In San Pedro, just south of Los Angeles, an unusual man named Eli Hedley created the aesthetic we now know today as the “beachcomber” look. Hedley had been a grocer in Oklahoma, when the Depression sent him and his family west in search of a better life. They found it on the beaches of Southern California. Hedley, with the help of his wife and daughters, found ways to use items found on the beach — glass, shells, nautical equipment — and turn them into housewares and decorations. They built a home at White Point half out of driftwood, and they started selling their unique housewares to the department stores in the area. Hedley quickly made a name for himself, and in time he was outfitting bars, restaurants and hotels with his beachcomber pieces — he even created the massive moai for the Stardust’s Aku Aku in Las Vegas. Hedley became a decorator to the stars, too, and it was not unusual for Hollywood celebrities to escape to the Hedley home at White Point now and then. Hedley even became part of Disneyland, when Walt Disney asked him to help decorate Adventureland; for years he operated the Island Trade Store, where the Bazaar is today.
Hedley’s grandson, Bamboo Ben, continues his family’s tradition with his store on Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach. Bamboo Ben had related how to visit the site of the home his mother and aunts grew up in, and Sabu the Coconut Boy recently paid a visit, camera in hand.