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 Ken Pratt
August 11, 1987
KP: This is an oral history interview with Reynolds G. Burkland (RB) who joined the Outrigger Canoe Club in 1924. The interview is being conducted on August 11, 1987, at the home of Ken Pratt (KP) representing the Outrigger Canoe Club’s Historical Committee.
KP: Reynolds, before we get into the early days at the Outrigger, can you tell us something of your background.
RB: Well, I was born in Vermillion, South Dakota, on October 14, 1910, and came to the islands for the first time in 1911. At that time my father was a topographic engineer, that is a map maker, with the U.S. Geological Survey and he was ordered out her to do some map making in Hawaii. So my mother and my older brother, Albert, and I came out with him. We camped in tents on Keauhou Ranch up near Killauea, we lived in Kamuela and in Hakalau, and also in Hilo where my brother Dick was born in 1912.
In 1913, we went back to Washington, D. C. and then came back again in 1920 when my father was again ordered out here to be in charge of the completion of the mapping of the Hawaiian Islands. I went to school here from 1920 on, went to Central Grammar School, McKinley High School, and the University of Hawaii. After graduating from the University of Hawaii with a B. A. in 1932, I went to work at Castle & Cooke as an office boy. I worked at Castle & Cooke for six years and then was asked to go to A & B, which I did. I worked at Alexander & Baldwin until 1959 at which time I quit and went to work with Hawaiian Trust. I worked with Hawaiian Trust until 1975 when I was retired.
My first experiences with the Outrigger would have been in 1921–1922 or so when I was invited to the Club as a guest of neighbors of ours up in Manoa. In those days the women and the young children used a bathhouse which was on the town side of the Club property. As I remember, it was a long building with shower stalls at one end and then dressing cubicles on either side of an aisle down the center of the building. I don’t remember whether we left our clothes in those cubicles or took them out to the beach, but that’s where we dressed and changed clothes when I first got to the Outrigger.
KP: That would be in the early twenties.
RB: The very early twenties, yes. And now I think I should talk a little about “Pop” Ford – Alexander Hume Ford.
KP: Oh, yeah. Actually, he was the founder of the Club, wasn’t he?
RB: That’s right, he was, and he’s the one who got me into the Club.
KP: Isn’t that interesting. That’s great.
RB: My recollection of “Pop” was that he was a rather short slight man with a Van Dyke beard and a mustache and always in very messy clothes, usually with food stains on his neckties and his trousers. He lived as a bachelor in the Castle Home in Manoa, and I guess he didn’t have anybody to take care of his clothes. In those days my picture of “Pop” was generally of him riding in his old Model T Ford with a bunch of kids in the car. Somehow, I guess through our neighbors, my brothers and I met “Pop” and we began to be included in his expeditions with all the young boys that he knew. It was through him that I saw many parts of Hawaii that I probably would not have seen for many years after that. I remember that he took us one day out to Hanauma Bay. Now that doesn’t seem like much of a trip today, but in those days there was just a dirt road from about where the Kahala Shopping Mall is now all the way out past Wailupe and Niu and Kuliouou and when you got out to the Kuapa Pond area the road went across the sand dunes there on just two wooden planks. You had to stay on those planks because if you got off them the sand was deep and soft and you really could have trouble getting out of that stuff. “Pop” managed to get us out to Hanauma Bay and he also took us down the coast and showed us some petroglyphs near the water below where the rifle range is now.
Another expedition was up near your place, Kenny. He took us up the trail to Kapena Falls and showed us the petroglyphs that are carved in the rocks up there in Nuuanu.
KP: Oh, oh, my old home.
RB: Yes, your home …
KP: …up in Nuuanu, yes.
RB: There is an old trail up there and quite a few petroglyphs along the way.
KP: Yes, I’ve seen those. They are very interesting.
RB: Of course we swam in the pool and dived from the rocks. “Pop” also took us up to Francis Gay’s place up in Kalihi Valley where, to get to the house, you had to cross on a bridge over the Kahili Stream to arrive at the front door. We swam there in a pool below the bridge.
“Pop” took us out to the Moanalua Gardens and I remember particularly going down on the makai side of the road in the area which is now the Mapunapuna industrial tract – in those days it was a series of Fishponds, and there was one pond that had a little island in the middle of it with a Japanese style bridge out to it and a Japanese pergola on the top where you could sit and contemplate the sunset.
Then in 1924 my brother Albert and I worked for “Pop” Ford. If you remember, “Pop” had all sorts of projects going all the time, and 1924 through his Pan Pacific Union he had organized a food conservation conference which brought people from all the countries around the Pacific and during that conference Albert and I were hired as messengers. Our job was to run between the Pan Pacific Union office on the second floor of the Young Hotel over to Iolani Palace where the conference was being held. We carried supplies, messages, and ran errands for the delegates and probably spent, maybe two weeks on the job. That was my first real job here in Hawaii.
KP: Now, where did “Pop” have his own office? Do you recall?
RB: That was on the second floor of the Young Hotel building up near the lobby end of the building – the mauka end of the building.
KP: I see.
RB: The Pan Pacific Union office, that’s what he operated out of.
KP: Incidentally, just to get back a second, did you realize that he started the Trail and Mountain Club – back in 1910, so he’d been doing that a long time when you got into the act.
RB: Oh, yeah. He was a great organizer. He always had more ideas than he could sell.
KP: Well, he was people oriented, wasn’t he?
KP: Like the Boy Scouts, the Pan Pacific …
RB: The Pan Pacific Union was intended to bring together all the countries of the Pacific to explore common idea and common needs. Well, after working that summer I had a little money so I joined the Outrigger Canoe Club in 1924 at “Pop’s” urging. He wanted everybody to belong to the Club, of course, and since I was 13 I was able to join as a junior member. I could get a locker in the area of the men’s locker room which was pretty important because then I could leave my bathing suit and leave my towels there, and that made me feel like a full-fledged member of the Club. (Laugh)
KP: Do you remember how much you paid back then?
RB: I have no idea what it cost.
KP: But you were paying it yourself out of your work.
RB: Yeah. You bet, I don’t think we paid monthly dues, we may have paid them quarterly or semi-annual or something like that.
KP: It wasn’t much as I recall.
KP: Well, that’s very, very interesting. Reynolds, back during the twenties, I’ve forgotten what year it was, your brother Albert had a real bad surfing accident. Could you tell us something about this tragedy?
RB: Yes. That happened in 1925. I wasn’t out surfing at the time, but what happened as I understand it, was that Albert was on a wave sliding left and somebody came at him, sliding right. The waves were pretty big and to keep from pearl diving Albert tried to straighten out and slipped to the back of the board to try to keep the nose up, but the wave broke and the board hit the bottom and either the wave broke on him, driving him down on the board, or the board jumped back and hit him in the abdomen giving him a severe blow. Fortunately there were friends of his there who knew he was in trouble and got his board for him and helped him get in to the Club, and when he got ashore he was really almost paralyzed. So I called my father and asked him to come down and pick him up, which he did. He took Albert to see Dr. Judd – that was Dr. James R. Judd, not Charlie – who immediately put him in Queen’s Hospital and started watching him. He didn’t know what had happened to him, but after a day Albert started running a temperature so they opened up his abdomen and found a very unusual sort of thing had happened. Apparently the intestine had been pushed back against the backbone so hard that it had perforated…..
KP: Oh, my.
RB: …the intestine had been draining into the body cavity since the accident and peritonitis had set in. I suppose today with the antibiotics we have and other medicines, he could have recovered from that …
KP: Definitely, definitely.
RB: …but in those days we didn’t have those medicines and I think he lived just three days.
KP: That was a shame, because he was so young.
RB: Well, it was rather devastating to “Pop” Ford because after our working during the summer “Pop” had gotten Albert interested in some of the projects that he had going at the time, and Albert used to go up to Castle Home and spend afternoons up there working on various things, and “Pop” became very fond of him, so when Albert was killed surfing, this was quite a blow to “Pop” – after all, he had been the one who had promoted surfing, and fathered the Club for that purpose, and then wanted everyone to surf and here one of his favorites had been killed in what was probably the first surfing accident to be recorded. So after it happened, he went to the Outrigger directors and suggested that they create an honorary membership in honor of Albert, and recommended that they give it to my brother Dick, which they did.
So, you should ask here, Ken, how come your brother Dick got the honorary membership instead of you, and the reason for that was some foolishness that I had indulged in a short while before. As I said earlier, “Pop” always had a bunch of kids riding around in the car with him, and often he would let us steer the car as we sat next to him, and then as we got more adept he let some of us drive the car – with him, of course, sitting next to us. The Model T Ford, if you remember, was fairly easy to drive, and a number of us were able to do it.
KP: I got my license driving one of those.
RB: Did you?
KP: You bet your life, 1927.
RB: That’s great. On this occasion we were coming down from Castle Home to our place. Castle Home was on Upper Manoa Road and we lived down on Lower Manoa Road, and to get home we came down Kuahine Drive which had a fairly steep angle to it and as we got down just before the intersection with Lower Manoa Road there was another car coming down from the right on Manoa Road and going to pass in front of us. So I stepped on the brake. If you remember those Model Ts, their brakes were not very good (Laughter) and our car didn’t stop. So I took the next step which was to put it in reverse. As I stepped on the reverse pedal, the car slowed down, but it kept inching forward, inching forward into the intersection and just as the other car passed I nicked its fender. Our fender nicked his, didn’t do any damage to the other car and none to “Pop’s”. I don’t think if there’d been any damage you could have identified it, “Pop’s” car was so full of bumps and dents anyway. Even though there was no damage, the incident upset me. I drove down to our house which was a hundred yards or so below the intersection, parked the car, got out, and ran away. I didn’t want to talk to “Pop” about it, I knew it was nothing bad, but I just was disappointed in myself, I guess, so I ran away and climbed up in a big ironwood tree in the yard next door, sat up there, and “Pop” went all through the neighborhood calling for me, and calling for me, and calling for me, but I didn’t come down. So finally he left. After that our relations were a little cool. (Laughter)
KP: That’s strange. (Laughter)
RB: It was foolish on my part, but I was 14 year old and I guess that’s the sort of thing you do at that age.
KP: Oh, yeah. Those things happen in the early teens, there’s no doubt about it.
RB: Actually, the honorary membership worked out pretty well for the Club. My brother, Dick, didn’t finish at the University; he left before graduation and went over Kauai to work for your brother.
KP: This was Dick.
RB: Yeah, to work for your brother Scott, at the McBryde Sugar Company.
KP: You know, Mim, my wife, remembers him up there.
KP: She went up there with a couple of teachers from Punahou, stayed with Scott for a day or two, and Dick was the one who showed them all around the plantation.
RB: I’ll be darned, Jack Johnson was up there at the time, too.
KP: She doesn’t remember Jack apparently.
RB: Then when your brother went from McBryde over to Kohala on the Island of Hawaii, he asked Dick to come over with him, so Dick went to work on Hawaii at Kohala Sugar Co., and stayed there until he was called into the Army in 1940. Then after the War he moved to Arizona for his health and lived in Phoenix until he died. So for most of his life he wasn’t in a position where he could use the Club and might not have continued his membership had he not had an honorary membership.
KP: I see.
RB: On the other hand, I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve paid my dues every month since 1924, except for a couple of years during the War when I was away in the Navy. During the War, that is World War II, I think all of the members who were away in the service were given military leave and we didn’t pay dues again until we got back after the War was over.
To get back to when I first joined the Club – shortly after I became a member my friend Bob Peterson gave me an old surfboard. It was pretty beat up, it had pearl dived a number of times so the nose was splintered and the varnish was mostly gone, but it was a great board to learn on, and as I remember we small kids all learned to surf in an area that was just to the left – on the Diamond Head side – of a groin that went out from the beach into the water. The groin had been built originally to keep the lagoon discharge from eating into the Moana Hotel’s beach, so that the stream generally ran out right next to the groin and sand built up on the Moana side so it was shallow there. Waves used to break in that area and we small kids could first start catching waves by pushing off on the board and then later on learning to paddle and catch the waves by paddling. We didn’t go near Canoe Surf for a long time, it must have been probably a year before I even tried to go out there and I can remember going out a number of times and paddling and paddling and never catching a wave; and particularly we kept away from the beachboys. They didn’t want us small kids in their way when they were surfing, especially when they had tourists out there surfing tandem with them.
KP: Afraid you’d bump into the tourists, eh?
RB: Oh, well, they thought we’d get in the way. Which we would have.
KP: There was a little pond there. Is that where you used to practice?
RB: There was a lagoon between the beach and Kalakaua Avenue, – this was before the (Ala Wai) canal was built, so that Manoa, Palolo and Makiki streams used to discharge there – through a big swamp area where there was rice, and banana patches and duck ponds, and one of the outlets was right there at the Outrigger.
KP: I think the stream went right under Kalakaua Avenue.
RB: It did. And then there was the lagoon and the stream ran out into the ocean. I suppose it was that fresh water discharge that kept the coral from growing there in that area.
KP: Ah, yes, probably.
RB: Finally, the guys I surfed with were able to handle the waves outside so we began our real surfing career after a few years there.
KP: Then you went out to Canoe Surf.
RB: Canoe Surf, yes.
KP: First Break?
RB: Not First Break for a good long while.
KP: How about Castle’s?
RB: Oh, I never went to Castle’s. Later on, we went to Cunha’s and Public Baths, but never to Castle’s or Zero Break which was way out.
KP: Do you remember the article and picture in Ripley’s. Believe It or Not that had a story about Duke Kahanamoku going out. Could you tell us about that.
RB: I remember when that happened. The waves were big and as I recall it he caught a wave out at Castle’s, caught it far enough out so he was able to slide left through Public Baths, through Cunha’s, through Queen’s Surf, on through Canoe Surf and came practically to the beach on a single wave.
KP: …and Cornucopia, the small surf there.
RB: Well, he might have ended up in Cornucopia. (Laughter) We used to surf at Cornucopia, too. That was the area right in front of where the Royal is now.
KP: Duke joined the Club about 1917, wasn’t it?
RB: Well, he was swimming for the Club in those early days so I presume he had some kind of a membership.
KP: I think he was with Hui Nalu when he burst into fame in 1912. I think “Dad” Center brought him over to the Club about 1917.
RB: I think he belonged to both Clubs all his life.
KP: Oh, I see.
RB: Hui Nalu kept on going after he was member of the Outrigger and he had all his pals over there and his brothers belonged to Hui Nalu, so I’m sure he continued his membership there, too.
KP: Speaking about Duke and his brothers, do you remember the surfboard water polo that they had? That was the early thirties, wasn’t it?
RB: I think so, yes.
KP: Now, we haven’t had a story about that, that I recall. Can you tell us something?
RB: Well, I don’t know how it got started except that it was begun as a tourist attraction. I think by the Royal Hawaiian…
KP: It was right in front of the Royal.
RB: . . . and the teams were made up of beachboys and Outrigger members. I remember George Perry used to be the goal tender for the Outrigger. I think Wilfred Paul played, but I don’t remember who the others were.
KP: I played on a lot of those – the ones that were Hui Nalu against the Outrigger Canoe Club, and Duke played with Sam and Louis, Louis played. You remember Sam pulled a fast one in one of the meets – he sharpened the rear end of the board so he had two front ends on his board and he would swivel on his stomach if he wanted to change directions. (Laugh)
RB: That was pretty smart, because turning the board around would take time.
KP: I recall the distance between the nets was a little longer than regular water polo.
RB: I imagine. It would have to be if you were going to maneuver surfboards. But generally, it was played just like regular water polo as I remember, with a fairly soft ball that you could hold and throw easily.
KP: And it was right in front of the Royal Hawaiian so that they had all the audience sitting on the beach watching.
RB: They used to get good crowds. I remember those games.
Well, mentioning the Royal Hawaiian, I remember when the Royal was built, I guess starting in 1926 or 1927, part of the Royal property had been occupied by the Outrigger so the Outrigger had to move and they took the big pavilion that was on the beach and moved that back towards Kalakaua Avenue.
KP: Oh, yes.
RB: Then they built the men’s and women’s locker rooms underneath the pavilion, and left a parking lot between the pavilion and Kalakaua Avenue. And on the ocean side of the pavilion there were two volleyball courts and an open sand place, and a little soda fountain or candy stand that used to be operated by Sasaki, and then on the beach side a new shed was built to protect the canoes. The canoes were stored on the beach and at the Waikiki end of the shed they paved part of it, or rather put down a wooden flooring, so people could sit there in their chairs – mothers could watch their children swimming and people could sit and watch the surf.
KP: I don’t recall that as being very large – probably 20-feet by 20-feet.
RB: Probably not more than that.
KP: It was a very, very comfortable little stretch. I remember a lot of us used to sit there and talk story. Now, you remember, in volleyball we used to have competition now and then and the losers would have to furnish chocolate sundaes that Sasaki…
RB: Double deckers.
KP: Double deckers, yeah.
RB: Two scoops of ice cream and some kind of syrup or sauce. That was a great prize. Well those volleyball courts got lots of use. Actually the one towards the beach was used primarily by the older people – generally for just doubles – the other court was where we kids played mostly when we were small. I can remember frequently Mr. Chase, “Chippy” Chase, was a great singles player and he would mark off a small court on the big court and then challenge us to play him in singles. He was a tough man to beat.
KP: You bet your life. He would beat the kids any time the first game. The second game could be either way. The third game, usually the kids won….
RB: He got tired.
KP: He was very excellent.
RB: A tough man to beat. Another person who played singles with us was Mr. Whittle, the one who…
KP: Willie Whittle?
RB: No, his father, who founded the Whittle Sign Company.
KP: Oh, I didn’t know that.
RB: He was a skinny little guy, he swam and he used to work out on the horizontal bar and played volleyball with us. He was the father of Willie and Jimmy Whittle and Benny Whittle – they were all good athletes. You wouldn’t thing that they’d stem from a little skinny….
KP: Willie was one of the champion boxers in the state…
RB: He was. He was also quarterback of the University Football team when I was there.
There was a punching bag also, rigged near where the men’s locker room was and we were able to get the bag and rig it – I had to stand on a box to punch it, I was so short I couldn’t reach it otherwise.
KP: I remember you punching that bag.
RB: Yeah. It was a lot of fun.
KP: When you were mad at someone, you could get the hostilities out on it.
RB: There was also a horizontal bar set up in the sand and for a while there was a young man named Reed Montgomery who came to the Club…
KP: Oh, yes.
RB: …who had been to West Point Military Academy and who had been on their gymnastic team…
KP: I remember him.
RB: …and he showed us a number of rather rudimentary exercises on the horizontal bar and we used to have a lot of fun doing that. We never got really good enough to do a “fly away” or anything fancy but there were several things that we learned from him.
KP: I recall. He was, I would say, almost Olympic material. He was excellent.
RB: He was very good. He’d been sick, I don’t know if he went back to the Academy, but he had to leave there because he’d been ill and he was out here to recover his health.
KP: Reynolds, the Royal Hawaiian was completed and they started bringing tourists out in 1927. Did the beach scene change then or did anything interesting happen?
RB: Well, of course, it changed the Outrigger considerably because we had to move the pavilion and reconstruct our buildings. One thing I remember particularly during the construction of the Royal Hawaiian was they had a great big box on the site there preparing the foundations and threw them all into this big box. I remember that most people thought that those must be the bones of the soldiers who were killed in Waikiki when Kamehameha landed there with his army. I don’t think that was true. I think the Hawaiians were just smart enough to always bury their dead in a place where it was easy to dig a grave. You find Hawaiian bones in the sand dunes at Mokapu for instance, and up on Kauai where they come out the sand whenever the surf washes over them and I think they had just buried…
KP: Reynolds, you know that’s interesting because as you probably recall when the Outrigger moved to the new location on the Elks Club grounds, the agreement was made with the contractors that whenever they came across any bones of any sort all work would cease and they would have to contact the Bishop Museum and have experts come out. They would wash the bones and classify them, and possibly this background that had been at the Royal Hawaiian back in 1927 is what caused them to go ahead with all these precautions. Now, you’re an expert, you’ve been with the Bishop Museum on and off as a volunteer, do you think that might have been the cause?
RB: I don’t know. I just know that in those early days they weren’t as particular as they are now about examining bones – they just threw all the bones in a big box. There were skulls, and arm bones and leg bones and everything all mixed together. There was no attempt to keep them intact when they came across them. I guess they’ve learned a lot in anthropology since those days.
KP: Yeah. I imagine the – what do you call the Hawaiian society?- would be up in arms if you didn’t now follow certain procedures, wouldn’t they? (Laugh)
RB: Undoubtedly, undoubtedly. Well to go back to those days at the beach – we very seldom lolled around the beach to any extent. We either were playing volleyball or surfing. Sometimes, if there was no surf we’d walk down the seawalls to Fort DeRussy and do some diving off the diving tower there or swim out to the raft that they had out in the deep water. But most of the time we stuck around the Club by ourselves. One of the reasons we didn’t lie around the beach very much was because we wanted to escape Mrs. Paul, Wilfred Paul’s mother. (Laugh) Mrs. Paul was a great surfer, but she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, carry her surfboard and when she wanted to take her board down to the beach she would grab one of us kids and get us to carry her board out, and if we were on the beach and we saw her paddling in from out surfing. We’d immediately depart and get some place else where she couldn’t find us to haul the board back in for her. (Laughter) Probably most people today don’t realize that in those early days the men all wore full bathing suits, top and bottom with a little skirt around the bottom, it was the standard bathing suit. And then along, I guess in the late twenties maybe, the two piece bathing suit became popular but they were first made by mainland outfits like Jantzen, and they all had belts around the top of the trunk part of them and the belts had very fancy buckles. Those weren’t any good at all for Waikiki because the buckles would dig in to the surfboard, gouge out the wood and take the varnish off. So something had to be done about it and I have always credited Duke Kahanamoku as being the solver of that problem because the first time I remember seeing a pair of new style trunks he was wearing them. These trunks were made with buttons up the front with a fly to cover the buttons and then a long tongue from the top that went around to the right hip and buttoned over there, so that when you lay on a surfboard there were no buttons or anything except the cloth between you and the board, so the board wasn’t damaged. As I say, Duke was the first one I remember seeing wearing those trunks, but they became the thing or wear after that.
KP: Well, did he have a tailor specifically make one, do you think?
RB: I think he did. At least the ones we got were all from Linn’s Army and Navy store down on Iwilei Road.
KP: Yeah, they became quite famous down at the beach there.
RB: Lester Linn had a tailoring shop there, an ideal place for the military because it was right opposite the railroad station where all the soldiers and sailors got off the train, but he also did a big business in swimming trunks. He made the – what I call the Duke Kahanamoku style trunks for us. Linn also made sailormokus.
KP: Oh, yes. Yes, sure.
RB: You remember sailormokus, they were the levis of those days. They were blue denim, tight around the hips, with a flair at the bottom of the trousers, like a sailor’s.
KP: Very popular.
RB: We all wore sailormokus, and Linn used to make the palaka shirts, too, which we used for work and any rough wear – blue check, heavy material was used for palaka shirts.
KP: I still have them. I wear them.
RB: Oh, yeah. I don’t think the material today is as good as it used to be in those days, though.
KP: Now, on the beach – talking about the late twenties or early thirties, you didn’t see too many women did you?
RB: Oh, yes, there were lots of girls there.
KP: Just thinking there were more men, but maybe I am thinking of later on.
RB: No. I don’t have that feeling, as I say, we didn’t sit around on the beach part very much, but there were lots of girls out there and older women. In those days you had to wear a full bathing suit – as a matter of fact you weren’t supposed to walk on the street in a bathing suit. There was an ordinance called the Desha Law that required that you be covered when you were on the street. And the Outrigger had a rule that you had to have a top, you couldn’t go in wearing just trunks. We used to beat that sometimes by ….. if we were going body surfing, for instance, out at Canoe Surf, we’d swim out to the end of the Moana pier, take our shirts off, hang them on the stringers that were underneath the pier and then swim out to body surf. Then swim back and pick up our shirts on the way back to the beach and put them on before we got out of the water.
KP: The Moana helped us in many ways – you remember when we surfed out there ……
RB: We used to surf right alongside it, too.
KP: Yep. Actually, you could surf under the pier there.
RB: That’s right.
KP: I guess it was a little later when they had the skeg, we used to go in and steal paper cups from the Moana Hotel, but that would have been in the late thirties.
RB: That would have been later on, because skegs didn’t come in until much, much later.
KP: That wouldn’t affect those days.
Do you recall the 1933 canoe races at Kealakekua?
RB: Yes, I do. I was one of the very large group of boys and young men who turned out when the Club called for paddling volunteers. There hadn’t been any canoe races for a good many years up to that time. There had been a few races back in the 1919s and 1920s when the Outrigger crew paddled against the Hui Nalu crew, but then they abandoned paddling races and although Regatta Day was a Territorial holiday and a big event, the races were all sliding seat barges, boats like the shells the colleges row in, although these were wider because we had to make a turn. There was not a long enough area here where you would have a straight-away race, so they would paddle from near the entrance to the harbor down to the end of the harbor and make a turn and go back.
KP: Ah, yeah.
RB: I think that the 1933 races at Kealakekua were possible started as a promotion by the inter-island Steam Navigation Company which had built the Kona Inn over there and they’d also started the inter-island Airways flights to Hawaii, and it could well have been part of their promotion that these races were started. But they were quite a big event.
We started practicing, I guess early in 1933. “Dad” Center was our coach. He worked us hard. I can well remember paddling from the Club to where the Yacht Harbor is now – it wasn’t there in those days – and then up the Ala Wai Canal all the way to the end, and back down the Canal. “Dad” often would be in a motor boat coaching us. Sometimes he’d drive a car along the Ala Wai Boulevard and yell at us. (Laughter) Then we’d paddle all the way back to the Club again at a full pace all the time. We worked hard, in the period shortly before the race we used to train twice a day, go down in the morning, paddle, go to work, come back in the afternoon, paddle again.
KP: “Dad” was a great coach. I think that was one reason why Duke joined the Outrigger Canoe Club in 1917, it was because of “Dad’s” ability to do such a great job coaching.
RB: Could be. He was a great coach. He coached the Punahou swim team as you remember, for years. Turned out champions there and he was a great water sport man. He paddled canoes in races and coached canoe racing, and he sailed canoes, and was good all around. He did a lot of surfing. Good man.
KP: Now, you mentioned practicing by going down the Ala Wai, of course there were no bridges back then…..
RB: Well, same bridges.
KP: Same bridges, except you could go through them.
RB: Yeah, you could – they’ve been rebuilt since then, but they were in the same place. There was no yacht harbor and where the Hawaiian Village is now there was just a kind of a stagnant back-water after you passed Fort DeRussy and the Cressaty pier, then you paddled around past where the Yacht Harbor is now and then started up the canal.
KP: Now, as I recall, we used to do water skiing there. Do you remember that?
RB: Yeah. I do. That was considerably earlier.
KP: Oh, that was back in the twenties.
RB: In the mid-twenties, I think. When they first built the canal there was just a coral road along the beach side of it. There was nothing between the road and the canal, and I can remember getting a big long 2×4 and attaching it to the bumper – cars had bumpers in those days that stuck out so you could tie something on to the bumper – then tie a rope out to the end of it and let that rope dangle behind in the canal, and we’d get out there and get a hold of the rope on a surfboard. Then the car would start up and we’d be able to stand up and lean so as to guide the board away from the bank. The car could get up 25-30 mph going down that road with us hanging on behind.
KP: I remember hitting the water. If you spilled there it felt like hitting concrete.
RB: You’re darned right. There was an old barge that was sort of up on the bank at one point and it had a big stanchion sticking up from it and when you got there you had to make sure you lifted the rope up high or otherwise you’d catch it on that stanchion and boy, you’d take a spill. (Laughter) Really could give you a jolt.
KP: Actually, I don’t think we could do that more than two or three years, you remember light poles were put up and the trees were planted.
RB: That’s right. They paved the road, put in the light poles.
KP: We had to give it up.
RB: It was a lot of fun. In those days, in 1933, when we were practicing for races in Kona we paddled most of the time in a canoe called the Lio Ke’oke’o which was a fairly light long canoe – a good racing canoe. We also paddled in a canoe called Hanakeoki which was a longer canoe. It was a big canoe with plenty of room between the paddlers, flat bottom, but heavy as the devil. It was the heaviest canoe that I ever knew of and we hated to paddle in that. Fortunately then the races came we paddled in Lio Ke’oke’o.
KP: You probably couldn’t make it from Molokai to Oahu in that. (Laughter)
RB: No, I don’t think so. Well, then at the time the races were held which, I think that was Saturday, July 22, 1933, the Coast Guard took all the Honolulu crews over in their big cutter, the Itasca. The Outrigger crews, the Hui Nalu crews and Queen’s Surf, we all got aboard Thursday evening and started off for Kona. A lot of us weren’t feeling too comfortable most of the way over. (Laugh) We weren’t used to that sort of thing. I can remember being very envious of Duke on that trip because he very quickly demonstrated his ability to fall asleep any time he stopped moving. (Laughter) He would be sleeping soundly there while I was thrashing around feeling a little queasy. We got over to Kona on Friday morning and got the canoes is the water and had a chance to practice a little bit, and then the races were on Saturday.
Before that we had been very fearful that we wouldn’t do well. We knew we were going to race against crews from Milolii, for instance, and from Honaunau. We knew the Hawaiians practically lived in their canoes over there, they fished in them, and they used them for transportation up and down the coast, and we were mostly haoles – we didn’t think we could stand up to their expertise. But “Dad’s” training really paid off because he trained us to paddle together in unison. He made us practice our turns so we could turn faster than they could, and it paid off in the end.
KP: So you won some tournaments, did you?
RB: We sure did. The first races, as I remember it, were two-man and junior four-man and Milolii won both of them. We were in the third race, I was paddling in the junior six, and we had a tough race but we managed to beat Milolii. We just nosed them out at the end, and actually where we were able to beat them was because we made the turns better that they did.
KP: I see.
RB: We were the first Outrigger canoe team to win a race on that day. As a matter of fact the first Outrigger canoe to win a race for quite a few years. Later on the senior six and senior four also won and the Outrigger won the meet overall.
KP: Do you remember some of the members of your crew?
RB: In our crew Herbie Jordan was stroke, then I think there was Jack Fraser, my brother Dick, Campbell Stevenson, myself and Dick Bechert as steersman.
KP: He was quite an athlete.
RB: Dick was terrific, he could keep that boat right straight on line all the way through a race and paddle all the time too. He didn’t dangle his steering paddle in the water – with that big steering paddle of his he really gave us a lift. He was terrific. We were very happy to win our race, and the Outrigger was happy to win the whole meet.
KP: After ’33 there was a sort of a lack of competition, wasn’t there?
RB: Well, they still raced. I didn’t paddle after ’33, that is I didn’t paddle any races, but I know the crews were in training and I can remember when President Roosevelt came down in 1934 I was in one of the crews that paddled canoes down to Honolulu Harbor to welcome him as he came into the Harbor on the Houston, but I didn’t paddle any more, that is competitively. There were races after that. The Queen’s Surf crews were created just for the Kealakekua races and they kept on paddling.
KP: I see.
RB: Of course, Hui Nalu had crews also. So I think the canoe paddling continued after that.
KP: Well, you kept on with your board surfing I imagine.
RB: Oh, yes, I kept on surfing all the time. As a matter of fact, I used to go down to the beach at lunch time sometimes if the surf was big. If you sneaked a few minutes off at the beginning of lunch and a few minutes at the end, you could get down to the beach and surf for half an hour and eat a sandwich on the way back to the office.
KP: (Laugh) You were working at A & B, I suppose.
RB: Yes, Castle & Cook and A & B, both. As a matter of fact, in those days you could ride a street car out to the beach and back faster than you can go now in an automobile.
KP: Is that right? (Laughter) Of course, there was no traffic. I remember going in a street car between the duck ponds – you might tell a little about that, it is kind of interesting.
RB: The street car ran down King Street and then turned toward the beach at McCully. There was a road for a little ways, and then there was just a dyke built up with street car tracks on it, and the street car ran on this dyke down to Kalakaua Avenue. On each side there were what we called duck ponds, which really were duck ponds in many cases. There were Chinese farmers down there who raised ducks, and there were also rice paddies and taro patches and the whole mauka side of Kalakaua Avenue from McCully down to almost where the Princess Kaiulani Hotel is now was all just banana patches and duck ponds, farms along there – no houses. It was only after the canal was dug and the land was filled in that anything was built on the mauka side of the road.
KP: It didn’t smell too good, once in a while.
RB: I don’t remember that. (Laughter) I wasn’t sensitive to that sort of thing.
I didn’t do much else around the Club except surf. I bought a surf board, a second hand board from Wilfred Paul – he had gotten too big for it. I guess it was about nine feet long, which was about right for me. It was a very good board. Wilfred had gone down to Lewers & Cooke and he had lifted every big redwood plank in the lumberyard to find the lightest one there. He picked the lightest one and made this board which he later sold to me. I changed the shape a little bit, I narrowed the tail and tried to round the bottom a little bit more to make it slide faster, but it was a good board.
KP: It weighed about how much?
RB: I can’t tell you how heavy ….. I know they were heavy.
KP: Sixty or seventy pounds.
RB: Oh, at least that, I would think. I had that board right up to the time of the War, and while I was away in the Navy the board disappeared.
RB: I suppose it stood in a locker all during the War. There with nobody using it, and they probably needed boards for the sailors who would come next door and stay at the Royal Hawaiian and the probably appropriated everything that was around there. At any rate, it was gone when I got back and I never got another one. I wasn’t really active around the Club after that until about 1961 when a guy named Kenny Pratt – I think you know him don’t you? Kenny Pratt asked me to stand for the election to the Board of Directors, which I did, and I was elected to the Board and served for a while. At that time Ward Russell was the President and the Club was very much involved in preparing to move to the new location.
The decision had been made to move down to the Elks Club area and a lot of things needed to be done, and Ward had lots of work for all of us directors to do, but I had a new job at the time, I had a family that was taking some of my attention, and a new home and a yard to work on and I just didn’t feel that I could give the position the time it deserved, so I resigned from the Board. I didn’t serve my full term. I thought someone else should get on who was willing and able to give it the time that was needed. So I served for a while, maybe a year, a year-and-a-half, something like that as a director, but I did not complete the full three-year term.
KP: It was an extremely busy time. I think all the directors had to put in full time. You were living over in …. where were you living?
RB: In 1961, I think I just had moved into a new place on Waialae golf course.
KP: Oh, I see.
RB: And had lots of work to do, as you know, getting the yard started. I had lots of work to do at the office, too. Because I had moved down to Hawaiian Trust by that time. I wasn’t active again until a couple of years ago, I guess three years ago, when that same guy, Kenny Pratt, asked me if I would come to be on the Historical Committee and do some work with the photographs that the Club had collected. I guess he thought I might be able to do something because I had been volunteering out at Bishop Museum in Photographic Collection for a good many years.
KP: When did you start doing that volunteer work?
KP: Oh, I see, so you’ve been at it a long time.
RB: That’s right. After I retired, I took almost a year of doing not much of anything and then I had to get busy and I went out there and started working. I put in three days a week at the Museum quite regularly.
KP: Well, I’ll tell you, you have done a tremendous job as Chairman. There again, I think ….. you say I was responsible for pushing you in…
RB: You got me into it.
KP: I was the one who called you to see if you would be willing to take over.
RB: I was surprised to find myself Chairman after a year on the committee.
KP: But you’ve done a bang up job, it’s not an easy job, and you have a lot of other committees to contend with…
RB: There are calls, usually at the last minute. Somebody wants a picture of somebody or something – or wants photographs to decorate the lobby or something. It’s always at the last minute, but I don’t mind. I am happy to help out in any way I can.
KP: Well, I think it’s a valuable committee. I think Tommy Thomas was instrumental in renewing that committee, wasn’t he, about ten or 15 years ago?
RB: I really don’t know the history – all I can recall is that I think Mariechen Wehselau was the first chairman. Alex Castro was chairman for quite a while. I told Alex I would be glad to help him with anything, and he said, “Oh, yes, yes”. but he never called me and never did anything. (Laughter) And then, after he died I guess things kind of came to a stop for a while, I don’t know, before I got on the committee.
KP: Well, there may have been a little bit of a lull there. He was very active in trying to have a room set up for old Hawaiian books that would be controlled by our committee, but it never did materialize.
RB: I think he had in mind something like the Reading Room at the Pacific Club, but I don’t really think that fits into the Outrigger Club the way it’s organized.
KP: I think it might be a little difficult to supervise and control.
RB: We have enough trouble keeping track and contract of the things we have already. (Laughter)
KP: Well, I think you’ve covered a lot of new information especially back in the twenties, not too many of us are left who were fooling around the Club back in those days, that are actively running around the Club in this day and age. Can you think of something else that possibly we haven’t covered that we might add here?
Reynolds, let’s go back here to 1941, we haven’t covered one thing that I am sure you know quite a bit about. Now back in 1941, I think it was February, the new clubhouse was built and there were considerable changes made to the Club grounds. Do you recall…. can you tell us something about these changes?
RB: That’s right. What happened then was that the part of the property closest to Kalakaua Avenue was turned into shops and stores. I think the Bank of Hawaii had a branch there, and you went through that area to get into the Club. The first thing you came to was the clubhouse, which was a fair size building that had, as I remember the women’s locker room on the right and the men’s locker rooms on the left.
KP: Facing the ocean.
RB: Going towards the ocean. Then there was a Volleyball area and a path, a concrete path that led down to a new sort of pavilion on the beach. Walter Macfarlane had a good idea, he set up a restaurant there on top of that pavilion – a dining room, an eating place. Underneath there was canoe storage and the restaurant area up on top which became very popular. You could sit up there and have lunch or dinner and look right out on the beach and on the surf.
KP: It was great, wasn’t it?
RB: A wonderful place to go. Over towards the Royal Hawaiian, on the ground level, was a place where you could sit around and have a beer or talk.
KP: This was called the Hau Terrace.
RB: This was called the Hau Terrace, yes, on the right hand side looking towards the beach. The Uluniu Club, by that time, had moved over there – they were between us and the Royal.
KP: A buffer between the Royal Hawaiian and the Outrigger.
RB: I understand they wanted that to cut down on the noise from the volleyball courts. It seems to me that surfboard racks were all on the Moana side, there was a long line of storage racks.
KP: That’s correct. Next to the parking lot.
RB: And then there was a parking lot, which didn’t belong to us, but we were able to use it there for a period. The Club had pretty much gone downhill until Walter Macfarlane took over and raised a lot of money by really putting the finger on everybody in town to buy bonds, and borrowed from the banks, built the new clubhouse.
KP: Reynolds, you mentioned the dining room overlooking the ocean there. Do you remember the dances that we used to have there?
RB: Oh, yes. There was an area that was available for dances. I don’t remember that I went there very often, but I do remember going there. It was a very delightful place to go to.
KP: Was that when the Japanese chef or the head of the dining room put out his Banzai punch? You remember the old Banzai punch, don’t you?
RB: I don’t remember if that’s where it started. (Laughter)
KP: As I recall those dances used to start fairly early in the evening……
RB: That’s right.
KP: …and when the Banzai punch took hold, it was still light – we would still be playing volleyball – and it would get noisier and noisier. You could tell that everyone was having a great, great time up there.
RB: It didn’t take much of it, did it?
KP: Say, one thing I forgot to ask you, we were talking about the 1933 canoe races, do you have any more detail on what canoes were used, or who won?
RB: Yes, I think that all of the Outrigger crews paddled in the Lio Ke’oke’o which was the best racing canoe. Actually the races went like this: the first race was a two-man race – Milolii won that, as you might expect from their abilities, Queen’s Surf was second, and Outrigger was third; then there was a junior four and Milolii won that, too, with Queen’s Surf second and Outrigger third; then came the junior six, and that’s the one I paddled in. and we won that with Milolii second and Queen’s Surf third; then the senior six and Outrigger won that with Hui Nalu second, and Honaunau third; then the senior four – Outrigger again won with Hui Nalu second and Queen’s Surf third. Then there was a women’s race which Milolii won. You may remember that “Squeaky” Wehselau talks about that in her oral history…….
KP: Oh, yes, she went around in circles.
RB: “Dad” Center drafted her and some other gals to make up a pick-up crew (Laugh) and “Squeaky” was supposed to be the steersman but she couldn’t keep the boat straight.
KP: I remember hearing about it in her oral history. She was a great gal.
RB: Oh, yeah, and did a great deal for the Club – swimming and other activities, she was always in the middle of everything.
KP: In the early twenties I know she was Olympic material, I am not sure – I think she did go…..
RB: She swam in the Olympics, yes.
There is one thing I want to say before we quit and that is that I have always been grateful to my parents because after my brother was killed at the beach, some parents might have reacted very strongly against the beach, but mine didn’t. They never once tried to stop us from going on with our surfing, going on at the beach. My younger brother and I went right on as though nothing had happened.
KP: Well, that’s wonderful because it’s a great experience for young kids to get out there and battle with the waves and…
RB: Oh, we developed our bodies, I know that our surfing and volleyball and activities there did us a world of good, and as I say, I am grateful to my parents for letting me go on at the beach.
KP: How about your children, have they taken advantage of it?
RB: Well, my second son and third son both paddled in the group canoe races, you know the 13-, 14-, 15-year-old groups, but then they as well as my oldest boy all went to HPA – Hawaii Preparatory Academy – over on Hawaii and they couldn’t paddle during the school year. Usually the paddling started before school let out, sometimes things were going in the fall too, so they had to drop out of that.
KP: I see.
RB: But I have kept all three boys as nonresident members. They all live on the Mainland now, but they are nonresident members of the Club and they use the Club a lot when they come down here for a visit.
RB: This last summer all three boys with their families were here and they were all at the beach part of the time.
KP: I know my son paddled with me in a two-man canoe. We used to go out to catch waves, and one of the first things when he brings his family down from Oregon, which isn’t too often, maybe once a year or so, we head for the Club. They enjoy it thoroughly. It’s a grand Club and it’s just wonderful we were able to continue after we moved from the old location.
RB: I pay my sons’ dues, because I am afraid if they had to pay their own, they wouldn’t maintain their memberships and I want them to keep their memberships in case they ever come back to Hawaii and want to become active members again.
KP: That’s wonderful, because if you want to join now, what is it? $5,000? (Laughter) It’s very expensive.
RB: There’s a waiting period, too.
KP: Well, that’s a good idea. Many, many people do return to Hawaii, finally get homesick.
RB: I think they’d like to.
KP: Well, I sure appreciate this Reynolds, and thank you very, very much.
RB: Thank you for handling it for me, Kenny.