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Hawaiian Mania

An abundance of disposable income combined with Hawaii’s entrance into the Union in 1959 manifested itself in the US as a mania for all things Hawaiian . . .

Polynesian restaurants and bars like Don The Beachcomber’s and Trader Vic’s had been serving Mai Tai’s since before World War II, but now “Tiki” bars – usually furnished with excessive amounts of bamboo and blowfish lanterns – were springing up all over the place.

tiki_000Housewives were taking Hula lessons, and suburbanites everywhere were holding weekend luaus in their back yards – which, in turn, were often transformed into a miniature tropical paradise, replete with palm trees, Tiki torches, and statues of Polynesian gods.

For many Americans (especially men who had served in the South Pacific during WWII), the tropical South Sea island seemed the very embodiment of “the good life”.

Additionally, the wild ‘pagan’ lifestyles associated with island culture seemed to offer titillating relief, at least in theory, from the rampant sexual repression of the Eisenhower era.

Television also cashed in on the Polynesian craze, with Hawaiian Eye, a detective show set in Honolulu.