Article from the 1/4/2018 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 bought a boat ticket to Catalina and they took me to Avalon!"
"I need some information.  Where is the 'City Of Commerce'?" Of course, meant the "Chamber Of Commerce".
Before Vons, Safeway wasn't able to give discounts to certain areas of Southern California so whenever they would advertise, they would always have to make a disclaimer.  Here was one of their "Holiday Greetings":  "Safeway wishes 'Happy Hanukkah' to all our Jewish friends and 'Merry Christmas' to all our Christian friends, except in Big Bear, Arrowhead, and Catalina".
"When do they water the 'Submarine Gardens'?  I'd like to watch!"
"Do they sell food on the Island?  I mean, is there a food market here?"
 
Ryan Montgomery, who, for so many years, has done such a wonderful job, collecting the shopping carts needlessly left all over Avalon, suggested that Avalon might want to consider putting more bicycle lanes around town to control their traffic flow, especially on cruise ship days.  Great idea, Ryan, and I know they are told constantly, that bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks, they are supposed to go with, not against, the traffic, and are expected to stop at all stop signs, just like other vehicles.  By the way, Ryan probably doesn't remember, but when I was substituting at the school about 20 years ago, I was working with him on his math and he and I struggled with "long division".  I wonder how often he has had to use it over the years!
 
"JUST ONE MORE" (have a better name, please pass on your suggestions, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.m)
I have tried to come up with a easy slogan that we Islanders can use when going about our daily routine.  Here are a few suggestions of how it can be put into action to make Avalon even a more special place:
1) Along with your own trash, pick up just one more piece of someone else's.
2) When walking your dog and picking up it's poop, bring along an extra blue bag and pick up the poop of just one more dog.
3) When returning your shopping cart at Vons, once you have taken your groceries to your vehicle, pick up just one more cart on the way.
4) When complimenting those who are doing such a GREAT job of maintaining our streets, directing traffic, and construction projects, thank just one more of these workers for the wonderful jobs they are doing.
5) Now that the holidays are over, things will be slowing down quite a bit.  Now is the time to get to know each other better and spend more time with old and new friends.  Invite just one more person to breakfast/lunch/dinner so that you can spend special time with those who are often neglected with our busy schedules.
(Any other suggestions, please share with me so I can put them in this column, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.m.  THANKS!)
 
"THROW A COIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN" (pt. 2)
"Looking forward to your Parts 2 and 3 of your 'Throw A Coin' column!"  I was walking my neighbor's dog when I heard my good friend yell this to me.  She had a great loss recently and I was glad that my column seemed to help her get through the holidays a little better.  So here goes Part Two!  For Pt. One, and all past columns, www.catalinaislandman.com.  Last week I covered the history of "Coin Diving".
During the beautiful and warm summer months, I can't help but "harken back" (does ANYONE talk like that anymore!?!) to the years that I was one of the local coin divers.  From 1952-60 (I was 5 years old when I started.  O.K., I AM OLD!), I "dove" for coins thrown from the "Great White Steamship", the "S. S. Catalina".  I truly feel that this is one off the main activities that sets the "Island Kids" apart from their counterparts on the Mainland.  This most unusual activity allowed us to have unprecedented independence that, for good or ill, has made many of us the adults we are today!
I must preface this article by explaining that this "diving for coins" story is only acknowledging my experiences.  There no set procedures or rules on how they plied this trade.  Each diver had his/her story and I would love to see as many of these stories told so that a more complete collection of experiences can be documented for posterity.
I have had a number of adults from the Mainland tell me how "shocked" they were to even think of young children being "forced" by their parents to participate in this "torture" and some have even called it "child neglect"!  to set the record straight, WE WANTED TO AND CHOSE DIVING FOR COINS!  I don't recall any kids being directed by their parents to do it; it came from US!  It was a great form of exercise that our young bodies craved (I bet we could have all been Olympic Water Polo players if we had only set our sites on it.  What we did for hours, athletes were only asked to do it for scrimmages!).  It gave us a chance to perform (some even went on to become professional actors, like Gregory Harrison).  $15/2 hour day was GREAT money, especially when you consider many of our parents were only bringing home less than $1/hour.  Many of us were making more money than our parents!  Weekly "allowances" (I was given 10 cents to do the dishes) were certainly not necessary during the summer months.  So lucrative was the program that soon after the City Of Avalon was incorporated in 1913, the "City Fathers" instituted a "diver vocation tax" of $12/year.  Whether or not this tax is still on the books, I don't know, but I will gladly help out Avalon by coughing up the $90 that I NEVER PAID!  Finally, and maybe most important, this unusual diving activity kept us occupied and out of trouble.  Around 1966 when the activity ceased, the local newspaper wrote an editorial on what the effect of dissolving coin diving was going to do to the moral breakup of us kids.  Were we now going to become "juvenile delinquents"?  I was never sent to "juvi", so I guess we didn't go "bad" too quickly.
My "diving career", if you want to stretch the definition of "diving", commenced when I was 5, in 1952 (AGAIN, O.K., I AM OLD!). I started by standing on the rocks, South East of the Busy Bee Restaurant (present location of the patio seating of the Blue Water Avalon, 306 Crescent).  I bellowed to those going to the flying fish boat, the "Blanch W" (it ran from 1923-2015 and the benches can be seen at the Amphitheatre at the Catalina Island Museum, Metropole, just up from Von's, open everyday, 10-5, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and July 4th-just a little plug for Julie!).  Also, the glassbottom boats and other excursion boats used to leave from this "Steamer Pier" (1887-1968),  The bewildered passengers often found it  confusing  as to "where" to throw the coins, either on the rocks or in the shallow water.  Those that picked the ocean did us a BIG favor. It pushed us past the simple intimidation of "yelling" and sorting through the rocks for coins, and into the "real world" of learning to scurry, fend off our fellow divers, and learn to use mask/fins, or whatever we brought into play.  This helped us progress to the one of the most important skills, catching the coins on the "fly" before they hit the water.  Coins rarely "sank", but hypnotically waved back and forth, making it very difficult to calculate their motion to be able to grab them.  Of course, on the "kids" side of the pier, the water was only waist deep, so it really didn't take a lot of skill, but a lesson that would come in handy later on, when we could graduate to the "big side" of the pier.  By the way, I made a whole 49 cents my first day of diving.  This caused my Mother, Betty Jean, to call my Father, Orval, who was working at the "Island Company", to share the GREAT NEWS and then I was taken down there, a rare occurrence, to actually show him "the money"!
My personal "Right Of Passage" came the following summer when I realized that I was now ready to join the "big kids" on the other side of the pier.  I had learned to swim at 18 months and even though "Duke" Fishman took credit for teaching me and even giving me the moniker of "Champ", I really learned to do it on my own by crawling/venturing into the placid ocean from the beach until I finally "took the plunge".  I told my fellow child entrepreneurs that I was "going under the pier" which meant that I was ready for the "big time".  I was actually going to dive for coins thrown directly from the "S. S. Catalina" (the sister ship, "S. S. Avalon" had been taken out of commission just a few years before, 1951, and would dock on the opposite side of the pier, where we were first learning our "trade").  I remembered the look on my friends' faces (good place to have "looks") when they realized that I was making the "big move".  I was no longer one of "them"; I was now a "big kid"!
Unlike many of our predecessors, we had no rowboats.  We had to know how to swim and swim well!  We were on our own!  Once the Steamer had made it's way to the Pier (it arrived at Noon, daily), the coin divers would head to the North Beach, also called "Pete's Beach", now "Step Beach", and go down the stairs, hit the water, and then swim out.  The "macho divers" would enter the water by diving off the ledge, or even the thick ropes, overlooking the water, along the edge of the water (present location of "Antonio's Restaurant" patio).  This was called "Running The Rail". You would have to watch the wave action so that there would be water UNDER you, when you dove in.  I learned this PAINFUL lesson on my first attempt!  Instead of watching the wave hit the wall, diving in, and let the wave take me out, I dove as the wave was going out, which meant that I dove face first into the exposed gravel and rocks!  I could have  broken my stupid necks, but all it did was rip the skin off of my nose and forehead.  Bleeding, I pretended that nothing was wrong, and with the salt water burning my face greatly (it eventually went numb and the salt water actually helped heal and acted like an antiseptic).
 Believe it or not, last summer when I was working the "Chihuly Seaform Room" at the Museum, at older guy came up to me, read my name tag, and said, "Are you the 'Chuck Liddell' who used to dive for coins!?!"  "YES"!  He said, "Wait here! (as if I had any place else to go)  I have some friends I want to bring over!"  A few minutes later he came back with 3 more geriatric members and introduced them.  TURNED OUT I HAD DIVED WITH THESE 4 GUYS IN THE '50's!  WHAT WERE THE ODDS!?!  As we were sharing stories, I told him about my "first encounter" with diving on the "big side".  These divers smiled as they explained that each one who entered this water from the wall had a "watcher/spotter" who told them when to dive.  I DIDN'T KNOW THIS!  I DID IT ON MY OWN!  65 YEARS LATER I FOUND OUT!
(to be continued...Part 3.  Contact me directly, chuckliddell.catalina@gmail.com)