Look! Rare Photos of the "Polynesian" Interior of the Luau



photo courtesy Bonnie Daws Kourvelas

Look what my pal Bonnie Daws Kourvelas has turned up — some rare interior shots of the Luau, the Polynesian-themed restaurant that stood on Poplar across from East High School.

Bonnie, who attended Sheffield High School, has been poring over some old Sheffield scrapbooks she acquired from the mid-1970s, and turned up these (and several more) snapshots of a high-school organization — we're not sure which one — that was having a luncheon at the Luau, and she passed the photos on to me. Note the woven-grass-covered walls (did this place pass the fire codes?), the somewhat bizarre decorations, and the "authentic" Polynesian attire of the waitresses.

In some of the shots, the walls are rather plain-looking paneling, but until somebody tells me otherwise, I'm going to assume all of these were taken at the Luau.

Bonnie is one of the few people I know who will publicly admit that she shares my enthusiasm for this kind of off-the-wall historical weirdness. She's harnessed some of that energy as the producer of several outstanding Memphis Memoirs historical segments for WKNO-TV, as the host and producer of the Southern Routes series on that same station (some of which actually featured a fellow named Vance Lauderdale), as the author of a very fine illustrated history of Dyersburg, and in many other ventures. I'm always grateful for her capable assistance.

Recognize any of the folks in these photos?

Now: If we could only find a halfway decent shot of the outside of the restaurant ...

Thanks, Bonnie. Keep looking!

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

You can find him from time to time in the pages of the Memphis Flyer and MBQ, on WKNO television, and on Facebook. When he is not exploring the highways and byways of Memphis, he spends his time sleeping, napping, and dozing.

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