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Some good stuff from the Polynesian in Torrance

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I had a really successful weekend at a collectibles fair, so I wanted to share some goodies...sorry for those in Lo Cal for whom this stuff is old hat.

Here's the cover & inside of one of their matchbooks:

Somewhat more interesting is this scan from the back of an album by the Polynesians:

The cover shot has a huge waterfall- looks like the place had a great interior. Any other interior shots out there?

[ Edited by: martiki6 on 2003-06-23 23:37 ]

Excellent score.


Nice finds! Sabu may have some pics of the interior, and I have a few pics that show a large volcano in the inner courtyard. Of course, your matchbook finds just further my frustration: 'The Polynesian' later became the 'Latitude 20', and through all our combined years of searching, neither I nor Sabu have come up with anything but paper (menus, postcards, matchbooks) for The Polynesian, and nothing but mugs/glassware for the Latitude 20! I've never seen a single mug, glass or plate for the Polynesian, and, although I have 8 different mugs for the '20, I've never seen a single paper item! Go figure...


Thanks for posting those items from the Polynesian - I've never seen either of those. I need to find that album - It was by the Polynesians, you say? I have a postcard that shows the building from much the same angle as in your b/w photo.

Here's the courtyard shot that Doctor Z was talking about - with the Volcano/Waterfall.

I've also got the drink menu, the postcard of the exterior, and a different matchbook than yours.

The Polynesian was run by Pete Reitz, who I'm told still lives in Palos Verdes, (and whom I'd love to interview). It was a favorite hangout of Bob and LeRoy of Oceanic Arts back when they were young. When it changed ownership, it became Hop Louie's "Latitude 20". Now it's a strip mall. All that's left of the original restaurants are the stumps of the palm trees out front.


Sabu -
seriously - you should do something with all this great info - maybe a book with sections on defunct tiki establishments (each one would show examples like postcards, mugs, menus, etc for each place) - ever thought about that?

The Polynesian was run by Pete Reitz

Sadly, he passed away a few years back. (I used to work with his sons wife). As far as I know, they still live up in PV.

I always thought that this was one of the cool spots in Southern California. It seems to be one of the few Tiki restaurants that found a second life (as Latitude 20)after the first place closed.

I picked up the postcard that shows the same shot as the back of the album cover.

Here is a close up of the sign

The back of the card.

Some new developments on The Polynesian.

Here is a menu that I have and have seen around before.

And a matchbook, also seen before.

The new find is the grog list companion to the menu, saw this on ebay.

And finally, I got this Matchbook from Latitude 20 which occupied The Polynesian.


On 2003-06-24 03:13, Doctor Z wrote:
through all our combined years of searching, neither I nor Sabu have come up with anything but paper (menus, postcards, matchbooks) for The Polynesian, and nothing but mugs/glassware for the Latitude 20! I've never seen a single mug, glass or plate for the Polynesian, and, although I have 8 different mugs for the '20, I've never seen a single paper item! Go figure...

This is what is cool about the matchbook from Latitude 20 - here it is again right side up this time.

Here are some of the mugs from Latitude 20 from Tikicleen's and Tiki-Kate's collection on Ooga Mooga.

So, does anybody out there have any more paper items from Latitude 20??? Postcard? Menu? Ad?

Or a mysterious Mug from The Polynesian?


Picked up a different matchbook from Latitude 20.

Is it my imagination or did the designer mess up on the latitude markings on this matchbook?


Here is a napkin from the Polynesian with a cool map. Still no sightings of a mug.



And Martin, if you're not too busy with that whole opening a new bar thing, could you please fix the photo links on the first post? :wink:

I was lucky to score the smaller drink menu from the Polynesian, here is the cover.

and the obligatory education on Rum on the inside cover.

Back cover is the appetizer menu.

The drink menu in the standard mild, medium and strong format

You can see that they did not use any signature Tiki mugs which is why there are none around.

The best is the communal drinks page.

Check out these kava style bowls.

Now that would be a find!



What would REALLY be a find is a $2.00 Drink in a bowl!


I'm curious about the Dragon's Blood

I just got a new postcard that I have never seen before from the Polynesian Restaurant. This one is an advertising card for the Sunday afternoon Luaus that were held at the restaurant.

This photo really sums of the Poly Pop experience with the Hawaiian shirt clad folks all gathered around for the hula show (with Caucasian dancers) and the unveiling of the pig from the Imu. There's even a guy who looks like James Dean ready with the shovel, what a classic shot!

Here is the back of the card with the description of the festivities.

I am also re-posting the card that Sabu posted years ago showing the outside area of the restaurant with the stage and the volcano.

The luau must have been right in front of that stage. I wonder if this was from the same photo shoot?


DC, is that postcard out of registration, and dark? Mine is kinda bad quality like that...


My postcard card has the same issues, I tried to lighten the contrast a little. So, you have one too.

Here is the Polynesia album cover from the group The Polynesians that was shot at the Polynesia Restaurant (that was a lot of the p word!). You can see the volcano waterfall feature a little better in this shot.



Found a vintage Palos Verdes newspaper from 1959 at a garage sale today. It had this nice ad for the Polynesian with an artist's rendering of the grounds:

Great find Sabu! That rendering really shows how the place was organized with the entertainment hut and the volcano-waterfall along the backside of the event lawn. That porte cochere feature was also pretty cool as it extended well past the driveway entrance to the little palm tree oasis feature. You can't see that in the pictures.

Here is another postcard image I clipped from ebay showing the hut/stage next to the volcano waterfall.

What a fun place this must have been.


Spotted another great postcard from the Polynesian in Walteria/Torrance.

This one must be the lobby and gift shop area.

Some really interesting Tikis. Any guess on the carver??


Great work, as always, DC. Swanky looking joint!

Interesting read:




By the time our plane landed back at LAX, Barbara and I were as cool toward one another as ever. From that moment on, we lived together as husband and wife, in name only, and we each immediately picked up where we left off with our separate interests. The renowned singer, Albert Abaka, who at the time was considered “the Bing Crosby of the Islands”, returned to the mainland with our group.

Planning to invite Iris to come to the club and share the pure native music of Albert Abaka with me, I couldn’t get to my office phone fast enough. Iris however, was nowhere to be found, so I called Buzz Snoyer. Before leaving town, I had recommended an office suite to Buzz, which was owned by Abe Summers, my personal physician. To my great pleasure, Buzz had located the new employment agency in Dr. Summers’ building, just a stone’s throw from my office. I was there in a flash, but Iris was not. Ruth was in however, and she gave me their new office phone numbers. As I was leaving, I came face to face with Iris, just returning to the office. Anxious to get her alone, and pick up where we left off, I suggested, “Let’s have lunch!”

“I just got back from lunch,” she said, “I have to get back to work now – call me.” That wasn’t exactly the reception I had envisioned, but with no better option, I agreed to call her, and left. Once back at my office, I sat staring at the phone, wondering what I was going to say. Finally, I dialed her number and when she answered, I told her she was all I could think of while in Hawaii, and invited her to accompany me to The Polynesian Club to talk. However, during my absence, Iris had concluded, any feelings she might have developed toward me, were inappropriate under the circumstances, children and all, and would not meet me, especially at a place as romantic as The Polynesian Club.

I joined my friends at the club later that night, but all I could think about was how much I missed Iris, and how much she would enjoy Albert’s singing if she were only there. Forgetting the time, I had a phone brought to my table near the band, and engaged Albert to sing some of his favorite Hawaiian songs to Iris over the phone.

In retrospect, I should have realized Albert might be singing to the entire family, as there were phones throughout the house. Sometime past midnight, Ernie fumbled in the dark for the phone on his night stand, anticipating some kind of emergency, only to be greeted by Albert’s mellow Polynesian voice singing a-cappella, as only a true Polynesian can. Infuriated, and apparently unmoved, by Albert’s passionate love songs, Ernie exclaimed, “How dare you call here in the middle of the night”, and slammed the phone down.

Unaware that Iris had picked up the extension phone and was listening to the serenade, Ernie was feverishly trying to get rid of the call. After he lifted and banged the receiver down a few more times, admonishing each time to, “Get off the line,” Iris decided she better quit listening before Ernie figured out she was part of the problem.

I was under the opinion that Iris had refused to go to The Polynesian club with me because she was a little miffed by my taking off to Hawaii with Barbara. Iris assured me however, that it was simply that I was married, and she didn’t want to risk things getting out of hand with a married man.

The Polynesian Club was about the most romantic environment one could imagine, short of actually being in Hawaii. But try as I may, Iris would still not accept my invitations to the club. Not to be denied, I called Bill Daniel’s, an old high school buddy I had introduced to Buzz Snoyer, and who was now an associate in the employment business. I suggested to Bill that, we all should meet at The Polynesian Club for dinner, dancing and a show. Several important clients of the agency were also somehow invited, so Iris agreed to go along under the auspices of entertaining their business clients.

On the appointed evening, Bill picked Iris up and escorted her to the club. Iris wasn’t surprised to see me there since she knew I was friends with the club’s owners. I was also intimately acquainted with most everyone in the group, and she introduced me to her clients. I was finally at The Polynesian Club with Iris… only she didn’t know that she was there with me. And, she was dancing in the arms of another man, not me! I went to the bartender and, together, we created just the right drink to provide Iris a relaxing enjoyable evening. We called our concoction a Nui-Nui, because the name was cute, and easy to say, and it was Polynesian, even though the literal translation was, Big and Hearty.

Returning to our table, I noticed that Bill and Iris were still dancing to “Beyond the Reef”. I brought my Polaroid for the occasion and by the tortured look on her face, it was clear Iris was not enjoying the cheek to cheek moment, so I snapped their picture. When they returned to the table, I handed Iris her cocktail and said, “Try this tropical fruit drink. I like it because I don’t like a lot of alcohol. I think you’ll enjoy it too.”

The atmosphere was intoxicating, to say the least – Hawaiian music, giant waterfalls surrounded by lush foliage – romance was everywhere. I couldn’t wait to get my arms around Iris, legitimately. I slipped a note to the band requesting the Hawaiian Wedding Song, and when it started, I pulled Iris to the dance floor and gathered her in my arms as she exclaimed “This place is beyond my wildest imagination Phil – it is just so beautiful here.” It was also beyond my wildest imagination, how really wonderful it felt moving about so close to Iris. I knew then and there, that there was chemistry between us. I was captivated and I knew I wanted more.

After we danced, Iris retired to the powder room with one of her clients, Dorothy Green. As I waited for Iris, a city business meeting ended in one of the club’s meeting rooms, and Torrance Mayor, Al Isen, and Percy Bennett, Torrance Chief of Police, approached me. “You won’t believe the blonde beauty that’s with us tonight,” I told them.

“I brought her,” Bill Daniels interrupted, apparently having developed his own infatuation with Iris.

“Yah, for me,” I replied laughing. Bill shrunk back into his seat as if he were deflating from a punctured ego. Returning my attention to the Mayor and Chief Bennett, I went on, painting such a vivid description of what a breathtaking beauty Iris was, they decided to wait around and see for their selves. We waited, and waited, but no one exited the ladies room. Finally I sent the hostess in to see what was happening. She emerged informing us that Iris was engaged in a prearranged business discussion in the powder room foyer.

Now knowing Iris’s proximity to the door, I said, “Al, you kick the door open while the Chief stands guard. I’ll poke the camera in and get a picture of Iris, and then you guys can leave.” Moments later, two dazed girls burst out of the foyer to find all eyes focused on a slowly developing Polaroid snapshot of them. The Chief and the Mayor got to see Iris, but she rode home with her clients instead of me; I never did know for sure if the cause and effect were related, but, I was learning fast that Iris’s disposition could turn on a dime.

Thank you kohalacharms that was a blast from the past. I really appreciate those who research and find so many interesting articles to share. It's time for another visit. Wendy

Well, it seems this is the place to post things for The Polynesian. Too bad it's not a locating Tiki thread.

I was looking through some Torrance Herald online archives and saw these items:

June 25, 1959 issue

an ad regarding an upcoming luau:

April 21, 1960 issue - entertainment page.

a Photo of Keoaloha and Freddie Letuli:

a small article about "Lei Day" at the Polynesian:

and also a regular ad for the place:

August 4, 1960 issue

a small article regarding Lani and Freddie Letuli:

November ,1960 issue

a small article and photo regarding Tetua Paheo:

in what appears to be a December, 1962 entertainment page (no date on page, but it discusses New Years Eve)

a small article:

an ad:

There may be more on this web site, but that's all I can do for now.


[ Edited by: SBJiminyC 2014-06-05 12:47 ]

I’ve unearthed quite a bit of information on the Polynesian and it’s owner/builder Pete Reitz.

The Polynesian restaurant opened in 1957 with Henry Yee as the head chef and entertainment provided by Harry Baty and his Polynesians.

A celebration with the Mayor of Torrance to mark the opening.

Pete Reitz was quite a character. He would organize bachelor “men only” trips to Bora Bora, Tahiti, Moorea, and Hawaii that would start with a send-off party at party at his Polynesian restaurant.

Reitz also went off on an exposition to find talent for his restaurant in Tahiti.

Reitz started exotic movie nights at the Polynesian and even made a movie from his trips and from Luaus held at the Polynesian. Anybody ever seen or heard of this Polynesian Restaurant movie??

A fire nearly destroyed the restaurant in January of 1959 while Reitz was sleeping in his office.

Unlike many other Tiki restaurants that burned and were never rebuilt, Reitz was undaunted and re-opened the restaurant just 5 short months later in June of 1959 (note the scheduled may opening was pushed to June).

Checking out the blueprints for the fire rebuild.

The managed to hire the Benjaman Choye, the manager from the Tonga Room in San Francisco.

A great shot of the wait staff in uniform.

Some the of the ladies from the Polynesian

(and a guy!).

Some of the entertainment.

Including Sterling Mossman from Hawaii.

And of course the various fashion shows and events.

Lets Go Native with Sheena!

It looks like The Polynesian restaurant ran until 1963 when it became the Jamaica West night club. Hop Louie then started Lattitude 20 in 1966.

A few more articles on the Polynesian.

Pete Reitz and his wife with a Samoan hat maker at the opening.

An article about the reopening after the fire.

A photo of Harry Baty and the Polynesians.

Advertisement for a Luau.

Anther photo of Tina Marsh.

And a great shot of one of the Tikis.

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