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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki Baltimore's Hawaiian Room at the Emerson Hotel - MAJOR DEVELOPMENT!!!
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Baltimore's Hawaiian Room at the Emerson Hotel - MAJOR DEVELOPMENT!!!
johntiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 31, 2002
Posts: 1525
From: MD
Posted: 2005-03-08 4:51 pm   Permalink

More info...I'd say this topic is quickly becoming my personal blog but I'm still not exactly sure I understand what the hell a blog is!

Got a phone call today from Jacques Kelly, a writer for the Baltimore Sun who many consider the man to turn to when it comes to Baltimore history! I e-mailed him and about 10 other columnists w/a long winded explanation of my whole interest in tiki and specifically the Hawaiian Room - I tried to keep the letter conversational and fun, hoping someone who started reading it would hang around long enough to finish it. I also hoped that one of the feature columnists would hear my sob-story and decide it might make a nice light-hearted article that would in turn expose my quest to all those in MD and beyond! That was nearly 2 weeks ago and I had just about given up hope of anyone responding.

Well, when Mr. Kelly got me on the phone I immediately felt victorious when he complemented me on the great e-mail! He said that he loves helping out those on their fruitless searches and he vowed to look help me out! I gave him years that I knew the Hawaiian Room was in operation, tried to impress him with knowledge I've learned of the hotel's demise which I've been able to disseminate from stacks of articles from the Sun and the long defunt News American and even filled him in on the photo from my aunt. He also said he knew of a photo w/the Hawaiian Room sign predominantly displayed - which he is going to try and locate. So, things may be looking up. We'll see...
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rodeotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 21, 2004
Posts: 1513
From: calgary
Posted: 2005-03-08 4:59 pm   Permalink

See , your hard work is paying off. Now you have others to do the work for you. Until the next update I will eagerly wait..
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Phillip Roberts
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 09, 2003
Posts: 1597
From: OAHU/Seattle
Posted: 2005-03-10 7:00 pm   Permalink



[ This Message was edited by: filslash 2008-09-13 12:08 ]


 
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johntiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 31, 2002
Posts: 1525
From: MD
Posted: 2005-03-11 08:54 am   Permalink

Fils - the fact that your mug made it to Hawaii boggles my mind!

I was inspired by a post about the Tahitian in L.A. and realized I should contact Oceanic Arts to see if they had supplied the decor for the Hawaiian Room. Bob told me they didn't recall supplying this location. Damn!

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johntiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 31, 2002
Posts: 1525
From: MD
Posted: 2005-03-17 06:31 am   Permalink

After receiving 2 new additions to my Hawaiian Room mug collection (thanks Ookoolady & TikiMatt!) I decided it was time to post pics of the artifacts I've gathered thus far...



The skull mug which the Skullduggery was served in, the Sun God mug the Bamboo Punch was in, the Moai that the Mai Tai was in, the "head hunter" that the Head Hunter Special was in, and the Aztec head which the Starboard Light, Port Light and the Diamondhead Special were all served in. (Thanks Puamana for the copy of the menu!)



The reverse sides...



Detail of the Moai swizzle stick and the matchbook. I contacted Swizzledd, a big time tiki swizzle collector and she confirmed that the only Hawaiian Room swizzle stick she has ever seen is the Moai pictured. The matchbook, which I can't get my digital camera to photograph in detail, only reveals - Hawaiian Room Located in the Emerson Hotel Baltimore, MD. The spine says - Reservations Requested MU5-4400.
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johntiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 31, 2002
Posts: 1525
From: MD
Posted: 2005-04-26 07:44 am   Permalink

Nothing new to report...

But, check this out!

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=35801&item=3970652308

Wow! I know this isn't a super high price but for this tiny mug I'm blown away! Glad I already have one.
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Johnny Dollar
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 01, 2003
Posts: 2954
From: Baltimore, Maryland, PNG
Posted: 2005-04-26 4:54 pm   Permalink

geez johntiki, for a moment i was expecting another big clue...

interesting regardless...
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johntiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 31, 2002
Posts: 1525
From: MD
Posted: 2005-09-13 3:49 pm   Permalink

This has been my "tiki quest" for a couple years now and I've yet to uncover definitive proof of what once was... I'm bringing this topic back because I've jumped through all the hoops I could conceive and I've still come up with very little concrete info. I've backed off on doing any research until this fall when I might actually get an opportunity to dig a little deeper...if that's possible... I'm 3/4 of the way to China and the flow of information has ceased...
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Greg Brady
Member

Joined: Mar 02, 2005
Posts: 2
Posted: 2006-01-17 1:59 pm   Permalink

Have you come across this yet?

http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/grd/resguides/menus/menudesc.cfm?id=33525

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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11127
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2006-01-17 6:50 pm   Permalink

What a cool link....now for the pictures: Who's gonna go and scan and post it?

I like this title: "Selections from the Buttolph Collection"


 
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johntiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 31, 2002
Posts: 1525
From: MD
Posted: 2007-03-19 07:07 am   Permalink

I haven't had much to add to my fruitless research... until today! Check out this article that appeared in the Baltimore Sun this morning by Abigail Tucker... it is lengthy but it provides some juicy clues to the background behind the Hawaiian Room and more importantly it's provided me with some contacts for people who might have the missing pieces of the puzzle! Also it has provided that one illusive piece of concrete information that I've been dying to uncover... an interior photo of the Hawaiian Room at the Emerson Hotel!

Quote:
Swayed by love
Maryland once outlawed interracial marriages like that of a Locust Point nurse and a Samoan dancer, but their passion helped repeal that law 40 years ago this month

By Abigail Tucker
Sun Reporter
Originally published March 19, 2007

That night, when JoAnn Kovacs danced the hula, love was part of the choreography. The band played the Hukilau, a fishing song, and ever so slowly she reeled him in with the smooth rotation of her hips. By the time he finally spoke to her, both their hearts were beating like hands on a log drum.

His hei is made of real shells, she noticed, gazing at the headband in his dark hair.

I love you, Meki To'alepai thought. A few minutes later, he said it aloud.

That was December of 1963, in the basement Hawaiian Room in Baltimore's Emerson Hotel, where Meki's Polynesian dance troupe was performing. JoAnn was seated in the audience, until, inspired by the music and egged on by friends, she stood up to sway herself, drawing Meki's admiring gaze.

His Samoan ancestry, and the fact that she was a white girl from Locust Point, seemed perfectly acceptable at first, even romantic.

Then they tried to get married.

"We were turned away," JoAnn says.

The couple's failed attempt to wed in Maryland led to coast-to-coast publicity and a campaign to end the state's miscegenation law, which banned most forms of interracial marriage. It was repealed 40 years ago this month.

But change came too slowly to suit the To'alepais, who, on Feb. 19, 1966, exchanged vows in Washington, where it was already legal for white women to marry so-called "brown" men. Afterward they held a Polynesian-style reception at the Optimist Club in Hampden, the guests in straw hats and muumuus, the ceiling hung with tropical flowers and spears. Then the newlyweds left for the more enlightened state of California.

In the more than four decades of marriage that followed, the subject of race has rarely surfaced. The To'alepais think of themselves as entertainers, not soldiers of the civil rights movement. They are now living in Locust Point again, having returned to Maryland not long after the law changed, ready to let bygones be bygones.

"We never really talked about it, never really even told our children," JoAnn says.

"We were too busy being happy to be angry," Meki adds.

They were also busy doing the Fijian dwarf dance, the New Zealand Poi ball dance and the Tahitian Hokule'a Ote'a, spending much of their marriage running their own Pacific island performance company, which has toured schools and social halls across the state. The troupe is called Meki's Tamure, "Meki's Fun Group."

Yes, the To'alepais are gratified to know that their love story helped change history, that now their grandkids can marry whomever they please.

But mostly the Flaming Fire Knife dancer and his Locust Point bride are just glad to have had such a good time.

When the To'alepais met, Hawaii had been a state for only a few years, and Pacific culture was all the rage: Stylish people held luaus, and several tiki-themed clubs opened in downtown Baltimore featuring "Hawaiian Revues" and all-you-can eat Pork Kanaka and Tim Tam Shrimp.

JoAnn grew up in the famously insular community of Locust Point, listening to the island melodies of the lovely Haleloke, a frequent performer on Arthur Godfrey's variety show, and dreaming of a more exotic life. In her early 20s, while working as a nurse, she got a part-time job checking coats at an island club, where she learned to hula. Later she sometimes performed professionally, resplendent in necklaces of polished seeds and her Bora Bora headdress with its mohawk of dried grass.

On the other side of the country, at the same time, a young immigrant was discovering that he could get paid to do the sort of dances he'd done for fun back home in Western Samoa, which he left in 1960. So Meki quit his job in a California tennis shoe factory and took his Flaming Fire Knife act on the road, performing with a group at Diamond Jim's in Las Vegas and other Western venues. In the fall of 1963 his group contracted to work at the Emerson Hotel, where they were immensely popular.

JoAnn was on a hula tour in Ohio at the time, but heard about Meki as soon as she returned

"My mom says, 'you've got to see this group,'" JoAnn recalls.

The night that JoAnn danced the Hukilau marked the start of a whirlwind romance and several months of hulu-club hopping. Meki adored JoAnn's sweet manner and pretty face. JoAnn loved Meki's supercharged smile and peculiar habits: He walked her everywhere, even to the bathroom, and tried to horde snowballs in the hotel sink, because he thought he could keep them as souvenirs.

"He was just so different," she says.

But when the Emerson contract ended, Meki had to board a train for California, quietly grieving as he changed from the Baltimore & Ohio to the Pacific line.

"I think I cried the whole way," he says. For more than a year they talked on the phone every night. Then the banana farmer's son asked the longshoreman's daughter to be his wife.

It was a neighborhood priest who told them of Maryland's miscegenation law, which had banned blacks and whites from marrying for more than 300 years, and in 1935 was amended to stop weddings between whites and "the brown race" - a category that included some Pacific islanders.

Do you want to fight this? asked the priest, who wanted permission to alert the press. Sure, the couple said. It seemed like the right thing to do, and besides, the presence of the media would save them the expense of a wedding photographer when they finally did get hitched in Washington.

Reporters showed up in droves, and the To'alepais' story made Time magazine and the major papers. Legislators from Annapolis to Honolulu condemned the law and vowed to fight for a change, and the couple's plight continued to be mentioned in news stories leading up to the law's repeal, on March 24, 1967 -- just a few months before the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia, ending all race-based restrictions on American marriages.

After taking a stand in Maryland, though, the To'alepais turned their backs on the publicity, wanting to start their new life. When journalists gathered at the airport where the newlyweds were scheduled to board a plane for California, they decided to make their escape.

"We just took off on Route 40 instead," JoAnn says.

This time Meki didn't cry as he traveled west.

These days they don't dance as much as they used to. She's 66, he's 67. They've turned over Meki's Tamure to one of their three children, a son also named Meki. They've also given up the day jobs -- hers in nursing, his in highway maintenance -- that used to help make ends meet. Meki senior is involved with the ministry of a Samoan church in Virginia; he is old enough to be considered an elder in the community.

Sometimes it seems a long time ago that they returned to Maryland as husband and wife, when Meki was performing up and down the East Coast and JoAnn was teaching so many Locust Point girls to hula that half the neighborhood was draped in plastic hibiscus leis.

Now they mostly watch their children perform, and their granddaughter, a budding hula girl.

And yet there is one song that brings JoAnn to her feet even at this age. She heard it recently while visiting a nursing home, and suddenly she was dancing, as spontaneously as she had the night she met Meki. It was a number that Meki's Tamure had performed countless times over the years, and it became JoAnn's solo dance, her specialty. She would sway back and forth as her husband played the ukulele and sang:

This is the moment

Of sweet Aloha

I will love you longer than forever

Promise me that you will leave me never

Just humming it brings a smile to her face: the Hawaiian Wedding Song.




Here are the pics that accompanied the article online...


Is this the Hawaiian Room at the Emerson????? I've asked the reporter for confirmation!


I've contacted the reporter, hoping she could provide me with the To'alepai's contact information... if she doesn't I'll just have to dig them up myself!!

[ This Message was edited by: johntiki 2007-03-19 07:30 ]


 
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Johnny Dollar
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 01, 2003
Posts: 2954
From: Baltimore, Maryland, PNG
Posted: 2007-03-19 07:55 am   Permalink

kick ass!!!

 
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cheeky half
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 22, 2002
Posts: 795
From: Tucson, AZ
Posted: 2007-03-19 08:08 am   Permalink

Great to see that your hard work is paying off! Keep us updated!

 
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ikitnrev
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 27, 2002
Posts: 1313
From: D.C. / Virginia
Posted: 2007-03-19 08:24 am   Permalink

What a great story! Kind of makes you appreciate the advances our country has made in the last 50 years - and so good to hear about this couple are still alive and living in Baltimore.

For a while I was worried that the most historic event to have taken place at the Emerson Hotel was the horrible beating immortalized in the song 'The Death of Hattie Carroll', which happened in February 1963. It is so nice to hear this story to present a much more positive side of the Emerson. Two dancers/performers meet in December, 1963 in the Emerson's Hawaiian Room - one Samoan, one Caucasian. They fall in love. The law prevents them from marrying each other, but the attention and press they receive when they are not allowed to wed, help to turn the tide against these unjust laws, and soon the Supreme Court is banning such miscengation laws.

This is one of the most heart-warming and positive tiki-related stories I have ever read. And to think that it happened in nearby Baltimore.

Vern



[ This Message was edited by: ikitnrev 2007-03-19 12:01 ]


 
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ikitnrev
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 27, 2002
Posts: 1313
From: D.C. / Virginia
Posted: 2007-03-19 08:48 am   Permalink

This was another one of the photographs included in the Baltimore Sun story.


Meki To'alepai was a performer in Doug Alii's group 'The Hinanos' They are both Samoan, so I wonder how long they performed together. .

Doug Alii has appeared here on Tiki Central, in a different thread, as he performed his Polynesian Revue in the late 60's in Wisconsin Dell's, for the Tommy Bartlett Water Show.

http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=15746&forum=1&vpost=174238&hilite=Doug%20Alii

I had someone e-mail asking for more information on Doug Alii, but I believe lost that e-mail message. If you read this message, please try to contact me again.

Vern


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