Monday, September 18, 2017

Vintage Postcards, Balboa, California - Part One

Today's post is a bit different from the usual theme park or world's fair subject matter; GDB pal Steve Stuart has scanned over a dozen of his postcards featuring photos from an area of Southern California that (chances are) folks from elsewhere have never heard of. And yet it's been a draw for tourists and locals for decades - a beach community on steroids, perhaps? Don't blame Steve for that terrible analogy, I own that one all by myself. 

Anyway, Steve has also provided an amazing writeup to accompany the scans - WAY more work than I would ever do. Hey, there's television shows to be watched. Because Steve scanned so many cards and wrote so much great text, I have split it into two posts, with the second installment coming in one week. Here's Steve:

Balboa – The Peninsula – whatever you call it – is that wonderful seaside town made famous in story and song-?  Okay, perhaps in TV & movies – The Baileys of Balboa and The Girl Most Likely, among others.  (Talk about obscure references-!)  Also, home to some pretty fabulous ‘estates’, the “historic” Balboa Pavilion, the Fun Zone and noted surfing spots.  Well, at least it was when these images were current.  (Come to think of it – I suppose, that really hasn’t changed.  Maybe you can go home again).  Just bring plenty – and I do mean plenty – of money.

Ahhh, what could be more fun and relaxing than a trip on the Balboa Island Ferry-?  I’ve ridden on all the ferries in the fleet: The Admiral, The Commodore, and The Captain many a time, in cars, on bicycle and on foot – from back in the days as pictured in this image (early 1960’s) prior to the addition of an enclosed wheelhouse on each ferry – well into the late 1990’s.  Although the “journey” is a mere 800 feet, it’s still one of life’s little pleasures.  The Beek family, who purchased the line back in 1915, still operates the boats.  Who says there’s no such a thing as tradition-??

Here are some images from the Balboa Fun Zone.  The first two are from 1957 and the third is from some time in the early 1960’s.  

In this first image from 1957, the Rides area is off to the left, behind the storefronts.  Either in that green building in the background, or just off to its left was where as a 10 or 11-year old, I had a custom, airbrushed tee shirt made.  I can’t recall the image which I chose, but undoubtedly it was ‘cool’ – or so my young mind thought.  (One can only speculate how cheap the rent must‘ve been back then to allow such a low-margin business to exist in what must now be ├╝ber-prime real estate).

Here’s a view from within the Rides area.  The building in the back houses the Penny Arcade, and I quite vividly remember its many pinball machines and the always-fun ‘mechanical claw’ machines, and who-knows what else it housed.  The cupola of the Balboa Pavilion can be seen just off to the right of the miniature Ferris wheel.

Here is a more flattering view of the Balboa Pavilion, with the Fun Zone off to our right.  On many occasions, we rented boats from the Boat Rental business seen here.

And here are three more views from the 1957-1959 era showing the public beach area facing Newport Bay.  Wow – talk about ‘petite’-!  “Just elbow your way right on in there, folks, and please don’t trip on that playpen…”

Man, that looks like a fun place to be, especially on a warm, sunny day. Fortunately there are a lot of those! Once again, many thanks to Steve Stuart for all of his time and effort. Stay tuned for part two!


Nancy said...

These views are beautiful! I want to go there right now. Certainly a popular place from what we see here.

Thanks for sharing these, looking forward to more! :D

K. Martinez said...

Excellent post and write up, Steve. I love the second postcard with the various red water craft on shore. It just looks like a fun place to be. In addition, I really like the two last postcards with the various colored beach parasols. Reminds me of home in the early days.

This is one place I knew about, but unfortunately missed back in the day. Thank you for sharing more from your postcard collection, Steve.

Melissa said...

I can practically feel the sand under my feet!

Chuck said...

Me, too. The downside is that I'm also wearing socks and dress shoes and it's really starting to itch.

Great set, Steve. Thanks for sharing!

Nanook said...

Yes - sand, socks and dress shoes - the perfect outfit for the beach, circa 1910.

@ Ken-
I forgot about all those old beach umbrellas - seems to be a thing of the past, now.

TokyoMagic! said...

Fun stuff, Steve! Are there any rides remaining today?

Nanook said...

@ TM!-

Well, not so much. The carousel moved [to Westminster] in 2011, when it lost its lease; and the Bay Arcade closed just this August - after 70 years of operation - after the building was sold. The Ferris wheel still remains - having been in operation since 1936. Perhaps I was wrong: Maybe you can't go home again.

Anonymous said...

The lack of high rise buildings in the background of the first shot is stunning and a reminder to me of what it looked like when I arrived in Costa Mesa in 1963. KS