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Waitoma Grotto - Holly, MI

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Does anyone know anything about the Waitoma Grotto in Holly, Michigan? It no longer exists, but I have a cool drinks menu, featuring "Mr Foo" and other great cocktails all in illustrated mugs.

Wow, no, never heard of it, sounds really cool by the name of it, another Tiki power point on the map of America...I wonder if one would connect all of the Tiki Lounge points on the map of America, a Tiki mask design would emerge..!


I got the menu ages ago - more to get the address off it and hunt it down - but of course it's probably been gone since the 60's.. the phone number has letters in it. I'll post a pic of the menu later...


What's on the menu? Zombie, Waikiki Cocktail, Tahitian Punch, Tropical Nite, Wahini Cocktail, Kava Bowl, Honolulu, Scorpion, Fog Cutter, Daiquiri Royal, Rum Swizzle, Navy Grog, Mahu Kona, Mister Foo, Tonight or Never, Luau Punch, Derby Daiquiri, White Orchid, Princess Opikaa, Mai Tai, Missionary Upset, Hawaiian Gardens Special, Planters Punch, Tiki Cocktail, Pinapple Bowl.

Th inclusion of the 'Hawaiian Gardens Special' on the menu makes me wonder - was the restaurant named Hawaiian Gardens, and 'Waitoma Grotto' just the name of the bar inside? Just a thought.


Aha... now that I re-read the back, the title "The Wonderful Story of Hawaiian Gardens Talking Volcano" seems to confirm this. Why didn't I notice it before? I guess I just took the cover at face value. Not a very exciting cover though! But remember -


I've got 4 postcards of the Hawaiian Gardens, showing some of the various rooms. I'll try to post photos soon. The guy who sold them to me said that they closed down the Hawaiian Gardens complex as recently as a year or two ago. China from the restaurant, (with a tiki logo), has been showing up at local swapmeets. He's going to try to get me some plates and a cup & saucer.



The saga continues! There is a mobile home park called Hawaiian Gardens just down the street from where the Waitoma Grotto Lounge was. It is nestled on the shores of beautiful Mauna Loa Lake.


This gets more and more intriguing! Now I just have to figure out where Holly is in relation to Oak Park, where I will be this weekend...

If it's not too far, could possibly make the pilgrimage, inbetween rounds of tofurky.


Aha! I have seen that China on Ebay, from dealers in the Detroit area. now it's all coming together.

It REALLY REALLY hurts to know that it just closed down, and I could have gone if I had only known about it. OUCH!

Yah yah! Now I see! The back of my Hawaiian Gardens Resort Motel Postcard showing the interior of The Polynesian Longhouse sez:

...other restaurants adjoining are the Banyan Court, Kahili Room, AND THE WAITOMA GROTTO LOUNGE!

Bingo Jane-o, together with a complete Hawaiian themed mobile home park with lake, this might be a previously neglected Pol pop power place. I bet the same family developed that housing development!

Sabu, do you have an exterior? Did they have a cool sign?

Jane, go there and find the old natives!


It's a date. I just found out that Holly is on the way to Frankenmuth, MI (home of the largest Christmas Store in the world) where we were planning to go anyway. Theyre both nort of Detroit off the I-75.


So, I've got my camera, and I'll head out there and see what we can find.

Is Frankenmuth the stepmother of Frankenstein?
Will you go and sell Tiki X-mas ornaments at the World's largest Christmas store?


I have not made any Tiki Ornaments yet this year! I have been so busy making ads with monkeys in them (the clients keep nixing any fez-centric executions though) that I have had no time as of yet. No worries, they are coming.

As for Frankenmuth, how could you NOT make a pildrimage to the worlds largest Xmas store? They have glass taco ornaments for Christ's sake!

I am very juiced about the Holly tiki community though. I hope there's something left there to see... at least the longhouse or something. An open restaurant would be too much to hope for I guess. Cross your fingers (if they arent wrapped oround a frosty Leilani at this point in time).

Ok, Here are my postcards of the HAWAIIAN GARDENS on 4501 Grange Hall Road, Holly MI.
The postcards are all dated April 6, 1962. First the exterior:

"Huki Lau Restaurant - 290 seats. Polynesian Longhouse - 110 seats. Kahili Room - 200 seats. Waitoma Cocktail Lounge - 120 seats. 40 Air-Conditioned Deluxe Motel Units. Swimming Pool. Year-Round Restaurants and Resort that Spells Friendliness, Hospitality and good times."

Here's some details of the Moaii on the roof (Which look like Barney West carvings, what with those topknots):

Here's the KAHILI ROOM inside the geodesic dome. "A beautiful dining room of 250 seats. At regularly stated times authentic Hawaiian Luaus are served. This room is available for private parties or for group meetings."

And THE BANYAN COURT: "Enchantment! A delightful setting compounded of many bewitching island details. The beauties, wonders and easy atmosphere of the Banyan Court insure added pleasure to your Polynesian or American food. All amid the perfume and color of tropical trees and foliage, the haunting melodies of island music, lanterns, and carpeting the color of grass-in-the-sun. The Tahitian Room, Samoan Room, and Hawaiian Room are all available for private parties. 250 seats."

And finally, THE POLYNESIAN LONGHOUSE: "Here each item of food is an idividual creation cooked especially for you. The dishes are varied and utilize the best efforts of our experienced native chefs, using their original recipes. Choice and rare ingredients make the finest in Polynesian and Cantonese cuisine. Various dishes of chicken, pork, beef, lobster and shrimp, with Chines vegetables, rare spices from the East provide new taste treats. 110 seats. Other restaurants adjoining are the Banyan Court, Kahili Room, and the Waitoma Grotto Lounge."

It's always fun to play "spot-the-tiki" in these old postcards. Here's a couple of closeups from the image above. I think I see a couple more tikis in the doorway at the rear, but they're just a little too blurry to show.

I also dug-up my old e-mail from the man who sold me these postcards. I had mis-remembered slightly. In August of this year he said that he had just heard that the property had been sold at auction. So possibly it hasn't been razed yet. He also said that after the tiki restaurant, it was used as a rehab center, but for the past several years it had lain abandoned. Because of the stint as a rehab center I don't hold great hopes for you finding old tikis there, but who knows? Maybe some of those roof-moai survived.


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2002-11-28 13:15 ]

[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2004-12-03 17:48 ]

Wow, that looks so bad it's good, especially the exterior. I bet they built the geodesic dome inspired by Henry Kaiser's Hawaiian Village venue.

Tikifish, if you find it, take photos even if there are only REMNANTS, in retrospect Iregret not having done that enough, it is important and telling urban archeology.

Hey, Hanford, the type and boxsize of my posting page changed, I don't like it, can one change that?


Yep, I found it, and I documented it! I wanted to be first with the scoop that it was a delapidated rehab centre - makes for good ironic copy - but I'll just have to settle for being the first on board with the amazing 'after' photos.

Coming soon... gimme a few minutes to download and all that....


Welcome to Holly Gardens Rehab Centre, formerly Hawaiian Gardens! Tai'd on one too many Mai Tai's? Experiencing Rumaki Remorse? You've come to the right place!

Looks like the scavengers got here first - parts of the facade where one would expect a tiki to be seemed to have been ripped right off.

Come in and stay a while in our luxury motel! We have all the amenities - plywood windows, natural 'frost-ee' air conditioning, and more!

The Grande Room features it's own eames-esque orange ashtray, and a view of the 'sno-kapped' geodesic dome!

Mind you, if you want to stay, you have to follow a few simple rules...

From our luxury jet age styled waiting room, you can see out across beautiful lake Mauna Loa! (not pictured).

All jocularity aside - this is the photo that makes you wanna cry - you can tell by looking at this one just how SCHVANK this joint must have been in it's heyday.

Thanks to Sabu and BigBro for the Additional info, and thanks to my husband's grandparents for driving me there to make this moment of urban archaeology possible.

A bientot,

The intrepid tikifish


Oh yeah - it is for sale, if any of you are interested!

The lake it lies on really is called 'lake mauna loa' though it is more of an overgrown pond... and just down the stret is the hawaiian gardens trailer park! (the sign has unfortunately been 'updated' so I didnt bother with a picture).

Thanks for doing all that legwork, Tikifish! It's fascinating to see pictures of what's left. It looks like they kept that A-frame entrance but gave it a faux-Danish makeover at one time. I bet the removed the Moais at that time. And I was wondering about that "Lake" that you could see through one of the restaurant windows in the postcard. Thanks for clearing up the mystery.

I'm still surprised that there's not a lot more anecdotal information on such a large restaurant complex like that.



Wow, gosh...truly informative and entertaining. Thanks to tikifish, Sabu, bigbro...and all the little people that made this topic possible.

This shoulda been a PBS special. "The Rise and Fall of..."

Excellent reading!


I feel privileged to have witnessed this entire project unfold...amazing research and archaeological work! Wow!! From menu to documentation to photographed remains in only a short amount of time...excellent job to all those involved!!


Reever posted on Thu, Dec 5, 2002 5:28 PM

MAN! I was just thrilled to be having a drink in Tiki style with my wife, sister-in-law and brother-in-law in the lovely Chin's (http://www.tikifish.com/chins.html) on the way to the airport, thankful to Fishy for the great tip...

and now I discover she just stashed me away so that she could be the first to make new Michigan Tiki finds????

Just, kiddin, kid. Thanks so much for a great time at Chin's. I'll post my pics soon. Pretty soon, you'll have a great string of Tiki reststops for those of us who have to visit friends and family in Michigan over the holidays!

By the way, she's right about Frankenmuth. That entire town is one entire themepark, part North Pole, part Disney-style Bavaria. It's a hoot. Check it out.

An amazing story. Well done to all involved!
I'd like to think that with the current atmosphere, these sad tales will become the rarity rather than the norm. Fingers crossed.

I can't help but think though that any Tiki Centralite with a rum problem might find that this isn't the best place to cure their addiction.

Trader Woody


Im amazed. I thought it was cool when the Fish found that obscure Tiki bar with the mexitiki flavor, but, this lost paradise is so Zazz. I imagine TikiFish trudging thru the frozen North in her Eskimo gear looking for her own "Lost Horizon". Only to find the tropical shangrila had turned into a shaby rehab(irony). Great assist from Sabu, great graphics. One of my favorite posts of all time.


Alnshely, that pretty much describes my life in my spare time ha ha!

If I'm not hunting the elusive northern tiki bar in my parka, Im taking photos of the streetmattresses hoping my camera doesnt freeze to my face.

When I was taking pics of Hawaiian Gardens, I turned around and lo and behold, a stack of 20 mattresses was by the shed out back. 2 hobbies, one stone. It was a great day for the tikifish.



Wow... thanks for the bump... great tale from start to finish and great work by all researchers!

I may have to see if anything remains as the wife and I will be out to the Christmas party at Chin's on December 4th...

Ideed, a shining example of urban archeology!
Amazing how close you were in time, a little earlier, and Jane might have stumbled into the auction of the remains...

Sabu and Jane, will you allow me to publish this? I always felt I did not have enough before-and-after pics in the BOT, I should put this at the end of my Polynesian Pop recap chapter in the Witco book.


Sure - I think those are the actual size of the shots though, so not very good resolution for publishing. 640 x 480 I think?

No prob, Bigbro.

I can get you higher-resolution scans of the original postcards if you like, PLUS, I've since acquired a new postcard from this place, PLUS, I've got the dinner plate with the maori-style he-tiki on the rim


I may be able to dig out a photo from its German-themed motel days. Mid 90's if I'm thinking of the right place.


Do you remember how close that place is to Mt. Holly? I ski there at least once a year and might drop by for a bit. Might be a hoot.


Just caught up with this thread.

Great work Jane.

Made me nostalgic for my own 1990's obsessive research missions.

Sabu - your pics vanished... Jane's show up OK...?


I dont really know the area, all I know was it was inbetween Detroit and Frankenmuth!

It is Holly, Michigan, I suppose you can look it up on Mapquest.

On 2004-11-25 19:35, FreakBear wrote:
I may be able to dig out a photo from its German-themed motel days. Mid 90's if I'm thinking of the right place.

That, of course, would make it an even more splendid example of Tiki devolution:

From Polynesian Paradise to German style Motel to rehab center... like a ghost town after the goldrush.

Any luck with finding pics, FB?


Locating the pic was amung my first thoughts this morning but somehow got lost on the way to the coffee maker. I know exactly what album it's in and possibly where it is. I'll try to get it scanned in and posted soon!

I've just fixed the links to my old postcard photos on page 1. Check em out if you haven't seen them before. I'm a little embarassed because my new camera can do so much better, so I may replace them at some time with better photos.

Also, now that I've learned a little more about the famous carvers since I first posted, I'm going to make a guess that the Roof-Moai on the first postcard are Barney West creations. They've got that signature Top-Knot. Here's a picture of his Moai at the Washington DC Trader Vic's for reference:

[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2004-12-03 18:23 ]

I looked again, but I am not sure...the color and style is alike, but the size? And that all are the same size is odd, Barney carved individual pieces, these look all alike...and how would they have made it there? If there would be ONE MORE Barney West style Tiki in the interiors, it would confirm it.

But talking about white giants, that's my 1960 Buick LeSabre parked to left of the A-frame entrance! I must have been there and forgotten about it!

Bigbro - They could very well be cheaply-done reproductions by another carver. Here's a photo that Bongofury posted of the Tiki Kai in New Mexico. It has a similar Moai:


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2004-12-03 19:37 ]

Aaaah...of corrrse, the Tiki Kai (in Sponge Bob Crusty Crab intro voice)! What a fine establishment! Innocently introduced in Tiki News #12 through the bio of musician Freddy Baker, we find out later that this joint jumped to a DIFFERENT tune:


The Moai with babe on the opening page is definitely a Barney West, so is the New Guinea Bird Man Tiki...and look at the roadside sign statue in your other link (the Trader Vic logo Abelam figure) and compare it to the one on page 246 in the BOT...

..but all of this shall be revealed (including Swanky's revealing finds) in my Vitco book!

What a great thread! Congratulations Tikifish on a grand archeological expedition. I always wanted to check to see if that place existed ever since I obtained a brochure and menu from there years ago. I recently sent Sabu a scan of the front of the brochure as well as the inside showing various pictures. Hopefully he can post this here for me as I am computer illiterate as they get. If you want these pictures Bigbro just let me know and I will send them over to you as well. God, I love this group!


Here you go:

All I can say is WOW! I'm green with envy over that brochure. The artist rendering is wonderful. So that's A CANOE over the entrance way, and not some oriental design. That has to be one of the largest model outriggers I've seen. I wonder if it had those Marquesan tikis paddling it like the smaller versions we've seen.

Thanks for sending me those scans, Jeff. This is becoming one of the most comprehensive posts about an old Tiki location that I've ever seen. I'll try to post pics of the dinner plate soon.

Bigbro - check out the drawing of the moai on the left-hand margin of the brochure. It looks even more like a Barney West to me now. What do you think?


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2004-12-05 02:09 ]

Thanks alot for posting the pics Sabu. They look great!!

WOW! That's it, this place desrves to go down in history in MY book (literally). Yes Jeff, please send! I love the entrance rendering, but most of all, I love the text! Classic Polynesian Pop poetry!


Awesome brochure ! There's so many great images on this post... photos, postcards, menus, etc. I know I have a placemat from the Hawaiian Gardens, will post a photo soon.


On 2004-11-25 19:35, FreakBear wrote:
I may be able to dig out a photo from its German-themed motel days. Mid 90's if I'm thinking of the right place.

I located the photo and it is not this location. There isn't even an "A" frame. Possibly first-generation "Bavarian Kitch". Sorry folks!

God, forgive me neither for what I know nor do but for not knowing what I did the night before!


[ Edited by: FreakBear on 2004-12-06 18:50 ]

Just found this auction for a 1920s topo map of Holly, Michigan on Ebay.


It seems Mauna Loa lake existed back in 1920! So they probably chose the theme of the restaurant based on the topography and not the other way round. Very interesting!


This calls for further investigation. There are old place names in the U.S. like Owahee that stem from early American connection with Hawaiian culture. I wonder if there is a library in town...

On 2004-12-08 18:45, bigbrotiki wrote:
This calls for further investigation. There are old place names in the U.S. like Owahee that stem from early American connection with Hawaiian culture. I wonder if there is a library in town...

Holly Township Library
1116 North Saginaw Street.
Holly, MI 48442
Phone: (248) 634-1754
Fax: (248) 634-8088
Serving the community for 125 years.

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