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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
May 25, 2012     The Catalina Islander
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May 25, 2012

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Lee Writer, visitor to. Avalon passes away Lee Writer, of Palm Desert, passed away peacefully on May 19th, 2012 at the age of 90. He was born in Monrovia, on March 2, 1922, He served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 until 1946 as a skipper on an air sea rescue vessel, He graduated from USC and became an executive with Sears, and even- tually a manager of the Pomona, E1 Monte and Laguna Hills stores. He spent his adult life serv- ing in the communities where he lived. He served as president of the Board. of Education in E1 Mon- te. He was an active member of Rotary in Laguna Hills and served as their president. He was also on the board and raised funds for South Coast Com- munity Hospital of Laguna Beach. He was an involved member of the E1 Monte and Laguna Beach Methodist church teaching Sun- day school, singing and serving on finance committees. In his retirement years he was active in The Shores Men's Club in Monarch Beach. When he moved to Palm Desert he served on the council at Segovia and enjoyed at- tending Desert Chapel. He will truly be missed by Harriet, his wife of 66 years, his daughter, Linda (Gary) Skinner of Palm Springs, his son Steve (Carol) Writer of Boise, his son, i . , ,i I - Lee Writer Tom (Deb) Writer of Houston, 9 grandchildren and 10 great-grand- children. He and his wife enjoyed many" years traveling and spending time on Catalina Island with their fam- ily. Lee spoke recently of return- ing to his beloved island where he welcomed friends and family in the summers for almost his entire life. He was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and great- grandfather. As a family our loss i softened by the knowledge that he went home to his Savior. A graveside service will be held at Riverside National Cemetery in June. In lieu of flowers please make a donation to Desert Chapel, Desert Chapel Christian School or a charity of your choice. Letter to the editor Response to letter The letter sent from Chamber of Commerce to The Lobster Trap regarding recent changes in rules regarding the Taste Around is a great example of what is wrong with this country. Instead of encouraging our individual best we are asked to supply mediocrity in the name of fairness. Robert Sherrill Avalon Why are oeoole in Avalon suddenly eettine all chained Three reasons to get exdted: LSV 2Five RXV Exceed -25MPH RXV Golf Car -AC Drive System -4 wheel -AC Drive System with a hydraulic -Top speed: supplemental 5 braking system 20MPH horsepower -AC Drive -2 wheel generator that system induction motor can extend range -Street legal in service brake up to I50 miles on 48 states -Electro magnetic a single charge park brake Don't be o nerd. It's time to breoksScom the herd." We sire ply uarantee that these vehides will go farther and faster, climb hills more aggressively, brake and handle better than any other electric vehicle sold in town. $250 discount from list price to the first five buyers who purchase one of these vehides and brino in this od )Blo-:,>lqtlii , 10-sz0-zzga A Textron Company 210 MeZtopofis Av 't'x |Ju up the ree from Vom) Not ready for electric? We also offer several stylish models of gasoline vehidesl!! No credit? Credit stinks, but you have a steady job? We have financing options for most peop|e! 310.510.0250 310.510.8957fx *Average speed from 5 corners up Country Club Drive to Canyon Hotel is 18MPH. Can your electric golf car do that? Watson From page 1 great cities) is no different. It was on Nov. 29, 1915 that we made our contribution to the world's "great fires" list when a blaze got started in the Rose Hotel located about where the Hotel Villa Portofino is now and proceeded to destroy nearly 1/3 of the town, including the palatial Hotel Metropole. The media of the day and the common sentiment over the decades since has concluded that the fire began as a simple kitchen fire in a car6 located in, or near, the Rose Hotel. But a voice from the past, bare- ly audible on an old oral history others. These tapes are now the proper- ty of the Catalina Island Museum. One of Chuck's interviews, con- ducted in 1978, was with Johnny Wifidle and included a lengthy segment on Mr. Windle's experi- ences in the 1915 fire. At 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 29, young Johnny was abruptly awakened by the town constable, AI Wiggs. "Fire ! Fire!" yelled Wiggs. Johnny ran into the street in the early morning darkness and beheld his town in flames. "It looked like the whole town was going," said Windle in the interview. "That's exactly how it looked to every- body. "You look to where the cassette tape from the 1970s, has (Cbrillo) Mole is now," he said perhaps revealed a ter- "and it was nothing but rible secret behind the women and children try- 1915 fire; the kind of ing to get away from the secret of which night- fire." mares are made. That Citizens gathered voice belonged to none :  their belongings in push other than JohnnY carts and bed sheets Windle, one of Avalon s and filed zombie-like most respected founding !/ towards the safety of the citizens. Jim Watson east side of town. The son of Judge Columnist The windows in the Ernest Windle, who in between hearing cases at the bench found time to establish and operate the Catalina Islander newspaper, Johnny Windle was as close to a town patriarch as a town can have. He was a plain-speaking, hard- working individual who held various positions of importance in Catalina history and. directly participated in many of Avalon's most momentous events. To those who knew him, his word and his reputation on Catalina Island was sterling. During the 1970s, Catalina Islander Chuck Liddell tirelessly documented early Avalon history with dozens of oral history inter- views with early residents, from Jessie McClanahan to Squirrel D'Arcy to Jimmy Trout and many stately Hotel Metropole exploded in the heat and the Moricich family pushed their" piano out of the house and straight up Stage Coach Road. "People were doings things they would never be able to do if everything was all right" said Windle. But it is after Windle finishes his general narrative of the fire that things in the interview really get interesting. "OK" said interviewer Chuck Liddell on the tape. "Is that the end of the fire story then?" There is a pause. "Well, no" answered Windle, "There's one more item ... " Windle then goes on to describe how he was. 'told by "Tinch" Moricich and Squirrel D'Arcy. about how, in the midst of the maelstrom, they had to rescue the Since 1929 CALL TODAY AND - LET DEWEY PEST CONTROL TAKE CARE OF YOUR PEST CONTROL NEEDS'! 310.328.0553 mother-in-law of the Owner of the Hotel Rose, who had evidently been INTENTIONALLY locked in the attic. Moricich, who would later become town constable, had to bust open a padlock and force a trap door open to free the woman, injuring his shoulder in the pro- cess. Windle then goes on to say how the woman's son-in-law had, only days before the fire, curiously begun to move his belongings out of the hotel. "Let me get this straight then," asked Chuck bluntly in the inter- view, "We're assuming (the son- in-law) locked the mother-in-law in there to do away with her." "You can assttme what you want" said Johnny. Heavy stuff. Stuff that gets a lot heavier when you also consider that only four hours before the fire began, another mysterious fire had been set on the other end of town at 200 Eucalyptus St. This previ- ous fire had drawn all of Avalon's volunteer fire department and their equipment to the other side of town. This equipment was evidently not put back in order before the main fire broke out at the Rose. In fact, the Los Angeles Times story even mentions that efforts to fight the Rose Hotel fire were greatly hampered by the fact that "most of the hose and firefighting gear was still up at Eucalyptus." Was Avalon's Great Fire of 1915 intentionally set by the owner of the Rose Hotel? If so, was it done for insurance purposes or---chillingly--to "do away" with an inconvenient moth- er-in-law? Was the Eucalyptus fire set intentionally as a diver- sion, knowing the volunteer fire- fighters would be ill-prepared and perhaps too beat to fight a second, bigger fire in town? (The L.A. District Attorney reportedly came out to imestigate the story, but without result). As is often the case with these little unpolished gems of histo- ry that are unearthed, all living memory and any semblance of documentation is noW and for- ever gone, so we'll probably never know the truth. In the words of the legendary Johnny Windle, "you can assume what you wa.nt." Do you have a weird story about Catalina? Send it to us at or mail it to Mysterious Island, c/o Catalina Islander, PC) Box 428, Avalon, CA 90704. &BLAIR i Friday, May 25, 2012. THE CATALINA ISLANDER