Thank you for your tribute to the Channel Islands Harbor on its 50th anniversary celebration coming up. Impressive and most welcome!
Victor Marzorati would no doubt wish that his name had been spelled correctly, but he is long gone. Victor was instrumental in arranging a past anniversary tribute to the harbor that I was invited to, held at the Lobster Trap large conference room. He was an ex-British RAF pilot in WWII whom developer Martin V. “Bud” Smith met while on an African safari hunt. Bud was impressed with Victor and offered him the job at the harbor. My friend Hans Weeren, Captain of “Bud’s” Dry Martini, I first met in early 1967. He lived aboard Arriba then, his catamaran on an end tie in the original Farrel/Donlon Channel Islands Marina where I also kept my first and second sailboats named Seeker. Hans is our houseguest on his trips back to the Oxnard area.
Tom Volk, the first Ventura County Harbor manager, should have been mentioned somewhere in the Special Commemorative Issue. He incorporated the approach of having each potential harbor business on an enterprise basis build developments on long-term, negotiated contracts as Ventura County did not have the funds to do so. Each contract had separate terms of length, rents, fees, etc., which worked very well. Tom was a sailor who understood the marina business building concept, a real sparkplug for the harbor’s early growth. He had an impressive color slide show of the harbor history and development, which I’ve seen.
Captain Jack’s CISCO (Channel Islands Sportfishing Center — Oxnard) and his restaurant was another sparkplug of the harbor, moving up-coast from Malibu’s Paradise Cove with his party boats. The beloved Coroloma was built by Drake Craft in the harbor along Victoria Avenue. Remember that huge building?
Hugh Knowles founded the Channel Clipper Restaurant prior to the Whale’s Tail Restaurant that replaced it and in time added the second story. Sadly, Hugh fell and drowned behind his boat one evening. Pete Bokron built the magnificent restaurant at the foot of the peninsula that is now a remodeled and thriving Topper’s Pizza.
Fred Buenger should be mentioned — he founded the Marine Chandlery on the site of the later Port Royal Restaurant, now occupied by the Channel Islands Maritime Museum. He then developed the original Marine Emporium complex, and his son Steve now is lease manager of the rebuilt Marine Emporium complex with commercial fish dock. Fred also expanded to Santa Barbara Harbor and to Cabo San Lucas, Baja Mexico, with marine chandleries back in the day.
Fred was a frequent president of the Harbor Lessees Association, which then sponsored the annual Christmas Parade of Lights boat contest.
Valuable prizes were awarded then. I recall a year when the first prize was a week for two in Hawaii, and the second prize a week for two in Cabo San Lucas. The recipients swapped prizes before they left the award stage! In the December 1999 “Memories of the Millennium” Christmas Parade of Lights, I won first prize in the division for the Ventura Power Squadron with my diesel tug Seeker, by now a power boat, and got just a plaque from the county. I had my boats in the harbor over 44 years’ span, so witnessed much area growth.
In the early days of the harbor, the peninsula was not a peninsula, just a stub as the northwest marina channel had not been dredged and there was no Channel Islands Boulevard high bridge, no Oxnard Fire Station there, no Mandalay Bay or Seabridge water extension developments.
The harbor’s surrounding beach communities in the county 50 years ago were mainly seasonal beach retreats or low-cost housing. I had to go through the California Coastal Commission to get permission to build my Hollywood Beach home then, prior to its 1977 approval of Ventura County’s Local Coastal Plan. Fisherman’s Wharf now is in long decay with only Joanna Steele’s Studio Gallery an original tenant.
Newcomers may find it hard to believe that hydroplane speed races were once conducted INSIDE the small harbor with the late Allan Fordney the exuberant PA announcer. Many, many changes! But the harbor with its detached breakwater is considered a West Coast storm haven with the U.S. Coast Guard station long located there, and is the closest harbor to the northern Channel Islands.
Doug Robertson is a resident of Hollywood Beach.