Islander celebrates 100th year

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The Catalina Islander will be celebrating its 100th birthday all year in 2014.

For those of you who received a very unexpected Christmas Present from the “Islander” newspaper last week, it must have come as a bit of a surprise to get a reproduction of the first newspaper that the “Catalina Islander” ever published, January 27, 1914!

You might find it helpful to have your 1914 newspaper in front of you, while you read this.

The Catalina Islander will be celebrating its 100th birthday all year in 2014.

For those of you who received a very unexpected Christmas Present from the “Islander” newspaper last week, it must have come as a bit of a surprise to get a reproduction of the first newspaper that the “Catalina Islander” ever published, January 27, 1914!

You might find it helpful to have your 1914 newspaper in front of you, while you read this.

For those of you who did not get last week’s paper, get it as soon as you can, because I am going to attempt to help explain why this newspaper was so important and who the players were, what the references were being made to, but even more important, WHY the “Islander” was even printed in the first place!

George Shatto, if you have been reading my occasional “Catalina Rediscovered” articles, purchased Catalina Island in 1887 from the Lick Estate.

There really wasn’t much on the Island, except a Civil War Army Barracks at the Isthmus (now referred to as “Two Harbors”) and a few shacks and buildings primarily for the sheepherders who dominated the island.

Shatto was shocked to see a “Hardware Store” in this town, at that time called “Timms’ Landing,” as it’s primary purpose was to provide alcohol for the boaters, campers, visitors, and the few residents.

Being anti-alcohol, and fearing that this would get his little village, which he now renamed “Avalon,” off to a bad start with the family business that he was hoping to entice to come to his Island, he had it destroyed.

When Billy “Bruin” Brohan, the owner of the “Hardware Store” then moved it to a barge in the harbor, that too was destroyed by Shatto. He even laid the streets out in such a manner that there was a major “gap” between the Harbor and the buildings on Crescent Ave. so that no one would try to “smuggle” unwanted brew ashore.

He then built the first “pier” and hotel, “The Metropole,” and sold off as much of the town of Avalon that he could.

He had a stipulation on all his contracts, that if any use or sale of alcohol occurred on any of these properties, the sales agreement was immediately void and the land would go back to Shatto!

When the Banning Brothers paid off Shatto’s debts to the “Lick Estate” and officially took over the Island in 1892, they kept this “non-alcohol” policy in place.

In spite of the concern that a “dry town” would impede boaters and visitors from coming to this fledgling town, businessmen started investing in Avalon and a major “boom” took place.

In 1894, the Banning Brothers established Catalina Island as a corporation and named it “The Santa Catalina Island Company.”

It soon established dependable electricity and gas supplies (water continued to be barged from the mainland) and pretty much acted as any “Company Town” would in providing as many services as it could, with little or no costs picked up by the residents or businesses. This “happy arrangement” started to unravel in the first major confrontation between the Avalon business community and the “Island Company.”

In order to maintain a “closed harbor,” in which all tourist traffic from the Mainland could be regulated and controlled, a “parallel pier” was built in 1907, extending a few hundred feet from the beach and connecting the “Steamer Pier,” which extended out approximately 300 feet from the location of “Bluewater Avalon,” to a small pier in front of what is now “C. C. Gallagher’s.” This infuriated the businessmen community, as any attempt to impede the flow of tourists to their town, would also restrict their possible incomes.

“The Freeholders Improvement Association,” which had been established a few years before to act as “self-deputized” enforcers of behavior in Avalon, before an official Police Force was established in 1920, immediately took offense to this new economic inhibitor and took the Banning Brothers to court in protest.

The “Freeholders” won their case and the pier was dismantled and the planks were used to build the “Pleasure Pier” in 1909. The term “Pleasure” was immediately used as a distinction from the “Steamer Pier.”

The boats that were used for “pleasure,” such as fishing, glassbottom boats, and leisurely exploring the Island, had been removed from the beach by the Bannings when the “Parallel Pier” was built, as this was now where they had to conduct their business.

This also allowed the Bannings to control the private boatmen in town and this is where they now would establish themselves for those tourists who had come to the “Steamer Pier” and were now looking for “Pleasure” (this pier wasn’t called “The Green Pier” for a number of years, as it was originally painted a beige color).

Needless to say, the “Island Company” did not take this act of “defiance” at all well and made clear that the residence of Avalon had not had to pay their “fair share” of the expenses of all of the benefits that had been provided for them and even made idle threats and comments such as “If that is the way you want it, why don’t you become ‘incorporated’ and then you can pay all of the expenses and experience all of the headaches that we have kept from you all these year!”

Little did they know that they had “planted a seed” which was going to take root and bloom sooner than they would have wished! Avalon had a few unsuccessful attempts at local journalism. “The Jewfish,” the first newspaper came out in 1892, followed by the “Avalon Avalanche” in 1893, and “The Avalon Crusoe” in 1903.

These papers generally only lasted for a summer season and they primarily were only used as an attempt to help the tourists understand Catalina and give them suggestions on what to wear and how to act. No politics were discussed as this was considered “inappropriate” by these early journalists.

Finally, the “Wireless” newspaper came out; the world’s first newspaper where its news was provided primarily over the new “wireless” device. It was first published on March 25, 1903 and after a number of temporary starts and stops, became a “regular weekly newspaper” in 1905.

The “wireless station” was on the flat area, just down from the “Zane Grey,” overlooking the “Casino,” and published at the “Pitman-Dennis Bldg.,” on the corner where “Leo’s Drug Store” now presides. It was conveniently near Mr. Lefavor’s other business interests. Lefavor also had a “Department Store,” a “Novelty Shop,” a “Confectionery Shop,” and even a “Real Estate” office.

Needless to say, Mr. Lefavor, a businessman, now turned newspaper editor, was one of the major players in Avalon’s economic status and any acts of the “Island Company” to restrict trade was not taken well by him and was clearly shown through his newspaper.

After this embarrassment of losing to the “Freeholders” their Pier and “closed harbor” status, the “Island Company” certainly didn’t need Avalon’s only newspaper to constantly print opposing views. They asked Ernest Windle, an Englishman, to come to Avalon and start a paper to reflect the news more from the “Island Company’s” perspective and hopefully run the “Wireless” out of business.

To be continued …

Islander celebrates 100th year