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 Paul A. Dolan
December 1, 1999
I am Paul Dolan (PAD), a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club’s Historical Committee. For sometime our Committee has been conducting oral interviews of prominent members of our Club. Today, it is my pleasure to interview Wilmer “Bill” Cox Morris (WCM), a long time active member of the Outrigger Canoe Club. We are in the Boardroom of the Club on a beautiful showery Hawaiian day.
PAD: Good morning Bill. How are you?
WCM: Hi Paul. Good to see you.
PAD: Yes, I have been looking forward to this event, because it has been scheduled and rescheduled. Bill, let’s go to your roots. Give us something of your background, parents, etc.
WCM: OK. My mother’s family, on the haole side, came out from England in 1828. Samuel Dowsett had three children. The oldest one was Elizabeth Dowsett who married Monsarrat. Then came my great grandfather James I. Dowsett and his younger brother John Dowsett. I was always told that Captain Dowsett was lost at sea and that he had been a British sea captain, which I believed for many years. Then my uncle Herbert Melville Dowsett, a cousin, whose home’s Hawaiian name was “Hale o Manu Eleele” in Lanikai was when one looked into it was “The House of the Blackbirder”. He said that Captain Samuel Dowsett had probably fallen victim to some of his own people he wanted to victimize. Ships were sent out to find him and they never did. They found a sword many years later they thought came from him on, of all islands, Guadalcanal. My great grandfather James Isaac Dowsett was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Hawaiian House of Nobles here. He had ten children. One of them was Alexander Cartwright Dowsett, who was my grandfather. The song “Alika” was written about my grandfather. Everybody called him “Alika”.
My mother was the oldest of three daughters and a son. One of my mother’s sisters was Beatrice, who ended up marrying Norman Ross, who at one time had all the distance records and Duke (Kahanamoku) had the sprint records. Another one, the youngest one, was Marian who was sort of a protégé of Duke’s and of George David “Dad” Center’s and both she and Beatrice did a lot of swimming and holding records at that time, if one can find them.
PAD: OK. Boy, those are nice Hawaiian roots you’ve got there. How about your surname roots?
WCM: My father was a naval officer who came out here just about the end of World War I. He met my mother and they used to go to dances at the old Moana Hotel. Eventually they were married. He was from Chicago and they returned to Chicago, because of the Navy. There was no career after World War I in the Navy. He went back to be with his father to go into business back there and he died in an accident. My mother came back out here in 1924. So that’s what happened.
PAD: So you were born?
WCM: Born in Chicago, yes.
PAD: How about your wife?
WCM: Jane (Spencer) is my second wife. My first wife was Elizabeth Midkiff, Frank Midkiff’s daughter. We had four children. My present wife Jane was born in Chicago, she came out here with her husband and had three children. We were married in 1975 after I was divorced for three years. She had been divorced longer than that. We now live in Lanikai.
PAD: How about your children?
WCM: The oldest one is Anna Lindon. We always called “Linny”, because she couldn’t say “Lindon”. She went to school here and on the east coast to Parson’s School of Design in New York. She took up photography and is quite a well-known photographer. One of her books is “Under the Hula Moon” is getting to be a classic now. She’s done a photography book on the Academy of Arts and Queen Emma Museum. She is presently writing a book about Tahiti. She’ll do the photography and some of the writing.
My second daughter, Frances or “Posie” was always the one in the family that was the “dare devil”. She was the one who could really “zero in” on things. She went to school here and graduated from Punahou. She went to Colorado and learned how to ski. Then she decided she wanted to be where the action was going to be in the future. She thought it was between the raw materials of China and the industrial might of Japan, so she took Japanese and ended up going to school in Japan and graduating from Konnan University in Japan, after living with a Japanese family and learning how to read, write and speak Japanese fluently. She went on around the world after she graduated and went to work for a bank in New York. She is presently with Merrill Lynch where she runs a money management group. She’s married to a boy she met back there and they have two little girls.
My son, William, most people know him as “Toby”, went to Punahou and then wanted to get into ocean farming. He worked for “Tap” Prior for a few years and went through all of “Tap’s” failures and flops. He finally got disgusted with that end of the business. Since then he has been in and out of the construction business where he worked for a group mainly around the Lanikai and Kailua area in landscape gardening.
Alison, my baby, or “Ali”, went to school at Punahou and the east coast for a little while (as her two big sisters did) and graduated from the University of Colorado. She is presently living in Denver, married with one son named “Alika” after his great grandfather.
PAD: Well Bill, let’s get back to you. When did you come to Hawaii and where were you educated?
WCM: I was a little over a year or a year and a half old when we got back out here. Almost two years old I suppose, because my mother had had a second child (Anna Morris) on the way back from Chicago to Hawaii. She had the child in Alameda where she stayed with some cousins. Then we moved into my grandfather’s house on Dole Street… It is presently the Catholic School back of the Catholic Church on Wilder Ave… That was my grandfather’s home. It had belonged to the Davis family and he had bought from them. That would be Nancy Davis Pflueger’s grandfather’s family.
PAD: That would have been the Sacred Heart Catholic Church at Punalou.
WCM: That’s right, right behind it. As a matter of fact, I think the first licking I ever got was due to my Godfather… Robert McBryde Purvis. He gave me a policeman’s uniform and I put it on and marched up and down by that little Catholic Church at which point three boys jumped over the fence, beat me up, took my cap, took my badge, took my club and 1 went crying home. (Laughter)
PAD: Did you also go to Punahou?
WCM: I went to Lincoln School in first grade. I’ve forgotten what the reason was. We were actually living at Pearl Harbor at that time. Dad would come into town and it was easier for him to get to Lincoln School where he worked at Aloha Motors than it was for him to take me to Punahou. Thereafter, I went to Punahou attending second, third and fourth grades. That’s where and when I made some of my best, dearest and oldest friends like Irma Cunha, who is a member here, and Bobby and Dick Value, the Value boys and Ben Bond.
PAD: I ‘m pretty sure you would have known my brothers too.
WCM: Oh, l certainly did. They were a little older and sort of my heroes, especially on the volleyball courts. Then Pop bought some theaters on Molokai. So we moved to Molokai, the first time in 1932, looked at it, and came back here to Honolulu. Moved up full time in 1933 where my teacher at Ho’olehua Intermediate School was an absolutely gorgeous woman named Anna Furtado, who married Sargent Kahanamoku. Sargent used to come stay with us while he was courting Anna sometime. Sargent, I learned at an early age, was a real rascal. Anna was gorgeous. I was in love with her then and until the day she died.
PAD: Gosh, that’s great background. The people you have run into.
WCM: After a couple of more years there on Molokai, I actually ran out of school. There was no more school there. I came to Honolulu to be a boarder. My mother brought me down by ship and we went to see the Winne Sisters, Miss Jane and Miss Mary. There’s a Winne unit at Punahou named for them. They had taught me school in the second and fourth grades and they had taught my mother when she went to Punahou. My mother went to them and told them about the dearth of schools on Molokai and they said; “Why he can’t come here, he’d have to go to Wilcox Hall”, which was the boy’s dorm “and last year they had a still up there on Rocky Hill”. My mother said to me, “What are we going to do?” They said, “You’re Episcopalians, send him to Iolani”. So I went to Iolani for three years and lived in Father Bray’s house. Then I came back to Punahou for my final two years. That’s when I got to be such close friends with Bill Rolph and old Cline, Cline Mann, my dear friend. I bumped into the Value boys again and Johnny Bruckner. I knew so many fellows who were members of the Club in the late 30’s and 40’s.
PAD: So that was your introduction to the Club?
WCM: No, earlier than that. In the summertime I would stay with my cousin Jamie Dowsett and his mother. She’d go down to the Club and bring me. Tom Singlehurst was very big on the volleyball court then and lived across the street from us. We used to go to the food place in the old Outrigger. “May’s” Lunch was rice and gravy and Delaware Punch. That was lunch. Then different guys, Tough Bill (George Keaweamahi), were assigned to take care of me, given a dollar a day for his wages. Sometimes David Kahanamoku, and so many of those guys would take me for the day. They’d take me surfing and go canoeing and keep an eye on me and hang around the Club. That’s where I first saw the Dolan boys. They were big stars. It was a very interesting time. Then we’d walk down to Dean’s. Duke wasn’t here, he was on the mainland making movies. There was a man named Dudie Miller. He was really the “king” of the beach, a wonderful fellow.
When I graduated from Punahou where I was on the football, swimming and track teams, I wanted to go to VMI (Virginia Military Institute) of all places. About the time that I got ready to go my father got very sick and we thought he was going to die. I did not go to VMI and went to the University of Hawaii instead. I was there up and until December 7, 1941. I was a scrub on the football team and I’d played for about two minutes the night before on December 6th. Tommy Kalakukui was the coach and sent me in.
World War Two started, under martial law. Anyone in ROTC at the University was told, “You were in the Army”, and to report to the National Guard Armory in your ROTC uniform. They gave us five rounds of ammunition and old WW-I Springfield rifles, many of them without firing pins. I was teaching the boys how to load the rifles. They had clips in those days. I was finally sent out to guard duty. I went up to watch the dynamite shack that was at the old HC&D quarry by the University (now the athletic activity area). I was forgotten up there for thirty-two hours. All these nice Japanese ladies saw me standing there and they’d want to offer me something to eat. I was afraid to eat it. I was afraid to drink the water. I thought the water might be poisoned. So I gave some water to a dog and he lived about eight hours, so hell, I drank water out of the tap. Finally, they came and got me. I lay right down in the truck and fell asleep.
We went down to the Black Cat Café (on Hotel St. across from the old Armed Forces YMCA) where we were being fed. I got some pressed ham or Spam in a sandwich with onion in it and an apple and a cup of coffee. I’d never had coffee in my life. It went right down the hatch and I went right down and lay on the floor and went to sleep. After about two months Jack Beaumont and I, along with Johnny Greenwell and I think another fellow named “Pringle” all ended up as Governor Poindexter’s bodyguards.
We lived at Washington Place. One day we would have to be at the Governor’s office and the other day at Washington Place, with one day off every fourth day. We lived in the first floor ewa mauka bedroom (of Washington Place) where… and Jack hates me to tell the story. He was fooling around with a 45 (pistol) one night and the damn thing went off and made a hole through the wall. (Laughter) He hates me to tell this story. Later on he went on to be an Olympic medal winner in pistol shooting. After about a year there we were told that the whole thing was illegal, that they could not put us in the Army like that. Mr. Garner Anthony (a prominent attorney) wrote a very famous paper on that. We were told we were out and to report to the War Production Board.
I went down there within a week’s time. I played volleyball every day all day long until I had to report to the War Production Board. They asked me if I could run a boat and I said “yes”. I was sent out to Pan American Airways at Pearl City where they put me on a crash boat where I first met Bill Mullahey. I did not know quite what he was out there. I saw him on the volleyball courts at the Club. I used to call him “Double Bill” because he was a rather rotund fellow. He gave me a couple sharp looks at first and then he kind of laughed about it. Then I found out who he was and I stopped calling him “Double Bill” because he was PAN AM’s manager of the whole Pacific Region.
PAD: He was equal to a four-striper in the Navy.
WCM: He was quite a guy. He was a swell guy. I was at Pan American here and later on I went into “traffic”. I was sent down at Espiritu Santo (New Hebrides). PAN AM was under Navy command. They had a sort of an arrangement with the Navy and we were like a squadron. Well, the Navy then got enough people of their own and enough planes, so we came back and were all let go. A guy named Bob McGregor said “look, hang out for about a month, we’re going to have a whole new program and we’ll get you back in”. I couldn’t wait that long. I had to go to the War Production Board or the Draft Board.
The Draft Board said: “OK, we’ll send you to Finance School for 90 days”. So I went up there and because of my HTG (Hawaiian Territorial Guard) assignment I didn’t have to go for training at Schofield. I was up there for a week or so. My worst subject in school was always math, so I became a finance officer. I was around the port at Honolulu and was eventually sent out to Saipan and then to Guam. All those years, I would come to the Outrigger whenever I could, but I never paddled in the big races, because I was either on duty four to midnight or I wasn’t here. I was away.
PAD: In your most formative years.
WCM: Yeah, when I was ……
PAD: Just for the record I’d like to recount that they called it the Hawaiian Territorial Guard. It wasn’t the National Guard.
WCM: Hawaiian Territorial Guard. The National Guard had been activated and they were gone. They were the 298th and 299th Infantry.
PAD: With reference to Pan American. None of the Pan American staff received veteran’s status. R. Wakefield Mist was at PAN AM besides Bill Mullahey and there were a couple of other people that were Club members. No veteran status, yet they were in the thick of things like Wake Island.
WCM: We were way beyond. We were running fights from here to Palmyra, to Canton, to Funafuti, to Espiritu Santo and then on to Noumea and on to Auckland, New Zealand or to Brisbane and Sydney. That was it.
PAD: Bill, your span of time in the Army was from when to when?
WCM: From December 1944 to July of 1947, with most of my time spent on Guam and Saipan.
PAD: The Marianas. What got you back into things and what were your main sports with the Club?
WCM: Well, in those days during WW-II there was no gas so you couldn’t go to Makapuu. You’d get on a streetcar or “cockroach” gas so you could use your car to come to the Club. There was barbed wire all over the place prior to 1942 which they later look down. Volleyball was the big sport. Volleyball and surfing. Whenever they had canoe races I was on duty at night someplace so I was never in them. One time Tommy O’Brien, Arnott, “Buck-a-loose” (Bob Bush) Thad (Ekstrand) and Duke as the coach and later on Jimmy Pflueger, Warren Ackerman too, those guys all did well. Mainly because they were here at the right time. Surfing was always a big deal with us.
I remember one year when the surf was very big, there was a missing sailor. They kept looking for him and they couldn’t find him. A young boy named Tommy Harlocker was on a big hollow board. He just went straight ahead down the wave. He couldn’t make a turn. “Eh you guys, look at me”. Thus, he hit something and fell off. He came up face-to-face with the dead sailor. Ox (William Keaulani) was the lifeguard then. He got on a board and he was in such bad shape he couldn’t paddle out there to pick up the sailor. They relieved him as a lifeguard and made him the doorman at the Moana Hotel.
PAD: That was physical shape?
WCM: Yes, physical shape.
PAD: How did you get introduced to the Club?
WCM: In 1940, while I was still in Punahou, they were having a drive for money for the Club and Walter Macfarlane and Herman Von Holt came up to see my grandmother. They wanted to sell her a $100 bond. “Hello Aunt Martha, how are you”? and all that stuff. “We want you to join the Outrigger”. “I’ve never been to the beach in my life and I’m not starting out at my age”. “Yeah, but your two daughters are down there”. “Well they might have gone there but I’m never going to go there… I wear a hat when I go outside. I’m not interested”. “What about your mo’opuna? (Grandson in Hawaiian) As I walked into the room. “How much for him”? I think it was $10 and dues were 50 cents a month. For about $22 I was a member for two years. That took me to the middle of 1942. Well, I began coming down here then and I really got to know Phil and Bob (Dolan) and all those guys.
PAD: Had you been to the Club prior to this?
WCM: Yeah, I used to come as a guest and to May’s (snack bar then). My grandmother used to just drop me off here and give somebody a dollar to take care of me for the day. (Laughter) I’d come down from Molokai during the summers for two or three weeks.
PAD: So you were at the Club from when to when as a so-called guest? (Laughter)
WCM: Even before we went to Molokai (1933) we used to go to Dean’s and see Dudie Miller. Then we’d wander back and forth. The Tavern was inbetween. I knew all the Kahanamokus.
PAD: That was prior to the new Club (1941).
WCM: Yeah, everything was open. People wandering in and out. Then I got to know people like Jennings Parker and Carl “Myhat” Lyman. They were wonderful fellows back in those days.
PAD: Once you got involved with the Club, did you serve on any committees?
WCM: I was chairman of the Canoe Committee and served on the Disciplinary Committee.
PAD: Do you remember what year that was on the Canoe Committee?
WCM: That would have been 1948, ’49, ’50, somewhere in there. When the Lurline came back, I remember all of us had to put on malos. We paddled the canoes down to Fort Armstrong and left them on the beach over night. The next morning we all put our malos on and went out and welcomed the Lurline offshore.
PAD: Of course, you had swim suits on underneath?
WCM: No, we didn’t. Some had g-strings. Charlie Amalu was the “big cheese” for that event. He was always giving us orders. I paddled his canoe, the WAIKIKI, which use to hang in the canoe shed. It was a beautiful canoe. So every big canoe we could get was out there. All of us dressed as “Hawaiians”, you know, greeting Captain Cook or someone. It was fun.
At the other end of the spectrum was the beach boys, organized by Bill Mullahey after the Massie Case (well know murder case in the early 1930’s). The Matson Hotels didn’t want any more trouble with the boys there. So Bill had the pick of the best boys he could find. He had magnificent boys, Alan “Turkey” Love and Harry Robello, all those fellows. Bill went out and hired Louis Salisbury “Sally” Hale. Sally ran the Outrigger Beach Services out of the Club.
In the fall and winter, things were pretty hard on the beach boys and they used to drink out in the Hau Terrace. One day, Chick Daniels, who was the head beach attendant at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, and Blue Makua, who had been on the mainland and drafted into Army in a Negro labor battalion and was very unhappy about being treated as a Negro, had an altercation. Chick, who was full of liquor, called Blue a “popolo”. Blue jumped up and he hit Chick so hard that he broke Chick’s jaw. So then Steamboat (Mokuahi) said, “You shouldn’t have hit the old man”. Steamboat went after Blue and caught him in the canoe shed and hit and broke his jaw. Sally called me (as chairman of the canoe committee) and told me all about this. He said to have a meeting about this event because all the beach boys were upset about it. We called a meeting on the Hau Terrace with the two guys with their jaws all wired up and drinking through straws. Everyone felt Blue was wrong and they voted Blue out of the Outrigger Beach Services and that’s how he went over to the Waikiki Surf Club.
PAD: I’m surprised. The Canoe Committee had jurisdiction over the Outrigger Beach Services?
WCM: Yeah, Sally reported to the chairman of the Canoe Committee.
PAD: I would have thought he would have reported to the general manager, it being a profit center.
WCM: No, I was the one. I was right in the middle of it.
PAD: Any other committees?
WCM: I was on the Disciplinary Committee with Neal Ifversen for a couple of years. I was on the Canoe Committee for several years though.
PAD: Now, the Canoe Committee presently has subcommittees, such as canoe surfing, canoe racing, etc. It was all just one?
WCM: Well, the Canoe Committee in those days was in charge of the racing, use, care and maintenance of the canoes. We used to put rules out, especially on the KAKINA and LEILANI, which were our main racing canoes in those days.
You’d pick up the canoe off the canvas horses, carry it into the water and it did not touch the sand. On return, it’s lifted out of the water, carried up to the saw horses, and washed down in and out with fresh water and then dried off with towels. It never touched the sand. That was the rule.
Several years ago, I was down at Ke’ehi Lagoon and I saw the old canoe HANAKEOKI laying on the sand out there. I said: “Who’s canoe is this?”. Answer: “The Makaha Club Canoe”. “Who’s the coach?” They said he was not there. “Who’s running things today?” He said: “This kid over here”. I said: “You know, I used to race that canoe after WW-II and that canoe never touched the sand”. “Look at that canoe full of sand and salt water. You get that g…d… canoe off the sand, put a towel under it and clean it out right now”. So they got a bunch of kids and cleaned it up. No one had ever told them about that.
PAD: Just for the record. When I paddled the Molokai-Oahu Race in 1955, we used the HANAKEOKI. Boy,that was a big canoe. You never quested for president of the Club did you?
WCM: No, I didn’t. I was on the House Committee for a while. I sort of dropped off because my kids were in school and we had moved to Kailua. We lived right on the water and we had boats and surfboards. I didn’t use the Club much during those years. My son was playing baseball in a league there. My girls were all horseback riding at New Town & Country Stables on the other side. I used to come here for lunch or for dinner. I sort of got away from things around the Club. Cline got after me a couple of times. They had a new bunch of members here.
PAD: Here you are trying to bring your children up in Kailua too. That kind of gets you away from things. You have had a number of experiences. Do you have anything that’s really outstanding with your experiences with the Club, on the water, on the beach, etc.
WCM: Well, I have one that involved you Paul.
PAD: Oh, don’t tell that story.
WCM: I’m going to tell that story. It was really a big first break and we were all out there. It look like it was breaking from one end of the bay to the other. A group was sitting out there and out comes little Paul Dolan. He’s paddling away like a little duck. He gets out there and sits down. Here comes the first wall and we all look at you and boy that’s suicide. He took off on that wave. At that time was a movie that had to do with “Woody Wood Pecker” and Paul used to always give the “Woody Wood Pecker” yodel. He started off on the wave and gave the yodel then we heard a scream. He went down in the surf and we didn’t see him for a half hour. He finally came back out. I really enjoyed the old beach boys and being around them. Another funny experience. Big waves (at Canoe Surf) again and along comes, I won’t mention his name. He borrowed a Chris Craft from Steve Foytich and he was running around in the waves breaking them up. We told him to get out of the surf and stop breaking up the waves.
PAD: This was a motorboat?
WCM: Yeah, a Chris Craft. Shall I give the name? Jack Zukerkorn. (Laughter) Another set of waves came and he looked around and saw them. We were kicking backwards to get further out. He saw that set of waves and he took off out and he hit the first wave. Over the wave the boat went and the nose plunged down underwater and the boat sank.
PAD: He “pearl dived?”
WCM: He came up backwards and yelled “help, help”. Someone yelled out “drown you buggah!” and off we went and left him out there. We all caught the wave in. You might ask Steve. I think the boat rolled up on the beach by Queens Surf and he had to get it out of there.
PAD: Gee, you know, it was wide open then. Motorboats could come in the surfing areas. Now it’s verboten. (Laugh)
WCM: I quit bringing my kids here when they started surfing, because George Downing, who was a good friend of mine; (he made my board for $75 and weighed about 75 pounds. I have it at home, it’s like a table now up on a rack) stated. “Don’t let your kids come down here now. Guys with drugs are out there”.
PAD: It’s a “War Zone” out there now, besides being a “lumber yard”. There’s quite a bit of overt physical aggression.
WCM: Yeah, “Surf rage”.
PAD: Bill, how about your professional life.
WCM: I came back out of the service and after three weeks I was bored to death. I got talking to Neal Ifversen and he needed a salesman for HMSA. So I went to work for Neal and HMSA for $250 a month, which was a “come down” from what I was making in the Army. One day I was having lunch at some place downtown and I bumped into a guy named Richard Cooke, who I knew and I also knew his sisters. He asked me what I was doing. “HMSA, that sounds interesting. Why don’t we go down and talk to Uncle Phil (Philip Spalding)”, who was the president of C. Brewer & Co…
I had one of those little sales pamphlets in my pocket and went down and talked to him. He says, “Well, Richard, what do you think?” He thought it sounded pretty good. The party line at HMSA in those days was “The employee has to pay a part of it”. So I did, “Why don’t you pick up 75% of it and let them pay 25% and they’ll appreciate it more?” “Oh, that’s a good idea”. So I went back up and I got some application blanks and spent the whole day there. The next morning I was working in the office and Neal says “Where were you yesterday?” I said “I was signing up an account”. He said “What’s that?” I said “C. Brewer”. He nearly fainted. He had been trying for years to get in there and had not gotten anywhere. (Laughter)
And Neal, let’s talk about Neal. Neal was at HMSA and was also on the Board at Queen’s (Hospital). One day he said he had to go to a meeting at Queen’s. So he goes off and I call Sally Hale. “Hey Sally, what are the waves like this afternoon?” He says “Gee, terrific, breaking all over”. “OK., I’m coming out”. I figured while the boss is away the mouse is going to play. So I ran out there. I didn’t want to go in front of the old Outrigger (Canoe Surf). I went over Queen’s Surf. And who do I see sitting up on his board at Queen’s? Neal Ifverson. Queen’s Hospital, my foot. He was at Queen’s Surf. (Laughter) It was really good fun in those days. Then Neal left HMSA and another man came in, a guy named Carl Fiath and I just thought he was full of it.
Then a guy named David Nottage talked me into going into the insurance business. So I went to work, not with David, but with Davies & Co. Albert Harris was there and Jack Ackerman, too. “Buddy” Ackerman’s step-father ran the insurance department and boy, was he a tough old goat. (Laughter) He didn’t even have an office. He had a little rail around his desk so he could sit there and watch us all do our work. “Buddy’s” brother, Jack Ackerman was as wild a man you have ever met. He was sort of faking selling insurance so most of the time he was out spearing fish somewhere.
One day, Jack’s step-father called me over and he had a voice, always smoking a cigar. “Hey Morris, come over here”. “I understand you had a little trouble with David Nottage from Home Insurance”. What was that all about?” So I told him. He said “That’s typical of Home Insurance”. He takes a big puff on his cigar and says, “You know, as you go through life you’ll learn there are three things in life that are no good”. “Home cooking, home f……. and Home Insurance”. (Laughter) Oh, he was a beauty, I’ll tell you. This was the big boss for insurance.
He was always asking where Jack was. I knew where Jack was. He was sleeping on a bunch of fishing nets at Punaluu or somewhere. Fishing out there with “Scottie” Cherry and some other guys. They were wonderful, carefree days.
Then, I was at Davies for about five years and I met the manager of Prudential. A man named Glenn McTigert, a wonderful man. He asked me to come to work for him at Prudential. I went there with Glenn for five years. Prudential was a great company. Glenn was going to retire and I met the man who was going to take his place and I didn’t know if I liked this guy or not. A man named Wade Sheehan asked me to come to work down at A & B (Alexander & Baldwin Co.) and run a department down there; their life insurance, health insurance and group insurance.
So, I thought about it and I went down there and I was there for about six years. Then, a new president came into A & B. A guy named Stanley Powell from San Francisco (Powell Street). He decided that they didn’t want insurance anymore so they got rid of the insurance department. I then went to work with Travelers, because I represented them previously and I was the number one general agent for Travelers for five years. I have a big silver cup at home. Travelers wanted me to go back to the home office in Hartford, Connecticut. I went there two or three times a year for all the years I was down there. They also wanted me to run the office in Sacramento, California, which I didn’t want to do.
Then I was offered another job. I was a director of a company called Fisher Hawaii. I left the insurance business and went to Fisher Hawaii and I was down there for several years. I found the most interesting thing about that was opening new stores and the real estate. So I went into the real estate business. I ended up as vice president for real estate for Bishop Trust Co. That covers quite a few years.
PAD: Now, Morris Enterprises….
WCM: Morris Enterprises was when I had my own company with another fellow and we were developing properties, like the Times Square at Aiea, and the old Chung Hoon Market. We had two Chung Hoon projects that we did. We took over their leases and got new leases for them. One was on the corner of Kapiolani Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue, and the old Chung Hoon Market at Nuuanu Avenue. And School Street. We had one out at Kahala on the mauka side of the road by Kahala Mall, and various and sundry warehouses and individual stores.
PAD: Now, you’ve had achievement, especially in life insurance.
WCM: I was one of the Chartered Life Underwriters (CLU). I think I was number seven in the State. At that time it was a great honor. There were not too many of us. My boss McTaggert was one, Quan Lun Ching was one, Chris Cusack was one. Mun Chun Wong was another fellow. We were the guys that were pretty serious about insurance.
PAD: Besides the Club, what other organization did you serve with?
WCM: Well, I think you owe something to the community and I was president of the Punahou Alumni Association. I served on the Board of Iolani School, because of my three year there and because I was an Episcopalian and at the request of Bishop Kennedy. I was on that Board for thirty years. As a matter of fact, I was on that Board and I was on the Board at Punahou. In those days, Iolani was very, very poor. Punahou was talking about all the money they were going to spend and Iolani didn’t have any. Then one of the fellows that came on the Board at Iolani the same time I did, Jimmy Castle, turned around when his father died, and made a gift of seventeen million dollars to Iolani, which would be worth about eighty million dollars today. So I think Iolani at this point has a bigger endowment than Punahou does, although it’s a smaller school.
When I left the Board at Iolani, “Pugh” Atherton called me and said he needed someone to help him raise money. I had a reputation to be good fund raiser. He wanted me to go to Mid-Pacific (Institute). I had just gotten off the Iolani Board. He said “Come on out for a little while”. So I made a deal with him serving five years and I helped him with the building fund drive. Then I resigned. I was active at the Bishop Museum. I worked with their association as president and I went on the Board of Trustees of the Museum where I served again as the president. I am still an honorary trustee there.
Then I was asked to come on the Board of Hawaii Pacific University and I’m still on that Board now. I just concluded a drive for them where we went about twenty percent over the goal.
PAD: Gee, congratulations on that! Especially in our economy at this time, going over the goal and plus. That’s fantastic. Well Bill, do you have anything more to add? I have enjoyed this interview.
WCM: Some of my best friends I have ever made, O’Briens, the Arnotts, Buck-a-loose is gone. Thad. All of them took my sister out. That’s how I met them.
PAD: Who was your sister?
WCM: Anna. She’s in a picture with Bob Fischer. She’s one of the girls in that picture….
PAD: Oh, the senior six girls. (Walter Macfarlane Memorial Races 1943-44)
WCM: Yeah, as a matter of fact, she was coming down to the Club before I was and that’s how I met a lot of the girls down here. Some of my happiest moments were at the old Outrigger. I loved that old Outrigger. It filled a great void in our lives, because during WW-II there was really no place else to go. You had to be off the street by eight o’clock at night under curfew and so we’d get down here either by car or bus/trolley and hang out all day. The beach boys in those days were wonderful fellows. The Kalakaua’s. Kalakaua, by the way, is dying right now. I don’t know if you know that. He’s full of cancer. He was a great beach boy.
PAD: Simeon Aylett.
WCM: That’s right. He sang with Gabby (Pahinui) and Andy Cummings for years. A record of the beach boys at Waikiki was made by Waltah Clark and there’s a big picture of all standing by a canoe.
PAD: That’s a re-release isn’t it?
WCM: They just released it and put in on a disk. I heard a million people sing “Waikiki”. I still think Kalakaua, who has his rendition on that record is the best. Absolutely the best. Good guy. Then of course, the Royal was next door and we were hanging out with Robert Ruark, “Red” Skelton, telling us jokes. Duke many times asked me to come down early on Sunday morning. “We’re going to take Clark (Gable) out surfing. Or Arthur Godfrey. He and Arthur Godfrey were great pals. I remember one time and I was on my board and Duke had Godfrey on his board. Godfrey was sort of a fat guy, never exercised much. Duke says “OK Art, get ready, because here come a wave”. Godfrey says “shall I turn on the power?” He could hardly paddle. He couldn’t lift his arms up. Well, we just started laughing. Duke caught the wave and came right down. (Laughter) We met Loretta Young, Tyrone Power and his wife. The Royal was a mecca. It was the place. Spencer Tracy. Gee, good fun. All the South American playboys. Carlos Dogny from the Waikiki Club in Lima, Peru.
PAD: Well Bill, this had been a very pleasurable interview and you can always come back and do an addendum, because we’re always interested in things like this. So I appreciate you showing up this morning in these hallowed halls with all the ex-presidents of the Club looking down at us. Thank you very much.
WCM: OK, it’s been a pleasure for me too.
Full Name: WILMER COX MORRIS (Hawn. name: KAWEHEAULANI)
Date of birth: 3/15/1923
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Education: Lincoln, Ho’olehua, Iolani, Punahou, University of Hawaii till 12/7/1941
Military: U.S. Army, 1st LT., Finance Corps, WW-II, Asia-Pacific (Okinawa & Guam) December 1944 to July 1947
Father’s Name: Charles Edward Morris
Date of birth: Unknown
Mother’s Name (maiden): Charlotte Bishop Dowsett
Date of birth: 8/19/1897
Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii
Spouse’s full name: Jane Spencer
Date of birth: 3/9/1925
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Children: (from first wife, Elizabeth Midkiff) 1. Anna Lindon “Linny” Morris Cunningham
2. Frances “Posie” Tolar Morris Constable 3. William Cox “Toby” Morris 4. Alison “Ali” Pauahi Morris Recek
Employment: HMSA, Theo H. Davies, Prudential Insurance Co., Alexander & Baldwin, Fisher- Hawaii, Morris Enterprises (Land Development), VP, Real Estate, Bishop Trust Co.
Date retired: 3/15/1991
Offices held/Committees served on at OCC: Chair, Canoe Committee, also served on Disciplinary & House Committees.
Achievements/Awards: President, Chartered Life Underwriters, President, Punahou Alumni Assn., Board of Governors, Iolani School (30 yrs), President, Bishop Museum Assn., President & Trustee, Board of Trustees, Bishop Museum, Trustee, Hawaii Pacific Museum, President Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, President, Friends of Iolani Palace.