Balboa Island

My folks supplemented Ewald's government disability pay by making small $2000 to $4000 short term loans on houses and property. I still have some of Nettie's books on these loans. With these two incomes and being frugal they did well financially during these depression early 30's years. About 1935 (?) they bought a beach house on Balboa Island for $1800. It faces on the water. ie: the "Grand Canal". We would leave 143 S Waverly Street every Friday afternoon or Saturday morning and go to the beach house and stay until Sunday evening. I know now that my folks buying and living week-ends in this beach house had a profound effect on the rest of my life. This was because I acquired a whole new group of friends.

The houses up and down the Grand Canal were all week-end types of homes, however a few people did lived there year around. The house to the south of ours was a one story frame with a bigger frontage, probably about 75 feet. The folks loaned the Brubaker's money to buy this place. The building adjacent and north was owned by a young bachelor named Mr Hamilton "Hamm" We gave him a terrible time and the poor guy put up uncomplaining for years with our "dumb and mean kid" antics. The Hudson and ? families had a week-end house two doors south. Mr. and Mrs. Rutters lived the year around next house south of the Brubakers. The Axline family were further to the south along the canal. Most of the families had kids Marilyn and my ages so living in Orange and then at the beach on week-ends we were in two neighborhoods. The Brubakers were Walt and Lucille and their two daughters were Marijane and Doris.

The Ross's, a family from Orange built a large house across the canal from our house and on Little Island facing North Bay. Everett Ross was a year or so younger than me. Earl and Vern Flanders of Orange had an uncle, a Mr Elson who for some reason they nick-named "clothespin". This Uncle owned a nice beach home on North Bay. Everett, Vern, Earl and I became our Orange beach gang on weekends at Balboa Island. We had good times and did a lot of mischievous bad things that I'm not proud of today.

At the time the folks bought on Balboa Island, the Newport Harbor was under going a massive revamping. A new cement seawall was being built on both sides of "Grand Canal" , a new and longer jetty was being built at the entrance to the ocean. The entire harbor was being dredged to about 15 foot depth. The folks built a small (4 foot square) pier and steps down to the sand opposite out front door and across the side walk in front of our house. They bought a 12 foot wooden row boat that we tied to this pier. My dad loved fishing and I found how to dig razor-back clams with wire coat hanger that had been straighten and a 1/4" flatten hook on one end. I would look for to 1/8" holes about 3/4" apart. I would push the wire vertically and the hook parallel and between the two holes. The wire would go down about 6 to 8 inches in the hole made by the clam. To catch it, the clam has to be open and the hooked end wire slides thru the open clam. When you feel the bottom of the hole and hopefully thru the clam, I would turn the wire 90 degrees, hooking the clam. Gently pulling up the wire I would retrieve a clam. After practice I could get a coffee can full of clams in 15 to 20 minutes. This was the best bait for any kind of fish in Newport Bay. We caught Croaker, Halibut, Bass, Perch, and by using little trout size hooks we could catch smelt. Marilyn and I would walk along and in the edge of the water along Grand Canal and feel for small clams or cockrals as mother called them with our bare feet. They would be half way in the mud. When we found about half a bucket, mother would let them stand in fresh salt water for half a day to get rid themselves of the sand that was inside their shells. She would spread them on a metal tray and heat them in the oven until they opened. We ate the tasty clams with butter and lemon juice and drank the clam juice that was in the metal cooking tray after they opened. Some times she would make delicious New England clam chowder.

We would also find small scollops at low tide along the water's edge. Good living. Almost every weekend a couple or more of Ewald and Netties friends would come to their beach house for the weekend. They would bring food and spend Friday and Saturday evening and night playing "penny-ante" poker. Dad loved poker and generally would win, then fishing the next day.

The regular couples were:

  • Max & Paulyne Boetin , Daughter, Melanie, he worked at the Orange Post Office
  • George & Rose Carlson, son Richard, George worked at Post Office
  • Hank and Betty Appel, Rancher, No children
  • Lynn and Henriett Wallace
  • Marie and Barbara
  • Jim and Ann Casto, Daughter Billie, worked selling Pumps
  • Hank Appels brother Ed and wife from Cucomunga, Rancher
  • Walt and Lucille Brubaker
  • Marijane and Doris Next door
  • George and Marian Bickford, Santa Ana, Betty and Lyla
  • Dr Fred and Lillian Earl, Santa Ana Cecilia, Rosilie
    note: For all the daughters living weekends at Balboa Island, it was natural that "boats" became a very important part of my life.

Our first boat was a redwood 12 foot rowboat. It was easy to row and almost every week-end I would row my dad and maybe one of his friends out to South Bay to fish. This was probably close to a mile. On several occasions I rowed myself out to the end of the Jetty to the ocean and back. During the winter storms and always on a rainy day an occasional boat would break lose or be abandon and drift by the end of Grand Canal, down the North Bay towards the Ocean. I would take our row boat and rescue this trophy. I would leave it tied to our pier and if no one claimed it I would undertake a rehabilitation on it. None of these boats were anything very valuable but it gave us a second boat when the folks had a lot of fishing friends for the week-ends. One winter a canoe came drifting by. I made that into a sailing canoe. This was my first sailboat. Everett Ross had a Snowbird class sail boat and I learned to sail in it. Walt Brubaker our next door neighbor had built a very fast 18 foot "Skimmer" sail boat and I got rides on it. Back in those days a "Star" class sail boat was the best. It was about 24 feet long and had a fixed iron keel. These boats are still around and are a class used in the Olympics today.

About 1936 or 1937 Ewald and the fishing friends from Orange decided they needed a power boat so they could do ocean fishing also. Dad found a 18 foot open cockpit motor boat. It had a clinker built hull with a mahogany deck. Its original use was a tender off a large yacht. It had a canvas dodger that could be put up over the front half of the cockpit and would protect us from spray and wind. The engine was a four cylinder Grey Marine engine of about 30 horse power. It could make about 10 to 12 mph. Ewald had a pair of buoys placed off the end of the canal in the North Bay. We would take the rowboat out to our anchored boat, leave the rowboat tied to a buoy or tow it back to 331 Grand Canal. We would anchor it in deep water infront of our house or run the bow into the bank and tie it to our little pier. This boat was great and lots of fish were caught from this boat. Since I became familiar with the idiosycrasys of this boat I had to go on all of these fishing trips. However when the boat wasn't out fishing, It was mine to go were I wanted. I found that it was better than a convertible car for picking up girls. For its name, I made a red arrow like Ewalds 32'd Division emblem and fastened it to the stern as its name. I kept the boat up with new paint and engine parts. We had a lot of trouble with the geared sea water cooling pump. I had to replaced it several times.

I graduated from Orange High School in June 1938 and the folks brought me a 1935 Plymouth coupe with a rumble seat. early in grade school I had been promised a car at the end of High School if I didn't fail any grades. Spring of 1939 when I had the boat on blocks out of the water in front of our house to paint the bottom, I found "sea worms" had infested the whole wooden keel of the boat. We took it to Taylor's boat repair yard at the upper end of the bay next to Newport Blvd. They cut the whole keel off and glued and bolted a new keel the whole length of the boat. This was at the beginning of summer and my Dad asked if the could use my help (ie: Job) during my summer vacation. I got a job at $12 a week. A work week was 6 days in these times. I did all kinds of work, sanding, varnish work, cleaning boat bottoms and painting them. I also helped build new docks which involved a lot of pouring of hot tar to water-proof them. Occasionally I would be given a job steering one of the boats on day fishing trips that were moored at this "marina" which weren't called marinas then.

I acted as a chauffeur for the Mr. Taylor's wife. I remember she was always having me drive her to Eagle Rock in north Los Angeles. One week end the Taylor's took me to their cabin at Big Bear to paint the shingles with creosote. I got burnt on my face and arms with this stuff and they had to salve me up that evening. I eventually got a raise to $14 a week and a promise of a job for 1939 summer. I now had some money to run my car and go on dates. I remember going to the Long Beach pike, Vence fun Zone and Ocean City Pier fun zone in a single night. Rides were 10 cents, foot long hot dogs were 5 cents and gasoline was 15 cents a gallon. A couple of dollars was enough for a date. September of 1938 I enrolled at Fullerton Junior College in Fullerton in a pre-chemical engineering course. I don't know why I picked this except two of my class mates, Richard Webster and Roscoe Schaffert were doing it. With my 1935 Plymouth I took Charles Williams and Richard Webster as passengers to help pay for gasoline from Orange to Fullerton. My courses were Chemistry, Physics, German, Calculus and a "dum-bell" English course. I had failed the Junior College English entrance exam and had to take a make up English course. This made for quite a load with 17 units of heavy courses. I didn't apply myself as well as I should have but I got pretty poor grades and didn't flunk any courses.

Back down at Balboa Island on some weekends I would some times leave the motor boat tied bow first to the pier in front of our house and a stern anchor to hold it out away from the seawall and pier in front of our house. The tide would go out and leave it stranded but refloat it in a few hours when the tide came back in. One morning after tying it to our pier the evening before, we got up he next morning to find the boat full of water. I had tied it too far away from the pier and it had settled on the steep bank that was towards the middle of the canal when the tide went out. This put the stern of the boat at such a steep angle that there wasn't enough buoyancy to lift the stern up before the canal water came across the stern and flooded the boat. I bailed it out and dried everything I could. I changed the oil and cleaned the carburetor out. I got the engine running that same afternoon. The engine was never the same again and dad sold it to someone who lived on the South Bay for a few hundred dollars. This fellow figured he could get it running well again. This happened during the summer of 1938.

As a boat was needed for Dad and the fishermen, I got to look for a replacement. I looked over the boat yards in San Pedro, and Newport and found a 24 ft boat in storage at a Newport boat yard on the coast Highway. It had a small cabin and a large open cockpit, a built in live bait tank, 2 mounted fishing chairs. The engine was a 4 cyl Buda marine engine that would push the boat about 10 miles per hour. It was very sea worthy and built of 1 inch maple. I have a half model of it that I made in 1941. This was "like" my boat and I and my friends took several trips to Catalina on it. It was better than a Cadilac convertible for meeting girls at the beach. Dad sold it in 1941 when I joined the Army Air Force. About 1938 I met Dorothy, "Dee as she liked being called" Baker. Her folks had rented a house on little Island directly across the canal from the folks house. One day during summer she paddled across the canal and introduced herself. I was really "smitten" by her even though she was only there for a month or so, but we corresponded thru the rest of the year. She lived in Fresno and her father was in the fruit or vegetable packing and shipping business. Next year she was back for a months vacation and again in 1940, and 1941.

In the summer of 1942 when I was in the Army Flying cadet programI meet Jane Kilpatrick on Balboa Island where she was staying with Rhea, Ray and Shirly Collings. I usually got a weekend pass from flying at Victorville and I started dating Jane one weekend and Dorothy the next.

Dorothy was a enrolled at UCLAby fall of 1941. I saw her once in the spring of 1942 beforeI graduated from Advanced flying school at Victorville, CA. By the summer of 1942 I was a 2nd LT, Pilot in the US Army Air Force and was on my way to B-25's on the East Coast. She never answered any of my letters and I never heard from heragain. I don't know if she got "wind" of Jane from me or maybe some one told her. To back track a little, by June of 1940 I graduated fromFullerton Junior College with a AA. I had passed all of the pre-Chemical engineering courses but only with a "C" average. Richard Webster, Roscoe Schafert and I applied to enter Berkley University. My poor grades from Fullerton JC would only allow me to enter the Bachelor of Arts program at Berkley University instead ofthe BS school of chemistry.

By fall of 1940 I decided not to go to Berkley and enrolled in a third semester at Fullerton JC. I started a Woodshop class. Something I was good at. About this time, my folks with the help of our friend Mr. George Franzen, who also was a Orange County Deputy Sheriff entered me in an evening Pattern Maker's course in Santa Ana. A Mr Philip Campbell, who owned a Pattern Shop in Whittier taught the course. I enjoyed the course and was one ofthe better students. I finally had found my niche. This was the first big event that changed my life. The second and most influential, as it was for most all men of this period was our induction into the Armed forces at the start of WWII. Back to Pattern making class. There I learned how to make wooden molds and patterns for different metal castings. The course lasted three or four weeks and I think we went to class every evening. When we finished the course several ofus were offered jobs at the Consolidated Air Craft factory in San Diego. To work there, we were required to buy a set oftools which were actually for a sheet metal worker. I still have and often use the excellent set of tin snips and left and right hand metal cutters. I was assigned to the "Experimental section" which built full sized mock-ups of the new model aircraft and components out of wood and plywood. We also constructed various parts such as radio sets, seats, etc out of wood so they could be checked for fit into existing planes before they started manufacturing the actual part. Our employee badges let us go anywhere in the factory as we often had to make a plywood mockup of a piece of aircraft equipment ie: a box the size of a manufactured radio set and then we would take it to the factory section that was going to try and install it in a current Consolidated aircraft. If we had some slack time it was easier for us to look busy by taking our tool box (We had our "go anywhere" badges) and would wander through the plant and see the new planes being manufactured.

In San Diego they made the B-24's, and three different Sea planes. They were the twin engine PBY Catalina, the four engine PB2Y Coronado and a twin engine model that looked similar to the Coronado. Our main project while I was at Consolidated in the fall of1940 was constructing a full sized plywood B-32 Bomber. It was quit different from the final production B-32 that came out near the end of WWII. Our model had twin tails and a ircular fuselage for pressurizing The actual production B-32 looked like a big B-24. It saw service at the end of WWII. Even got a few shot down. Later when I flew in MATS to Okanawa I saw some there. During the week, four of us stayed at a private home a few blocks from down town San Diego. We ate all our meals out and just had sleeping and bath privileges at this home. I had my 1935 Plymouth coupe and three off us would come back to Orange most week-ends when we didn't have to work on Saturday. I would bring my dirty clothes home for mom to wash. I remember we earned about $30 a week. For some reason our landlady introduced me to a young girl my age that she knew. I went out a couple of times with her, roller skating and to the movies. I don't remember her name.

To make the various parts for the aircraft mock-ups we had to read and use blue-prints to get the dimensions of the items. A lot of the workers in our section had trouble converting a top, side and end-view blue-print drawing to make a the actual three dimensional object. Some time during the secon dmonth I started drawing freehand sketches of the items fromthe blue-prints with the dimensions put on my 3-D drawings for the model makers to use. Shortly, that was all I was doing. After about three months in San Diego I got a telephone call from Phil Campbell, my pattern maker instructor at Santa Ana, inquiring if I would be interested in a joblearning to become a "real" patternmaker in his pattern shop in Whittier, CA. I accepted and went to my boss at Consolidated to tell him I was going to quit. I guess they thought that I was a valuable asset and offered me a position in the drafting department with a promotion if I would stay.I told them no and I remember they gave me a low or barely acceptable performance rating for leaving. I was now living home again at Tustin Street with my folks with all the eating and other good (and free) amenities. I would drive each day out West Chapman to Anaheim, Fullerton and La Habra to Whittier. Phil Campbell's pattern shop was on Whittier Blvd and near Greenleaf Ave intersection. At this time it was a large corrugated industrial building. I was now an apprentice Pattern Maker. (note: Phil Campbell died 5 Feb1997, 91 yrs old of pneumonia in Costa Mesa CA). Other people working there were Paul, a "ful-fledged" pattern maker and Ebert who was an apprentice like me.

During the next two years, 1940 and 1941 I learned a lot about pattern making. Phil took me to Brea and Los Angeles to visit a foundry where they cast our patterns into metal. Our patterns were mainly for oil drilling bits and associated parts. Occasionally Phil would have a request by a "would-be"inventor and since I was his cheapest laborer and he might not get paid for the job, I would usually get to make it. The wood patterns had a plus\minus 1/32 of an inch tolerance from the blue prints and that is small. Sometimes it seemed the wood would expand or contract that much over night. During this period I acquired quit a few good wood working tools. When I started, I would have to borrow Pauls or Phils tools to do the wood work. Every week the Starrett Tools salesman would come by the shop and part of my pay would go for a new tool. I remember the first tools I bought were a set of fine wood bits. I still have them and they are just as sharp and new looking as they were when I bought them.

Army Air