On Friday evening, September 27, 2013, the Balboa Island Museum’s speaker’s Series event took place. The Museum’s courtyard was filled to capacity as Friends of the Museum and local dignitaries gathered to learn about the history of the Balboa Island Fire Station. Conrad Baumgartner introduced the featured speakers and moderated questions from audience members. First to share was Carolyn Gaw, whose father, Clarence E. McCormick (“Mac”), served as a volunteer fireman in the late 1920s and early 1030s. She told the story about how her mother, Leona, a waitress at Lenna’s Cafe near the fire station, set off the fire alarm at night so the firemen would come visit her at the cafe, thereby getting Mac’s attention. Mac and Leona later married!
Long time Balboa Island residents echoed many of Carolyn’s reminiscences with stories of their own from the same era. Captain Glenn White, Acting Battalion Chief and 25-year veteran with the Newport Beach Fire Department, filled in many of the facts, figures and details about the station and its colorful history. He fielded a variety of lively questions and entertained everyone with witty anecdotes and good humor. We learned how in the early days of Orange County, the local firefighters would respond to calls as far away as Saddleback Mountain. Can you imagine a fire car (literally a car, not a truck) putting out fires on Saddleback Mountain? In the
early days it was an all-volunteer fire department with one man on duty at the station. When the whistle blew, the volunteer firefighters would come running. The location was signaled by a code: one, two or three blasts from the whistle would signify the whereabouts of the fire.
Three men from the Balboa Island Station, Captain Rick Zaccaro, Engineer Jeff Bogin, and Firefighter John Mollica, were also in attendance but they had to leave to respond to a call. Fortunately, they were able to return in time to participate in some of the discussion. The antique fire truck, which is housed at the fire station, was parked in front of the Museum and provided the backdrop for numerous photos.
Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry, and his wife Pam, were in attendance, along with many of our local Island residents. Wine, cheese and delicious desserts were served. Guests lingered after the program, enjoying the refreshments and admiring the Museum’s new exhibits.