Article from the 12/7/2017 Avalon Bay News

"INTERESTING/UNUSUAL QUESTIONS/COMMENTS CONCERNING CATALINA ISLAND"
 
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, www.catalinaislandman.com):
I saw a cruise ship passenger carrying some trash and looking for a trash can.  She went up to one and tried to dump it there, but was pushing against the closed side.  She yelled to a friend, "This must be a mail box!"  She then went a few feet away to another trash can, exactly the same, and this one she put her trash into.
"Do people who live on the Island eat in restaurants?"
"Oh, look, they use United States stamps here!"
"I heard if you don't behave, your picture is taken and you're kicked off the Island!"
"Do you have a police force here or do you just do whatever you feel like?"
 
"I WAS BORN HERE!"
 
An older woman got off the cruise ship and came up to me when she saw my sign.  She had lived here years ago, but was only now returning for a visit.  She really wanted to reminisce and, of course, I wanted to help her enjoy her memories.  Somewhere in the conversation I mentioned that I was born on the Island.  She looked at me in a strange way and asked, "What year?"  "1947", I said.  "No you weren't!"  "No I wasn't  WHAT!?!"  "No, you weren't born here in 1947!"  "Yes, I was, where the library, court house, and sheriff's office is now, 215 Sumner!"  "NO, YOU WEREN'T!"  "I was born May 24, 1947, 3:55am and my doctor was Lawrence Braslow!"  "NO!"  "Why do you say I WASN'T born here!?!"  "I was living here in 1947 and I DON'T REMEMBER YOU!"  I hesitated for a moment.  I wanted to say, "Boy, lady, you are OLD", but obviously refrained, as I knew my job as "greeter" would be terminated IMMEDIATELY.  I then smiled at her and said, "You know, Mom was VERY PROTECTIVE of me my first couple of months and I really didn't get out a lot.  I guess I just didn't socially hang out with the same crowd as you did!"  End of conversation and she left, pondering!
 
With talk of a "new" hospital being planned to replace our present one, I thought that this would be a good time to share our Island's medical history.  Many people, including most Islanders, think that there was only ONE hospital built before our present one at 100 Falls Canyon Road.  They refer to the "Banning Hospital", where I referred to the cruise ship passenger where I was born.  It was built in 1923.  What only a few people know, and now you are included, is that the first one was built in 1912 and it was on the third floor of the three story building that still stands, 122-126 Sumner, better known as "Abe's Liquor Store" and "The Locker Room", the Perluss Building.  On the first floor was the first movie/theatrical theater, "Sumner Street Theater"/"Strand Theatre".  The second floor were the doctors offices:  Drs. Chapman, Baker, and Lanchely, and the one running the hospital on the top story, Mrs. Mary E. Thislewhite.  The facilities were used until 1922.
When the Banning Brothers, William, Hancock, and Joseph, purchased the island from the Lick Estate in 1892, they set up residences around the Island.  Two homes were built at the present location of the Court House, Sheriff's Department, and Library.  One was the home for Judge Joseph Banning and was located up against the alley that runs next to what USED to be "Mr. Ning's Chinese Restaurant" (BOY, I STILL MISS THAT PLACE) and the "Atwater Building".  The second home, next door and up Sumner from the Banning Home, was built for George Patton, Sr. and his family, including the future General George Patton, Jr.  The Bannings and Pattons were friends in Pasadena and George, Sr. was asked to become one of the founding board members of the "Santa Catalina Island Co." (now called "Catalina Island Co.) in 1894.
When Catalina was purchased by William Wrigley, Jr. in 1919, the Bannings and Pattons left the Island and the Banning home was converted into the hospital in 1923.  The facilities were transferred from the original one just down and across the street.  Those of us who were born in this house from 1923-58 have the distinction of being "birthed" in the "Banning House".
Years later, right after WWII, Dr. Lawrence Braslow took over the facility.   I had planned to make a VERY SPECIAL picture on my 50th birthday.  I was hoping  to have my Mom, Betty, Dr. Braslow, and myself stand at the location on May 24, 1997, 3:55am, and say, "I KNOW WHERE THESE THREE WERE ON THIS DATE 50 YEARS AGO", but very unfortunately, Dr. Braslow passed away in 1996!
I shared MANY interesting conversations with him over the years after he no longer ran the hospital, as he and his wife owned a home on Clarissa.  He once shared with me, "Of course you know, Chuck,  you were born in a "CONDEMNED building!"  "That's impossible!  You delivered me in the hospital here!"  With a smile of that of a child who had stolen the last cookie in the jar, he explained to me that almost from the beginning of his position as administrator and chief practicing doctor in the hospital, the building was definitely old and needed many repairs and upgrading that neither he nor the City of Avalon could afford.  Every year of team from the Hospital Health Review Department would come over on the steamer, be greeted by Dr. Braslow and his wife, Edithmore, and taken to the facility.  After looking it over, they would declare it unsuitable for use as a hospital and would post a "CONDEMNED" sign on the door.  The Braslows would then escort this team to the steamer, with big smiles, wave "good-bye" to them, go back to the hospital, tear down the sign, and continue to conduct the medical practice until the next team returned the following year.   This "performance" was repeated every year!  Dr. Braslow would explain, "We had no choice!  After all, the hospital was already 24 years old when you were born there and the Banning home went back another 55 years. It was never built to be a hospital!"
The building was finally torn down in 1958, but the present hospital wasn't built until 1960.  Catalina  had no hospital facility for two years.  Those born during that two year "gap" were born in the "Clinic", next to where the "Unloved Gift Shop" now stands, between Sumner and Metropole.  Dr. Calise conducted his dental practice there for a number of years.  The Island Company has now taken it over for their office needs.
Dr. Braslow, among his many other accomplishments, made a very interesting contribution to movie history (see if you can figure out  the title of the movie before I get to the end of this column.  READ IT SLOWLY so you can see how many bits of information it will take before you can figure it out!)  1)  A major movie studio was planning to make an epic movie in 1939.  2) There was a "birthing scene" in the film that was very important.  3)  The heroine, unfortunately, had never been a mother and needed to know what the process was like.  (guess it yet?)  The good doctor was a young intern working at the Los Angeles County Hospital in the maternity ward and so the studio assigned him to work with this young starlet to see what "birthing babies" would be like for her to emulate in the film.  (come on, you must have guessed it by now!)  4) The movie studio was MGM.  5) The innocent young actress was Olivia de Havilland (who, by the way, celebrated her 101st birthday.  She had a famous actress sister by the name of Joan Fontaine and they loathed each other).  6) All together, "GONE WITH THE WIND"!!!  I guess that those of us who were delivered by Dr. Lawrence Braslow could "stretch" the facts "a bit" and say that we were delivered by the doctor responsible for the "birthing of a baby" in that famous film.
A few years later, during WWII, Dr. Braslow was stationed in a war zone and, believe it or not, by pure coincidence, he was assigned to escort a now VERY FAMOUS actress, who was visiting with the USO group, none other than Miss de Havilland!  No one knew about their earlier connection and they enjoyed sharing stories about their involvement in the movie.
WITH ALL OF THIS INFORMATION, TREAT YOURSELF TO A CUP OF COFFEE AND A DONUT!
(If you want to read any of my other column submissions, www.catalinaislandman.com.  If you would like to contact me directly, chuckliddell.catalina@gmail.com).