A Visit to Old Los Angeles and Environs

28. Catalina (Part 3).


Brent C. Dickerson

Copyright © Brent C. Dickerson

Index to Episodes (click here)

Around Town in Avalon.

• I was still chatting with the old woman with one leg when I looked out at the new arrivals from the steamer, and saw in the oncoming crowd none other than Anna's new beau Morrie—she requested that I stop calling him "the Eater"—looking alone and confused. The old woman noticed my interest; "An acquaintance, perhaps? Hardly a day goes by but that I see someone I've known from the mainland come by." As Morrie stood there, bags in hand, hardly knowing whether to turn to the right or left, the crowds flowing around him, I explained to the old woman what Morrie's situation was. She scrutinized him for a moment, then said, "Encourage him—trust an old woman's judgment," quoth she. By this time, Morrie had determined on a direction; in truth, he had determined upon two directions, going one way five steps, then the opposite way until he was lost to sight, and then, a few minutes later, back the first way again until he was lost to sight in the opposite direction. "I should imagine that he spends quite a lot on shoes," said the old woman. As had happened the previous day, after the bustle of the steamer's arrival, the town quieted down bit by bit; after a bite to eat, I slowly dozed off again, and awoke several hours later—quite refreshed—to find Mother and the baby lounging on the veranda next to me, and our other travelers returning from their coach trip. First, Anna, young Frederick Johan, and Oscar, the boy whom FJ had met on the beach came up the steps to the veranda, the latter two looking at some shells they had collected. A few minutes later, Charley strode up with a girl on each arm; "they needed an escort back to the hotel," said he as they passed into the lobby. Minnie, hat in hand and sopping wet all over, lingered in the street for a moment talking to a young gentleman in a bathing suit; as it turned out, while the men were rowboating to Descanso cove, Minnie had slipped off a rock into the bay ("to the great depth of three, maybe four, inches," reported Papa later) only to be rescued by Randolph's brother who happened to be fishing nearby. Finally, about half an hour later, Papa returned from taking care of the horses and coach, and plunged into a big wicker chair on the veranda for a cigar and then nap of his own. It was now time for Oscar to be returned to his family. Everyone else being exhausted, and I being in fairly good shape at last, I volunteered to accompany young Frederick Johan and Oscar to the latter's family's tent in the tenting grounds a few blocks away. It was a rather odd feeling being swallowed up in row after row, rank and file, of tents!

• Oscar pointed to a rowboat tied to a tree, and said that someone told him the tide came in that far twice a month. Young Frederick Johan gave him a look as if to say, "Don't you have any sense at all?"; but I said, "Well, if it does come in that far, they'll certainly be ready to go boating." —On which young FJ gave me the very same look.

• We passed from one street of tents to another street of tents. Now and then there was the sound of woodpeckers tapping on the trees.

• Oscar plunged into one of the narrow lanes perpendicular to the road; and as we turned a corner, we abruptly found ourselves face-to-face with the entirety of Oscar's kin. Oscar, rather small for his age, and bashful to boot, nevertheless stood tall and somewhat on the stiff side when it came to introducing his family, a ceremony which he performed in a lengthy and, to my way of thinking, unnecessarily formal way. "Father," quoth he, "I should like you to meet a new acquaintance of mine, Mr. Ulf Soderstrom. Mr. Soderstrom," he continued to me, "I should like to introduce my father Mr. Adolph Goetz. Mother," he went on, turning to the very dignified person in question, "I should like...."—and so on it went through the whole army of Goetzes—sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, two grandparents, one great-aunt who had an enormous peacock feather arching over her hat, and a middle-aged gentleman with a broken arm and an unclear affiliation with the clan. Having completed this inventory to general satisfaction, he gave a heavy sigh and repeated the process for the benefit of young Frederick Johan, whose own habit of bowing as he shook hands was taken up late in the process by some of the cousins—Garfield Goetz, Lincolna Goetz, and young McKinleyette Smith, if memory serves. Father Goetz declared his happy anticipation of dinner that evening, the particular meaning of which statement eluded me until young FJ—rubbing his lower back—prompted me that Papa had invited the family to join ours for dinner. "The whole family?!", I blurted out, adding, after a moment's reflection, "How delightful."

• Taking our leave and rounding several corners until I was certain we were out of the Land of Goetz, I despatched FJ post-haste back to the hotel to advise Papa of what inviting the family to dinner seemed to encompass, and was myself trying to find my way out of the tent empire when I stumbled across Morrie reading a magazine in a tent of his own.

• "Well, well," said I; "small world!" "You said it!", said he. He drew me deeper into the tent, and jerked his thumb towards the people sitting around the adjoining tent. "These fine people," quoth he, "have been sharing with me some important news about the Book of Revelations—for the last hour. Won't you join me for a walk . . . of some distance?" And thus it was that Morrie and I were to be found that afternoon strolling through Avalon. At the south end of the crescent, in from the front street, is the city park, which looks out on the harbor and Sugar Loaf.

• Behind the park, nestled in the back of the little caņon, is the amphitheater, sometimes called "Avalon Bowl," next to which is the Avalon terminus of the funicular which goes over the ridge to Lover's Cove. I asked Morrie if he was planning to visit Lover's Cove, and all he did was sigh and pretend he didn't hear me. The sign in the front of the view states, "Do Not Talk When Band Is Playing." This prompted me to ask Morrie if he had any musical aspirations; and before another second passed, he had whipped a small harmonica out of his pocket and played a rather lively version of "In the Baggage-Coach Ahead," on the completion of which we heard someone clapping in the distance, though due to the acoustics of the "bowl," we couldn't pick out where it was coming from. As the final notes of his performance stopped echoing, he added, "I'm also known as 'The Glass Harmonica Man'," a statement I didn't enquire into further. On his returning the question, I informed him of the fact that locally, at home—as you well know, dear—I'm considered quite a hand at the Triangle.

• Here is a view of the Avalon side of the funicular's course. At the summit is a little depot-house and park.

• You can see the terminus and ramada again, from another angle, in the lower right-hand corner of this view. Morrie and I yielded to curiosity and rode up to the funicular's half-way point, giving us this view of the amphitheater. As we went up the slope, I very nonchalantly remarked on the coincidence of his having appeared in Avalon at the very time we were there. "Oh!" quoth M., "Your father put the idea in my head." Seeing my look of surprise, he hesitated a moment, and asked, blankly, "Would it have been a secret?".

• At the top, in what they call Buena Vista Park, the wheel-house looks like a little mountain cottage.

• Farther out on the same ridge is the town's reservoir.

• The view of Avalon from the road at the top of the funicular is breath-taking! The tent city begins at the very left of this view, extending inland. The round building in the foreground is the dance pavilion; and the large structure in the middle of the view is the Hotel Metropole.

• I was feeling energetic after all of my resting, and so proposed that we follow deeper into Avalon Canyon the road cut out of the hillside above the amphitheater. As we went, we had a view over the tent city portion of town.

• After a few loops following the ridges and little canyons above town, the road finally "came down to earth" towards the back of town among the farthest inland reaches of the tent city.

• As Morrie and I were having an interesting discussion concerning life, love, and shoe-laces, we turned our steps inland rather than back towards the waterfront. The back of town quickly thins out into wild-land, and is very nearly silent but for the calls of birds and sounds of animals in the scrub scrambling along the slopes and dislodging pebbles as they go. The canyon narrows as you go up it; the slopes intrude; the last wide expanse of fairly flat land is devoted to—and I was certainly surprised—a golf course!

• Continuing up the canyon, the road was well on its way to becoming simply a trail. We made it as far as a chicken ranch, where this doughty scrutinized us from his doorway, at which point we began our return to town.

• Having left town skirting the south, we determined to return along the north, where several small hills jutted into the metropolis. We climbed one of these for the view. "That's odd," said Morrie; "from this vantage-point, a great deal of the town appears totally different—I can't even see your hotel, which should take up the whole middle of the front street!" "Well," quoth I, "that's because half the town burned down in November of 1915." "November of 1915? That's practic'ly a decade in the future. How can you know that?" "Here, look—it's written in the caption here in nice gold-colored letters." "I'll be jiggered," Morrie said, scratching his head; "what do you reckon's going on?". "I've been trying to figure that one out myself for quite some time; worst of all, read on to the end of all this, and just see what's up for me." "I'd rather play my harmonica, if you don't mind." I sighed, and admitted that was probably the better choice. And so we went back down the hill, harmonica in full glory, as Avalon got back to the way it should have been.

• The Hotel Catalina loomed nearby.

• The north part of town has the lion's share of houses, pleasant wooden ones; and the streets as they go down to the waterfront are more sloping than those of the south. As Morrie finished a medley of patriotic songs on his harmonica, we strode down Whittley Avenue to the front street.

• We turned right along the waterfront, and walked a block to the north corner of the Hotel Metropole. Just up the street, on the inland side of the Metropole, was the building of the Pilgrim Club.

• ...And across the street and a little farther down was the friendly-looking Hotel Hermosa.

• Over a block was Sumner Avenue. Morrie and I parted for the time being here, he hoping he could get back into his tent without learning too much more about the Book of Revelations, and I wondering what might have transpired among the "folk" in my absence.

• Mother, Papa, and the baby were relaxing in their room, which was very pleasant with the fresh sea-breezes whipping the curtains at the windows. Papa had received the despatch I sent via young Frederick Johan; but in the meantime had as well received a note from Mr. and Mrs. Goetz informing him that the two of them were looking forward to dining with the two of them—meaning Mother and Papa—and would be pleased to meet them in front of our hotel that evening promptly at six. "'Tis to be understood as a request for no children all the way around," Mother translated. Papa mused, "Our Mr. Goetz would seem to be a man who knows what he expects." The baby looked at me and smiled. So far so good! The upshot was that, while Mother and Papa were attending to their social engagement, Charley was in charge of seeing that the rest of us "made it through the evening without being kidnapped by pirates, or the like," as Papa put it. The baby was allotted to my tender mercies; and on my relating the "coincidence" of Morrie being in town, Papa charged me with the responsibility of telling Anna that she might find it favorable to set a spell at the bench at the foot of the steamer pier about 6:45, "and advise her not to take dinner early!" he added. As we went down to corridor to Anna's room, I tried to convince the baby to take on the responsibility of relaying the message; but he, politic as ever, demurred. "Anna," quoth I, as she opened the door, "I am given to understand that there are those who believe that you will find it favorable to set a spell at the bench at the foot of the steamer pier about 7:45—excuse me, 6:45—and no prior visits to the trough." This forthright message somehow left her with questions to ask, which questions I put off by saying that "there the prophecy ended." Leaving Anna to prepare herself for 6:45, and being told that the others were disporting themselves on the beach, the baby and I went back out onto the hotel's veranda overlooking the front street, where we saw the subsidiary members of the Goetz clan watching the steamer depart.

• The old woman with one leg was back in her chair, taking the air on the veranda. Seeing me peering one way and then another, she pointed her cane in one direction and said, "You'll find the brother with an eye for the ladies that way"; she pointed her cane in another direction and said, "You'll find the sister with an eye for the gentlemen that way"; and, finally, she whirled her cane around in the air three times and said, "And you'll find the brother with an eye for everything else in just about every other direction." I thanked her kindly, and went in direction number one...

• . . . Where it didn't take long to spot Charley out in the water, now with not two but rather three young ladies in attendance.

• The baby and I discussed the matter and decided that interrupting Charley at this time might not earn us thanks. We were about to proceed in direction number two when direction number three, young Frederick Johan, proceeded in our direction and said, "The North won." I protested "I haven't been gone that long!". FJ told me that, in the interim, he had gone postcard-hunting with Minnie for views concerning their travels, to accompany his report; and that Minnie had taken advantage of the opportunity to form a little collection of her own, as I would be seeing... While he was telling me this, one of the glass-bottom boats tied up where the steamer had just left, and began taking on passengers; and as my feet were a bit sore from all the walking, floating around in a boat seemed like an attractive proposition—and thus it was that young FJ, the baby, and I stepped on board.

• Had anyone told me that I'd pay to sit in a boat and look straight down, I'd have deemed it unlikely; but I must say it was a unique and fascinating experience to see real creatures of the ocean in their element living their lives. Young Frederick Johan was as one transfixed. The baby, however, took it all in stride, and enriched the hour by grabbing my hat off my head repeatedly and throwing it onto the window I was looking through.

• We felt as if we ourselves were swimming among the seaweed and alongside the fish.

• While we were engrossed in observing the sea-life, we all jumped when suddenly a diver surprised us all by swimming into our view beneath the boat! It seems that they "lie in wait" in rowboats until the glass-bottom boat comes near, then delight the customers by appearing and doing some underwater antics. Fun!

• Too soon, the ride was over, and we returned to dry land—though not very dry, since we walked along the waterfront. As you can see, once a day (about mid-afternoon; but of course it varies with the seasons) the seals in Avalon entertain themselves by coming ashore and giving fish to the humans, who pick it up off the beach and fry it for dinner. "Aren't they cute?" quoth one seal (you see him on the right in this view) to another (the nearly submerged one behind him), who responded, "Humans are so funny—sometimes they almost seem intelligent!". The first one thought for a moment, then said, "...But not very often." "No," agreed the other, submerging, "not very often." (Young Frederick Johan saw me writing this, dear, and said, "Strictly speaking, this narration is not entirely accurate.")

• In truth, there is a wild seal who enjoys human company and is considered the community pet. His name is Old Ben, and he always dresses with a tasteful formal elegance.

• I don't know if Old Ben began as Young Ben. I suspect he's one of those timeless souls who commence life with aged wisdom which stands ready at their elbows—supposing seals to have elbows, which seems a debatable point at the moment—which standsat the ready throughout their lives.

• As Charley had earlier seemed to be in a "do not disturb" condition, so did Minnie, whom we saw seated on the verge of the beach as if playing solitaire. Young Frederick Johan was anxious to go out to the end of the pleasure pier, where people were fishing, so we silently picked our way around Minnie and walked out. There was a lot of fishing going on; but I can't say that I saw an abundance of fish being caught. Perhaps the seals had already collected all the available fish from the bay.

• Islander boys were practicing their fancy diving off the pier. "I could try that!" said young Frederick Johan. The baby and I reminded him that his entire previous diving experience consisted of being knocked over by a wave in one inch of water at Ocean Park a few days earlier, which appeared to, well, dampen his enthusiasm.

• The baby informed me that it was time for my nap; and I must say that my burst of energy had been pretty well expended. I was curious as to Minnie's collection of cards which she was laying out and rearranging in front of her as she sat on the waterfront. Young FJ just rolled his eyes.

• "Dear brother," quoth she as my shadow fell across the cards, "I have quite a dilemma. Which of the divers shall I go to the Independence Day Gala Ball with?" She had collected souvenir cards of the various islander divers. "All of them have laid themselves at your feet, so to speak?" "Actually, I haven't seen a one of these gentlemen yet, nor have they done anything with my feet; but surely with just a little effective mingling on my part, don't you know . . . ?". "Effective would be the key word, I should think," offered young Frederick Johan. Minnie continued, "After all, there's nearly a whole day left. One mustn't underestimate the power of female charms over the male animal." And with that she went back to re-arranging her cards. The baby advised me just to smile pleasantly and continue walking to the hotel; and that is what I did.

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