Sunday, January 12, 2014

Revenge of the Mystery Tikis!

The odd couple.
You may remember seeing the three tikis in today's post at Hobby City on the Anaheim/Stanton border on Beach Blvd. Carved by Milan Guanko, they graced the seashell store (later Radical Reptiles) from about 1959 until sometime around 2007. Even renowned tiki hunter Sven Kirsten hasn't been able to discover where they've gone.  If you know, or have a possible clue to share, please leave a note in the comments section or send me an email.
He shouldn't have tried the chili.
 In 1955, Jay DeArmond and his wife, Bea, began turning an old chicken ranch on Highway 39 into the colorful roadside curiosity they would later name Hobby City.  They chose the moniker "City" because Orange County already had a Farm (Knott's) and a Land (Disney). (Someday, I'll finish a lengthy piece about Hobby City, but I'd like to chat with the DeArmond's family first.)

In an Oct. 1, 1989 article, Register reporter Dean Takahashi described the DeArmond family enterprise as "perhaps Orange County's oldest living example of cluster retailing: putting retailers of the same or similar goods together to multiply their marketing power and attract customers who know what kind of item they want to buy or want to compare prices. ...On their own, Hobby City's stores -- such as Ansdell Piano, The Aquarium, The Bear Tree, Rocks & Gems, Stamp and Coin, Century Models, and Me and JJ's Miniatures -- would be outside the shopping limelight. But clustered together, they have become a destination for tourists and hard-core hobbyists."
All three tikis were lightly painted at some point -- Clearly not an original feature.
A number of the businesses were owned and operated by the DeArmonds themselves, including a doll museum built to resemble the White House, and the “Treasure Cove” Seashell & Driftwood Shop, which opened in 1959. Treasure Cove catered not just to seashell collectors, but also to the then-popular trend of decorating homes, patios and restaurants in nautical or faux-Polynesian motifs.

In 1999, a young man named Kevin Dunn opened Radical Reptiles in the old Treasure Cove building. He was only 19 when Bea DeArmond first talked to him about opening a reptile store and nature museum for children at Hobby City. The shop moved out in the mid-2000s, when it seemed Hobby City was destined to be bulldozed to make way for yet another damned condo complex. But the housing market tanked, so while Radical Reptiles (and other shops) are now missing, there are still no condos and Hobby City carries on.  (See my earlier posts: 1 and 2)
The Radical Reptiles facade in 2006, with tikis barely visible on the left.
A word about tiki carver Milan Flores Guanko (1906-1994): He had a carving shop at Gray's Nursery further down Beach Blvd. in Westminster. Guanko learned to carve from his father in the Philippines before immigrating to the U.S.  in 1928. During WWII, he began carving full-time. His tikis appeared at Disneyland, the Western Hills Hotel, the Royal Hawaiian Restaurant in Laguna Beach, The Islands Restaurant in Phoenix, Ren Clark’s Polynesian Village in Fort Worth, Texas, and many more restaurants, hotels and apartments throughout the world. He died at age 87 in Glendale, where he’d moved his shop in later years.

Again, if you know where these tikis ended up, or if you have other interesting information or contacts re Hobby City's history, please send me a note.

1 comment:

retrocounty said...

Greetings ! I drove by Hobby City last month only to discover they took down the giant tree and replaced it with just a regular building. I thought to myself "Somebody doesn't have a sense of humor or inner child" What has become of Hobby City ? Does anyone know ?