Monday, October 5, 2020

A Trio of Quick Fall Trips...Number 2 - Catalina Island (Part 2)

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) For Catalina standards, it's a large room. Still, it can feel a bit crowded with Tim's rollaway bed taking up the extra space between our bed and the two easy chairs next to the patio door.

We sleep good, though, the beds are comfortable. There's no noisy air conditioner and the hallways in this part of the first floor are far removed from the street.

I get Tim up, he takes a shower, and we get ready to greet the day.

Watch the Video!

First up, we walk over to the nearby pier. I want to show Tim the spot where I proposed to his mom. 34 years ago, when I brought Letty over here with the idea to ask her to marry me, there were a series of wooden benches. A severe New Year's Eve storm a few years ago cause a lot of damage along the waterfront and those benches are long gone.

Benches set into concrete walls have replaced them so I do my best to find the exact spot and show Tim where that bit of family history occurred...just south of the old pier by the drinking fountain now guarded by thirsty seagulls.

Letty wants to see what's on the street a block up from the main drag here. We walk up and, to tell the truth, there's not much other that a large Von's supermarket under construction and a tiny miniature golf course. 

It's handy, though, because the ticket counter of the mini golf course doubles as a ticket window for various island activities. We're a bit limited on what tours we can take because most of them take place on non-accessible boats but Tim has said one thing he really wants to do is take a tour of the Casino.

There are two flavors of tours...the discovery and the behind the of which is accessible and one which is not. We sign up for the 11:45am discovery tour and set off to do a little souvenir shopping in the meantime.

About 11:30, we wander over to the building. The Casino is Catalina's iconic building...the largest one in town. It's not now, nor has ever been, a gambling palace. Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, who owned the island, used the Italian meaning of the word..."gathering place" naming the structure.

We're ushered in to the lobby where millions of dollars worth of brown mahogany line the walls. Gold leaf stars line the stucco ceiling. Out on the portico, sealife murals line the walls. They were supposed to be made out of the famous Catalina tile but time was short. They were painted on and only the mermaid above the ticket booth ended up being tiled.

The bottom floor is a movie theater. Still in use to this day, it is one of two of the original theaters built specifically to show films with sound back in 1929.

The domed room has great acoustics. The Radio City Music Hall studied its design before being built.

Twinkling lights blink in the ceiling, giving it a starry night effect until the lights come up. A glorified California history in art adorns the walls.

Upstairs is a giant ballroom. Originally 15,000 square feet, tabled terraces were installed taking the dance floor down to 10,000 square feet.

An early version of a disco ball spins above while we mill about the huge space where dancers would sway to the likes of Kay Kaiser, Bob Crosby and Dick Jurgens.

We move outside where a promenade wraps around the upper level giving us incredible views of Avalon.

Wrigley had baseball-stadium ramps installed to be able to get the masses people in and out quickly to the ballroom. Today, these ramps are useful to get the wheelchair up and down from that floor.

Afterward, we spend some more time shopping and exploring the pier. Fish food is available from vendors here and you can feel the calico bass and garibaldi fish (California's state fish) off the end of the pier.

Now, it's time to collect our bags from the hotel. We have a last meal of the special pub burgers at El Galleon before we get back on the Catalina Flyer for the voyage back to Newport Bay.

Darryl Musick
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