HARRISON, Edgar Mercer

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Edgar M. Harrison (1886-1926)
Edgar M. Harrison (1886-1926)

HARRISON, Edgar Mercer “Ed” (1886-1926), born in Ireland, he left Dublin at age 17. In 1909 he arrived in Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, and the following year, 1910, he married his wife, Florence L. Bates (1886-1976). Harrison became a professional diver for the glass-bottom boats. He dove for abalone shells and sea urchins and other marine life requested by enthusiastic observers. At Lovers Cove he trained a school of sea bass and several would swim to him and take food from his hands while he was under water. His record dives were well known. In 1916 he established a new diving record while working for the Meteor Boat Company. In 1924 Harrison became Constable of Avalon. He died unexpectedly two years later, in 1926, after performing a number of dives in search of the missing Aimee Semple McPherson off the mainland at Venice, California. The Harrisons are buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles.

The Harrisons had two children:

  • Edgar M. Jr. (1912-1992)
  • Lois [Turner] (1914-1977)

After attending local Avalon schools, Eddie Jr. became a well-known local captain. He began his career with sight-seeing boats in 1927, and retired as captain of the popular vessel, Phoenix. His son, Gregory Harrison (b. 1950) is an actor.

In the News~

October 17, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “Ed Harrison, a diver for the Meteor Boat Company, has established a local record for time diving. At a depth of 58 feet Harrison remained under water for 3 minutes and 48 seconds. Winter and summer he dives for abalone shells in the marine gardens and under the glass-bottomed powerboats. He weighs 164 pounds. Born in Dublin, Ireland, Mr. Harrison came to California in 1908…”

November 28, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “Mr. and Mrs. E. M. Harrison and family leave Wednesday for the mainland, to spend the rest of the winter there.”

January 16, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “Mr. E. Harrison returned home Monday.”

July 24, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Avalon young men mentioned in the United States Army Draft for District No. 4 are Everett Adargo, Marion Vuich, Lucas Moricich, Tony Moricich, Ed M. Harrison, Scotty Brown, J. Garcia, L. P. Gunther and C. M. Giddings.”

September 4, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Ed Harrison, one of the capable divers employed on the glass bottom boats of the Meteor Boat Company has recently had some net postal cards printed at the Islander office. One side of the card is a photograph of the diver, in costume, while the other side contains the following interesting information…”

August 20, 1924 [TI/Avalon]: “Yes — some of the best divers known in American waters, who dive down deep into the clear water in full view of the spectators who are looking through the glass bottoms of the several boats.” They are clad only in ordinary bathing suits, as there are no dangerous fish in California waters. Probably the peer of the present force of divers is E. M. Harrison, who has a record of fifty-eight feet in depth and a stay beneath the water of three minutes and forty-eight seconds. Try to hold your breath for a minute — then you can better understand what his record means. Other divers from the power boats of the Wilmington Transportation Company are Everett Adargo, Oscar Griffith, Francis McGrath and Harold (Whitie) Packman.”

1926: “Constable Edgar M. Harrison, aged 38, passed away Saturday, May 29, at the California Hospital after a sudden illness commencing last Tuesday. The cause of his death was peritonitis, occurring as a late result of appendicitis. On Friday Dr. R. V. Baker was called to Constable Harrison and early Saturday morning, the officer was rushed to the mainland on board the speed boat Miss Catalina. The deceased is survived by his widow and two children, Edgar and Lois… On Monday, before his illness which commenced Tuesday, he spent a greater portion of the day diving from a rowboat under the Lick Pier at Venice, searching for the body of Mrs. Aimee Semple McPherson. Mr. Harrison returned to Avalon Tuesday…”

January 26, 1939 [TI/Avalon]: “The late Edgar M. Harrison was born in Dublin, Ireland in the year 1886. He was the oldest son of Chas. Harrison and heir to his business of marble and granite monument cutting and inscribing. He attended private school in Wales. As a boy of 17 he formed a desire to see America, which brought on a distaste for school. While on a visit to London he was lucky and won a considerable sum at the Derby, and impulsively boarded a ship for Montreal. For several years he traveled about Quebec, Canada, working as a farm hand, trapper, surveyor's helper, assayer of metal in the mines of Cobalt, and finally served for a time as Lance-Corporal in the King's Army, Regiment of the 48th Highlanders. In 1908 he visited New York in search of bright lights, on the flip of a coin he determined to come to California, rather than return to Dublin and patch things up with his father. After a short sojourn in Los Angeles, he came to Avalon in the company of Ray Moran. He, like so many other people, was charmed by the place, so that it became his home until his death. Eddie, as he was called by everyone, took to the water like a seal and soon was one of the "school" of expert coin divers who met every incoming, and attended all outgoing steamers. In due time he started diving as "exhibition diver" for the original glass bottom boats, later becoming a champion deep-sea diver with a record of 3 minutes and 48 seconds under water, and a depth record of 58 feet. During the summer of 1910 he met the charming Florence Lois Bates, and they were married in December of that year. Two children were born to them: Edgar Jr., in November, 1912; and Lois Eileen, in February, 1914. For years he was Constable of Avalon Township. He was a member of the B.P.O.E.'s; the order of Masons, and a Catalina "Bill." Sadness came to the citizens of Avalon when on May 29, 1926, death came to one everybody loved as a friend and a man. His death was due to peritonitis resulting from a ruptured appendix.”