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Only on Catalina

The Catalina Islander of Avalon, California

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Columnist was 'condemned' at birth

Since I became Catalina's "Greeter," having started working for the Catalina Chamber Of Commerce on April 10, 2014, meeting the cruise ships and many cross channel boats, I have answered 39,074 questions.

These are some of the more interesting questions/comments that the visitors to Catalina have made:

"Can we board the boat now for the mainland?" The ticket agent who was asked this responded, "When a boat arrives. If you notice, there are no boats at any of the landings yet."

"Are the glass bottom boats on tracks like the boats at Disneyland?"

"Are the people who live on the Island allowed to eat in the restaurants?"

"Oh, look, they use United States stamps here!"

In one of my few extended conversations with passengers, I told an older woman that I was born on Catalina Island. She asked me what year and I told her 1947. She then said, "No, you weren't!"

"I was born where the present Sheriff's Department, Library, Court House, and Health Department are, on May 24, 1947, 3:55 a.m. My doctor was Lawrence Braslow!"

"NO YOU WEREN'T!" she emphatically repeated!

"Why do you say that?" I asked very bewildered.

"I lived on Catalina Island in 1947 and I don't remember you!!!"

Wow, what a memory she thinks she has. 1947 was 68 years ago!

"Excuse me," I said calmly, "but Mom was pretty protective of me the first couple of months of my life and I really didn't get out much socially. I probably wasn't hanging out with your crowd." She didn't seem convinced!

A history of Catalina Island medicine

With talk of a "new" hospital being planned to replace our present one, I thought that this column could prove timely, entertaining, and educational concerning our medical history in Avalon. Many people, including most Islanders, only think that there was one hospital built before the present one at 100 Falls Canyon Rd. They refer to the Banning Hospital, where I was born, 215 Sumner. That hospital was built in 1923. What they don't know is the first one was built in 1912 and it was on the third floor of the three story building that still exists, 122-126 Sumner, better known as Abe's Liquor Store and The Locker Room building. On the first floor was the first movie/theatrical theatre, Sumner Street Theatre/Stand Theatre, and the second floor were doctors' offices.

The second floor doctors were Drs. Chapman, Baker, and Lanchely, and the one running the hospital was Mrs. Mary E. Thislewhite.

When the Banning Brothers purchased the Island from the Lick Estate in 1892, two homes were built at the 215 Sumner location. One was for Judge Joseph Banning (one of the three brothers), located across the alley from the present Mr. Ning's Chinese Restaurant and the other one, next door, up Sumner, was built for George Patton Sr., and his family from Pasadena, which included the future Gen. George Patton Jr. This was their summer cottage and the father was one of the original members of the Board of Directors of the Santa Catalina Island Co. when it was established in 1894. Young "junior" spent many happy days fishing off Catalina and enjoying the stress free life style of the Island.

When the Island was then purchased by William Wrigley Jr. in 1919, the Bannings and Pattons left the island and, in 1923, both homes were put together to make the hospital. Those of us who were born there between 1923-1958 have the distinction of being "birthed" in the homes of Judge Joseph Banning and General George Patton! That knowledge, and 50 cents can get you a good cup of coffee at Lloyd's.

Years later, Dr. Braslow, who had taken over the hospital soon after World War II and remained on the Island, off and on, until his death in 1996, once in one of our many fascinating conversations divulged to me, "Of course you know, Chuck, you were born in a 'CONDEMNED' building!"

"That's impossible," I responded in shock, "you delivered me in the hospital here!!!"

With a smile of that of a child who had stolen the last cookie in the jar, he explained to me that almost from the start of his career as the doctor at the hospital, the building was old and needed much repair that neither he nor Avalon could afford in those days. Every year a team from Hospital Health Review Department would come over on the steamer, be greeted by Dr. Braslow and his wife, and taken to the facility. After looking it over, they would declare it unsuitable for use and would post a "Condemned" sign on the door. The Braslows would then escort these mainlanders to the steamer, with big smiles, wave "good-bye" to them, and then go back to the hospital, tear the sign down, and continue to conduct medical practice until the next team would come the following year! "This was our only medical facility," Dr. Braslow would explain, "we had no choice! After all, the hospital was already 24 years old when you were born there and the two homes went back another 55 years!"

The hospital was finally torn down in 1958, but the present hospital wasn't built until 1960, which meant that Catalina had no hospital for two years. Those babies that were born during this gap of time were born in the "Clinic," in the front of the building where Dr. Calise now does his dental practice between Sumner and Metropole.

Also, Dr. Brawlow had a very interesting contribution to movie history (see if you can figure out the movie before I get to the end). A movie studio was planning to make an epic in 1939, but one of the major players in the movie had to give birth, and this actress had never been a mother. Dr. Braslow was a young intern working at the Los Angeles County Hospital in the maternity ward and so the studio assigned him to work with this young starlet so that she could observe what "having a baby" was like. Come on, you have to know the name of movie by now! The studio was MGM. The young innocent young starlet was Olivia de Havilland. The movie was "Gone With The Wind." So I guess that those of us who were delivered by Dr. Braslow could "stretch" the point a bit and say that we were delivered by the doctor who was responsible for the "birthing of a baby" in "Gone With The Wind." That earth shaking bit of information, along the same 50 cents, can get you the same good cup of coffee at Lloyd's!



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Original Publication Date: November 6, 2015



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