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January 9, 2015     The Catalina Islander
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January 9, 2015
 

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Catalina's facts, folklore and fibs This Week: THE CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF 'GENTLEMAN BOB' BY JIM WATSON EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim son is the author of "Mys- terious Island: Catalina," available at Amazon, Kindle and in stores in Avalon. Wat- In a couple of past columns I've regaled you with tales of Robert "Gen- tleman Bob" Hanley, one of Catalina's most legendary and renowned seaplane pilots of yore. Those two columns revolved around a couple of supernatural incidents related by Mr. Hanley that occurred during his remarkable flying career--a pair of incidents that will chill you to your ailerons. But Hanley, who is perhaps known best lo- cally for his operation of Catalina Channel Airlines for nearly two decades, had more on his resume than simple ghost stories. He also had quite a few hair- raising tales of aerial adventure borne of that Old World bravado of which we seem to see so little these days. Some of Catalina's longtime residents would tell you that Han- ley also had a penchant for story- telling, and that may be so. But if even half his stories are true, they are quite worth retell- Jim Watson Columnist ing. Which brings us to this week's column concerning Hanley's early years of flying and his business dealings with a rather in- famous man in American history named A1 Ca- pone. Hanley already had, by his calculation, about a hundred hours of flying before he was even out of high school. This was down in Flor- ida in the 1920s. But high school boys, then as now, need cash to do the sorts of things that high school boys like to do and it just so hap- pened there was a great deal of money to be made in Florida in those days in the bootleg liquor trade. "My old man wants to talk to you," said Hanley's friend Frank after a short discussion about Bob's flying abilities. Frank ex- plained that his father was interested in hiring a pilot and that it just so happened there was a pool party at the family house that evening. Later that night, Hanley and Frank's father--A1 Capone-- struck a deal whereby Hanley would fly cases and cases of whis- key from the Bahamas all the way to the wharf at 125th Street in Biscayne Bay. Hanley would get a whopping $26 per case, or $676 per flight, a veritable fortune in those days. AI Capone never visited Catalina, but one of the Island's legendary pilots-Robert "Gentleman Bob" Hanley-had business dealings with Scarface years before Hanley made his way to Catalina Island and entered local history. Of course, all of these flights shoved his plane away from the would be made in a seaplane and dock. all of the take-offs and landings He then raced across the wa- would have to be made at night in ter on take-off directly toward total darkness. No sweat, thought the source of the concern--a U.S. Hanley, and "Gentleman Bob's" Coast Guard ship that was blazing seaplane career was launched, away in the darkness at him. Over the ensuing weeks and He barely got the plane off the months, Hanley amassed a small water in time to skim above the fortune of several thousand do/- ship. lars, which he kept under his mat- What happened next was where tress at home. Hanley's 17-year-oldness nearly Then came the inevitable day cost him his life: rather than just when trouble came. It was short- let go of the Coast Guard's attempt ly after landing in Biscayne Bay, to kill him, teenage revenge took while more of Capone's minions over and Hanley decided to loop were unloading the illicit cargo around and give the Coast Guards- from Hanley's plane, when the call men a scare by "barnstorming" "look out!" came out, followed by their ship. "Get the hell out of here!." Such a Although it was in the dark of cry could only mean one thing-- night, Hanley apparently didn't the cops. realize that the lights of Miami Hanley jumped back into thebehind him silhouetted his bi- cockpit while hi~ shore crew plane quite nicely for the gunners on the Coast Guard ship. They let loose another volley as Hanley buzzed overhead. One of those bullets--and fortunately ONLY one of them--zipped through the bottom of the fuselage and straight into Hanley's leg. Now severely wounded, his boot started filling with blood and Hanley began to slowly go into shock. While still in the air, Han- ley said he lost consciousness. Could this be the end of our hero? Incredibly, and no one knows how he did it, Han!ey was somehow able to land the plane on the water. Capone's ground crews found him and the plane (with the engine still idling) and went into action. They pulled his unconscious body from the cockpit and rushed him by speedboat back to Capone's base in the Bahamas, an "aban- doned" cement barge that featured a distillery, packing plant, armory and a hospital for just such emer- gencies. After a short break, Hanley once again returned to Capone's service. But with high school gradua- tion just around the corner (yes, I think that's funny, too) Hanley set his sights on greater things. With the money he had made by mak- ing more than 80 aerial smuggling trips, Hanley decided to go to col- lege. He shook hands with a grateful A1 Capone and bid farewell. Twenty-five years later, after more harrowing adventures in the Second World War, Hanley began flying for Dick Probert's Avalon Air Transport and made his en- trance into Catalina Island lore and the rest, as they say, is history. & Stories of a CEO turned Catalina Island Charter Captain Free Shipping For Catalina Island Residents Web Ordering Available! Check in-store pickup For free shipping! The Vape Store For The Rest of Us! Everything you need! Beginners to Advanced Users Friendly Service, No Snobbery! www.thevapedepot.com 2139 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach Ca 90815 562-494-1442 Before you go back to the mainland... Subscribe today. P.O. Box 428 Avalon, CA 90704 Phone: (310) 510-0S00 Fax (310) 510-2882 Storm should not affect city's financial health BY JESUS A. RUIZ AND KATHY MAJOR Despite the devastating loss of two Avalon residents, the City should not suffer any financial losses from the heavy storm that struck on Wednesday, Dec. 30. The City of Avalon actually has a modest surplus rather than a defi- cit in its FY14-15 budget. According to City Manager, Ben Harvey, "New Year's Eve is historically a somewhat busy time here on the island, and the storm did keep some people away. However, I do not feel that the storm will have a long-term, sig- nificant impact on the City's over- all financial health?' When asked about immedi- ate financial impact, Chamber of Commerce President, John Luttjohann said Friday, Jan. 2, that there was some income loss. "While we do not yet have any estimates of total repair costs and/or lost revenue to the busi- ness community. Some immediate impacts would include the follow- ing: The cruise ship slated to be in port the morning of December 31st would have brought 2,500 guests to our community to participate in onshore activities and shopping/ dining. "The loss of the King Neptune boat and its services will have a longer term impact. Attendance of Affect, Page 6 4 1 Friday, January 9, 2015 :,' :' - THE CATAUNA ISLANDER