Article from the 4/14/2017 Catalina Islander

Just getting off the cruise ship, "What time is it on Catalina?"
"Does water go completely around the Island?"
When told that the fish at "Lovers' Cove" have been fed by Glass Bottom Boats" since 1904, "Boy, how long do these fish live?"
When told that the North American Bison have been on the Island since 1924, "Wow, how long do these bison live?"
Getting off the cruise ship, "Where do I get my Passport stamped?"
"Do you have to drink salt water?"
IT FINALLY HAPPENED!  Those of you who were at the Mole for 7:45am Long  Beach Landing boat on Thursday, April 6, saw something that I was hoping would NEVER happened!  I was "escorted" off the Island by the Sheriff's Department new Capt. John E. Hocking!  Many were wondering WHY I was all dressed up for this an embarrassing occasion.  Truth be told, I was going with the good Captain to the "Industry Hills Expo Center" to join over 40 other volunteers from Los Angeles for the "9th Annual Helen Reardon Volunteer Of The Year Award And Pinning Ceremony".  I had the humbling honor of representing Avalon and "Central Patrol Division".  I was acknowledged for not only my work with CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), but volunteer work for "Meals On Wheels", "Rotary", "Conservancy", "Museum", elections board, etc..  I agree from one of my fellow CERT members, that there must have been "someone else" on Catalina more qualified than myself for this recognition, but I felt that I was representing Catalina, not just myself.  I am sure that I came the longest distance for this ceremony, but strangely, didn't go very far at all as I left Avalon and when I got to the Pavilion, I found the room to be named "Avalon"!  Got to be taken by official Sheriff's patrol car to the Long Beach Landing.  They wouldn't let me flash the lights or sound the sirens!  SO MUCH FOR FAME!
CATCH UP:  All of these columns can be found on  Heard from two more people who wanted to have the delivery of the "Los Angeles Times" continued, Mark Gray and Nicole Franc.  I was told by Alison Osinski that our local library has to "buy" the "Times", as they don't provide it to us gratis!  They carry it daily, except Sunday, but it is sometimes a day late!  Hard to read this newspaper in the library in your pajamas and sipping coffee!  FRAWNED UPON!
Melanie Salvesen Jackson, Market Outreach Associate for the "Reagan Library",  corrected me regarding my column, "Hail To The Chiefs", February 24, 2017.  The "Reagan Library" is located in Simi Valley NOT Santa Barbara!  She send me a picture of the plaque that can be found there explaining how President Reagan came to Catalina Island in 1936.
No one responded to "Catalina Greeter For A Day", April 7, 2017, so I guess my job WAS more difficult than I was given credit for!
Judy L. Tejeda, sister of our own "Rev. Bob", recognized me and chatted with me during one of my MANY dinners at "Mr. Ning's".  We had a VERY NICE conversation.  Speaking of Revs, Rev. Robb, Hiawatha Ave., accepted my ride offer.  Called me "Catalina Royalty", YA, SURE!
Good friend and previous owner of the "Marlin Club", Dan O'Connor, corrected me, "How Dry We Aren't", March 24, 2017.  Although the murals in his club were designed by the same person who designed some of the murals in the Casino Mezzanine, Dorothy Shepard, they were really painted by local artist, Bud Upton, probably late 40's-early 50's, and seemed to be covered up by wallpaper in the 70's. He uncovered them in 1991 when he purchased the club.  He had them restored by local artists, Jesse Bailey and Sylvania Ciccone.  Whenever you want to visit one of the icons of Avalon, 108 Catalina, do so and see these beautiful murals!
So glad that so many people who read my column are also comfortable enough with me to set me straight when I sometimes stray from the truth.  See Sandy! You aren't the ONLY ONE who keeps me honest! 
On January 18, 1964,  my father, Orval, brother, Bill, and I went up to the "Cub Baseball Field", now called "Field Of Dreams", behind the City Fire Department and Baywatch buildings to witness the first annual "Catalina Channel Balloon Race", which was sponsored by the "California Balloon Club", covered for television by CBS.  Nine balloonists participated.  The idea was to lift off and hopefully land somewhere between Newport Beach and San Clemente on the mainland.  Each balloon was supplied with a backup chase boat that was intended to keep in constant communication with these fearless pilots so that the their distance and speed could be recorded.  This was pretty exciting for a 13 year old to see these giant balloons being blown up and watching the excitement of spotting celebrities, like Cliff Robertson (1923-2011, was starred in a film the year before, "P. T. 109, later receiving an Academy Award for his lead role in "Charley", 1968,  and most recently remembered as "Spiderman's" elderly uncle, 2002).  This ruggedly handsome Hollywood leading man was decked out in the 1890's style clothing, reflecting the Victorian-era heyday of hot-air ballooning. My curiosity got the best of me and I asked why he was dressed that way.  I was told that it was supplied by "Allied Artists" as a way to promote their epic film, "Around the World In 80 Days", released in 1956, with possible to be re-release soon. (you can identify parts of Catalina in this remarkable film!).   He and the others certainly received the coverage they wanted with a small army of reporters and camera men.
As the seven balloons took off (two never left the field), we watched as one of them crashed into one of our Eastern cliffs (the event had been postponed from the weekend before, due to gusty weather conditions and this should have  been a forbidden forewarning as this day turned out to be much windier than expected!). The pilot was world renown balloonist, Don Piccard. 
Once the remaining balloons had left the field, we headed home to watch their fates on T. V..  We were disappointed, but not surprised, when we heard that four of the balloons went down in the ocean, far from their projected target!  Robertson and his co-pilot, Frank Tallman,  dipped in the ocean, their gondola capsized, and they suffered from the cold until rescued. But one DID MAKE IT! Ed Yost. Once he reached the mainland, purposely ditched his balloon in the ocean, not wanting to be greeted by the crowd on the beach.
Unfortunately, the story of the "grandmother" was tragic!  Barbara Keith was the sole occupant of her device and the only woman to compete. It took a long time before her whereabouts were located.  Her follow-up boat, "Melody Joe", had lost communication with her due to the low cloud cover and the choppy sea conditions.  The captain, Jack Watts, was forced to come back to Avalon Bay.  The search was begun, but was soon abated at nightfall.  The search by the Coast Guard the next morning found  her, dead by hypothermia, 20 miles off  San Onofre.  A terrific gust of wind had forced her straight up, where she eventually lost consciousness due to no oxygen gear and then was plummeted down in to water where she was later located drowned!  At the time of takeoff, she was heard to declare that she was going to make it a go, even if no one else was willing to take the chance.
Needless to say this disaster became the "First/Last Annual Catalina Balloon Race" and what could have been an exciting yearly event in Avalon, especially in January!