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The Volcano
Kono
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 08, 2003
Posts: 1266
From: Orlando
Posted: 2004-08-18 7:58 pm   Permalink

Not too long ago I spotted this item on ebay:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=3922002293&ssPageName=STRK:MEWA:IT

As you can see, it's a postcard for a restaurant in Winter Haven Florida called "The Volcano." Since this link will eventually die, here's the text and photo:

"Here's a vintage original chrome post card from the long-gone Polynesian paradise THE VOLCANO which was located in Winter Haven, FL. "A million dollar Polynesian showplace with restaurant and lounge in downtown Winter Haven, Fla. on Highway 17, only 4 miles from Cypress Gardens." This place was similar to Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcomber. Postally unused card is in good condition (slight dulling from age). Winning bidder pays $1.00 first class postage. NO RESERVE!"




Winter Haven is close to Orlando and so a while back I decided to drive over and do a little investigating and hopefully find some items from this restaurant in the local antique stores and thrift stores and even more hopefully, find the original building.

Winter Haven is somewhat out in the sticks, halfway between Tampa and Orlando, several miles off of I-4. As sleepy as the town is now, Winter Haven was really out in the middle of nowhere back in the 1960s, prior to Disney World and prior to I-4 being built. The only thing of consequence to tourists that was even remotely close was Cypress Gardens. The Volcano had to have been geared to the tourists visiting Cypress Gardens. A small rural town 40+ miles from Tampa is an odd place to build a "million dollar Polynesian showplace."

So...I hit all the antique stores and though most people had never heard of The Volcano, I was lucky to get some tidbits of info from a few shop owners and fellow shoppers. I was told that it was a beautiful large building surrounded by a moat (which you can see in the pic) and that "flames shot into the air from the water." It was said to have been a very upscale kind of place with wonderful food (no mention of the drinks) and that it had exotic decor including a large waterfall inside that was behind glass. It was associated with the motel that was next to it. The Volcano was owned by an Italian family who's family name began with an "F." In the early 70s it was converted into a nightclub and eventually at some point during the 1970s the building was completely torn down. There was some confusion as to what stands there now, one lady told me that a McDonalds is there. Since the building is gone I didn't bother to go and look.

In the postcard pic you can see palm trees (no great shakes for Florida) and polynesian style decor including a large marquesan style tiki, a fire spewing volcano, the fire that shoots from the water and another tiki out front.

As far as mugs and such, the only info that I got was that there used to be "mugs" and "Tom Collins glasses" marked The Volcano that were floating around. The antique store owner said that he hasn't seen any, however, in many, many years. I scoured the thrifts and the only thing I found was a nice copy of Claudine Longet's debut album. People who remembered The Volcano seemed pleased to be reminded of the long forgotten place and were very curious as to why someone from Orlando was interested in a restaurant that disappeared over 30 years ago.

It's not much, but that's all that I could dig up so far. Anyone out in TC land have any info or items from The Volcano that you can share? Maybe someone has picked up one of those mugs or glasses through years of thrifting? ANY info would be appreciated. To me, The Volcano is an especially interesting footnote in PolyPop history because 1) it was located near where I now live, 2) it was located in a very strange location for an upscale tiki lounge/restaurant (alligator and armadillo country) and 3) it just vanished with little evidence that it ever existed.

Winter Haven was hit hard by the hurricane and so I won't be going back for a while. I don't even know if the area has electricity back yet. I will go back every now and then and try and jog people's memories, maybe hit the local library.

Something that struck me as very odd: the Salvation Army in Winter Haven had 3(!) copies of Sylvain Sylvain's debut album. Sure, you see that album pop up now and then but three in one thrift in a small rural town? Like maybe Winter Haven had a large contingent of NY Dolls fans? Not relevant but just kinda weird.

[ This Message was edited by: Kono on 2004-08-18 20:02 ]


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Unkle John
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 22, 2003
Posts: 1217
From: Middle-of-the-Ocean, TX
Posted: 2004-08-18 8:08 pm   Permalink

...it's gonna blow, a whoa-a-whoa-a-whoa, Volcano!

 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11266
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2004-08-19 01:09 am   Permalink

Splendid urban archeology! I had always wondered what happened to that place (from knowing the postcard). There were a couple of these places in Florida (like The Luau (?)) that were single, one family owned havens of which no trace remains. Too bad that once the owners are gone, any ephemera are almost impossible to come by.

 
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JTD
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 07, 2003
Posts: 407
From: J'ville
Posted: 2004-08-19 06:12 am   Permalink

Kono,
The Boston Red Sox held spring training in Winter Haven from 1966-1992. That would also have provided a good source of customers/revenue for a couple of months each year.

JTD


 
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freddiefreelance
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 15, 2003
Posts: 2995
From: San Diego, Ca.
Posted: 2004-08-20 6:53 pm   Permalink

Quote:
Something that struck me as very odd: the Salvation Army in Winter Haven had 3(!) copies of Sylvain Sylvain's debut album. Sure, you see that album pop up now and then but three in one thrift in a small rural town? Like maybe Winter Haven had a large contingent of NY Dolls fans? Not relevant but just kinda weird.



Well, gee thanks! now I have "14th Street Beat" running through my head. It's been mumblty years since I've heard that album & I can still remember how Sylvain Sylvain's New York Accent sounds...
_________________
Rev. Dr. Frederick J. Freelance, Ph.D., Th.D., D.F.S


 
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Volcano Girl
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Feb 08, 2007
Posts: 92
From: Columbus, OH via Gainesville, FL
Posted: 2007-02-08 2:30 pm   Permalink

Hello. I am new to the Tiki Room, but I can probably help you out on info about this restaurant. Please look for a personal message from me, and get in touch via e-mail if you are still interested.

 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11266
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2007-02-08 4:08 pm   Permalink

Volcano Girl, we ALL are interested! It has actually happened several times on this board that either family members of the owners, or people who used to work at the restaurants that the posts were about chimed in to the thread and contributed insider info to these long forgotten Tiki temple histories.
Or even just people that were simply regular customers of said establishments, they too can share experiences here that many of this board's members never had.


 
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hewey
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 14, 2004
Posts: 4278
From: Sydney, Australia
Posted: 2007-02-08 6:16 pm   Permalink

Kool find and archeaology
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www.kustomkultureaustralia.com

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VampiressRN
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Nov 23, 2006
Posts: 5808
From: Sun City Lincoln Hills (NorCal)
Posted: 2007-02-08 7:58 pm   Permalink

I love to read these old resurected threads. So good to see pictures sinc most of the links in the old threads are broken. It sure looked like a neat place and the volcano must have been fun.
_________________
"Oh waiter, another cocktail please!!!"


 
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Volcano Girl
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Feb 08, 2007
Posts: 92
From: Columbus, OH via Gainesville, FL
Posted: 2007-02-08 10:59 pm   Permalink

I got through to Kono and I thought it might be helpful if I tried to answer questions on the forum side of things instead of personal msg, so that others who are interested can follow along. I will answer as best as I can, however, I was a kid during the time that we lived in WH and had the restaurant, between the ages of say, 7 or 8 till I was 10.

As I said to Kono in the PM, my father was one of the owners of The Volcano, the other business partner was my grandfather. I'm not at all sure what prompted my Dad to choose the Polynesian theme for the restaurant. I do know that he loved food of pretty much any type, and enjoyed eating at the finest restaurants all over the country. The Volcano was very upscale, and very unique. As you have seen on the postcard, there was a volcano that faced Hwy 17 sort of to the NW (*correction, E) side of the restaurant. There were sweet walkways that wound around to the entrance on the west (*N) side of the bldg. I remember it was all very Tahitian feeling, like a mini paradise, lots of bamboo and many adornments. There was a big Buddha (?) statue in the foyer. It was huge. There were also little pools every so often, and it's true about the waterfall behind the glass. I also remember those big gongs there somewhere in the restaurant part. If anyone has ever been to the Kahiki here in Columbus before it was razed, the atmosphere was very much like that.

Some of the waitresses wore bikini tops with a sarong-type short skirt, and they may have even been barefoot, with maybe an ankle lei, as well as the lei around the neck. Others were more formally dressed in some type of silk dress with the cute oriental closures, I don't know what they are called.The waiters wore Hawaiian shirts, except I think the maitre'd wore a black suit with white shirt. The Volcano was the most MARVELOUS place, and you definitely felt special when you went there.

It's funny that it was such a place of entertainment for such a little town like Winter Haven, but Florida really has always been about the tourism. Of course, there were visitors who probably were also visiting Cypress Gardens, but you know, this place was really able to draw some pretty cool customers. For instance, I remember that Don Ho had been there, as was Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon - I think that they had even broadcast a special daytime show from there. I also remember that Mike Connors from Mannix fame had been there. So my Dad got to rub elbows with some celebrities from time to time. I'm sure there were more, but for right now, these are the first few off the top of my head, I haven't really thought about the details of the place in such a long time. If I'm not mistaken, I think there was a show at one point during the evening when some of the waitresses would come out and do the hula dance, sort of like what you would see when you go to Hawaii. My Dad had some of the waitresses teach my younger sister and I how to do some of the simpler hula moves, and I still remember them a little bit, but fortunately, he never made us perform! Oh, yes, and when the girls did the hula they wore grass skirts for the performance. It was really awesome!

There were two types of cuisine offered, Polynesian, and for the wimps, American. All the dishes had weird and exotic names. I remember that one of my favorite desserts was a cup of Green Grasshopper ice cream. I honestly don't know if that was just a made up name, but I can't think of any way to describe the flavor. It must have been some sort of mint flavored ice cream. Also I remember that Baked Alaska was one of the special desserts, and to see that thing come out flaming from the kitchen was... impressive to say the least. Speaking of the kitchen, I do know that the head chef was some old guy (maybe 60 or 70 yeas old?) from probably China, but definitely somewhere on the other side of the world from WH. He was a master, and ran a tight ship. He didn't let us little kids get in the way, but we were allowed to sit quietly and watch sometimes if we wanted. His name was Chinese Joe, and he could be stern but also very endearing. I remember one time I had a little blister or burn or something on my hand, and he ran to his bedroom, which was above the restaurant, and brought back "Tiger Balm" and insisted that I put it on and also take some home.

FWIW, the restaurant had formerly been my father's homestead when he was younger, so some of the restaurant really was part house, not a motel. There was also a separate building (*situated to the N of the main bldg) before you got to the restaurant part, and that's where the nightclub was. So if you didn't want to come for dinner, you could just go to the bar/nightclub. There was usually some aspiring entertainer or group performing there. It attracted all types of performers, singers, comedians, and bands. I remember one that Dad had featured quite often was someone named Judy (*make that Joni) Canova. I don't really remember much else about her, except for the name.

As far as special drink glasses or mugs, I'm pretty sure that there was some sort of special glass that certain drinks were served in. I have no idea if they were available for purchase. I do remember what the menu cover looked like. It was about 12" X 18" and had a bright orange background. A very voluptuous Polynesian woman adorned the cover in a bikini top with sarong skirt, and there was a volcano ready to erupt in the background.

I guess this is about all I can remember off the top of my head for now. If anyone has further questions, I will do what I can to help. I'll try to check in from time to time. ALOHA and MAHALO!

*Note* Anything that has an asterisk has been edited, as I think I had my directions incorrect when I first posted.

[ This Message was edited by: Volcano Girl 2007-02-09 22:36 ]

[ This Message was edited by: Volcano Girl 2007-02-19 10:19 ]


 
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dogbytes
  

Joined: Mar 24, 2002
Posts: 2242
From: seattle, wa
Posted: 2007-02-08 11:16 pm   Permalink

thank you for sharing your childhood memories with us! it was a fascinating read ~ if you get a chance to go through family photo albums, i'd love to see any pictures you might have!

 
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GatorRob
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1773
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2007-02-09 05:53 am   Permalink

Thank you so much Volcano Girl for taking the time to reminisce and post what you can remember. It's always so much more interesting when someone has first hand knowledge that they can share. Based on the way you were talking about the menu and mugs/glasses, it sounds like you don't have any surviving items from that time? If you have anything at all such as pictures, postcards, whatever, that you wouldn't mind digging up, we'd love to see them.

Interesting that Johnny Carson visited. We know he visited the Mai-Kai in Ft Lauderdale as well. Sounds like he was making the rounds of the tiki establishments!

Do you recall what years the place was open and why it closed? Did your Dad just retire or did the business fall on hard times?

Thanks again for the wonderful post.


 
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Volcano Girl
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Feb 08, 2007
Posts: 92
From: Columbus, OH via Gainesville, FL
Posted: 2007-02-09 10:04 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-02-08 23:16, dogbytes wrote:
thank you for sharing your childhood memories with us! it was a fascinating read ~ if you get a chance to go through family photo albums, i'd love to see any pictures you might have!



It will be difficult for me to get hold of any pictures or memorabilia quickly, but if I come across any, I will try to share them with you all. There could be some things in my Mom's possession still, but I don't know. I will look into that.

If anyone has any specific questions about The Volcano, I will do my best to answer.


 
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Volcano Girl
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Feb 08, 2007
Posts: 92
From: Columbus, OH via Gainesville, FL
Posted: 2007-02-09 10:27 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-02-09 05:53, GatorRob wrote:
Do you recall what years the place was open and why it closed? Did your Dad just retire or did the business fall on hard times?

Thanks again for the wonderful post.



As best as I can remember, The Volcano opened in perhaps 1967 or 68. We lived in WH until Aug. or Sept. 1970. I don't know if the ownership changed hands after Dad got out, but I suspect not. Leaving WH was sudden from a child's perspective, and it seemed like a touchy subject at the time. It was infrequently brought up in subsequent years, but what I have gathered is that the break-up was not on pleasant terms. So I guess an appropriate way to describe it was that the business did fall on "hard times". Let me just say that I don't think the restaurant wasn't a viable business, but that perhaps some of the business and/or managing partners had some unhealthy connections/habits that forced my Dad to make the decision to leave WH. This is really just a theory on my part; I have no personal knowledge of any of the details of the demise of The Volcano. It is a pity in a way. It was a really cool place. I can imagine that it might have taken off with WDW opening up a few years later.



 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11266
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2007-02-09 10:35 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-02-08 16:08, bigbrotiki wrote:
....It has actually happened several times on this board that family members of the owners..... chimed in to the thread and contributed insider info to these long forgotten Tiki temple histories....



Cool! So my hunch was right! Thank, you Volcano Girl. We do hope you might dig up more memorabilia. Except for the postcard, I have never even seen a match book of your place. The mother lode would always be the architectural rendering!

But as urban archaeologists, we can glean more info out of the remnants at hand, by zooming into the postcard for example:


This must be the "Buddha" you remember, actually a Tiki done in the style of the Marquesas Islands, North of Tahiti. Was that the menu on that stand on the left?



It looks like these gazebos were in the main room under the big A-frame, together with tall palm trees, much like at the Kahiki in Columbus.



I love the use of fire erupting out of the water, an effect that Tiki temples utilized way before Las Vegas did. The Tiki statue at the entrance looks like it was based on the Pele image below:



(...which, interestingly so, must have been collected in the 1800s by Mormon missionairies in Hawaii, because the original can be found at the Temple Square Museum in Salt Lake City)

All in all, you grew up in quite a place:




[ This Message was edited by: bigbrotiki 2007-02-09 10:42 ]


 
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