Article from the 12/28/2017 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):
"Where are the 'Undersea Gardens'?  We'd like to picnic there."
When a passenger was taking one of our local helicopters to the Island, it was pointed out that the cabin wasn't pressurized, so the passenger took out all of her toilet items so they wouldn't explode.  Helicopters only fly a few hundred feet in the air.
"Compared to the Mainland, what time does it get dark on Catalina?"
"While on Catalina, I would like to take some side trips.  How do I get to Tahiti from here?"
How do I get to the 'Mechanical Gardens'?"
 
I have HIGH HOPES for 2018!  In the last week, I have seen locals collecting shopping carts and helping out Ryan by returning them to "Vons"!  I have also seen those who like to hike carrying bags to collect trash as they go!  Now, IF I can only get more people to pick up those of us who have to carry heavy bags up steep streets. (Suggestion:  IF you want a ride, walk on the sidewalk going the direction of the traffic.  That makes it so much easier for us to ask you if you need a ride and then being able to get into the vehicle.
I think EVERYONE who has to do "public service", especially those who get cited for not cleaning up after their dog, should have to spend the hours of compensation by cleaning up after other owners' dogs, like I often do!  By the way, I have seen Avalon officials NOT leashing their dogs!  BAD EXAMPLE FOR OTHERS!
 
"THROW A COIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!N!"
 
This is the first of a three part series on "Coin Diving" on Catalina Island.  This sport/activity/business pretty much covers the entire history of the "Steamer Pier", 1887-1968 (located at the present site of the "Bluewater Avalon Restaurant", 306 Crescent). 
I don't know what caused the first brave soul to decide to jump into the water and expect passengers to throw him money (originally, it was only boys who participated in this tradition, but by the 1920's, young ladies were in the thick of the activities), but I can only assume that one of the passengers on the earliest cross channel boats must have heard about the tradition of throwing "trinkets" to the natives in the South Pacific, when the first Europeans "discovered" the islands in the 1700's.  (This practice is still going on in Hawaii).  They might have seen a young man swimming and yelled to him, "How would you like to have some money?" and threw some coins over the side of the boat.  Finding this activity both challenging and rewarding, the diver probably eagerly "went for it" and then shared this experience with his buddies.  They then decided the next day to 'meet the boat" in hopes that they would be equally lucky. 
At the turn of  the 1900's, only approximately 30% of the world's population knew how to actually "swim", so the early "divers" did just that, they dove, but did a very minimum of actually swimming. The divers would dive directly over the side of these small rowboats..  To keep  from drowning, rowers would maneuver they boats to likely spots where the passengers would feel compelled to see the divers participate in this "daring" feat.  Once they got their money, they would quickly come to the surface and make their way back to the security of the boat.  Once they realized what the divers were up to, many would throw pennies, nickels, dimes, and should the divers be so lucky, silver and paper money (which would usually be wrapped a silver dollar, merely for weight).  Shouts of "Let's See Some Silver" and "Take Some Weight Out Of Your Pockets!" (I think I originated this clever shout!)  I was lucky enough to be the recipient of some of these "Mother Loads"!  Of course, when coming up the surface, with whatever denomination that was retrieved, placing the coin between your thumb and first finger, shaking it toward the person throwing the money, and letting out a LOUD "THANK YOUUUUUUUUU".  So popular and lucrative was this practice that the City of Avalon taxed coin divers to help finance the newly established city in 1913.  Soon after, in 1916, this practice of diving for coins became illegal and any one found swimming within 40 feet of any passenger boat could be fined $100 (A LOT OF MONEY 100 YEARS AGO!) or 30 days in jail.  Why the City Fathers turned against these aquatic entrepreneurs who helped finance the city is not clear, but this ban only lasted until around 1919.
It must have been a bit confusing for the early visitors to understand what was going on round their cross channel boat as the actual tradition of yelling "THROW A COIN!" didn't originate until the Summer of 1938!  The City Fathers were then very concerned as to how the tourists would respond to this type of "begging".  The over concern municipal regulators needent worry as this all became a part of the "performance" and accepted on both sides of the water.
Going back to the 1890's, another custom had taken place.  The locals and visitors would form a "gauntlet" where they would line up on both sides of the pier and the newly initiated passengers would have to face possible embarrassment by walking between these rows of scantily attired beach lovers who would be yelling "welcome", "Hi, Neighbor", singing corny songs, or heckling a bit, but always in good humor.  In the 50's, they even had a broadcaster from the local radio station, KBIG, interview selected passengers so that they family and friends "back home" would be assured of their safe ocean voyage.  "Duke" Fishman, the local lifeguard and "ultimate character", from the 30's-60's, was the person most associated with the antics that were foisted on the unexpected arrivals.
The divers generally felt that they were providing these first time passengers a much appreciated service.  Many of them had never been to an Island, let alone on a ship.  The "Miss Catalina" speedboats would be the first line of "welcoming" with their sirens blaring.  After the almost three hours of travel, all of this excitement gave the "illusion" that they had taken a major ocean voyage even though, if they really focused behind them, they could have still seen the Mainland and their "Port Of Departure", Wilmington!  (to be continued next week).
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