Early Catalina Island
The Buffalo Of Catalina
In December 1924, 14 buffalo were turned loose on Catalina island for use in filming the motion picture, "The Vanishing American," early the following spring. After the picture was completed, it was agreed that the buffalo could remain on Catalina and they were again turned loose to live off the land.
In October 1927, one of the buffaloes was shot at Little Harbor, and police officers questioned two boats of suspects, but were unable to link them with the shooting. It was also reported that four other buffalo had been killed the previous month, but apparently that report was never verified. During the following seven years, however, there were no further reports of killings and by 1934 eight of the original buffalo, plus eleven others that were born on Catalina, still roamed the Island. In the fall of 1934, nine buffalo were imported to augment the herd of 19, bringing the island population to 28.
The buffalo continued to thrive and multiply, and by 1969 it was estimated that there were approximately 400 buffalo on Catalina Island. Then, in December of that year, because it was felt there had been too much in-breeding and new blood would improve the herd, 15 bull calves, approximately eight months old, were brought to Catalina from Gillette, Wyoming. At that time a program was begun of culling the herd each year and periodically introducing new bulls.
The buffalo program on Catalina is managed by the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of Catalina Island. The Conservancy's objective regarding the buffalo is to maintain a healthy herd of these animals in balance with the island's natural resources so that visitors to Catalina can see and enjoy them roaming free and thriving in a natural environment.
THE PAGE ORGAN
News of the arrival of the Casino organ was reported in the local newspaper in April of 1929. Installation involved placing 16 ranks of pipes (with 7685 pipes per rank) in ceiling lofts on either side of the proscenium arch and covering them with grillwork. The pipes are made of lead, tin, zinc and wood and were manufactured in Germany. The organ itself is made of wood and is above standard size. When all was completed (at a reported cost of $40,000) the organist had at his disposal a highly unified, four-manual keydesk with a bank of three curved stop rails and a complete range of sound effects
The Casino organ was used for movie accompaniment until sound was firmly established, but it is best remembered for the concerts given before films or during the afternoons. Leonard H. Clark was the first organist for the theater. Mrs. Mary Oswald was organist in 1933 and 1934. Sherwood Mertz, featured as "The Singing Organist," played during the 1935-1937 seasons. Miss Sybil Thomas was the Casino organist during 1938 and 1939. After World War II, free afternoon concerts were resumed from 1947 to 1950, with organist Gill Evans at the console.
Refurbishment of the organ was done by Building Superintendent Dale Fisenhut in 1958 and, without his love for this instrument, the organ would not, exist today.
In the Spring of 1979 The Los Angeles Chapter of the American Theater Organ Society, and six dedicated men spent many days and nights replacing leather and felt parts, repairing electrical connections, and otherwise refurbishing the instrument for the 50th Anniversary of the Casino.