Friday, January 24, 2014

Queen’s Surf

"Hamohamo is justly considered to be the most life-giving and healthy district in the whole extent of the island of Oʻahu; there is something unexplainable and peculiar in the atmosphere of that place, which seldom fails to bring back the glow of health to the patient, no matter from what disease suffering." (Queen Liliʻuokalani)

The Queen "derived much amusement, as well as pleasure: for as the sun shines on the evil and the good, and the rain falls on the just and the unjust, I have not felt called upon to limit the enjoyment of my beach and shade-trees to any party in politics ... While in exile it has ever been a pleasant thought to me that my people, in spite of differences of opinions, are enjoying together the free use of my seashore home."

Because of her nearby homes, they called the coastal area in this part of Waikīkī Queen’s Surf Beach.

In 1914, Mr & Mrs WK Seering of the International Harvester Co in Illinois built a home there.  A couple decades later, Fleischman’s Yeast heir, Mr CR Holmes, bought the home (he also had other Hawaiʻi property, including Coconut Island in Kāneʻohe Bay.) (ilind)

During WWII, the house was used for military retreats and other military uses.  Admiral Nimitz, General Douglas McArthur and staffs spent time there.

After World War II (and following Holmes’ death,) the City & County of Honolulu bought the property and leased it to the Spencecliff Corporation restaurant chain; it became their flagship property and operated it as the hugely popular Queen’s Surf Restaurant and Nightclub.

Sterling Edwin Kilohana Mossman (February 3, 1920 to February 21, 1986) headlined at its upstairs Barefoot Bar.  A man as versatile as he was talented, literally led a double life. A detective with the Honolulu Police Department during the day, after dark he was one of Hawaiʻi's most popular entertainers. His diversified careers earned him the nickname "Hula Cop". (TerritorialAirwaves)

The Barefoot Bar was ground zero for this new brand of local comedy. Mossman was the ringleader, along with the likes of Lucky Luck, a zany radio personality, and Kent Bowman, known as KK Kaumanua.  They told stories, sang songs and, when a celebrity from the Mainland happened to come by (and they did a lot), they became part of the show.  (HonoluluMagazine)

Mossman sang and did comedy and included a lot of others in the evening’s entertainment.  The footprints of many of these Island and internationally known entertainers lined the stairway up to the second floor bar.

For a while, downstairs, at the Surf Lanai, Kuiokalani (Kui) Lee sang for the crowds – inside and out of the restaurant.  During the day, the beach was crowded with sun bathers; at night it was full of Island residents listening in on Kui Lee’s long list of local favorites (he’d turn to the ocean and sing a final song to the folks on the beach.)

Born in Shanghai, China, the third child and only son of Hawaiian entertainers Billy and Ethel Lee, Kui Lee was a prolific songwriter.  Folks like Don Ho, Elvis, Tony Bennett and Andy Williams recorded and performed his songs: "I'll Remember You," "One Paddle, Two Paddle", "She's Gone Again", "No Other Song", "If I Had To Do It All Over Again", "Yes, It's You", "Rain, Rain Go Away", "Get On Home", "The Days Of My Youth" and "Lahainaluna."

"Kui was very brash, very positive about his songs," said Kimo McVay, owner of Duke Kahanamoku's nightclub from 1961 to '71 and manager/promoter of Don Ho from 1963 to '66. "He gave them to Don, and Don, of course, made them hits. When Don became a star because of that material, a national star, that's what launched Kui. And Kui became the star of Queen's Surf." (star-bulletin)

Here is Kui Lee singing Days of My Youth (a reminder for me of growing up in the Islands, and the one time I was able to sit on the beach and listen to Kui Lee perform – unfortunately, Kui Lee died of cancer at the age of 34 in 1966.)  Click HERE for a YouTube for one of Kui Lee's songs.

Queen’s surf also offered a regular lūʻau on the property.

The stories vary on the cause, but later there was a lease dispute with the City and the Queen's Surf and the neighboring Kodak Hula Show were evicted, the Queen’s Surf was torn down (1971) and the Waikīkī beachfront area was turned into a public park.

The image shows Queen’s Surf from the beach.  In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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