James family passings signal final farewell to Old Hermosa

Imogene and Willard “Juicy” James owned five store fronts in the 1400 block of The Strand. Photos courtesy of the James family

by Mary Bergeron

When people remember Hermosa the way it used to be, a picture that commonly comes to mind is Juicy James Hamburgers on The Strand, and the neighboring beach rental shops.

On Sunday, on the beach at 10th Street, in front of the beach cottage Imogene and Willard “Juicy” James purchased in 1948, memories of Old Hermosa will be shared by the remaining few old enough to have lived it.

The James family home on 10th Street, circa 1960, remains largely unchanged.

The occasion will be a memorial for Imogene, who passed away in 2013, at age 93, and her daughter Carol, who passed away this past June, at age 71. 

Imogene was 17 when she married Willard “Juicy” James after meeting him at a dance club on her lunch break across the street from the pharmacy where she worked. The couple soon fled their native Denison, Texas for the San Francisco Bay area, where Imogene worked as a spot welder in the shipyards through the Great Depression. 

In the late ‘40s, the couple moved to Redondo Beach, where they raised two children. Billy Ray James was born in 1948, followed by Carol Ann James in 1952.   

Imogene James with her mother visiting from Denison, Texas, and daughter Carol. 

Willard was working for the City of Hermosa Beach when he found a house he wanted to buy on 10th street, half a block from the beach. Imogene agreed, on the condition it not be for more than two years. 

Imogene, with the help of a friend at Home Bank in Redondo Beach, purchased a small building on The Strand, at 14th Street, where the couple opened Juicy James Hamburgers.

People lined up for “Imo’s” burgers. If you couldn’t afford one she still made sure you left with a full belly. Her  heart was the size of Texas. Old surfers still swear she fed them more than their own mothers. 

Shortly after opening James Burgers, the couple opened a surf mat rental next door. Over the ensuing years, they would also become landlords for Jeffers’s surfboard rentals, Ray’s Wild Wheels skate shop, Goodies Galore Ice Cream, and La Playita Mexican restaurant. 

Juicy passed away shortly after the couple sold their five Strand parcels to developers of the Beach House hotel in 1989.

Imogene continued to live with Carol in their 10th Street home, where she doted on her grandson Anthony when not visiting her favorite Las Vegas casinos, and the Harrison Casino in San Diego.

Willard “Juicy” and Imogene James.

Carol continued to live in her childhood home, whose yard she fenced with pinwheels she passed out to kids walking to the beach. Carol bartended and waitressed throughout the South Bay, including at Roy’s Mill, Nancy’s Food Cellar, the Redondo Lounge, Riptide, and Anza Inn. She also attended Loyola Marymount to become a certified drug and alcohol counselor. And she went to clown school to become a certified clown. 

In 2020, Carol was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away this past June 26. She is survived by son Anthony Bergeron, and his wife Mary; and grandsons, Anthony Bergeron Jr., Silas James Bergeron, and Slayden James Bergeron.

A gathering will take place at Scotty’s on The Strand following the memorial paddle out on Sunday, September 24 at 10 a.m. on the beach in Hermosa, at 10th Street. ER

A 1981 Easy Reader clipping of a story by Mike Purpus about Jefferson Pendleton’s beach rentals, a tenant of the James’ for 14 years.


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