(Part 1 summary: After the submarine attack off Santa Barbara in 1942, the whole coast was blacked out at night. Still, we were determined to walk 3 miles to the Fun Zone at Balboa one Saturday night in summer of that year.)
Patricia and I walked from Corona Del Mar down Bayside drive over the bridge to Balboa Island, and through the center of town to the end. There, we turned right and up the double drive, and down several long blocks to the street going up to the ferry. We crossed the bay on a ferry lit with running lights only. Gradually, we started to see the silhouette of the Fun Zone over on The Peninsula next to the Boat House.
We had been headed to the Fun Zone, but what we were really after was not rides and popcorn (all was shut down because of the black out). What we were really going to do was dance to the big band sounds Stan Kenton’s orchestra, which was playing that night at the Rendez-Vous Ballroom. They had begun playing there in 1941, but this night was the first time I had attended one of these events.
The Rendez-Vous Ballroom was right next to the beach. The entrance was through a long corridor. There was a bandstand and a dance floor, of course. In front of the dance floor was a 40’ curtain because the ballroom was open to the beach. When we got in there, Stan Kenton was playing music that we’d never heard before. It was loud and very robust big band music.
Kenton’s orchestras always had a full compliment of players: brass, reeds, and a rhythm section. It was somewhat different from the Benny Goodman orchestras that I also liked. Goodman always featured the clarinet, of course. Kenton’s orchestra played modernistic arrangements that were wild. He featured sections rather than just solo instruments. Benny Goodman’s band seemed lighter by comparison. Stan Kenton made a big impression.
We had a splendid evening, dancing and listening to the music. The beach was very cool outside, a nice relief from all the heat inside the curtain. Every so often we’d take a break and step out to walk along the beach. As we looked off into the darkness, we weren’t thinking a bit about submarines and if one was watching us right then. The adults and authorities were all wondering what was going to happen next and whether or not we’d be attacked again. While they worried, we were fired up with new tunes and sounds.
Later, we walked back to Corona Del Mar, holding hands until midnight. That was the only date where I ever had to walk 6 miles!
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