Entries in the 'History' Category

September 8, 2006

History of Trade Winds in Oxnard

Filed under: History,Los Angeles,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 11:08 am
Rendering of Trade Winds' Tiki Temple by decorator Ione Keenan, from the collection of Tim Keenan
Rendering of Trade Winds’ Tiki Temple by decorator Ione Keenan, from the collection of Tim Keenan
Trade Winds dinner menu, from the collection of Mimi Payne
Trade Winds dinner menu,
from the collection of Mimi Payne

As recently as April, the only things I knew about the Trade Winds in Oxnard were 1) its Wagon Wheel Road address, 2) that it had tikis, and 3) it was long gone. I’d seen a menu from my friend Mimi’s collection, but that was about it. But in April of this year, bongofury posted on Tiki Central the results of his in-depth research into the history of the Trade Winds. He was able to include blueprints and old photos, which give a pretty decent view of what this deluxe restaurant was like (it had several themed rooms, including an East Indies room, a Zanzibar room, and the centerpiece, a tiki temple). He also revealed that for a short time, the location was turned into a Don the Beachcomber.

A few weeks ago, the son of Ione Keenan, Trade Winds’ decorator, joined Tiki Central. Ojaitimo has posted images from his mother’s scrapbook, including the above drawing she did of the central tiki temple in 1963, a year before Trade Winds opened. There are also a few contemporary news articles, showing how popular the Trade Winds was when it first opened.

This is one of the many things that makes Tiki Central such a special place — new discoveries are being unearthed all the time, and it has become a lightning rod for those who have personal connections to Polynesian Pop’s early history.

September 7, 2006

Las Vegas Don the Beachcomber Menu

Filed under: Art,History,Las Vegas,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 10:56 pm
Las Vegas Don the Beachcomber menu, from the collection of Derrick Bostrom
Las Vegas Don the Beachcomber menu, from the collection of Derrick Bostrom

I love the graphic look of this Don the Beachcomber menu from Las Vegas. It comes from the collection of Derrick Bostrom, whose grandparents had quite a collection of menus from their travels. Bostrom has these menus now, and has been posting them on his blog. He’s also shared a menu from the Islands in Phoenix, and he has a 1948 Don the Beachcomber menu that he hasn’t posted yet — I’m looking forward to seeing it; longtime readers may remember that the look of Humu Kon Tiki was inspired by a vintage Don the Beachcomber menu.

La Mariana Up for Sale

Filed under: Hawaii,History,News,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:22 pm
Annette Nahinu at La Mariana, photo by Gregory Yamamoto for the Honolulu Advertiser
Annette Nahinu at La Mariana, photo by Gregory Yamamoto for the Honolulu Advertiser

Annette Nahinu, owner of Honolulu’s La Mariana Sailing Club, is looking to sell. La Mariana is a longtime institution, the last of the true old-style tiki bars still in operation on the island. Nahinu is turning 92 later this month, and wants to ensure La Mariana will continue after she’s gone; she has no heirs, and needs to make plans now before it’s too late. She plans to donate some of the proceeds from the sale to the University of Connecticut, her alma mater; she says it was the only university willing to admit her. One of her special terms: she wants to continue to live in the apartment home above La Mariana until she dies.

One of the regulars quoted in a Honolulu Advertiser article says:

It’s the last authentic taste of Hawai’i… It’s the absolute, true feel of old Hawai’i.

This is interesting, since La Mariana, like the many other restaurants, hotels and nightclubs that sprung up in Hawaii during the heavy tourist years of the 1950s and 1960s, wasn’t authentic Hawaiian — it was manufactured to deliver on visitors’ idealized expectations of Hawaii. These expectations were partially set by tourists’ visits to Polynesian restaurants back home — which in turn had their basis in the minds of Hollywood-type decorators and designers, probably more than any actual knowledge of the then-exotic islands. The restaurants and bars of Honolulu did, however, develop their own local character that set them apart from their mainland forebears, thanks especially to the wonderful musical performances there, and the unique social world of the people who lived and worked there. La Mariana likely does deliver a feel of old Hawaii, if your definition of “old Hawaii” is the middle of the last century.

La Mariana was opened by Annette Nahinu more than 50 years ago, and it has become a sort of resting place of Waikiki’s storied Polynesian Pop past; tikis there came from the Sheraton’s Kon-Tiki, lamps came from the Trader Vic’s, and tables and chairs came out of the Don the Beachcomber. It’s all a bit worse for the wear, but thank goodness it’s still somewhere to be admired and enjoyed. With luck, someone who respects the history represented at La Mariana will purchase it and ensure its continued longevity.

September 6, 2006

Swanky’s Massive Mai-Kai Postcard Collection

Filed under: Ft. Lauderdale & Miami,History,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 12:54 pm
Mai-Kai postcard, from the collection of Swanky
Mai-Kai postcard, from the collection of Swanky

Swanky has shared scans of many Mai-Kai postcards from his collection on his Swank Blather blog. These include interior shots, exterior shots, and artists’ renderings of this most beautiful and archetypical of Polynesian palaces. As can be seen in some of the postcards, the exterior of the Mai-Kai has changed dramatically over the years — not just due to expansion, but also because of the encroachment of the city (when it was new, the Mai-Kai was quite isolated), and the growth of the lush jungle-like foliage around it. Swanky will be bringing his postcard collection with him to the Hukilau next month. Via MrBaliHai’s Eye of the Goof.

Jasmine Tree Tiki Decor Going to Thatch

Filed under: History,News,Portland,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 12:26 pm
Jasmine Tree tikis, originally from the Portland Kon-Tiki
Jasmine Tree tikis, originally from the Portland Kon-Tiki

The questions surrounding the future of Portland’s Jasmine Tree appear to have largely been answered. Due to urban redevelopment, the Jasmine Tree had the choice of shutting down or relocating, but has to be out of its current location by the end of October. The search for a new location has not been successful; there is still a slim chance that the restaurant could move, but if it does, it won’t have a tiki theme. The owners of the Jasmine Tree have agreed to sell the tiki decor to Robert Volz, who is opening a new tiki bar in northeast Portland, called Thatch. Volz had worked with the Jasmine Tree owners to try to find them a new location; he plans to use much of the decor in Thatch, and may sell some of the decor to fellow Portland-area tikiphiles and Tiki Centralites.

While the Jasmine Tree is not my favorite tiki bar, it is very notable for its decor. The items aren’t presented in the greatest way, but they have a great pedigree — much of it came from the Portland Kon-Tiki when it closed. Most striking is the set of three large cannibal tikis in the picture above, as seen in many menus from Steve Crane’s Kon-Tiki locations, and also Steve Crane’s Luau in Beverly Hills. The prospect of these tikis, and other Kon-Tiki decor, continuing to be available for the public to see (and perhaps in an even better environment) is good news.

Thatch’s opening date has not yet been announced, but it sounds like work is very far along, and the bar will hopefully be opening soon.

September 3, 2006

Information Sought on McVicker Art

Filed under: Art,Ft. Lauderdale & Miami,History,Research,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 8:55 pm
McVicker art of a Polynesian revue
McVicker art of a Polynesian revue
Detail of McVicker art
Detail of McVicker art

The above art was posted by someone on Tiki Central who is looking to learn more about it. It’s lovely — I’d love to know more about it, myself. According to the poster, thegreenman, this lithograph was acquired via his aunt, who is in a south Florida retirement village. His aunt got it from a woman “who knew the artist” (the work is signed “McVicker”). This woman said it was created as a promotion for a “Polynesian gardens fire dance,” and it is from 1959. I don’t know how accurate any of that is, but I do know it’s a great scene — complete with fire dancers, hula dancers, a band, well-dressed patrons, a serving wahine, a bartender, a mysterious shady figure at the back, even a full-on decorated a-frame. It’s almost too perfect… I would have guessed that it was a modern piece, the way it so perfectly nails every Poly Pop cliche. Regardless, it’s gorgeous.

McVicker signature
McVicker signature

I did a quick search on “McVicker” and turned up an artist, J. Jay McVicker; he created some pieces of a similar tone, and which date from a similar age, but his style was more abstract, and a close comparison of the signatures looks like a mis-match. Thegreenman hails from Ft. Lauderdale, and a piece of framing tape on the back says “Schwarms Photo Center Bahia Mar Commercial Photography – Illustrative- Architectural-Marine” (today, there is a Bahia Mar hotel near the water in Ft. Lauderdale). The mind, of course, leaps to the Mai-Kai, which opened in 1956, but in those days the Mai-Kai wasn’t the only game in town — or at least, wasn’t the only game in south Florida. There are many folks more knowledgable than I am about Florida tiki history (Kailuageoff’s presentation at the Hukilau should be a treat), hopefully someone out there can clear up the mystery.

UPDATE: thegreenman has left a comment, stating that he learned from his aunt that this was a promotion for the Polynesian Room at the Yankee Clipper — the official hotel for this year’s Hukilau!

September 2, 2006

Virtual Tour of Elvis’ Jungle Room

Filed under: History,Tennessee,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 11:42 am
Elvis' Jungle Room, from Elvis.com
Elvis’ Jungle Room

Elvis was known for many things: singing, dancing, acting… but he wasn’t exactly known for his good taste. But, as Pablo Picasso said, “Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness.” (It’s worth noting that Picasso was a tikiphile; he acquired his first, a Marquesan, around 1910, and in later years had them all over his art studio.) And so we have Elvis’ paean to bad taste, his Jungle Room at Graceland.

Elvis’ Jungle Room is furnished almost entirely with Witco furniture, a blocky style of wooden carved furniture created by William Westenhaver that reached its height of popularity in the 1960s. Most homes housed maybe a piece or two of Witco, but a whole room of it can be visually overwhelming. Elvis, of course, could handle a little visual stimulation, and went gangbusters — not only does his Jungle room house a full couch, a half-dozen chairs, tables, a cabinet, and a tiki bar (with tiki stools), but the whole room is carpeted in lime green shag, not just on the floor, but also the ceiling. It is atrocious, in the best way possible.

The official website for Graceland provides two virtual tours, which give 360° views, and allow you to zoom in and out. The Virtual Tours actually give you a better view in some ways than you can get there in person, where the room is roped off and must be viewed from the side. There’s also a great thread underway on Tiki Central, where a woofmutt has collected a variety of Jungle Room lore with some tidbits thrown in by Sven Kirsten (whose book on Witco will be out next year). Included is a story of Elvis’ dad, Vernon, telling him he’d just seen “the world’s most ugliest furniture” in a store in town, only to discover that Elvis had coincidentally just bought the whole set that same day.

Elvis' Tiki Bar, from Elvis.com
Elvis’ Tiki Bar

August 29, 2006

Three Books from the Beachcombing Hedley Family

Filed under: History,Los Angeles,People,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:47 pm
Three books from the beachcombing Hedley family
Three books from the beachcombing Hedley family

The family of Eli Hedley have three books newly available:

View from the Top of the Mast, by Bungy Hedley
If you’ve read her tales here or on Tiki Central, then you know she’s got some fantastic stories of an adventure-filled life to share. This book only covers her life growing up in the wacky Hedley clan, up until her early 20s, but it covers journeys to Hawaii, Tahiti and points beyond, not to mention her experiences on the California coast, growing up in one of Hollywood’s favorite hideouts.

How Daddy Became a Beachcomber, by Marilyn Hedley, illustrated by Flo Ann Hedley
This book was published in 1947, but has been out of print for many years, and has become very rare and sought-after. The family is offering reprints of this book, told by Hedley daughter Marily (Bungy’s sister).

Eli Hedley Beachcomber, 1943 Catalog (Reprint)
This is a reprint of Eli Hedley’s catalog of wares, with charming ink illustrations of the unusual items he offered. During WWII, Eli’s wares were used in decorating many bars, restaurants, hotels and homes, and he was especially favored in Hollywood. He was responsible for the decor is some of the most famous tiki bars, and the back pages of the catalog include a thick addendum of black & white photos of his tikis, his shop, the family homestead, and a 1943 article from Life Magazine.

The books are available now, and can be ordered from Amazon, from the book publisher, or from Bungy herself, if you’d like an autographed copy. Full details are on this thread at Tiki Central.

Tiki in the Swinging Mid-’60s

Filed under: History,Los Angeles,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 10:46 am
Picture of a tiki conga drum, from the collection of Sabu the Coconut Boy
Picture of a tiki conga drum, from
the collection of Sabu the Coconut Boy

Sabu the Coconut Boy has unearthed yet more gems — it’s his schtick, it’s what he does. This time, it’s an article in a 1966 ARGOSY magazine, about the then-growing popularity of “singles” apartment complexes, where the young and unattached would in theory take advantage of their close proximity and throw amazing parties and hook up randomly and sow every last one of their wild oats in a fogey-less nirvana. I honestly don’t know what it was really like at these places; I’ve always figured that in reality they were more full of the sad, boring & lonely types than the fun & fancy-free types — after all, they didn’t exactly take off as a concept, y’know?

Sabu’s pictures depict a swingin’ scene in a Southern California singles apartment complex — the South Bay Club apartments in Torrance, to be exact. The happy, flirtily dressed young things, cavorting with a veritable beatnik-symphony of instruments, are fascinating enough, but the star of the show is a great big conga drum, carved into a very nice tiki. The pictures posted by Sabu paint a very fun picture — Vintage Girl said exactly the same thought that ran through my head at seeing the picture below — it looks exactly like a scene from a Tiki Central party in Room 135 at the Caliente Tropics during Tiki Oasis. So maybe the concept isn’t so far-fetched, after all.

Swingin' party in 1966, from the collection of Sabu the Coconut Boy
Swingin’ party in 1966, from the collection of Sabu the Coconut Boy

August 7, 2006

Mai Kai Calendar from 1977

Filed under: Ft. Lauderdale & Miami,History,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:25 pm
1977 Mai Kai Calendar, from the collection of Swanky
1977 Mai Kai Calendar,
from the collection of Swanky

Swanky has posted some images from his 1977 Mai Kai calendar on his Swank Blather blog. The Mai Kai produced these calendars for many years, but stopped some time ago. The calendars typically showcase their beautiful, barely-clothed serving wahines, but occasionally depict other scenes of life at the restaurant. The image at left gives a great view of a side dining room, with its cases full of shrunken heads. Another image Swanky has posted gives a rare peek at the brightly-lit, behind-the-scenes area in the Molokai Bar where all the drinks are made. If you ask at the Mai Kai Gift Shop, they can usually scare up a few old calendars for you.


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Humuhumu is the creator of several tiki websites. She is a designer and programmer based out of San Francisco.

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