Article from the 12/14/2017 Avalon Bay News

"I don't want to pay sales tax.  This is a 'Duty Free Port', isn't it?"
"Where is the train station?"  The cruise ship had just blown it's whistle.
"WHY do you keep saying you are part of Los Angeles County?  THAT IS REDICULOUS!  There is an ocean between you and California!"
"I've heard that people aren't allowed to give birth to babies on the Island.  Are people allowed to die here?"
Looking at the Casino:  "Is that an aquarium building?"
So far my best holiday "treat" was to go see the classic 1946 film, "It's A Wonderful Life", put on the Catalina Island Museum on Saturday, December 9.  Like so many others, I suffer from deep holiday depression, but this magical afternoon broke me out of my doldrums!  First, our local students, under the direction of Kris Wallace Breese, joined the "McCoy Rigby Conservatory of the Arts" students, some of them had performed for the Museum's silent movie, "Petty Pan" months ago.  WHAT A DELIGHT TO SEE THESE YOUNG PEOPLE PUT ON SUCH A FUN AND ENTHUSIASTIC PERFORMANCE!  Then came my FAVORITE movie, not just Christmas movie, BUT ALL TIME FAVORITE, "It's A Wonderful Life", starring Jimmy Steward, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore, directed by Frank Capra.  I won't spoil the plot for those of you who haven't had the uplifting experience of seeing it, but it was the movie that EVERYONE SHOULD SEE, at least once a year, and whenever a "reality check" booster shot is needed.  I was feeling very depressed going to the showing and luckily a dear friend asked to sit next to me, which was perfect, as she needed some answers to one of her business directions.  Two quotes came out of the movie that seemed to be placed there just for me:  "Each man touches so many lives.  When he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" and "No one is a failure who has friends."  I only wish that more had been there to see it in our beautiful Casino Theatre.  We are SO BLESSED on Catalina to have such wonderful programs provided for us, but, unfortunately, many are poorly attended.  Don't complain about being "isolated" here from great activities such as this and then not support them!  By the way, "Chihuly" will be ending today, 5pm, after a remarkably long and successful run, since March 26!  I will be working in the "Seaform Room" and will see it end.
When someone is born on an Island, especially a smaller one like Catalina, I think something unique happens to that " Native Islander".  Not only are you born surrounded by water in the womb, but also surrounded by water in your outside environment.  You get deeply attached to the ocean, as I have been.  What I am about to share, is not documented, but simply a "gut reaction".  I am SURE that there are those who will question my conclusion, but I guess that this is the benefit of having a weekly column.  Attention, my good friend, Dr. Wendy Teeter.  I will print any thoughts you might have on the subject.
The "Tongva" natives who inhabited the four southern Channel Islands, first appeared around 10,000 years ago. Catalina was called "Pemu". From all indications, these approximately 2500 inhabitants on our island were considered a bit "special" among the other 7 nearby islands and their life style depended primarily on their water existence, which would be considered idyllic even by today's standards.  When they were forced off the Island by the Spanish Missionaries around 1803, due to disputes over sea otters with Russian fur trappers and directly by Aleutian Eskimos (YES, REALLY), and plagues caused by the European diseased introduced to the natives for the first time, without antibodies to fight off their devastation.  They were "relocated" to the San Gabriel Mission (why they were later referred to as the "Gabriel Indians").
As part of the becoming "Christians", and thus being "saved", they were put into servitude.  Christian leaders often thought that turning people into "slaves" was part of their religious conversion. The final insult to their humanity came when they no longer had access to the fish and other seafood that they were accustomed to eating and, most importantly, they were NO LONGER LIVING BY THE OCEAN!  Within a very short period of time, less than 30 years, these island people seemed to refuse to intermingle with their mainland native counterparts and any children that we born rarely made it to adulthood.  I believe in my heart that they simply "gave up" and basically practiced their own self-induced genocide.  They all died off leaving no direct descendants of the Catalina/"Pemu" tribe!
I can easily relate to my fellow "native born".  Even with my "idealistic" early life on Catalina,during the late 1940's-early 50's, when there weren't many people on the Island, 1500, compared to the 3900 of today, I faced deep depression.  There weren't that many kids to play with as many families had been forced to leave the Island during and soon after WWII without much promise of work.  Dad was either working for the Island Co. or on the mainland getting  "dried out" from his alcoholic binges.  Mom was forced to clean our two rental apartments on Descanso and I was subjected to much physical and emotional abuse. My regular babysitter, Polly Mulford, wasn't always available, so I was often plopped down in front of the new invention, "television".  I LOVED to watch this new form of "baby sitter", as it never hurt me,  but I found myself getting quite lonely and sometimes depressed.  When no one was supervising me, I would slip away to Casino Point (before the Dive Park or Mole).  I would find there my best friend, the Pacific Ocean!
It may sound strange, but the ocean has always seemed ALIVE to me!  I could hear it "speak" as the water lapped up on the rocks and slowly pulled  the pebbles back.  I would share with it my problems and it was always patient, never interrupt, or judge me. As it was listening, I was hearing it assure me that I wasn't the first one to come to share my problems with it.  Others like me have been making the pilgrimage to the Ocean to "vent" since the beginning of mankind.  I WAS IN GOOD COMPANY and better still I WAS NOT ALONE!   I was always reassured that it had been there since the beginning of our planet and will be there until the end.  There will always be a "tomorrow" for me, if I just focus on living life one day at a time. Things will look better.  How WONDERFUL for the "Mother Of All Life" to take the time to communicate with me and send me away so much happier and focused.  Being able to visit the ocean every day, I often find myself walking by and simply smiling and saying "Hi" and "Thanks"!  I didn't know the true God then, but do now and He is who I go to now with my needs, but I thank Him for helping me find His beauty and especially LOVE in His world!
When I taught "Communications" at Illinois State University (1970-72) and Indiana University (1972-74), I found there were no oceans there (you can tell I wasn't a "Geography Major"!).  I really felt the loss!  Well meaning locals tried to help me get over this longing by introducing me to streams, lakes, rivers, forests, and mountains.  I listened respectfully and, of course, explored them and gave them a chance, but they never filled the bill.  Besides, mountains eventually erode, steams, lakes and rivers eventually dry up, and forests die, but the ocean will ALWAYS BE THERE, because once they are gone, SO IS ALL LIFE ON THE PLANET!  In fact, the ocean formed them.
I was very fortunate to be born on Catalina Island (thanks Mom and Dad). I guess I am physically and emotionally bound to the ocean and thus, in my case, Catalina Island!  I hope to never leave and hopefully will always be here to strive to make it a better place in which to live and visit.
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