Friday, May 28, 2010

Kon Tiki Village Mobile Home Park - Denver, CO

Several years ago while researching the history of Polynesian Pop here in Denver, I ran across this old phonebook listing for the Kon Tiki Village Mobile Home Park.

As an urban archeologist, I never get my hopes too high when first visiting a historic tiki site. Based on way too many experiences of coming up empty handed, I usually have pretty low expectations. The Kon Tiki Village falls into that category. When I first visited the site back in 1996, almost all traces of previous tikiness had been erased. However, I kept looking around and discovered the last of the tiki buildings near the swimming pool.

While I was on-site, I took this picture of the entrance of the complex wondering what this place may have looked like back in the day....?

To my great fortune, several years later after much research and digging, I was able to locate this photo for the Kon Tiki Village in the County Assessors property archives. So I went back to the to take the same photo from the same angle (that's the photo above).

Taken in November 1979, you can see the large 10' tiki standing guard at the entrance to the Village (just left of center in the pic). Also note the snow on the ground and in the bushes. Some of my favorite tiki photographs of all times depict tikis covered in snow and are completely outside of their enviornment. You can also make out the beginings out the KO...N TIKI sign on the wall.

Enjoy your long Memorial Day weekend!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tiki Arts & Crafts Time

I spend quite a bit of time seeking out and researching old issues of mid century magazines. Magazines like Sunset, Good Housekeeping, American Builder, etc. are a gold mine of information about tiki architecture and culture.

This is an issue of Sunset magazine (1958?, I don't remember) that grabbed my attention. The title on the cover states "For the Western home planner.....Ideas from Hawaii and the Orient."

Here is an cleaned up shot of the cover. The house is a fine example of residential tiki architecture. Take a closer look at the elements that give this house some tiki charm.

-Wooden shake shingle roof
-Upturned corners of the roof
-Open air Lanai
-of course the swimming pool

Looks like a wonderful place to host a backyard luau.

However, while scanning thru this issue, the most interesting thing I found was this step by step arts & craft article for making a sand/plaster relief sculpture. Looking at the pictures, I immediately thought about the possibilities of making some great tiki inspired wall hangings.

Step 1 - Build a wooden frame and fill the bottom with compacted sand. Mositen the sand with a fine water spray to give the surface a roughened texture- more interesting in the finished panel than a smooth surface. Leave the sand about 1 inch below the top of the frame so there is room for the plaster.

Step 2 - In this article they are making a bird panel so they cut out the pattern and trace it into the sand.

Step 3 - Scoop out the area inside the tracing. Start with the section that will protrude least from the panel(low relief) and progress to area that will protrude the most (high relief).

Step 4 - Then add your decorative elements.

Kind of surprising what you can do with some simple household tools.

Step 5 - Batch up some plaster and begin to pour into the sand cast.

After you have filled in the casting, continue pouring the plaster to fill the in the remaing 1" up to the top of the frame. After the plaster dries it will be pretty brittle and fragile, so when cut a large piece of reinforcement (wire, fabric, etc.) and set into the wet plaster before it dries.

I can imagine the great artwork possibilities with this simple method. If you come up with something, post it back here so we can see what you come up with.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Spy Tiki

привет другу (Aloha Commrades)

Back when tiki culture was in its heyday, the geopolitical landscape centered around the arms race between America and our Russian friends. The cold war was in full swing! A fact that did not go unnoticed by the Bali Hai restaurant on Shelter Island in San Diego, California. In fact, they had a little fun with it in their advertising.

Did you notice the fine print?

Pictured below you can see the Bali Hai on the eastern end of Shelter Island (photo reversed) and just across the channel is the US Navy North Island Naval Complex (home to the US Navy Seals, etc.).

Hands down, the Bali Hai restaurant has one of the greatest views of Downtown San Diego, San Diego Harbor and the mighty US Navy fleet traffic as it departs San Diego for ports unknown across the Pacific. It's quite a sight to be sitting at the bar in the Bali Hai sipping on one of their signature Bali Hai Mai Tai's and having an aircraft carrier float by.

Here's the USS Ronald Regan as it leaves San Diego Harbor and passes the Bali Hai.

Maybe Sam Gambino's secret agent tiki should be dispatched on the case in search of double agents.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Orange County Tiki Seminar - June 10, 2010

The readers and tikiphiles who grew up in Southern California will recognize the Pitcairn Motel sign that stood as an icon along Harbor Boulevard for many many years, just a few blocks down the street from Disneyland in Orange County, CA.

The sign is long gone, however, here is your chance to learn all about the storied tiki past of Orange County. My friend and fellow tikiphile, Chris Jepsen, will be presenting a fantastic seminar on the History of Orange County Tiki on June 10, 2010.

Join the the Orange County Historical Society for a special dinner at Don the Beachcomber. Amid the waterfalls and tikis of the "Hidden Village" room, historian Chris Jepsen will speak on the "Polynesian Pop" phenomenon of the 1950s and '60s in Orange County.

From architecture, décor and music, to literature, theme parks and backyard luaus, the South Seas was a wildly popular theme throughout Mid-Century America. This was especially true in sunny Orange County, where primitive carved figures, grass huts, 'Aloha shirts,' and lush jungle landscaping seemed right at home.

Don the Beachcomber is a historically significant restaurant that recently took up residence in one of America’s few remaining authentic tiki establishments: The former Sam’s Seafood. The place has recently been lovingly restored and improved.

The event is open to everyone -- not just Society members. But please sign up soon before they run out of space. To register or for more information, download a PDF flyer,

Hawaiian/tropical attire is encouraged, but not mandatory.

Speaker: OCHS Vice President Chris Jepsen is the Assistant Archivist at the Orange County Archives, a local historian, and a member of the City of Huntington Beach’s Historic Resources Board. He has been studying Mid-Century commercial architecture and design and 'Polynesian Pop' for 15 years. He has two websites: Googie Architecture Online (, and O.C. History Roundup (

Chris has also created a Facebook page for the event.

I'll be heading down to Southern California for the event, so I hope to see some of you there.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eli Kai Apartments - Part 3

Before moving on from the Eli Kai, I thought I'd spend one more day and show off a few more of their great tikis.

Here's the same outrigger beam as above, but in full shot.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Eli Kai Apartments - Part 2

Another shot of the interior courtyard where you can see the decorative beams that ring the interior of the complex.

Close up shots of some of the tikis.

Lots of sharp angle cuts and router work.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Eli Kai Apartments - Part 1

The South Bay of Los Angeles is littered with tiki apartment complexes. This is the Eli Kai complex in Torrance, California. From the street, the complex sports a nice A-frame. The building has an underground parking garage and the units start on the second floor.

It looks like there used to be a fountain that flowed down this lava rock facade on the front of the building.

Up the stairs, in the A-frame lobby, this tiki still stands because he is built into the structural column that helps support the second floor apartments.

But once you get into the inner courtyard you will find all of the wonderfully carved decorative outrigger beams. They don't come into contact with the public (e.g., no vandalism) and they are up out of the landscaping (e.g., no constant sprinklers to rot them away).

Here's a nice detail of one of the beams. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this entry for detailed shots of the tiki beams. They are all different!

Back for your viewing pleasure

Sorry folks for the extended delay. I heard from many of you out there during the last few weeks, thank you for your nice comments.

I've learned a lot about image hosting since and will be posting the images on Google's Picasa site. That's what Blogger uses, however, I will link directly to the image instead of using Blogger to link to it (and lose resolution). I have repaired all of the links in previous posts, so the images you see are better quality and you can now also click on the image to see the larger version.