in the mid 50s, a coffee house opened in Balboa. As was the custom at the time, coffee
houses had a sub-culture and usually an off-beat name. It was called the Prison of
Socrates, and was located where B.J.'s pizza is presently. Most parents were not too
excited about the presence of a coffee house, but it soon became a place for singers,
musicians, comedians and poets and also a hang out for teens on vacation in Balboa.
Serving coffee, soft drinks, juices and espresso, there were no alcoholic beverages
served. but the fact remained that most parents did not allow their children to go near
that "den of iniquity." At that time, there were plenty of bars and saloons in
Balboa, one right next door to the "Prison" called the Beach Roamer, which was
known for its large fire pit in the center of the room.
For the younger generation, there was folk music at
The scene of Socrates' death was a mural painted on the inside of the club. this scene was
used in some of the albums recorded live at the 'Prison'.
Beyond that was a second-hand book store
where the Studio Cafe is presently. Across the street from the "Prison" was, and
still is the Balboa Inn, along with the Chinese Stage restaurant and Karam's Restaurant
where Dillman's is now. For the younger generation, there was folk music at the
"Prison" and rock and roll at the Rendezvous Ballroom. The Prison of Socrates
was very obvious. The Greek writings and scenes on the brick wall along the alley and in
the front were very distinctive. "The most popular group at the Prison of Socrates in
the late 50's was the "Steeltown Two".
Many remember the mural on the north wall of
Made up of C. Carson parks and Bernie Armstrong Jr. Parks
wrote "Something Stupid" that was a big hit for Frank and Nancy Sinatra. By the
Tim Morgon was the headliner and he recorded
live at the "Prison" and also filmed a movie about the culture at the time.
Other popular names to appear at the
"Prison" were Steve Martin, Pat Paulsen, Jose Feliciano, Randy Boone, Denny
Brooks, The Mad Mountain Ramblers, Hoyt Axton, Joe and Eddie and Steve Gillette to name a
few. By the late 60's folk music had given way to rock and roll and the Beatles and the
Stones had sealed the coffin. The Prison of Socrates closed and sat empty for years until
taken over by B.J.'s Pizza. The painting on the walls stood as a mute reminder of a
chapter in the life of Balboa.