The Back Yard (the first tiki god) - 1961 or 1962

This photo isn't from the house on Lincoln St. in Burbank - it's from a house we rented on 620 Robinson St., in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles. I include it here to show Dad's first tiki god, painted on a smaller little building in the back that we rented out. We lived on Robinson St. until I was almost nine, then moved to Burbank. Anyway, a young studio guitarist named Del Catcher lived in the little back house of our old place; he was nice to me and demonstrated his musical instruments whenever I asked. He was a regular on "Melody Ranch," a local Country-Western TV show on KTLA channel 5, and later composed and played the theme to the Channel Four Evening News.

As I mentioned earlier, Dad's concept of the back yard was an emulation of Polynesia. This was his first tiki god, painted for him by Bob Ferriter, a family friend. (Or was he? These Hawaiian themes painted on various surfaces in the back yard caused no end of trouble between Mom and Dad. Mom, of course, thought they were in horrible taste. He had the same opinion of everything she did.)

The back yard Polynesian theme was further carried out by the use of bamboo fencing, pampas grass (nasty stuff - I was always getting cut by the sharp edges of the blades), monkey masks carved out of coconuts and fish nets. It was extravagant.

I suspect Dad's decorating schemes may have been partially fueled by a restaurant in Laguna Beach called "The Royal Hawaiian." Founded in 1949, we used to make the hour drive to eat there every now and then, and take in the beach atmosphere. Dad made a point of asking whatever waitress we got how the owner (an Asian fellow named Francis) was doing. I don't know how he knew him, but it seemed to be a point of pride.

I returned to the Royal Hawaiian for a barbeque rib meal in August 1998. (That's their electric eye tiki below.) I am happy to report the food was even better than I had remembered it, and the waitress told me that Francis, now in his 80's, recently sold the joint to his son, Francis, Jr. The interior - lush ferns, mysteriously-lit aquariums, bamboo matting, old photos of the islands and, inevitably, tikis - has not changed at all. Ah.

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