Memories of Balboa Beach

Ron Walker

Ron Walker

Because I sell an inordinate number of subscriptions to the Citizen News of Hollywood, I win a two night stay with my older cousin (also a winner) at a forlorn beach motel in Balboa Beach. It is an adventure of monumental proportions. We go to the neighborhood amusement park, test the surf of the New Port Beach peninsula and fish off the docks at the Balboa Bay Pavilion. We also ride on the car ferry that carries cars to Balboa Island from the mainland. The ride takes barely 10 minutes and carries six cars and a dozen passengers. An island is an island, no matter that it is a miniature. A mystique permeates each and every one of the 30x85 foot lots (from a mud-flat in the early 1900s to million dollar lots today). The homes are quaint or sometimes exotic and elaborately gardened.

On a later adventure, with the coming of adolescence, I return to Balboa and rent an 8-foot rowboat embellished with a sail. I push off from the dock, put up the sail and catch a stiff breeze and off I go. The rudder handle jumps out of my hand, but I quickly recover and begin an amazing zig-jag maneuver up and down the bay. Early in life, I learn to dabble in adventure but on a restrained basis.

Being an avid fisherman, I test the waters of the mighty Pacific Ocean. A public live-bait fishing boat from the Balboa Pavilion is the occasion. It takes just a half hour from the time you leave the dock at the Pavilion until you have your line in the water. The skipper of the vessel sets a course toward Catalina Island and when he senses we are in a productive stretch of water, he shuts down the engine and we drift. Instantly, each fisherman is at the rail and has his line in the water. I bait my hook, cast and wait for a ferocious barracuda or a yellow tail to grab my line. When it does, my rod bends almost double. If I keep him on the line the boat attendant gaffs the fish and pulls it aboard. That evening we have barbecued barracuda.

Years later, my folks live in Laguna Beach, and Orllyene and I live in Atlantic City, and my folks fly us out to the John Wayne Airport, at Christmas and put us up at the Laguna Reef Motel. This is pure heaven and I can’t resist sharing my memories of Balboa with my parents; I insist on a trip to Balboa’s amusement park. Our car is parked in the line waiting to go onboard the tiny car ferry. The night air is salty and brisk, and I scurry over to the amusement park to buy popcorn for all of us. I miscalculate the distance from the car to the popcorn stand and back. I glance over and see a ferry arrive, unload the cars from the Island and the skipper motion the waiting cars to drive on board. Without the slightest hesitation, my family drives aboard and sails away. I walk on to the dock, popcorn boxes in hand and wait for the next ferry. I am still suffering with feelings of rejection.

Ron Walker can be reached at



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