American Heritage Article on Tiki

The article deals mostly with Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic.

Victor Jules Bergeron was born in San Francisco in 1903, the son of a French Canadian waiter and grocery-store operator. Before he was six he had survived the great earthquake of 1906 and a ravaging bout of tuberculosis that claimed his left leg. In 1934, with $300 of his own and $800 borrowed from an aunt, he opened a small beer joint and luncheonette in Oakland. It was called Hinky Dinks, and it would likely have come and gone like so many other largely forgettable restaurants, but Bergeron, like Donn Beach, didn’t set low expectations for himself. Prohibition had recently ended, and Bergeron’s customers displayed an uncommon curiosity about cocktails—the more outlandish and inventive, the better. In 1937 Bergeron took a vacation to New Orleans, Trinidad, and Havana and sampled some of the famous cocktails then in fashion, like rum punch in Trinidad and daiquiris made at the legendary El Floridita in Havana. Back in California, Bergeron visited a tropical-themed restaurant called the South Seas that had recently opened in Los Angeles, then went on to visit a place everyone was talking about. It was Don the Beachcomber.

Bergeron headed back to Oakland and set about reinventing his restaurant and himself. He got rid of the name Hinky Dinks (which he concluded was “junky”) and cast around for a new one. His wife pointed out that he was always involved in some deal or trade. Why not Trader Vic’s?

(Thanks PVC)