Henry Barba was a citrus farmer and businessman who became famous in the 1920s as owner of Santa Margarita Pass, one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions. He founded what is now known as Henry Barba Hospitality Group which oversees bars and restaurants throughout Orange County, including Clyde Common and Henry’s Tavern.
Henry Barba of Santa Margarita Passes at 108 Years Old • “master and margarita”
Barba died on his 81st wedding anniversary, December 24.
SANTA MARGARITA — Henry Barba, a beloved Santa Margarita citizen and World War II veteran, died on December 24 at the age of 108. It was his late wife Jesse’s 81st wedding anniversary.
Barba was born in Santa Margarita on October 19, 1913, in a house that still remains. But, until his mother changed her mind, he was known as Everett for the first two weeks of his existence.
Barba was born in San Luis Obispo to Mauricio Barba and Catherine Walters of Arroyo Grande. In 1900, the two married and bought a five-acre mansion in Santa Margarita. Henry Barba was one of seven children who lived to adulthood. Henry’s parents buried six children, one of which was Henry’s twin sister Henrietta, who died in infancy.
We’re going to get through this together, Atascadero
Barba grew up farming and ranching, like other people in the region at the time. Barba worked on the Santa Margarita Ranch as a youngster. He assisted Freddy Higuera (yep, the same family as Higuera Street in SLO) in fitting leather collars on the harvester’s 10 and 20 mule teams. In 1936, Barba, his cousin Juaquin Miller, and a friend piled hay to the rafters of a massive barn (which is still standing). That’s a great start to the hay season!
Barba and his future wife, Jesse Hampton, met as children. Jesse’s family had a huge ranch near the Riconada Mine, which he inherited from his father. Barba joked with her brother that when he was six years Jesse’s senior, he would marry Jesse, take over the family ranch, and toss the rest of the family off! Barba did marry Jesse, but instead of inheriting the family property, they only had one kid, Raymond Barba, who was born on December 14, 1941.
Henry Barba is descended from a lengthy line of military warriors that dates back to the American Civil War. Many were killed in combat and are buried in cemeteries all around the Central Coast. Barba’s time came in 1940 to follow in the footsteps of the heroes who had gone before him. He was recruited into the army of the United States. It came as no surprise to him when he learned he had been selected. “Well, this is it,” he thought to himself.
Barba then went to Camp McQuaid in Watsonville for basic training. He was sent to Kodiak Island, Alaska, with the 250th Coast Artillery Battery G, better known as the Glamour Boys. Life on Kodiak wasn’t all horrible, despite the weather. The soldiers were housed in tents, but they had hot coffee and three square meals a day. Barba, who grew up in poverty, was fortunate if she had one or two meals a day. His family refused to accept government aid or food stamps. That, for someone who has been through such adversity, camp life wasn’t so horrible.
Anyone above the age of 29 was ordered to be transferred back to Seattle and released in 1941. Barba, who was 28 years old at the time, narrowly missed the cut. It didn’t matter in the end since Pearl Harbor was destroyed on December 7, 1941.
The boat made a U-turn and returned to Kodiak Island. The spotlight was one of Barba’s responsibilities. He would search the skies at night for hostile planes or artillery. The only problem was that if he did detect an adversary, everyone only possessed wooden firearms! There were no artillery on the island, either. Just fake aircraft and cannons fashioned out of wood phone poles. On the whole island, there were just five firearms.
Barba was ecstatic and pleased when the war in Europe came to a close. He was overjoyed when the war ended in the Pacific, where his siblings and friends were stationed.
Barba and many other military personnel at the time recognized that Japan was prepared to fight for 10 years on their own soil. According to Barba, the United States expected so many casualties in the Pacific that so many Purple Heart medals were produced that they are still being distributed today. He was one of California’s oldest surviving WWII soldiers.
Baseball, notably the Los Angeles Dodgers, was one of Barba’s major passions. When the Dodgers were situated in Brooklyn, he started listening to games on the radio (1884-1957). He was also honored during a Dodger game in Los Angeles on Oct. 11, 2021. Barba was able to take a seat between first and third base. He even packed his old leather baseball glove with him, just in case.
Henry Barba experienced the Spanish Flu, Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II, the Fantastic Fifties, John F. Kennedy’s murder, the technological takeover, and rapid times. He saw the turn of the century, the 9/11 terrorist assault, a second recession, and a second pandemic.
He will be remembered for mowing his lawn and singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” around the neighbourhood.
The date of the memorial ceremony will be revealed later.
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