was remodeled, giving it a Las Vegas lounge look.
In a setting where many locals enjoyed dancing, relaxing and catching
up with friends, those who attended a private party last week to
celebrate the reopening said The Village Inn means a lot to them.
"It's the reason why I moved to the island," said Sharon Antle, a
two-year Balboa Island resident. "I call this my family room. I can come
here to see my friends."
Owned by the Hershey family from 1920 through 1990, the restaurant was
known by many names before becoming the Village Inn. About 1937, the
Hershey family leased their little restaurant to brothers Art, Bert and
Vaux White, who called it The Park Avenue Cafe. Shortly after a remodel,
the name was changed to the White's Cafe.
Former regulars living outside the area returned with island residents
to attend the party and reminisce about a time when famous actors and
even cartoonists strolled into the bar to drink -- and then think up
something funny to draw.
"People like Johnney Weismuller, Broderick Crawford, Dick Shaw, Virgil
Partch and Jack Dempsey used to come in here," said Bob Yardley, who
owned the restaurant from 1975 to 1995, and is now part-owner of the
Yardley, who grew up on the island in the 1930s and '40s, remembers
when Harold Sehslin -- a police officer admired for his high school
football skills -- would hang out at the restaurant and everyone made a
big deal of it.
"He was the best football player around," said Jim Jennings, who lives
across the street from Village Inn and is one of Yardley's close friends.
The memory of good-looking teachers strolling into the bar remains
vivid in Dick Higbie's mind. Higbie, who has known Yardley for many
years, remembers going into the bar when teachers went there for
"I used to come here in the '50s to meet the school teachers, who were
in their 20s, and hang out with friends," Higbie said.
Although many can recall the good times at the restaurant, they don't
seem to remember how it looked. Damienne Wagner, the owner's mother, said
before the restaurant underwent renovation it didn't have much ambience.