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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

Pages: 1 46 replies

Name:Samoa
Type:restaurant
Street:A1A (100 Feet South of Cocoa Causeway)
City:Cocoa Beach
State:FL
Zip:
country:USA
Phone:SUnset 3-2540
Status:defunct

Description:
Samoa Restaurant in Cocoa Beach, Floriday. Also a location in Vero Beach.

Here are pictures from the postcard. I had posted this in the Collecting Tiki forum and got a lot of interest, so I thought I would put it here as well to see if anybody has information on this (thanks Swanky).

Forgot to put the entire postcard in, here it is. Hope to hear more about this place.

Here is a matchbook from the Samoa in Cocoa Beach.
A bit different in style from the menu seen on the table in the postcard.

On 2008-05-08 08:44, McTiki wrote:
I believe that the Samoa (Cocoa Beach) is now the Wakulla Suites. It is literally ~100 ft South of SR 520.

Thanks for the information McTiki. It looks like they added the hotel building next to the old restaurant building. Is there still a restaurant there?

T

Man. that looked like a cool place.

I think that it is the current Wakulla as well. The Wakulla is about 7 blocks south of SR520, close to a mile south. Still a very cool place. The little restaurant on the right as you look at the picture has some really bitching propane torches that they spark up at night. The inner courtyard is cheek-to-jowl with tropical plants and concrete tikis that are pictured above.

A menu from the Samoa has surfaced! Its not the same one that is shown on the table in the postcard however, so at least one more style exists out there somewhere.

The cover

The food

The menu does have same graphic shown on the menu in the postcard and on the front entrance of the building.

Last but not least the drinks.

Love to see new stuff show up out there.

DC

The Samoa used to be where Ron Jon's now stands. I used to go there with my parents in the 60s. Wakulla Motel (before it was suites) was where it is today, but was a plain two story motel. It was there when the Samoa was open.

J

I grabbed wooden Tiki carving off of Craigslist this past weekend. The lady said she got it from the Samoa in Cocoa Beach back in 1967.

Its 3 feet and change and looks exactly like the one on the matchbook (right side) and menu that Dusty posted.

JackLord,

That's fantastic, please post a photo of the Samoa Tiki.

DC

1

What a cool looking place.I have not heard much about this place in the past .

J

On 2010-04-05 12:30, Dustycajun wrote:
JackLord,

That's fantastic, please post a photo of the Samoa Tiki.

DC

In time, Dusty. I am the lone holdout when it comes to digital cams. The wife has one but the manual has disapeared and I am useless without instructions.

T

Here's a vintage street photo from the Mosquito Beaters website (http://www.mosquitobeaters.org) showing the Samoa's sign...

And one person's memories of another era that included the Samoa (from http://www.angelfire.com/fl/boardheads2/trivia6.html)...

Cocoa Beach

My family moved to Cocoa Beach in 1958, A1A was a two lane dirt road and Ron Jon's was located next to the Samoa lounge.

Graduated from Cocoa Beach High school in 1972, played football, basketball, wrestled and threw the shot put. I was the first state record in the school history in track and field. But that's not what I proud of, I'm proud of the fact as to where I was raised.

I tell people of the stories of Cocoa Beach and they just say, "sure". Nobody knew that Hulk Hogan worked at the Anchor club, with Don "The Dragon" Wilson and myself. People don't understand that you didn't have to lock your house when you went to work or school. Our police force would correct your behavior, not arrest you.

  • Ricky A. McIntosh - 5/17/07

The Samoa specialized in unique island entertainment...

Florida Today September 17, 1968

It ensured tiki played a memorial role in early Space Coast history, as told by TC's own TornadoTiki in the following article...

Florida Today July 1, 2009















-Tom


***Original post edited to include missing byline credit for "US space history began in Brevard" article

[ Edited by: TikiTomD 2011-06-06 14:32 ]

You forgot to include the by-line for that last news story. It was written by TornadoTiki. Here's the link to the original article online:

http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20090701/BREAKINGNEWS/90701002/U-S-space-history-began-Brevard

And here's her great video about the Apollo 11 launch "Moonstruck on the Space Coast":

http://www.floridatoday.com/VideoNetwork/61863938001/30-MINUTE-SPECIAL-Moonstruck-on-the-Space-Coast

T

My heartfelt apologies to Chris (TornadoTiki) for cropping off her byline and, equally unforgivable, for failing to recognize that she wrote the article. It was superbly done and really captured not only the facts but the feel of the Space Coast from those early years. I know, as I've been in the rocket business more than 30 years myself, and lived part of my youth here. She truly nailed it.

-Tom

You may have to buy her a tropical beverage to make up for it!!!

T

Looks like several :drink: additions to my Mai-Kai tab will be in order... :)

T

DC, I came across a postcard for the Samoa that appears identical on the front to the one you posted, but with no mention of a Vero Beach location on the back...

For comparison, here's the back of your postcard...

My research suggests that the "Mr. Guy" who handled phone reservations was Guy Hevia, the owner of the Samoa.

What's really interesting is the address for the Vero Beach Samoa location: 10 Royal Palm Blvd was also the same address as The Little Hut in another TC thread of yours...

http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=33155&forum=2&vpost=469787&hilite=10

So, what came first... The Little Hut? Probably, as its postcard was postmarked April 11, 1960, and the Samoa began operation circa early 1960s. So it would seem that the Samoa just took over an existing Tiki restaurant. When I checked the Indian River County Property Appraiser's web site, the online sales records didn't go back very far, but they did state that the building was constructed in 1934.

-Tom

Tiki Tom D. Nice detective work on the second address, interesting to see the Samoa took over the Little Hut. That is some "Hermit Crabbing" as Bora Boris likes to say. The Don the Beachcomber chain did that extensively in the early 1970s.

Also missed this post of yours previously, great photo of the street sign. Wonder what that looked like lit up at night?

DC

T

DC, I'll keep looking for more Samoa photos among the local historical society's collection.

The Samoa’s entertainment was true to its Poly pop origins up until the fall of 1967, when, according to this article, “the club burned its grass hula skirts... and went topless a-go-go”...

Florida Today January 5, 1968

Before the change, Samoa floor shows included such entertainers as Samoan Chief Falatugatuga John Alailima fire eating and doing the “Nifo Oti” or dance of the Dangerous Knife as part of his South Pacific Polynesian Revue that also included Hawaiian and Tahitian dancers...

Florida Today September 15, 1972

As part of the entertainment format change, the Samoa built what later became known as their “Sexatronic Runway,” but in this Florida Today ad, it was referred to as the “only Electric Burlesque Runway in Central Florida”...

January 17, 1968

Here are a couple of Florida Today newspaper photos that are representative of the devolved entertainment format at the Samoa...

March 8, 1968

April 30, 1969

A lament on the state of Space Coast entertainment options at the time...

Florida Today May 9, 1968

Here were the qualifications for being a go-go girl at the Samoa (Eddie Mode was the Samoa manager at that time, along with Guy Hevia, the owner)...

Florida Today April 27, 1968

Apparently the local demand for go-go girls was high, as the stated qualifications seem to diminish with time...

Florida Today June 4, 1968

When there had been a launch, those steely-eyed rocket men, who represented a considerable proportion of the Samoa’s clientele, couldn’t let go of work, to the consternation of the entertainers…

Florida Today January 24, 1968


The show at the Samoa occasionally wandered from the exotic to the bizarre in an effort to keep the business going. Submitted in evidence is “Serpentina”...

Florida Today June 14, 1968

Here’s a Serpentina ad...

Florida Today June 14, 1968

Note in the ad that the Samoa is also heralding the return of “our famous Chinese Chef Sammy Gong and his Polynesian cuisine.”

Continually trying to find the sweet spot, the Samoa once again tweaked its entertainment format (there’s a typo in the article: Guy “Herin” is actually “Hevia”)...

Florida Today April 25, 1968



Shows were always revolving among the other area clubs...

Florida Today July 11, 1968


Florida Today August 3, 1968

The Space Coast business climate was tough in 1968, but far worse days lay ahead in the early 1970s. The Apollo 1 tragedy on the Pad had occurred in January of the year before. Uncrewed Apollo test flights resumed in November 1967 and finished in April 1968. The first crewed Apollo launch (Apollo 7) was in October 1968, followed by that dramatic first lunar orbiting mission of Apollo 8 on Christmas of 1968...

Florida Today November 12, 1968




Next, the Samoa and the sports scene beyond a-go-go...

-Tom

T

Eddie Mode, Samoa manager (not owner as the article states), sponsored a winning Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team under the "Samoa Lounge of Cocoa Beach" banner, starting in the 1967-68 season...

Florida Today January 28, 1968






The Samoa team went on to win the state and regional tournaments, as well as the first round of the National AAU Basketball Tournament. I recall reading that they fell to another contender later in the tournament, but consider that a Tiki-sponsored basketball team came oh-so-close to being the national champions in 1969...

Florida Today March 26, 1969

Next, management and more format changes ahead at the Samoa...

-Tom

We’ll never independently be able to judge just how good “The Amazon Tigress” was, but according to Eddie Mode, manager of the Samoa, “she’s one of the best we’ve ever had!”

Florida Today August 28, 1969

Eddie Mode worked with other area night clubs to keep his entertainers and even his colleagues (competitors) afloat...

Florida Today September 24, 1968

The Samoa owner, Guy Hevia, and his colleagues from other area night clubs bid adieu to Eddie Mode and his wife in what was undoubtedly both an emotional and a raucous send-off...

Florida Today October 7, 1969


Guy Hevia, Samoa owner and manager (after Eddie Mode’s departure), decided that it was again time to make some changes at the Samoa to differentiate his place from the competition. So, he tore down the “Sexatronic Runway” and constructed the largest dance floor in Cocoa Beach, replacing topless a-go-go dancers with entertainers such as Tiare, who performed Hawaiian and Tahitian numbers...

Florida Today January 31, 1970




Business was slow at all the Cocoa Beach area night clubs in April of 1970, exacerbated by the ongoing and riveting suspense of Apollo 13. Apparently, the Samoa had not yet totally discontinued their topless acts, as this article indicates...

Florida Today April 21, 1970





Next, an article re-confirming that the Samoa really was giving up its topless act...

Florida Today May 9, 1970

Next, the Samoa fades, but not before experiencing a brief nova stage...

-Tom

T

In the summer of 1970, the Samoa was sold to an energetic veteran of the Space Coast nightclub scene, Johnny Esposito. He renamed the Samoa to Johnny’s and operated it as owner-manager...

Florida Today August 20, 1970


Johnny’s featured quite an array of entertainment and was unique in hosting the first female topless pool shooter at Cocoa Beach. This article also states that Johnny Esposito brought Louis Armstrong and Tiny Tim to the Space Coast...

Florida Today April 15, 1971








By 1972, Johnny Esposito had evidently moved on, as Johnny’s disappeared from the weekly entertainment guide.

In early 1973, this tax delinquency notice appeared...

Florida Today April 24, 1973

All subsequent articles referenced the Samoa in past tense. Here’s a retrospective on the way things were...

Florida Today December 6, 1972






Though it was the 1970s and Tiki devolution was clearly well advanced along the Space Coast, Poly pop still had its allure, as evidenced by this 1974 Florida Today ad for a Titusville mall sales celebration that included a Polynesian Revue and a Wayne Coombs’ Tiki carving exhibition...

July 12, 1974

Johnny Esposito passed away in April of this year at age 79. After leaving the Space Coast to return to Atlanta, he started Johnny’s Hideaway in 1979, a successor to his popular Cocoa Beach nightclub of the same name. Over thirty years later it evidently remains an Atlanta icon. Here are several memorial articles by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution...

http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/johnnys-hideaway-founder-dies-899810.html

http://www.ajc.com/news/john-esposito-sr-79-905152.html?cxtype=rss_news_81960

Johnny Esposito

-Tom

T

So, where was the Samoa located? Several of the earlier posts had suggested the site of the present day Wakulla Suites at 3550 N Atlantic Ave, a place that has a definite Tiki look to it from the street. However, all of the postcards, ads, et cetera gave the location of the Samoa as “100 feet south of the 520 [or Cocoa] Causeway on A1A.” The Wakulla is over 2000 feet (about a half mile) south of the SR 520 Causeway on A1A (N Atlantic Ave), so that’s a bit too far even allowing for some exaggeration or rounding off of the distance.

Wakulla Suites

Another post asserted that the Samoa was where the Ron Jon Surf Shop is currently located, at 4151 N Atlantic Ave. I support this as being correct based on the information that follows, although the online Brevard County Property Appraiser’s real estate records don’t go back far enough to explicitly prove this.

Ron Jon Surf Shop of Cocoa Beach

If we use dead reckoning on a copy of the 1949 Cocoa Ocean Beach subdivision plat (still in effect for this part of Cocoa Beach), literally applying the “100 feet south of SR 520 Causeway” address, here’s what you come up with...



The Brevard County property records indicate that the original building on this site dates from 1956 and is currently owned by Ron Jon Surf Shop of Florida Inc. Though at first this location seems a viable possibility, further research shows it to be unlikely. The original building on this site has been extensively remodeled and is currently the home of the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum, using space donated by Ron Jon’s, and it also hosts the Ron Jon Water Sports store, just north of the main Ron Jon store...

Cocoa Beach Surf Museum in Ron Jon Water Sports Store

If one examines the 1960’s street photo of A1A with the Samoa sign posted earlier in this thread, you can see that between the Samoa and the Crossway Inn, there is another motel (hard to read, but the name looks like “Executive Motel”), with a street sign and presumably a street separating the two...

As the Crossway Inn location appears in the online Brevard County official records, it can be used as a reference point...

I also ran across this Florida Today ad for an auto garage at 136 Marion Lane that stated it was located behind the Samoa Lounge. A quick check of the online records database sited the auto garage at Lot 14, Block 15, marked on the plat excerpt above, supporting the photo-inferred Samoa location.

September 22, 1968

Finally, after looking at more than a hundred newspaper citations on the Samoa, I ran across the only item that I’ve ever seen with an explicit Samoa street address, 4145 N Atlantic Ave, in this Florida Today ad...

April 30, 1968

That address would locate the Samoa in the southern block of lots now encompassed by the Ron Jon Surf Shop main store. That’s more than 400 feet south of the 520 Causeway, so distance estimating evidently was not a strength for the folks at the Samoa.

Then I came across this 1985 article that confirms that the old Samoa site is now the location of Ron Jon’s...

Florida Today February 28, 1985



That concludes what I’ve been able to find thus far. While quite a bit of archival news material was unearthed on the Samoa from the late 1960s until its sunset in the early 1970s, the beginnings and early history remain a bit of a mystery. So here’s an opportunity for others to join in and complete the story...

-Tom

Awesome work, as usual!!! It was good to see old Milt's ugly mugshot again!

I would really, really like to know what the deal was with the "topless female pool shooter". Did you pay to play against her? Did she play solo and everybody else just watched? What? What? Inquiring minds want to know!!!

F

Wow this thread was a great read.

Thanks for all your hard work digging up that ancient info!

Yes, if you take the time (a fraction of the time that Tom spent researching this) to really view each clipping, this is indeed a good read. The history of the Space Coast lounge scene - all those names and live acts, amazing! Reminds me a little of that great Aku Aku Toledo, Ohio thread...

Picked up this matchbook from the Samoa for a better scan. Thought it would be good to bump this great research thread.

DC

Dusty the paper god

Found this interesting video from old Cocoa Beach. If you look at around the :30 mark, you'll see the sign for the Samoa on the right. Judging by the overhead street signs just after you pass it, the Samoa must be located just a bit south of the 520/A1A intersection. Maybe TikiTomD can do some time/speed/distance calculations to place the Samoa more accurately!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xyINKiPjss

T

Really nice find, George! There are discontinuities in the video clip that make it a bit difficult as a precision navigational tool, but it sure shows the locale, and that's cool background music. I believe the reference points from the Crossway Inn and West Garage on Marion Lane, when coupled with the official Brevard County property records, bound the location pretty tightly, as shown earlier in this thread, to multiple lots a bit over 400 feet south of the 520 Causeway. This video certainly evokes the glory days of the early space age!

-Tom

T

Serendipity strikes again... while exchanging information with Nani Maka about the Yankee Clipper Polynesian Room in Fort Lauderdale, I found that she had once performed in a series of club dates at the Samoa in Cocoa Beach. Here are the September 15, 1962 cover and an inside ad for the Samoa in Cocoa Beach's Orbit Publications entertainment guide featuring Nani Maka, star of the Yankee Clipper Polynesian Room, Bunny Yeager model and leading lady in the movie, Pagan Island...

-Tom

One of the reasons I was sorry to miss this year's Hukilau!

T

We sure missed you at Hukilau this year, Sven! But yours was a higher mission... wished I could have spared the time off from the rocket ranch for a trip to Paris!

I've rotated, clipped, enlarged and applied some correction for fading to the Samoa ad montage on the cover of the Orbits Publications entertainment guide above. It's still poor quality imagery as it's degraded newsprint, but it does provide a glimpse of the Samoa's interior arrangement...

The 1960s were heady times in Cocoa Beach and the surrounding Florida Space Coast. Here are a couple of Facebook posts about the Samoa from my timeline...

From Nani Maka: "Loved the Samoa, in between shows Mareva & I would sneak down a few doors & listen to Gene Krupa & his group entertaining at .....hmm... The Alibi?? Not sure of the name of the club."

From Nauga Hydaway: "I was lucky enough to spend my wonder years living on the space coast. These images are the reason why I love poly pop so much today. It was part of growing up. Between this and the birth of space travel it was an amazing time in an amazing place. Chances are my parents saw Nani Maka perform at the Samoa!"

-Tom

Tom, those are interesting photos. It was great that we got to meet Nani Maka at this year's Hukilau. Thanks for posting those.

Also, I don't remember seeing an accordion in Poly pop entertainment before.

T

Good observation, AceExplorer, on the presence of an accordion! They were sure ready if Nani decided to perform a polka :wink:

Actually, there is some precedence for the use of an accordion in playing Hawaiian music. Wouldn't say it is commonplace, and I can't cite any specific examples from memory, but I've run across it in the past.

-Tom

Great photos Tom, thanks for cleaning them up and posting. Always nice to see the inside of these places.

Another menu type seen on ebay.

The cover.

The Tiki drinks.

The food.

Some nice little graphics.

Love the Friday Hukilau fish feast!

DC

[ Edited by: Dustycajun 2014-11-13 10:00 ]

Love that abstract logo Tiki of the Samoa. I tried to make up what the small type next to the Tiki rendering on the inside says, but it fell apart in blow up. Did we-know-who get it?

Tom, I had missed your interior blow ups, I dig the term Tahitian "Devilment". Love those old-fashioned words, it also means "frolicsomeness","roguery","waggishness","rascality" and in general: monkey business! :D

T

DC, the menu you just posted seems to be from a later time than the one on page 1 of this thread, as the left border of the cocktail listing makes reference to a Vero Beach location that we've seen on some of the postcards. Nice work!

The Samoa was the greatest of the Space Coast's Tiki temples, in my view, and its popularity, then eventual devolution and fall from grace seems to closely mirror so many of Poly Pop's glorious islands of paradise...

-Tom

Back in 1961 at the Samoa it was the Tiki Sisters doing the Missileman Hula.

And next up Maile from the direct from the Worlds Fair sow.

Last up the house band, the Island Coconuts..

DC

The TIKI SISTERS! Polynesian pop's answer to the Andrew Sisters, I presume. Why have we not heard of them before!

Found this ad from 1963 that gives us a little background on the owner Mr. Guy and another photo of Nani Maka.

Also spotted found a photo of a couple of rocket scientists with their wives in front of the Samoa sign.

Love the phrase Missleland!

DC

S

"Missile folk" in their "missile environment" in "Missileland" could escape to Samoa. Awesome!

That part of Cocoa Beach is now wall-to-wall hotels and tourist traps!

Newsflash......

The Samoa, like so many thatched roofed establishments before her, suffered damages from a fire in 1960.


DC

T

Most excellent sleuthing, DC, on this and the prior post telling Mr. Guy's story!

I wonder if the Samoa hired members of the Seminole Tribe for thatching their roof, as was done at the Mai-Kai?

-Tom

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