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Wonder Lodge, Bakersfield, CA (motel)

Pages: 1 29 replies

Name:Wonder Lodge
Street:333 Union Ave (Hwy 99)

Here is an interesting one. I just got this matchbook from the Wonder Lodge in Bakersfield. It features a nice pair of Tiki torches, but not much else.

The sister motel was the Vandenberg Inn in Santa Maria, I have actually stayed there - no Tiki.

The place had a lounge and restaurant.

In doing some research, I came across this great old photo of the Wonder Lodge on the Kern County Museum website.

Look at that A-frame will ya! There had to be some Tiki in there. That's right, I said it "Tiki in Bakersfield".

I remember seeing a full blown Tiki mug drink menu for this place years ago on ebay. Would be nice to find out a little more history on this place from our Bakersfield TC field agents. Maybe a trip to the library for some phone book research to turn up a rendering.


Whoaaa! Nice! ....Those out of focus details are taunting me.

GROG posted on Thu, Sep 9, 2010 4:29 PM


Sven, I hear ya, would be great to see a better image.

Grog, thanks for trying to enhance the photo.

Here is the link to the Kern County Museum website where you can see the original photo. I emailed the museum a few days ago to see if they could send me a better scan or image and they said sure, for $145 they would be happy to send me a copy of the photo!


Maybe some of the computer nerds out there (you know who you are) can do something with the photo of the website.



I too went cross eyed looking at that photo. Good find DC. Not to derail your topic but I was looking a Google Earth at the location and nothing is there now but a grocery store. Something caught my eye though. Just down the street at 200 Union Ave. is the Royale Palms Motel. Sure looks like the architecture has all the right hallmarks of a Polynesian themed motel. A frame gables with outrigger beams, lava rock facade. A big complex with attached restaurant. Here are some pics. Again sorry for the derail.

That DOES look interesting. The Bar entrance, signs and pillars still look original. Who do we have in or near Bakersfield?

Here is an overhead view from 1994. The Wonder Lodge circled in red and the Royale Palms in blue.

"Anyone who has ever seen them is thereafter haunted as if by a feverish dream" Karl Woermann

[ Edited by: uncle trav 2010-09-10 12:31 ]

At some point the Wonder Lodge went through some changes.

In 2001 a fictitious name statement was filed to do business as the Kozee Inn.

In 2004 it was finally demolished and in 2005 turned into a stupid strip mall called Little Siagon Plaza Shopping Center.

Ahh. My favorite type of undiscovered tiki joint - the ones that didn't have a Polynesian-sounding name. And you've found another, DC! The Wonder Lodge looks fantastic - and so does that Royale Palms down the street. Can't believe a facade like that has survived all these years. Someone definitely needs to do some reconnaissance work there

On 2010-09-12 12:24, abstractiki wrote:
In 2004 it was finally demolished and in 2005 turned into a stupid strip mall called Little Siagon Plaza Shopping Center.

But hey, they have a Boba Bubble Tea place there! I am working on my "Book of Boba" right now, exploring all the Boba strip mall joints that came and went during the craze! :D

Man, I wonder if that A frame was up all the way thru 2004! There's gotta be other photos out there! Why is it so frickin' expensive to have a print made at that museum? Grumble. Judging by the aerial shot, the place had a cool lay out.

Thanks for all of the replies, I have been out sick for a while, so just getting back to this post. Trav, great find on the place across the street, looks like a little strip of Polynesian Paradise sprung up on the 99.

Did a little more research on the Wonder Lodge and found out a few more factoids. It definitely had a Polynesian themed restaurant, possibly called the Kon Tiki. Some info from a Bakersfield Blog:

My husband and I spent our wedding night at the Wonderlodge on Union Avenue, writes Linda Karber. It was connected to the restaurant that later became the Black Angus. It is hard to believe now; but back in the '60s it was a very nice place! The restaurant had a Polynesian decor with high-backed rattan chairs. We had many nice dinners in that restaurant.

(1) The building was constructed by George King, a builder name that sounds familiar to me.

(2) The original incarnation was the Wonderlodge. Several folks confirmed that name, including a guy who washed dishes there in '65-'66.

(3) A lady contributed the name Chaparral followed by the Kon-Tiki. I recalled it having a Polynesian motif in the '70s; that would lend credence to Kon-Tiki.

Also found out that it was owned and operated at one time by the actor/singer Jimmy Bays - this is from an obit.

Jimmy Bays
June 4, 1927 - June 15, 2005

He brought to Bakersfield the first discotheque, The Yum Yum Room with an opening band, The Doors. He also owned and operated The Telephone night club, as well as, The Wonder Lodge.

For as long as this place seemed to be around there has to be more info and photos out there.


I was able to dig up some more info on the Wonder Lodge. The reason for the odd name was that it was part of a chain of three "Wonder Lodges". It just happened that this one was built with a Polynesian theme. They just kept the Wonder Lodge name to be consistent.

The Wonder Lodge opened June 24, 1961. The newspaper story below has some of the most detailed descriptions of the interior of a Polynesian restaurant that I have ever read:

"The South Sea Islands, which began influencing residential and commercial construction design in Bakersfield several years ago, inspire the most complete and expansive local treatment In the swank new Wonder Lodge now open at 333 Union Ave.

Bakersfield, cradle of the motel idea which gained national momentum years ago, will fully appreciate this hospitable "island" set down in its midst for the accommodation of the motoring public as well as local use.

Some 600 civic and social leaders Invited to an "open house" cocktail party Friday night will find a South Sea Island facsimile in atmosphere from its pier-like motor court topped with gas-lighted torchieres, to its lagoonlike swimming pool of sparkling , blue, rimmed with a sunset backdrop of full-grown dracena palms-Colors of coral, aqua, sandalwood, papaya yellow and sand predominate In the room-balcony flaggings overlooking the pool. The same colors are used extensively indoors, reinforced with all the drama of native life appurtenances from canoes to birdcages.

Enchanted Isle
Architect-designer Lee Linton envisaged the more than million dollar establishment as an enchanted isle which indeed It will seem to motorists dropping in off 99 Freeway. The architect has used cement block to suggest island cragginess, and he has surrounded the office, lobby and 24-hour coffee shop with its own lagoon to be populated with tropical fish.

One of the innovations at the new motel is a "drive-in" registration counter which relieves guests of the necessity of a wait in the lobby for room assignment.

A Trader Horn type of gift shop is found near the cocktail lounge entrance. A banquet hall which can seat 120 or more has a dramatic decor of lava rock wall, one upper wall area set with abalone shell, and one wall decorated with tapa cloth design, and Polynesian images for pillars.

James O. Carey is general manager of hotel operations for the Wonder Lodge chain with motels at Salinas, and Santa Maria, the latter being known as the Vanderberg Inn and Hotel.

Entrance to the "Surf Rider," the appropriately named cocktail lounge, gets the South Sea treatment with a native boat suspended from the ceiling, and the door pull, a carved figurine representing a Polynesian god.

The entrance is set off dramatically with dark lava rock, and a lighted lava cave behind the bar is complete with a waterfall. Totem poles and Polynesian wooden images are used effectively throughout the interior. In the buffet area, a large canoe carved from wood with the prow carved with native warrior head and weighing close to a ton will be the setting for the South Sea Island foods and delicacies which the new motel will feature.

In the dining room area, one will also find the enormous native birdcage about 25 feet long, and probably in time, there will be gilded birds in it to sing. Tapa cloth, bamboo, simulated lava rock walls, modern hurricane lamps, Hawaiian bows and arrows and lances, seaweed, netting are all part of the suggestive decor. Cocktail tables have inlays of abalone shells. Some drinks will be served in coconut shells and pineapple cups. Some 90 employees will be the motel complement.

Wonder Lodge Chain
The motel, built by the John Howard Construction Co., was owned by George King who sold it to the Wonder Lodge chain which is headed by James L. Fallon of Hollywood, as president. Fallon Is expected to be present to greet guests Friday night along with Carey and other company officials.

Marvin Brown has been named resident manager of the new motel. Brown, formerly with the Bakersfield Inn from 1957-1959, will return to Bakersfield from Klamath Falls where he has been serving the Hoffues estate as manager. Jane Smallwood will be the chief room clerk.

The new motel has extensive kitchen facilities including a pantry for imported oriental foods. The kitchen has two areas and two staffs, one with a Chinese chef for the preparation of the South Sea Island menus, and one for the American dishes including prime beef steak and ribs. A reminder of this is the built-in rotisserie in the dining area set in lava rock, the turning spit holding a roast pig. John Franco is the head chef and Ed Mundy the catering manager."

:up: A story about a preview party for the Wonder Lodge (June 17, 1961)

:down: Some more stories about the opening:

:down: An article from 1963 detailing the addition of a "Viking Sauna"

:down: A few adverts for the entertainment:

:down: A Christmas wish from 1961:

... and my favorite article of all: A promotion from a Mercury dealership in Long Beach from 1963, telling how well the new model Mercury Monterey performed on its trip to Bakersfield on the newly-finished San Diego freeway. The photo of the Wonder Lodge gives a decent view of the whimsical South Seas totems in front of the entrance and the great Surf Rider sign as well.

"Combine the magic of a valley climate, a South Sea island escape and a new outlook for big driving pleasure and there you have our latest motorlog.

The place - the Wonder Lodge on Highway 99 in Bakersfield. The car - a showroom fresh Mercury Monterey custom two-door hardtop from Marshal Duffield's "grand opening" Continental Mercury-Comet agency at 1940 Lakewood Boulevard at the traffic circle.

The Wonder Lodge with its Samoan dining room, Tahitian steak room, coffee shop, banquet room, bar, lounge, pool and modern accommodations, is an oasis of resort living, sparkling under the Bakersfield sun.

Exotic Polynesian and American dishes are served in the authentically South Sea Island atmosphere. Art treasures from the Islands decorate the rooms, and even the waiters are imported.

An outrigger canoe of gigantic proportions is wheeled out to the pool from 5 pm to 9 pm evenings to serve cocktails and hors d'oeuvers. From 11pm to 1am the canoe is used as a chuck wagon in the Tahitian room.

A new feature in the Tahitian room is Bakersfield's first and only charcoal broiler. Next to it, set in lava rock and glassed in, is a rotisserie large enough to make two turkeys look like two chickens in a family-sized unit.

A new feature out by the pool is a redwood Sauna steam room which produces a dry heat (7 per cent humidity).

Guest accommodations include attractive bedrooms or studio rooms all with enclosed private patios, free TV and direct dial telephone service. Rates were from $10 to $14. All in all, it seemed to be a lot of comfort, hospitality and atmosphere for the money."

Heading back to Long Beach straight in on 99 to pick up the San Diego freeway, we decided to hit the freeway at the peak traffic hour, just before 5pm. Apparently, few motorists are aware that this freeway is now completely open all the way to Long Beach as we were able to make this leg of the tour in less than one hour.

The Mercury Monterey performed excellently. We recommend you get acquainted with one during Marshal Duffield's kick-off in his new location.


I can't find any Bakersfield newspaper articles on the Wonder Lodge after 1965, so perhaps that's when it underwent a name change?

In any case, it appears to have been a pretty important Tiki destination that has largely been forgotten.

[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2010-09-21 23:19 ]

Absolutely fantastic, stellar research, Sabu! This place is a jewel of Tiki Modern!

You know when I was straining my eyes looking at that grainy shot that DC found, I was kinda thinking "that pole on the left of the A-frame reminds me of that Surfrider/intl. Marketplace PNG totem pole...but naaaaw, couldn't be..."

But I'll be darned! What a find! The irony is that I have known and loved the menu cover for the Surfrider Lounge since the 90s, when I first marveled at it in Oceanic Arts menu collection:

And I had recognized the artwork as being a pretty exact copy of the carvings that Edward Brownlee did for Don The Beachcomber for the entrance of the International Marketplace:

But somehow, despite this being one of my favorite menu covers, and though Oceanic Arts supplied that place, I never found much on it and kinda stopped looking, and when this place came up in Bakersfield, I just didn't put the two together. I had no idea that the PNG poles (and the canoe) actually existed, and were fronting an A-frame like that! This place sounds like it had all the bells and whistles, and then some. What a parade example of the style.

Lee Linton, who is mentioned as the interior designer, was an architect with Googie Tzars Armet & Davis, and worked on Vegas casinos also. How much more Tiki Modern can you get: Googie and Tiki united! Being in Germany, I am kind of hampered in doing further research. Let's find out what Bob and Leroy remember about this place! What an exciting discovery, thanks Tim and Scott!

Ha, my thoughts have just been corroborated by my modcom friend Pete Moruzzi;

Lee Linton was THE most out there of Armet & Davis' architectural rendering artists! I believe he did this fast food A-frame rendering I showed in the Book of Tiki....

...and did some of the most expressionistic coffee shop sketches for the firm, real whacky stuff!:

You can tell his style apart by his "exploding" palm trees and his pointy-legged people. I have always loved this man's work, and he is held in highest regard by mid-century modern fans and authors like Charles Phoenix, Alan Hess, Chris Nichols and John English.

Ah! Lee Linton designed the Penguin Coffee Shop in Santa Monica? That's one of my favorite buildings.

I wonder if he did the Java Lanes in Long Beach? The googie A-frame and sign look reminiscent of his other work:

I was also thinking "International Marketplace" when I saw those totems out front. Thanks for connecting all the dots, bigbro. Nice to attach an actual location to that fantastic menu cover too.


Outstanding posting DC & Sabu! I'll bet Bakersfield's own Buck Owens even visited the Wonderlodge.:) Sven, that's a awesome B&W photo of the IMP!

kiara posted on Wed, Sep 22, 2010 6:53 PM

Sven, Dig deep! You have my copy of that Surfrider menu. :)

Magnificent discoveries Sabu. What a treasure trove of information, you cracked this case wide open. My hats off to you.

Interesting info Bigbro, love those renderings by Linton, classic.

On 2010-09-22 18:53, kiara wrote:
Sven, Dig deep! You have my copy of that Surfrider menu. :)

Indeed! Thanks for reminding me, I will be back soon and post good images of it.

Here is some more info on Lee Linton from Chris Nichols:

"Linton was a designer in the office of Armet & Davis in the 1950s and moved into his own firm in Las Vegas in the early 60s I believe. He did all of the best A&D renderings and design concepts. He went on to design hotels (especially with lavish porte cocheres) in Vegas where he got into some legal trouble and eventually went to jail. When I finally located him in 2005 he gave me the address of an abandoned motel he said he was living at in Las Vegas. He died shortly after."

Otto posted on Fri, Sep 24, 2010 9:22 PM

Sabu, DC great research!!!!!
And Sven, as usual, you always have something to add!
Sabu, I also like the last newspaper entry
Don't we all wish we could take that roadtrip to paradise from Long Bch to Bakersfield and spend the night in Polynesia!?!

And everyone, please note how the first, and very extensive and semi-formal newspaper article notes that "all artifacts are authentic and imported from the South Seas"
Yet Sven has identified that OA supplied the decor!?

Cammo posted on Sat, Sep 25, 2010 9:32 AM

Me enhance photo even more. Look good now.

Sabu and BigBro,

Thanks for adding all of that great material, look forward to seeing more of the Wonder Lodge.


On 2010-09-24 21:22, Otto wrote:
Don't we all wish we could take that roadtrip to paradise from Long Bch to Bakersfield and spend the night in Polynesia!?!

Absolutely. And how does one get paid to drive showroom cars to tiki destinations and write about it. That's the job I want.


Sadly, by the time I was old enough to enjoy all the explicitly wonderful things you could do with a consenting woman and a tiki lodge... I moved from bakersfield, and on my return BAM Strip mall.... Its just not fair... Its like there is no benefit to growing up in that town other than diminished lung capacity.

Here as promised better shots of the Surfrider menu cover (and some inside pages):


On the inside cover is a handwritten date: "1968 Bakersfield":

On the last page we find the date of publication and the printing company:

The menu was designed by the LORD Menu company. They did many of the menus of the great Tiki temples in California, and are among the first companies I sought out when I began my research in the early 90s, imagining a treasure trove beyond the O.A. collection....but they had not kept any of heir old designs, nothing, nada! This was before e-bay and the internet, so I had to start from scratch.

Anyway: Next we should find the cocktail menu, please!

Thanks for posting the nice close-ups of the menu, bigbro! I can imagine the treasure trove of restaurant information that would have been available if Lord menu co. had only kept samples of everything they did for posterity. Such a shame.

Never fear, BigBroTiki, many of the menus in the recent Lord Menu Company donation to LAPL are actually Tiki establishments. We hope to have most of them scanned and available to view in another year or so.

Stacy McKenna
Menu Archivist

On 2014-11-26 16:25, stacymckenna wrote:
Never fear, BigBroTiki, many of the menus in the recent Lord Menu Company donation to LAPL are actually Tiki establishments. We hope to have most of them scanned and available to view in another year or so.

Stacy McKenna
Menu Archivist


Wow! That is exciting news, can't wait to see the menu scans. How on earth did you find the Lord Menu archives?


Lordy, lordy, that sounds promising indeed! Keep up the good work, and keep us informed! :)


The newspaper article posted above cites Lee Linton as the architect, but architect Nolan L. Montgomery included it in his official AIA directory listing for 1962.

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