Article from the 12/18/2015 Catalina Islander

Since becoming the "Official Greeter" of Catalina Island, through the Catalina Chamber Of Commerce, on March 10, 2014, I have answered 39,466 questions.

Here are some of the more interesting questions/comments that I have received from cruise ship and cross channel boat passengers:

"Is it true that the only way Islanders can leave Catalina is when they go to college and then they have to come back immediately when they are finished with their schooling?"
"Oh look, they use United States stamps here!"
"I understand that if you don't behave on Catalina, they take your picture and you are kicked off the Island!"
"Do you have a police force here or can you do whatever you feel like?"
"Isn't this a 'Free Port' and we don't have to pay any taxes on items we buy here."

OSAMA BIN LIDDELL

Around 2007, there was so much silt in the Long Beach Harbor that we could no longer use the "Catalina Landing" port and had to go across the channel to the "Queen Mary" to take the "Catalina Express" to the Island.  I had a large suitcase and the only way that I could get over from the "Landing", where my car was parked to the "Queen Mary", was to take the bridge.  I parked my car, got on the bridge, got to the other side, and that's when all "you know what" BROKE LOSE!!!

When I stepped off the bridge, I started over toward the boat, when a sheriff's patrol car pulled up and a female officer came up to me with a drawn revolver which she pointed directly at my chest!  I should have been scared, but I wasn't.  I still trust "authority" and I knew that I hadn't done anything wrong and that there had to be some terrible mistake!  I asked her what the problem was and started to explain that I was trying to get on the boat.  I lifted my right hand to point and she said, "KEEP BOTH OF YOUR HANDS DOWN TO YOUR SIDES!"  When she demanded that I explain my actions, this time I motioned with my right shoulder!  She asked, "WHAT BUSINESS DO YOU HAVE ON THE BOAT?"  "I live on Catalina Island and I am trying to get home."  "WHY DID YOU HAVE TO GO OVER THE BRIDGE TO DO IT?  WHY DIDN'T YOU DRIVE OVER TO THE BOAT PARKING LOT!?!"  "Because I have monthly parking at the 'Landing'." I started pointing to the parking complex.  "KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOUR SIDES!!!":  Using my shoulder again, making a half circular motion to show the path,"I am parked over THERE and I have to take this bridge to get over to this OTHER SIDE where the boat is leaving."  "HOW DO I KNOW THAT YOU LIVE ON CATALINA ISLAND!?!"  "I will show you my 'Driver's License'."  I started reaching for it in my belly bag.  "DON'T MOVE!"  "If you don't want me to show it to you, you can get it out of my bag on your own."

Just then another patrol car pulled up and a male back up officer came with his revolver drawn!  Now I had TWO ANGRY OFFICERS and TWO GUNS aimed at my chest!!!  Having two officers there, they must have felt less stressed, because he told me I could show them my I.D., which I did.  They looked immediately relieved and put their guns back in their holsters.  They then asked if I needed any help to cross the street so that I could get to the boat.  I felt like an old lady being helped across the street by a boy scout!!!  I told them that I was perfectly capable of doing that on my own!  If they detained me any longer,  I WAS going to miss my boat!  They motioned me on and actually stood in the middle of the street to keep any traffic from coming through.  I "ran" just barely makint the Express!

A few days later I was having lunch at "Mr. Ning's" with a friend who was with the Sheriff's Department.  As we were eating, I told him the story to see if he could shine any light on what had transpired.  He asked me the date of the encounter  and I told him.  Then he let out quite a laugh!  "I don't see what's so funny having two revolvers aimed at me!!!"  "Let me explain," he said.  "An internal memo was send to all of the law enforcement agencies that morning warning of a possible terrorist plot to blow up the bridge on the day you were crossing it. With your beard and large suitcase, you looked like a perfect suspect!"  "Then why did they wait until I got to the other side to stop me?  I could have blown up the bridge in the middle!"  (I was now trying to think like a "terrorist"!)  "They obviously didn't get to you in time!"

Since "9-11", I have had dogs sniff my luggage and also had Coast Guard boats escort our "Express" boats out of Long Beach Harbor, but I have never been picked out personally as a "terrorist"!  I probably should cut off my beard, but then that is what the security officials would expect me to do; NOT look like a terrorist!  Either way, I can't win. I guess that the days of innocence are alas LONG GONE!!!

CORRECTION:

Sir Winston Churchill once said, "I love to learn, but I hate to be taught!"  As a noted historian, he must have realized that, although he might have felt that way, that is one of the most important ways to learn.   The other way is to be "corrected".  When I write or say something regarding Catalina History, I do my utmost best to ONLY pass on correct information; information I BELIEVE to be correct.  Last week I told about the history of our Avalon hospitals.  Although, to the best of my understanding, ALL of it was correct, Sandy Putnam, well known Catalina Island native and historian, especially regarding tile and pottery, called me to correct the one mistake she found.  Although the Judge Joseph Banning home and the George Patton, Sr. home were next door to each other, ONLY the Banning home was converted into a hospital.  The Patton home continued to be used as a residence and was, in fact, inhabited up to 1958, when both the hospital and this home was demolished.  For those who might remember, The Reynold M. McCullough family (he better known as "Reyn", as in the "Reyn-Spooner" shirts) lived there just before it was torn down.  One of the ways to get "checked" for accuracy is to print it as fact and then see if anyone corrects it.  THIS IS PROBABLY THE WORST TACT THAT A HISTORIAN CAN USE.  I didn't do this intentionally, as I was told for years that this was "fact", but it took Sandy remembering the McCullough family living there in the 1950's to prove my earlier statement incorrect.  I APOLOGIZE and thank Sandy for her "teaching"!   Please take General George Patton, Jr. out of the history of the hospital.  The Pattons were only neighbors of Judge Banning, but being born in the home of one of the earlier owners of Catalina isn't too shabby, but now you will have to pay more for "Lloyd's" 50 cent coffee!