Article from the 7/1/2016 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 49,216 questions.  These are some of the more recent questions:
"As Catalina is out of hotel rooms, are there any near by that I can drive back and forth?"
"What mountain chain is Catalina connected to?"
"Where can I go fish hunting?  I have a gun."
"Where's the gum factory?"
"Do you shave the buffalo so they don't get hot?"
 
"CORNY, CATALINA?  YES, AND PROUD!"
 
For those of you who follow my column weekly (yes, there are those), you have probably noticed that I LOVE to harken back to the 1950's.  I do this for two reasons.  First, I truly feel, and I am sure I can document it, that the 50's were the greatest decade in the U. S. and certainly on Catalina.  I was VERY privileged to have lived through them here.  The second reason is because I LOVE the expression "harken back"!
 
Here is a very quick description of what life was like for those of us young "whipper snappers" who were able to enjoy it.  Our day started by sleeping in.  We then got down to the Steamer Pier (location of the "Blue Water, Avalon") around 11, getting ready for the "S. S. Catalina" steamer to arrive at Noon.  Dive for the "Steamer" for one hour.  COUNT YOUR MONEY!  Go to our favorite hamburger shops in town for a 25 cent hamburger/35 cent cheese burger/15 cent hot dog/15 large bag of French Fries (my hang out was "Mother Gray's", 505 Crescent, present location of "Scoops").  Lay on the beach for one hour as you weren't supposed to go into the water within one hour of eating. Swim for a couple of hours.  Go back to the Steamer Pier and dive for the "Catalina" from 3pm until it left at 4:10.  Go home for dinner.  "Dress up" in whatever clothes felt appropriate.  Went to the area of the Wrigley Plaza where you would square dance from 7-8.  Then the "sing along" from 8-8:30 finished off by "Duke Of Avalon" showing us his slide show of pictures from around the world laced with very scantily dressed young ladies.  Go home as curfew was in affect.  Tomorrow, start all over again.
 
One evening I was standing a couple of rows from the stage "singing along" when a man came up to me.  I  don't know WHY he thought it was appropriate or important to talk to a pre-teen, but he did.  I guess he had to VENT to someone.  He told me that he had just arrived with his family.  He was very surprised to be on his first ocean voyage upon the steamer, "S. S. Catalina".  They were met a few miles off my "Miss Catalina" speed boats with their sirens blazing.  When they docked, he was amazed to see so many "young kids" swimming and diving near the boat begging for money.   He felt "strange" being greeted by 100's of bathing suit clad strangers all yelling "HI, NEIGHBOR" and singing songs of welcome, being led by an enthusiastic tight brief bathing suited hairy, bald, tanned "leader of the pack", "Duke".  He wasn't used to having kids with their little red wagons asking to "mash their baggage" (take their suitcases to the hotels).  He had a GREAT time at the beach, but his wife wanted to go to "double feature" at the Casino and kids wanted to go to the youth center at the "El Encanto" (present location of the "Avalon Spa"). Being on his own, he decided to roam the streets when he came upon the activities in the downtown plaza.  As I was "singing" along to songs that we written at the turn of the century, he pulled me aside and said, "Do you realize how CORNY this is!?!  NOBODY does these community "sing alongs" anymore!  They were out of style 20 years ago!"  I said, "Yah, isn't this neat!?!" and went on singing.  He gave me a funny glance as he walked away a bit surprised.  The next day, SAME ROUTINE, and there I was, finished square dancing, and now enjoying the music shown on old slides.  Suddenly I noticed a family nudging up to me.  I looked over to see the man who was complaining the night before with his family. He had a BIG smile and was enthusiastically singing along with the family.  I got close enough to yell to him, "I thought that this was "CORNY" and no longer done!"  He smiled, "Yes, isn't it GREAT!  I feel young again.  So glad I could introduce my family to this!"  Enough said!
 
Around 1995, I was working at "Catalina Confetti's" (present location of "Maggie's Blue Rose" restaurant, 417 Crescent).  I was acting as greeter and security for this exception curio store and fudge shop.  It was July 4th.  No one was in the store and because we were right in the middle of the parade route, I stood outside the shop. With a big smile I saw so many people I knew in golf carts, decorated with balloons and steamers, adults dressed in red, white, and blue blowing horns.  Fire trucks with sirens blowing and young kids  throwing candy to those along the parade route.  An older man, probably in his 50's, was standing next to me.  "You people ought to be ashamed of yourself.  This is the CORNIEST and CRUMMIEST 4th of July parade I have ever seen!  How come so many show up to watch this embarrassment!?!"  As I represented my employers, as well as the town of Avalon, I decided to keep my mouth shut (boy, that was a LONG time ago).  He continued to berate the party goers until he heard some live music and he stopped talking and simply STARED IN AMAZEMENT.  When he was able to pull his chin off of the ground, he turned  to me and said, in a quivering voice, "What was that!?!"  "That was the "USC TROJAN MARCHING BAND"!!!"  "What are they doing here!?!"  "They have been coming here for the last couple of years simply to be in our parade.  This is the ONLY "4th of July Parade" in the entire U. S. where they participate!"  "I am a very successful businessman.  I have been trying to get this band to perform at one of my many functions for years, but they don't even return my calls.  Why are they here at this CORNY parade of yours!?!"  Biting my tongue, "There is a LOT of muscle in Avalon, but we rarely show it off.  When we do decide to flex it, the "USC Trojan Marching Band" shows up!  Besides, many celebrities and organizations participate in programs on Catalina where they never would on the mainland.  That is because they LOVE Catalina and they enjoy being in our CORNY parade!"  Enough said.
 
A large tent has recently gone up at the location of the defunct "Wilcox Nursery", on Beacon, sided by Catalina and Sumner Avenues.  Someone has already asked if this is our "New Vons" grocery store that has caused so much descent in our quiet little town (bless these questions/comments that keep coming in and getting me closer to my book!).  NO, but it represents something a LOT more exciting.  Not only did "Budweiser Lite" honor us last year with "Whatever", but thanks to the persistent suggestions from "Catalina Beverage" CEO, Levent Alkibay, "Budweiser" ("Anheuser Busch Brewing Company") will be sharing their magnificent, world famous "Clydesdale Horses" with those lucky enough to be here for the "July 4th" parade!!!  These phenomenal creatures are arriving on Tuesday, June 28, and will be on public view every day, 9am-5pm, culminating at the parade.  When not "under the tent", their presence will be enjoyed throughout the town, making special stops, photo opportunities, commercials, and spreading their "good will' and excitement wherever they appear.  Thanks to "Catalina Beverage", "CERT', and my great friend, columnist, Jim Watson, I will be "horse sitting" during one of the evening shifts. 
 
For the Avalon purists, don't be alarmed, our CORNY parade will still be that way, except for the appearance of the "USC Trojan Marching Band", for their 27th showing, along with these mighty steeds!  The parade starts at 1pm (it is ALWAYS LATE) and winds down Crescent Ave., starting at the Casino and finishing at Clarissa.  Find an appropriate and legal station EARLY.  PLEASE stay BEHIND the barricades and follow ALL of the instructions of the uniformed security along the route so as not to overwhelm these gentle giants who are not used to Catalina's form of enthusiasm that we have been exuding since the 1890's!  The magnificent fire works display, sponsored by the "Chamber Of Commerce",  will begin at 9pm (more on time than the parade).  Find a comfortable place facing the harbor.  Many special locations and events are being arranged for this evening event, so note many of them in this newspaper edition as well as walk around town and read the special notices.
 
What to expect in the future?  Don't be surprised if the Pope one day decides to put in his name for consideration as "Grand Marshall", and when a place can be found for them, a squadron of UFO's will finally "come out" so that now EVERYONE, in addition to most Islanders who already know they are here, can become "believers"!  CORNY, YES!  PROUD, YOU BETCH YA!!!
 
If you have missed any of my articles in this column, www.catalinaislandman.com has the most recent as well as older ones added weekly.  If you want to contact me directly, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..