Article from the 6/3/2016 Catalina Islander

Since I became "Catalina's Official Greeter", March 10, 2014, when the Chamber Of Commerce assigned me to greet the cruise ships and cross channel carriers, I have answered 47,592 questions.  These are some of this week's more interesting/unusual questions/comments:
"Where do I go to purchase a baby buffalo for a pet?"
"I'm looking for a hotel that has glass on the windows."
"Where do you catch the indoor motor tour?"
"I don't know the name of my hotel, but they asked me to send the check t the Seaport Village."
"Is your beach on the ocean?"
(Catch Up)
Ranger Dave reminded me of one more thing to add to last week's list of things to do to serve as better "Ambassadors".  Whenever you see a visitor taking a picture, inquire as to whether the photographer would like to be in the picture.  I guarantee they will be more than anxious and appreciative of your offer.  When they share the pictures with others, they will have to say that it was taken by a VERY helpful Islander.
In my December 4, 2015 column, "Catalina's Early Birthday Present", regarding our football team winning the CIF Championship, I mentioned overhearing two undergraduates at the Mohave game say how much they were looking forward to being able to be on the football team.  I shared this with many, including one coach, who said that this only TALK, and would not happen, WELL, IT DID!  These two young men made the team!  I AM SO HAPPY AND PROUD!  Let's ALL get out and support the team this fall!
On PBS KCET program, Monday, 7PM, you will be able to watch a most remarkable  three hour movie, "West Of The West".  For the first time, the eight Channel Islands are examined and on the segment, Magical Isle, you will see locals, including myself, sharing our remarkable Island.  DVDs are available.  Contact me and I will let you know where you can purchase the.
We Islanders have a tendency to complain when we lose something and then don't support it when it comes back!  For a long time the Casino Theatre used to show a classic film every month.  For no apparent reason, this GREAT series discontinued without any explanation.  The "Overlook", working through the local philanthropic organization, "Catalina Foundation", shows a remarkable movie with a Catalina connection every month, unlike the Casino, for FREE!  Definitely worth checking out and supporting.  We DON'T want to lose this program AGAIN!
If you would like to join a most remarkable group of local volunteers, contact Sheriff Sargent Doug DeCaesar, 310-510-0174, regarding CERT, "Community Emergency Response Team".
You would think that being surrounded by two highly secretive military Islands, San Clemente and San Nicholas, as well as Marine bases, including El Toro, this would mean that we should live a very protected and secluded life on Catalina.  NOT SO FAST!  Ever since WWI, every imaginable military ships and planes have made Catalina their destination.  The recognizant blimps during WWII made our Island their turn around location as did the PBY seaplanes, that eventually used the name "Catalina", as their nick name.  (if interested, check out Jim Watson's movie, WINGS, part 1). 
Although this all occurred before I was born (regardless of what some of you might think), I do remember the remarkable period of the 50's and 60's.  When Chuck Yaeger broke the sound barrier in flight in 1947 (the year I was born), he exposed our Island to the full impact of this phenomenal feat.  In fact, according to barber, Lolo Saldana, pilot Yaeger once even broke the sound barrier over Avalon!
For those unaware of the consequences of this maneuver, it can be summarized as a loud bomb explosion with shock wave results!  In the 1950's, young pilots would fly from San Clemente Island and practice breaking the sound barrier DIRECTLY over Avalon!  The result was the loud noise, and even worse, the shaking of our windows, which caused many of us to fear possible hearing damage as well as broken windows in our homes!  We were NEVER warned nor prepared for these flights so our nerves were generally ALWAYS on edge.  It eventually got so bad that the City Of Avalon had to protest this action to the Department Of Defense.  EVENTUALLY, it was agreed that these maneuvers would cease.  Strangely, even AFTER these flights were "supposedly" ended, the noise and shocks continued.  When further protests were lodged by the city fathers, Avalon was notified that they tests WERE NOT being conducted by "our" military.  That would leave only the Russians, or, watch out Jim Watson, possibly aircraft from beyond our solar system!
While this mayhem was going on, we were being made target for another major military development; the invention of the "Atomic Submarine"!  In order for these young military cadets to learn to maneuver these massive nautical machines without detention, they would often come from San Clemente Island under water, only surfacing for possible testing and then sounding again.  In the late 1950's, our family had a 16' Glasspar boat, with a 50HP Johnson engine.  We often chased after pods of dolphin and, believe or not, "Killer Whales"!  (In those days it was believed that these killing machines would go under boats, come up with their underside upright, and turning them over.  They would then devoir the helpless mariners!). 
No one, not even the Harbor Master, knew when/where these submarines would be maneuvering and there was ALWAYS the fear of Russians attacking the continental United States. Whenever my father, Orval, brother, Billie, or myself would be out joy riding on our boat, "KAPU", if we made a submarine sighting, we would aim for these potential "Commie" vessels in hopes of doing whatever damage we could!  No flags were flying on them and we couldn't make out any insignias, so we attacked first and asked questions later.  I really have NO IDEA of what we thought we would do to these massive submarines, if ever we caught up with one, but aim for them we did under full power.  Like a dog chasing after a moving car, the submarine would always "dive" before we got to it.  We would then go in search of another potential enemy danger. 
When we got back to Avalon, we would immediately report these incidences to the Harbor Master, who would look at us with disbelief and assure us that these were "our" vessels being piloted by newly trained recruits.  In a strange way, we were actually making these novice pilots BETTER, as they were "supposed" to be maneuvering "undetected" (YAH, RIGHT)  If detected, were supposed to take evasive action.  We were playing "cat and mouse" with them and I am sure that the name "KAPU" was etched in the minds of many of these young men.  By the way, "KAPU" is Hawaiian for "KEEP OUT".  Pretty forewarning, I would say!
After all of this excitement, we were now becoming part of "friendly fire" from Aircraft Carriers!  As far back as I can recall, these "floating fortresses". with their great wakes, would speed by Catalina, approximately three miles off shore, and would subsequently cause major waves in our poor little harbor!  It was exciting and fun at first, but scary when you found yourself being thrown on the beach and fearing for the moored boats!  It got to the point that whenever a local swimmer would see this MONSTER on the horizon, would quickly swim to shore and terra ferma.  In the summer of 1963, some tourists were not so lucky.  Three of them were swimming when suddenly they were thrown up against the sea wall and hurt enough to warrant being taken to the clinic for examination.  The City Of Avalon sued the U. S. Navy for the damage, although relatively minor, done to the bay and for the scrapes and bruises inflicted on the visitors. I am not aware of the government ever settling with Avalon, but I don't recall ever seeing another Aircraft Carrier making another ill fated maneuver so closely to our shores.
Suing the government is not something we take lightly, but primarily symbolic.  (When our newspaper deliverer, George Scott, became Mayor in the 1980's, the smog from the mainland would sometimes drift over to the West side of the Island.  Mayor George would then "sue" the County Of Los Angeles, which we are a part, for permitting their "pollution" come our way.  Again, I don't know if we ever received any monetary compensation, but it did give good press fodder and the Chamber a chance to promote how seriously we took the condition of our air). 
We have paid our dues to helping the U. S. keep its superiority in land as well as the seas.  Pretty good for our little Island!
If you missed any of my articles for this column, you can read many of them on my blog,  New and older articles are added weekly.  They will be the basis for my upcoming book about Catalina that will be compiled once I reach the magic number of 50,000 questions answered!
If you would like to ask me Catalina focused questions or make any comments regarding my activities on the Island, check out "public group", "Chuck Liddell" on Facebook.  If you want to contact me directly, you can always send me an email, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.