For the Love of Vintage Hawaiiana and Tiki Culture

I've been asked many times where my love of vintage Hawaiiana and tiki culture comes from. My love for both goes back as far as I can remember. Before I go into where this love came from I want to first clear up what tiki culture means to me. When I talk about tiki culture, I am talking about a celebration of the Polynesian islands. Showcasing the best of what these cultures have to offer, learning about these cultures and embracing the beauty of each. It is when Polynesian influence peaked during the movement of mid-century modern in art, culinary offerings and architecture. 

It is not simply anything with a tiki on it. Especially not brightly colored plastic you find at the Dollar Store. There is nothing tacky about it. And it has nothing to do with Jimmy Buffet, African tribal masks or the Caribbean. I know that there is for sure a bastardization of tiki that is a huge area of debate. I get that. I also get not wanting to see something you love, honor and support being made into something cheap and nontraditional. I support keeping tiki true to its roots and history. Now that we have that all cleared up, back to good stuff. 

My father grew up in Southern California a long board surfer during the peak of the first wave of Polynesian influence throughout the US. Upon graduating high school he joined up with the Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor Naval Station in Hawaii. As a young child, he would tell me tales of his surfer days, the land of Southern California and his time in Hawaii.

In the late 70's and early 80's he would take me to Southern California to visit family and I quickly fell in love with what many thought was the end of the influence of not only Polynesia, but also mid-century modern. Boy, were they wrong! Tiki culture was quickly fading during that time, but the remainder of A-frame buildings, carved tiki gods and tropical landscaping were enough to pull me further into a life long love of this era. 

We would spend days at the river taking out the marbled sea foam green and white long board he had since he was a teenager. I was never able to surf on that board, but he paddle me out into the water on it and I would stand up on it telling him that once I was big enough I was going to ride the waves on his board. Sadly, riding that board never happened for me, but the memories I have with my father on it are priceless.

My love of tiki doesn't just come from my father, but also from the time I spent living in Hawaii with my mother. Following the end of my mother and father's relationship, my mother got an offer to move to Hawaii for about a year and took it. We lived on Maui, Kaua'i, and O'ahu. I remember loving the large carved tikis, warm rain, beautiful beaches, salted plums and the sweet scent of tropical flowers in the air. Being so young during our time on the islands, I don't remember much, but what I do remember has stuck with me to this day. The Hawaiian islands have a way of really imprinting on your soul. 

My love of tiki evolved even more from going to Tiburon Tommie's in Tiburon, CA during the early-80's. Amanda's godfather, Michael's father and step-mother lived in Tiburon and we would go to visit them every couple months. Many times we went to visit them we would go out to eat at Tiburon Tommie's. Michael's father and step-mother even had their wedding reception there. This place reminded me of Hawaii and as a result, I loved it. 

The first time I went to Tiburon Tommie's I was so excited. I remember pulling open the huge doors with the diamond shaped peek-a-boo cut outs and being amazed with what I saw inside from the outrigger canoe hanging from the ceiling to the huge tikis all around to the waterfall under the stairs and so much more! I instantly feel in love with this place and all it had to offer. 

I loved the Cantonese Chinese food they served and all the great drinks they had. Their butterflied shrimp were so tasty and I would usually order some kind of frothy orange drink to wash all the great food down with. The staff were so friendly and didn't mind children wandering through the building to see all of it's spender.

Tiburon Tommies shortly before being torn down.
{source unknown}

After I moved to Portland I quickly discovered the Alibi and have been frequenting there for over 9 years. I love that the original decor is still intact and the history that goes along with the business. However, their drink menu could use a much needed authentic tropical drink make-over. Thankfully, Thatch opened a couple years back and provided what the Alibi was missing. A really great tropical drink menu! And of course, we now also have the return of Trader Vic's to Portland. These places give me an escape from my every day life. It may be raining none stop out there, but inside I was back on Hawaii, relaxing and not having a care in the world. 

Grand Opening at Trader Vic's.
{personal photo}

In my early 20's I begun actively collecting vintage Hawaiian. I still had a handful of souvenirs I had from living in Hawaii like a piece of vintage tapa cloth, but I knew I needed so much more. I begun searching the Goodwill and garage sales in hopes of finding tiki treasures, but living in Northern California usually struck out. However, my mother also knew I was looking for vintage tiki and Hawaiian items and found me some pretty great finds from a Hawaii cook book from the 60's to a vintage table cloth with hibiscus flowers, to many pieces of monkey pod to a beautiful painting of a hibiscus done in Hawaii in the 70's.

Over the years, I have collected so much that sometimes I will come across a box of vintage items I had forgotten I had and don't even remember where I picked them up. There have been many times I would go up to the attic looking for one thing or another, but instead would find some forgotten tiki item I would bring downstairs all excited to share with Drew. Recently, I found about 10 tiki mugs packed underneath a pile of papers. I can't remember exactly where I got them, but I think I picked them up on one of mine and a friend's many second hand store shopping trips.

For many years, my collection remained in boxes. Amanda and I were always living in places that were to small and I never seemed to have the space to properly put my collection on display. Once we moved into our house on Ash St I was so happy to finally have a house were I could set up some of my Hawaiiana collection. It made me so happy to finally be getting my collection I had packed away out to share with others. I also discovered friends who shared this same love that I never realized because everything was always packed away. And you know who one of those people were? Drew. 

With that shared love, it was only natural for Drew and I to decide to have Old Hawaii be the theme for our wedding. Not only was it something that we both shared a love for, but it was also a great reason to run away to paradise. As well, as give me yet one more reason to love the Hawaiian Islands, Polynesia, tiki culture and Hawaiiana. 

We can't wait for our return to Maui in July. Not only to finally get married, but also to spend two lushes weeks in one of our favorite places in the world. We also can't wait for our full honeymoon next year on O'ahu and the Big Island. And hope to one day take a grand trip through all of the Polynesian islands. Now, that's something to dream about! 

In between those trips, we have our vintage Hawaiiana bar we are currently building in our basement to hold us over. Finally a full designated place for our large collection of Hawaiiana and tiki culture. We also have the influence of the islands everywhere throughout the house from the three hibiscus in the dining room that always put a smile on my face when blooming in the winter to the as tropical as we can get in the NW landscaping in the backyard to our large collection of vintage Hawaiian wears and so much more. Until we can figure out how to move to the islands, this will have to hold us over. 

Do you have any memories from childhood, cultural experiences or collections that have shaped the theme of your wedding? Where did they come from and how are you incorporating them into your wedding?

PS Sorry, the spacing on the post is so weird. I tried to fix it and it only seemed to get worse. :) 

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