He also found time to write "Bawdy Balboa," which was published in 1992 and, in effect, is a memoir of sorts because it details how Gardner arrived in Balboa by train in the 1920s and how he never looked back once he got here.
Gardner, who died in 2005 at the age of 93, was the son of a lumber jack, cowboy, railroad worker and a bare knuckler brawler from Green River, Wyo., all rolled into one — if you didn't know.
In the words of his daughter, Newport Beach City Councilwoman Nancy Gardner, he was a "man's man" who was sent to Newport Beach as a child after his father, Dick Gardner, got into some trouble after there was somewhat of a violent disagreement between some strikers and the Union Pacific Railroad.
"And because of these bad feelings, my grandfather sent my father to Balboa to live with his sister," Nancy Gardner said to an audience of some 150 people, many of them senior citizens who knew Gardner fairly well.
And if they didn't know him, then they knew of him.
And if they didn't know of him, they learned about him fast, and the hard way, once they stood before him in court near what is now McFadden Square near the Newport Pier.
Take Sparks McClellan, who was 16 years when he met Robert Gardner. He told the story of how he and the judge kept going around and around on a speeding ticket he received on his way to Pirate Days, a popular event at the time.
The judge asked Sparks how he was planning to plea, and McClellan, after looking around the small courtroom — and not really sure of where he was, let alone how the process worked — hesitated, telling the judge he just wanted to make sure that whatever he was about to do that he did it right.