“No Tank Tops, No Shorts, No Bare Feet.”
“Club Jetty resembles the scene from an old Bogie flick. There are places like it in Singapore and Hong Kong and Macao. Fans spin overhead. Guests dine of Formica-topped tables.”
“And once a week when the liner Oceanic Independence tied up outside, Mama’s cafebar is swamped.” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, November 1, 1981)
Club Jetty opened in 1946; it evolved from ‘Hale Aina’ (Kauai’s first steak house,) a restaurant located a Nāwiliwili Transportation Company building at the bottom of the hill that leads up to Kaua‘i High School.
The restaurant moved to a Nāwiliwili Yacht Club building in about 1950 in part to help cater meals for “Pagan Love Song,” Kaua‘i’s first color feature Hollywood film.
Later Tom King of the Territorial Harbors Division moved it to a larger building along the jetty at Nāwiliwili Harbor … it became Club Jetty. (TGI)
“Mama” Emma Ouye started it; she was born in Hanalei on October 13, 1907, to Chee Chong Hing and Pepe Malia.
Ouye graduated from Kaua‘i High School and was helped in gaining an education through the support of GN Wilcox, a friend of her father. She married Manji James Ouye in 1927. (TGI)
Club Jetty became a leading Kaua‘i night spot, with entertainers coming from Las Vegas, Honolulu and other locales to perform, in addition to Hawaiian, jazz and rock musicians from Kaua‘i during several eras from the 1950s through the 1980s when Nāwiliwili served as the center of nightlife in Līhuʻe and the rest of Kaua‘i.
One notable, Kui Lee, who had been performing on the mainland for about 10-years, returned to Hawaiʻi and came to Club Jetty, in 1961. Then, he became a part-time performer and doorman at Honey’s nightclub in Kaneohe (owned by Emily “Honey” Ho, mother of Don) – launching pad of Don Ho.
Besides a local favorite, Club Jetty also attracted notable celebrities.
One time, in the early 1960s, filming was going on for John Ford’s Donovan’s Reef, with John Wayne, Lee Marvin and others.
During filming of Donovan’s Reef on Kauai the cast stayed at the Kauai Inn on Nāwiliwili Bay. John Ford also had his yacht anchored in Nāwiliwili Harbor. John Wayne and Lee Marvin were reported to be bunking on the yacht.
“John Wayne would swim in, and try to hide the fact that he was all dripping wet. Grandma said she was trying to stop him from doing that.”
“She had him come by when she fed the shark (who frequented the waters off the club.) She would chant at night, to attract shark. John Wayne saw the shark, he was petrified and never swam into the club again.” (Pono Ouye; TGI)
Club Jetty “became a must for visiting celebrities from Washington, DC, to Hollywood and beyond. They were all charmed by Mama and her casual Aloha, returning again for the wonderful food and the good times.” (KHS;TGI)
“If you help people with their life, you will receive help with yours.” (Ouye; TGI)
Unfortunately, like other iconic remnants of the past (as in Coco Palms,) Club Jetty was destroyed in 1992 by Hurricane Iniki.
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Wanda Aki says
Mahalo Peter for the memodies and history flash back.
Wanda Aki says
I was there in 70’s and met, Marsha and her dad, Pono and Jeff, hope they are doing well. Norma Webster. I have picture of all of us. Great memories.
I first experienced the Club Jetty in 1981 and have so many fond memories. Especially Leilani who I sadly lost touch with. I still miss the cheesecake (world’s greatest).
Scott Dugdale says
I was the keyboard player in Leo Swift, the first band to perform there after ‘ewa. The Ouye’s took us in like family – Mama, Jeff, Pono, Aunty Betty and Bill, Tapi behind the bar – Leilani…We continued coming back for long stints anytime we could – usually about once a year. We sporadically lived there on and off, performing at many places around the island, up until Iniki…Wonderful memories. Thanks for posting this. Side note – I ended up here while trying to research if anyone had one of those Club Jetty tiki glasses – a white ‘bamboo’ tall glass with the Club Jetty logo on the front. I forget what drink came in it – but they were souvenirs…I just lost mine in a fire that destroyed my house. I was wondering what they might be worth. The memories though, of performing there are priceless. Aloha.