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Tiki Central / General Tiki / In Search of Frank Bowers...

Post #583248 by JOHN-O on Sun, Apr 3, 2011 6:28 PM

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JOHN-O posted on Sun, Apr 3, 2011 6:28 PM

We're going back full circle in this thread to the location of Frank Bowers' most famous Polynesian mural, the pre-Tiki Zamboanga nightclub. Originally opened in the 1930's, the building still stands and is currently an American Legion Post.

Here's the first and second threads on TC that have documented the Zamboanga thus far.

Although we've previously seen posted pictures of the building's modern exterior, no Tikiphile has set foot inside. Bora Boris's prior attempts ran into roadblocks. Based on my past Frank Bowers expeditions, I took the baton from him as my next Tiki assignment. I was able to dig up some initial contact information, but it didn't prove to be useful.

Last month I met with TikiVato at Embers Lounge (another Bowers site !!) to discuss planning for the upcoming Tiki Bus Crawl in Oct. A few days later, TikiVato saw my posted inability to get inside the building. As a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) he said he might be able to help. Well about an hour after I spoke to him on the phone, he called back and said we were in !!

As we learned, the Post's bar is actually open to the general public after 4pm on weekends. On Sat, TikiVato, his older brother David (who posts here as nui 'umi 'umi), Bora Boris, and I paid a visit.

As we entered we quickly scanned the space for any remnants of the 1930's murals. I know it was a long shot, but as could be expected for a three-quarters of a century establishment, there was nothing to show that anything like that had existed. There was also no wood paneling or wallpaper to give hope that the murals lay underneath, just enamel paint. We then sat at the circular bar near the entrance.

The bartender, who at first seemed a little surprised to see people walk in who were outside of the neighborhood's African-American demographic, affably took our drink orders. As we nursed our beers, enjoying the excellent selection of vintage blues being played on the sound system, David struck up a conversation with a person nearby. That person happened to be the Post's Sergeant of Arms, Tony M. As it turned out, Tony had a long association with Post and was also a big LA history buff. He prompted shared what he knew about the building.

When the American Legion purchased the building in 1990, he said the walls were for the most part covered in bamboo but there were no murals. Could the murals have been a casualty when the building housed the Japanese nightclub, the Ginza, but probably left the decor intact which could pass for "Oriental" ?

Tony insisted the building used to house the "Bamboo Room" which I initially assumed was his mistaken understanding of what was the Zamboanga. Tony said the Post's historian might have some "before" pictures when they remodeled the place. I left my contact information just in case.

Tony did show us the some of the bamboo that was left in place. It was on the door of an entrance used as a fire exit.

Even though there was no Polynesian decor, other than that one door, the space did still retain the layout of a nightclub. And even with the remodeling, I could still feel the vibe of its pre-WWII history. The space near the entrance which housed the "Jungle Room" is still a bar. While no longer abutted against the wall, there is a circular bar instead. I showed Tony this picture and he confirmed they replaced the bar against the wall with the one now in the center. I wanted to take a picture of that but there were too many people at the bar. (probably wondering who the heck we were :))

Here's the current stage located where the original stage (and famous mural) were...

Here's some other photos I took that show how the building's nightclub layout remains…

Compared to the original…

If anything really vibes 1930's, check out the Men's restroom tile work…

Afterward, we spoke with Patricia who is the Post's Vice-Commander and in charge of booking events. The Post is not exclusively used for Veteran's events, and opens itself up for the needs of the community. She said they would certainly welcome renting the place out for a Tiki event. Based on its pre-Tiki (1930's !!) lineage, historical vibe, and layout of the building, I think that might be a very practical and Tiki-appropriate idea. Frank Bowers' ghost is waiting for us. :)