Article from the 4/20/2015 Catalina Islander


For the last couple of months, I have been "entertaining" you readers with some of the more "unusual questions and comments" that have confronted me while answering my 23,178 questions.  I think it only fair to give equal time to this "misleading" information that we Islanders have passed off as "fact" for over a century!

One question that so many of us wonder about is regarding the "bridge" that we are asked about that either now have or had at one time connecting us with the mainland!.  As far back as the middle '70's, and for a number of years afterward, "Antonio's Original Pizza Deli", 114 Sumner, had in the window case, facing the alley, a picture of the "Brooklyn Bridge" with the caption, "Constructed 1896, Avalon to Willmore Town (Long Beach).  Destroyed in storm , November 22, 1905". Can't blame Jack for this rumor, but this information certainly looked convincing to me and I am sure to many a visitor to his fine establishment.

The first "practical joke" that I was able to document was in a 1914 issue of the "Islander".  The story told about an Islander sitting next to tourist on the "Hermosa II" steamer.  The Islander noticed that the excited tourist had a glass bottle filled with some clear liquid.  When queried as to its contents, the tourist answered, "I am from the Midwest and this is my first time I have been to any ocean.  I have bottled Catalina water to take back to my family and friends to show them what the ocean looked like!"  The Islander, with a straight face, cautioned the tourist, "You had better dump some of that water out to leave space at the top of the bottle, because when the 'tide rises', the pressure is going to pop the cork and break the bottle!"  The visitor quickly remedied this oversight by dumping a couple of inches of  water back to "Davy Jones"!

Our city dump beyond Pebbly Beach was officially started in 1905 and for the next 100 years we were permitted to burn our garbage.  Coming over on the boats, the tourists would often see plumbs of smoke emanating from that area and would ask a "local", "What is causing that smoke?"  "That is our active volcano, 'Mt. Garbagio'!"

Back in the late '50's, there was a radio commercial for "Pizza Man" (does this company still exist?).  The pitch man stated, "If you are within the sound of my voice, we WILL deliver a pizza to you within 45 minutes or the pizza is FREE!!!"  I knew the schedule for the "S. S. Catalina" and the seaplanes, so I would call the "toll free" number (if I had to pay for this "long distance" call, during the week, before 5PM, I would be in BIG TROUBLE) and tell them that I was calling for my "FREE PIZZA"!  "What do you mean 'FREE'?"  If you heard our commercial, then we can deliver it from one of our pizzarias within 45 minutes!" "You had better start swimming NOW as I live on Catalina Island and that is the ONLY way that you will be able to deliver that pizza within 45 minutes!"  Needless to say, I never received a "FREE" or any other kind of pizza from that establishment and not only did they stop the radio commercials, but I don't recall seeing them around any more.  Maybe rotten kids, like me around the country were finding ways to frustrate these "ad men"!

If I recall correctly, it was either in the late '60's or early '70's, "Candid Camera" came to the Island and set up a toll booth, I seem to remember either on the "Mole" or near the "Via Casino" arch.  People would be instructed to walk through this device and eventually they would be stopped and told that the "Catalina is full, you will have to go back to the mainland!"

When asked "What is grown in the 'Submarine Gardens', some wisecracking "local" would reply, "Small submarines!"

When I would give my "famous"/"infamous" tours of the Island, I would point out the "fire breaks" in Avalon and tell my trusting passengers that those were "Ski slopes that we built for the last 'Winter Olympics'.  They told us, 'if you build them, they will come'.  Well, ';we built them, but NOBODY CAME'!"  If they were too smart for this one, I would show them our wild bison and bald eagles.  They would get all excited until I told them that the wooden bison were really activated on "trip wires" to stand up whenever we came near them and would then lie down when we got out of sight and that the bald eagles were really just clay figures catapulted across the sky.  If THAT didn't get them, the one that more often than not GET would prove to be pay dirt was when I would be on the overlook of "Little Harbor" and I would tell them that Avalon was on the "Pacific Side" of the Island and that we were now on the "Atlantic Side".  "Quick, Helen, take a picture, I have NEVER seen the 'Atlantic Ocean'!"  All joking would end here, as I could only imagine what their family and friends would say when they would see the slides and then be told that these were pictures of the "Pacific Ocean" as well as the "Atlantic Ocean"!  "And where did you say you went on vacation? 'Catalina Island'!?!  I DON'T THINK YOU SAW THE 'ATLANTIC OCEAN'!"

When I once did my "Walking Tour" of Avalon, I pointed out that we did not get home delivery from our Post Office.  I told them that we were working out an arrangement where the "Jahova Witnesses" would deliver our mail directly to our homes.  After all they were visiting us every day anyway and at least this way they would be welcomed and invited in and we would be saved the time and trouble of going downtown!  I had two ladies who just happened to be "Witnesses" and they laughed hysterically and said that they were going to bring this up at their next meeting!

I know who these individuals were, but I am NOT going to give out their names, as they are respected Avalon citizens.  One told some inquiring visitors that the buffalo floated over here on the kelp beds.  Another, on finding when the visitors were leaving on the boat, would tell them that the Island Indians were going to herd the buffalo into Avalon, but always just 30 minutes after the visitor was leaving!

On seeing the ADORABLE pre-school children being escorted into town, by having a long rope with rings put into it so that each child would hold on to one of the rings and thus be properly and safely moved around, I would tell my passengers, "Here's something I had hoped that you would never have to see!  Here is our local 'chain gang' being paraded through town as a warning to others.  I am ashamed to see how early crime starts in this town!"

So here is enough "misinformation" that often confronts the tourist and might explain SOME of their more "unusual" questions and observations, but NOT all of them by any means.  Islanders, including me, will have to take the blame for some of these misconceptions of Catalina.  Will we stop this practice. Probably, as so many things are no longer available of which to make fun!  PITTY!!!


As I said before, as of today, I have reached the 23,178 mark!  I think that 25,000 will be a landmark, so I am having a contest to find out who can guess the closest to the day and time when that momentus question will be asked.

To assist you in your "guessing", until "Memorial Weekend", I will generally only be "greeting" the cross channel boats and the cruise ships on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays, 7:30-11:30 a.m.  After that, I will be adding Fridays and Sundays.

I have now compiled a list of over 300 "unusual" comments and questions and when I reach the 25,000 mark, I plan to write a book. To share in this "celebration", I am asking anyone/everyone who would like to compete for 10 free signed books, once it is written, of course, to submit to me the closest date and time when they "think" that this event will occur.  I will give one free signed book to all of those who guess "incorrectly".  There will be no losers!

The only rules are that you send in the date/time no later than April 15 and you must send it to me by email, chuckliddell.catalina@gmail,com.  I HOPE I LAST THAT LONG!