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Kooky Ukes, Artistry in Woods

Kooky Ukes, Artistry in Woods

I remember the first time we saw one of these strange, but cool instruments. Mel and I were visiting our friend Christina and she asked if we were interested in this ukulele. She explained to me that these were pretty popular in the 60s. She said surfers would play them and when a righteous wave would come up, they’d turn them upside down, stick their heads in the sand, grab their board, and hit the waves! This explains the long neck of most of the ukuleles.

These ukuleles were considered novelty ukuleles and usually just ended up hanging on peoples walls as wood art. They definitely have a style to them.

They were created by Ancil Swagerty (1911-1991). These were produced by the Swagerty Specialties Company in San Clemente California in the 1960s. The firm ceased trading in the early 1970’s. These pieces of wall hanging art eventually became to be known as pretty good sounding ukuleles. With their exaggerated shape and bright colors they were real eye catchers.

The ukuleles that were produced by Swaggerty were the following 3 models…

The Tripartite-soundhole Treholipee (originally sold for $ 19.95)

Treholipee – The Treholipee is 47″ long and they can be in yellow, orange or green.  You might wonder where the name came from for this instrument?  It appears the “Tre” is for three.  The “Holi” is for holes.  I’m not sure what the “pee” stands for.

The Kook-a-la-lee (Originally sold for $12.95)

The Kook-a-La-Lee seems to have been a close relation to the Treholipee.  The main differences are that it was two inches shorter (at 45″) and the headstock was straight and not curved.  Another difference is that the Kook-a-La-Lee has a heart-shaped sound hole and not the three music note holes sported by the Treholipee.

And finally the Surf-a-lele (originally sold for $13.95)

The Surf-a-Lele was like a compact version of the Kook-a-La-Lee.  The idea was that there was a need for a smaller version so that you could play it in tighter areas.

These unique ukuleles were endorsed by musician, comedian & writer Steve Allen. These were proclaimed to be “a new sound for a new generation”. These Kooky-ukes were sold In department stores and west coast music stores. They were promoted as part of the California surfing lifestyle.

Some of the Swaggerty ukuleles have a “Murf The Surf” character decal on them designed by famous artist Rick Griffin! Only some of the ukuleles have this decal making those ukuleles more desirable.

Out of the four we own, only the Surf-A-Lele had this decal by artist Rick Griffin.

These instruments are made of beech ply. They are quite thin in the body like a Travel Ukulele and apparently, people are surprised with how good they sound. It appears that there was also a 3 string strumstick kind of Kooky Uke and a double neck version, (that was supposedly never sold commercially but just given to Swagerty’s friends?)

Double-neck Kook-a-La-Lee – Apparently, there was a variation of the Kook-a-La-Lee that had two necks!!  These were made specially for friends and were never marketed to the general public. Besides having two necks, they are also different from the standard Kook-a-La-Lee in that the sound holes are round and not heart-shaped.  The decal on the body also just says Kook-a-La-Lee. For me this is the holy grail ukulele, maybe one day we will find one!

The Polk-a-Lay-Lee was not part of this series. They are knock offs made by the Petersen Co. of Ohio in the early 60’s. It was given away as part of an advertising campaign for the Polk Bros. furniture and electrical goods company. It has a plastic fretboard, tuners and saddle, and comes in different colours (both the Ukulele and the plastic work). On the box they came in they are called Wander-a-lay-lee though the headstock says Polk-a-lay-lee.

Polk-a-lay-lee

The “Little Guitar” is also not part of the “Kooky Ukes” series but it was made by Swagerty as kind of the follow up. It wasn’t as popular and I don’t think Swagerty designed anymore Ukuleles after this.

Little Guitar – This instrument is the rarest in the Kooky-Ukes line.  These made their appearance somewhere between 1964 and 1968.

Ancil was granted a patent for the Treholipee in 1966. There was believed to be roughly 60,000 of these manufactured. The Treholipee flagship for Swagerty’s Kooky Ukes line of instruments. Both the Treholipee and the Kook-a-Lele had long headstocks and the idea was the surfers could stick the instruments upside-down in the sand when it was time for surfin’.

Here is the companion book to these Kooky Ukes. This is pretty hard to find as well. If anyone out there has one reach out cuz I am on the hunt!

Here is an original tag that would have been hanging from one of these fantastic ukuleles. I don’t imagine many of these are laying around.

Here is Frank Sinatra’s daughter, Nancy, posing with a Kook-a-la-lee! I am just guessing it was tied to “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”.

These pieces are great pieces of beach culture and I am sure many have not seen one of these in the flesh. Since I have started collecting them I plan to try and learn how to play a little. Off to the next thing!

 

Sources:

http://database.ukulelecorner.co.uk/rst/swaggerty?tmpl=%2Fsystem%2Fapp%2Ftemplates%2Fprint%2F&showPrintDialog=1

https://sites.google.com/site/ukulelemakers/rst/swaggerty

https://trademark.trademarkia.com/kookalalee-72200507.html

https://reverb.com/item/4272819-swaggerty-gaggle-of-kook-a-lele-s-three-of-em-1960s-free-shipping

https://reverb.com/item/1757572-1960-s-vintage-swagerty-novelty-tenor-uke-ukulele-singing-treholipee-orange-all-original-rare-10

https://www.gbase.com/gear/swagerty-and-petersen-novelty-ukes-singing-tr

 

All New for 1959, The Willys Maverick Wagon

All New for 1959, The Willys Maverick Wagon


So we got rid of our radical 70’ Camaro with a 427 racing motor. It was too much car. My wife has gotten used to me being around and that car was a widow maker. We wanted to pick up something with power but could shuttle the family around.

I was surfing Craigslist when I saw this yellow dream 1959 Willys Maverick Wagon 4X2. I had the great pleasure of meeting the owners of the Willys, Kelly and Janice. They took such great care of this Willys. This car was actually restored top to bottom in the early 2000’s. Kelly said the previous owners spent around $40K to restore it! It was restored as a promotional vehicle for a coffee shop in L.A.. That business went under and the Willys was sold to Kelly & Janice. They used it mainly as a grocery getter and to shuttle grandkids around for ice cream.

This Willys was built right. It sports a Chevy 350 motor that really moves this wagon because of the lightness of the vehicle. Wagon comes equipped with A/C, power windows, power seats all new gauges, newer seats and interior. This is one of the cleanest Willys classics I have ever seen. These vehicles were work horses and usually did not survive the hard life they were subjected to.

Things Mel and I want to do is add whitewalls, alarm, maybe a cool vintage roof rack and  a new aluminum radiator (better cooling). I also want to add wood grain vinyl decals to the recessed rectangular areas on the body to give it more of a “woodie” feel. That is about it because everything is done.

I think this is the original radiator. It does the job and has an electric fan installed. If you have ever owned a classic, traffic can be a real headache because of lack of air flow. These fans run off a thermostat and kick on to keep the engine cool. Someone at some point also added an under the dash switch to manually turn on the electric fan. I drove this wagon home from Stockton about 80+ miles and she did alright.

The seller Kelly told me usually the roof on these wagons are smooth. He said while researching this wagon he could only find one other one that had the linear recesses on top. He mentioned at one point, Willys was in talks with a refrigerator manufacturer to produce body panels and he wonders if maybe this is a prototype???

Another thing we need to look into is maybe raising the Willys a couple of inches. This is due to the fact that the exhaust manifold hangs down and on rare occasions it may drag/rub.

The interior is still very fresh and in overall good condition. Having a power option on this wagon is a trip, because when they were built they were very basic.

All the panels inside have this cool Willys logo design. I actually think there might be speakers under each logo. This thing has a good sound system, but I don’t see any speakers.

Because Willys basically have no dash top, I had to create a small shelf for our Aloha dancer to perform on. I can’t make this a beach wagon without one of these!

Another quark about these wagons is that they don’t have access to the back seat. This means passengers have to enter through the back hatch to sit on the back bench. I guess they didn’t see any issues with that design! Thank god I am the driver because I am too big to crawl around in the back!

This is in no way a Concourse level restoration, but it is one of the cleanest drivers I have ever seen. It has little areas that might need attention, but once it is dialed in that’s it! Here are some other photos, enjoy!

I came across an original waterslide Beach Boys decal and I just had to add it.

 

Vintage Poloron 17” Santa Head Blowmold Restoration (Part 1)

Vintage Poloron 17” Santa Head Blowmold Restoration (Part 1)

Mel and I have been getting really into holiday blowmolds. With the addition of our daughter Autumn Rose (now a year and a half!!!) we want to make the holidays extra special for her. Even to this day I remember when Halloween was near because when I would come home from school my mom would hang diecut Halloween figures in the windows. I remember how excited I would get.

After searching around on the internet it became clear that the best way to strip these blowmolds is to use oven cleaner not stripper. I used Easy-Off oven cleaner and it worked like a charm!


Once you spray the blowmold thoroughly let it sit and work. I checked it at about 45 minuets and I was surprised how much paint had been removed.


So obviously the oven cleaner removed 90% of the paint except these stubborn areas. I sprayed the piece again and let it sit for 20 more minuets but this time I used plastic bristle brushes to agitate the cleaner in those areas and it removed the rest of the paint. Don’t use metal bristle brushes because it could mar the surface of the mold.

So here is the result of all the oven cleaner and a little elbow grease. The pupils were black and they stained the mold. No big deal gonna be black again anyways. Once the mold is stripped you need to give it a ammonia bath to strip any oils, dirt or residue. I decided to start small to better understand the process. I recommend you start small before you take on a 5’ santa. Keep an eye out for part 2 where we start the painting process.

Vintage Fiberglass Safari Animal Heads From Banana Republic

Vintage Fiberglass Safari Animal Heads From Banana Republic

While surfing Craigslist I came across a gentleman who was selling three wall mounts. He was selling a Zebra, Gemsbok Antelope and a Kudu Antelope (Kudu is the one with the twisted horns). We are always on the hunt for cool additions to add to our Tiki/Big Game room and these fit the bill!

The retail company called Banana Republic was founded by Mel and Patricia Ziegler in 1978

Back in the 80’s Banana Republic was rolling out African safari themed ads. During this time they went all out decorating their stores. They adorned the walls with many kinds of fiberglass safari animal heads.

These heads had a stamp that reads BR1985 (Banana Republic 1985). They produced the animal heads I am posting but also elephants, rhinos, giraffes and many more. Most of these heads were destroyed after a change in the stores advertising direction. Enough with the back story let’s discuss the mounts we picked up…

The first one I will discuss is the Kudu. These are life size pieces and unfortunately this one had a busted off horn at the base. Upon further examination I realized the other horn was loose as well. I decided to bust that horn off at the base too.

I knew the best thing to fix this was JB Weld! This stuff is remarkably strong. The horns were made out of solid resin so I needed something that would be able to hold them in place with their considerable weight.

I applied a liberal amount of JB Weld and used my finger to wipe off any excess that squeezed out from under the horns. Once dried I touched the bases up with paint to help conceal the repairs.

Next I put the Zebra head in its place…

Lastly I hung the Gemsbok…

Along with these new additions we have our rhino, shark and chimp!…

Here is a small video of the heads in place…

1967 Chrysler Newport Convertible cruiser (Ruby)

We picked this gem up yesterday as a cool ride to cruise in this summer.

Though this thing is 19.5 ft long, it scoots right along. This is not a show car, but it is a really solid driver. It has been painted 2006 PT Cruiser Inferno Red. It was manufactured out of the Chrysler plant in Jefferson Detroit. The guy I got it from won it on eBay in 2005 from a guy in Thomasville North Carolina. The truck and floorboards have been replaced and look like new.

This boat has a real Mad Men feel to it. I had to drive it home in the rain yesterday. Let’s just say I will need to make few adjustments to make it more water tight.

Things I plan to do to this cruiser are; have the front and rear bumpers re-chromed, probably rebuild carb, overall tune-up and fluid change, polish the aluminum wheels, try to find the lower rocker trim that is missing on both sides, and just tinker with it a lot. Oh, and if you read this and have those trim pieces please reach out to me!😃

Once I get “Ruby” all dialed in she will be a regular run around town grocery getter.

Now that we live in the Bay Area, I would love to take this car over the Golden Gate Bridge with the top down and the sun shining.

We will keep you updated on Ruby’s progress. Here are some additional photos….

Mid Century TECHFAB Fiberglass Seating

As I always do, I was surfing Craigslist in surrounding areas and came across this set down in Fresno. Once I was able to coordinate a showing I hopped in the truck and shot down!These were being sold by a gentleman down in Fresno who had a warehouse full of stuff. He said that he buys a lot of items from estate sales.

My plans are to light sand these and then repaint them. These will be great as additional seating in our backyard.

Each section has five chairs. They’re mounted on really sturdy and heavy metal frames. It would take quite an effort to tip one of these over.

The cool thing is that both pieces still have the original manufactures tag on it. I’m assuming that these were made sometime in the 1960s. The gentleman I purchased them from didn’t really know much about them.

Once these are refinished, I think they will look really good in our side yard where we plan to put a horse shoe pit or bocce ball game area. It seems like anymore you have to go the distance to find the cool things.

WITCO “Throne Chair”

As usual, Mel and I were cruising Craigslist and came across this fantastic WITCO throne chair! The seller was unaware that it was WITCO and just listed it as a throne chair. We shot over to Elk Grove, CA and with some haggling, we snagged it for $400 because she just wanted it gone! Once we loaded the chair in our truck we shot over to our upholsterer Custom Upholstery.

We are sooo excited to add this to our other pieces of WITCO.

It is is rough shape, but when the upholstery is done and I oil the hell out of it, it will look like new.

The armrests are so wide. This will make them great as a work surface for my laptop. I think we have a new blog chair!

There are a lot of cool tikis carved into this chair.

These two upper tiki heads are detachable.

The heads just mount on these studs.

We can’t wait to get this restored.

Finding the original tag when we flipped the chair over was an extra bonus!

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