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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
February 18, 2011     The Catalina Islander
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February 18, 2011

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Catalina: A Presidential Paradise BY BOB RHEIN Several United States presi- dents, including Ronald Reagan, have either visited Catalina Island or have been indelibly associated with it. One man alive today, Har- vey Cowell, still has vivid memo- ries of the last commander in chief who a stepped foot on the Island. Cowell will turn 98 on Feb. 21- President's Day. Harvey Cowell was serving his second go-around as Avalon mayor that day in January 1971 .(his first term was 1952-1956), and was hard at work at the Island Pharmacy on Crescent Avenue, when the phone rang. "My father-in-law, Percy Mack- ey (the pharmacy's owner) pioked it up and said it's for you," Cow- ell told the Islander. "It was City Clerk Shirley Davey, who called to say that President Richard Nixon was flying over to Catalina, and would like for the mayor to meet him at the airport." Cowell said he immediate- ly went home and put on clean clothes. "I only had about 45 min- utes to arrange a reception at the airport and in town for our visitors. Somebody from the city gave me a ride up to the airport," Cowell said. "We got there in time to see the twohelicopters land." The .two aircraft were identical Sikorsky VH 3A "Sea King" heli- copters used by presidents John F. Kennedy to Gerald Ford. Nixon's RUNNING DOWN THE MARATHON " Who owns the right to hol d mar- athons on Catalina Conservancy property? That question is headed for the courts following a lawsuit filed by Pacific Sports, LLC, claiming that the Conservancy has refused to grant Pacific Sports a permit to hold the popular Catalina Marathon distance race in 2012 and intends to produce a race of its own instead. The Conservancy has hired Spectrum Sports to manage the event, now dubbed the Catalina Island Marathon. Spectrum Sports has also been named in the law- suit. Jack Caress President and CEO of Pacific Sports LLC said the re- sults of the lawsuit could have na- tionwide ramifications. ','To have the Santa Catalina Island Conser-. vancy deny a permit in 2012 and essentially claim the even as its own should be very concerning to organizers Of endurance events throughout the country." Leslie Baer, spokesperson for the Conservancy called the lawsuit "without merit" and the Conser- vancy was looking forward to im- plementing the new Catalina Island Marathon and the Catalina Ha!f Marathon under Spectrum Sports' management. Next week, the Islander will take a look at the history of endurance runs on the Islan d , where they came from, and where they are going. helicopter, dubbed "Marine One," is now on exhibit at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda California. "Several people got out of the main helicopter including the pres- ident, his daughter Tricia, and his close personal friend and advisor Charles 'Bebe' Rebozo." Cowell laughed when he first ran afoul of the Secret Service. "The president said to his Secret Service agent, Mr. Cowell will ride down to Avalon with me in my car (a Sheriff's vehicle)," he said: "The agent said, 'Oh, no he won't,' and put me in another car." The presidential entourage re- convened at the comer of Cata- lina Street and Crescent Avenue in front of the Green Pier. "There were a lot of visitors from Yorba Linda who seemed to be personal friends," Cowell said.. "There was an exchange of ideas and topics about Catalina that went on for about an hour and a half." In the meantime, the two he- licopters were flown to Pebbly Beach where Nixon held another impromptu meet and greet with Island residents and visitors that lasted another two hours before returning to the mainland. "I took a peek inside the one of the helicopters," Cowell said. "On each seat was a pack of cigarettes and apackage of Wrigley gum." The first president-to become associated with Catalina was The- odore Roosevelt who never made it to the Island. He was a friend of Charles Frederick Holder who co-founded the Tuna Club and was made an honorary member as a re- sult of his early wildlife conserva- tion efforts. Ex-president Calvin Coolidge and his successor Herbert Hoover were both guests of William Wrig- ley Jr. at his home on Mt. Ada. The only Democratic presi- dent to visit the Island was Harry S. Truman who made a short trip to Two Harbors on April 2, 1944, during World War II to be updated on region security by Coast Guard officials. Because it was late in the day, he was returned to the main- land in a Coast Guard fast rescue boat at speeds up to 30 knots. In a letter to his wife, Bess, published in 1984's "Letters Home from Harry Truman," he wrote: "It was quite a trip. "I was supposed to go to dinner with Hovard Hughes but put him off and went to bed." A president who was on his way to Avalon for a stay with the Wrigley family was Warren G. Harding--he never made it. In 1923, Harding was on a demanding railroad trip down through Alaska, Canada and the West Coast. His health was de- clining all the way. He died in San Francisco on Aug. 2, just days be- fore he was to board the steamship to Catalina for a much deserved respite with his friend Wrigley. Although it was reported that the president was in poor health, a crowd of between three or four thousand people gathered at the Greek Amphitheatre above Cres- cent Street where Harding was scheduled to make his appearance. They were celebrating, happy that earlier reports were that Harding was feeling better. The celebration ended abruptly with the radio flash that the president had died. In his book "Life and Times of Warren G. Harding: Our After-War President," author Joe Mitchell Chapple wrote: "...the first memo- rial service for Warren G. Harding was held within the hour of his death, at the exact time and place where a welcome from the people of Avalon had been planned." Bill White, in his book, "Santa Catalina: Its Magic, People and History," wrote that the evening ended with the band playing "Nearer My God to Thee," fol- lowed by "America." ! %!! Photos clockwise from top: Harvey Cowell escorts Julie and President Richard Nixon as they amve in Avalon. Also seen here are Theodore Roosvelt and Warren G. Harding.. Family Owned Since 1879 Tbe Oldest Carpet Company in California' Carpet Vinyl Ceramic Wood Laminate Shutters t Blinds We are the oldest carpet company in CaLifornia and have owned a home in AvaLon for over 130 years (1880). CaLL 4-562-430-7501 Mon.-Fri. 9 am-4 pm and make an appointment with Stan, at our Long Beach showroom. Bring with you a diagram, with measurements in feet, for areas to be done. We wiL[ figure the yardage. We make aLL arrangements for shipping to AvaLon and from the barge to your job. 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