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Tiki Central Forums » » General Tiki » » the lost chapter: Hop Louie and the Stockton Islander (image heavy)
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the lost chapter: Hop Louie and the Stockton Islander (image heavy)
tikicleen
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 11, 2003
Posts: 329
From: ripon: almond capital yet no orgeat
Posted: 2012-11-02 07:52 am   Permalink

posted in today's stockton record by mike fitzgerald:

Restaurant relic is big kahuna for tiki heads


David Jon Foster poses with the tiki statue that stood outside The Islander.


Courtesy Alice van Ommeren The Islander, Stockton's tiki restaurant and lounge, was open from 1963 to 1983. Tiki buffs have long sought the giant moai head visible to the right of the building's entrance.

Fans of Stockton's tiki history are celebrating the discovery of a long-lost and venerated artifact: the 6-foot tiki head that stood outside The Islander.

The moai head, as it is properly called, proves the gods work in mysterious ways. The vanished monolith has been in Stockton all its 26 missing years.

"I found it!" David Jon Foster, a tiki buff and researcher, cheered on the Tiki Central website. "I have been hunting this sacred tiki for a long time. ... The gods are with me."

Stockton has a surprisingly rich history of tiki, the post World War II craze of kitschy Polynesian-style restaurants and clubs. The Islander was the King Kamehameha of these establishments.

Designed by Stockton architect Warren Wong, the exotic building hosted a running luau in Lincoln Center South from 1963 to 1983. The vacant building was moved in 1986.

In an architecturally blasphemous act that probably angered the gods, it was demolished in 2010.

Tiki heads love The Islander. They post articles about it, argue over facts and scour California for such artifacts as Islander postcards, menus, float lamps and cocktail mugs.

The moai head is the big kahuna of these coveted items. An imposing hardwood monolith, it was carved by Richard M. Ellis, an artisan who worked for Oceanic Arts, a renowned tiki supply house in Whittier.

Ellis gave the head the dignified but inscrutable visage of authentic Polynesian moai. But he added a touch of fun by endowing it with a 5-foot schnozz.

The head's whereabouts has long been the subject of speculation. Foster stumbled onto it.

"Oh, man, it was just awesome," Foster said. "I could just hardly believe my luck."

An artist, Foster was talking tiki at a recent art reception in Lockeford. "This old man approached me and said, 'Hey, I got one of those Islander tikis in my yard.' "

Eureka. "What luck," Foster bubbled. "Is that crazy?"

The tiki's owner is Verdell "Sam" Austin.

A Stockton contractor, Austin, 78, is a lifelong friend of Neal Pollard, the entrepreneur and founder of Pollardville, who bought the Islander building in 1986.

Pollard moved it to Pollardville, his roadside attraction on Hwy. 99 outside Stockton. But he gave away some Islander accessories.

The moai he gave to Austin.

"It was just different," Austin said. "Not that I'm a tiki head. I didn't know there was anything significant about it."

Austin remembered that lifting the head, 6 feet of hardwood log, took four men. The indignity possibly displeased the god. "It bent the tailgate of my pickup," Austin ruefully recalled.

Austin planted the head in the backyard of his north Stockton home. The backyard has a sweeping vista of rolling golf links.

So there you go: For the past 26 years, the missing moai has been gazing majestically over the back nine of Elkhorn Golf Club.

It has probably had to endure some knocks from the flying golf balls, too, said Susan Austin, Sam's wife.

"They hit the roof," she said. "They hit the side of the house. They hit the patio. They hit out front. They hit the skylight. I'm sure the tiki has been hit, but he hasn't said anything."

Aside from golf balls, nobody disturbed the head during its 26-year idyll. But the head disturbed at least one person: a man from Hawaii the Austins hired to do backyard work.

The man halted, full of superstitious fear, when he spotted the head.

"If it's not facing in the right direction, all sorts of bad stuff can happen," the man stammered. "I ain't coming back there!"

The tiki community applauded the discovery.

"Of course it's a huge find," said Colleen Weidman, a Ripon resident and Islander researcher who identified the carver. "It was surrounded in mystery, kind of like folklore: What happened to the moai?"

Islander designer Warren Wong, now 87, was tickled by the tiki head's resurrection, too.

"It's like life," he said mystically, "because it regenerates itself."

The fuss may seem silly. But The Islander has gained recognition as a classic of American tiki architecture.

It certainly was one of Stockton's most distinctive buildings, said Wes Swanson, chairman of the Cultural Heritage Board,

"Were it intact today, it would easily be recognized as a Structure of Merit, and probably qualify for landmark status," Swanson said.

Sam Austin said he'll take better care of the big guy now that he knows it's a VIP.

"Maybe I'll put some linseed oil on it," he said.

*************************************************


nice job! here's hoping he adds marine varnish to his shopping list to save that moai!



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bigbrotiki
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Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11238
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2012-11-02 10:35 pm   Permalink

Nice article, thanks for posting it.

 
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danlovestikis
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Joined: Jun 17, 2002
Posts: 4955
Posted: 2012-11-03 06:56 am   Permalink

This has always been our favorite thread to read and re-read. David this is just a wonderful sddition to this thread. Terrific photos. Thank you and Tiki Cleen. Wendy
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abstractiki
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Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 604
From: Lodi, CA
Posted: 2012-11-04 08:00 am   Permalink

After I discovered the Moai I sent an e-mail to Mike F. from the Record and let him know. Since the first article he did a few years ago I have been keeping him updated on my urban tiki archeology.

I had no idea he would want to do another story but I'm glad he did. He did a good job and I'm hoping some locals will come forward with new information after reading it.


 
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sneakyjack
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Joined: May 25, 2004
Posts: 1057
From: NYC Area
Posted: 2012-11-05 5:29 pm   Permalink

this is cool!!!

 
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Dustycajun
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Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4396
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2012-12-16 11:44 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2009-12-23 19:41, abstractiki wrote:
Interesting Note: The article states that Hop Louie was a chef at Trader Vic's in Oakland and later was at the Coral Reef in Sacramento.




Hop Louie really got around! Here is an ad from the Volcano with hosts Louie and Minnie.



So, the impressive Hop Louie restaurant list:

Trader Vic's - Oakland
Coral Reef - Sacramento
Volcano - Lodi
Minnie's - Stockton
Minnie's - Modesto
Islander - Stockton
Latitude 20 - Torrance
Trade Winds - Oxnard
Hop Louie's - Los Angeles





 
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abstractiki
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Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 604
From: Lodi, CA
Posted: 2012-12-19 06:05 am   Permalink

Nice work DC!

I came across an old article in the Lodi News Sentinel a long time ago that mentioned this restaurant and the fact that it is connected to Hop Louie or owned by him. I was so hoping that this place was a tiki temple but the only tiki type connection i could make was that it was named Volcano. If i remember correctly the information i found was that it served regular dinner food. It had an exterior made of rocks from the town of Volcano in the foothills outside of Lodi but they weren't volcanic rock like what we usually see at the tiki restaurants.

There is a card room/casino in that location now but i also think I read that the original restaurant may have burned down. I will see if i can find my notes on this place.

That's great that you found this and the fact that they served Chinese food and served exotic drinks finally makes that tiki connection I was looking for.


 
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Bora Boris
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Joined: Mar 25, 2005
Posts: 2594
From: Boogie Wonderland
Posted: 2012-12-25 3:58 pm   Permalink

The other night at Hop Louie I noticed something cool I hadn't before and thought it was worth mentioning.





 
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The Blue Kahuna
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Joined: Jun 01, 2011
Posts: 365
From: Points East & West
Posted: 2012-12-25 8:06 pm   Permalink

The Volcano was sold to Leon Croce in 1952 and he opened Croce's Restaurant which thrived. It had a great neon sign that said, "Croce's" and had a neon martini glass and olive, that could be seen from the freeway (99).

The building did have a rock facade, it was dark-dark-gray, it looked like lava rock to me to some degree, perhaps not as porous. The building burned down in the early '90s I believe. I remember being told that the original building was built by someone in the Ferrero family, but that's just a hazy memory of a conversation that may-or-may-not have happened and newspaper articles indicate the Croce family built the restaurant, but I'm not so sure of that.

Mr. Croce rebuilt the restaurant, ran it for a few more years and eventually retired. The restaurant was rented to several other restauranteurs but never had the same success. Eventually Mr. Croce sold the property to the people who turned it into the card room that it is now (actually a pretty good place to eat). Here is a link to Mr. Croce's obituary
http://www.lodinews.com/news/article_e11a6c8e-25be-11e2-8e9b-001a4bcf887a.html

Not a particularly tiki rich post, but the obituary does provide a couple of items about the Volcano.

If you Google Volcano Cafe under images there is a photo of an ashtray from the restaurant. And there is also a matchbook that says it was called "Croce's Volcano Cafe" and it served French and Italian food . . . that little restaurant site has quite an international food history!


[ This Message was edited by: The Blue Kahuna 2012-12-25 20:32 ]

[ Edited by: Bora Boris - Removed some edited bys. - 2013-03-24 09:17 ]


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abstractiki
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Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 604
From: Lodi, CA
Posted: 2013-03-24 09:14 am   Permalink

More Islander Artifacts Discovered!

Ok, here is the whole story. A few years ago when Michael Fitzgerald’s story on my Islander tiki research came out in the the Record newspaper a woman called Michael and said her husband had some of the islander paintings. Michael told me about it and said he would make arrangements and take me to see the paintings and meet this man. A few weeks went by and I made multiple attempts to get Michael to take me there but it never happened. I quit bugging him and I put it on the back burner. That is until last October when I found the Islander Moai. I called Michael and told him about my Moai discovery and we made a deal. I would take him to see the Moai and he would take me to see the paintings. I took him to the Moai last October and finally yesterday was the big day when he took me over to see the paintings. As it turns out these paintings haven been hanging up in a house about a mile away from the where the Islander once stood this whole time.

The women, Barbra used to work at Payless drug store in Lincoln center south across the parking lot from the Islander. Her and her husband Michael would often have drinks and dinner at the islander. One day when the old building was getting fixed up to get ready for the new owner, Dick De Grande, she walked over on her lunch hour. She said there was no one around and just walked right in. She saw these great paintings hanging up and went in to the bathroom, got some paper towels and wrote a note to the new owner asking if she could buy the paintings. A few moths went by and she got a call from Dick De Grande offering the paintings for sail. Her husband Michael who is 87 years old now bought six of them for about two hundred a piece he said. He gave one away to his brothers nephew and sold the other one.

They have a ton of art in their home and many more from Tyree. They later would meet him and go to several of his shows. Michael and Barbara have no intention of selling them. Both were happy to show them off to us and talk about them and the Islander.

Here are some pictures, all original by Tree Burke on velvet.

























Happy hunting!


 
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Dustycajun
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Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4396
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2013-03-24 09:54 am   Permalink

Well done Abstract! Great find.

DC


 
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forgotten tikiman
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Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 484
From: Forgotten Tiki Room. Pismo Beach, CA
Posted: 2013-03-24 10:21 am   Permalink

Wow! Really great stories and finds. Those velvet paintings are incredible. Even though I am a late bloomer on Tiki, The Islander just looked awesome from the pics. Mahaloz for sharing.
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Bora Boris
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Joined: Mar 25, 2005
Posts: 2594
From: Boogie Wonderland
Posted: 2013-03-24 10:25 am   Permalink

Nice work as usual Abstractiki! For having the first pick of the Islander's velvets it looks like they made the right choices.

 
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Or Got Rum?
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Joined: Jul 29, 2009
Posts: 339
From: Wisconsin
Posted: 2013-03-24 2:31 pm   Permalink

More great research and info abstractiki...thanks for sharing. OGR

 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11238
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2013-03-24 2:40 pm   Permalink

Holy Moly - What a great find! Tyree truly was a master of the voluptuous Vahine portrait. Give me samoa of Samea!

 
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