Balboa Island couple’s ‘Christmas house’ puts tradition in the spotlight

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When it comes to decorating for Christmas, “the reason is the season,” according to Jim Busby, a resident of Balboa Island.

His Cape Cod-style home, with a vintage motorcycle prominently from the front window, occupies nearly three lots near the entrance to Newport Harbor on the East Bay Front.

The Busby House has regularly won holiday prizes, including the competition, the most photogenic and traditional prizes in the annual Ring of Lights Home Decor Contest. And this year, you can add the Ring of Lights Photographer’s Choice Award announced Tuesday by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“We never decorated the house to win an award,” Busby said. “But it’s nice to win and always fun.”

Busby and his wife, Judy, have kept a traditional style of Christmas decorating similar to the one they grew up with: Jim in Pasadena and Judy in Atlanta.

“I like to make people happy when they’re on the catwalk,” Judy said. “It gives them joy, and it’s our joy.”

The house features red and green wreaths inside and out, knit stockings hanging from the mantel above the wood-burning fireplace, and vintage gold ornaments adorning the 9-foot Christmas tree while holiday music is playing everywhere.

“It’s not a Disney movie, it’s not animated, it’s a very traditionally decorated house,” Jim said.

Jim’s relationship with the house, which was built in 1941, dates back to his childhood. As it was the only house on the island that had grass, he and a friend played soccer there every summer while on vacation on the island for two weeks.

While living in Laguna Beach in 1973, Jim and his first wife decided to look for a house in Newport Beach so their children could go to school.

One day, while Jim was at the Santa Ana Courthouse looking at a cork board filled with photos of furniture, boats, cars, and houses, a house on Balboa Island with a pink and white roof took off. caught his attention. It was listed as a probate sale, and he immediately recognized it as the house he had played in as a child.

“This has always been my favorite home, and it’s mind-boggling that I’m the only one coming up to bid,” said Jim, who paid it $ 510,000.

“The day we moved in there was a knock on the door and a man offered us $ 900,000,” Jim said. “Here, I was a 30-year-old kid with five kids and a wife, and it was really tempting. But we refused.

Jim, who retired in 1991, once had a career as a professional racing driver, even winning the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix at Riverside Raceway in 1981.

Judy, who retired in 2005, was a physical trainer, massage therapist and nutrition consultant. “I always tell everyone what to eat,” she joked.

Jim and Judy met 25 years ago and found they shared the love of decorating for Christmas. It has become a cooperative effort.

“We’re both obsessed with Christmas,” Judy said. “We love it, and it’s kind of a Christmas house. We must refrain from buying new things for Christmas.

Two large mesh reindeer are the only change they made in 20 years, besides adding energy efficient lights, which they were reluctant to use because they lacked the warm glow of traditional incandescent lights.

“Judy tried not to use LED lights until this year, which are only in the trees,” Jim said. “We offer ways to save energy while putting on a light show. “

Jim said the island’s original beach cabins were not built for the electrical surges required by vacation lighting. Since most people did not live there full time in 1941, especially in December, there was no need to improve electrical capacity. Even though the electrical wiring of the Busbys has been replaced with fuses by a circuit breaker panel to carry the extra load, the extra Christmas lights are still a strain on the power supply.

“When I tried to hang ice cubes around the house in the past, I couldn’t get anything to work inside,” Jim said. “It caused so much trouble to pop the circuit breakers all the time.”

As for the motorcycle in the living room, the Harley-Davidson WLA 1946 has become a hallmark of the house. This model was produced to Army specifications over the years during and around WWII, meaning it could serve well on dirt roads in Europe. But with a top speed of 35 mph, it was never intended for use on normal roads.

Since Jim wanted to get to where he was going within a reasonable time, he decided to make the motorcycle a centerpiece. And during the holidays it is decorated.

Susan Hoffman is a Times Community News contributor.


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