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It's A Gray Area: So much fun, history on Balboa Island

May 28, 2011|By James P. Gray

A few weeks ago at a book signing at Martha's Bookstore on Balboa Island, I met and began talking to Sharon and Bob Lambert, who live on the island.

They told me about the existence of two things I didn't know about, which I now pass along to you. The first is the annual Balboa Island Parade, and the second is the Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society.

Since 1993, on the first Sunday in June, there has been a parade on Balboa Island's Marine Avenue. Participants include drill teams and bands, decorated golf carts and floats, interesting people and "island dogs" in costumes, children on bicycles, vintage cars and lots of other "craziness."

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This year, the theme of the parade is "Balboa Island — the Spirit of America," and it will be held at 11 a.m. June 5. The bridge to the island will be closed at 10:30 a.m., so plan accordingly. You can see pictures of past parades at http://www.balboa-island.com and http://www.balboa-island.net.

The Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society was founded in 2000, and the museum itself opened in 2002 at 502 S. Bay Front, Unit A, which is on the second floor and right next to the ferry dock. In fact, they are still collecting memorabilia reflecting life on the island, including pictures and stories. So if you have any, please consider providing them to the museum.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and you can call them at (949) 675-3952.

From the Historical Society's website, I learned that Balboa Island came into existence in 1906 when W.S. Collins, an early land developer, began dredging up sand to build up the island so that it would not be under water at high tide. Then, beginning in 1907, waterfront lots were sold to the public for $600, while the ones not on the water went for $300. Collins built a concrete "castle" on Collins Island for his wife.

For many years, the houses or cottages on Balboa Island were only used during the summertime and were boarded up the rest of the year. Until natural gas was brought to the island in 1920, all cooking was done on gasoline stoves, and the only lighting came from coal oil lanterns or candles. In addition, for many years, the residents used outhouses because there were no sewers.

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