Article from the 11/30/2017 Avalon Bay News

From March 10, 2014-March 16, 2017, when I was "Catalina's Official Greeter", through the Catalina Chamber Of Commerce, I answered 64,590 questions from the cruise ships' and cross channel boats' passengers.  That amounts to greeting approximately 650,000 visitors!  Here are some of the inquiries I had to address (additional ones,
"Have you ever tried to fish for soda bottles?"
"Can we board the boat now?"  It was pointed out that the boat hadn't arrived yet.
"Is this boat going to Long Island?"
A lady came up to me and asked where a certain hotel was.  I told her that there was no such hotel on the Island.  SHE INSISTED!  She said that her travel agent had booked it for her!  I asked to see her documents.  I had to be the one to inform her that the reservations were made for "Avalon, Florida"!  She not only missed her hotel reservations, but also her plane flight!
"Are your glass bottom boats on tracks like Disneyland?"
I must say that a particular restaurant that I and two friends frequented on Thanksgiving provided a WONDERFUL MEAL.  So glad that we were able to enjoy this meal with so many friendly people. 
I don't know about you, but I am one of those individuals who go into a "tail spin" during the holidays.  Starts with Halloween and continues through the New Years celebration.  I FINALLY figured a few years ago partially why.  Not only are so many of my friends and family who I used to celebrate with no longer around, but the holidays have become very frivolous and materialistic beyond imagination.  I can't compete on this level and DON'T WISH TO!  I then was invited to serve food to homeless people in the China Town area of San Francisco once and boy, it really made me realize the true meaning of Christmas.  Serving those who truly need help as they live on a survival, not selfish, mode.  Through my membership in Rotary, I also learned about the need for clean water in 3rd world countries.  A few years ago I made up my mind to STOP spending ridiculous amounts of money for Christmas Cards, that are only looked at and discarded, and trying to come up with creative gift giving to those who definitely DON'T need it.  I found responsible charities that provide programs to help poor communities who need fresh, clean water.  HOW BASIC!  I am now taking all of the money that I would normally waste on "Holiday Gimmicks" and am now focusing it on those who have REAL NEEDS!  So don't be expecting any cards or presents this year or any year from me.  This is it!
Also, another suggestion.  There are those in need here in Avalon and I am sure in your own communities.  Find a way to "slip" some of them a food gift certificate or non perishable food, clothing item, etc. NO MONEY.  Put a card with it saying that you love and respect them and DON'T SIGN YOUR NAME. It will make them feel SO SPECIAL and not knowing who the giver was will make them feel that it could be anyone they see everyday!  It is DEFINITELY "better to give than receive", especially when it makes a person's life better, not promoting greed!
I am sure that many of you have seen me proudly wearing a blue baseball cap with this beautifully inscribed on it.  In recognition of my "trying" to learn and pass on the history of Catalina.  It was a present from two of my wonder friends, Matt and Jeannette Affolder, for my 70th birthday, May 24.  By the way, I had the HONOR of officiating at their wedding, September 30, this year, at, believe it or not, "Glacier Point" in Yosemite!  WHAT A BACKDROP FOR TWO BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE!  Guests literally came from around the world to share this wonderful celebration!  As this was my first, and so far ONLY, opportunity to "marry" anyone, I am watching the couple closely.  Two months in and they are still in love! So pleased to be a part of the lives of those who I feel a close kinship with (O. K., "dangling participle".  I DON'T CARE, I WRITE THE WAY I TALK).
I NEVER in my WILDEST DREAMS nor desires thought that I was ever be considered by some as the "Catalina Island Historian"/"Google"!  When my younger brother, Bill, committed suicide on January 22, 1974, at 24 years of age, my father, who found his body, had a major heart attack and stroke in May of that year.  I decided to discontinue my teaching at Indiana University, move back to Catalina, and take care of him.  I promised Dad that I would NEVER make him leave his home on Catalina, but I never dreamed that my commitment to him would last seven years!  I was only 26 years old.
Anyone who has ever been a "caregiver"  knows that for the sake of your sanity you have to "make time" to occupy yourself when you are not facing these sometimes overwhelming responsibilities!  Patricia Moore had just moved to Catalina from the East Coast and had taken on the position of Director of our local museum, at that time situated in the Casino building.  Although she had visited the island before, she had a lot of information to quickly learn. Her new husband, Bruce, was native born like myself, but had other commitments and so wasn't able to give her all of the assistance that she needed.  I had known many of the "old timers" and had picked up a lot of information over the years.  I had always been interested in world history, but felt that getting to know more about my home had suddenly taken on a new importance.  Besides, it got me out of the house, when I had Dad bedded down (he insisted on keeping the house temperature at 99 degrees!), or when he was in the hospital.  I had A LOT of free time on my hands and I felt that I could make the best use of this to assistant Patricia.  Along with Thelma "Pat" Nowlin, I started making 3"x5" index cards of information gleaned from old newspapers and other documents.  When not doing that, I was assisting Patricia and Lloyd Rathbun in conducting "oral histories"  of some of the real "OLD TIMERS".
One of my greatest sources of information, or anyone else's for that matter, was Johnny Windle (b. September 27, 1903).  His father, Judge Ernest Windle, had started the "Catalina Islander" newspaper in 1914 and Johnny had spent most of his life on the island, going back to around 1910!  He had "SEEN IT ALL" and, although he was in his 90's, a more lucid man you could ever hope to find!  He remembered EVERYTHING!  He would "hold court" at Pete's Snack Bar, Sumner Ave., and if you were lucky enough to find a seat around the large outdoor tables, you were in for a REAL TREAT!  You could either come prepared to have a specific question answered or simply enjoy sitting back and letting him regale you with his many historically accurate stories, making you feel you were THERE!  If you asked him who lived in a particular home during the turn of the century, he would not only tell you their names, but who they married, what they did for a living, etc.  The old adage of asking someone "What time is it?" and then being taught how a clock was made perfectly fit him!  IT WAS PURE DELIGHT!  He was truly "Catalina's Historian" and no one else came close, but, unfortunately, this situation was not to last much longer!
May 15, 1999, I will NEVER forget!  I was driving the tour busses for "Discovery Tours" at the time and one of my fellow drivers broke the terrible news to me that Johnny had just died!  I WAS STUNNED!  NOT Johnny, NOT our link to the past!!!  I was literally nauseous!  I couldn't imagine how Catalina could survive without Johnny Windle! The Museum had planned an "Islanders' Night" program entitled "Ask Johnny Windle", with the date set at least one month before he passed.  The family agreed to let this program continue, as it came a few days after Johnny had died and they feared that not everyone had been notified.  Besides, it would now be his "tribute" and we could all sit around and share stories about him, for once.
I was still in a major daze as I slowly walked out to the Museum, not wanting to go inside to see the family of friends without Johnny!  I was late and they had already started to share stories and historical facts.  They must have been stumped by some trivia, because as I walked through the doors, immediately one of the participants looked over at me and said the words that would change my life FOREVER!  "There's Chuck, he'll know the answer!"  I did and at that fateful moment the baton of "historian"  was passed from Johnny to me!  A race that I never even expected to enter, let alone win the laurel wreath!
Since then I have dug though countless documents, conducted interviews, and have done my best to "try" to set the record straight on misinformation and try to remember one bit of Johnny's knowledge.  I have conferred with others who shared these now famous "round table" discussions, to try to remember what facts we had heard or how to find out what we forgot or was never brought up.  I have "tried" to carry on the legacy of my mentor and friend.
Years later I saw the movie, "The Lion King".  Boy, did it ever hit home, especially one character in particular.  The baboon had stored all of the history in his cave and was able to share the past with each new generation, "The Circle Of Life"!  I suddenly viewed myself as the monkey (NO COMMENTS!), the keeper of Catalina's history, to be shared and enjoyed by present and future "lovers" of this remarkable Island!
In 2000, as a tribute to Johnny, I humbly nominated him for "The Catalina Islander's Person Of The Century".  Not surprisingly, he won!  WHO ELSE!?! 
Over the years, I have had many monikers extended to me.  "Mr. Catalina" is the one label most handed me, but THAT WAS lifeguard, Duke Fishman, "Duke Of Avalon", and no one else.  By the way, he gave me the title of "Champ" when I was only a few years old and took the credit for teaching me to swim.  He really didn't, but I never wanted to hurt his feelings about this so called "accomplishment".  Last year a young marketing student, Chris Puma, 22, grandson of one of our late City Councilmen, Paul, was an intern for the Chamber, and wrote a very flattering story about me and called me "Catalina's Personal Goggle"!  THIS TITLE, I WILL PROUDLY ACCEPT!  Thanks, Chris!
As I am now 70, I am looking for SOMEONE willing to accept the baton, but in the meantime, I will continue to do my BEST!
If you want to contact me directly, email,