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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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My family is a close knit bunch. Especially on my maternal side. My Mom's family comes from Italy, they immigrated to the US in 1912 to the Bronx. Later, after my grandmother passed away, my Grandfather moved his family west to Long Beach/Lakewood area in the late 1940's. When my mom married my dad, they bought a house close to my grandfather. We spent every Sunday for a large family dinner (usually a 7 course meal). My grandfather was an insane cook! I loved helping him in the kitchen, he grew all his own herbs and vegetables. My job was to go outside and pick the various items he needed.

my Nana (on my Father's side), me, my Grandfather Sal, his second wife, Mary. Note the coconut bear cut-up cake he made me for my 3rd birthday

Recently, my 17 year old nephew moved in with me. He was asking me questions about his great grandfather, whom he'd never met (Grandpa Sal died in 1987 before he was born). I pulled out the old family photo albums and we took a walk down memory lane. We looked at all the photos, I answered all my nephew's questions and told him a few stories. After we went through the giant stack of photos and a couple of home movies, my nephew noted that "you must have gotten your tiki thing from Grandpa Sal." I asked him what he meant by that. He pointed out that my grandfather had his whole house, front and back, landscaped in a tropical theme.

Unfortunately, most of the landscape is on video, this photo was taken when he first started planting his front yard. He eventually added Birds of Paradise everywhere. It was an explosion of flowers up the side driveway. He also planted dichondra in lieu of grass in the front yard. He did all the work himself.

The back yard had this amazing fountain surrounded by lava rock. Hard to see in this picture as the photo is really dark. There was a banana tree just outside the kitchen door, we often ate them straight from the tree. He had a rock walkway that meandered through the herb garden and greenhouse, he had even more Birds of Paradise and Hibiscus flowers throughout the yard. Up against the back fence was an outdoor sitting area next to the brick oven, which he also constructed. (He was a plasterer and mason by trade.)

It was kind of an awakening for me, I never really knew where my Hawaiian/tiki inspiration came from, I never associated it with my grandfather until my nephew pointed it out. I wondered how he came about converting his yard into a tropical oasis. I did some sleuthing and discovered a few more facts. My grandfather was an amateur sailor. He took many boat trips; to Cuba, the Mexican Riviera and many excursions to Catalina.

I couldn't figure out where Hawaii fit in, until I ran across a box of slides, dated 1967. Apparently, my Uncle had taken my Grandfather and his family on a Hawaiian vacation. The yard transformation was started 3 months after the Hawaiian trip. These slides were not kept in the best condition, here are a few that I was able to scan.

I'm assuming they flew out of LAX. The woman in the palm hat is my Aunt Beverly, along with my two cousins.

Here are a few shots taken from the airplane

I'm not sure which island they spent their vacation on. I'm lead to believe it was Oahu based on the airplane photos. (My Grandfather, Uncle and Aunt have all since passed away, my cousins didn't even remember going to Hawaii.) The ones on land are really dark. You can barely make out what is going on, here are a couple I was able to scan.

My cousin, somewhere in the tropical garden

My Aunt and Uncle at a luau. (possibly the Royal Hawaiian? there are faint letters in the background, they appear to be flipped backwards...)

Hula instruction time!

I wish I could figure out how to hook up videos to my computer to show you the rest. These will have to do for now as I don't think I can wrap my brain around that one... My grandfather took tons of photos and hours of 8 mm movies. My Mom recently acquired them, we've been sorting through stacks and stacks of people and places we're not sure who and where. If I find any more I'll add on to this.


Thanks for sharing. This is a very interesting story, I love to find out how or why tiki came to be a passion for people. I think a lot of us got our tiki groove from our parents, or relatives. How cool for you to find your tiki "roots"




Great pics & story, stuff-o-rama ! The photo of your Aunt and Uncle might actually be at the Waikikian. The sign letters in the photo match the letters in the Waikikian sign :

There was this sign with the letters near the road level, & then there was another sign with the same letters at the front of the hotel by the driveway, which was up a little higher. Looks like they could be standing on the grounds of the hotel with one of those signs in the background.

Thanks for sharing the pics and interesting story !


I agree with Puamana! Great family photos....


stuff-o-rama ~ you got Tiki in your genes! thanks so much for sharing family photos.. you've given me the nudge to look through a box of stuff i got from my well-traveled aunt, maybe theres treasures within!

On 2006-05-01 09:26, puamana wrote:
Great pics & story, stuff-o-rama ! The photo of your Aunt and Uncle might actually be at the Waikikian. The sign letters in the photo match the letters in the Waikikian sign

You're right, thanks! I didn't realize I scanned the slide backwards until after I had posted it...

I flipped it and behold!

Thanks to everyone and their kind words!

Showing my Geekiness here: Is that Hawaiian Airline Turboprop a Bristol Britania?

Rev. Dr. Frederick J. Freelance, Ph.D., D.F.S

[ Edited by: freddiefreelance 2006-05-01 14:12 ]

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