This oral history interview is a project of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The legal rights of this material remain with the Outrigger Canoe Club. Anyone wishing to reproduce it or quote at length from it should contact the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions that are not factual. A complete transcription of the interview may be found below, as well as the original interview tapes.
An Interview by Ernest H. Thomas
April 21, 1988
This is an oral history of William C. Capp (WCC), known as Bill Capp, taken at the Outrigger Canoe Club on April 21, 1988. The interviewer was Ernest H. Thomas (EHT), member of the Historical Committee of the Club.
EHT: Bill, before we start with your service around the Club here, can you just tell me briefly where you were born and a little bit about your early life, maybe in a few minutes?
WCC: Yes, I was born in Los Angeles, California on October 26, 1907, where I lived practically all my life in Santa Monica, and I eventually graduated from the University of Southern California.
EHT: OK. Now, when did you come over to Hawaii – what brought you over here?
WCC: Well, I arrived on the USS REPUBLIC, an U. S. Army Transport on May 15, 1935. I was a Second Lieutenant in the U. S. Army Air Corps, and I was assigned here. I didn’t ask for it, but fortunately I got it!
EHT: Where did you join the Air Corps?
WCC: Well, I was fortunate enough to get an appointment to the flying school shortly after I graduated from the University of Southern Cal, so I reported to the flying school in February, 1933, and I got my wings at Kelly Field in February, 1934.
EHT: I see. Where did you spend that year?
WCC: Well, my first assignment was in bombardment out at Marsh Field, California, and then I moved up to Hamilton Field when it opened in December 1934. Shortly after that I got orders to come over to the Islands, in May 1935.
EHT: I understand from talking with you for many years that you were involved in water polo quite a bit when you went to college – is that right?
WCC: Yes, I played water polo at the University of Southern California in addition to boxing and basketball, and a few other odds and ends, and that’s where I met Duke and Weissmuller. Duke and Weissmuller were the referees for the first volleyball, er, water polo game I ever played in and they didn’t blow the whistle for any fouls, only when a goal was made. They just let us kill ourselves!
WCC: Also, at that time Colonel Frank Walton was playing for the Hollywood Athletic Club, so we played numerous games against each other. Frank eventually wound up playing in the Olympics.
EHT: Yes. Well then, tell me about when you came over here. I understand you found the Outrigger shortly after you arrived on the ship . . .
WCC: Yes, an old friend of mine, who was assigned to the same squadron that I had orders to report to, was here and he said, “You should join the Outrigger Canoe Club for a place to keep your surfboard.” Of course, I had been surfing ever since I was seven years old in the Santa Monica area, so we didn’t even wait to get my trunk! We went down and had a couple of scotch and sodas at the Royal, and walked over to the Outrigger and I filled out an application for regular membership an hour-and-a-half after the boat docked!
EHT: (Laugh) Did you say that was in 1936?
EHT: Oh, 1935.
WCC: An hour-and-a-half after the boat docked!
EHT: Well, how long did it take for them to accept your application?
WCC: Well, the secretary happened to be there – what was his name? Oh gosh, Singlehurst.
EHT: Tom Singlehurst.
WCC: Singlehurst, the perpetual secretary of the Outrigger. He was there and he said being an officer in the Military, the Admission Committee will, kind of, automatically put you in. so he said, the Regular membership is $25.00, the Military is $19.00. I said, I’ve already made my mind up, I’m going to be here for good some day, I’ll take the Regular. So he said, well go in there and have the girl assign you to a basket to put your clothes in – and that was it.
EHT: Of course, I know that being in the military you were involved daily in other work, so you probably weren’t down at the Club too much in the beginning, were you?
WCC: Well, I practically spent all my time down there at the Outrigger, I was a surf bum, you know, of course back in those days this was considered foreign duty over here so we’d fly every morning and surf all afternoon and then come down and surf all day Saturday and all day Sunday.
EHT: Wow! Bill, can you describe the way the old Club looked when you first joined it? Just describe the layout of the land and where everything was. I think people kind of lose track – have no idea – of what it looked like . . .
WCC: Well, when you first came in out of Kalakaua, there was a building up to the right where they stored some of the canoes and they also held their social events there, dancing and so forth.
EHT: Yeah, the Club went all the way out of Kalakaua Avenue.
WCC: Yeah, the in those days that building abutted right on the sidewalk on Kalakaua.
EHT: I see.
WCC: It was on the right as you came in. Then you came into the locker room area which had little wire baskets that you put your clothes in. You had nothing but cold water. As you walked out of that building, that was one-story, you were on the volleyball courts, and to the makai side of the volleyball courts were surfboard lockers and then toward the Royal there was a little green building and that was May’s rice and gravy place.
EHT: Lunch counter.
WCC: Yeah. Lunch counter. When you came in from surfing you’d just go up and raise your fingers for how many scoops of rice you wanted with your gravy, and she kept a running record of your costs and you would give her $10 or $20 and when you were running low she would tell you you were just about out. So you’d go out on your surfboard and surf for a couple of hours, come in and have your rice and gravy and go out and surf again.
EHT: Yeah. (Laugh) I think it was 15¢ wasn’t it for two scoops of rice?
WCC: Well, each scoop of rice was a nickel. . .
EHT: Yeah, and the gravy was a nickel, wasn’t it?
WCC: I don’t know. . .
EHT: I’ve heard people say it was that.
WCC: You’d get four scoops and a bottle of lemon pop . . . I drank lemon pop in those days, it was about 25¢. One time I was surfing with Duke Kahanamoku on Steamer Lane waves. We both lost our boards on the same wave and when we surfaced I said to Duke, “This scares the hell out of me!” Duke replied, “Me too!” I was glad to know I was not the only one terrified.
EHT: Wow! (Laugh) Tell me about the volleyball in those days. Was there any organized volleyball, in other words, were there any tournaments or anything like that?
WCC: I don’t recall any tournaments, but they had so-called businessmen’s volleyball which started about five o’clock, and that’s where I met Wilford Godbold, Vic Kahn, Yabo Taylor, R. Q. Smith and “Brother” Chase, and I had to sit around several days before they invited me to play. Finally, they let me in and from then on I got to play fairly regularly.
EHT: (Laugh) I’ll bet you did! When I first met you, you were organizing the afternoon games and when anybody came in the door, you would say, “Come join the game!” There would always be a big game every afternoon!
Well, now, you came in 1935 and you were here for how many years before you left during the war?
WCC: Well, I was here in the Army Air Corps in 1935, 1936 and 1937 and then I was ordered back to the Mainland, and the Army Air Corps didn’t have any money so I went to work for the Civil Aeronautics Authority as an inspector, and they sent me back out here in June, 1941, to open up the first full-time safety office for the Civil Aeronautics Authority.
EHT: I see.
WCC: So I was Air Carrier Inspector assigned to Hawaiian Air Lines and Pan American.
EHT: I see. That was in 1941, you said.
EHT: So then, were you called back on active duty after December 7th?
WCC: Yeah. I went back in the Air Force for four years, and got back out here in March 1946. In fact, I was just back here for one day when we had the tidal wave on April Fool’s Day!
EHT: So you were called on active duty on December 7, did you stay here?
WCC: Well, I reported for duty out of Hickam. In fact, on December 7 I reported out there, but they said I had to wait for approval from the War Department because I was working for the Civil Aeronautics, and when it finally came through I was ordered back to Hamilton Field, and very shortly I got orders from General Arnold, who I had known at March Field – I dated his daughter so I knew the General real well – so I went back to work for him in Washington, D. C., that is, I was assigned to Washington, D. C. for a short time although I remained on the West Coast.
EHT: Well, then from 1941 to 1946 – those years, where did you go next after you were assigned to Arnold’s headquarters?
WCC: Well, I was the Resident Contractor and Supervisor in San Francisco for the airlines that were training pilots for the Air Corps. Training them to fly transport airplanes. And, I wanted to go overseas, so I finally talked them into sending me out, and I was out in New Guinea. I was first in Finschaben, then Hollandia. When they dropped the A-Bomb on Hiroshima I went up to Okinawa as a base commander, when we were taking the airborne troops into Tokyo.
EHT: Oh, I see.
WCC: Then back to Manila as base commander until I got relieved. I requested the relief because I wanted to get back to Civil Aeronautics, my civilian job. So I left Manila on my birthday in 1945; had a delay on Guam, a mechanical delay, so we crossed the date line again. I had two birthdays that year!
EHT: (Laugh) I suppose you scrap those when you say how many birthdays you’ve had.
WCC: Yeah. (Laughter) I came in here and they assigned me back to Hamilton Field.
EHT: I see. You were still in the Air Corps in 1945. Well then, how long did you stay there?
WCC: Well, there was a mix-up on getting relieved, they let me have some regular leave so I went back to North Carolina to visit my in-laws, take my wife back to see her folks, and I finally got back out here at the end of March, 1946.
EHT: Anyway, you were with the FAA then – they called it the CAA then, didn’t they?
WCC: They called it the Civil Aeronautic Authority.
EHT: Of course that was when I first knew you, from those years on, except I was on the Mainland going to school at Missouri University when the tidal wave hit. I didn’t get back here until July of 1946.
EHT: Now, did you pick up the volleyball games at that time? Is that when you started playing in the evening again? Was it like it was when you left?
WCC: Yes, it was about the same. I kept pushing to get people out to play.
EHT: (Laugh) I know, you couldn’t walk in the gate without being put in a big game by you! What did you think of the Club at that time? I guess it was about the same as it was when you left – since it had been rebuilt in ’39 and remained about the same until we left in 1964.
WCC: Yes. The physical aspects hadn’t changed, they remained the same. Knowing everyone had to leave sooner or later, they didn’t do anything with respect to the building. But the Club was a real fine place, the fact is it was a home away from home. I was so tickled to be a member of it, and I always looked forward to going down there and seeing my friends. It was a good relief. I could play volleyball, I could go surfing and whatever else I wanted to do, nobody told me what to do or asked me any questions.
EHT: Isn’t that the truth though. I feel the same way. When did you get your first committee assignment for the Club?
WCC: I don’t remember, but off and on through the years I served on every committee with the exception of the Historical. I don’t know how I got out of that.
EHT: We didn’t start it until 1968.
WCC: Yeah, well, whenever it was I never served on that, but I was on the Board of Directors for eight years before the Club moved down here to its present site.
EHT: What years do you have in mind?
WCC: I don’t recall what years they were but anyway it was along in the, er, starting out in 1949 or 1950, somewhere along there.
EHT: You were the Club Captain, of course, I remember that well.
WCC: Well, in the summer, as I recall, in 1951, I don’t know what happened to our Club Captain, I don’t know whether he quit or went to the Mainland or what, but anyway, the Club President, I think it was Wilford Godbold at that time – he and the rest of the Board said, “What about being Club Captain this summer?” I said, “OK” so at the first canoe meet, that was on July 4 as I recall – of course, as you know the Club used to sponsor the whole thing, they’d invite the clubs down and they’d feed them and give them all awards and everything, and baby-sit all day long. That particular year the Outrigger had several good teams in each category so the other clubs had a meeting before the races and they said, ‘If Outrigger enters more than one team in any race we won’t race!’ So I just told them, “We bring you down here, feed you, and baby you around and take care of you and have a party after. Those little logos, the Club medals, are gold, silver and bronze, and run the Club around $500 minimum. If you don’t like the way Outrigger runs this show, take your canoes and go home.” Well, as I recall nobody went home, they all hung around and, of course, the Outrigger won the thing and it dawned on me that there were no rules, regulations of any kind governing canoe racing, so I went to the Board and I said, “Look, I think we need some kind of an organization, or otherwise canoe racing is going to go down the drain – it’s going to be a dead duck!” I said, “I’d like permission to form some kind of an association that will keep it alive and promote canoe racing in the Island.” So they said, ‘go ahead’. So I wrote up a constitution and by-laws, everything I could think of . . .
EHT: The Hawaii Canoe Racing Association!
WCC: The Hawaii Canoe Racing Association – and then I went around to “Toots” Minvielle, Duke and all the other coaches . . .
EHT: John D. Kaupiko.
WCC: John D. Kaupiko was one, yeah – and I asked them about rules – when you are passing, how much clearance between canoes you needed, and what size paddles you needed; if you are going to limit the size of the paddles and everything. Whatever they told me, I had my secretary type it out in triple space so we could write in between, and then I gave a folder to each one of these coaches and had them correct and add in, and I wound up finally with some rules and regulations. Also at that time they had no rules that would regulate a paddler going in a 13-year-old race one week, and then in the 10-year-old the next, or go in the Senior and then go in the Juniors the next week. Also, if they got mad at somebody and didn’t want to paddle, they could go down and paddle for another club right away, so in the rules and regulations we took care of that. We’d register all of them by their birth certificates, and that stopped that moving around, and also we put in there that participants in one race for a club couldn’t jump to another club that year, they’d have to wait for the following year. So it got some kind of organization going and as I recall the Board gave me permission to have a cocktail party and a dinner for the representatives from the other clubs – we had about three from each club that came in. I had interviewed all of them before and given them the dope about what we were going to talk about, so they were all for it. We elected, as I recall, Sam Fuller as the first president of the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association. So that was the deal.
EHT: Fred Steere was about that era too, wasn’t he involved in . . .
WCC: Fred Steere was with Waikiki . . .
EHT: No. he was the President of Outrigger about the same time or a little before . . .
WCC: Oh, I see. I was thinking of somebody else.
EHT: I don’t know, but it seems to me that at one time . . .
WCC: He was active in HCRA at one time but I don’t remember just when.
EHT: Sam Fuller I remember . . .
WCC: Yes, Sam Fuller was the first . . . also, we set it up so that the presidency would rotate among the clubs.
EHT: That’s very good! I think you were right, I think the sport would have died, if you hadn’t . . .
WCC: Well, there was nothing but chaos, fighting and arguing and everything, and if somebody thought there was a foul, they’d get in there after the race – they thought, ‘He’s a good boy, he wouldn’t do that, he wouldn’t foul up…’ But, also, I went around and I had them weigh the canoes, and the lightest canoe that they used for racing back in those days, as I recall, was 401 pounds, and the heaviest was roughly 445 or 450 pounds, so we got to set the minimum of 400 pounds, which they are still using today.
EHT: Still using today?
WCC: Yeah, right.
EHT: I used to serve on those races. I’m not sure that it was that early, but it was along about that period that I served as Clerk of the Course or as a Judge for a long time, and you are right, it was a little hairy there at time! I was out in a canoe as a judge and I declared that the Waikiki Surf Club Women’s crew hit the flag, which they did. I’ve never forgotten after the race, standing there surrounded by this BIG wahine! (Laughter) But they accepted the call. (Laugh) You know that was a great thing, Bill.
Let me think, it was some time along about then that you started being Santa Claus – not much later, because I remember you doing it early in the ‘50s. . .
EHT: . . . Because I used to go over to the Moana Hotel and help you get into your Santa Claus suit.
WCC: Yeah, we used to rent a room over there to get dressed. But Ted Magill was the Club Manager and he said, “We need a Santa Claus,” so I said, “If you get a good outfit and you don’t tell anybody who Santa is, I’ll be Santa.” So he ordered an outfit from some place in Hollywood and he paid $500 for it! Now, that was a hell of a lot of money in those days. So I started out as Santa and there were only about three people who knew who Santa was . . . you were one, and my wife and Ted Magill.
EHT: Yeah. (Laugh)
WCC: This last time was my 22nd time as the Outrigger Santa. Of course I enjoy it, because we have a lot of nice little kids, only one or two had ever bit me or kicked me.
EHT: I have some beautiful pictures that I’ve taken of those little kids . . . some kissing your beard . . .
WCC: I know, you have given me several of those pictures. I’ve got them in an album at home which I treasure.
EHT: The Santa program used to be put together by . . . hat was his name, Kingman? Who ran the shop out in front . . .
WCC: At the old Club, yes.
EHT: He would provide the toys . . .
EHT: . . had them all wrapped up, and so on. I met his son yesterday . . . the first time I had known his son, John Kingman. He works for the Bank of Hawaii, I believe it is . . .
WCC: Mrs. Kingman was deceased just very recently, within the last year or so, but his son is grown now.
EHT: OK, Bill, we are back on the air. Just when was it that the FAA sent you to New York?
WCC: That was in 1957. They transferred me to upstate New York. They said I’d been on a vacation out here – which I couldn’t deny (Laugh) . . . so they sent me to, what I refer as Upper Slobovia. I was there from 1957 until I retired from the FAA in September, 1966, when I immediately returned to the Hawaiian Islands. The only thing that kept me alive up there was knowing that I was going to come back to the Islands. I shoveled snow day and night up there and damn near froze to death!
EHT: Rome, New York, the snow capital of America!
WCC: Yeah. Rome, New York! Boonville is right above it, and that’s where the snow piles up 30 feet deep before the winter ever begins. (Laugher) I remember I got back here in 1966, and immediately I got back on the volleyball court. I set up the family night volleyball deal with beef stew.
EHT: That was at the new Club, of course.
WCC: That’s right, that was in 1967.
EHT: Yeah, I sure remember that stew and rice and family volleyball! It was on Wednesday nights.
WCC: We had a real big turnout. We had a lot of fun.
EHT: Now, about that time you took the junior summer program on, didn’t you?
WCC: Yes, they called it JASP – J-A-S-P – Junior Athletic Summer Program. I was the director of that for four years.
EHT: Tell me – I think maybe a lot of people don’t really know what that was all about. Can you describe the program?
WCC: Well, it was a program that was set up in the summertime that the Club sponsored, where they could take in the younger children. In fact, some of them were a little too young, I thought, but it would teach them to surf, swim, play volleyball, and they would go over in the park and teach them a little bit about soccer and softball and they’d get up in the volleyball courts here, and some of the old-timers – the volleyball pros around here, like Tom Haine – would give them instruction. I had that program for about four years, I think it was about 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970. I got people willing to help so that that Club didn’t have to pay a lot of money for people to do things. We’d set up a picnic, like going over to Waimanalo to the Air Force Station over there at Bellows, and they’d take a luncheon and I’d have the mothers go along, they could take their babies and the Club would furnish the food. The wahines would furnish the transportation. At any rate, it wound up in the four years, the Club made a small profit, maybe $100 or $200. It was not a profit-making deal, but anyway the Club didn’t have to subsidize it.
EHT: How many would take part in the summers?
WCC: Well, each year we’d run somewhere around 90 or 100 kids.
EHT: That’s what I thought.
WCC: A couple of times we had better than 100. We used to take them on field trips. The only field trip I cancelled real quick was after one time up on Diamond Head and they were running around there like mountain goats, and they scared the hell out of me because I was afraid one of them was going to fall over the side, you see. Anyway, it turned out to be a real good program. I understand they are doing something like that now, but not as extensive.
EHT: It seems to me that it isn’t nearly as long.
WCC: No, they run it for four or five weeks or so.
EHT: How many weeks did yours run?
WCC: Oh, it ran for eight or nine weeks.
EHT: It did?
WCC: Yes. It was quite extensive.
EHT: And, of course, making the kids into better citizens was another aspect of it, wasn’t it?
WCC: Everybody was teaching them how to act around the Club, you know.
EHT: What else were you involved in in those years after you got back? Of course, you were on the Board for some time . . .
WCC: I was on the Board for six years and Chairman of the House Committee for two years. I was on that committee probably, er, four or five years altogether, but I was Chairman for two years. And, I was Chairman of the Golf Committee for six years or so, and I’ve been a member of the committee for 21 years.
While on the Board – this was when I was on the House Committee – I recommended to the Board that we have a bumper sticker on the cars to identify the cars so we could regulate the parking. So we had a committee, but I did all the work because the committee was one of those that didn’t do anything, so the Chairman did the work. So I designed the first parking sticker and I found out locally that it would cost about 60 cents a sticker to have them made, so I contacted my brother at North American Aviation – he was in the Purchasing Department there – and he said, “I’ll get them made for you.” so I sent my designs over and he had them run off for about nine or ten cents apiece, and I am pretty sure now when they have them remade, they use the same outfit. They are getting them for practically nothing compared to what they would cost locally. Of course, the local outfit would just buy them over there anyway. So it was a rip-off! (Laughter)
EHT: You were involved in the Entertainment Committee too, weren’t you?
WCC: Well, that was Coordinating Director of the Entertainment Committee.
EHT: When were you made a Winged “0”?
WCC: That was in 1974.
EHT: Which of the many things you’ve done was that based on?
WCC: Well, that was primarily based on the founding of the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association, and all my years on various committees, and the Wednesday night volleyball and beef stew night, and being Santa Claus (Laughter), and the parking stickers, and also, sitting out here on the Hau Terrace I heard people saying, “Which way is West?” and “Which way is South?”
EHT: People usually point west from there and say, “That’s South”. . .
WCC: So I found out from Cline Mann that he had surveyed the wall out there, and it almost ran north and south. So I went down to the Ala Moana and I found a compass locater which you see out here installed on the wall. I went out there with a chisel and everything and dug out a place and set this thing down in there and cemented it in, and it’s still out there.
EHT: It sure is.
WCC: One reason it is still out there is I put a bolt in it and a cross-piece and dug down so you can’t pry it out, you see. Well, anyway, people come down here and the look out towards Barbers Point and they say, “Is that South, or what is it?” So they can look at this thing and see that the wall pointing down toward the Royal was just about due North.
EHT: Right. Right. Now, one more honor you have is Life Membership – when did you get that?
WCC: Well, my last year on the Board was 1980 and at the Annual Meeting in February, 1981 they awarded me the Life Membership which I was very pleased to get.
EHT: One last thing, do you have anything that you’d like to put on the record. You realize, of course, that this oral history will be around for at least a hundred years. (Laugh)
WCC: Yeah. Well, I think it is a distinct privilege to belong to the Outrigger. It’s awfully nice to be able to come down here and relax, nobody bothers you, don’t ask embarrassing questions. (Laugh) If they ask, they don’t expect any answers. And I come down here to see my friends, and it’s really a good family club. There are several families I can think of right now, like Tommy Haine and his family, they practically live down here; and you and some others like Frank Walton are over here every day off and on several times during the day checking to see if the Club is running OK – I don’t have anything else.
EHT: Nothing else – OK. Do you think we have covered everything pretty well?
WCC: Pretty well, yeah. Of course, when I get out of here I will probably think of other things. It is pretty hard to hit everything you know, but if you do like we tried to do – keep it chronological, why it’s pretty much covered.
EHT: Well Bill, thanks a lot for the interview; as I said this will be around for a hundred years, and people can go look up who Bill Capp was.
WCC: As long as the Club is down here, that is the main thing!
Outrigger Canoe Club Honors
1974 Elected to Winged “O”
1981 Elected to Life Membership
Service to the Outrigger Canoe Club
Board of Directors
1977 Coordinating Director Winged “O”
1978 Coordinating Director Winged “O”
1979 Coordinating Director Winged “O” and Athletics
1980 Assistant Secretary
Judges of Election Committee
Building & Grounds Committee
Men’s Entertainment Committee
Beach Services Committee
Beach & Water Services Committee
Canoe & Sailing Committee
Junior Summer Athletic Program
Winged “O” Committee
Kane-Wahine Volleyball Championships
1951 1st, with Rusty Thomas
Two-Men Over 80 Championships
1949 1st, with Wilfred Godbold
1950 1st, with Wilfred Godbold
OCC Senior Men’s Doubles Championship
1959 1st, with Wilford Godbold