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Tiki Central Forums » » General Tiki » » Was St. Petersburg the largest Tiki mecca?
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Was St. Petersburg the largest Tiki mecca?
Mo-Eye
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 17, 2006
Posts: 646
From: Taboo Island, USA
Posted: 2009-06-05 8:40 pm   Permalink

While playing on the google timeline and finding all these unknown Polynesian themed businesses, I am amazed at how many were located in the St. Petersburg, Florida area. If you include nearby Tampa and Clearwater, I have found at least 20 different places in this small 30 mile radius.

Hawaiian Inn / Kon Tiki Supper Club / Aloha Lounge
Hilton Inn / Luau Room / Bali Hi Lounge
Outrigger Inn
Voodoo Room / Aquabar
Tahitian Imperial Motel
Coral Reef
Trader Vic’s
Black Pearl
Headhunter’s Lounge
Bali Hai
Tiki Gardens / Trader Franks
Tahitian Inn
Heilman’s Beachcomber
Hawaiian Village
Tahitian Gardens
Around the World in 18 Holes Miniature Golf
Happy Island Inn
Bamboo Gardens
Tanga Lounge
HMS Bounty from "Mutiny on the Bounty" movie

Who knows how many more we don't know about yet? I did read one article from St. Petersburg that shed some light on the subject, but for the life of me I can't find it again. Anyway it dated to the early 1960s and explained that there were a few St. Petersburg city council men who were urging the city and other businesses to follow the Polynesian theme and that it was the key to driving tourism there. They seemed to use the huge success of Tiki Gardens as an example, so I think that place had a much larger impact than anyone really knows.

Were there areas in LA that were this packed with Polynesia?
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Tiki Shaker
  

Joined: Jun 28, 2008
Posts: 770
From: Menifee, CA
Posted: 2009-06-05 9:00 pm   Permalink

I would think there has been at least that many in LA city limits. Then if you ad up the ones that are with in 30 miles of LA, I'm thinking you would at least double that amount? Maybe more?

 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11589
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2009-06-06 05:16 am   Permalink

The largest or not, it has certainly come as a surprise to me how much Poly pop once resided in the area. It does seem to rival Florida's Atlantic coast, for which it would be interesting to make a list also...the new Hukilau glass has a lot of the places on it.




 
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swizzledd
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Nov 09, 2002
Posts: 19
From: Central Florida
Posted: 2009-06-14 11:00 am   Permalink

Thought you might enjoy these photos of the Polynesian Putter Mini-Golf on St. Petersburg Beach. There is also a scan of the photo on the Sea Palms Motel brochure, which is located behind the miniature golf. The eyes on the tiki light up with blue lights at night. Look at the bottom-center of the Sea Palms pic for the tiki.












[ This Message was edited by: swizzledd 2009-06-14 11:01 ]

[ This Message was edited by: swizzledd 2009-06-14 11:04 ]


 
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naugatiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 02, 2004
Posts: 870
From: Port Angeles, Wa
Posted: 2010-12-11 10:28 am   Permalink

Another one to the list is The Sand Dollar Restaurant and Lounge that boasts a tropical garden. I can't find a tiki in the card put it has all the elements including a Witco world map on the wall.





 
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ZeroTiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 02, 2009
Posts: 881
From: Rohnert Park, California
Posted: 2010-12-11 12:08 pm   Permalink

I can't believe that I spent 2 years living there and only saw 2 or 3 really good tiki spots. Lots of great Mid Century Modern in the shops, though...
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arriano
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 13, 2006
Posts: 1425
From: San Diego
Posted: 2010-12-13 08:18 am   Permalink

Ve have no tiki in St. Petersburg.

~ Boris


 
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Chip and Andy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 13, 2004
Posts: 2277
From: Corner table, Molokai Lounge, Mai-Kai.
Posted: 2010-12-13 11:26 am   Permalink

A consideration for you Urban Archeologists....

Florida has been around a good long while, but didn't really become the vacation land** that we all now know it to be until after World War 2. To use a specific example, and my current city of residence, Hollywood.

Hollywood was founded in 1925 and was not much more than a rail stop for the first bunch of years of its existence. The biggest hotel in the area was conscripted by the Navy as a barracks/training school during WWII and saw several hundred thousand military men and women move through our fair City during the war years.

War ends, soldiers and sailors go back home to where its not 80 degrees and sunny in January, ".... hey Martha, lets move to Florida! I remember wearing shorts for Christmas when we were stationed there back in (fill in whatever year)"

Smaller Florida cities become Larger Florida Cities. Tiki begins its diaspora across the nation. Several things unrelated except by the 'when they happened' all converge into the Perfect Tiki Storm.

The Mai Kai, The Polynesian Room, Hawaiian Gardens, the Yankee Clipper, The Bamboo Room, Hawaiian Inn, Tiki Gardens, Hawaiian Village, and that is just the smallest tip of the 'Tiki' influence in Florida from the mid-50's onward.

So, no, I doubt Florida could claim 'most' anything regarding things Tiki. We might be able to claim a few longest running titles (Mai Kai, Hawaiian Inn, etc), but beyond that we just have a whole bunch of businesses that were chasing the latest 'fad' when they were built.


** Florida *is* still the Land of Vacations even if these days more and more people are calling it 'God's Waiting Room.'


 
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Swanky
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 5276
From: Hapa Haole Hideaway, TN
Posted: 2010-12-13 12:06 pm   Permalink

An old timer friend who was a performer at the Mai-Kai "during the season" and elsewhere off-season says after looking through "Tiki Road Trip" he could name about 70 places missing from that book in Florida alone. They were everywhere and he performed at most, along with off-season gigs at the Hawaiian Room in NYC and other northerly places.

The Mai-Kai was perhaps the bomb that went off in 1956 and sent pieces everywhere. I don't think there was much pre-65, except a few odd-ball places. After that, they sprang up all over. And those that performed at the Mai-Kai performed at other venues. Heck, the Mai-Kai girls were at Yankee's spring training and the New York's World's Fair! I can imagine a lot of places sprang up between 1957 and 1966 in Florida with a Polyensian theme, or, got on board the train.

But, it is also likely there were, not Pre-Tiki as Sven calls it, but collateral-Tiki. Tiki-esque. I mean, if it came after Tiki and is named The Outrigger or whatever, it may owe some of its existence to the genre and likely had the drinks by Don and Vic on the menu...

It gets all muddy in Florida. But it also really exploded there.
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"Mai-Kai: History & Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant" the book


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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11589
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-12-13 12:40 pm   Permalink

But it also seems to have come and gone even quicker than in other places, and that fact plus the general transient nature of vacation states has left even less evidence of it than elsewhere. Mo-Eye newspaper archive research opened my eyes to HOW MUCH was there that went unrecorded, places that probably never had postcards or matches or even fancy menus printed, and that lasted only three/four years. But somewhere, someone will have one or two pieces to the puzzle stowed away, and each bit adds to the picture. Keep on digging, folks!

Swanky, I have been saying all along that the mainland Polynesian musician and show performer community is a huge untapped source for Tiki temple info. You need to interview that guy and see what he can remember and write it down. Jeff Berry set a great example by digging up the mixology elders, now someone needs to connect with the floor show performers, they all knew each other and worked each others gigs. Swanky, you with your knowledge of and love for Hapa Haole music would be well suited!


 
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pablus
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 23, 2003
Posts: 2156
From: www.crazedmugs.com
Posted: 2010-12-14 07:01 am   Permalink


Back in 2006 I looked and looked and looked and turned over every stone I could to try to find some cool relics around here (here being Florida's west coast). Not much is left. Some pretty good carvers and a few newer places I've tried to teach to make cocktails over the years but as far as legit mid-century stuff - I think Robotiki is doing the plowman's work at The Bahi Hut to get it up to specs. That's about it.

Of course, there's The Rusty Key, but that's by invitation only.


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11589
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-12-14 07:29 am   Permalink

Yep. But because there is nothing left out in the field, the only chance is to find material with private individuals. That's where the performers come in. Granted, they did not tend to keep architectural renderings or photos of the places, but maybe menus, or any photographic record of an otherwise vanished Tiki temple, even if you see it only in the background.

The story of the Kumalaes that Mo Eye uncovered is one such example:
http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=32138&forum=2

...and all those carvers!: Just put "Florida" and "Mo-Eye" in as author in Search, and there are names I had never heard off.
We tried to follow up on Frank Schmudde, but the lead petered out. For many of the folks actively involved, we are 10 years or more too late, but there are relatives maybe...


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mike and marie
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 24, 2008
Posts: 340
Posted: 2017-11-07 4:43 pm   Permalink

There was a lot of tiki in St Pete and plenty still in 2010 if you knew where to look. Not as much now after the burning down of the Porpoise Pub and a few other closings, but aside from some signs and a few odd tikis here and there still a handful of places, several which aren't even discussed on TC like JD's (nor was the late and Witco-laden Santa Madeira ever discussed here, or the old Captain's Galley in Madeira Beach with its gigantic sign over the harbor, atmospheric tiki lounge with colored glass walls, and fantastic pirate murals that rivaled the Frank Bowers work in Embers). Mahuffer's, the bar that's a lot like TIKI DAVID's backyard, is still around. Tahitian Village is open and being restored. the outdoor Frank Schmudde tikis are all being saved. Zom Hee is an amazing 60s era Chinese restaurant with a very large menu of fabulous exotic cocktails, including some originals like the St Pete Sling. The Bahi Hut is about a 45 minute drive away. And there is loads of mid-century modern stuff everywhere, although admittedly less and less every year. No one cares about historic preservation.

[ This Message was edited by: mike and marie 2017-11-07 16:45 ]

[ This Message was edited by: mike and marie 2017-11-07 16:46 ]

[ This Message was edited by: mike and marie 2017-11-07 16:47 ]


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AceExplorer
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Apr 03, 2008
Posts: 2219
From: Deep in the Jacksonville Florida jungle.
Posted: 2017-11-07 5:18 pm   Permalink

I had breakfast at The Hollander Hotel in St Pete last week, and they certainly care about preservation. It was my first time in that part of town and I was pleasantly surprised by what they had done. We plan on going back to the area because it had such a great vibe.

 
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mike and marie
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 24, 2008
Posts: 340
Posted: 2017-11-08 10:03 am   Permalink

Glad you liked it there. St Pete (and Tampa Bay in general) is a fantastic place. The Hollander is a 1930s building and they kept the outside facade, but it looks like the rooms, restaurant, lounge etc is all new. We're sure it's a nice place though. Older places like that get more attention from government and preservationists, but when we said no one cares about historic preservation we were really talking about postwar stuff, 50s, 60s, 70s, mid-century modern and especially tiki. There's no love for any of that from historic preservationists or government, not only in Florida but in So Cal and everywhere else. Some of them might think it's 'cool' but they wouldn't lift a finger to do anything to help these places out; they might expend a calorie or break a nail. We've spent too much time with too many of these people to know what it's all about: a cushy job, academic credentials, a line on a resume, grant money. It's a sham.

 
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