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A return trip to Hawaii rekindles memories of 1962

Bob Sigall


This story was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on February 2, 2018. It was reprinted with permission.

Eileen Sherrill came to Hawaii in 1962 and worked as a front desk clerk at the Reef hotel for the Kelleys.

I received a letter from Eileen Sherrill, who is now living in Prescott, Ariz. She’s returning to Hawaii after a six-year absence. She said she first came to Honolulu for summer session at the University of Hawaii in 1962. She had many interesting memories.

“I fell in love with Hawaii,” Sherrill says, “and transferred from a mainland college and moved here full time.” Sherrill worked for a number of years at the front desk of the Reef Towers hotel on Lewers Street.

“Roy and Estelle Kelley, who started the Reef hotel — later named Outrigger Hotels — lived upstairs in the penthouse. Every morning they walked around the front desk from the back elevator which went to their penthouse. They checked out the traffic sheet, listing check-ins and check-outs for the day, then went over to the Edgewater hotel where they worked in central reservations for the chain. Our least expensive single rooms went for $8.50 a night and a double was $12. “Mrs. Kelley was a darling. One cold, rainy night she went all the way up to her place, after a long day working, and brought me down one of her sweaters. They had several children and I assumed that they were Catholic but she said that they were ‘passionate Protestants.’"

“Over the next 10 years, I paddled for the Hui Nalu Canoe Club where Duke Kahanamoku’s brother, Sargent, was our coach. We practiced in the Ala Wai Canal, as they still do today. Most of us kept our surfboards and lockers underneath the original Outrigger Canoe club on Waikiki Beach between the Moana and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel."

“Don Ho was not yet a star and played in a small area off to the side in the original Duke Kahanamoku’s in the back of the International Marketplace. Singer Kui Lee stopped by sometimes. After Duke Kahanamoku’s closed at 2 a.m., we’d go to the Like Like Drive Inn for saimin. Somehow we made it to work the next morning — actually the same morning!”

"Queen’s Surf was the real “in spot,” Sherrill says. “It was at one time the summer home of film actress Arlene Dahl.” Spencecliff turned it into an entertainment center. It had Sterling Mossman in the Barefoot Bar upstairs, Kui Lee in the main ballroom and a fabulous Tahitian show — Elaine Frisbee’s Puka Puka Otea — outside on the lanai. I remember about that time, Wayne Newton burst on the entertainment scene with a gig at the Royal Hawaiian’s Monarch Room when he was just 12 years old."

“In those days, Waikiki felt like a small town. We saw lots of celebrities, like Angie Dickinson, Burt Bacharach, Tommy Sands, Nancy Sinatra, and Ann--Margret and her husband Roger Smith. One time I was carrying a load of aloha shirts between two shops in the international marketplace and literally ran into Red Skelton. We visited for a while. He was so sweet to me. The next day, on my day off, I was at the beach and he walked by with his family and recognized me. He invited me to go out on a private catamaran sail around Diamond Head with them.

“One time Matson shipping lines experienced a strike, and of course all the island supplies came over on Matson. The very first shortage we experienced was toilet paper. People would steal it from restaurants and hotels, putting rolls in their big beach bags. One radio station had an on-the-air contest and the prize was rolls of toilet paper!"

Sherrill is back in Honolulu for a short visit. “This is fun,” she says, “having these old memories come back to me when I’m reminded by something.”


Do you have your own Outrigger memory? Stay tuned for our 70th Anniversary Sweepstakes where you can share (or create!) your own.
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