Protecting Catalina’s heritage

David N. Young, editor of the Catalina Islander.

It is somewhat ironic that, during the heights of the great American Depression, William Wrigley, Jr. set out to build the iconic Catalina Island Casino.

Nearly a century later, the incredible structure stands in proud testament to his vision, his fearless vision of the future and it is also a testimony when the proud craftsmen who overcame incredible odds against them to create what has become an architectural gem.

In the years since, some of the world’s most renown musicians, actors, actresses, poets, writers and business people have walked through its doors for thousands of events.

Surely, he needed a place for the people on his island to dance and the building still supports the world’s largest circular dance floor.

Most people visiting the island have no idea of its history, nor its importance, yet are simply taken aback simply by its beauty and magnificence. Every time I cross the channel, I invariably watch the tourists gravitate to that side of the boat and begin snapping pictures long before the ferry touches the dock.

More than that, I am simply amazed too at the long lines of people waiting to board the ferries every single day. For most islanders, it is a simple fact of life. For people like me, there is astonishment that the depth of love for this island is so great that it can generate such a daily intention to visit.

So then, it was perhaps no surprise to learn this week that Expedia Viewfinder Blog named Catalina to its “Top 50” list from more than 5,000 competitive travel destinations in the USA.

Again, unless you REALLY stop for a moment and consider the significance of this designation, the deep meaning in it can easily glide by without much notice.

But considering the incredible travel possibilities in this incredible country of 50 states, 3007 counties and territories, Catalina Island has an amazing top of mind awareness in the generational mind of American travelers.

This is not achieved in a month. Or a year. Not even a decade. Since days the William Wrigley, through Catalina’s heyday of old Hollywood, on through modern times, it is obvious that this 75-square mile island is something special.

Of course, islanders already know this, but what sometimes is more difficult to grasp is the responsibility of this generation to work together to keep the tradition going.

The City Council did something interesting, and very productive this week as the newly installed group of officials opened the floor to discuss many ideas. There were diverse opinions, spoken freely, with no attacks or recriminations. Council members and the mayor openly disagreed on some issues, agreed on others, but there was no argument, simply discussion.

For an observer, it could be a very positive step in seeking answers to seemingly intractable problems that have lingered for years. Everyone, including the public, had their say and now city officials, their staff and department heads each took a portion of the debate to figure out.

Taking no action at this meeting was exactly the proper course of action. They opened up all the problems, each said their piece, had the experts weigh in, took public input and will now seek to develop policies that will best accommodate the purposes for which the problems exist.

As reminded this week, the world is indeed watching. The travel eyes of the nation are squarely fixed on Catalina. Having the courage to expose what needs to be fixed, is an encouraging step forward.

Just as when William Wrigley ignored the fear of Great Depression to build his iconic monument, each of the generations hence are charged by his spirit to ensure that for every picture taken of the Casino, the visitor behind the lens gets their own opportunity to share in the greatness that is Catalina.

David N. Young is editor of the Catalina Islander. He may be reached at


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