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Hershey Family

The Hersheys – One of Balboa Island’s Pioneer and Prominent Families

 

1923–26

Anton “Tony” and Wilhelmina “Mina” Hirschi immigrate to America from Germany to seek a better way of life in the United States. They work in Santa Ana for their sponsor, Charles Kaufman, making lights for Packard cars and go to night school for two years, all the while living poorly in the sponsor’s garage. They work nights and weekends, too, in order to pay back their sponsor.

 

1926

Ruth (Ruthie) is born at Valley Hospital in Santa Ana.

 

1926–28

The family moves to Orange and starts a successful business with friends, painting stripes on cars.

 

1929

Lead poisoning illness from the car paint forces Tony to sell his part of the business. Their sponsor’s son, Wallie Kaufman, offers Tony and Mina a job at his little market on Balboa Island, Wallie’s Market. The family moves to Balboa Island, then a small village of beach cottages reached by going over a single wooden bridge. Tony and Mina work as clerks in the Island’s only grocery store, Wallie’s Market, on the corner of Park and Marine Avenues. They live in the stock room behind the market.

 

1931

They purchase a lot and build their first home at 201 Onyx with money they borrow from a minister who lives on the Island.

 

1932

Tony and Mina sell the house and buy the two corner lots on Marine and Park Avenues where The Village Inn currently stands. They build a small restaurant on half of the lot and a nursery on the other half and call it Hershey’s Café and Nursery. Mina cooks her famous hamburgers for local residents and such notables as James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Bing Crosby. Everyone loves her secret hamburger recipe, which she never reveals! Tony, trained as a horticulturalist in Switzerland, opens the Island’s first nursery, growing and planting most of the Island’s trees, including the giant Eucalyptus trees which line Main Street today.

 

1932

Tony, Phil Carroll, the produce clerk, and Wallie now own Wallie’s Market. When Ruthie is in 2nd grade, the family changes the Swiss spelling of Hirschi to the American spelling, Hershey.

 

1930s-40s

Ruthie loves growing up on the Island. She attends Newport Elementary School and has many Island friends. The Island is her playground where she is free to explore the empty lots, ride her bicycle, play with her dolls, sunbathe on the seawall and swim in the bay.

 

1934

After the repeal of prohibition, Tony sells the nursery to expand the restaurant and Hershey’s Café and Beer Garden becomes the first business on Balboa Island to own a liquor license. However, Tony is consumed with Wallie’s Market and decides to lease out the restaurant to the White brothers, Art and Vaux, who change the name to Park Avenue Café, and later White’s Café.

 

1937

Tony and Mina purchase Wallie’s Market.

 

1937

When Ruthie is in 6th grade the family lives above White’s Café at the corner Park and Marine.

 

1938

Tony remodels Wallie’s Market and renames it the Market Spot. “We wrecked the old barn and built a new building without closing even for one day.” That building still stands and is the current location of Hershey’s Market.

 

1938–78

The Hershey family runs the market with a smile, winning the hearts of Island residents with their generosity and kindness. They offer free delivery, charge accounts and forgive debts when they know the patrons are unable to pay. Their generosity and kindness know no bounds. Tony says, “Service was always our most important item to offer.”

 

1940–60

Tony and Mina sponsor the annual Christmas Tree Party for children on the corner of Park and Marine. Every year they set up and decorate a 20-foot tree in front of the old 76 Station, the current location of the Fire Department. Hundreds of residents gather in the intersection.

 

Tony dresses up like Santa Claus and hands out Christmas socks filled with fruit, nuts and of course “Hershey’s chocolate” to the local children. In the early years, Mina makes the little stockings and Ruthie helps to fill them. The annual Christmas Party ends when the child population grows to over 400. The tradition of an annual Christmas tree display, setting up and decorating a tree, continues to this day on the very same corner.

 

Tony devotes much of his time to civic affairs. He is a charter member of the Newport-Balboa Rotary Club, the Elks Club and the Chamber of Commerce.

 

1949–54

Ruthie marries Lyle Finley and they have two children, their “Two Brightest Stars,” Tony (1951) and Susan (1954), who grow up on the Island. Ruth and Lyle build a home at 206 Onyx, next-door to Tony and Mina at 208 Onyx. With no fence between the two homes, Ruth’s children have a large courtyard as a playground.

 

1956

Ruth and Lyle move their family to 117 Onyx.

 

1957

White’s Café is completely remodeled to an Old English building, leased out again and is called The Village Inn.

1971

Tony Hershey passes away at age 79.

 

1971-78

Mina and Ruth continue to run Hershey’s Market, upholding the fine reputation that has been established over the years.

 

1978

After 49 years, Mina and Ruth sell Hershey’s Market but hold on to the property, which remains in the Hershey family to this day.

 

1985

Mina Hershey passes away at age 92.

 

1998

Ruth Hershey Finley passes away at age 87.

PLAN YOUR VISIT

The New Balboa Island Museum pays homage to the island so many of us know, love and call home – and a place that continues to capture the imaginations and hearts of visitors the world over.

 

Hours of Operation: Monday – Thursday 10am to 5pm, Friday – Sunday 10am to 6pm

Admission: Free general admission on all days. We gladly accept cash donations!

Ask about our Kids Scavenger Hunt!

Parking: Two hour parking is available on Marine Ave. You can park in the surrounding neighborhood for the extended day.