"Catalina island is a state of mind. People can be stressed out
on the mainland and when they think about coming to Catalina they start
relaxing before they even get on the boat," said Ralph Moore, Mayor
of Avalon, the island' largest city. Santa Catalina island is a bit of
paradise 22 miles off the Southern California coast. Most tourists get
there by boat. It's just an hour's ride from the mainland, another world
rich in history.
Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley bought the island in 1919 and turned
it into a playground for celebrities and us common folk. But this rugged
island wasn't always a world resort. It's hard to believe that before
the turn of the century, and until the 1970s cattle, sheep and some farming
dotted the landscape. But working the land turned out to be a tough task.
"It's not easy to do agriculture on a very arid island. We get our
water right here from the island. So water is a precious and limited resource,"
said Deb Jensen, who's with the Catalina Island Conservancy. The Wrigley
family deeded most of the island to the non-profit in 1975 so it could
preserve Catalina's natural landscape. And nowhere is that preservation
more evident than at the conservancy's beautiful Wrigley memorial and
Botanical Garden. It's a showcase for hundreds of native plants and one
of the island's many popular tourist attractions.
More than a million people come to Catalina every year. But for several
thousand this is home round. It's a lifestyle that's very different than
on the mainland. Just ask Mayor Morrow. He said one thing one thing resident,
especially don't have to worry too much about is crime. "We don't
have the drive-bys because, of course, people have golf carts," Morrow
Golf carts toodle all over the place because they're the main mode of
transportation o n this tiny island. Avalon is the only city in California
that can legally regulate the number and size of vehicles. So if you want
to have a car there's an eight to 10 year waiting list. If cars are in
short supply, so are services. There's just on bank and one main supermarket.
The only Taco Bell and KFC are housed in one restaurant.
Speaking of food, as well as other goods, they come by barge from the
mainland several times a week. But in the winter if the weather's too
bad the barges don't run and Catalina residents go without. "One
winter Vons ran low on food and beverages. We had pharmacies running low
on medications. The preparations that all the hotels go through to get
ready for the spring onslaught fell behind a little bit," said Chris
Muscella of the Catalina Freight Line.
One thing everyone says and we found to be true is that the people are
great. And the island has some characters like Barber Ranks Saldana. He
hand his brother Lolo operate an old-fashioned barbershop. But the real
treat is that Frank sings. Boy does he sing, not just for patrons. But
he'll stand outside his shop and belt out tunes to the tourists having
So if you happen to visit Catalina be sure you take the time to drink
in the history and meet the people. For more information on how to get
to Catalina, call the Catalina Island Express at 800-995-4386. Log onto
www.catalina.com or Call the Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau at