Have card, will party
|StoryChat: Comment on this story|
By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Mike Gordon
It's been decades since the demise of Hawai'i's teen social clubs, but their dreamy names can still conjure memories of a high school landscape long gone.
Crimson Joy. Des Chanelles. La Sharnettes. Mystic Sunlight. Tender Moments.
From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, high school social clubs gave teenagers a sense of belonging, promoted civic responsibility and offered opportunities to meet members of the opposite sex. And not always in that order.
Sponsored by YMCAs, YWCAs and the Young Buddhist Association, the clubs revolved around socials with other clubs chaperoned dance parties hosted by the sponsoring organization or held at a member's home.
At their peak in the late 1970s, there were nearly 4,500 students involved on O'ahu. They were a fixture on nearly every high school campus with 30 to 40 clubs at each of O'ahu's six YMCAs.
Although the clubs have vanished, an upcoming reunion pegged to the 95th anniversary of the Central YMCA has former members reminiscing. They're looking at the glamour photographs in old high school yearbooks, noting all those off-the-shoulder dresses and debating once again whether the "dreamboat" mascot in a girls club was hot or not.
"In those days, your clique of friends got together and formed a club to meet people from other schools guys from other schools," said Aimee Ogata, who graduated from Kaimuki High School in 1974. "For the most part, they didn't have to be really good-looking, but they did have to be nice, clean-cut boys. If you belonged to a social club, for the most part, you were pretty wholesome."
She belonged to Dawn, an all-girls club that she and 10 friends formed when they were sophomores.
Now a 51-year-old branch manager for American Savings Bank, Ogata said her two college-aged daughters find their mother's high school behavior unsafe. But it's a different world, Ogata said.
"They never really got to know kids from other schools," said Ogata, who lives in Mililani. "In our time, we used to have more socials around prom time to look for dates. It sounds bad when you think about it. It was a naive period of time."
One of the popular boys clubs that she and her friends would meet was called Angies Vein its members took the puzzling name from a hot-dog booth they manned at an 'Iolani Carnival.
"They were clean-cut guys and a lot of fun," Ogata said. "Plus, they were good-looking."
The guys, students at 'Iolani when it was still an all-boys school, formed the club in the hopes of meeting public school girls, said Tyler Ching, who graduated from 'Iolani in 1974.
"We were less serious about academics and more into the social side of life," he said. "And we were good at it.
"From our sophomore year on, I would say our club had an invitation to at least one party every weekend through our senior year. Sometimes we would have two on one night. We would have to split the club."
Typically, club members carried business cards with contact telephone numbers. They'd hand them out, or tack them to a special bulletin board at the old Kramer's men's clothing store at Ala Moana Center.
"Those club cards were your ticket to weekend parties," Ching said.
Ching, now 51, has maintained long friendships with several former members of Angies Vein.
"They are my best friends now," he said. "We travel to Vegas together. We play golf together. If I have a party for my grandson's first birthday, there is no question who will be there: my social club brothers."
GAINING SOCIAL SKILLS
Cathy Pong was an eighth-grader at Stevenson Intermediate when she joined a group called Simple Pleasures. She remained a member all the way through graduation at Roosevelt High School class of 1977.
"I felt that belonging to a club gave you a sense of self-esteem, self-confidence and a sense of belonging as far as social status was concerned," she said. "It allowed me to strengthen sisterhood."
Her membership helped get her involved in the youth legislature, an annual spring break activity that taught her about government. And at the Central YMCA, which sponsored her club, she and her friends would enter talent shows.
"We didn't have any talent, but we won," she said. "It was a lot of fun."
The clubs broadened horizons. Jill Takaezu-Harper, a 1974 McKinley High School graduate, would not have met as many teenagers as she did if not for her membership in Des Chantays.
"You learned how to work in a group and identify a goal probably a social event," she said. "It taught people how to be leaders and good followers and team players. That whole experience I think helped people with their social skills as they got older."
It sure helped O'ahu's most famous farmer, Dean Okimoto, a 1972 'Iolani graduate. The 53-year-old Okimoto, who owns Nalo Farms, said the clubs he belonged to Easy Riders and Sheiks brought him out of his shell.
"Back then, believe it or not, I was really shy, especially with girls," he said. "That was where we learned to get along with girls."
But the clubs offered more than learning how to ask a pretty girl to dance without breaking out in a cold sweat, Okimoto said.
Private-school kids met public school kids.
Privileged kids met kids who spoke in heavy pidgin.
Country kids like Okimoto, who grew up in Waimanalo, met city kids.
"What you found out was kids are kids, no matter where they are from," he said. "I always thought that was really neat. And a lot of the people we met through social clubs are still my good friends."
Reach Mike Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the editor: StoryChat was designed to promote and encourage healthy comment and debate. We encourage you to respect the views of others and refrain from personal attacks or using obscenities.
By clicking on "Post Comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Service and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.