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
September 23, 1997
JWR: I am Ward Russell (JWR), a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club’s Historical Committee which for some time has been interviewing some of our most prominent members. Today, it is my privilege to interview Roy Kesner (RCK), long time member, kaamaaina and past president of the Club. Matter of fact, Roy was president in 1976 and then ten years later he was president in 1986. Roy and I are in the Boardroom of the Club on a beautiful summer afternoon. Roy, good afternoon.
RCK: Good afternoon, Ward.
JWR: Tell me a little about yourself.
RCK: Well …
JWR: Where were you born?
RCK: I was born in Honolulu in 1927, born at Kapiolani Maternity Hospital, the same hospital where my mother was born
JWR: What was her maiden name?
RCK: Her maiden name was Lewis.
JWR: Ha, that’s an old kamaaina name.
RCK: Her grandfather was James L. Lewis who was a descendant of John Lewis who settled in New England from Wales in 1640. In fact, there is a relationship between the Lewis family and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. And I am related to both because my middle name is Clark and my grandfather’s middle name is Clark, and my great grandmother was Mary Clark, all related to the “Expedition” Clark. Well anyway, that’s the way it is.
JWR: What is your racial background?
RCK: I am English, French, Scotch, German and Hawaiian.
JWR: Tell me about your father?
RCK: My father was Roy C. Kesner, who came over from California sometime in the the early 20’s. He ended up being president of Hollister Drug Co. president of the Waialae Country Club president of the old Commercial Club, and president of the Retail Board of the Chamber of Commerce, and I think he also founded the Better Business Bureau.
JWR: And I use to play volleyball and basketball with him at the old Nuuanu YMCA.
RCK: That’s right, and he was a reserve police officer during the war and ended up as the President of the Keys and Whistles.
JWR: What is the Keys and Whistles?
RCK: It is the official name of the civilian reserve police organization originally founded in the early days of World War I to support Honolulu’s police department.
JWR: Ah, you have an illustrious family! Where did you go to school?
RCK: Punahou, for maybe the first two or three grades. I’m not sure about the third grade, and then Thomas Jefferson, because I lived near the Waikiki Fire Station when I was a kid, and after Thomas Jefferson, went to Robert Louis Stevenson, and then to Roosevelt, graduating in 1944.
JWR: Were you active in athletics at Roosevelt?
RCK: In swimming. I got my letter in swimming and I was in the band. I was a musician way back when, so I, being a musician, you didn’t play football or anything like that. You were usually in the band marching down the street or playing at the football games. I also ended up a jazz band and played at dances all over town, including the Elks Club for New Year’s Eve.
JWR: Well now, before I ask about your activities at the Club. What was your business career?
RCK: Business career? I started out with the old CPA firm of young, Lamberton and Pearson in 1948…. Then had various accounting jobs, I was once with the United States General Accounting Office, once with the Air Force Auditor General of the United States Air Force. I was also chief accountant of Kaiser Hawaii Kai Development Company and ended up as chief of Accounting and Budget for the Federal Aviation Administration, in the Pacific Region, here in Honolulu.
JWR: Then your background is strictly financed, eh?
JWR: It was beneficial to the Club, I’m sure. Ok now let’s get to the Club. When did you first join the Club?
RCK: It was on April the first, 1942. I was just fifteen years old a couple of months before that.
JWR: What prompted you to join the Club?
RCK: Well, when I went from Stevenson into Roosevelt, I had a good friend named, “Jackie” Poindexter. “Jackie” was a member of the Club.
JWR: Poindexter . . .
RCK: No relation to the local Poindexter. I started coming down to the Club with him on a continual basis after school until one of the managers said, “Hey, you’ve been abusing this privilege as a guest.”
JWR: Pay up or shut up, uh?
RCK: “You better join.” So I said “Ok, I will join.” But anyway, I waited till then, because when I was a young kid, growing up in Waikiki, I was doing a lot of surfing. That was all done around Kuhio Beach. I had so much to do at that particular beach, Kuhio Beach, that I didn’t go to the Club.
JWR: Oh, I imagine you came in contact with some of the members of the Club.
RCK: Oh, absolutely. My surfing buddies were “Bunny” Aldrich, who was my continual surfing partners that I went surfing with and Peter Nottage. We would go out and surf and do a lot of canoeing too.
JWR: So that was when you were just a teenager. Then, tell me, you paddle too?
RCK: Just for sport, not for the races anything like that what I was going to say. I started to come down to the Club when I was able to walk, because my mother was an old time member, and she would bring me down. We would go out there by the Wichman’s Clock, sit down on the beach and have a ball and go swimming and everything like that. In fact, she was a member of the Myrtle Boat Club before the Outrigger. I think they trained down in Honolulu Harbor. But anyway, the Club was just old time with me, starting as a kid and I don’t know why I waited that long.
JWR: What was the Wichman’s Clock?
RCK: It was a large fancy clock on a pedestal that the Club had obtained from Wichman’s Jewelers Co. it was located on the beach in front of the old Club so swimmers, surfers and canoeist could keep track of the time.
JWR: What was the beach like in those days?
RCK: Oh, the beach was beautiful. There was hardly anybody there, you know and the sand was clean. This was when I joined.
RCK: One of my old friends was Kiakona.
JWR: Tommy Kiakona?
RCK: Tommy Kiakona, and he would say: “Roy, let’s go out on the beach here and take a look. The waves were coming around during the night, and quite often in the morning these coins would be exposed by the waves, sitting on a little sand pedestal and Tommy would go around picking them up. They came from people would lose their quarters and dimes and nickels in the sand. (Laugh) anyway, It was a lovely beach at that time.
JWR: Tommy Kiakona. I use to row with him for the Myrtle Boat Club. And I think this is the first time Tommy’s name has ever come up in an interview. Tell me about him.
RCK: Tommy was a good friend of mine. Tommy and I forget his wife’s name. They lived near the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in an apartment, and we’d play volleyball or do something or whatever and end up at the Hau Terrace and having a few cool ones, and talking stories and all of that.
JWR: About when would this be?
RCK: Oh, this would be like the middle to late ‘40’s.
JWR: It would have been after the war then?
RCK: After the war, right. The middle to late ‘40’s
JWR: Who were some of your close swimming and surfing friends at the Club?
RCK: At the Club. Bill Casey was a very good friend. We played volleyball all the time. Oh gosh, just about everybody that was there were pretty close.
JWR: You’ve witnessed the Club grow from the time you first joined to the present day, including the move from the old to the new location. What was your attitude with respect to the move?
RCK: I thought it was a good move, because I think I could see the old site being too commercial, and I think the Outrigger was going to end up having the first, second and third floors, or something like that in the building proposed by the new owners. It wasn’t going to be a beach club. But moving down here, God, when I found about that lease that Godbold (Wilford D) had put together … one of the greatest things you you can imagine. A 99 years lease with 50 year fixed and the next 50 years would be fixed. You can’t beat that.
JWR: I want to get back to surfing. What were your favorite surfing spots?
RCK: Well, I started when I was a little kid right down near the Tavern Surf, that’s when I was about maybe five, six or seven years old, just learning how to surf.
JWR: Now, what is Tavern Surf?
RCK: Tavern was in front of the old Waikiki Tavern.
JWR: Where would that be now? A lot of the people reading this won’t even where the Waikiki Tavern was.
RCK: I think it would be where, just about where that police substation now is on the beach at Kuhio, some place like that or next door right there where the boards are. But, from there, I went out to the left, to what is called, “Queens” and that’s where I surfed for a long time. Then I joined the Outrigger, naturally, everybody went out to “Canoes” for surfing and canoeing.
JWR: Where would “Canoes” be?
RCK: Right in front of the old Club. Just in front of the Moana Hotel.
JWR: Did your surf any of the other areas?
RCK: Ah at times we went out to “First Break”
JWR: Now, where would “First Break” be?
RCK: Oh, just out between maybe “Queens” and “Canoes” way, way out. You’re talking about “Streamer Lane”.
JWR: “Streamer Lane”, now that would be where the streamers (big ships) go.
RCK: That’s right. That’s why we called it “Streamer Lane”.
JWR: And then going towards town from the Club?
RCK: Going towards town they had a little small surf. Royal Hawaiian surf, but that was for the little kids, it was in front of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
JWR: What kind of boards did you first surf on?
RCK: Oh, a plank… A plain wooden plank, I made one at one time. But anyway, when I first started to surf, the Cross (family) lived on Prince Edward Avenue.
JWR: Oh, yeah, “Billy” Cross…
RCK: “Billy” Cross, “Jackie” Cross, and Richard Cross. Richard was my classmate, one of my best friends in Thomas Jefferson (school), and they had a home right there next to the beach on Prince Edward. They had about six or seven boards…
JWR: Right in the heart of Waikiki …
RCK: Right there one block off of Kalakaua. We were such good friends, so when I finished school at Jefferson in the afternoon, I would just head for the Cross’, grab any board that I wanted and then out in the ocean. I didn’t own a board then, but I had all the boards I wanted. I ended up with a semi-hollow, redwood and white pine semi-hollow, that weighed about a hundred pounds. I could hardly get it out of the water, since it weighed about the same as me …
JWR: The ones that had a plug in the back?
RCK: No, it didn’t have a plug, it had like a reverse swastika, which is an Indian sign. It was just a trademark of who made that board.
JWR: Was that one of those hollow boards?
RCK: No, it was semi-hollow, with redwood and white pine strips, it was kind of a striped board.
JWR: Did you graduate to some of the newer boards? Balsa? Fiberglass?
RCK: No, never did. I just had that one, I used to try out some of the hollow, but they didn’t impress me that much.
JWR: You were getting on in years and you had other things that were …..
RCK: Right, other things to do. I lost that board in a poker game one night anyway years ago.
JWR: What were some of the special activities that you remember in the early days of the Club?
RCK: Well, I almost won the Club cribbage championship one year. They had cribbage tournaments once a year, and you’d play and play until people would get eliminated. Finally it ended up this one year with, the final twosome. It was me and John D. Kaupiko, playing the championship and John D. drew all the cards, and I finally said, “you win, John”.
JWR: Was John a member of the Club or was he Hui Nalu?
RCK: He was a member of the Outrigger, because he was in the tournament.
JWR: He was such a colorful person.
RCK: Right, a great surfer and paddler.
JWR: Any of the other old timers you can remember on the beach? How about the Whittles?
RCK: Oh, the Whittles, absolutely.
RCK: Willie Whittle, naturally. I ended up at Waialae with the sign man . . .
JWR: Oh, Jimmy.
RCK: Jimmy Whittle, we used to play golf all the time before Jimmy died.
JWR: He used to do my campaign signs.
RCK: The Whittles are a fantastic family.
JWR: I was thinking of “Splash” Lyons.
RCK: Do you remember many of the Club presidents, Club managers at that time?
JWR: Henry de Gorog was on. I think he was the one that said; Hey you’d better join this Club sometime” as I recall. Gay Harris, naturally, came on later, and the one that managed the Navy Club at Pearl Harbor.
JWR: The wishing well. “Jake” Tudor.
RCK: “Jack” Tudor, and of course, in the front office was Eva Pomroy. Eva Pomroy and I knew each other when I was three or four years old. We lived one street apart near the Waikiki Fire Station.
JWR: She was a fixture here for years…. “Chick” was the one I was trying to think of.
RCK: “Chick” Daniels? We had a lot of fun times on the Hau Terrace. (Laugh).
JWR: That’s for sure. Did you serve on any committee of the Club before you become President?
RCK: At the old Club I was on the Admission Committee one time, and the Committee was only that large, in fact, when we interviewed somebody, there was just the two of us interviewing.
RCK: Once we interviewed a very controversial applicant, very wealthy. We let him in and he didn’t turn out to be such a good member. You know, regardless of the money, but I think I just served on that Admissions Committee.
JWR: That’s interesting. You weren’t on any of the other committee that you can remember.
RCK: No, my two boys were growing up and I didn’t come down to the Club too much in the late fifties, and early sixties. I was a home body, working three jobs at one time, taking care of the kids and the yard and everything else.
JWR: Tell me about your kids
RCK: I have two. Bill is forty years old and he is with America West in San Francisco and I have Richard, who’s thirty-eight and he is with U.S Airways in Dallas, Texas. He just transferred from Los Angeles to Dallas. So they are both with airlines. Both went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and then took another course at the International Air Academy, maybe, because I was in the FAA, the wanted to be with the airlines.
JWR: That’s interesting. How and when did you come to be a candidate for the Board of Directors?
RCK: An old friend was responsible one of the oldest members here joined when he was ten years old …. Thad Extrand. Thad was on the Board, and was slated to be president in 1971. I had just moved down the street here at 3003 Kalakua and said: “Well I’m down on the beach now, close to the Club” and Thad said: “you better run for the Board”, so I ran for the Board and got elected; I think in 1971. Yep, in 1971 I got on the Board and that’s when Thad Extrand was president.
JWR: Your term was two years?
RCK: Two years, two year and two years, a total of six years.
JWR: The last two years you were president
RCK: I was president the last year in 1976. When I got on Board in 1971, they put me on the House Committee, after that I was treasure and then couple of terms as vice president and then president.
JWR: Do you remember who was manager at the time?
RCK: Norman Riede … oh wait… when I first got on the Board was the other one that ended up with Holiday Inn, Peter Van Dorn, he was on in 1971 or maybe 1972 then Norman Riede came on after that.
JWR: Were there any major problems confronting the Board at that time?
RCK: I can’t remember any I know that when I got to be president, I did a few things that had never been done before.
JWR: What were they?
RCK: Well, one thing, my wife and I hosted a dinner at the Outrigger for the presidents of the Oahu Country Club, The Pacific Club, and their wives so as to establish a better rapport among the three clubs. The objective being to get the working people from our clubs to talk to each other and get more information that we were all going on the right track. I did that. I also had the Elks Club’s Board of Trustees over for a cocktail party to get our friendships going and develop a clear understanding of each Club’s objectives, particularly with respect to the possible purchase of our site from Elks.
JWR: Did the Club at that point make any offer to the Elks Club?
RCK: Just before I finished my term, I wrote a letter and it was mailed to all Outrigger Canoe Club members explaining what we were trying to do. We made an offer to the Elks. We were talking about maybe four or five million dollars which I thought was too low, why we had the four or five (million) was, I think, Dennis O’Connor’s suggestion which I disagreed with. We should have really bought it for about ten million dollars at the time and settled it. But, anyway . . .
JWR: Twenty-twenty hindsight.
RCK: Right, but the Elks Club came back saying: “No, this offer is not acceptable”. So I went back and I said; “you tell us what would be acceptable”. And they never came back. So we left it at that.
JWR: Well, history now seems to be repeating itself.
RCK: I think the general membership over there has a problem with the Outrigger purchasing the land in fee.
JWR: I believe we’re now in the process of trying to work something out and I hope …
RCK: Brandt (Ackerman) has a committee. Brandt has formed a committee which, I understand, is in the process of developing a new proposal.
JWR: Yes, I hope things do work out. It’s interesting how you served as president in 1976, then again in 1986. What prompted you to run again in 1986?
RCK: well, I had retired from the FAA in 1982 and a couple of other good friends that were on the Board with me in the 70’s were getting back onto the Board, like Peter Balding and “Rab” Guild. They encouraged me to join them and run this Club just like we did before, they felt we could to a lot better than that was being done at the time.
JWR: That was interesting to me, because I know there was some discussion about it among the membership, who apparently felt there was a period there when the Club was sort of drifting away from what they felt was its original mission.
RCK: I think that was it, yeah and then I think that (past president) Ben Cassiday agreed. It was during his regime; Ben’s appointments resulted in our group eventually ending up being presidents again.
JWR: During the two terms that you served on the Board, what were the principal problems facing the Club?
RCK: The first time was maybe just maintenance, and the roof problems. We had to put on a new roof, the second time though was the garage that had been passed over and over many, many years, architect Hayden Philips had drawn a plan, but nobody did anything about it.
JWR: What was the problem?
RCK: This was the garage, the extension of the garage. And finally I said; “well, let’s get this thing going”. And we changed the plans a little bit and got the contract with Teval Corp., which is a super company, who built the garage, and I set up a committee of Gene Long and Richard Ferguson. Gene, who was chairman of the committee, had a masters degree in structural engineering from Sanford.
JWR: Was that putting on the additional levels? Did the Club have to get a variance?
RCK: Yes and no. We hit the twenty-five foot height limitation, but I think we went over by one foot and I think that was forgiven, I think that was just because of a railing. But, we met the criteria.
JWR: I know there’s been agitation for expanding the Club, building a second floor. What was your attitude with respect to that?
RCK: That was brought up years ago, above the dining room, having another room up there which could serve private parties separately from the main dining room. And I think they were even talking about a billiard or pool room in the back. Then a bar upstairs so you could have a better view looking out over the ocean. What was brought up also was raising the volleyball courts and building almost like a another men’s locker room in that area, then expanding the women’s locker room into the present men’s locker room.
JWR: Are you on any committees of the Club at present?
RCK: No, I’m not.
JWR: Saw your duty and you done it.
RCK: I do’ed it and I done it. But I was on the Admissions Committee for a while and that enough is enough.
JWR: You did a good job. Well now, you have the experience of being a member of the Club at the old location for a number of years and then at the new location, what is your overall impression of the benefits of moving from the old location to the new location.
RCK: Well, first of all, it’s like we have our own private beach. It’s totally private, both the both the beach side and the other side of being on Kalakaua here at this, kind of like a residential area, versus being down the middle of Kalakaua now, which would be like “Mad house”. I think more privacy, more privacy and a lovely place of surf. There’s good surfing out here, and everything else.
JWR: Do you feel that it has become a real family Club as compare to the old location?
RCK: I think it’s definitely a family Club, I think when we moved to the new location it changed. It seemed like more junior members were coming into the Club. Families were bringing their sons and children, sons and daughters in, more so than at the old Club. And now, I know the junior members are just keep coming in, coming in and coming in. I know some move away to the mainland to go to school, whatever. They rejoin when they return home.
JWR: Now, being in a position to be able to look back with an objective view of the Club. What is your impression of the Club’s participation in paddling championships? It has pretty much dominated the championships for such a long period. Do you think that’s good for the sport?
RCK: Well ….
JWR: Kind of a tough question.
RCK: Well, I know years ago, it seemed like the other clubs were pretty poor and didn’t offer anything to the paddlers, and the Outrigger had a little bit more money and everything like that ….
JWR: The Club’s domination has it encouraged the growth of the sport?
RCK: I think so, I really do. Lanikai has come up through the years and they beat the Outrigger many times, because it’s a good family club out there and the family’s support the kids, just like the Outrigger.
JWR: What do you see as being some of the more pressing problems today as far as the Club is concerned?
RCK: I’m not sure. I know the Building and Grounds Committee could probably come with something, saying; “Hey, this facility’s getting to be so many years old …” I used to hear things about some people saying; “Hey, it’s about time they tear it down and rebuild it again”.
JWR: Well, they had a face lift not so long ago.
RCK: Well, to me it looks fine, its fine and dandy.
JWR: There are two schools of thought. Some members want the Club to stay as it and not grow, and there are those who want to see it expand. What’s your feeling?
RCK: No, I would just as soon see it stay the way it is. We have membership quotas and all of that and let’s just stick to it. But that they might want to do is increase the nonresidents, you might as well let in as many as you want, because they don’t bother the Club at all and they spend money.
JWR: Can you think of anything you’d like to add?
RCK: I can’t think of anything at this time.
JWR: Well, we’ve been at this a full half-hour and it’s been a very good interview. We covered some very interesting subjects, if anything comes to your mind that you want to add to this interview, just give me a call and we can get together to extend the interview. So, many, many thanks.
RCK: Sound very good.
RCK: Ok, thank you, Ward.
JWR: Thank you.
OUTRIGGER CANOE CLUB HISTORIAL COMMITTEE
ROY CLARK KESNER, JR
Nomination for Life Membership
ROY CLARK KESNER, JR. has served the Outrigger Canoe Club in a distinguished manner beginning as a member on April 1, 1942. He has served in many capacities as a director and officer as follows:
Director – 1971
Treasurer – 1972, 1973, 1974, 1983
Vice President Activities – 1984
Vice President Operations – 1975, 1985
President- from February 23, 1976 to February 28, 1977
President – from February 24, 1986 to February 23, 1987
During his tenure as president the Club benefited as follow: in 1976
- Replacement of beach sand fronting the Club;
- Re-roofing the entire Club;
- Revision of By-Laws;
- Additional shoring of parking lot slabs to correct deflection;
- Four life member awards – Wilford D. Godbold, Jack S. Mackenzie, Albert Edward Minvielle, Jr. and Ah Kong Pang;
- Membership increased by 98 to 3452 and member equity increased by $28,296.00 to $1,572,000.
- Kitchen renovation (Phase II);
- Reroofing portions of the Club House;
- Carpeting locker rooms;
- Upgrading dining room & lounge;
- Upgrading restrooms;
- Install wall between A/B dining rooms;
- Hired new printer and mailing service for “THE OUTRIGGER” magazine;
- Closed inactive membership category and transferred 373 individuals to nonresident category;
- Four life member awards – Robert Alexander Anderson, Sr. Willam C Kea, James Ward Russell, Jr. and Ah Kin “Ah Buck” Yee;
- Membership increased by 66 to 3,950 and member equity increased by $ 195,544.00 to $5,097,000;
- He was the first president of the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation in 1986.
Birth date: January 10, 1927
Nominated this 2nd day of October 2003 by unanimous vote of the Historical Committee
of the Outrigger Canoe Club.
Moana McGlaughlin – Tregaskis, Chairperson.