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Island Teems With USC Boosters

A Newport Beach neighborhood full of alumni continues to be true to the Trojans -- and live for their football games.

October 06, 2006|Yvonne Villarreal | Times Staff Writer

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Jerry Haddow, 76, wandered down a quiet street on Balboa Island. He sported a USC T-shirt and hat and held a bottle of red wine wrapped in a Trojan flag.

He didn't have cable at home and had brought the liquor as an offering to whoever would take him in. He picked the right street. Eleven Trojan banners swayed in the ocean breeze outside homes on this block of Coral Avenue.

Fans and visitors consider the shrine-like street in Newport Beach a Trojan wonderland.

"USC people come down here and say it's like heaven," said Otis Page, a USC lineman in the 1970s who invited the wine-bearing Haddow to watch the game with him. "It's like living at Disneyland."

In 1988 Kirby and Pat Galt, both now 80, decided to display their USC pride by making a Trojan flag the focal point of their home's exterior. Their decision sparked a domino effect with neighbors and now is a mini-tourist attraction -- with USC football Coach Pete Carroll its most famous visitor.

"It's something we can do to show our pride for USC," said Kirby Galt, an alumnus who recalled attending USC football games in the 1930s when admission for children was a quarter.

Coral Avenue's tightknit USC following is unusual only in its concentration of Trojan alumni within a single block. Nearly 144,500 alumni live in California, about 33,000 in Orange County, according to USC figures.

"There has always been a family feeling at the university," said Regina Hunsaker, who lives on Coral. "It's fun because everyone gets to know one another a lot better down here because we are so close and have USC in common."

For Page, it's a little like still being on campus.

"I've always known this place as the USC street," Page said. "It's like moving into a fraternity or sorority."

The fanaticism isn't limited to a few yards of fabric.

The Galts have a flower bed of 'Disco Red' marigolds that have the Trojan colors. The front of their house is lined with the official USC Trojan rose -- called the 'Perfect Moment' -- whose deep red hue swirls around a gold center.

Regina and Richard Hunsaker, both alumni, weave the color scheme into their home's decor. Furniture in an upstairs room even has upholstery featuring chariots. The USC-themed golf cart is one of the Hunsakers' most prized possessions. The immaculate white interior is accented with gold Trojan emblems and red lining on the seats.

June Falck, 82, proudly shows pictures of her granddaughter's wedding reception at USC's Town and Gown, where meetings and events are held. The bridal bouquet and bridesmaids' dresses featured Trojan colors.

Being a Trojan fan is almost required for living on Coral Avenue. Many residents there have a) attended USC themselves; b) married someone who attended; c) have children who attended; d) have grandchildren attending or e) all of the above.

Falck didn't attend USC, but her husband, children and grandchildren did. When her husband died a year ago, the Trojan banner flew at half-staff outside her home.

"I'm like a Catholic convert," said Falck, who loves it when players "jump up and bump each other on the stomachs."

Win or lose, the residents of Coral Avenue say they remain happy to support the Trojan football team. And the only problem comes when the season ends.

"My husband practically dies" after the last game of the season, Pat Galt says, "because we have to wait eight months until the new season starts. But we'll be there."

yvonne.villarreal@ latimes.com

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Trojan enclave

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One block of Coral Avenue on Balboa Island looks like a Trojan mini-campus, thanks to alumni who display USC banners and colors.

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