Catalina Island

The Avalon Chimes Tower


Catalina Island Chimes Tower
By Mike Burgess,

My ego may be exerting itself here if I tell you I played the Great Scottish Highland Bagpipes in a band for many years. The band was called the Anderson Highlanders, from, can you believe it, the good old Gaelic town O’Torrance, California. We were a bunch of adult, adults who started playing far to late in life to become more than mediocre musicians, but we had a lot of fun.

Several times, we paraded through Avalon in our swaying plaid kilts and even performed at the Casino Ballroom. I can’t speak for other members of the band, but for myself what I wore beneath my Kilt shall forever remain a secret. There are, however, a few Blue Ribbon tales to share after a dram or two of Scotch whiskey.

The topic sprang to life as I Googled the history of our tubular chimes the other day. It turned out, there was enough information to keep me at it for several hours. Lest you wonder where the heck is Mikie going with this, please don’t despair. There are some striking similarities between these uniquely different instruments. The most apparent likeness is their hollow, tubular construction. When something strikes a tubular chime, vibrations make a musical tone much like the drone sticking out of the bagpipe do. Some people are dubious that the bagpipe sounds qualify as music. It’s an acquired sound; not everyone’s Cup of Tea!

Here are a few facts I gleaned from Googling tubular chimes. Our Avalon Chimes were produced by Deagan Tower Chime in Chicago. On a web site, I discovered a list of 41 bell systems from Deagan in California.Topping the list was Avalon, naming the Santa Catalina Island Company as owner and installation date of 1926.

The man who erected our chimes was Charles J. Lustig who, along with ours, also installed 82 other similar chime-bell systems between 1920 and 1930. Lustig was a pro! Avalon’s chimes are capable of 20 bell tones and is listed as operable.

Only a handful of bell-systems predate ours by just two years, installed between 1924 and 1925. The youngest followed the others until 1944, and kid on the block went up in 1947. Closest to Avalon, were two Long Beach chimes, both built in 1926 and both are now gone. More than 50 percent of bell systems were associated with churches from as far north as San Francisco and Oakland, south to Los Angeles. No Deagan bell towers are listed in San Diego, although other bell producers existed.

Avalon Tower Chimes are shown to be among the most versatile (20 tones) with only three systems having more bell tones (25 and 32 tones) they once could generate.

I’m going “ALL IN” betting that with your help, The Chimes of Avalon will outlast all the rest. Some people have asked how to make donations to help restore Avalon’s Chimes Tower: Checks may be made payable to, “The Catalina Chimes Tower Foundation,” and mailed to P.O. Box 677, Avalon CA 90704-0677