Monday, September 11, 2017

Tiki in Lockhart?

I did something Saturday I hardly ever do--I visited an estate sale. Why? Because the notice I happened across emphasized that the sale had a significant tiki element. Witness these photos from the listing:

What's more, the sale was in Lockhart. Lockhart? I knew they had lots of good barbecue in Lockhart, but tiki? I'd never heard of such a thing. Tiki, it seems, never really caught on in Texas. Unlike the Midwest, where folks were decking out their basements in the 1950s and 60s as South Seas getaways, and California, which is part of every cultural movement that ever sweeps the U.S., Texas sat on the sidelines as far as home tiki bars went. Yes, there was Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcomber's in Dallas and Houston, and Austin and Corpus Christi had their own, local restaurants, but it never became a thing here, you know? So for an actual tiki bar getaway to exist in Lockhart, well, I had to see it.

Unfortunately for me, the sale actually began on Friday. Which meant that by the time I got there around 9:30 Saturday morning, the best stuff--the hanging tiki lamps, the tiki bar itself, and a bunch of other upscale collectibles--were already gone. Heck, there was quite a collection of tiki mugs in a "saved" bin when I arrived that morning, grabbed up by folks who'd gotten there shortly before me. And those same mugs showed up on the Austin Craig's List today, so go figure. Despite some of the best stuff already being gone, I came away with a few nifty items. Shark Bites restaurant in Coos Bay, Oregon, has an entire wall decorated with an array of Hawaiian and tropical coffee bean burlap sacks. That's what this one had been used for in Lockhart, and that's the role it will serve in my tiki bar as well.

I don't really know why or how the oversized wooden fork and spoon became such an iconic part of tiki culture from the 1950s, but it did. I always knew I'd get some at some point, and that point was apparently Saturday. I like the designs on this set.

This punch bowl set is probably the most impressive of my acquisitions. The set came with 11 carved cups, carved punchbowl, ladle and lazy susan platform. I'm guessing it's carved monkeypod from the Philippines, but that's just a guess. It's dusty and needs a serious cleaning, but beyond one cup that has a crack starting on the rim, it is in excellent shape. Once I get it scrubbed up nice and clean, I plan to give it a good coating of pure tung oil to ensure it lasts for years to come.

There was also a huge CD collection, which I came away with a couple of steel drum band albums, a bunch of Hawaiian slack-key guitar discs, Harry Belafonte Live at Carnegie Hall and the Crazed Mugs, which is kind of tiki/surf/folk music. Think of the Austin Lounge Lizards with a more tropical bent and you'll have an idea of the sound. I also got Night of the Tiki, which was a museum exhibit catalog from 2001 or so and is somewhat hard to come by these days, so yeah. I also grabbed a bunch of non-tiki CDs, like a Led Zeppeling boxed set, Count Basie, Jefferson Airplane... the folks who'd lived here, I started thinking, shared very similar tastes with me.

Little did I know. I started out in the tiki bar, which was housed in the garage, separate from the house. Then I went into the house to see what else was available, and was surprised to encounter his and her Starfleet uniforms:

They had lots of science fiction books. They were huge Babylon 5 fans, with just about every doll, model kit and CD produced for that show. They had several of the scripts JMS had published a decade or so back. Who were these people? Why hadn't I ever heard of them? We had so many overlapping interests. Were they Armadillocon regulars? Mikal Trimm was the only Lockhart resident I knew who frequented science fiction circles. Then I saw these shirts. Yes, that's a LoneStarCon 2 shirt from 1997 with a Don Maitz autograph. They also had a Bouchercon shirt as well. Hmm. This is neither here nor there, but they also had a bunch of scuba gear, beekeeping suits and a 1988 Pontiac Fiero for sale as well (some assembly required on that last item).

Surely I would've heard word from somewhere had such enthusiastic genre fans in the Austin area died! Even if I didn't know them personally, word gets around, right? Turns out this estate sale wasn't exactly a traditional estate sale. The couple is still very much alive, I learned from the sale workers. Both came into nice inheritances, and decided to build a house in Spain and retire there. That sounds amazing. At the same time, I can't fathom just picking up and leaving all this behind. All the tikis and mermaids and books and music and assorted decorations throughout the tiki bar and house meant something to them at one time, and they left it all behind. I don't think I could do the same.

Here's a half-assed panorama shot of the tiki lounge I took. There are just shelves and Babylon 5 collectibles behind me, nothing really tiki. I'd have like to see this place it its glory days, when it was set up for entertaining, not just to sell off.

This rack of tiki mugs was in the house. I got excited when I saw the 2015 Texas Tiki Week Armadillo mug. I really want one of those. I was considerably less excited when I saw the listed price of $75. I passed. I witnessed two other couples go through the same thing when they discovered that mug as well. All the other mugs there were overpriced as well, and none of those were as remotely desirable as the armadillo.

This banner was right outside the tiki bar. Huna Lounge? Is that what they called their getaway, or was this a banner they acquired somewhere else as a souvenir? A quick Google search indicates this was indeed the name for their tiki paradise, and the wife went by the online moniker of Janet Mermaid. More Google stalking turns up that "Mermaid Janet" is, in fact, mystery author Janet Christian. Huh. I'm certain she's well-known amongst my circle of author friends who write mysteries, but I don't think I've ever met her. Weird.

On the shelves to the right you can just glimpse the one thing I almost bought but talked myself out of. It's a set of 8 Siesta Ware frosted tiki Collins glasses, with mahogany wraps. These were in excellent condition--far better than the set I have--and also included some design patterns I'd never see before. The price was reasonable, and I was sorely tempted, justifying to myself that I could sell my existing set to break even. Alas, I was on a tight budget (and actually went way over as it was) so I left those glasses behind. But they were very, very nice.

Someday, my kids will be the beneficiaries of a similar estate sale. I wonder if they'll have tiki enthusiasts come from Austin and San Antonio, hoping to find some vintage treasure from tiki's 1950s heyday. I'm not there yet, but who am I to disappoint?

Now Playing: Doug Walker Sundance
Chicken Ranch Central


  1. I don't recall ever meeting Janet Christian, but I'm happy for her good fortune (and for yours in getting all that loot). And let's not forget that Don the Beachcomber was from my hometown of Mexia, Texas.

    1. I figured you'd have known her, Bill, or at least run into her at Bouchercon. And yes, the whole tiki thing was invented by a Mexia native!