Article from the 3/24/2017 Catalina Islander

"Old Age Is Not For Sissies!", "When A Door Closes, A Better Window Open", "If You Wait Long Enough, You Will Realize That All Things Work Out For The Best", "Whatever Doesn't Kill You Will Only Make You Stronger".  Anyone who knows me or follows me on Face Book realizes how much I LOVE to quote platitudes.  Well, I have been quoting these and many more ever since last Thursday when my position of "Greeter" was terminated immediately as the Chamber is planning to go another direction.  THE MOST PERFECT JOB FOR ME, AFTER 3 YEARS, IS GONE!  I had always imagined being 95 and dying in an attempt to answer my 1,000,000 question!  I only made it to 64,590 (see my story, "THREE YEARS OF GREETING VISITORS", March 10, 2017, and other past columns, www.catalinaislandman.com).  Reinventing myself at 69, at the beginning of "Spring Break", is hardly ideal, but having no choice I am forced to do it.  If any of you have any suggestions on the direction my career should take, PLEASE share with me, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.m.  Of course, I can now focus more on writing my book, but in the meantime, I have to pay bills!
 
"HOW DRY WE AREN'T"
 
Last week, March 17, 2017, I wrote a column, "HOW DRY WE WERE", dealing with the importance that alcohol has played in the formation and development of the town of Avalon since 1887 (www.catalinaislandman.com).  I am now going to share what affect it has had on me.
The put it bluntly, Dad, Orval Eugene Liddell, was an alcoholic (he was always PROUD to tell me that he had defied the "law of the land", "Prohibition", by starting to drink when alcohol use for bidden, in 1920.  He was 18) and Mom wanted to make sure that "the boys" (my brother, Billy, and myself) never got started with booze.  Mom always said that Dad was his nicest when drunk.  But being a very intragal part of Philip Knight Wrigley's daily workings of the "Santa Catalina Island Company" (he was the "Chief Engineer", in charge of all of the structures, roads, and employees from 1945-60), whenever he was unable to perform his duties, he was sent to the "Sansum Medical Center" in Santa Barbara, and place in a padded cell to go "cold turkey".  We didn't have AA in those days. This was all done very secretively and I never knew Dad to be drunk or even saw him take a drink!
To "protect" us from the "fire water" that was being dispensed in our local bars, Mom made sure that we didn't even come close to them.  In the early 1950's, besides the present "Marlin Club" there was also the "Village",  507-9 Crescent, present location of "Legends", "Waikiki", 106-8 Metropole, location of the "US Bank", "Scari's Sky Lounge",101 Crescent, location of "Ristorante Villa Portofino", and the "Che Che Club".  No, I didn't misspell it!  Originally, that was the spelling, but in the early 50's, when it changed ownership, the stipulation was the name HAD TO BE CHANGED.  A simple altering of "i" for "e" was all that it took!  (If any of you can remember any other bars, please share them with me, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.m).  None of these bars proved a problem to this young version of me, but one location proved to help shape me FOREVER!
Many of you long time Islanders/visitors remember the "Island Villas".  It was bordered by Catalina, Beacon, and Sumner streets.  It was the location of the present "Tour Plaza", "Miniature Gold Course", and the future home (?) of  "Von's". It was there from 1895-1957.  At it's optimum capacity, it contained 1277 single "cabins" (the one that you see now, next to the women's restroom, is a double.).  It was called the "Largest Single Story Hotel In The World".  This should surprise many old-timers.  The original "Island Villa" was a two story boarding house at 111/13 Sumner, present location of "Lloyd's".  If was built in 1894 and remained there until the middle 1910's.  So popular, there was a demand for more facilities, which is why these smaller structures were built and they were originally referred to as the "Island Villa Annex".
After WWII, THIS WAS THE PLACE TO STAY, if you couldn't afford the "St. Catherine Hotel", at Descanso Beach.  Any coin diver worth his "sea salt" could secure at least $15/day, which would pay for a weekend at the "Villas"!  Many WWII veterans were now CELEBRATING there freedom in Avalon.  Some may remember the NOISE generated by the radios and record players that were blasting, to add to the festivities and celebrations.  A large steel fence encircled the entire structure to ensure that alcohol and those consuming it would stay inside the enclosure.
Mom convinced me that this fence was put in place to ensure that the "drunks" inside the Villas couldn't grab little kids and pull them inside the enclosure; doing who knows what dastardly acts upon them!  For that reason, I NEVER got close enough to this facility so that evil hands couldn't reach me.  I would ALWAYS walk on the opposite side of the streets to guarantee my safety!  Believe it or not, sometimes I find myself doing this STILL out of old habits!
I am either proud or embarrassed that I NEVER went into any bar in Avalon until about 5 years ago when the Chamber had a "mixer" at the "Chi", so, as a member, I felt obligated.  To say I felt anxious was an understatement!  I could hear Mom screaming at me for my allowing myself to be exposed to this "evil".  Of course, nothing happened, and I found this unique environment interesting.  As I don't drink alcohol, or feel the need to, I didn't then and nothing was said about it.
Soon after, a childhood friend, Mitch Hammond, from Elgin, Illinois (he always says Chicago), who I met on Catalina when he was 11 and was 12 (around 1959/60), was visiting me.  After dinner we found ourselves walking by the doors of the "Marlin Club".  "FORGIVE ME, MOM!" but I felt an overpowering compulsion to step past the thresh hold of another one of my fears.  I gave Mitch such a confused look that he had to ask me if I was sick.  "No, but I have a sudden urge to do the 'unthinkable' and go inside the bar!"  I confided in him the warnings from Mom and that I had already tempted fate by going into the "Chi".  He couldn't believe that I had never "been inside", but agreed to accompany me on this quest and to be there in case some terribly fate encountered me (WHAT A GOOD FRIEND)!
We pushed the old  bar style swinging doors open and as I walked in, everyone from the bar looked up and, just like the old TV series "Cheers", all yelled, "Chuck"!  I was so embarrassed and shocked but the place looked so nice, classic, and inviting and the "inhabitants" were all people I knew!  I walked freely around, looked at the classic murals (which were originally in the Casino Mezzanine), saw the pool tables, and waited for "something to happen".  None of them jumped me or tried to kidnap me!  "Mom, you were wrong!"  She is now in a nursing home in Sacramento and I am sure must have known that "something was wrong" with her wayward son!
I had faced my fears and was better off for doing so.  I was reminded by the quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the "Great Depression" of the 1930's, "The Only Thing You Have To Fear Is Fear Itself!"  Remembering that then and especially now that I am having to face the other major changes I am presently facing.
By the way, IF any of you come in contact with my Mom, PROMISE DON'T  SQUEEL ON ME!  "Cross Your Heart...."?