your mother’s side?
PAB: My mother is originally from Piedmont, California — across the bay from San Francisco. She traveled here on a trip with her family and at some gathering my Dad and Mom met and then were married around 1930. My brother Tommy was born in 1933.
BDP: And where is your older brother now?
PAB: My older brother is up with the Lord. He died about five or six years ago.
BDP: One thing that was not mentioned at all in your first interview was how you met your wife.
DPAB: I met my wife on the beach at Waikiki. I was a volunteer lifeguard on the beach and May and her two girlfriends came from California.
BDP: You don’t men they were summer coeds?
PAB: No, they weren’t part of the coed group. They came .. actually May and Marly came in May as I remember, and she ended up selling tickets to the catamaran rides. We met and that was a quick romance. We met in May, were engaged in June, and we got married in December. So it was a pretty quick thing.
BDP: And you have been married how many years?
PAB: In December it will be fifty-seven years. This is going to be fifty seven and ’57 as we were married in 1957.
BDP: And how many children do you and May have?
PAB: We have two: a son, Peter Junior, and a daughter, Gay. Peter Jr. lives here at Punahou and our daughter, Gay lives in Arizona.
BDP: And Peter Jr. is a schoolteacher at Punahou?
BDP: Is he involved in volleyball at all?
PAB: Not at the moment. He is retired now, but he has been the coach of the Varsity Boys team and the Varsity Girls team for a number of years.
BDP: Now, you also mentioned that your first job was at Lewers and Cooke. Did you stay with them?
PAB: I was with Lewers and Cooke for five years. I started in 1955 and left in 1960. Then I joined a company called Floors of Hawaii which was down by the old Columbia Inn on Kapiolani Boulevard. We were in the floor contracting business: flooring, carpeting, etc. I was at Floors of Hawaii about six years. And then in 1966, I joined the Flintkote Company. I was the district manager here for almost 20 years — for Flintkote. We were in construction materials. Matter of fact, we had a flooring line, we had a roofing line and a gypsum wallboard company.
BDP: In your first interview you mentioned that your family home was on Noela Drive, and Gerri said that she had visited the house and it was a wonderful place. Did your family build it and who was the architect?
PAB: Yes they did. The architect was a fellow named William Wooster from San Francisco. My Mom was from Piedmont CA which is across the bay from San Francisco. He was the main architect and worked with a local architect named Burt Ives who did some of the liaison work when Wooster was on the mainland. It was a beautiful home. My brother and I grew up there and Gerri can tell you we had a lot of good parties there and we had a lot of fun.
BDP: And then it got torn down?
PAB: Let’s see, my mother passed away in … well, actually my dad passed away in 1988 and my mom lasted only about two years about 1990. The house was too large for her and being up against the government property on Diamond Head, she did not feel safe and comfortable there. So we had to move her to a condominium. We sold the house to Andre Tatibouet of at that time Aston Hotels. His wife, Jane used the home as an office for a while. As you may remember, she was in politics. She set up her office in the dining room as a matter of fact. And then, I do not know what actually happened to them, but the house was completely torn down, which was a real tragedy. It was a beautiful home and represented old Hawaii. … Time goes on.
BDP: It’s such a gorgeous location!
GGP: Peter had the most incredible wedding reception at his home. That was just so amazing.
PAB: It was probably after we got married. We got married at May’s home on the mainland. It could have been an engagement rather than a reception.
GGP: And Tommy always had a party before the Junior League. They had this grand, amazing home. The Dining Room was palatial. And they had a button to signal for help from the kitchen. And the dinner always ended with cherries jubilee. And there would be either six or eight of us.
PAB: You have a better memory than me.
GGP: It was the first time I saw a walk-in refrigerator in a person’s home.
PAB: No, no, no — in those days they were called iceboxes. Cause we had to put the ice in there.
GGP: I was just so enamored with your home — it was so beautiful.
PAB: It is a shame that it was destroyed. I can share some pictures afterwards. When we sold the house, we used Betty Wilson … May was working with Betty and Bill Wilson and had the listing.
GGP: Bet you chewed a lot of Adams chewing gum. Peter’s mother was an Adams who drove a pink T-Bird.
PAB: Adams is my middle name: myself, my son and my grandson. One, two, three. My son is Junior, and my grandson is the third, but we call him Trey.
BDP: Who was it? I think it was Kimo McVay’s brother or somebody who was the fourth and they called him Quatro. Quatro McVay.
GGP: Somebody I know was called Pau. Louis Abrams’ last son after six, seven or eight kids was called Pau.
PAB: Doctor Scully’s last son was also called Pau. They had about six kids. That’s cute.
GGP: Speaking of the house, then there was also the Volcano Room.
PAB: Getting back to the Noela residence. Upstairs was the bedroom area where my mom and dad had a large bedroom and bathroom. When you walked down the long hall, my brother had a bedroom, and then there was a bathroom that we shared and then my bedroom — and I had a closet area and everything. When I got married in 1957, my brother got the idea that he would turn my bedroom and dressing area into a bar. So he took the sliding closet doors off, put a bar in there, covered it with towels and put up all the bottles and glasses on the shelves. Got a bunch of neon lights and signs. And finally people called it the Crater Room.
GGP: Didn’t he have one of those lights you used to put on your TV that has the oil that is lit from underneath — a Lava Light. He had several of those.
PAB: And he had about three bar stools and some chairs. The group used to drive my dad nuts because they would always come up through the garage — never through the front door. Then they circulated up to the Crater Room. My brother was quite the party guy. We were like night and day. His name was Tommy.
GGP: He was my sponsor!
PAB: He had a good life … a full life for the seventy-eight years that he existed. He knew the bar well here at the Outrigger.
GGP: For his size he was an amazing surfer.
PAB: Yeah, he could surf. One time we used to play doubles tennis together across the park. He was terrific on a water ski at Keehi Lagoon. He used to be able to get one of those round saucers of about three feet in diameter. When you are towing, you can spin around on the thing. He used to be able to take a bar stool on it, and then he could stand on the bar stool while being towed by a boat. Of course, it was being towed at a slow speed so it would not throw it off. He was a good athlete at one time.
GGP: It’s amazing the things you were free to do at that time. There weren’t laws that say you have to wear a helmet or you could not go there — or whatever. You could do what you wanted to do.
BDP: Well Peter, can you think of anything else you would like to toss in?
PAB: No, I am just sort of following your questions.
BDP: Well, I can’t think of any more myself so maybe we’ll bring this to a close. It will be a wonderful addition to your earlier Oral History and also a great addition to our archives. Thank you so much, Peter.
PAB: Well, I just like to say in the end, too, that it has always been an honor to serve the Club. I hope that we can perpetuate it properly, and I want to say that I feel very confident in the people that are running the Club now. We are in good hands. Thank you very much for having me.
BDP: Wonderful, thank you Peter.