ok, how could this not have been posted in locating tiki??? guess we're too island time around here. so i'll port some of the info over from other threads. original sleuthing thread here - http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?mode=viewtopic&topic=9160&forum=1&start=0
On 2004-05-27 23:14, johntiki wrote:
I have finally uncovered a piece of documentation on the long lost Hawaiian Room at the Emerson Hotel...quite possibly the only true tiki bar that has ever existed in Baltimore! The blurbs below are scanned directly from articles that I believe appeared in the Baltimore Sun in February and April of 1971 - a couple months before the demolition of the classic hotel. Neither of these articles deal specifically with the Hawaiian Room but, the first article below is the only account I've discovered of what the interior must have looked like. The second is a remembrance article about the Emerson Hotel written by a former manager of the hotel - Kemp C. Ga...the rest of the name is cut off! I'm going to contact the Pratt library and attempt to get the writer/manager's full name...hopefully he is still among the living. In his picture that accompanies the article he appears to be in his mid-50's...33 years ago. Finally, I got a rather
unusual piece of information...the auction item list of Hawaiian Room furnishing that were destined to be auctioned off in February of 1971! I will scan this page and post it when I get some time...items of interest - #581 Asst. Artificial Planters, Wall Decorations (tikis?), Stones, etc. - Quantity - Lot #582 Asst. Ceiling Decorations, etc. - Quantity 230 - Wow that ceiling must have had some intense clutter!
This seems like a good start - now I just have to make time to browse the phone books on microfilm down at the library.
A side note...reading the articles about the demise of this glorious hotel is rather depressing...I need to track down when the Hawaiian Room opened, maybe the article will seem a tad more upbeat.
On 2004-05-28 07:35, Johnny Dollar wrote:
very cool findings johntiki! have you hit the library already - ?
i took the liberty of putting your scans through the Optical Character Recognition program on my pc, so the following is that text in ascii to make it more cut-and-pasteable...
keep on truckin!
A turn to the right takes you to the "Hawaiian Room," Baltimore’s most California effort in the supper club business. It was budgeted for about $84,000, but cost $125,000, what with all the lava rock brought from "the islands" and the Pacific coral. Lamps were made in the shape of blowfish in this part of the forest and the drinks were served in ceramic pineapples and death's heads.
The hotel’s original barbershop, in the basement section where we later installed the Hawaiian Room, was an elaborate, eight-chair emporium as expensively fitted as the rest of the hotel.
On 2004-06-08 08:26, johntiki wrote:
Below is a scan of the itemized list from 1971 when the contents of the Hawaiian Room and the entire Emerson Hotel were auctioned off...to think at what treasures might have been sold off for a few dollars makes me sick to my stomach...
Of note - the postcard shows a lot of large and small tables as mentioned in the contents of the auction. One of the other acticles also mentions a large number of bamboo chairs...hmm...
On 2005-02-20 21:41, johntiki wrote:
Okay, so the unadulterated anger over losing that damn mug on Ebay has subsided...another is up now but I'm not gonna get my hopes up but I digress.
All the negative energy that spilled out of my pores put me back on track in search of concrete clues of what was the Hawaiian Room. A couple weeks after my rant an article ran locally about a man who asked for or stole menus from all of Baltimore's restaurants for the last 40 years...I've contacted him in hopes of locating a menu from the Hawaiian Room...he's gonna call me back Monday to see if he has one, that's over 400 menus to look through so I'm gonna give him some time! I told the guy outright that I wasn't looking to buy the menu or break up what is a pretty amazing collection (in my humble opinion it would be great to have the collection donated to the Pratt Library! An amazing source of reference - tiki or not!) I'm just looking for a color copy!
I've contacted every media source affiliated with Baltimore and got a stack of articles relating to the Emerson Hotel - the demise, the auction of the property, the owner unhappy about the final bid in the auction and buying it back, the hotel auctioned off again and finally getting a respectable price - $503,000 for the property and over $300,000 in back taxes!, the auction of the contents of the hotel, the demolition of the hotel and the mourning of those who had fond memories of the grand hotel. It all makes for interesting reading but a mere mention of the Hawaiian Room appeared in only one article in the stack...an article that I already posted in this topic. I've contacted Baltimore Magazine who weren't any help...they've only been around for 20 years. I've contacted the City Paper, the free alternative paper, and they've yet to respond. I wouldn't be real surprised if I never hear anything from them. I contacted the Baltimore Sun and got the run around but hopefully the reporter I contacted had a kind word on my behalf to the librarian who may have the key to tracking down articles by specific dates. She's out of the office until Wednesday and the message clearly stated that the newspaper's archives were only available to staff writers and other journalists but I may have an in on a technicality...I do work for a TV news department...
Of note - I also joined a local Baltimore forum and tossed the question up to those who could approach it as outsiders looking in and gave me ideas on where to look next...a lot that I never would have thought of...
Also, someone made mention that the Emerson Hotel was immortalized, if you could call it that, in a Bob Dylan song called "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll." The song is based on a tragic event that happened at the hotel on February 8, 1963 when a rich 24 year old kid named William D. Zantzinger hit Hattie Carroll, a 51 year old African American cocktail waitress and mother of 11, over the head with a cane. She died hours later. To make a long story short the bastard only got 6 months in jail for manslaughter and Dylan wrote the song in protest to what seems like a slap on the wrist for the son of a wealthy businessman. Kinda interesting I thought. Hmmm, if I go back in the microfiche to February 1963, would I find interior shots of the hotel? Would I possibly see a neon marquee behind a bunch of cops inspecting a crime scene that reads "Hawaiian Room?" Could Hattie Carroll have worked as a waitress at the Hawaiian Room? Could there have been follow-up stories about her co-worker's with them posing in photographs inside the Hawaiian Room? Okay...before this starts sounding anymore like an episode of "In Search Of," I will end this post.
Notation added 3/22/05 - I was on my way to work today and heard "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" performed by Michael Rose - on the Reggae station! That makes it all more ironic... I've listened to and collected reggae music for nearly 20 years, I even used to do a weekly 3 hour reggae program on a local college radio station...and now, my love for reggae and my quest for tiki have suddenly merged!
When I discover more dear readers you'll be the first to know...off the record, on the Q.T. and very hush-hush...
On 2005-02-22 08:45, puamana wrote:
I have a menu from the Hawaiian Room, if you want to PM me your mailing address, I'll be happy to send you some color copies. Here's a few pics :
On 2007-03-19 07:07, johntiki wrote:
I haven't had much to add to my fruitless research... until today! Check out this article that appeared in the Baltimore Sun this morning by Abigail Tucker... it is lengthy but it provides some juicy clues to the background behind the Hawaiian Room and more importantly it's provided me with some contacts for people who might have the missing pieces of the puzzle! Also it has provided that one illusive piece of concrete information that I've been dying to uncover... an interior photo of the Hawaiian Room at the Emerson Hotel!
Swayed by love
Maryland once outlawed interracial marriages like that of a Locust Point nurse and a Samoan dancer, but their passion helped repeal that law 40 years ago this month
By Abigail Tucker
Originally published March 19, 2007
That night, when JoAnn Kovacs danced the hula, love was part of the choreography. The band played the Hukilau, a fishing song, and ever so slowly she reeled him in with the smooth rotation of her hips. By the time he finally spoke to her, both their hearts were beating like hands on a log drum.
His hei is made of real shells, she noticed, gazing at the headband in his dark hair.
I love you, Meki To'alepai thought. A few minutes later, he said it aloud.
That was December of 1963, in the basement Hawaiian Room in Baltimore's Emerson Hotel, where Meki's Polynesian dance troupe was performing. JoAnn was seated in the audience, until, inspired by the music and egged on by friends, she stood up to sway herself, drawing Meki's admiring gaze.
His Samoan ancestry, and the fact that she was a white girl from Locust Point, seemed perfectly acceptable at first, even romantic.
Then they tried to get married.
"We were turned away," JoAnn says.
The couple's failed attempt to wed in Maryland led to coast-to-coast publicity and a campaign to end the state's miscegenation law, which banned most forms of interracial marriage. It was repealed 40 years ago this month.
But change came too slowly to suit the To'alepais, who, on Feb. 19, 1966, exchanged vows in Washington, where it was already legal for white women to marry so-called "brown" men. Afterward they held a Polynesian-style reception at the Optimist Club in Hampden, the guests in straw hats and muumuus, the ceiling hung with tropical flowers and spears. Then the newlyweds left for the more enlightened state of California.
In the more than four decades of marriage that followed, the subject of race has rarely surfaced. The To'alepais think of themselves as entertainers, not soldiers of the civil rights movement. They are now living in Locust Point again, having returned to Maryland not long after the law changed, ready to let bygones be bygones.
"We never really talked about it, never really even told our children," JoAnn says.
"We were too busy being happy to be angry," Meki adds.
They were also busy doing the Fijian dwarf dance, the New Zealand Poi ball dance and the Tahitian Hokule'a Ote'a, spending much of their marriage running their own Pacific island performance company, which has toured schools and social halls across the state. The troupe is called Meki's Tamure, "Meki's Fun Group."
Yes, the To'alepais are gratified to know that their love story helped change history, that now their grandkids can marry whomever they please.
But mostly the Flaming Fire Knife dancer and his Locust Point bride are just glad to have had such a good time.
When the To'alepais met, Hawaii had been a state for only a few years, and Pacific culture was all the rage: Stylish people held luaus, and several tiki-themed clubs opened in downtown Baltimore featuring "Hawaiian Revues" and all-you-can eat Pork Kanaka and Tim Tam Shrimp.
JoAnn grew up in the famously insular community of Locust Point, listening to the island melodies of the lovely Haleloke, a frequent performer on Arthur Godfrey's variety show, and dreaming of a more exotic life. In her early 20s, while working as a nurse, she got a part-time job checking coats at an island club, where she learned to hula. Later she sometimes performed professionally, resplendent in necklaces of polished seeds and her Bora Bora headdress with its mohawk of dried grass.
On the other side of the country, at the same time, a young immigrant was discovering that he could get paid to do the sort of dances he'd done for fun back home in Western Samoa, which he left in 1960. So Meki quit his job in a California tennis shoe factory and took his Flaming Fire Knife act on the road, performing with a group at Diamond Jim's in Las Vegas and other Western venues. In the fall of 1963 his group contracted to work at the Emerson Hotel, where they were immensely popular.
JoAnn was on a hula tour in Ohio at the time, but heard about Meki as soon as she returned
"My mom says, 'you've got to see this group,'" JoAnn recalls.
The night that JoAnn danced the Hukilau marked the start of a whirlwind romance and several months of hulu-club hopping. Meki adored JoAnn's sweet manner and pretty face. JoAnn loved Meki's supercharged smile and peculiar habits: He walked her everywhere, even to the bathroom, and tried to horde snowballs in the hotel sink, because he thought he could keep them as souvenirs.
"He was just so different," she says.
But when the Emerson contract ended, Meki had to board a train for California, quietly grieving as he changed from the Baltimore & Ohio to the Pacific line.
"I think I cried the whole way," he says. For more than a year they talked on the phone every night. Then the banana farmer's son asked the longshoreman's daughter to be his wife.
It was a neighborhood priest who told them of Maryland's miscegenation law, which had banned blacks and whites from marrying for more than 300 years, and in 1935 was amended to stop weddings between whites and "the brown race" - a category that included some Pacific islanders.
Do you want to fight this? asked the priest, who wanted permission to alert the press. Sure, the couple said. It seemed like the right thing to do, and besides, the presence of the media would save them the expense of a wedding photographer when they finally did get hitched in Washington.
Reporters showed up in droves, and the To'alepais' story made Time magazine and the major papers. Legislators from Annapolis to Honolulu condemned the law and vowed to fight for a change, and the couple's plight continued to be mentioned in news stories leading up to the law's repeal, on March 24, 1967 -- just a few months before the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia, ending all race-based restrictions on American marriages.
After taking a stand in Maryland, though, the To'alepais turned their backs on the publicity, wanting to start their new life. When journalists gathered at the airport where the newlyweds were scheduled to board a plane for California, they decided to make their escape.
"We just took off on Route 40 instead," JoAnn says.
This time Meki didn't cry as he traveled west.
These days they don't dance as much as they used to. She's 66, he's 67. They've turned over Meki's Tamure to one of their three children, a son also named Meki. They've also given up the day jobs -- hers in nursing, his in highway maintenance -- that used to help make ends meet. Meki senior is involved with the ministry of a Samoan church in Virginia; he is old enough to be considered an elder in the community.
Sometimes it seems a long time ago that they returned to Maryland as husband and wife, when Meki was performing up and down the East Coast and JoAnn was teaching so many Locust Point girls to hula that half the neighborhood was draped in plastic hibiscus leis.
Now they mostly watch their children perform, and their granddaughter, a budding hula girl.
And yet there is one song that brings JoAnn to her feet even at this age. She heard it recently while visiting a nursing home, and suddenly she was dancing, as spontaneously as she had the night she met Meki. It was a number that Meki's Tamure had performed countless times over the years, and it became JoAnn's solo dance, her specialty. She would sway back and forth as her husband played the ukulele and sang:
This is the moment
Of sweet Aloha
I will love you longer than forever
Promise me that you will leave me never
Just humming it brings a smile to her face: the Hawaiian Wedding Song.
Here are the pics that accompanied the article online...
Is this the Hawaiian Room at the Emerson????? I've asked the reporter for confirmation!
I've contacted the reporter, hoping she could provide me with the To'alepai's contact information... if she doesn't I'll just have to dig them up myself!!
On 2007-03-19 08:24, ikitnrev wrote:
What a great story! Kind of makes you appreciate the advances our country has made in the last 50 years - and so good to hear about this couple are still alive and living in Baltimore.
For a while I was worried that the most historic event to have taken place at the Emerson Hotel was the horrible beating immortalized in the song 'The Death of Hattie Carroll', which happened in February 1963. It is so nice to hear this story to present a much more positive side of the Emerson. Two dancers/performers meet in December, 1963 in the Emerson's Hawaiian Room - one Samoan, one Caucasian. They fall in love. The law prevents them from marrying each other, but the attention and press they receive when they are not allowed to wed, help to turn the tide against these unjust laws, and soon the Supreme Court is banning such miscengation laws.
This is one of the most heart-warming and positive tiki-related stories I have ever read. And to think that it happened in nearby Baltimore.
On 2007-03-19 08:48, ikitnrev wrote:
This was another one of the photographs included in the Baltimore Sun story.
Meki To'alepai was a performer in Doug Alii's group 'The Hinanos' They are both Samoan, so I wonder how long they performed together. .
Doug Alii has appeared here on Tiki Central, in a different thread, as he performed his Polynesian Revue in the late 60's in Wisconsin Dell's, for the Tommy Bartlett Water Show.
I had someone e-mail asking for more information on Doug Alii, but I believe lost that e-mail message. If you read this message, please try to contact me again.
On 2007-03-19 11:54, ikitnrev wrote:
I found on Time Magazine's on-line archives, a story from the 1960's about Meki and JoAnn Toalepai. It is interesting to see that the Senator mentioned in the Time story, Daniel Inoyue, is still the Senator for Hawaii!
February 25, 1966
Maryland (the "Free State"), which adopted the nation's first antimiscegenation statute in 1661 to keep white women servants from marrying Negro slaves, also passed one of the nation's last such laws in 1935. Aimed at preventing Filipino mess boys at the Naval Academy in Annapolis from taking all-too-willing local brides, it bars marriage of either whites or Negroes with "a member of the Malay race." So, when Jo Ann Kovacs, 25, a white Baltimore nurse, and Meki Toalepai, 26, a handsome singer-dancer-musician from Western Samoa, applied for a marriage license in Baltimore this month, they were refused. Maryland, the unhappy couple quickly discovered, would allow Jo Ann to marry anyone whose skin was red, yellow or white, while Meki could legally take a wife whose skin was red, yellow or brown. But brown and white (or white, brown and black) are not a permissible permutation.
Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye, a Hawaiian of Japanese descent who lives in Maryland when Congress is in session, protested that half of the population of Hawaii would be considered "impure" in the eyes of Maryland. The law, he added, would make "interesting reading in many parts of Southeast Asia where we talk about democracy."
State Senator Verda Welcome, the only Negro in Maryland's upper house, immediately introduced a bill to abolish the miscegenation statute, but her repealer was given little chance in a legislature still dominated by rural, Dixie-oriented lawmakers. The Maryland law and similar statutes in 17 other states (all Southern or border states except Wyoming) may be killed only when miscegenation is considered squarely by the Supreme Court, which has thus far avoided the constitutional question involved. As for Meki and Jo Ann, they were married last week in the Washington (Episcopal) Cathedral before driving to their new home in California. "Who," asked Meki before leaving Maryland, "would want to live here?"
And another sidenote to the Emerson Hotel, and a tangentail connection to mixed drinks, that some may find interesting.
The Emerson Hotel was built by and named for Isaac E Emerson, who made a fortune by inventing Bromo-Seltzer, which was used to ail upset stomachs and indigestion. He formed the Emerson Drug Company in 1891.
In the 1950's, scientists from the Emerson Drug Company were wondering if a fruit flavored drink could be developed using similar methods as were used for their Bromo-Setzer product. They wanted to be able to drop a tablet into a glass of water, and create instant soda pop. The result was called 'Fizzies' - a candy which is still manufactured today. Their original cost was 8 tablets for 25 cents.
All we need now is a Baltimore developed mai-tai flavored Fizzie product. We could carry such a tablet in our wallets, and pull it out in case of an emergency, for those moments when we need a mai-tai and cannot just say no.
On 2007-04-16 18:31, cocoanutz wrote:
Hey Tiki People (Maryland area - that is!)
Man, have I got a story for you folks!
Never thought I'd see pictures of my family posted on Tiki Central but... I knew sooner or later I'd end up joining the mix. The Baltimore Sun article you mention is the story about my mom and dad. It's all so funny because I stumbled upon Tiki Central just prior to Christmas when I went to put an ad in Baltimore Magazine for our Polynesian dance group, Meki's Tamure Polynesian Dance Group. I told the receptionist at the magazine's office that I was there to see the sales rep and told her I was with a Polynesian dance group. The receptionist replied, "Polynesian dance group?!? I haven't heard of such things since the Emerson Hotel!" I was taken aback for a second. I can't recall how many times I mentioned the Hawaiian Room at the Emerson Hotel to people and they looked at me with no clue as to what I was talking about. So there I was with this woman explaining to me how when you wanted a special night out on the town, you just went to the Emerson Hotel Hawaiian Room. I spent the next twenty minutes telling her how that where my parents met, performed and eventually fell in love (and got married). She got the biggest kick out of that story and she said she'd look to see if she had any stuff that she accidentally took from the restaurant. I hadn't heard anything from her to date but I'm interested.
After her stories, I sort of needed to know alittle more about the Hawaiian Room. I stumbled upon Tiki Central when Google-ing Emerson Room Tiki Mugs brought me to Johntiki's rant about losing his mug on a botched eBay bid. It made me think about the mugs we recently tossed in the trash after my grandmother died (she was mentioned in the Sun article). My grandmother "borrowed" many decorations from the Emerson Hawaiian Room. I remember her story of carrying a seven foot palm tree home that she transplanted in her own "Hawaiian Room" in a rowhome in Locust Point. She had posters, mugs, shells, trees, monkey pod stuff, photos, salt/pepper shakers, etc. She died several years back and most of her stuff went to the landfill when her house was cleaned out and sold. I didn't realize how interested I would become in the stuff now that it is gone. The family still has a couple items.
So,I found myself intrigued by all of your tiki postings. I thought I'd look more into it after Christmas vacation. Our family went to New Zealand, Samoa, Hawaii and California the day after Christmas for four weeks. I knew I needed to collect a few mugs while I was away. I did just that while in Hawaii on the way home back to Baltimore. Not only did I get some mugs from Da Big Kahuna and Tiki's Grill and Bar (both at Waikiki), I also bought past issues of Tiki Magazine at the Thor Store in Waikiki. I didn't realize how deep I was in the Tiki movement until I was reading the magazines in my Waikiki hotel and the particular article I was reading was all about Tiki sightings all about Oahu. I read about the Sven Kirsten book and realized because my dad was in the traveling Polynesian dance group, I had the opportunity to travel across country in 1976 stopping at many of the prominent Tiki establishments. I even know some of the performers shown in Sven's book. Off the top of my head I remember stopping at the Hukilau in Pittsburgh and staying with the owner, a guy named Val. I remember all of the exotic decorations, the funny drink names (names a 10 year has no business repeating), the fish netting everywhere, the cheesy cellophane skirts the dancers wore. I had no idea that 30 years later I'd be wanting a restaurant like that!
Back to the present day, we returned from the Xmas excursion and I received a call from Abigail of the Baltimore Sun. Although the story is mainly about the overturning of the law regarding mixed marriages in Maryland, it has hit many different people in many different ways. Our dance group website has gone nuts with bookings, people want their kids taking hula lessons and crazy notions of opening a Tiki-type grill and cafe are swirling in my head. The website by the way is http://www.hula123.com I ordered the Kirsten book a couple of weeks back and can't believe that someone documented so many of the things that I lived thru growing up in a Polynesian entertainment type household. I've been to and performed at the Aloha Inn in Gaithersburg, the Marriott Kona Kai near DC, the Hukilau in Virginia Beach, the Hukilau in Chicopee, Massachusetts as well as other places I've forgotten. Some of you may remember such places.
I run our dance group now and I'm looking to put on some annual Tiki themed events in the coming year. Our calendar is somewhat booked to be trying anything this year. We mainly provide all live Polynesian floor shows wherever we get hired. I would love to meet some of you Maryland area people at some of our events. I wish I could attend the 2007 Hukilau in Ft. Lauderdale but we are already committed to other events. I look forward to hearing from some of you and I'm sure I'll be sharing some photos that I dig up from my memoirs (now know as Polynesian Pop artifacts!)
Enough for now my new found friends! Any Tiki carvers in Maryland? I'd love to learn.
On 2007-04-18 20:38, cocoanutz wrote:
If you've followed along with johntiki on his continuing saga of looking for photographic proof of the Emerson Hotel's Hawaiian Room decor and interiors, this will be a great day. I have dug thru several photo albums of mom's and there are oodles of pictures from both the Emerson and Trader Vincent's. I even found some match book covers and two swizzle sticks from the Emerson tucked in the book! The swizzle looks different than the one you photographed and they are not the Moai type mentioned in your earlier post. We'll talk more about that later. It's late and I'm excited for both you and me. I can't wait to catalog all of the photos. Below is one of my parents and the group. Funny side note (and you may not be able to see this clearly on this scanned photo), the guy in the back on the left is the same guy in Sven's Book of Tiki (see page 65). In Sven's book he is the guy in the back on the right side. Interestingly enough, this same guy is still playing in a show at Waikiki called the Hawaiian Hut. Amazing!
Anyhow, without further ado... introducing the Hawaiian Room at the Emerson Hotel, Baltimore
The back of the photo says 1968 possibly around August.
More to follow, I promise!
On 2009-01-16 21:29, rupe33 wrote:
Vern & Johntiki had posted some of this before, but on the occasion of William Zantzinger's recent passing I thought it might be worthy of posting again.
Small addition, although not directly tiki, to the history of the Emerson Hotel: it's where William Zantzinger struck Hattie Carroll with his cane, which may have led to her death. The story is most familiar to music fans as Bob Dylan's song "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll." The song is a powerful indictment of racism and privilege, and Zantzinger regretted not taking action against Dylan for his portrayal in it:
"William Zanzinger** killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gath'rin'"
**note: Dylan purposely misspelled William's last name, presumably to avoid legal action.
Zantzinger died in early January 2009, as recounted in this article in the UK's Telegraph. This obituary gives a balanced view of the crime and far more detail than the song:
The previous posters did note that there's no evidence that this event had anything to do with the Hawaiian Room. Although the song doesn't mention the Emerson or Hawaiian Room by name, it's an interesting side note to tiki/hotel history. You can read the lyrics & listen to the song on Bob's site: