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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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Name:The Kala Kai
Street:26001 Narbonne Ave

47-unit Polynesian Apartment Building, still in original condition. Tikis Remain.

Sven had asked me to track down the Kala Kai apts several years ago. He had photographed the sign for the BOT (pg 219) but had since forgotton the exact location, although he thought it was in Lomita.

I garage-sale a lot in Lomita, but in the next 2 years I saw no trace of the elusive Kala Kai. Finally, today, while shopping yard sales with my mom-in-law, I made a turn I don't usually make and voila! - there it was. My wife's mom spotted the tiki for me as I was focused on the A-Frame architecture, so we knew we had Polynesian Apt building. We parked and moved some foliage and there was the sign that read: "Kala Kai"

Here are some photos of the building from the street note the wonderfully slanted A-frame to the left and the ship's pulleys hanging from the beams.

Here is the entrance bridge and guardian tikis. The stream and fountains have long since ceased to flow:

Completely hidden from view is this monster tiki that towers against the lava-rock facade of the building. I had to climb through dense birds of paradise and banana plants to photograph him. He must be at least ten feet tall. He rests on a lava-rock base, so he has not rotted at all. The first photo is just his mouth:

Pulling aside some of the fronds, I get a view of his eyes:

Tikis around the pool:

The thatching is gone from the mailbox hut:

Another tiki hidden deep in the interior of the apartments (left) seems to have been carved by the same carver who did the tikis at the Islander Apts in Gardena (comparison right):

This tiki was severely rotted from the back, (as is the one at the Islander)

Another slumbering giant slowly mouldering away into the earth and vegetation. These fallen idols have an eerie feel and always raise the hairs on the back of my neck. They make me sad as well for the lost glory that they once possessed.


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2005-06-18 15:16 ]

Moki posted on Sat, Jun 18, 2005 3:28 PM

Great find!! Thanks for the pictures.

Finally, it has been re-found! Great work Sabu. I asked Sven about this place after he showed a slide of it at Oasis. I wanted to include it in the Tiki Tour Book of SoCal that I gave away in Palm Springs. He told me that he had 'lost it' and couldn't remember where it was except that it was down in your neck of the woods. He mentioned that he have given you some general descriptions as to the location and put you on the trail.

I've added this location to the tour book(with the inclusion of one of your pics if you don't mind). I've also added another 15 or so entries to the tour located the Orange County area. The updated version II is in the works. This time around I'd like to make it available to anyone who wants a copy via an temporary ftp site or something. Anyone have any ideas?

[ Edited by: ZuluMagoo on 2005-06-18 16:13 ]

ZuluMagoo - Definitely feel free to use a photo for your tiki tour guide. I really like the current version and look forward to version II.

If anyone decides to visit the Kala Kai in Lomita, you may as well head down Narbonne afterwards to 23611 Narbonne. Still in Lomita, this is the site of a Tiki Apartment complex that cynfulcynner remembers from childhood as the "Diamond Head".

Unfortunately, any sign with a name is now covered or gone. No tikis remain either inside or out, and the nifty shields and spears that decorated the outside walls are in a sad state of disrepair:

Also around the corner from the Kala Kai is this small structure at 26122 Western:

The current owner of the Benz Repair Shop here remembers the building as a car wash in the 1960s. He insists it was never a bar or tavern, even though the architecture teases in that direction. Could this have been a tiki car wash? Why the funky architecture? This one is still a mystery.


Yeeeah, I knew you could do it, Sabu! I was driving around there each time I was in the neighbourhood, and could not find the street again, as if it was some kind of Tiki version of Diagon Alley.
A rewarding urban archeological find indeed. Interesting to view it's current, still Tiki-rich state, noting a few changes:

The Tikis now flanking the bridge were initially used as the MAILBOX guardians (BOT p.226, lower corner). And WHERE is the whacky tongueholding fountain Tiki in the middle of page 227?
He was on top of the outside water fountain basin to the left of the entrance, pretty hidden by foliage, but I fear so close to the street that it might have fallen victim to theft. I loved that one.
Dig the fallen jungle idol, too.

I've been driving by this place for several years now as a cut through from Pedro to Torrance and I finally had my camera with me, so I decided to stop and snap a few pictures.

Bigbro - it's interesting to see how the place has changed since you took your pictures for the BOT (when did you take yours?), but it would be nice to see how it's changed since Sabu took his 3 years ago. It looked pretty run down the first time I saw it, and it still looks really run down, so I'm assuming it's just deteriorating slowly.

The Kala Kai is nestled between a bunch of cool midcentury modern type apartment complexes that at one time may have been a nice place/area to live. Now, it's directly below the PV landfill, so I would imagine some days smell worse than others.

I had a pleasant conversation with the manager (I think she was, anyway. My spanish is not so good) and she said I could look around and take pictures of the tikis. I did wander back into the complex a little, but didn't see anything really worth photographing - most of the tiki stuff was up front by the street:

What you first see from the street as you're driving down Narbonne towards PCH:

I really dig how they did the sign - it looks almost like they took a section from a wooden boat (you can see the sleight curvature of the planks) and put the apartment name on that:

The tiki formally guarding the lava rock mailboxes now guard the bridge over a now defunct moat/stream:

If you look close you might see some tiki-tagging and little bit of tiki-snot coming out his nose:

The other guard of the bridge is being slowly consumed by the barely in control/too lush vegetation:

This poor fella has seen better days. He has the tongue, but his face is too long to be the missing tiki that was standing over the water jug in the BOT. I'm guessing he was lying down (possibly the fallen idol refernced above?) and someone decided to stand him back up again. Unfortunately, they stood him up up-side down!

One of the two tikis guarding the pool enterence. I really like the simplistic carving of these next two pictures. A simple design, but an overall awesome end result. all from what looks like a 2x6 or 2x8 plank:

No life guard on duty, but plenty of tiki guards!

The jug that once spat water and held a tiki:

The water way - it look dirty, but certainly not ratty. I bet it would still hold water if they got it up and running.

This is originally the site that caught my eye. You don't have much time to see the tikis as you drive down the hill at 35mph, but if you're looking in the right location (IE - not at the road ahead), you'll see the A frames of the front building and the nifty jumbo-sized blocks hanging from them:

The mail boxes look pretty much the same as the pictures in the BOT, except the thatch is still missing (sabu mentioned that above). the Bamboo structure still looks pretty good and felt solid too. the lava rock/bamboo and rope look compliment each other very nicely:


Nice work Polynesiac, You Rule!


Fabulous pictures, Jim.

This place is on my ever-growing big list of places I want to see. Can't wait to check it out for myself.

Thanks for the replies. You guys inspired me to post these pictures. Definitely check it out, and drive down Narbonne - there are quite a few A-framed, former tiki places there!

I hope Sabu doesn't mind, but I'll repost his original 2006 pics from the dead links above. We don't see Sabu around much anymore?

thanks for reposting those images, ZM. It's interesting how in the last three years, they've painting over all the red (roofs, side of building, red tikis, red bridge) with a dull tan. I was wondering why it got harder to notice as I drove by, now I see! they painted the building to match the colors of most of the other buildings around it!

They trimmed the plants at the front of the complex near the sign and tiki, but everything else looks pretty much the same.

[ Edited by: Polynesiac 2008-05-02 08:32 ]


Wow, the mailboxes built into the lava rock wall really looks like something you see all the time in Hawaii. They use lava rock walls for everywhere over there...You never see that here on the mainland

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