Friday, December 07, 2007

The Grant Boys

The Grant BoysAnyone driving along Newport Blvd in Costa Mesa can't miss The Grant Boys, an old-west themed set of stores, selling Levi's, guns, and camping gear. It's been there since 1949.

A year ago, I received an e-mail from Mike Grant, the son of the guy who opened up the store (which was then called, Grant's War Surplus). He mostly described many of the restaurants his family loved to eat at...

My family moved to Orange County in 1949. My Father and Grandmother opened Grant's War Surplus (now The Grant Boys) in Costa Mesa, a town of 4,000 people. The store is still family owned and operated. During the 50's and 60's we were the place to buy Levis. We were among the top 10 single Levis retailers in the country.

We lived in Santa Ana because my mother did not want to live out in the sticks of Costa Mesa. I went to Santa Ana High School and graduated in 1960.

Some of the places we always ate at were: Pop's Steak House, they had the best salad dressing, melted cheese on baked potato and garlic bread. All that and a steak for $3.95. We ate at Yummy's at 17th and Bristol. Kono Hawaii in the Japanese Tea House where the waitresses always made us laugh when the served dessert, Rime Sherbert.

I went to Lathrop Jr high and we always ate at the Kwik Snak, which everyone called the In and Out. They had the best fries!! We would swim at the pool at Memorial Park and at the YMCA downtown. We swam naked at the Y, men only.

Always cruised Merle's drive in Newport Beach. Went to the Buffalo Ranch, which is now Fashion Island. The Good Humor truck came through our neighborhood but we could never buy one, too expensive 15 cents. My mom shopped at Market Basket on 17 and Flower.

I remember the Snack Shops. Great Hamburgers and onion rings and their Sour Cream salad dressing. For a fancy place we went to Victor Hugo's in Laguna, or the Arches. We ate a lot at the Zorba Room at Buffum's in Santa Ana. Chung King in Anaheim on Lincoln was one of our chinese places along with Koo's on Main.
Tell us your memories of The Grant Boys, or anything else you see in Mike's letter, by clicking on "Post a Comment" below.


  1. We moved to Santa Ana in 1947, and I went to G.L. Martin gram. school. I remember eating INSIDE Koo's chinese restaurant for many years, and watch the children grow up. They finally took over and changed it into take-out only.

  2. During the ugly late 60s and early 70s, when all the clothes a junior high or high schooler could buy looked like something Greg Brady would wear, the Grant Boys was one of the few places in OC where a regular guy could buy regular Levis jeans and cords (yes, in white, wine and light blue) to go with your wallabies.

  3. OMG, I just bought a gun there today! My dad says he remembers there was other locations in OC of the Grant Boys long ago. He remembers buying a rifle a long time ago but my mom made him take it back due to financial reasons.

    We live on the border of OC/LA county by the 605/91 but we still go here to buy guns sometimes. I bought the odd camping accesory here and there also over the years. I took my hunter safety class there also.

  4. Hi,
    It was great to read your comments about Pop's Steak House. That was my Grandma's restaurant. I have such good memories of growing up there. Santa Ana was such a different place back then. I now live in another State but still have lots of family in So. Cal. And I remember the Grant Boys, it was a landmark!

  5. I'm restoring a house at 1212 Louise st. I think this was the Grants' house. Am I right? Basically the corner of Bristol and Washington.

  6. Does any know the recipe for the cheese bread they served at Pop's Steakhouse in Santa Ana?

  7. Mike Grant here. We did live at 1212 N Louise. My parents bought it from the widow of the builder. The original plans for the house were in the small basement, they might still be there. It is a very solid house because the builder was a contractor and built many of the houses in Santa Ana. I live in Las Vegas now, if you want to contact me, you can call 702 232 7717. Mike Grant

  8. I remember driving by The Grant Boys every time we went to the beach from Santa Ana... and I can still hear that folsky jingle and Larry Huffman's voice doing the Grant Boys radio ads on KEZY...

  9. Now that everyone has requested the recipe for the cheese bread from Pop's Steakhouse. (I have one that was clipped from a flyer picked up at the Steakhouse, if anyone is interested) I would like to find a recipe for the Roquefort Cheese salad dressing from Pop's. Any suggestions?

  10. My family and I make the Garlic Bread once a week at least. My Uncle Rex dated Gladis, who was a waitress at Pop's. I can remember the relish tray's that they would serve before the meal.
    Awesome eats!

  11. Pop's Stak Hous Garlic Bread

    Mix 1/2 cup oil w/ 1 clove crushed garlic and 1 tsp garlic powder.
    Mix together and spread thickly on both sides of lengthwise cut french bread. Sprinkle w/ grated paresan and paprka.
    Bake 3-4 min. at 450.

    1. I grew up in Tustin and we used to eat at Pop's all the time. It was great. We all loved the bread and my mom asked the waitress what the secret was and she told her mayonaisse so my mom started making garlic bread with mayo and I've continued to make it also. We never had a recipe so we just kind of guessed the ratio and everyone always loves it but thank you for posting the original recipe. Now I'll be able to make it exactly the way it was at Pop's, well maybe not exactly, since you can't really recreate the feel of that place, which made the food taste even was so much fun eating there.

  12. Pop's Steak House. Wow. Right across the street from the Santa Ana train station, when trains were more popular than air travel. My folks took us there all the time. Who can forget the garnish tray. The garlic bread. And remember the ice cream that came in a paper-wrapped square?!

    Born in Santa Ana at St. Joseph's Hospital, 1956. Raised all over Orange County until I went off to college in 1977. Things were a lot different back then in the OC. There really were Orange groves everywhere. Tons of open land.

    Anyone remember the bear in a cage on Harbor Blvd between Santa Ana and Costa Mesa? And the buffalo ranch. Great memories. Thanks!

    1. I remember that bear. You could buy a 5 cent bottle of coke and the man would put it on a long stick and give it to the bear. He would grab it between his paws and drink it. Great memory.

  13. Someone said that Buffalo Ranch was where Fashion Island is now. Close, but not quite right. Buffalo Ranch was on the East side of MacArthur Blvd.... Long before Fashion Island was built, there was a drive-inn restaurant at the corner of MacArthur and Pacific Coast Highway. It was named "the Zoo". And, even earlier, at the corner of Jamboree and Pacific Coast Highway, there was an open air fish market for years. Driving further west on PCH, you could find Wil Wright's Ice Cream store at the corner of PCH and Dover Drive (across from the entrance to Bay Shores). Moving up Dover Drive, there was originally a fountain at the corner of Dover and Westcliff. This was when the Irvine Company was developing Dover Shores housing tract. Pranksters used to put soap in the fountain and it was always bubbling. Obviously I'm a moldie-oldie, having lived there in the early to mid 60s when this wonderfully neat stuff existed. And finally, I worked for years at KOCM radio and we ran endless commercials for the Grant Boys as well as Reinert's Department Store just a few door away. And who from that era could forget Chick Iverson VW and the commercials they ran? I think I may even have some archival copies on tape! That was a great time to live in the area; hopefully there are a few other ancient fossils like me who remember some of this grand old stuff. I'll be back again and post some more, and in the meantime I'll look for a few photos to send along. Neat site, Steve! Thanks! -dp

  14. I remember the Grant Boys Army Surplus very well. My Father owned the Army Navy Surplus Store in Garden Grove. We would go to the beach, sometimes the back bay in Newport where my Father loved to swim in the bay and Mom thought it was safer than the ocean side and we would stop at Grant Boys to check out the competition. Great store and always a landmark for me when I make that turn off of Harbor onto Newport Bluvd. In the Fifties living down in Newport was "away" from everything else in the county. Seemed like a longs ways away then.

  15. Mike Grant here (The Grant Boys). I used to have lunch all the time with Gary Burrell who owned KOCM at the time. Our radio spots were so totally opposite the soft hits format of the station they always stood out. Does anybody have the Ceasar salad dressing recipe from Bob Burns in Fashion Island, it was the best!! My dad was good friends with Bob Rubien who owns the Crab Cooker, in fact, my dad named the place. It used to be called Seafood Varieties and my dad suggested a better name based on the big crab cooker out front.

  16. I went to SAHS with Bruce Grant - I think he was a year ahead of me. If memory serves me correctly, he was in the Bachelor's Club with Jon Eddy, Tim Carlyle, etc. I think he may have also dated a friend of mine named Elaine.

    In the late sixties I remember we would buy the original navy Bell Bottoms (actual military issue as I recall)at Grants. I would embroidery flowers around the bottoms or down the sides, Also bought true navy work shirts, and a P-Coat. These were uniform for the college kid who aspired to be a hippy. I remember my mother asking me if I would ever wear a skirt again. Up until about 1970 girls had to wear skirts/dresses to school & boys couldn't let their hair grow past the collar of their shirt.

    I worked part time at the Crab Cooker while in college. Best tips in the world...Also best seafood & chowder.

  17. Hi, My name is Gary and my Gram owned Pop's. (I guess that's my l'il sis who posted above toward the top. "Hi C." waving) Clara Wolff owned and operated Pop's for about 20 years. I grew up in Santa Ana and got to spend weekends with Gram. I went to work for her when I was 11. She owned the house next to the restaurant. Would you believe she sold a house at Newport Beach to open Pop's? It was half a block from the beach and a few blocks north of the pier. That was in the 50's before surfing became popular.
    I remember Rex. What a card! He worked for the county and took a photo of a ufo that appeared in a LIFE magazine (or was it LOOK?) special edition. I showed him my copy of the magazine and he burst out laughing. I won't say any more.
    Gram's garlic bread was legendary. I've made it and it's just not the same.
    I worked at Gram's for 7 years. She was a hard worker!
    I moved to northern California in 1975 but I still remember the Grant Boys. I remember Kwik Snak and Memorial pool. I graduated from SAHS in 1970.
    Anybody remember the go carts on Harbor blvd?

  18. Does anybody have the cheese sauce recipe from Pop's steak house. You always got a huge baked potatoe filled with that cheese sauce. We always got a big bag of steak bones to take home for our dog. Mike Grant

  19. I was born in Anaheim in 1935 and grew up there. I have fond memories of some of the great places we ate at as teen agers and young adults in the 50s

    Best burgers; Hula Hut and Carl's Drive-In in Anaheim. Carl Karcher was still flipping burgers and keeping the lot orderly before he expanded to the mega-chain Carl's Jr. His "Star Burger" back then was the best. Had great fried scallops too.

    We ate at a lot of small Mom & Pop Mexican places around OC; each having thir own signature dish:

    Rivera's Casa Blanca in Santa Ana best beef and bean burritos, they were huge.

    La Palma Drive,aka "Bean Hut" Anaheim; outstanding bean tostadas and cheese & onion enchiladas

    La Chiquita, Fullerton; superb chili rellenos

    Sanchez'z La Casita, Anaheim: best tacos and sopes'

    Pop's Steak House, Santa Ana; as great as everyone else said

    Jon's on So. Main , Santa Ana; French Dip Sandwiches.

    Snack Shops; Shrimp & cucumber sandwiches & grilled swordfish

    Belisle's @ Harbor & Garden Grove Blvd
    3 am ham & egg breakfast after the bars closed...the place was a zoo at that hour

    Clock Drive-In across from Disneyland; great hot Boysenberry pie with vanilla ice cream... a pretty fair burger too

    Pier Cafe, Newport Beach: Chicken Fried Steak dinner for 65 cents

    I moved away to another state in 1962 for college and grad schoolm and never returnd to live again in OC or Cal.
    It was like visiting a different planet on a recent visit to OC after being away for many, many years.

    Oh yeah, I remember Grant's Surpus in Costa Mesa too.

    Dr. Jon R Wagner, Singapore

  20. I'm trying to document where Chick Iverson's VW sales operation was located in 1960. I seem to recall that it was located on Newport Blvd/Balboa Blvd. close to the Newport Pier. I thought it was close to the current Spaghetti Factory. Perhaps some of those above who mentioned the Chick Iverson opration would remember.

  21. Chick Iverson's VW was located on the NE corner of 22nd and Newport, across from the Crab Cooker. Per google street view, Molly Brown's is in the building now and something called the Annex is in the back side. I got my first Bug there in 1963.

  22. Iverson ad from 1961 is here:

  23. Chick Iverson's was across from the Crab Cooker. It is now the CC warehouse and prep area. I think something else is in the front section. I was going to buy my new 1960 VW from them, but they insisted on putting in a radio which I did not want. I ended up buying one from Commonweath VW in Santa Ana. $1750 brand new. It had a radio in it, but I bought it anyway. VW's were hot sellers and almost all were spoken for as they got off the boat from Germany. I remember driving up Hwy 395 going camping and had it up to 90, lol, kind of nuts!!

    We used to drive it through the Orange Groves and shoot Pheasants from the window with 22 cb caps. The car fit right in between the trees.

    It was my first new car, and have owned over 60 new cars since then, but it will always be in my top 5 that I have owned.

    Was thinking about the fries at the In and Out on Main (Kwik Snak), the best ever. Ate them everyday for lunch when I went to Lathrop Jr High back in the late 1950's. Sure was different then, I think we had a couple of hispanic kids in school. Now you would have trouble finding a white kid there. Times change. I miss the old Santa Ana. Anyone remember the free shows at the Fox West Coast theater on Saturdays? 10 cartoons, a serial and a movie. You had to go to the downtown merchants to get the free tickets. I remember Walker's theater where it cost us 12 cents to get in.

    My family owned and still owns The Grant Boys in Costa Mesa. My sister and her husband run it now, still a great store. John Wayne used to buy all of his guns from us. It was always fun when he was in the store. It really freaked out the customers. One lady who was following him around said to me "What's he doing in a place like this" lol.

    We used to take people out to eat at the Ancient Mariner right on the water, or the Reuben E. Lee. We were regulars at La Cave for lunch, we had an account there so we just signed the check and they billed us each month. Can't do that these days. We used to have coffee and donuts across the street from the store. They had hundreds of personalized coffee mugs for the customers. You walk in and the guy pours you a mug of coffee and knows what donuts you like. Talk about personal customer service. El Matador had good mexican food down the street, it is still there. We ate at the Snack Shop, before it changed to Coco's. El Pescador on 17th had the best clam chowder and salads. South Coast Plaza was still a lima bean field and no 405 freeway. We lived in Santa Ana so we went home on Bristol street. My dad let me drive smetimes at 14, since it was just out in the sticks, a 2 lane road until it got into Santa Ana. We water skied in the back bay almost every night until it got dark. The Righteous Brothers would stop by with their Ski boat and pick us up at the store. On the way home we would stop at Russ hambergers on Newport for some chili burgers, 15 cents if I remember right. Our store was open Sunday from 10 to 4 and my dad would buy breakfast for the staff at Bud's at Mesa and Newport. The building is still there. Our employees would work all the hours the store was open and would get every other Sunday off. Try doing that today! We would stay open only on Friday nights til 9, and then some customers would stay after to shoot the bull about guns and trips. We would put beer in the Coke machine for the evening. It was just so different then, like another world. Oh, Levi's 501's sold for $3.49 a pair. We ran the gas station next door and gas was usually about 22.9 cents a gallon, full service. I once asked the oil company, Gulf Oil, if we could put in a small booth and let the customer pump their own gas to save on labor costs. They looked at me like I was nuts. Customers pump their own gas and clean their own windows, never! Well I have been rambling on and on. Bye from Vegas! Mike Grant (the oldest Grant Boy, SAHS class of 1960)

  24. Chick Iverson's was where the Crab Cooker Comissary is across the street from the Crab Cooker. I ordered a new 1960 VW from them and when they tried to force a radio on me, I left and bought one from Commonwealth VW which was on the corner of Bristol and Edinger. New 1960 VW's were $1750.00. Had to finance it, who had that kind of money??? Mike Grant (oldest of The Grant Boys).

  25. Wow, neat to hear everyone remembering our beloved OC. Just to chime in here, the Grant Boys is where everyone would go for Levi's. I remember July 20th 1969 everyone at home waiting to see the first moon landing. My birthday was the day before and having birthday bucks in my pocket my friend (who's parents had the last house on the end of W 19th St in Costa Mesa, before the "gully") walked the the Grant Boys to so I could buy a pair of Levi's with my own money!!!. His mom asked why we weren't staying to see thee moon landing and we said we would catch it on reruns later!!! That's what a big thing Grant Boys was to a 13 year old boy back in the day!!!!
    I moved away 14 years ago to West Virginia, I have 4 acres with 350ft of creek frontage with a 3600 sq ft house about 70 miles from DC....all for less than a 2 bedroom condo in a rough neighborhood in OC....and I still miss Costa Mesa/Newport Beach every day!!!

  26. I was born in 1954 in Loma Linda hospital and raised in Norco unitl my family moved out to Hemet in 65 because it was getting "too crowed". My grandfather, a Greek immigrant, was a farmer in Norco growing melons and various other produce on land he purchased from Walter Knott. The Norco climate wasn't conducive to growing Boysenberries as he had thought. My grandfather had a delivery route that encompassed all of Orange County. Most stops were little mom and pop stores and several road side stands. I used to go with him in his old green Studebaker pickup loaded with crates of melons to make the rounds. I remember a place on the old Santa Ana Canyon Rd. called Lasky's Camp, near Prado Dam. We never stopped there but I'd like to know if anyone else knows anything about that roadside establishment. One of the highlights with grandpa was his cussing out other motorists for their (actually his) bad driving in his heavy Greek accent. Another highlight was stopping along old Harbor Blvd. on the way to the beach area to see the bear in the cage. For a nickle the bear man would give a small bottle of Coke to the bear and he would drink it holding it between his front paws. My grandpa always got a kick out of that. He even learned enough Italian and Japanese to greet and make light conversation with some of his customers in their native language. I remember seeing the big blimp hangers at the Tustin Marine Corp. Air Base. Also the circle in downtown Orange, Watkins Drug Store, and on and on. In closing, does anyone have any info on the place I mentioned above?...Lasky's Camp? Thanks

  27. It's "Watson's" drug store. Still there. I had dinner there the other night.

  28. I remember the buffalo ranch, pop's steak house, belisles, the orange grove that is now disneyland and the west coast and broadway theatres, in and out, feduccias and buddy grant was a friend and lodge member of my dad's. unfortunately, i remember his wife that died a few years ago. rip all. santa ana was all orange groves when i was a kid and the smell was intoxicating. memories....

  29. And the guy with the bear was Frank ( Manny ) Mc Cubbins.

    The comments were wonderful. I was born in Costa Mesa in 1933 and grew up there. There couldn't have been a better place to grow up !!

  30. I read on another website that someone thought The Grant Boys store looked out of place for the area. LOL when the store started in 1949, there was no "area". Been a long time and still stronger than ever! Difficult to be in business today if you don't own the property.


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