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Tiki Central Forums » » Locating Tiki » » Some good stuff from the Polynesian in Torrance
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Some good stuff from the Polynesian in Torrance
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5152
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2011-03-07 4:38 pm   Permalink

I just got a new postcard that I have never seen before from the Polynesian Restaurant. This one is an advertising card for the Sunday afternoon Luaus that were held at the restaurant.

This photo really sums of the Poly Pop experience with the Hawaiian shirt clad folks all gathered around for the hula show (with Caucasian dancers) and the unveiling of the pig from the Imu. There's even a guy who looks like James Dean ready with the shovel, what a classic shot!

Here is the back of the card with the description of the festivities.

I am also re-posting the card that Sabu posted years ago showing the outside area of the restaurant with the stage and the volcano.

The luau must have been right in front of that stage. I wonder if this was from the same photo shoot?


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11604
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2011-03-10 03:20 am   Permalink

DC, is that postcard out of registration, and dark? Mine is kinda bad quality like that...

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5152
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2011-03-11 12:23 pm   Permalink


My postcard card has the same issues, I tried to lighten the contrast a little. So, you have one too.

Here is the Polynesia album cover from the group The Polynesians that was shot at the Polynesia Restaurant (that was a lot of the p word!). You can see the volcano waterfall feature a little better in this shot.



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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2804
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2012-02-25 11:23 pm   Permalink

Found a vintage Palos Verdes newspaper from 1959 at a garage sale today. It had this nice ad for the Polynesian with an artist's rendering of the grounds:


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5152
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2012-02-26 09:35 am   Permalink

Great find Sabu! That rendering really shows how the place was organized with the entertainment hut and the volcano-waterfall along the backside of the event lawn. That porte cochere feature was also pretty cool as it extended well past the driveway entrance to the little palm tree oasis feature. You can't see that in the pictures.

Here is another postcard image I clipped from ebay showing the hut/stage next to the volcano waterfall.

What a fun place this must have been.


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5152
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2013-12-16 5:29 pm   Permalink

Spotted another great postcard from the Polynesian in Walteria/Torrance.

This one must be the lobby and gift shop area.

Some really interesting Tikis. Any guess on the carver??


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Big Kahuna
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 11, 2007
Posts: 2485
From: SoMass
Posted: 2013-12-16 7:19 pm   Permalink

Great work, as always, DC. Swanky looking joint!

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Tiki Centralite

Joined: Jan 29, 2004
Posts: 46
Posted: 2013-12-24 3:49 pm   Permalink

Interesting read:




By the time our plane landed back at LAX, Barbara and I were as cool toward one another as ever. From that moment on, we lived together as husband and wife, in name only, and we each immediately picked up where we left off with our separate interests. The renowned singer, Albert Abaka, who at the time was considered “the Bing Crosby of the Islands”, returned to the mainland with our group.

Planning to invite Iris to come to the club and share the pure native music of Albert Abaka with me, I couldn’t get to my office phone fast enough. Iris however, was nowhere to be found, so I called Buzz Snoyer. Before leaving town, I had recommended an office suite to Buzz, which was owned by Abe Summers, my personal physician. To my great pleasure, Buzz had located the new employment agency in Dr. Summers’ building, just a stone’s throw from my office. I was there in a flash, but Iris was not. Ruth was in however, and she gave me their new office phone numbers. As I was leaving, I came face to face with Iris, just returning to the office. Anxious to get her alone, and pick up where we left off, I suggested, “Let’s have lunch!”

“I just got back from lunch,” she said, “I have to get back to work now – call me.” That wasn’t exactly the reception I had envisioned, but with no better option, I agreed to call her, and left. Once back at my office, I sat staring at the phone, wondering what I was going to say. Finally, I dialed her number and when she answered, I told her she was all I could think of while in Hawaii, and invited her to accompany me to The Polynesian Club to talk. However, during my absence, Iris had concluded, any feelings she might have developed toward me, were inappropriate under the circumstances, children and all, and would not meet me, especially at a place as romantic as The Polynesian Club.

I joined my friends at the club later that night, but all I could think about was how much I missed Iris, and how much she would enjoy Albert’s singing if she were only there. Forgetting the time, I had a phone brought to my table near the band, and engaged Albert to sing some of his favorite Hawaiian songs to Iris over the phone.

In retrospect, I should have realized Albert might be singing to the entire family, as there were phones throughout the house. Sometime past midnight, Ernie fumbled in the dark for the phone on his night stand, anticipating some kind of emergency, only to be greeted by Albert’s mellow Polynesian voice singing a-cappella, as only a true Polynesian can. Infuriated, and apparently unmoved, by Albert’s passionate love songs, Ernie exclaimed, “How dare you call here in the middle of the night”, and slammed the phone down.

Unaware that Iris had picked up the extension phone and was listening to the serenade, Ernie was feverishly trying to get rid of the call. After he lifted and banged the receiver down a few more times, admonishing each time to, “Get off the line,” Iris decided she better quit listening before Ernie figured out she was part of the problem.

I was under the opinion that Iris had refused to go to The Polynesian club with me because she was a little miffed by my taking off to Hawaii with Barbara. Iris assured me however, that it was simply that I was married, and she didn’t want to risk things getting out of hand with a married man.

The Polynesian Club was about the most romantic environment one could imagine, short of actually being in Hawaii. But try as I may, Iris would still not accept my invitations to the club. Not to be denied, I called Bill Daniel’s, an old high school buddy I had introduced to Buzz Snoyer, and who was now an associate in the employment business. I suggested to Bill that, we all should meet at The Polynesian Club for dinner, dancing and a show. Several important clients of the agency were also somehow invited, so Iris agreed to go along under the auspices of entertaining their business clients.

On the appointed evening, Bill picked Iris up and escorted her to the club. Iris wasn’t surprised to see me there since she knew I was friends with the club’s owners. I was also intimately acquainted with most everyone in the group, and she introduced me to her clients. I was finally at The Polynesian Club with Iris… only she didn’t know that she was there with me. And, she was dancing in the arms of another man, not me! I went to the bartender and, together, we created just the right drink to provide Iris a relaxing enjoyable evening. We called our concoction a Nui-Nui, because the name was cute, and easy to say, and it was Polynesian, even though the literal translation was, Big and Hearty.

Returning to our table, I noticed that Bill and Iris were still dancing to “Beyond the Reef”. I brought my Polaroid for the occasion and by the tortured look on her face, it was clear Iris was not enjoying the cheek to cheek moment, so I snapped their picture. When they returned to the table, I handed Iris her cocktail and said, “Try this tropical fruit drink. I like it because I don’t like a lot of alcohol. I think you’ll enjoy it too.”

The atmosphere was intoxicating, to say the least – Hawaiian music, giant waterfalls surrounded by lush foliage – romance was everywhere. I couldn’t wait to get my arms around Iris, legitimately. I slipped a note to the band requesting the Hawaiian Wedding Song, and when it started, I pulled Iris to the dance floor and gathered her in my arms as she exclaimed “This place is beyond my wildest imagination Phil – it is just so beautiful here.” It was also beyond my wildest imagination, how really wonderful it felt moving about so close to Iris. I knew then and there, that there was chemistry between us. I was captivated and I knew I wanted more.

After we danced, Iris retired to the powder room with one of her clients, Dorothy Green. As I waited for Iris, a city business meeting ended in one of the club’s meeting rooms, and Torrance Mayor, Al Isen, and Percy Bennett, Torrance Chief of Police, approached me. “You won’t believe the blonde beauty that’s with us tonight,” I told them.

“I brought her,” Bill Daniels interrupted, apparently having developed his own infatuation with Iris.

“Yah, for me,” I replied laughing. Bill shrunk back into his seat as if he were deflating from a punctured ego. Returning my attention to the Mayor and Chief Bennett, I went on, painting such a vivid description of what a breathtaking beauty Iris was, they decided to wait around and see for their selves. We waited, and waited, but no one exited the ladies room. Finally I sent the hostess in to see what was happening. She emerged informing us that Iris was engaged in a prearranged business discussion in the powder room foyer.

Now knowing Iris’s proximity to the door, I said, “Al, you kick the door open while the Chief stands guard. I’ll poke the camera in and get a picture of Iris, and then you guys can leave.” Moments later, two dazed girls burst out of the foyer to find all eyes focused on a slowly developing Polaroid snapshot of them. The Chief and the Mayor got to see Iris, but she rode home with her clients instead of me; I never did know for sure if the cause and effect were related, but, I was learning fast that Iris’s disposition could turn on a dime.

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Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Jun 17, 2002
Posts: 7655
Posted: 2013-12-24 8:49 pm   Permalink

Thank you kohalacharms that was a blast from the past. I really appreciate those who research and find so many interesting articles to share. It's time for another visit. Wendy

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Tiki Centralite

Joined: Aug 30, 2012
Posts: 46
Posted: 2014-06-05 11:24 am   Permalink

Well, it seems this is the place to post things for The Polynesian. Too bad it's not a locating Tiki thread.

I was looking through some Torrance Herald online archives and saw these items:

June 25, 1959 issue

an ad regarding an upcoming luau:

April 21, 1960 issue - entertainment page.

a Photo of Keoaloha and Freddie Letuli:

a small article about "Lei Day" at the Polynesian:

and also a regular ad for the place:

August 4, 1960 issue

a small article regarding Lani and Freddie Letuli:

November ,1960 issue

a small article and photo regarding Tetua Paheo:

in what appears to be a December, 1962 entertainment page (no date on page, but it discusses New Years Eve)

a small article:

an ad:

There may be more on this web site, but that's all I can do for now.


[ This Message was edited by: SBJiminyC 2014-06-05 12:47 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5152
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2014-06-05 12:36 pm   Permalink

I’ve unearthed quite a bit of information on the Polynesian and it’s owner/builder Pete Reitz.

The Polynesian restaurant opened in 1957 with Henry Yee as the head chef and entertainment provided by Harry Baty and his Polynesians.

A celebration with the Mayor of Torrance to mark the opening.

Pete Reitz was quite a character. He would organize bachelor “men only” trips to Bora Bora, Tahiti, Moorea, and Hawaii that would start with a send-off party at party at his Polynesian restaurant.

Reitz also went off on an exposition to find talent for his restaurant in Tahiti.

Reitz started exotic movie nights at the Polynesian and even made a movie from his trips and from Luaus held at the Polynesian. Anybody ever seen or heard of this Polynesian Restaurant movie??

A fire nearly destroyed the restaurant in January of 1959 while Reitz was sleeping in his office.

Unlike many other Tiki restaurants that burned and were never rebuilt, Reitz was undaunted and re-opened the restaurant just 5 short months later in June of 1959 (note the scheduled may opening was pushed to June).

Checking out the blueprints for the fire rebuild.

The managed to hire the Benjaman Choye, the manager from the Tonga Room in San Francisco.

A great shot of the wait staff in uniform.

Some the of the ladies from the Polynesian

(and a guy!).

Some of the entertainment.

Including Sterling Mossman from Hawaii.

And of course the various fashion shows and events.

Lets Go Native with Sheena!

It looks like The Polynesian restaurant ran until 1963 when it became the Jamaica West night club. Hop Louie then started Lattitude 20 in 1966.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5152
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2014-06-08 09:02 am   Permalink

A few more articles on the Polynesian.

Pete Reitz and his wife with a Samoan hat maker at the opening.

An article about the reopening after the fire.

A photo of Harry Baty and the Polynesians.

Advertisement for a Luau.

Anther photo of Tina Marsh.

And a great shot of one of the Tikis.

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