Balboa Post Office
(May 29, 1907 – September 30, 1954)
It is sometimes forgotten that Balboa was founded as its own town, not merely a part of Newport Beach. So naturally, the promoters wanted their own post office as well. “Balboa is now a post office of the fourth class,” the Santa Ana Register reported on July 6, 1907. “Heretofore all mail for Balboa has been sent to Newport. The growing importance of Balboa made a post office there a necessity and a convenience that is greatly appreciated. F.W. Beckwith, manager of Balboa pavilion, has received his commission as postmaster and is handling a large amount of mail already. As soon as fixtures can be secured the facilities for handling mail will make the office at the pavilion doubly appreciated by patrons. Postmaster Beckwith was at Santa Ana last week endeavoring to get track of some fixtures. The old fixtures of the Talbert post office recently discontinued may be secured.” In 1928 it became a 2nd class office and home delivery began. Balboa continued as a separate post office even after the town was annexed to Newport Beach. Finally in 1954 it was reduced to a station of the Newport Beach Post Office.
Fred W. Beckwith, 1907-1917
Fred Beckwith was a big Balboa booster and businessman, and for many years managed the Balboa Pavilion. He also served on the Newport Beach City Council and as port captain for the South Coast Yacht Club. He died in 1920 at age 48.“Beckwith was one of the original founders of Balboa and has been active in promotion work there for about 15 years. He was manager of the Balboa dance pavilion and bath house and was also an active member of both the Balboa and Newport Chambers of Commerce and the Newport Harbor Yacht Club…. [He] was well known throughout Southern California by thousands of persons who summer at Balboa each year.” (Santa Ana Register, 8-9-1920)
Statson R. Jumper, 1917-1921
By 1916, with Woodrow Wilson in the White House, Democratic candidates began to line up for Balboa’s postmastership. Fred Beckwith hoped to hold on to the post, but as the Santa Ana Register noted, “That job belongs to a Democrat by all rules of the game of politics.” (1-22-1917) Statson Jumper was a Democrat, and mayor of Newport Beach to boot. “Until recently the Balboa office was a fourth glass office,” the Register explained, “and the postmaster was under civil service. Beckwith has held the job. It worked in very nicely with the pavilion business conducted by Beckwith, and Beckwith is disposed to keep the job, now that it has developed into one of appointment with a compensation of $1,000 a year. Beckwith has the support of a good many Democrats, who are disposed to forget political lines in this affair…. S.R. Jumper has been a Democrat County Central committeeman from one of the Newport Beach precincts, and as city trustee and [building] contractor is well known. He got out on the job early, and it is understood that his efforts toward lining up central committeemen’s votes has been successful, [but] just how successful cannot be determined until the committee meets tomorrow afternoon.” (1-26-1917) Jumper did get the job, but by the time his term was up four years later Republican Warren Harding was in the White House and ‘by the rules of the game’ he wasn’t re-appointed.
Percy J. Williams, 1921-1922
Newport Beach historian H.L. Sherman claimed that Mrs. Adelaide Hervey was appointed postmaster in 1921 but “did not care for the position” and resigned. So Percy Williams got the job, but he also didn’t like the low pay and left. The Post Office Department ledger does not list Mrs. Hervey.
Fred W. Busey, 1922-1926
Fred Busey was – of all things – a circus man before taking the post office job. “For years Mr. Busey has been identified with the theatrical business, having been connected not only with Barnum & Bailey but with all the ‘big top’ showmen in the country. He was manager of Mme. Calve at one time. His present plans contemplate connection with the Lincoln Amusement corporation, Los Angeles.” (Register, 4-19-1926) He resigned in 1926, citing ill health.
Elmer B. (“Dick”) Whitson, 1926-1935
Dick Whitson grew up in Orange County and was a veteran of World War I. He initially had only had a summer home in Balboa, then went into business there as co-owner of the Green Dragon Café. An active Republican, he lost the post office job during the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but was elected to the Newport Beach City Council soon after. He did not seek re-election in 1940.
Alphonse M. Hamann, 1935-1941
Alphonse Hamann was a partner in drug stores in Santa Ana and Balboa, and was one of the builders of the Balboa Inn in 1930. When he applied for re-appointment as postmaster in 1940 the Santa Ana Register noted “The Balboa postmastership pays $2,400 a year, and carries a lifetime guarantee of work.” (6-18-1940) That turned out to be untrue, as Hamann lost the job in 1941.
Herbert F. Kenney, 1941-1954
Herbert Kenney was an EPIC Democrat, a Townsend Plan supporter, involved with the co-operative relief movement during the Depression, and an unsuccessful candidate for State Assembly in 1934. It was his political efforts which got him the postmaster job. In 1940, Congressman Harry Sheppard requested the Post Office Department open the appointment, “for the good of the service.” “A large number of Balboa residents today expressed anger and surprise as notice was received calling for a civil service examination for postmaster, despite many petitions and recommendations that Postmaster Alphonse Hamann be retained in that position…. Herbert Kenney, supporter of Representative Sheppard in the last election, who now is a resident of Balboa, reportedly has been mentioned as Sheppard’s choice for the job.” (Register, 1-30-1940)
(You can find more about Orange County’s post offices and postmasters here)