There was the Outrigger Canoe Club, and then there was the Women’s Auxiliary of the OCC. That was the early 20th Century. The woman did much of the club organization and the books and the “women’s stuff.” The men drank, played cards, surfed and canoed, and had a helluva good time. The women kept their swimsuits inconspicuous and knew their place.
But the times they were a-changing and in 1926 some women split from the OCC and became the Uluniu Women’s Swimming Club with about 600 members, next to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Members still wore very conservative swimsuits but they were now running their own “business”, not the men’s business.
I’m now a member. Well, it no longer has the word Women’s in its title. And it has moved to an oceanfront location in Laie, keeps membership at 100 and I’d guess half are male. On workdays at the cottage that once belonged to the Latter-Day Saints church president, most men do the heavy yard work, but some of us take on housework, like dusting, windows, toilet cleaning and lemonade making.
We’ve all come a long way, baby!
I’m thinking about that because the cottage has been closed and workdays have been cancelled by the virus threat. We’d all be in close quarters and handling the same items and the food, too, that makes up our bring-along breakfast and lunch for member-workers. Or some user might leave a still-living coronavirus behind on a counter on checking out at noon so a new “renter” can move right in.
The cottage will reopen next month but with strict cleaning rules for members who reserve stays and maybe one day left open for cleaning between one check-out and the next check-in.
The cottage only got wifi a short time ago. No TV or radio. It’s meant as a getaway and sometimes early beach walkers are lucky enough to find an authentic, old glass ball.
The back yard is so large that climate change and ocean rise won’t eat up much of it or threaten the two-bedroom cottage and caretaker’s house.
It was built by and for the early president, and has been much overhauled. The club brought it for $125,000 after it had become the beach estate of Princess Liliuokalani Kawananakoa Morris. It’s now a modernized but tastefully simple jewel, roughly halfway between the Laie Shopping Center and the Polynesian Cultural Center. A true getaway.
One wall is filled with photos of those early 1900s women who got tired of being “auxiliary” members in Waikiki and struck out on their own and became a force in local and national AAU swimming circles. It was generous and thoughtful of them to eventually admit men — as full members and not just handlers of the barbecue grill..
Women are still the presidents. I don’t think that’s discrimination. It’s more that member women seem to take on more club responsibilities than many of the men. Maile Ostrem is the current president. She walked into the job right as there was the virus, which means the clubhouse, closed, is not making any money ($20 per member per overnight) for the upgrading and repairs reserve.
This place is so wonderful and so tied in with the Laie/Kahuku communities and their people that I sometimes wonder why anyone would chose the OCC or the Elks Club, except that our 100-member limit means a waiting list until somebody quits or dies. Our dues are just over $300 a year. No financial penalties if you don’t use the club for a period of time. Cook your own dinners ( indoor table for 8, outdoor one can handle 10) or bring in take-out. Showers inside and out. Foodland a hundred yards one direction. Tamura’s two miles the other.
Anyway, as I miss it this week I’ll pause a moment and thank those early “auxiliary” women and hope they walked away from the men at the OCC bar with a loud “Adiós, suckers!”