The late, great Eli Hedley’s name has been mentioned here before, and can be seen liberally peppered throughout Critiki and Tiki Central. Eli Hedley, the Original Beachcomber, was a fascinating character, and is responsible for much of the beachcomber aesthetic that was popular in Southern California during and just before tiki’s heyday. Eli’s grandson is Bamboo Ben, who did the decor for the Kona Club in Oakland. Now, one of Eli’s four daughters (and one of Ben’s aunts), Bungy (yep — pronounced like “bungee cord”) has joined Tiki Central and has started relating her fascinating tales of growing up in the Hedley household:
My dad, Eli Hedley, Beachcomber ,Yes! that was his title for all the life I knew him! and Donn Beach (Beachcomber) were partners for about a year, in a tropical Shop at 595 La Cienaga Blvd during WW11 in Hollywood. They both wanted the name of “Beachcomber” so Hollywood was too small for them.. and Donn went to Hawaii! They remained old friends and finally saw each other in the 1970s, at the International Market Place on Waikiki, where Donn had an office in the Banyan Tree!!! We were invited to lunch, and had stir fry and tropical (non-alcoholic) drinks high above the crowds with the soft,balmy breezes cooling us!
Another tale she tells is about how the four girls went out to bring beach lumber home to build the family homestead on the beach in San Pedro:
The beach was not nice and sandy..it was rocky and the waves crashed on it at high tide! Two of us got in to the water and the other two would slide lumber out to us.. you see, we had to make the raft in the water..or we couldn’t launch out into the deep! We got banged around with the waves, knocked over, completely soaked… until we finally had put together this huge pile of lumber. Flo, my oldest sister, then said, “Grab a Paddle!” so we all got pieces of wood for paddles, jumped on the raft and paddled like mad through the waves. The current headed down towards our house, so paddleing wasn’t too hard. When we got right off our building site, Flo would say, “Wait”! and we all waited, tense! Ready for the word! it came!”Paddle” we paddled like mad, until the perfect wave caught the raft, and then, “Jump!” and we all jumped off and with hammers and nails.. swam the rest of the way into shore to gather up the raft.. and carry it up to the house so daddy could create another room!!
These stories are truly amazing, and if I didn’t know Ben personally, I would think they were made up. I have a feeling that the stories we’ve heard so far are just a glimmer of what Aunt Bungy has to share.