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AVALON, CATALINA ISLAND, 1948

Avalon Catalina

With the exception of the two docked steamships, The S.S. Catalina, which provided transportation to and from the island until 1975, and the S.S. Avalon — until 1951, Catalina looks virtually the same today as it is in this slide taken nearly sixty years ago. I was just there yesterday – and what an adventure I had. I arrived about 11am in a very big and speedy boat. My tour guide, a life-long island resident, was as entertaining as he was fact-filled.

We hopped in his charming 1970 VW Bus and we were off to our first destination – lunch at the Airport-in-the-Sky. As we passed by the Wrigley Mansion he told me that the chewing gum magnate bought the island in 1919. I asked if any of Wrigley’s heirs were still around. “Oh yes, and they’re very nice people but – as a tour guide I have a rule,” he said, “I never point out Wrigley family members or celebrities.”

As the sputtering of the VW Bus and beauty of the ultra green hills and valleys of the island’s innards were lulling me into a is-this-a-dream?-state, the bus stalled and was pronounced dead. With just about four or five miles to go we decided to hike the rest of the way to the airport. We hadn’t gone fifty feet when a mud splashed SUV comes around the curve going the opposite direction. The driver and passenger and my guide greeted each other like old friends and the next thing I know the SUV turned around and we were climbing in the backseat for a ride.

In the front passenger seat sat an elderly woman with a big floppy hat. Even as she bounced up and down riding on the bumpy road I could tell she was a woman with dignity and great poise. I got this weird feeling like she was royal or something.

We arrived at the airport, said thank you, bye-bye and then enjoyed the best corned beef and cabbage I’ve ever had. We hiked back to the dead VW Bus, got a rope tow back into town, toured the Casino and art deco movie place and had the grand tour of Avalon.

As I thanked my guide just before getting on the boat to return home, he said “Well, I am going to break my rule. The people that picked us up and gave us the ride to the airport were Wrigleys, the grand matriarch of the family and her son.”

Here’s to the Wrigleys, their gum and Catalina