Around the turn of the last
century Pavilions were becoming common as the keystone of coastal
amusement areas. The Newport Bay Investment Company pledged
$10,000.00 to build a Pavilion to enhance the new development of
Balboa. A permit to build the Pavilion was secured from the
Secretary of War, and 210 feet of water frontage was deeded to the
Newport Bay Investment Company. The Newport Bay Investment
Company, with contractor George Preble completed the Balboa
Pavilion, in 1906 , Fred Dorn architect, and the Chris Mac Neil
building gang. During construction, the Pavilion could only be
reached by boat or, with great difficulty, on a sandy road.
However, construction of this wooden Victorian design building was
fully completed on July 1, 1906 to coincide with the completion of
the Pacific Electric Red Car Line which began at or near Pasadena,
wound down through Los Angeles and Long Beach and ended in central
Balboa. Further, the nearby Balboa ocean pier was concurrently
constructed as a sister project to the Pavilion to attract land
buyers. Lastly, the Balboa Hotel was rapidly built in just ten
days to coincide with the opening of the Red Car line The 1930s
ushered in the Big Band era. On weekends at the Pavilion, you
could listen to Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and the Dorseys. Phil
Harris and his band played regularly on weekdays. The dance step
called the “Balboa Hop” or the “Balboa Shuffle” originated at the
Balboa Pavilion and swept across the United States. According to
Bette Tozer, it was more of a hop than a shuffle. “You go ‘bong,
bong, bong,’ hop. It’s the beat.”
Admission to the dances was free, but couples who used the roped
off dance floor had to pay for the privilege to dance. Ticket
hoppers posted at several locations sold nickel tickets. Each time
a dancing couple stepped on the dance floor, they would give up a
ticket. After the completion of each music number, the dance floor
was quickly cleared by opening up the ropes. Then the ropes were
put back, and dancers would again have to use another ticket to
dance. Due to the structural weakness in the building back in
those days, the “jitterbug” was prohibited.
The popularity of dancing at the Pavilion lead to the building of
the much larger Rendezvous Ballroom a few blocks away. With the
opening the the larger, nearby, waterfront Rendezvous Ballroom
which attracted the big name bands and larger dance crowds, the
Pavilion’s dance era declined. Nevertheless, the Pavilion owners
still staged walkathons and dance marathons to attract Depression
During this same time frame, gambling was legal. The Pavilion had
several upstairs and downstairs card rooms were patrons could play
blackjack, penny roulette and other card games.
Until the late 1930s, speedboat rides, which defied all sensible
boating rules, thrilled inlanders with roaring trips up the bay,
out into the Pacific Ocean and back. At that time, there was no
speed limit in the bay (Today the speed limit is 5 miles per
hour). Two speedy 35-foot boats, the “Queen” and the “Miss
California,” each carried eight to ten passengers. They would take
off full speed from underneath the Balboa Pavilion with sirens
blaring and race out of the bay and into the Pacific Ocean.
Also, during the 1930s, a 45-foot boat called the “Magic Isle”
provided sightseeing trips. At night, this same boat would leave
the Pavilion with a huge, blazing searchlight and cruise the
coast. Frequently, flying fish could be seen with the searchlight
jumping out of the water. Right after World War II, Newport Harbor
was the center of sport fishing activity in southern California.
At that time, over a hundred sport fishing boats operated out of
nine landings. Today, only two sport fishing landings with less
than ten boats survived, one of which is Davey’s Locker operating
out of the Balboa Pavilion.
In 1942, the Pavilions owners leased the upstairs of the building
to a gentleman who built and operated a ten lane bowling alley!
Pinsetters hand set the pins. Pinsetters were paid ten cents per
game. He also operated an archery range and had five pool tables.
By the late 1940's the Pavilion begin to sink on its old wooden
pilings and they were replaced with permanent concrete ones. Today
Balboa Pavilion offers the famous Harbor Side Restaurant with
banquet facilities in the upstairs hall
Thank you for all the wonderful memories! I grew up at 2050 East
Ocean Front, and graduated from Newport Harbor High in 1950.
Looking at all your wonderful photos and articles, I find myself
going back in time...to all those wonderful places...the fun
zone...little Corona, dancing the Balboa to all those great bands
at the Rendevous. Thanks to you, I remember them all as they
Sandra Neely Peterson
back in the 40's, my parents would rent the
Price's house for two weeks on the ocean side of the peninsula. we
had the best of times in Balboa. i was an excellent body surfer,
waves up to 8 feet. one day off the pier, we caught 52 calico
bass, only kept a few. i used to swim across the bay and back,
can't do that anymore. also went to the Rendezvous Ballroom to
listen to Stan Kenton's orchestra. spent a fortune in the arcade
zone trying to knock down those stupid dolls with baseballs.
those were good times, wish i had them back. i'm a young 67 and my
19 year old doesn't appreciate anything i tell him about the past.
his Ipod rules.
ALLAN KELEMEN, MANHATTAN BEACH
Love your web site. I have been all through it multiple times. I'm
renting a home on Edgewater starting 8-15 and having my daughter's
reception at the Harborside Pavillion 8-20 (she's corresponded
with you as well). I was pleased to see it as the photo of the
month! Of course I'll drop by and say hello. Thanks
My sister Janice [Jan] Knowlton, was a popular singer in Orange
County, dating back to the late 1960's, and sang at Mario's in
Corona Del Mar, The Five Crowns with The Showcase Singers, and
other places. Jan passed away last year. She was very fond of
Balboa Island and went there frequently. Just wondered if anyone
there remembers her. I live in Salem, Mass. [the witch city]. I
like the Balboa site very much.!
I'm a long time Balboa resident that grew up in Louisiana. Over
the years, my children and I have traveled back to my Louisiana
hometown and enjoyed true southern hospitality. I am appalled how
few Balboa residents have offered to provide help to our fellow
Americans in need. Every local merchant I have solicited for
donations (donut shop, tatoo parlor, palm reader) have told me to
"forget it" and said they were saving their money to buy pot. How
Hi Jim - do you know anything about the old Pirate Days in Balboa,
specifically 1947? I have someone wanting some "research" on that
and there is nothing in any of the history books for our area.
The only think I could find on the internet was an old issue of
Tales of Balboa that had a letter from someone mentioning it!
went to newport elementary kindergarden morning class in 1972,
mrs.elliots class, anybody in that class.would like to know
I'm interest putting my business ad on yours newspaper. Do you
have an application/ fees to apply on yours website? Or could you
point me in the right directions where i could get it?..i would
My friend who has no access to a computer lost her mother
recently. Hanging in her house is what she believes to be a Susan
Newcomb original of the child looking through the bakery window
that appears on the Pavillion website. The date on the receipt
from the painting is 1975. Can you tell me how to obtain further
information? Thank you, Barbara Walski
I grew up going to the beach here at Balboa and enjoyed the walks
through the Fun Zone after hitting the beach all day. I also had
my High School Prom at the Tail of the Whale. I'd like to know
why they closed the restaurant, it held special high school
memories and great lunch dates as an adult.
I'm told there may be a small hotel on the island, is this true?
My hubby and I wanted to stay for a long weekend on the island,
not Newport, if possible. Can you point me in the right
direction? Thank you very much!
For More London's Times
"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence--it is
force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and fearful