Avalon

Avalon is the only incorporated city on Santa Catalina Island of the California Channel Islands. Close to one million people travel to Catalina Island every year, many of them from Los Angeles which is, in the lyrics of the song, “26 miles across the sea.” The sons of Phineas Banning bought the island in 1891 and established the Santa Catalina Island Company to develop it as a resort, making Avalon a resort community. They built a dance pavilion in the center of town, an aquarium, and created the Pilgrim Club (a gambling club for men only). Just as the Bannings were anticipating the construction of a new hotel, their efforts were set back on November 29, 1915, when a fire burned half of Avalon’s buildings, including six hotels and several clubs.

In February 1919, chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. bought a controlling interest in Santa Catalina Island and its associated properties from the Banning Brothers. Wrigley devoted himself to preserving and promoting it, investing millions in needed infrastructure and attractions, including the construction of the new Catalina Casino, completed May 29, 1929. In its heyday in the 1930s, due to its proximity to Hollywood, Catalina Island was a favored getaway destination for Hollywood stars such as Clark Gable. The island also served as a filming location for dozens of movies. In order to encourage growth, Wrigley purchased additional steamships to service Avalon and brought attention to the town by having his Chicago Cubs use the island for the team’s spring training from 1921 to 1951, absent the war years of 1942–45.

Avalon town and harbor 2012
Avalon town and harbor 2012

Glass bottom boats tour the reefs and shipwrecks of the area, and scuba diving and snorkeling are popular in the clear water. Lover’s Cove, to the east of town, and Descanso Beach, to the west of the Casino (far right in photo), are popular places to dive. The area is famous for the schools of flying fish and the bright orange Garibaldi which teem in local waters.  In 1958, the song “26 Miles” by the Four Preps hit number 2 on the Billboard charts. The main theme of the song is summed up in the last line in the refrain, stating that Santa Catalina is “the island of romance”, with the word “romance” repeated four times.

Two Harbors is the second, and much smaller, resort village on the island, located at the isthmus of the island, north of Avalon. There is also a place called Camp Emerald Bay on the north end of the island that was a Boy Scout camp until 1991.  The Girl Scouts were also forced to move from their camp at White’s Landing, when its lease with the Catalina Island Conservancy expired that same year. “The Catalina Experience™” now takes you to White’s Landing — gateway to Catalina’s interior and positioned on the island’s most expansive beach.

camp white's landingOn http://www.vintagegirlscout.com/campCA.html, I found this ancient photo of this magical place, described as follows in the camp song that I still remember.

“Camp’s White’s Landing-

We canoe and we row

Lots of places to go.

There are boars and S’mores and a beautiful view!”

I don’t remember how big the place was, how primitive it was, or what its proximity to the Boy Scout camp was when I was a Girl Scout camper there for a summer or two in the late 1960s.  The main thing that sticks out in my mind from my time there was meeting a fellow GS camper who told me she wanted to convert to Judaism after reading Leon Uris’ Exodus.  I guess we were all impressionable young teens then and, even though I myself was heavily into the romance of the Jewish state portrayed in that novel, I thought this girl was crazy for wanting to be Jewish if she wasn’t born into it!

In retrospect, I guess the Girl Scouts had a bigger impact on the formation of my adult ideals than I was aware of at the time.  I was a member of the organization from first grade almost until high school graduation.  The GSUSA timeline on their website describes the 1960’s in the excerpt below and includes a photo of Girl Scout Cadettes on Earth Day, 1970, which was also a cause in the forefront of my still-forming political awareness at the time.

 “During this tumultuous and vibrant decade, Girl Scouts held “Speak Out” conferences around the country to lend their voices to the fight for racial equality, launched the “ACTION 70” project to help overcome prejudice and build better relationships between people, and viewed the Apollo 12 moon landing at Cape Kennedy, Florida, as guests of NASA.”

Commit to a Writing Practice Part B – 3 important songs!

1. Roll With It – Steve Winwood

“Just roll with it, baby!”

This is my philosophy of life. It was initially a self-defense and sanity maintenance mechanism.

The title became my theme probably about halfway through my ten year tenure at Shinmaywa (California), Ltd.. I started my full time job there as a Senior Buyer following a one year period of unemployment. SCL provides supply chain management and quality assurance services to support ShinMaywa Industries aircraft production and other special programs in Japan. I had worked on the Space Station program under contract to McDonnell Douglas for three years before that. ShinMaywa (Japan), SCL’s parent company, had a contract from McD to build some major commercial aircraft subassemblies. At that time, I think SCL was hiring just about anybody who had any tenure in any capacity at McDonnell Douglas on their resume, whether that experience was directly transferable to their requirements or not.

During my time at SCL, I bought (or tried to buy) a mind-boggling range of products. I also learned a lot about the Japanese way of doing things, and it was nothing like what I’d expected! They were inefficient and disorganized. They were also some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. Before I adopted “Roll With It” as my theme and philosophy, I had taken to calling my work at SCL “The ShinMaywa California Adventure, an E ticket ride every day!” This was an homage to Disneyland, and anyone who grew up in Southern California before 2000 or thereabouts would know the basis for these references. What I specifically meant was that I never knew what I would be working on or fixing or trying to locate on any given day when I walked into that place. It was fun and exhilarating, much like an E ticket ride at Disneyland, for quite a while. At some point, though, I just couldn’t handle that much fun and exhilaration AND STRESS on a daily basis anymore. That was the point at which I decided it would be better for me to “just roll with it, baby!”

At about the same time, my life outside of work was getting more unpredictable and stressful, too. So, amazingly, I decided that my entire philosophy and way of handling life in general, from that point forward, would be to “just roll with it, baby!” This approach has served me well ever since and I can highly recommend it.
2. Just You and I – Crystal Gayle and Eddie Rabbitt
http://youtu.be/WZ8NWiG3h4Y

This one is a rather traditional choice as it was the song to which my husband and I shared the first dance at our wedding reception. If you click the link for the video, you’ll see the lyrics. My favorite line is in the chorus.

“We’ll be all right, just you and I” is how I felt then, when I was 34 and knocked up (fortunately by my husband), how I have felt through all the trials and tribulations we have gone through (I won’t say shared because we haven’t always) for the last 25 years, and how I feel now that we are finally enjoying our retirement together.

3. Just the Way You Are – Billy Joel

A simple line that’s repeated in this song is the most important affirmation that two people in a loving relationship can give to each other.

“I love you just the way you are.”

It’s what I say to myself about my husband when he’s grumpy and doesn’t want to go out and do something fun with me that I want to do and he doesn’t. It’s what I said to myself when he was drinking too much before he checked into rehab. I imagine he may say the same thing to himself when I’m talking his ear off and probably what he said to himself when I cried all the time for a year or so before I started taking the right meds.

It applies even when one or both or you are not the same as they were when you loved them the way they were before, earlier in your relationship. We have changed, but we love each other just the way we were, just the way we are and, hopefully and maybe most importantly, just the way we will be.

I would tell my children that it’s the promise they will make when they speak the traditional marriage vows, and that it helps to remember that promise and those vows before they think about giving it up or leaving. I know it’s helped me.