Friday, February 26, 2016

Wrigley gardens, museum, 'sky' airport celebrate Catalina's diversity

 William Wrigley Jr. put his heart and his pocketbook into his beloved Catalina Island, where his widow erected a loving memorial in the Botanic Garden. A world of native plants, and a stunning tribute to a generous man await.  



HOLLYWOOD STARS misbehaved there.
Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. purchased stock in it, sight unseen.
Today, tourists come from all over the world.
Such was and is the allure of Santa Catalina Island, off the California coast.
The "fame" started with the chewing gum icon.
 Who's this? A young, pre-blonde,
Marilyn Monroe, on Catalina. 
Right, Wrigley smiles on Catalina.
Once Wrigley sailed over to see what he'd invested in, he bought out other investors, becoming sole owner of the island.
THAT WAS in 1919, nearly a century ago. Today, Wrigley's stamp is felt throughout the island. And Hollywood's happy ghosts inhabit its streets, bistros and hotels.
The Chicago Clubs spent many spring training days
in the lovely climate and surroundings of Catalina.
The Catalina Museum, moving sometime soon into new multi-million-dollar digs, is now housed in the Catalina Casino Wrigley built. There, we enjoyed historic photos of the Chicago Cubs' time in Catalina.
AVID BASEBALL fan Wrigley brought the team there for spring practice, which the team continued until the 1950s, past Wrigley's 1932 passing.
His story is a true American success story: as a 13-year old kid, he sold his father's soap door-to-door from a two-horse wagon in rural Pennsylvania and New York. The gum he gave out free, to purchasers of the soap, was so popular that he went into the gum manufacturing business in Chicago.
THE REST is history. Within years, he was a millionaire, acquiring a handsome share of The Cubs, and buying up 90 per cent of Catalina. He built a dock and used his own private funds to establish electricity, water and sewer systems.
  Mrs. Wrigley built a beautiful memorial to her ambitious husband, and guests to the Wrigley
Gardens can stroll up to it, and even to its top, with a lovely view of the gardens and sea. 
Soon, Hollywood discovered what Wrigley was excited about. Catalina's proximity to Los Angeles allowed the stars easy, quick access. Soon Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, and Johnny Weissmuller were sailing their boats to Avalon Harbor.
Marilyn Monroe came there as a young bride, while her first husband was serving his country. By day, the stars swam, fished and enjoyed the scenery. By evening, they mingled with islanders in restaurants and bars on the island’s two towns — Avalon and Two Harbors.
They drank, dined, danced and caroused. Errol Flynn explained the island's pull: “...we were so intoxicated with the sheer zing of existence that we were half-mad..."
* * *
CATALINA ISLAND Museum’s impressive collection includes an impressive array of historical and cultural items.
With generous donations, the museum has grown to a bonanza of 150,000 items representing the island's archaeology, natural history and architectural accomplishments. Ephemera, newspapers, archives, postcards, three-dimensional items and 10,000 photos and negatives (rotated and dating back to 1880) tell stories of island life.
The Museum features a large and comprehensive collection of Catalina pottery and tile -- another Wrigley brain child -- manufactured in Catalina from 1927-1937.
Private jets take off and land in spectacular beauty on Catalina. 
BOAT MODELS, sport fishing items, artifacts from the Island's steamships and more have made the new museum necessary. The enormous collection also boasts valuable archaeological artifacts.
The Airport in the Sky's colorful bar and restaurant have lots of fun art.
Wrigley erected hotels and built the world's largest dance hall -- the museum's home for a bit longer: Avalon Grand Casino. He built a harbor, bird park and established Catalina Clay, providing work for locals. Its tiles and pottery are still admired worldwide.
His beloved Cubs trained on the island until 1951. Hollywood filmed dozens of films there.
In 1975, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Wrigley (the gum magnate's son and daughter-i-law) and Philip’s sister, Dorothy Wrigley
This small plane landed while we were on Catalina -- it's a small, spectacular
runway with a stellar view of the ocean and surrounding landscape.
Offield, deeded 42,000 acres owned by Santa Catalina Island Company to the Catalina Island Conservancy, giving control of 88% of the island. Wrigley's widow incorporated more than 60 of the island's 60 plant and animal species into the garden memorial.
* * *
THE AIRPORT in the Sky occupies a 1,602-foot-tall mountaintop at the center of the Island, 10 miles from Avalon. It's a fun destination, although our tour bus ride was jarring. We saw hikers and bikers, and a few private planes -- my choice for next visit.
The airport's single 3,250-foot-long runway was constructed by blasting two adjacent peaks, then using the resulting debris for fill.

Actors, artists fly high in novel about film's early days

The DC-3 Gifts and Grill restaurant is famed for its excellent buffalo burgers, which we sampled. They also offer chicken and vegetarian burgers, and our guide Manny raved about the Mexican specialties and buffalo tacos. In summer, the Grill's barbecues -- with live music from Island band Hot off the Range.
We also picked up some tasty buffalo jerky, and a collectible glazed tile in the gift shop.

Cookie, Keller and new friends take a ride on Kowloon Harbour.
COMING UP: Come with us to Asia. We're in Hong Kong now, and soon will be writing about our magnificent five-week odyssey. We'll travel on sampans, junks, bikes, trains, planes and cruise ships with occasional one-way streets (going the wrong way in a tuk-tuk.)  Then, can a scardey cat who once nearly drowned in a kayak ever take calmly to the waters again? Cookie overcomes a 30-year fear of kayaks, proving you can teach an old frightened dog a few new tricks. Join us by rickshaw or tuk-tuk, remembering to always explore, learn and live, and check us out Friday when we post for the weekend.

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