Catalina Island

Catalina Island’s Happy Chimes The Music Maker Is Jani Eisenhut

Jani Eisenhut
Residents and visitors alike appreciate the melodic tones of the Wrigley Chimes that toll on the quarter hour daily from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  But have you noticed that there’s music coming from the hills this Advent Season?  That’s thanks to Jani Eisenhut, who has been playing Christmas songs on the keyboard in the chimes tower regularly since 1967.

Jani and her siblings were all born on the island. Her parents Dale and Donna Eisenhut raised their three daughters Alice, Lynn and Jani Sue, the youngest (and “best” she says) here after moving to Avalon in 1947. Dale Eisenhut was an electrical engineer for the Santa Catalina Island Company. Donna Eisenhut was the town librarian.

The Catalina Chimes were a gift to the people of Avalon from Mrs. Ada Wrigley in 1925 and they resonate from atop the hill overlooking the harbor and the Casino building.

Dale’s work responsibilities provided the opportunity for the Eisenhut family to actually live in the Casino building, which Jani remembers fondly. She shares a love of the town and the interior with her family. She also works for the Island Company (for many years she spent her time as a tour bus driver telling marvelous stories about the history of Catalina and what it’s like to grow up here.)

Jani plays her music on a simple keyboard purchased originally from the J.C. Deagan Company of Chicago. The timely tones ring out with the lyrical Westminster Chimes tune (named for the clock tower that is London’s Big Ben). She plays one note at a time for the “sheer love of it.”  She is known for special music at Easter, graduation and other special occasions.

As a gift to the town and the people that she loves, Jani has committed to play her beautiful melodies every day that she can until Christmas. So listen for the caroling chimes. It is a delight and a legacy for Avalon’s generations of visitors and those who are lucky enough to call the island “Home for the Holidays.”

A Catalina Chimes Tower Foundation is seeking to restore the beloved landmark. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to PO Box 677 Avalon, CA 90704. Please, make checks payable to Catalina Chimes Tower Foundation.

 Photo and story credit: Judy Hibbs