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the Castaways- K.C., MO (a newly discovered former tiki lounge)

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Name:the Castaways
Street:4334 MAIN STREET
Aloha, This is going to be a little different
from a lot of the reviews here in Locating Tiki. I believe I have stumbled onto a previously unknown former tiki bar here in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. It is a place I have never heard of before. Here is how it came to my attention: On January 20, 2005 I was shopping for tiki at a local antique mall and found an incredible super sized matchbook from a place called "the Castaways". As you will see in the photos, the graphics are colorful and very, very
similar to artwork seen on Trader Vic's menus and ashtrays. (I hope to discover whether this was an authorized or "borrowed" usage.)

On the spine of the matchbook is the phrase: Authentic South Sea Island Enchantment

The back shows the "Famous Castaways Drinks"...."Vicious Virgin","Miserable Bastard","Scorpion","MalokoiMike","Daiquiri", and "Hurricane".

This matchbook measures an amazing 12 & 3/4 inches long! I hope to find some older area residents that remember this place and I think that this unusual matchbook may be a real memory jogger if it was a plentiful item in its day. On January 22 I drove to the address on the matchbook hoping to find some building or evidence of this former lounge but I soon learned that this cold, empty parking lot is where the Castaways once thrived.

Since that seemed to be the end of what I could learn from a site expedition, I returned home to do some research. I hope to learn much, much more about this intriguing location as I adopt the title of "Tiki Central urban acrcheologist" for the Castaways.

Incidently, this address is only ONE BLOCK
North of the site of the former Kona Kai restaurant!!!!!! It is on the opposite side of the street. One of the things I am hoping to determine is the years of operation for the Castaways.

I started with a Google search and to my surprise, there is a fascinating story which
indicates that the Castaways was instumental in the formation of the famous rock group "The Byrds". Fans of the group will know the name of band member Gene Clark who was born in Missouri and was entertaining in music groups from age 13. One of his bands was called "The Surf Riders"

An excerpt from "The Kansas City Star" 01/17/99 describes in brief the interior of the lounge and Clarks appearances there: "He had a magnificent voice," recalls Jim Glover, today a Mexico, Mo., real estate loan officer. In 1963, Glover was one of three voices in the Surf Riders, the band that would be Clark's last Kansas City gig before heading for California.

"The voice just came from within," Glover says. "Where your voice is supposed to come from." Among those startled by the quality of Clark's voice was Michael Crowley, who had formed the Surf Riders in the early 1960s and hired Glover and Clark as replacements in 1963.

"Gene had a big, booming voice, a very nice polished sound for such a young kid," says Crowley, today a musician in Denver. He first encountered Clark when he showed up one summer afternoon at the Castaways lounge at 4334 Main St.

Every Saturday the club hosted a hootenanny that offered a stage for anyone who had the nerve to get out on it.
If there was a moment in Gene Clark's life that was more important than others, it was when Randy Sparks, the entrepreneur behind the New Christy Minstrels, stopped off at the Castaways to hear the Surf Riders and hired all three members of the group.

The Surf Riders, like a lot of folk acts at the time, were modeled after the three voices of the Kingston Trio. It was also the era of Harry Belafonte's calypso music. Accordingly, the motif of the Castaways was something like Disneyland's "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride, to the point where papier-mache palm trees decorated the interior, and beach sand was spread here and there.

"We dressed up in three-quarter-length cutoff pants and Hawaiian shirts, just to go with the decor," Crowley says. "We had people wrapped around the Castaways waiting to get in."

The New Christy Minstrels group played Kansas City's Starlight Theatre in August 1963, and one night after their show, its members visited the Castaways club. Clark was hired for the Minstrels and the rest is Rock & Roll history!

Well, that is as much as I have been able to gather in this first weekend. I will continue to search for more information including photos and any first hand accounts of the lounges interior/exterior features as I interview anyone I can find here locally that remembers going to the Castaways.

8FT Tiki

[ Edited by: 8FT Tiki on 2005-01-23 21:26 ]

[ Edited by: 8FT Tiki on 2005-01-23 21:27 ]

[ Edited by: 8ft tiki on 2005-01-25 17:22 ]


A couple of more close up shots of the artwork on the matchbook.

X-ellent work, 8FT! Now, for some photos of the Surf Riders IN the Castaways...? :)

The matchbook is a killer, love that "Miserable Bastard" variation. And in the age-old Polynesian restaurant tradition of "inheriting" imagery, the sexy natives are directly copied from the infamous menu cover of "The Islands" in Phoenix (BOT p.42).

X-ept on the matchbook they are rendered even better.

Every time I see one of these urban archeology finds, I have the same thoughts and I don't know that I've ever posted them. But, 8ft, you've got me all excited now so for what its worth...

Two avenues for obtaining photographs of the place might be:

A. Run an ad in the classifieds of the KC Star asking for pics or info. The demographics of people who'd remember a defunct tiki bar and those who still thoroughly read a good-ole' paper newspaper and might bother to write or call you ought to about mesh.

B. Contact the older photographers in the area. If the place had a banquet room, its likely that wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, family reunions, anniversary parties, birthday parties, retirement parties, etc. were shot there on occasion. Some of the more anal-retentive photogs (like me) might still have negatives. Hope they are B/W, though even an aged color negative would still be interesting.

Btw, I'm glad you're on our side.

Sounds like the Castaways has a rich musical history: I just found this article about jazz drummer Tommy Ruskin, who got his start playing at the Castaways when it first opened.


Another great story. In it, he mentions that he was 17 when he started playing there, and it was new at the time. Some more searching on Ruskin turned up that he was born in 1942, so the Castaways must have opened right around 1959.

Great find, 8ft Tiki!


You've uncovered some tantalizing clues.

I’m racking my brain trying to think of older folks I know who might remember this place, and they’re all dead!

An article in The Pitch dated Jan 23, 2003 has the following tidbits - but no mention of The Castaway:

“The Bali Hai Room was added to Bretton’s Restaurant downtown in 1954”.

“The Kon Tiki on Main St. had bamboo walls and tiki statues …morphed into a gay bar serving fried chicken on Sundays before it met the wrecking ball.”

(The article doesn’t say when The Kon Tiki met the wrecking ball. I last remember getting schnockered there around 1979. Seems like it was at 30 something & Main.)

“Trader Vic’s was unceremoniously ripped out of the Westin Hotel in 1996”.

“the Kona Kai opened in the 1960’s…by the end, the service was incompetent and the food stank.”

I’m guessing The Castaway may have closed about the time Kona Kai opened.

What about old advertiser files at KC newspapers and TV and radio stations? They really shouldn't share that info, but since the business is defunct, they might tell you something like when they last advertised.

Also, is the name of the printer on that matchbook?

And if KC has a restaurant supplier that's been in business a long time, they might shed some light on its chronology.

Were there health inspections back then? If so, would records be available and go back that far?

Was the Castaways a chain of hotels? I remember that there was a Castaways hotel on Miami Beach when I was a kid. I believe that it burned down. I did a search online and found the following items related to it. There was a "Tahitian Bar" at the hotel.

I doubt that the Miami Castaways had a connection to the KC one, the typeface is so different. There is still a Castaways in Burbank, CA, that I believe was part of a chain that owned the Ports of Call, the Pieces of Eight, and The Reef in Long Beach.

However, the same "CASTAWAYS" type then the one in Miami was used for the (much smaller) Castaways in Las Vegas, those two might have been related.
House Industries put that font out in their Las Vegas font kit.

This should be in a thread about the Miami Castaways that already exists here on TC somewhere (with nice photos). I found some in the brand new Miami Modern book:


[ Edited by: bigbrotiki on 2005-01-27 15:15 ]


My wife and I live at the home of the owner of the Castaways, Hal Harbaum. Hal died in 1999 and we bought his house. The house came with all of Hal's old bar trinkets and such. I am sad to say that I never spoke much with Hal about his bars (my wife's family knew him and his wife for years and I met him several times) and thus really have nothing much to offer. I do, however, have old napkins from the Castaways Lounge and even took one and showed it to Tommy Ruskin one evening. I will continue to go through the various boxes that Hal had kept from the bars (he also owned the Jug) and let you know if I come up with something good.

Thanks, scotus1!

I'm sad that another restaurant owner has escaped this world before we got to hear his stories. I hope an old photo or two surfaces during your search. This Castaways seem to be one of the more mysterious tiki restaurants out there. Really unique paper items exist, but I've never seen a photo of either the interior or the exterior of the restaurant.

Thanks again,



Yesterday Silverline and I revisited the site of the former Castaways as part of a day long research trip. It is still a surface parking lot. Not too long ago I found another of those insanely long matchbooks and gave it to Silverline. I also found one of these swizzle sticks similar to this photo below although mine is red. This hula girl style was also used at the Tropics lounge here in KC. More on that location later in another thread.

While I'm adding photos, here's a captured auction photo of an album recorded at the Castaways. Priced much too high for me though.

I will try to rescan the matchbook photos soon since the previous ones have gone little.

Re-post of the giant matchbook from the Castaways as seen on the Kansas City Tiki Blog.


And some image snags of a menu sold on ebay.

Now, who can tell me where these are from?


I picked up this old matchbook from the Castaways in Kansas City.

Pre-Tiki era before they copied the Trader Vic's playbook.


Pages: 1 13 replies