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, 1987
WR: It is a beautiful tropical morning at our Club in Waikiki. I am Ward Russell (WR), past President of the Outrigger Canoe Club and a current member of its Historical Committee. The Committee has, for some time, been conducting a project of interviewing old-time members for a historical oral record of their experiences and recollections of the Club. Today, it is my distinct pleasure to be able to interview Robert I. Bush (RB). Bob has been a member of the Club for 54 years and I am certain he has a lot of interesting recollections. Bob, to get things started, where and when were you born?
RB: I was born on Maui, in upper Paia, in 1920, June 4. My parents had come to the Islands and my dad arrived here on a sailing ship in 1898. . .
WR: Can I interrupt for a minute. I worked on Maui, was your dad Fred Bush?
RB: No, he was H. Shirley Bush.
WR: Oh, yes, Shirley Bush.
RB: There were five boys and Fred was the youngest.
WR: I was just going to ask you because I have known so many – Gavien, Fred, LeRoy . . .
RB: Dad was the second.
WR: Second oldest?
RB: Yes. Gavien, Shirley, then LeRoy and Albert who was an ambulance driver in France in World War II, and eventually died of gas poisoning from that, and Fred, Jr. who lived on Maui.
WR: Yes. I remember Fred when I was working there. Well, LeRoy of course, was very active in the Outrigger Canoe Club, and also very active in the development of Waikiki Beach. I remember when I was in the Legislature and he was lobbying for the expansion and preservation of the beach . . . Well, now, let’s get on . . . You said he was also involved in the selection of this site.
RB: He was on the committee that negotiated our 90-year lease with the Elks Club.
WR: That’s interesting. Getting back – you said that your folks came here, when?
RB: In 1898. My grandfather, G. Fred Bush, came here as manager of Honolulu Iron Works and on my mother’s side my grandfather, William Hawk, came here with his three daughters around 1900. He came here as representative of the Commercial Pacific Cable Company. It was kind of interesting that when they brought the first cable into Hawaii it came in about where the Outrigger Canoe Club is now.
WR: The Sans Souci Channel is where the cable came in.
RB: That’s right. It was constructed for bringing in the cable.
WR: Yeah, that’s right.
WR: Well, how many brothers and sisters did you have?
RB: I have two brothers, no sisters. An older and a younger – “Steve” (H. Shirley Bush, Jr.) and “Niele” (Bruce) the younger, all members of the Outrigger – long time members, not as long as I have been but they moved away.
WR: You were educated on Maui?
RB: No, we moved to Honolulu when I was very young and I went to Lincoln grammar school, then started in intermediate school at Roosevelt ¬the first year that Roosevelt High School came into existence, and graduated in 1938.
WR: You were in the Class of ’38?
WR: Were you active in sports in high school?
RB: I played football on the junior scholastic team and I was on the track team – I ran hurdles, 120-yard low hurdles, and I never got a first place because the best hurdler in the state was a guy by the name of Johnny Kneubuhl who held the record for many years and still holds the record for the 220-yard low hurdles.
WR: One reason he still holds it, and always will, is that they discontinued the event some 20 years ago.
RB: Well, anyway, he was very fast and a friend by the name of Donnie Smythe who was on our Roosevelt team, was always second and I was always third. Then I was on the swimming team for Roosevelt High School and, we never did much because we didn’t have a coach. I remember once in the big races they had every year . . .
WR: The Yale meet?
RB: No, it’s the meet where University and Punahou and all the high schools across the state . . . I think it was the AAU Meet.
WR: Oh, yes.
RB: . . . and I was in the 100-yard freestyle and swimming on one side of me was Wendell Bayne, who was a very good swimmer at the University at that time, and on the other side was a guy named Barney Pung, and so I figured the only thing I could do was to go all out the first 50 yards, which I did. We made the 50-yard turn even and then I ran out of gas. But it was interesting – in that race Barney Pung broke the record.
WR: Then he went on to become one of Hawaii’s great swimmers.
WR: You really were in fast company.
RB: I was way behind at the end.
WR: When you mentioned running hurdles against John Kneubuhl, John went on to Yale and was one of Yale’s top hurdlers and then was in the Olympic trials.
RB: He was a terrific hurdler.
WR: Then after high school, what did you do?
RB: I worked at Hawaiian Electric for a short period. That was during the summer and I was thinking of staying there; then I decided I should go the University of Hawaii starting in September of ’38. I wanted to study architecture, but they didn’t have an architectural school at that time, so I was in the engineering school. I had two years of that and then I left school. I had a Congressional appointment to the Naval Academy and decided I should go to a school in Long Beach, a prep school for the Naval Academy, and after I was there for a few months I decided I didn’t want to be in the Navy. It was a great disappointment to my dad who had gotten the appointment through Sam King in Congress, and then War broke out and I was in the Navy for four years. After the War I went back to the University and had two years of architectural school.
WR: And then your business career?
RB: I started out with the architectural firm of Ives & Hogan – Bert Ives and George Hogan, and they were very prominent in residential architecture. They did some small hotels – they did the Hana Hotel expansion and a couple of other projects like that; Bert Ives was a particularly fine designer. After seven years with that firm I went to work for a planning firm, Harland Bartholomew Associates, who were just starting in Hawaii. The first project they had was the master plan for Waialae-Kahala. I worked on the second one which was the Dream City in Kahului for the sugar company.
WR: H C & S?
RB: H C & S, yeah. Then we got an assignment in the Philippines and I was out there two years doing the master plan for Subic Bay when that was being developed. After seven years practice with Bartholomew Associates I was assigned to a job in Charleston, South Carolina. I didn’t want to leave Hawaii so I quit and went to work for the State of Hawaii, in the Planning Office, and was the senior planner there. They did a number of things including the First State Tourism Master Plan, for which I was the project planner, and then I went into private practice and got involved basically in tourism planning throughout the Pacific – did a lot of work overseas. Regarding my activities in the Club you’ll see where participation slows down because I was out of the State a lot.
WR: Well, you’ve had a varied career. A very interesting career.
RB: Yeah, it certainly has been. Planning and architecture are really interesting, particularly planning; there are no two problems alike.
WR: Were you involved at all – I seem to recall that you were on some of our committees when we were planning the new Club.
RB: No, I wasn’t involved in . . . that was before . . . let’s see, I got out of school and into Ives & Hogan in 1947 and at that time I was pretty active in the athletic end of it – paddling and . . .
WR: Well, we’ll get into that in a minute.
WR: From your private practice?
WR: And, you had some health problems eight months ago.
RB: Yeah. I ran into a heart problem needing open-heart surgery in June of ’86, and then they had to redo it again in September of ’86. Everything seems fine now.
WR: That’s not a very pleasant . . .
RB: It’s a hard way to lose weight, but that’s one of the things that go along with it.
WR: Now let’s get back to the . . . Just one other question – you are married? I know you are – you have a lovely wife . . .
RB: Yes. Jeanne.
WR: Do you have any family?
RB: No. No children.
WR: Is she working?
RB: She works part time in real estate. She and Pam Anderson, a long-time friend and Outrigger member, and a couple of other gals have a small real estate office.
WR: You graduated from Roosevelt in 1939 you said. Had you joined the Outrigger by that time?
WR: When did you join the Club?
RB: In 1933.
WR: That brings us up to a statement I know you were working on in preparation for this interview, Would you like to just look at that and make some comments from that?
RB: OK, Well, just reading from this first paragraph. I joined the Club in early 1933 and I recall that year primarily because I paddled in the 13-and-under boys’ crew that summer in 1933 ¬that’s the year I became eligible for that team, 13-and-under. We didn’t win but I liked the feel of being on the crew [Laugh], and I liked the participation as a paddler. So I kept, this up for a period of about 20 years, paddling for the Club, and at one time I was head coach, and we won the State Championship.
WR: You were coach when the Club won the State Championship?
WR: Do you remember what year that was?
RB: I’m not really sure. I was married in 1951 and I kept paddling for a couple of years after that and I think I coached about 1953. That’s the last year I paddled also. I paddled – stroked the Senior Four in the championship races, and we came in second.
WR: Weren’t you one of “Duke’s Boys”?
RB: Yes, in fact I have a lot of very fond remembrances of paddling from way back in the days of “Dad” Center as coach when I was in my first crew up through Duke as coach. They were both very inspiring and wonderful people and I think had a lot to do with the kids they worked with. I came to join the Outrigger because a cousin, a gal by the name of Margaret Kinney, was quite infatuated with an Outrigger member by the name of Tom Kiakona.
WR: Oh, yes.
RB: . . . and her excuse – she was going to the University of Hawaii at that time – her excuse for coming to the Club was to bring me to the beach and give me an outing. It really was for her to see Tom [Laugh]. They went together for a few years then her family hauled her back to Los Angeles. But, that’s how things got started, and I can remember sitting around, as a little kid, being protected by my older cousin and watching all the activities around the Club, and then when they started to form the paddling crews somebody asked me if I wanted to join the Club and paddle. I remember one of the first things doing was signing up with the manager “Pop” Haehnlen, He was kind of a crusty old guy, but he really had a great heart, and it was $10 a year and no initiation fee, for junior membership, as I recall . . .
WR: No initiation fee and $10 dues for the whole year?
RB: Yeah. [Laughter] Far cry from what it is today. I have a list of some of the kids I remember who were about my age at that time: the two Rothwell boys, Bob and Frank. Bob was a particular friend of mine – he was in the same class. George Stepp, Bob Pringle, Frank Hicks, Bill Tuohy, Ralph Ensminger (Bill and Ralph were both shot down as aviators in World War II), Bill Nylen, Jack Dumontier who was also a pilot in World War II, he’d still around, Roy Von Platen, me and my two brothers. There was a gang from Manoa – three Bush kids, the two Carr kids (that’s Gilbert and D. Q.), two Nash boys (that’s Edgar and Henry), and two Banks, Jackie Banks and “Frogie” (Paul) Banks. “Frogie” is now president of Dillingham Construction; plus Frank Beckert, Philip O’Toole, and all of these kids lived within a very close area in Manoa Valley. Don’t know why, but we were kind of a gang and got into the Outrigger about the same time. A few years later there were a couple of other boys from Manoa, Tommy Arnott and Thad Ekstrand who also joined. I think about five years later.
Other young people around were George and Billy Cook, George and I were particularly good friends – we were in the same class – and his family operated a small hotel in Waikiki about where Kuhio Beach is now. I think it had been the Queen’s home before that. I can remember going there because Mrs. Cook was the cook and she was a very fine cook and once in a while George would take me home for Sunday dinner.
WR: George is now a member of our Board.
RB: Yes. And then, another one was Bill Barnhart, Jr. He was a member about that time. His nickname is “Whiskey”. Not many of those are still around, either in Hawaii or as members of the Club that I can recall. Bob Rothwell was an attorney, he just died a couple of weeks ago on Maui. One thing that I might be able to contribute to the historical activities is the layout of the first real Clubhouse.
RB: Of course the initial Club was a grass shack on the beach, but the first real Clubhouse is the one that I became most familiar with. It fronted on Kalakaua Avenue.
WR: If you joined in ’33 that was the Club with which I was familiar. That was the year I graduated from high school, and ’40 was the year they built the first addition. Tell us about the old and the development of the new.
RB: Well, the original Clubhouse after the grass shack, was a large wooden structure that fronted on Kalakaua Avenue. There was a small parking lot between Kalakaua Avenue and the Club.
RB: It was very small [Laugh]. I don’t think it could have had 25 or 30 spaces, but apparently it was adequate for the Club. We went to and from the Club at that time by streetcar which came right down the middle of Kalakaua Avenue. It came over the McCully Bridge from King Street. The Clubhouse on the second floor there was a very large dance Pavilion which had a little bandstand in the middle of it along the makai wall it was wide open, and it was rented out to people like the Elks Club, Shriners, or high school groups of various organizations for dances. I don’t know that the Club ever used that Pavilion very much. The women’s lockers and the men and boys’ locker rooms were on the first floor, and then between the Clubhouse and the beach there was a very large area. At that time, I think the Club probably had maybe twice as much square footage of land, and I could take a general tax map and draw a Club plan if that would be of interest. Three volleyball courts, a long row of surfboard lockers on the Diamond Head side; then towards the ocean beyond the last volleyball court – which was the kids’ court – was a little snack bar, a concession run by “May”, where you could get rice and gravy for 15 cents for three scoops, 25 cents for five scoops, that was the most popular lunch for the kids.
WR: Who did you say managed that shop?
RB: A lady named May. I’ve seen her recently up on University Avenue; she has a little shop. Not in the last few years but she didn’t look much different.
Adjacent to the snack bar there was a large kitchen for the use of the members. It had gas stoves, pots and pans, dishes and things. And on the beach was a very large canoe shed which had a little kind of wood floor pavilion at one end of it where the big Wichman clock was later placed, facing the ocean. Between the canoe shed and the kitchen was quite a large open area of picnic tables, a tremendous hala tree, and later on there was a little grass shack, operated by Elmer Lee, who sold fresh coconuts, pineapple juice, etc.
WR: Elmer Lee? I didn’t realize he did that.
RB: That was actually shortly after the beach patrol was organized. Elmer Lee was one of the beachboys and he also had this little place selling drinks to the tourists. The beach patrol occupied the Ewa end of the canoe shed. The beach patrol was organized by Bill Mullahey and it was the first time that Waikiki beachboys had really gotten together into an organized group to provide canoe surfing and surfing lessons, swimming lessons and lomi lomi, and all kinds of things. I made a list of the early members of the beach patrol which is quite an imposing list. It was operated by a guy by the name of “Sally” (Louis Salisbury) Hale. He was the manager and he also did a lot of canoe steering. At that time they had about five surfing canoes, the biggest being the Ka Mo`i which they got later on, but before that they had the Captain and a lot of middle-size canoes, and Duke was a parttime member. The way the beach patrol operated, they had a board with movable slats with the beachboys’ names, and as a surfing lesson came up – they had a list for surfing and one for canoe rides, and as a customer arrived the person atop the list would get the job. If you weren’t there they took your name off the list and shifted the rest of the names up. I remember seeing the names on the board – there was Duke, who was there parttime, Louis Kahanamoku, “Curly” Cornwall who I understand now lives in Texas and is still perking along, “Splash” Lyons who was a big heavy guy and also was a very fine musician. His musical group played at our wedding reception.
WR: Oh, really.
RB: Yeah. Frank Telles who was an American Indian but he looked the same as a beachboy, he was tanned and had dark hair. He was a tremendous athlete – one of the stunts he used to do was dive over the sea wall and barrier at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. He’d dive over on to the concrete sidewalk which was about six feet below, land on the back of his neck, make a somersault and come up in the sand.
WR: Can I interrupt for a moment? I want to tell you a little story, I interviewed Waldo Bowman and Waldo told me that same things Frank used to do. The beachboys used to bet with the tourists . . .
RB: Oh, yeah. They only did it when there was a reason to do it. [Laughter] He worked up a reputation for that. Then “Steamboat” Mokuahi was there. Later on there was “Turkey” Love. Harry Robello was one of the youngsters at the Club at that time – I mean of that group – and now he owns what is probably the top beach concession in the State and is probably worth a couple of million dollars. And then there was Willy Whittle and also his brother, Benny Whittle who was there parttime. Pua Kealoha, who was one of the swimmers who swam with Duke in the Olympic Games, and his brother (I can’t remember his brother’s name).
RB: Warren Kealoha, that’s right. Then Elmer Lee, he had a couple of brothers, Kenneth Lee, the tall skinny one, and a short little guy, I can’t remember his name. “Chick” Daniels, Molokai Horner, “Panama” Dave Baptiste, a big guy named “Ox” – the only name I know. Earl King, Charlie Amalu were in that group, and probably several others but I need more time to think about it. Also Johnny Makua, the older brother of “Blue” Makua of Hui Nalu, and “Brains” Janda.
WR: The Historical Committee recently came in possession of a picture which was given to the Committee by “Turkey” – a picture of the original beach patrol. Kneeling in the foreground was a Filipino man who used to take out the back rests and things of that nature and he swept the beach. None of us can remember his name. Do you remember his name?
RB: Yes. Nunes, skinny little guy, a hard worker and friendly.
WR: I tell you one thing, of all the people I have interviewed, you have the greatest recollection of the old Club and the details of the Club site. It’s terrific.
RB: Well it was a very impressionable part of my life and I spent a lot of time there. In fact, my dad used to say when I got home late in the evening, “You’ve been at that damned Outrigger again.” I really lived there, every day after school, I’d race down there to see who could get the little two-man canoe to go surfing. The first guy on the beach who signed up for it, had it. You had to change into your trunks and get out and take possession so the guy who could change fastest got the canoe. They had one small canoe. No. 4 they called it, was the first two-man canoe. That’s the only one they had for several years and then they got another one.
As you entered the Club you went through a little reception area, and to the right there was a gate that came from the parking lot into the Clubhouse, and then there was a fence on the Ewa side that ran parallel to the Royal Hawaiian property. The Club had all the property from Kalakaua Avenue to the beach adjacent to the Royal Hawaiian. Then the old Uluniu Club was on the Moana side.
WR: Oh, on the Moana side?
RB: Yeah, originally. Later there was a land swap, and the Uluniu was put between the Outrigger and the Royal. I think, perhaps, one of the reasons this came about [Laugh] was because the Outrigger Club was kind of noisy – particularly on the Royal side. “Dad” Center and several people had lockers, Lex Brodie had one, where they’d keep outboard motors, and Bob Rothwell, George Stepp and myself and a couple of other guys had the privilege of using “Dad’s” outboard motors to go fishing. We had a bracket rigged up on one of his canoes, called Miss Veedol, and we’d take this out fishing and go to Kalihi, off the reefs. We went as far as Molokai one day. Before getting these outboard motors out we’d have to put them on a stand and wind them up to make sure they were running [Laugh]. Frequently it was five-thirty or six o’clock in the morning and it just raised hell with the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. By the time, we got the motor out on the canoe and were pushing it down to the beach, the security guys would be over with the house detective making complaints [Laugh]. Anyway, the, Club really occupied a big chunk of land and then when it moved to the second building, erected in 1940, a large shopping arcade was built on the section of the property fronting on Kalakaua Avenue. I think Ross Sutherland started his shops and Johnny McMahon worked there for a while with other Club members. At the rear of the arcade the Club built the new locker rooms and reception and office area. The erection of the arcade building left the Club with only two volleyball courts and it was all in a pretty tight area. Then, of course, we had the canoe shed with the dining room above, and the Hau Terrace on the beach.
WR: You were there when the Club was really undergoing a critical financial situation? I gather they had a really tough time getting the money together to build the new club there.
RB: Yeah. Yeah. By the time the second Clubhouse was built I had graduated to the “jock” group. I was on the senior paddling crew, was a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club volleyball team, and spent many a happy Sunday afternoon on the Hau Terrace. I met my bride there through Bill Mullahey who had sponsored her into the Club.
WR: Who sponsored you?
RB: My cousin, Margaret Kinney.
WR: Oh, yeah. Go ahead . . .
RB: By the time the Club moved into its present facilities I had grown out of this active athletic phase, though I did keep a surf board and a Hobie Cat here at the present site for several years. I used the Club quite frequently and also during that period I was a member of the Board of Directors and a member of the Building and Grounds Committee. Also I took part in some special projects.
During the “jock” years there are some interesting remembrances I have about canoe paddling. During the first phase of the Club I can remember – that’s when “Dad” Center was coaching ¬they had just two events, the Kamehameha Day races and the Fourth of July Regatta, both held at Honolulu Harbor, and they had about four clubs participating – Outrigger, Hui Nalu…..
WR: Waikiki Surf?
RB: No, Waikiki Surf had not been formed at that time.
RB: Healani and then Myrtle Boat Club. Once in a while McCabe, Hamilton & Renny stevedores would enter a crew. I can remember, one of the early years that I paddled, the Outrigger had a two-man crew of “Toots” who was living on Molokai doing a lot of surveying for Molokai Ranch, “Toots” Minvielle, and a monster by the name of Mark Westgate, who was just strong as an ox. They never trained together, but “Toots” would come to Honolulu the day before the race and they paddled the old Kakina which was a very light, short canoe for a racing canoe, but the gals’ crew used it, and the four-man crews used it. Mark Westgate was the stroke and “Toots” was the steersman and they never were beaten.
RB: No, the old Kakina – the one before the present Kakina, a smaller canoe, painted black. The gals used it for six, but the seats were very tight.
WR: I see.
RB: Then, about that time they also had a four-man senior crew which was all Dolan brothers.
WR: Oh, my yes, I’ve seen a picture of them.
RB: The stroke was Bobby Dolan, Johnny Dolan and Louis Dolan paddled in the middle, and then Philip Dolan was the steersman. Phil Dolan also steered some of the other crews too.
WR: Let me ask a question, you mentioned the gals. Was there at that point in time much competition involving women paddlers?
RB: I think most of the clubs had crews. The thing I remember about the Outrigger Club, they had a bunch of neat-looking gals; one was “Fuzzy” Boyrie, another one was a little part-Hawaiian girl called “Half Pint” Lambert – cute as hell. Bessie Hemmings was a steersman, then a gal named Edie I don’t remember her last name. Anyway, only the Outrigger crew was outfitted in uniforms, they had snappy little red and white two-piece bathing suits and they looked sharp as hell. I’ll always remember their race at Honolulu Harbor against the Milolii crew from Kona, a bunch of big, hefty Hawaiians all in sloppy bathing suits, and the Milolii crew started off slow – then started picking up speed and by the end of the race they were just flying and they dusted the Outrigger. (Laughter) They paddled every day.
WR: Yeah, it was part of their work, their livelihood,
RB: Some of the other things about the training at that time: “Dad” Center…We trained down at Honolulu Harbor and he had a big old Packard car and he’d give a lot of kids a ride down there, but we all had to walk home, or run home from Honolulu Harbor back to the Club.
WR: Run home?
RB: Run back, carrying our paddles. He’d go alongside and give us a little boost to make sure we kept moving. Another of his training techniques was…Guy Rothwell, architect, had a fishing boat named the Ehukai and he lent this to the Club or he would operate it and “Dad” Center would sit in the stern of the boat with a megaphone. They’d go along in front of the crew just fast enough to stay maybe 20 or 30 yards in front, and his technique was to pick out one guy in the crew, or maybe two, and just work on them all day. “All right number two reach out a little farther” – “Put a little effort into it number two, pull it back,” until that guy got to be pretty good. He also got a very good workout. You were scared to death that you’d be picked on so everybody worked hard.
Another little trick of “Dad’s” was once in a while we’d train in the Ala Wai Canal, and he started this thing of tying a canoe up to a tree on the side of the canal with an old inner tube in between. You’d take a stroke and you’d stretch the tube out and by the time you lifted your paddle out and got it back in the water you’d be going backward again. (Laughter)
WR: Who started this idea of putting a tire around the front?
RB: I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s very effective.
Regarding canoes of that day, there were seven or eight surfing canoes and two racing canoes in the shed. The racers were the “old” Kakina, which was quite short, used for the two- and four-man races and the girls’ crews, and the Hanakeoki, which was as long or longer than the Leilani, but much larger in the okole. I think it ended up on Maui. The Princess (for some reason, probably because “Dad” Center called it that way, it was Princess) was by far the largest surfing canoe, but it was seldom used as it was so heavy to haul in and out. The Ka Mo’i was next largest and used frequently by the Beach Patrol, sometimes carrying ten passengers plus the steersman and second captain. Tourists sitting and standing all over. That canoe was brought to the Club as a roughly shaped log and finished on the grounds by Jimmy Kaya, boat builder, who later became a full-time carpenter and canoe repairer for the Club, The canoe was made with simple hand tools and it probably took Jimmy near to a year to finish.
“Dad” Center had two canoes which some of us had the use of now and then. They were five-man size, and Gay Harris had a nifty three-man canoe. “Turkey” Love would take that, with one paddler, during the First Break surf, and ride from way out to the beach at the Royal, sliding right into Canoe Surf, and then left through Blow Hole and into Cornucopia and to the beach — quite a show.
I made lists of people I thought most impressed me at that time. One of the things they had every afternoon – they had the “big game,” they called it, six-man (volleyball) game. A lot of prominent businessmen in town would gather and usually there were two or three teams so there’d be someone to take on the winners. Some of the names I put down who played frequently – there was Tom Singlehurst, “Dad” Center, Ernie Stenberg, Sam Fuller, E. Tucker. Chase, “Doc” Emerson. . .
WR: Oh my.
RB: Most of the jocks played and I have a separate list of the guys who were really top volleyball players at that time: Bill Mullahey, he was a pretty big guy and they called him. “Double Bill”, Wilford Godbold, Les Hicks, Elmer Lee, Kenneth Lee, Willie Whittle, Ben Whittle, Earl King – some of these guys although they were members of the Beach Patrol also were members of the Outrigger Canoe Club. Frannie King, Charlie Lambert, Sr., “Toots” Minvielle, and a guy by name of Ozzie who was a court reporter and used his hands for taking shorthand. Old Man Chase could never figure out why this guy endangered his hands by playing volleyball. Then the senior Bill Barnhart, Jack Briscoe, Tom Mullahey, Bill Mullahey’s younger brother. . .
WR: Ah yes, I knew Tom very well.
RB: And those guys, they all gathered and had a big game and there’d be a little argument about the score now and then but Tucker Chase kept score and nobody ever argued with him because he was always right! (Laughter) A great old guy. Other members that I remember were surfers and some of them played volleyball, too – Lorrin Thurston, “Bull” Haynes (Warren Haynes), Elwood Van Gieson, Jack Mackenzie and Gay Harris, Jimmy Mann, Dan Topping, Harold Kay. LeRoy Bush played once in a while. Northrup Castle, Sam Poepoe, Dudie Miller who was a very fine musician. One of the Judds – I can’t remember if it was Frank.
WR: Stuart Judd. Stuart was more at the beach then Frank, I think.
RB: “Hod” White. And then the jocks of that era – the guys who were really good volleyball players; probably the best at that time was Elmer Kraft, called “lole”.
WR: Do I remember him! He was working on Maui. When I was working on Maui he was there – Manufacturer’s Life Insurance Co., “lole” Kraft.
RB: He was not very tall, but he could jump like crazy and he was husky and could hit that ball a ton. Then some of the others, Jennings Parker who was kind of a small wiry Hawaiian much like Tom Kiakona, both very fast, very accurate and in fact when they played together they were very tough – hard to beat. Lex Brodie was one of the better volleyball players, he was tall and I can remember Lex putting on an exhibition of high jumping. He was, I think, the western collegiate champion at high jumping at the University of California – and anyway they set up a high jumping stand right near one of the volleyball courts and he would run across the grass and give us an exhibition of different styles of high jumping.
WR: He was Roosevelt Class of ’32, I think. I was running the half-mile when he was running the half-mile.
WR: And I was always about 100 yards behind him. (Laughter)
RB: He was a pretty good athlete.
WR: He ran it at about the same time as Charlie Ornelles of St. Louis and Todd from Kamehameha. It was always a race between these three and Jimmy Greenwell of Punahou. Lex was always right at the top there – a good half-miler.
RB: He was also an excellent canoe steersman and surfer. I think he is still surfing.
WR: Yes, he is.
RB: I can remember one day when a tremendous surf was running, “Dad” Center at that time had control of the Princess canoe and they decided to take it out to Castle surf and catch a wave. Which they did. They had three steersmen aboard. There was Lex Brodie, “Dad” Center and I can’t remember who the third one was, it might have been Waldo Bowman, I am not sure. They all had steering paddles and Lex was captain. They caught this wave way out into first-break Castle, “steamer” lane and rode it all the way into Queen’s surf and on to the beach – they just caught one wave, and that was it.
The Princess was about the same length as a racing canoe but with lots of slope and probably 36″ deep at the deepest. It sat about 12 people, three facing backwards. “Dad” would occasionally rig a sail, short mast and very long boom, and take the kids for a ride sailing the canoe stern first.
Then some of the other jocks were Kenny Pratt, Mickey Carmichael, Art Sloggett, the Dolans, particularly Bobby Dolan who went on to play volleyball for the Olympic Club in San Francisco, Waldo Bowman, Ted Winters, Mark Westgate, Charlie Finkboner. Well, anyway those were some of the. . . Also, Fred Hemmings, Sr., Charlie and “Swede” Bates, Lloyd Chiswick, “Rainbow” Ryan, and Jonah Cruickshank. Jonah was one of the greatest athletes ever of OCC. He was a one-man backfield for Punahou – carried the ball on almost every play, safety on defense, kicked and returned punts and returned kick-offs. In volleyball he went all out on every play.
Waldo Bowman was a good volleyball player and excellent surfer, but he was also the Club comedian – great sense of humor. One of the Damon boys, Gordon, was very pale, tall, thin, white hair, and Waldo gave him the name of “Vapor”, which stuck for a long time. Once my younger brother “Niele” who also was skinny, was bothering the jocks and Waldo told him that if he didn’t behave he’d lock him in a surfboard locker, which I thought was pretty funny.
WR: You’ve come up with the most comprehensive list we’ve had in an interview. Very interesting. A couple of questions; What was the first surfboard you had. What kind of a board was it?
RB: The first surfboard that I had was a board that was given to me by my parents either Christmas or my birthday. It was a plank of redwood that looked like an ironing board. It was flat, not very thick, and kind of shaped like a coffin, but it had my initials engraved on it. It wasn’t a very good board. Edgar Nash and I got into making boards and we’d get a chunk of redwood from Davies, his father was the treasurer of Davies, and they had a lumber yard down on the corner of Ward Avenue and Ala Moana Boulevard. We’d get a piece of redwood three inches thick, 24 inches wide and about ten feet long. Les Hicks was, at that time, manager of the Honolulu power plant and he would let us store this wood at the power plant until it got really dried out and beautiful, and then we’d take it home and start shaping it. We developed – mostly Nash did – a shape with a very narrow stern but quite deep, and then some curve up in the bow. We’d give it about six or seven coats of varnish and water, sandpaper it down and it came out looking like glass. We made quite a number. Those were good boards, but they were still pretty heavy – solid redwood. Later came the semi-hollow boards – strips of redwood and pine with sections hollowed out made by the Swastika Board Company of California.
WR: Then they developed a hollow surfboard, wasn’t the name Matsumoto? A Japanese carpenter that used to build them?
RB: Well, there was a guy named Funal who was a boat builder. But one of the very first hollow boards was made – I’ll have to give you his name later (Tom Blake) – the guy was a very interesting character. He came from California and he was a real husky guy, very quiet, didn’t communicate much and was a vegetarian, one of the first that I ever met.
He built a hollow board in our garage in Manoa and I watched him doing it, it took him quite a long time. It was a beautiful board, it was all made out of koa. He had some planks of koa all planed down to about half an inch or so which he used for top and bottom. The bow piece and the stern piece were also made out of koa. He used little strips of canvas with a special kind of glue in all the joints and little brass screws, about every inch-and-a-half I guess, to hold it all together. He then put koa doweling over all the screws and when it was sanded down all you saw was koa. It was a beautiful piece of work, and it took him quite a long time to do it. He’d come to our garage to work on it two, three or four hours a day.
Anyway, It was a very heavy board, but it was beautiful because of the koa. It was lighter, of course, than a solid board would have been. He sold, or gave it, to one of the beachboys – I think it was “Brains” Janda, I am not sure ¬but he used it for surfing lessons.
Then, my dad and I built a hollow board using planed down spruce planks – it was about a 12-footer. None of those hollow boards at the time had any fins so they skidded a lot on the waves. If your board went into a tail spin you’d just lose it. But they could slide pretty good. If you caught a wave outside of the break you could really move along pretty good.
WR: No hot-dogging. You went in one direction and you stayed there. (Laughter) I remember the first hollow board I had, it was the only big hollow one I ever had, I got it from Akana.
RB: Was that “Buddy” Akana? Hui Nalu.
WR: Yeah, “Buddy” Akana. He had two and I bought one from him. I used it for years. It had the old plug in it and it would leak….
RB: You’d stand it up and let the water out. Oh, those things were heavy. I can remember the one that I had, my dad used it once in a while and I used it. It leaked and when we came in after several hours of surfing we’d have to get somebody else to help us carry it up the beach it was so darned heavy.
During the early part of World War II we got into rejuvenation of canoe paddling. It had fallen off for several years. That was when the Outrigger got the new canoes and I’ve heard some stories about the Leilani being so many years old and all that stuff – I think their dates are a little wrong, because I can remember just before World War II started there were four brand new canoes brought down from Kona, the Leilani, the Kakina, Malia and one other called, i think, the Opue – something like that. Leilani and Kakina the Outrigger bought, “Dad” Center took the next choice. My recollection is that Outrigger had the first choice and they took the Leilani and then – who was that guy who started the Waikiki Surf Club, he was a member of the Outrigger? Well, anyway, he chose the Malia…..
WR: Was it John Lind?
RB: John Lind, yeah. And then Outrigger also took the Kakina and the fourth canoe had a very narrow bow and it didn’t look like it would be very good for racing in the surf. It never has been that successful, probably would be pretty good in smooth water and straightaway. I don’t know who has it now, it might be Healani.
WR: My understanding was that “Dad” purchased the Malia also. However, he wanted Waikiki Surf to have a good racing canoe so he gave them the opportunity to buy it from him under very favorable terms. “Dad” was responsible for getting Waikiki Surf started in racing.
RB: For competition, yeah. Yeah, John Lind worked real hard at that and Duke and everybody. John D. Kaupiko who was the head of Hui Nalu, we all wanted to see them succeed so there would be more competition. Basically there were just the two clubs competing, Outrigger and Hui Nalu.
WR: Just to recap now for a minute, what period were you involved with paddling? About how many years – active paddling?
RB: Well, actually starting in 1933 until about 1953, I think that was the last year.
WR: Twenty years. You were in a lot of races in that period.
WR: You coached.
RB: I coached and the last year paddled in the senior four.
WR: Did you ever paddle in the Molokai race?
RB: I did, yes.
WR: I thought so.
RB: About the second or third year after the Molokai race was started “Toots” tried real hard to get the Club to enter a canoe, but the Board said no, it was too dangerous – they didn’t want to take a chance of losing canoes or getting anybody injured.
WR: “Toots” never forgave them!
RB: (Laughter) So we organized a separate group, which I was elected to coach because I had been coaching the Outrigger before that. The crew was: number one was Philip Kaaihue, (it was interesting, he was retired on a disability from the Fire Department because he had a bad back.) (Laughter). Then number two was Tommy O’Brien, number three was Sam Steamboat, and I paddled number four, Curly Cornwall who I think was close to 50 at that time, 47 or so, paddled number five and Steamboat, Sr, was the steersman. We used the Ka Mo’i surf canoe which weighed about 650 pounds, compared to about 400 pounds for the racing canoes. We were the only surfing canoe in the group. There were about eleven canoes entered and we had a big advantage that day because there was a tremendous surf running, big waves all across the channel. The race started at Kawakiu Bay, a little bay right next to Ilio Point.
Very shortly after the start we got out into the surf and our canoe being big and heavy and short and deep, just excellent for surfing, would surf two or three hundred yards some times, just going like a bat out of hell. In fact at a couple of points in the middle of the race the waves came up so big behind us that Steamboat said “back paddle.”
WR: Oh, really? That bad?
RB: Yeah. Oh, that canoe was standing on end. Then about two-thirds of the way across Tommy O’Brien developed cramps I think probably he wasn’t pacing himself. He was the kind of guy who would go all out from the beginning, so he had to get out of the canoe and a guy by the name of “Ducky” Auld was our only alternate. He was a beachboy, kind of small, but he got in and that was the only change we made, all the rest of us paddled the entire race, and we finished fourth.
WR: For goodness sake.
RB: It was a great experience.
WR: Did the other crews have a full complement of nine paddlers?
RB: Yeah, but at that point I think that once you got out of a canoe you couldn’t get back in.
WR: I see. Yes, I remember that.
RB: I think that is the way it ought to be really. It has come to the point where it’s who has the fastest changing technique and who has the best escort and pick-up boat and all that sort of stuff. Hell, it should be a paddling race.
WR: I kind of agree with you – once you get out of the canoe you can’t get back in.
RB: Yeah, yeah.
WR: Then you really have to be in condition for the whole time you are. . .
RB: That’s what it is supposed to be. Anyway, we paddled not as the Outrigger Club Canoe because they wouldn’t sanction it. We paddled as the Waikiki Beach Services crew, but the beach services was owned by the Outrigger Canoe Club, so it really was an Outrigger canoe. Although other people claimed that we were not the first Outrigger canoe to paddle the Molokai race, I think we really were.
Some of the other things I remember about paddling – the first Walter Macfarlane race, I think was . . . I’ll never forget, it was most impressive. Amongst other things, it was the rejuvenation of paddling, and Duke was our coach and we had a good crew – we had good competition. Kamokila Campbell, Walter Macfarlane’s mother presented the trophy and there were just a lot of memorable things, That day was probably by far the best paddling day I ever had. I paddled, I think, five or six races. The first race of the day was an enlisted man’s race. . .
WR: Oh, yes, I remember that.
RB: . . . and we thought it was going to be an easy race and I was stroke. It was a two-mile race. They had buoys half a mile out and three-quarters of a mile out, it was two laps – two miles – and we had a bunch of kids all in the military. Mickey Beggs, Gilbert Carr, Carlos Rivas and myself, and, let’s see, Jimmy Fernie, and Duke was our steersman. We didn’t really expect much competition but there was a crew from the Royal Hawaiian, which was the Armed Services recreation center, at that time. They had a bunch of athletic specialists who were damned good athletes and Harry Robello coached them and he steered them, and they gave us a real tough battle. Something unexpected. Anyway we won that race and then I paddled in the senior four-man race which, as I recall, was myself, Jack Beaumont, Tommy Arnott, Tom Arnott was our steersman, I can’t remember who the third was – yes, it was “Slim” Denhart. We won that race.
Then they had a relay race. It had three crews composed of junior six, senior girls’ crew and the senior six. We’d take off from the beach and go out and round a buoy and come back, then one crew would jump out and the other jump in and go around again. I was on the senior crew, and we won that race. And then they had a sprint race . . . a real sprint, down about as far as Waikiki Surf had their headquarters.
Anyway, that sprint race was really a hell of a lot of fun because everybody was trying to get a little head start and there was a lot of jockeying around – had a hard time getting people off to a fair start. It was just a wide open all-out race just for a short distance from Kuhio Beach to the Royal, and it was a hell of a lot of fun, and we won that; then the second to the last race of the day, I think they had the senior girls after that, was the senior men’s race and that was the first Walter Macfarlane Trophy race. At that point the race was four-and-a-half miles – we went to the outside buoy, and incidentally there weren’t lanes at that time. You started off from lanes and then you fought for the pole.
WR: I see. One flag.
RB: One flag, outside and inside, with the final leg parallel to the beach from the Moana to the Royal.
WR: But this was a four-and-a-half mile race?
RB: So it was three-quarters of a mile out, three quarters back and three laps. Hui Nalu had a hell of a good crew, they had two Apo brothers, Joe Pang, Sonny Young, Blue Makua was the steersman and they had a good canoe called the White Horse. It was a real fast racing canoe, and they led us until the last turn on the outside buoy when Duke made a real wide swing and cut inside – they were trying to make a real tight turn to keep us from getting the pole – but he cut in and actually nudged the tail end of their canoe with the bow of the Leilani and pushed it sideways a bit. (Laugh) Blue just raised hell but.. . .
WR: Wasn’t it a violation of the rules?
RB: . . . tricks of the trade. So we got the pole and Duke laid it on us and said, “Now you guys take it home” and we were going into the wind – there was a pretty good wind blowing, and our crew was, I was number one, Tommy Arnott was number two, Jack Beaumont was number three, I think Jimmy Fernie was number four, Thad Fkstrand number five, and Duke was the steersman, maybe Thad wasn’t in it.
WR: What year was that?
RB: That was 1943, the first year of the Walter Macfarlane race.
WR: Oh, yes. Who was instrumental in reviving canoe racing and putting on the Walter Macfarlane race . . . I know Bob Fischer had something to do with it.
RB: I think the guys who really pushed it were Duke, John D. Kaupiko, and then John Lind. The three got together and said, “You know, we’ve got these beautiful canoes around, the art of canoe racing is going to expire if we don’t do something about it.” So they got it going. The first races were the Kamehameha Day races, June 11, and the other big one was the Fourth of July which they decided to hold at Waikiki instead of Honolulu Harbor, and that became the Walter Macfarlane Race and thereafter it was by invitation of the Outrigger Canoe Club.
RB: Anyway, we won that race – it was a real tight one, I think it was five races I paddled in that day.
WR: How come you were able to paddle in five races? There was no limitation?
RB: These weren’t different age groups. There were two senior races and then the relay race, and then the sprint, and the enlisted men’s race. Incidentally, Admiral Halsey presented the trophy for that race and I have that trophy (not much silver plate left on it) and a photo of the presentation. Perhaps the Club would like them, though there are so many trophies you must have storage problems.
We had a very good junior crew at that time, too. Tommy Thomas was on it, and Billy Cook was the steersman. He was a lot thinner than he is now. (Laughter) I think George paddled on that crew also, I am not sure. That was the start of an era when we did not lose a junior or senior race for about four years.
Tommy O’Brien was supposed to have been the stroke for the first “Walter Mac” race – he stroked the crew on the Kamehameha Day race, then about two weeks before the Fourth of July race he got in an accident and injured the tendons in his wrist and he couldn’t paddle for a while, so they pushed me up into that job and Duke was riding me the whole damned race. (Laughter) I’ll never forget it, he’d say, “OK Bush, pick it up.” It was a kind of a monotone just kind of getting to Hui Nalu. “Pick it up a little bit,” so we’d pick it up and then, of course we’d have to slow down a little bit. “OK Bush, pick it up a little bit.” I think I had nightmares about that for about a week. (Laugh)
Then following that, the next year we got Jimmy Pflueger to come join the group, and he was one of the strongest paddlers the Club ever had and he—perhaps the strongest paddler we ever had was Sammy Steamboat Jr. He was very powerful, but Jimmy was very close to him, and I remember one of the incidents that occurred when we were training. Duke used to, occasionally when we were warming up, put two guys face to face in the canoe and they paddled against each other.
RB: . . . just to promote some competition. And so one day he had me facing toward the stern and a couple of seats away Jimmy Pflueger was facing me; and so he said, “OK, start.” Duke was sitting in the stern behind Jimmy, and Jimmy thinks, “Oh, I’ll just push Bush backwards right away”, you know, young, very strong guy with a big ego, and he starts paddling. I was going to give it everything I had and pretty soon we weren’t moving at all, just standing still, and so Jimmy starts paddling harder and harder and the veins were bulging out of his neck, and I thought he was going to blow a gasket. (Laughter) All the time Duke was in the stern of the canoe with his big steering paddle just slowly back-paddling (Laughter) against Jimmy, (Laughter) and Jimmy was completely unaware of it. (Laughter)
WR: Oh, I can just see, Jimmy. (Laughter)
RB: At any rate, when he found out what was going on he wanted to kill all of us. (Laughter)
WR: I think that’s great.
RB: Then, the next year I think was when we had the very best crew we ever had – Kenny Chaney was in it, Jimmy Pfleuger and Tommy O’Brien was back at stroke. I paddled number two, Tommy Arnott was the other one and “Turkey” Love was steersman.
WP: “Turkey” was a great steersman.
RB: Yeah, he was very good. Actually Duke was getting a little older then and he was pretty heavy, there was a lot of weight to carry along. Oh, he was a strong paddler, we didn’t really worry about that, but “Turkey” was younger and an excellent steersman. Duke had put us on these training programs where they had buoys set up for the regular race and we’d go paddle three laps and he’d say, “OK, one more lap” and we’d go out past the outside buoy and he’d say, “OK, take it home.” So we’d give it everything we had, get into the beach and then, “OK, one more lap,” (Laugh) and it was over and over again. (Laughter) The second year we had a crew in such good shape we finished the race — at that time they had the finish of the race parallel to the beach . . .
WR: Yes, they’d make the turn . . .
RB: They’d make the turn and then they’d go down towards the Royal and they had the finish line out about in front of where the Hau Terrace was. Well, we turned and finished the race, hauled the canoe up into the canoe shed and were back in the water swimming before the second crew finished. Towards the end of that race “Turkey” was heading way in towards the beach and thought he was going to hit the beach before he crossed the finish line. So a couple of strokes before I thought we would hit the beach I turned around and asked “Turkey” where he was going and Duke gave me hell for quitting! (Laughter) He really laid it on. Hell, we had the race won by nearly half-a-mile. (Laughter)
WR: When did the expression “Duke’s Boys” come into play? That’s . . .
RB: I don’t know. He started calling—he’d tell one of the boys, “Get the gang together, we’re ready to go.” Maybe that is how it started.
WR: It became famous in Club history, “Duke’s Boys”, the group that he trained and paddled with.
RB: He was a very inspirational guy. We got to know him pretty well. Another thing, he didn’t let us into the racing canoe until about two days before the race. We did all the training in the Ka Mo`i.
WR: The heavy canoe.
RB: So on the first day when you got into the Leilani the thing flew. In fact, you’d lose your balance, take a stroke and the canoe would go out from under you – you’d fall over backwards.
WR: What were you doing during the War years, were you stationed here?
RB: Well, I went into the Navy, December 7. I had applied for enlistment in the Naval Intelligence Office before that and was being researched by the FBI and all that sort of stuff you have to get cleared on. Then about nine o’clock in the morning on December 7 I got a call, “Come on down, you’re in.” I was here – the old Intelligence Office was in the Young Hotel building – for about two months, and then an opening came up in a small branch office in Midway and I volunteered for that because I thought it’d be kind of fun to be out at Midway. I was out there for 14 months ¬during that time they had the Battle of Midway.
WR: Oh, my!
RB: And that was pretty exciting.
WR: I should think so.
RB: Interesting experiences there. Then I came back here and was stationed at Ford Island Naval Air Station. That was when I got back into paddling.
WR: I see. So you were there for a short time during the War – what was the Club like during that particular period?
RB: Well, of course, we had barbed wire all over the beach. At the beginning there was a heavy blackout – because I was in Naval Intelligence I had a security pass to drive at night when we had no headlights – just a little blue circle in your headlights.
WR: Oh, yes.
RB: . . . and, the Club seemed to operate pretty well. I guess they had enough senior military members who could get steaks and butter and things like that. A lot of top officers used the Club.
WR: You mentioned earlier that you met your wife here at the Club.
WR: How did that happen?
RB: Well that was kind of interesting. I had a sailing canoe, three of us built – George Hogan, Herb Loomis and myself. We had it anchored beyond the seawall at the Royal Hawaiian. On weekends we would sail it and a lot of times I would get Neal Ifversen to go sailing with me. He was a real bird-dog, he would spot some sharp gal on the beach and he would go get them and we’d take them out sailing. One day we had been out and when we came in to the beach we saw this pretty, attractive blond sitting on the beach and I said, “Neal, go get that one,” so he goes up and asks Jeannie McPhillips if she’d like to go sailing. Jeannie loved to sail, she’d done a lot of sailing in California and Catalina but she was sitting with Nancy Buck and she said sure, if we could take her friend along because they were sitting together, and Jeannie had just joined the Club. We knew Nancy was married, so we said, “There’s just room for one,” so she said, “No, I won’t go then.” So I thought, who the hell is this babe who is turning us down, with a chance to go sailing with us? Must check into that. So I met her later on the Hau Terrace and she asked Bill Mullahey about me. I’d known Bill for a long time, we’d been pretty good friends though I was much younger, and he gave me a good recommendation and so Jeannie and I started going together.
WR: Terrific. Where were you married?
RB: We were married at Central Union Church. Tommy Arnott and his wife stood up for us and we’ve been very close ever since then.
WR: Jeannie’s a great gal. There are so many questions I have, I could keep on for the next hour, going back to certain people you have mentioned. You have given us a spate of names here, the like of which we have never had, and when we get this on the record I know it is going to recall a lot of other things. When we get the rough draft of this interview will you correct the record for dates and names and add additional names and events?
RB: OK. I’d love to do that.
WR: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
RB: Um . . .
WR: I have a question . . . There was a lot of misunderstanding with respect to the fact that we had to move from the old location to the new one. We had promoters who at the time were making offers to us to stay there. If those offers had been acceptable to our membership – none were – we would have had a restricted facility there, so we had to move. What is your reaction to the move, do you think it has been. . .
RB: Well, I think it was inevitable. Of course, we don’t have the great beach and surf conditions here that we had there, but being in the middle of Waikiki and having to provide the facilities and parking that you would have to provide for a successful club would have been impossible, I think financially impossible. We have a damned good lease here and this is . . . the only alternative, really. We had to move and this was a good location.
WR: I think we’ve been very fortunate and it has become a real good family club which I don’t think it would have been down at the old location. We’d have been hemmed in by high rises and all the tourists on the beach. I think it was a fortuitous move. In terms of the number of people who want to join the Club, it certainly has turned out to be successful. I think we have a good situation here.
RB: Yeah, yeah. I think-the character and-personality of the Club has gone through several changes that are quite clear to me and are kind of interesting. The first Club was really a family kind of operation, you could go down there and cook your dinner, picnic, and stuff. There was no dining room. There was not the kind of socializing where you would use the Club to entertain guests, there was very little of that, but it had a nice warm friendly feeling about it, and it had a lot of activity – of participation by the members. Then when we moved into the newer Club in Waikiki it became much more of a social activity. Being in a cramped and restricted area it didn’t have the big openness that the first one had but it had much finer dining facilities, so instead of being an individual family picnic type of an operation it became a place where we entertained friends and sat around on the Hau Terrace and had drinks on a Sunday afternoon.
WR: Social functions, dances and things of that.
RB: Yeah, yeah. A lot more of that, but it still had, as far as canoeing was concerned – it had a good size canoe shed, some damned good canoes and that’s one of the things the Club misses a lot here, it just doesn’t have the space here for it – for that kind of thing. It’s amazing to me that it’s got the number of canoes and things in the space it has.
WR: Yes, it’s remarkable.
RB: Yes, and of course the volleyball has gotten to be superb. One of the things I forgot to mention in my memories of the older Club was “Pop” Ford (Alexander Hume Ford), I don’t think I went into that.
WR: No, you didn’t. Did you know him?
RB: Yeah, I got to know “Pop” Ford quite well. He was a lot older; he was a pretty old man when I met him. I understand that at first he was really the principal force behind the formation of the Club in 1904, or whenever it was. . .
RB: 1908, yeah, well OK. “Pop” Ford lived in a place called Castle Home up on the side of Manoa Valley, and I understand it belonged to one of the Castle families and he won it in a poker game, or they gave it to him, or something. “Pop” had been a news reporter and had worked . . . he had a lot of ideas about things. He tried to start the Pan Pacific Union. Actually, he did get it organized but it never went very far and as I recall his explanation of it, it was a culturally oriented United Nations of the Pacific, something like that. He had exhibits in this old Castle Home, a great rambling mansion that even had a pipe organ in one of the rooms – actually it was part of the stables – and he had stuffed animals and artifacts from all over the Pacific. It was sort of a museum, and he lived there alone with a couple of University students who helped take care of the grounds. Once in a while . . . he had a big old touring car , , , he’d gather the kids from the Club and give them a ride home. We all lived in this very close area in Manoa Valley; he lived down at one end of Awapuhi Street and we lived at the other corner, and Bob Grimshaw lived almost next door to Castle Home on Awapuhi Street. My first recollection of “Pop” Ford was that he’d give us a ride home and he’d take us down to the lower part of Manoa Valley in the very old commercial area where we could buy ice blocks, you know, ice cubes that were…
WR: “Shave ice”?
RB: Actually ice cubes, Orange flavored, or strawberry or whatever, then he’d take us home and he’d give all the kids a kiss, and he had a beard and it always smelled of whiskey. (Laugh)
RB: He’d give you a kiss on the cheek when he let you off. That’s when we were 13- or 14-year-olds. Then I remember him later on when he came down to the second clubhouse. He was having problems with his plumbing and things like that, and he was bombed a lot of the time. He was kind of pathetic, but he was a real character and we sure owe him a debt of gratitude for the Club.
WR: We sure do. Bob, this has been terrific. I could keep you going for a long time with those notes you’ve got there. . .
RB: No, I think that’s enough.
WR: I think you’ve done a great job.
RB: One thing I was going to say is that the Club has been very important to me and a lot of my friends, particularly at the age when I joined, the formative teenage years and shortly after that. It has been a kind of an anchor, a home . . . it has been a thing that has helped promote the concept of team spirit and getting along with other people, and having guys like Duke to steer us along. I think we have been most fortunate. A lot of kids didn’t have that opportunity.
WR: Well, I think this has been one of the best interviews we’ve had, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. We’ll have to have another episode, Chapter 2. In the meantime we’ll have this typed up and submit it to you and have you edit it.
RB: I pity the gal who has to do all this transcribing. (Laugh)
WR: Well, thank you very, very much.
RB: OK, thank you, Ward, my pleasure.
1. “Pop” Ford was allowed to use Castle Home, but didn’t own it.
2. The Pan Pacific Union existed for some time. It had a full time secretary and had quite a bit of international activity and conferences.
3. The women’s auxiliary is still active under a slightly different name.