Article from the 4/21/2017 Catalina Islander

"INTERESTING/UNUSUAL QUESTIONS/COMMENTS CONCERNING CATALINA ISLAND" (additional ones, www.catalinaislandman.com):
"Your boat schedule says 'daily'.  Does that include today?"
"Where do I get my U. S. dollars exchanged into your money?"
"Are you limiting the number of cars. because it is causing too much weight and sinking the Island?"
"Is that massive chain between the 'Tuna Club' and the 'Yacht Club' holding the Island in place?"
"Did you plant the eucalyptus trees so that the roots would hold the Island to the sea floor?"
 
NEEDS HIS CELEBRITY FIX!  One year ago, April 22, 2016, I wrote a column, "ESCAPING PARADISE", (www.catalinaislandman.com), when I talked about meeting two wonderful people, who are now good friends, Bryan and Nia Baze.  I mentioned their names and they immediately put the print on their refrigerator.  I guess it is getting a bit warn so Bryan asked me last week if I would mention his and Nia's name again, because they were camping at "Ben Weston" over Easter.  HARDLY A MONUMENTAL EVENT, but I will be happy to mention them, if they still have space on the frig, "BRYAN AND NIA BAZE".  While I am at it, I might as well mention their two dogs and son:  Bessy, Sean, and Luca.  You decide who the son is!  He will soon be staring in Avalon's production of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!"
 
"CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN TODAY!"
 
On April 16 the world celebrated the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Pilgrims from around the world found their sacred spots to congregate.  For the last couple of years, Islanders have met at the Casino Point for their traditional "Easter Sunrise Service".  Starting in 2001, it had been at "Descanso Beach", but this tradition goes back a lot further than that and to a much more appropriate location!
Up until 1903, when motorized glass bottom were invented, guests had to be rowed from the beach in the center of the harbor and the closest "undersea gardens" were at the "Big Sugarloaf" location, now Casino Point. With this new technology, the boats could now go to the best, and still the best, viewing point, "Lovers' Cove".  The excellerated need to get as many people down to this cove as possible forced them Banning Brothers (they owned the Island at the time) to build a counter-balanced venicular tram in 1905 which was called the "Mountain Railroad", also called "Angel's Flight", after the one that had just been built in Los Angeles going to "Bunker Hill".  It started just across from the "Greek Amphitheatre" (built in 1904, and is now the turn around area above the City Park, below the homes on Lower Terrace begin.  The rows of rock seats are still there).  The tram went behind the "Holy Hill House" (built in 1890, third oldest permanent home built in Avalon) and up to "Buena Park" ("Good View"), which is now "Mt. Ada" (named in 1964 for the wife of William Wrigley, Jr.) and then proceeded down the other side to "Lovers' Cove". 
At "Buena Vista" there was a tea house, a chocolate shop, and a 40,000 gallon salt water reservoir (which is still there).  The reservoir was strategically placed there as a water source to put out any possible fires on the East Side Terrace (below the Wrigley Home/"Inn On Mt. Ada"), where homes were now being built.  There wasn't adequate water pressure to reach these homes from the main part of town.
Now that the stage was set for activities at this point, the thought of having the "Easter Sunrise Service" here germinated.  The fact that it is the first place where the sunlight hits Avalon this time of year made it a perfect location.  In fact, we are one of the few cities on the Pacific Coast that get to see the beautiful sunrises as we are facing East, when most other coast cities are facing West.
The first reference to a pilgrimage to this location was in 1899, before the facilities were built and no roads here until 1906.  The primitive ceremony continued and was finally acknowledged by Tad Gray in 1917 when he placed the present big white cross there.  The actual "pageant" with Jesus, Roman soldiers, angles, etc. was conceived by George Dickson and Mrs. Malcom Renton (Virginia) in 1934.  The permanent rock and stone sepulcher, which still stands,  was put in place in 1937.
The services were originally sponsored by the "Mary Williams Club"/"Women's Club" and transportation to the event was supplied by the "Santa Catalina Island Co. (now called the "Catalina Island Co.).
In the last 70's, Margaret Felkley, from the "Community Church", 236 Metropole, was directing the pageant.  She asked for volunteers to help keep this tradition going.  I hadn't attended one of these programs since I so greatly disrupted the sacred event in 1949 when I was two years old.  I was sitting on my father's lap and when the "Angel Of The Lord" raised her hand and said "HARK", I raised my hand and yelled "HI"!  The ensuring laughter caused the event to be held up for a few moments and my family, ESPECIALLY ME, were not invited back!  In order to undo this untimely performance, I decided it was time to volunteer.
I was informed that  we were to be in full costume by 5a.m. on Easter morning and, in my usual sarcastic way, I blurted out, "If I am going to have to get up that early, I want to be the lead!"  GUESS WHO BECAME JESUS FOR THREE YEARS!?!  I was also the only one with a real beard, and being in my late 20's, I was just about the right age for Jesus (I was also much thinner then). The only "makeup" that I needed was a wig. 
The morning arrived and in the basement of the church, VERY EARLY, we were being prepared for this holy event.  We had to be at the location before the guests and, of course, flash lights were a MUST!
The "padre", who read the script which prompted our movements, was Harvey Cowell, who had taken on this role from the beginning in the 30's. Unfortunately, I can only remember four of the performers, besides Harvey.  I played Jesus, Curt Cameron and Blackie Schatan played the Roman soldiers, and Frank Cotter played Pontius Pilate (please help fill in Mary, the angels, etc.).
Illumination was at a minimum and rows and rows of wooden seats were placed in front of the reservoir facing the Wrigley Mansion.  I quickly realized that I, in particular, needed a LOT MORE REHEARSING, and should have practiced my paces in the dark.
For example, when the Biblical story recounted that Jesus fell three times carrying the cross, Curt took it upon himself to put his weight on the balsa wood cross to MAKE SURE I FELL!  I remember mumbling to him that he didn't need to do that as I was able to "fake it", but he insisted on giving me that extra weight for authenticity.  I wasn't crazy about being pushed to the dirty rocky ground each time and as I had no padding, I felt every unseen object.
Every time a reference was made of the "floggings", Blackie, following the lead of Curt, REALLY WHIPPED ME!  Not really hard, but I felt it!  "WHAT ARE YOU DOING, BLACKIE!?!" I would utter under my voice, so no one could hear it.  "I want to make it look authentic!" was his reply.  I wish I had memorized Harvey's lines so that I could be prepared for being  knocked down and beaten!  I was beginning to believe that Curt and Blackie were not simply "in the moment", but ENJOYING IT!
Prior to all this, I was taken to Pontius Pilate, played by Frank Cotter.  Now, you have to realize that Frank was completely bald, quite tanned, and ALWAYS wore dark glasses, due to eye issues.  As it was so early and dark, HE WASN'T WEARING HIS GLASSES!  He looked very different!  As he was conducting my "trial" and eventually "washing his hands" of the issue of Jesus' innocence or guilt, he was really mumbling dirty jokes and they were DIRTY!  I hate to admit that they were also VERY FUNNY!   I kept mumbling to him that he had better stop before Curt, Blackie, and I started laughing, which would have been COMPLETELY out of character for the story!
When Jesus "died", I was dragged to the stone and rock sepulcher.  The only thing that was added each Easter was a fake boulder to close up the tomb and to hide the action going on behind it.  Up until the moment when the rock was pulled back and Jesus was placed inside, I was wearing a white cotton robe.  Once placed inside, I was changed into a white silken one. 
NOW CAME THE TERRIFYING PART that I have never shared before.  I am scared to death of heights!  I had to walk in sandals BACKWARDS, looking straight ahead, with my thumbs inside of two holes in the cuffs of the robe, on an approximately 30"X3" plank that went up an almost 40 degree grade to the platform, which was the foundation of the vehicular platform.  I had to reach the top in time for the sun to rise!
The Bible stated Jesus went to hell, but left and rose into Heaven.  I always said a pleading prayer to God at this point. " IF I fall off the plank and plunge below, even with broken bones and bleeding (I tend to get very dramatic when scared), PLEASE, God, get me back on the plank so that the story works out as you wrote it!"  I NEVER FELL!
As if by Master Plan, which I am sure it was, when I reached the designated point, I could feel the sun shining on my right thumb and, by the time the chorus was finished singing, "Christ The Lord Has Risen Today!", the silk robe was ABLAZE in reflected sunlight.  As guests were instructed not to bring cameras, and we didn't have cell phones then, I don't think any pictures exist of this event.  I could never see the final see the final affect, but could hear a loud "AAAAHHH" coming from the pilgrims!  Feeling the sun/Son was all I needed.  "CHRIST THE LORD HAS RISEN, INDEED"!