In the spring of 1975, Aloha Stadium was under construction. Cranes were swinging the brown steel against the sunny blue skies of Halawa, just east of Pearl Harbor. Six miles away in sunny Kalihi, The Damien Monarchs football team gathered on its practice field, a dust bowl still recovering from the ruts and hard pan created by heavy equipment for the Damien Carnival just a couple months prior. Second-year coach Jack Koury bellowed as he would throughout the pre-season up until the day of our first game, “In 40 years when they ask who won the first football game in Aloha Stadium, do you want it to be You?”
In his battle cry was more than the voice of a new coach searching for a gimmick to inspire harder, more focused practices; it was the voice of all Damien alumni and current students who were starving for its first winning football season in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu (ILH). Established in 1962, Damien Memorial High School was then an all-boy Catholic prep school competing with perennial powerhouses Punahou, Kamehameha, St Louis, and Iolani. Cradling many future NFL players such as Charlie and Kale Ane, Mosi Tatupu, David Hughes, Blaine Gaison, and later Manti Tèo, Marcus Mariota and Tua Tagovailoa, the pedigree of play at the “private schools” league has always been impressive.
In that spring of 1975 I earned the position of starting quarterback and would have the great honor of representing Damien at that position for both my junior and senior years. To say that the anticipation leading up to our first game was intense is not nearly descriptive enough. While the prospect of playing in a brand new 50,000-person capacity stadium was exciting in itself, the buzz around Aloha Stadium was the moveable sections that allowed for different configurations. Perhaps it was my sophomore chemistry knowledge gone awry, as well, but I seem to recall that the word on the coconut wireless network was the brown steel would eventually oxidize and appear as a shiny gold color. The notion of playing in a golden palace was quite exciting for all of us in the mid-1970’s.
After the University of Hawaii and the then WFL Hawaiians played their openers in Aloha Stadium, Damien would open the high school competitive slate in the first game (3:00 PM) of the ILH triple-header the following Friday, September 19, 1975. Damien had an exceptionally stingy, tough defense that would serve to keep us in every game that year. On my side of the ball, we ran an option offense. While my passing skills would remain suspect throughout my football career, my legs compensated for my “developing” arm. On this day, in the first high school game played in Aloha Stadium, Damien Monarchs defeated the Iolani School Red Raiders, 28-15. It was a sweet day for sure.
While I would certainly relish in the fact that I threw the first touchdown pass (high school) in Aloha Stadium to Frank “Bud’ Alvarado, and be the first quarterback to score a running TD, it is the team win that kicked off Damien’s first-ever winning season that remains the stalwart memory. After pre-season wins over Castle and Kahuku, we posted a 5-4 winning season, beating every other team in the ILH at least once, with the glaring exception of Kamehameha School. This inaugural winning season was the relief and release required for Damien ohana to finally celebrate a winning crusade on the gridiron.
While I would go on to claim that my athletic career ‘peaked’ in the first game of my junior year of high school, the host of other memories from my Aloha Stadium playing days remain strong as well.
The most painful memory was in the last game of my senior year when with 3 minutes to play in the game, I suffered a torn meniscus and strained MCL in my right knee. That ended my playing days as subsequent injury at Navy would lead to 6 knee surgeries including two total knee replacements.
My most traumatic memory was late in the fourth quarter while tied with perennial powerhouse Kamehameha. With two minutes to go, I scrambled left to extend the play to run down the clock; I then got tackled on the sideline and ruled out of bounds. Kamehameha got the ball and promptly marched down the field with less than two minutes and scored the go-ahead, winning touchdown. I am embarrassed to say at how much this has tormented me throughout the years, a reminder to put “Team’ before ‘me’.
Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Damien was 3-0 against Punahou during these two years. Please note that It is out of the deepest respect for the history of Punahou’s exceptional academic and athletic history that I cast this memory. It does not matter what continent I’m on, what time zone I’m in, or what language I’m trying to speak, if Hawaii sports comes up, this factoid opens eyes wide-open with stunned incredulousness. I am shameless with this memory.
As I prepare myself to stroll into the stadium where I was carried from in November 1976 I am filled with streams of emotion already bringing me misty-eyes and chicken-skin. I have immense gratitude for Coach Koury and Damien Nation for allowing me the opportunity to represent our great learning institution that has served as the bedrock foundation for not only my Naval Academy education, and naval service, but most importantly, has guided me as a husband, father, and grandfather.
I don’t have a definitive plan for my visit to the “Aloha from Aloha Stadium’ event this Saturday. While it would be fun to throw the pigskin again to Bud, or take some snaps from my center Ben Aina, I’ll likely go sit on the 18-yard line, near the south end zone, not too close to the sideline, to work on my “Kamehameha” demon. I have nothing but love and respect for my Aloha Stadium memories, my Hawaii roots, and of course my Damien brethren. And 48 years later, you, too, know who won the first game in Aloha Stadium.
Oh…Did I mention Damien went 3-0 against Punahou back in the day?
12 thoughts on “Aloha to Aloha Stadium: A Monarch’s Reflection”
Great memories. I remember them well.
Very nice Pat. Long live football and the Damian Stud! Enjoy the memories.
Sweet memories full of emotions that live inside us all. Great reflection.
Fond memories of watching the Bows there in the 80s and 90s…spam musubi instead of hot dogs
Hey Pat, I’m not sure if you know who I am, ever heard of me, or even care. Jack Koury was my best friend. We lived together for a couple years, and after he went back to PA to live in a cabin for two years, Br. Dornbos, then Principal at Damien, and the man who hired me in 1968, added as a bonus in 1972 to bring Jack back (who had applied again, taught for 1969-1970 and 1971-72 and departed to ‘counsel’ a friend back home) if I stayed on. Of course I did and Jack did. Cue: our place on Kewalo St. (either 1306 or 1406, right off freeway) in Makiki in 1971 or ’72 where we had a huge living room and Jack would lay on the floor every night designing plays. I taught at Damien from 1968-74 and one of the first nights after he arrived in ’69 we had a spaghetti dinner at a house me (I) and my high school best friend had rented in Manoa (sounds complicated). Jack was there the next morning, washing the dishes and making ‘spaghetti sandwiches’ while we slept. When he passed in 2002, Herbie Lloyd, then Damien AD, looked for that football from the 1976 game at Aloha Stadium. Jack always talked about you — character, integrity, etc. And about half the guys in that pic you attached. I think I knew / taught several of them. Damien and you and Jack won the FIRST HIGH SCHOOL FB GAME ever played at Aloha Stadium, against Eddie Hamada and Iolani, 13-6, I think. It was the first game of a triple-header (Of course, Damien ALWAYS played first), but not the first game, as UH had played the weekend before. Jack was helping Damien back in the fall of 2001 or 2002 and when he passed, the Coach (Sorry, cannot remember who), made this patch to wear in their games. The logo will not attach.
If there is ANY WAY you can send me this ENTIRE POST to me e-mail, please do . . . firstname.lastname@example.org I want to send back to other classes at D, and to his (whoops) best friend, a QB on his college team. I also need this for my archives. I need ALL of it.
Mahalo, Chip Davey
Pat, your words and reflections are an inspiration, especially given that your memories are the only source of information I am privy to; but the comments easily underscore what an important share this was for many who lived through those moments with you. I remain impressed with your delicate wordsmithing, and your ability to create in the reader a response that is filled with the emotions you, and so many others, clearly felt. God bless you.
I remember my first football camp where we slept in the cafeteria. I found a spot by the trophy case and after settling in for the night, I looked up and saw a football in the trophy case. Upon further inspection I saw it was the game ball for the first game ever played at Aloha Stadium. Damien beat Iolani. I never told anybody about this but that’s when I decided that I was at the right place and the right school. Monarch Pride forever….
Victor- Mahalo for your comment. I’ve had plenty tears show up this week, but never more than when reading your comment. 🙏🤙 Viriliter Age.
Great article! From a great kid then and now a very accomplished man. This is why my time at Damien was always so special. Teaching at the time was my passion! You students always worked hard in school and on the field. The students then knew that you got to participate ONLY if you met a standard to be STUDENTS first.
My mantra was and remains: Being an ATHLETE is a Privilege NOT a RIGHT….
It’s guys like you that make me realize how blessed I was to be a small but important part of your early lives. I get to relive my blessings every time I hear from you guys. The Great men of DAMIEN MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL.
Love all you guys out there.
Herb Lloyd (70)
1974 – 2006
Pat, thanks for the article. My brothers Ricky (1970) and Randy (1972) , and our dad Sam (Farrington, 1947) all played in the old Honolulu Stadium, and I just missed seeing football at the new stadium. I did go by it on Salt Lake City Blvd. in 1972, in its construction phase, during my long Sunday runs. Jack Koury was my history teacher and a person I admired. My dad was his assistant JV football coach during his first year. I remember Jack singing “up on cripple creek she sends me…” before class, he had a pretty good voice! Chip Davey was my English teacher and enjoyed his class. Chip had ask me, Tim O’Brien, and others to scrimmage his Freshman basketball team and wanted us to fast break continuously during the game, it was fun! Tim and I ran from DMS to a gym near the Pali Highway before the game and ran back after, nice to be young and crazy. Brother O’Keefe and Coach Chapman were wonderful cross-country and track coaches. Their discipline, foresight, and humbleness guided me through life. Again, thanks for the wonderful article, many happy memories, Ron Akau (1973).
Mahalo bradda Pat, I don’t have tons of memories of the games we played since I went on to play many more in college and after in the Royals organization for Five years then coaching baseball over the past 30 years.
I do however remember all the boyz and the crazy and good times we had and looking forward to reminiscing this weekend as we get together nearly 46 years after graduating from Damien Memorial!
See you tonight!