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The Queen of Catalina

By Gary Thornton
June 21, 2019

Rosie and Earl Cadman in Avalon, Circa 1945

Photo of Rosie and Earl Cadman taken in Avalon, about 1945.

There is actually a “Queen of Catalina” and, on a visit to Avalon, my wife and I had the good fortune to meet her. This last spring, after arriving on the island on a wet evening, we ducked into Coyote Joe’s Bar and Restaurant on Catalina Avenue for dinner. Shortly after placing our orders, three women entered, also seeking a table. There were few diners in the restaurant and the ladies were friendly, so we ended up striking up a conversation. That is when we met Rosie Cadman. With a sense of pride, Rosie’s companions introduced her as the “Queen of Catalina” and Rosie seemed to accept it more as a loving tribute rather than adulation. We had never heard of Rosie, but it reminded us of the time when Chef Oscar Martinez sat to chat with us at breakfast at Disneyland. We were unaware that he was the longest-serving Disneyland employee in the park’s history (60 years). Chef Oscar was as iconic to Disneyland as is Mickey Mouse. On Santa Catalina Island, Rosie holds a similar status and, like Chef Oscar, was very gracious.

Rosie was, at the time we met, 93 years old. She told us that she lived on the island since 1945, when she and her husband Earl moved there shortly after marrying. At the end of the war, Earl was a fisherman with a boat and, because he fished for the U.S. Government, they were allowed to move to the island even though it was still at the time a restricted military zone.

Rosie and Earl first met when she worked at her sister’s restaurant in Santa Monica. “The first time we met, he told me that I was the girl he was going to marry,” she said. Although she didn’t initially share his confidence, he was persistent.

After the couple settled in Avalon, Rosie went to work at a local restaurant while Earl went out fishing. In 1967, the City of Avalon approached the Cadmans about taking over the iconic Fish Market on Green Pleasure Pier (today’s Avalon Seafood & Fish Market). Although Earl wasn’t warm to the idea, Earl’s father urged them not to miss the opportunity. Rosie agreed to run the Fish Market while Earl continued fishing. Earl later joined his wife in the business.

Avalon Seafood and Fish Market, 2019

The Avalon Seafood and Fish Market on Green Pleasure Pier today. Los Angeles Almanac Photo.

The Fish Market was the center of waterfront life in Avalon, for both residents and visitors. It not only served its much-loved fish and chips from a prime location, but worked with the countless fishermen bringing in their prize catches. The market had the only official scale in town and, in Rosie’s memory, they weighed thousands of marlin.

Rosie lost her beloved Earl in 2002, after almost 58 years of marriage. They had run the Fish Market for 35 years and Rosie continued a few more years before selling in 2004. Rosie has never stopped being about her community, continuing to love Avalon as she clearly always has and Avalon loves her in return.

With Rosie that evening, we were also delighted to meet her friends Debra Hunt and Diane Monk, also Avalon residents. Debra is also well-known on the island, having been a teacher to practically every resident who attended Avalon High School over the past several decades. She was a teacher and cheerleading coach at the school for 26 years. Diane, who originally came from Minneapolis, told us of how she came to fall in love with Santa Catalina Island. As impressive and enjoyable as Avalon is, we enjoyed nothing more than our time with these three special ladies - especially the Queen of Catalina.

Debra Hunt, Rosie Cadman, Diane Monk, Avalon

Rosie Cadman flanked by Debra Hunt (L) and Diane Monk (R) in Avalon. Los Angeles Almanac Photo.