Founded in 1908 by William Butte, Pacific Ready-cut Homes, later Pacific System Homes, made ’kit’ homes.
They were considered one of the largest mass producers of pre-cut houses in the US; over the course of about 30-years, they delivered approximately 40,000-homes.
In the 1920s, working class people aspired to the “good life” of home and auto ownership and Pacific System was there to provide the little California bungalow that they were dreaming of. (AntiqueHome)
When the Stock Market crashed in October of 1929, Butte’s son Meyers was at Stanford and training for the Olympics in wrestling. Sales of homes were slow; the economic crash forced Meyers to come home and get involved with the family business.
When Meyers came on board, he convinced the family that manufacturing surfboards would be a good way to diversify the business. He began to change a small part of the production of Pacific System to surfboards.
Pacific System was one of the first companies to produce commercial surfboards.
Back then, boards were made of single pieces of redwood – and weighed about 100-lbs.
The first Pacific System boards were like the rest at Waikiki Beach – finless, single-slab redwood planks.
Recognizing the solid planks were too heavy, they looked for other options.
To lighten the load, Pacific System started making laminated surfboards; the big break came when they found a water-proof glue that would hold the slabs of wood used in board construction together. (Gault-Williams)
The new, lighter boards were constructed from glued and doweled balsa and redwood strips. They were 10 to 12-feet in length, 20-inches wide and a few inches thick (and weighed closer to 50-lbs.)
At first, the company logo was a swastika on the deck; the boards became known as ‘Swastika’ models.
“The Swastika boards were droolers,” shaper Dale Velzy is quoted as saying. “Everybody had homemades or hand-me-downs, so people really wanted a Pacific System.” (Velzy; Gault-Williams)
Although most boards continued to be custom made by surfers themselves, for the period leading into World War II, Swastikas became the most widely-used production board. (Gaul-Williams)
With the rise of Nazi Germany later in the decade, in about 1938, the swastika name and logos were dropped and the boards became known as ‘Waikiki Surf-Boards.’ (Motil)
Pacific System employed a number of well-known surfers, including Pete Peterson and Lorrin ‘Whitey’ Harrison. (They were the first of the hardcore California surfers to surf Waikiki.) (SurfMuseum)
“All ‘Waikiki’ boards are precision built with modern up-to-date machinery for a life-time of service in the world’s largest home-building plant.”
“The woods are specially selected. The Balsa wood is hand-sorted from finest imported stocks, scientifically kilned, laminated and cabinet finished by expert craftsmen under the personal direction of a professional surf-board aqualist.” (Pacific System Ad)
According to Butte’s son, his father took “great pride in the fact that he had pioneered the making of light surfboards.”
Pacific System models were popular and demand grew; they were shipping 60-boards a month to Hawaiʻi. (Marcus)
Pacific System Homes, as a Butte family enterprise, soon changed; although Pacific System still sold ready-cut houses throughout the thirties, homebuilding did not really recover until after World War II. (Flynn; Gault-William)
Founder/father William Butte died in 1936; sons Meyers and Robert ran the business for a while, then sold the company in 1942 and enlisted in the military. (Flynn; Gault-Williams)