Article from the 3/25/2016 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 boats, I have answered 44,337 questions.
These are some of the more interesting/unusual questions/comments I have received:
"What kind of a government is there in this country?  Do you have a President?"
"Can people vote here like they do in California?"
Referring to our fire breaks, "Island ski runs for locals?"
A Polish man and his mother said this to me, "So nice to speak to someone with common sense!" 
"How do I get to DBOS?"  The call came from Avalon, New Jersey.
Bruce Wilson was the only one who got the connection between my explaining the venicular at "Buena Vista Point" (now "Mt. Ada") and Easter.  This is where the "Easter Sunrise Service" was performed.  This point is the first place where the sun light hits Avalon this time of year.  In fact, we are one of the few cities on the Pacific Coast that gets to see the beautiful sunrises as we are facing East, when most others are facing West.
The first reference to a pilgrimage to this location was in 1899 and with no roads, until 1906, this was quite a fete for dedicated Easter celebrants.  The practice continued and was finally acknowledged by Tad Gray in 1917 when he placed the big white cross there.  The actual "pageant" with Jesus, Roman soldiers, angels, etc., was conceived by George Dickson and Mrs. Malcolm Renton (Virginia) in 1934  The permanent sepulcher 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 bus drivers.  The event at "Buena Vista"/"Mt. Ada" continued until 2001 when it was moved to Descanso Beach.
In the late 1970's Margaret Felkley, from the "Community Church", was directing the pageant.  She asked for volunteers from the community to help stage the event and keep the pageant going.  I hadn't attended one of these since I was having to be carried by my parents and thought it was time that I got involved.  I was told that we were to be in full costume by 5AM 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 the only one with a real beard, I was much thinner then, and being in my late 20's, I was just about the right age for Jesus.  The only "makeup" that had to be put on me was a wig.
This has been almost 40 years ago and so my memory isn't allowing me to remember all of this event (I hope that any of you reading this, who were part of this pageant or attended it, could fill in some of the missing details).  I know that we had a minimum of rehearsal and that we had at least one walk through at the site. 
The morning arrived and in the basement of the church, VERY EARLY, we were being prepared for the holy event.  We had to get there before the others started arriving and, of course, flash lights were a MUST!
The "padre", who read the script which prompted our movements, I think was Harvey Cowell, who had taken on this role from the beginning in the 1930's.  He had a wonderful voice and was my neighbor on Descanso.  Later, we became very good friends, I am happy to say.
I 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 me fill in Mary, the angels, etc.).  Our actions were guided by the "padre".  Illumination was at a minimum and in front of the reservoir, facing the Wrigley Mansion, were rows of wooden seats for the guests as well as the Community Chorus. 
I suddenly realized that we all, especially myself, needed a lot more rehearsal time as there was more ad libbing than I was anticipating.  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 Curt insisted on giving me that little extra weight for authenticity.  I wasn't crazy about being pushed to the ground each time as I had no padding and I never knew how or where I was going to hit.  Every time a reference was made of the "floggings", Blackie, following the lead of Curt, REALLY WHIPPED ME!  Not really hard, but I definitely felt it.  "WHAT ARE YOU DOING, BLACKIE!?!" I would say under my voice, so no one could hear it.  "I want to make it look authentic!" was his reply.  I wish I had memorized the padre's words so that I could be prepared for being knocked down and beaten!  For some reason, I got the feeling 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 know that Frank was totally bald, quite tanned, and ALWAYS wore dark glasses, due to an eye problem.  As it was so early and dark, HE WASN'T WEARING HIS GLASSES!  Very strange looking at him in this way.  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 and script.
When Jesus "died", I was dragged to the sepulcher, which is still there.  It is a stone and rock structure.  The only thing that was added at 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, the sepulcher, I was changed into a white silken robe.  NOW CAME THE TERRIFYING PART that I never told anyone!  I am terrified of heights!  I had to walk in sandals, looking straight ahead, with my thumbs inside of two holes in the cuffs of the robe, walking BACKWARDS on an approximately 30'x1' plank that went up an almost 40 degree grade to the platform, which was the foundation of the vehicular platform that I explained last week.  I had to reach the top in time for the sun to rise.
The Bible had stated that Jesus went to hell, but left and rose into Heaven to be with his Father.  I always said a pleading prayer to God at this point!  IF I fell off the plank and I was plunged back where I started, even with broken bones and bleeding (I tend to get very dramatic when scared), PLEASE get me back on the plank so that the story works out as God had planned it! 
As if by Master Plan, which I am sure it was, when I reached to designated point, I could feel the sun shining on my right thumb and, by the time the chorus was finished singing, the silk robe was ABLAZE in reflected sunlight. As guests were asked not to bring cameras and we didn't have cell phones then, all I could hear were loud "AHHHH" and I never did see the final affect, but feeling the sun on me was all that I needed. 
When Easter Sunday comes, please forget what we mere actors were trying to portray, but remember that "CHRIST THE LORD HAS RISEN" indeed!