PARKER, Charles Browning

From Islapedia
Taxidermist, C. B. Parker, Santa Catalina Island
Taxidermist, C. B. Parker and his wife, Emily,
Santa Catalina Island, 1908
[original in SCIF archives]
Emily Parker with a 2,200 pound sunfish taken
by Zane Grey, Santa Catalina Island, 1926

PARKER, Charles Browning (1866-1924), was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the youngest of 14 children. He came to Los Angeles when he was 19 years of age. Charley was originally sent to Santa Catalina Island during the Banning era by the Smithsonian Institution to gather information and research island wildlife. One day a fisherman asked him if there was a way to mount his catch. Parker pondered this request and took the challenge. He did mount that fish—and many thousands more that followed, for he had found his trade.

In 1890 Charley married Emily Ellen [McGuire] Lindskow (1870-1946) of San Pedro, and together they established their well-known taxidermy shop on the island. In 1904 the Banning Company commissioned Charley to put together an 18-specimen exhibit for the St. Louis World’s Fair that embraced everything pertaining to Santa Catalina Island. In his work as a taxidermist he preserved and mounted hundreds of birds, goat heads and Catalina game fish. He counted as his customers most of the members of the Tuna Club and those who came to the island to hunt game. Specimens he preserved are found in many large museums in the United States, and also in many foreign countries. The Parkers were island residents for 33 years. Their home and office were located in Parker Court between Metropole and Sumner avenues. Although they had no children of their own, is was said Charley knew every child in Avalon. The Parkers were the originators of the Catalina Community Christmas Tree, and Charley was the first Santa Claus. The Parkers also started the first library on the island. In his labor as a taxidermist he had worked out many special formulas which he passed on to his wife, who assisted him with the preservation of the specimens.

Emily Parker took over the business when her husband died at the relatively young age of 57 on July 4, 1924. Avalon’s taxidermist, Charley Parker, is buried in the Avalon Cemetery.

Fish mounted by the Parkers continue decorate the Tuna Club. Historic preservation taxidermy methods retained the original fish skin, unlike today's methods.

Emily Parker preserving fish at Avalon.
Emily Parker preserving fish at Avalon.

In the News~

July 30, 1890 [LAH]: “Licensed to wed. Charles B. Parker, 21, of Indiana, and Emily E. Lindscow, 19, of Alaska, both of San Pedro.”

September 24, 1896 [LAH]: “Avalon, Sept. 23,— The yacht Nellie, of fifty tons, has returned from a cruise of San Clemente Island with the following party: Mr. Swanfeldt and family, Charles Parker and Mr. A. B. Chappell. Captain Frank Whittley, the owner, was in command. Fishing and hunting was enjoyed.”

January 12, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. W. M. Winkler, a Los Angeles curio dealer, is at Avalon for a rest, a guest of Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Parker.”

March 1, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. C. B. Parker, the island taxidermist, made another shipment of Catalina Island fish to be exhibited at the St. Louis Fair today. This shipment is for a private exhibition to be made by the Banning Company, and besides fish, will embrace everything pertaining to the island. There were eighteen specimens in the consignment.”

March 6, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Unique and special interest among Southern California features at The Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis will be the display of fishes. The accompanying picture will convey the idea of the extent and attractiveness of this exhibit. It shows some of the denizens of the Santa Catalina Island waters in a collection mounted by C. B. Parker of Avalon for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and soon to be forwarded to the Missouri metropolis.”

March 22, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. C. B. Parker, the island taxidermist who is under contract to go to St. Louis with the Chamber of Commerce exhibit, is sick in Los Angeles. His wife went there yesterday.”

September 23, 1904 [SBMP]: “Catalina Party on Santa Cruz. Campers find Channel Islands far superior to the more southern resort. A party of prominent people from Catalina are making a three weeks' tour of the Channel Islands, and have established a most complete camp at Quava [Cueva] Valdez bay on Santa Cruz Island, where they have been for over a week. The party left Avalon on the 14th of September in the gasoline sloop Avalon, which carried full camp equipment and supplies for the trip besides all the members of the expedition. They sailed immediately to Santa Cruz Island and established their camp there, from which they make side-trips to other parts of the island and fishing excursions out into the channel. Their camp is a most picturesque one, being composed of nine tents placed on the beach under the protection of the overhanging cliffs, and near where a fresh water spring bubbles out of the rocks. A large tent in the center is reserved for pleasure-making and for a dining room. They have employed an experienced cook, Mr. Pierce, who formerly worked in that capacity at the Potter Hotel, and have all their meals served in the big tent. The other tents are appropriately decorated with humorous names, such as "hens' Roost," "Orphans' Home", "Butt Inn", "Parker's Inn", etc. They have an abundance of small row boats in which excursions are made into many caves that have been washed out by the waves on the shores of the island. Fishing parties returning from the island report that the Catalina people are most enthusiastic about the splendid fishing that exists about the island, saying that it is far superior to even their own far-famed Avalon for fishing purposes. They can catch a great variety of fish within a stones throw of their camp. The Avalon party consists of Charles Parker and wife, who organized the party; Captain Mathewson and wife, Mrs. Pratt, Chris Ringson, George Aull, Peter Reyes, Edward Edmondson, John Johnson, and the Misses Josephine Foust, Emma Foust, Lena Kelly, Lena Nelson, Elizabeth Hudson, Cora Geruer and others. They expect to explore Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands before returning, and will visit Santa Barbara for a few days, arriving here next Monday.”

April 17, [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. C. B. Parker, who has been quite ill for a month, returned today with Mrs. Parker from Murietta Springs in much improved health.”

February 6, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “The pet turtle, which has been so long an occupant of the local aquarium, has passed to the turtle beyond. Many years ago (the exact date has been forgotten) Captain V. Moricich, while hauling a seine at Johnson’s, caught the turtle. It was placed in the aquarium, and since the Avalon fire has practically been the only occupant of the building. For many years visitors fed the turtle as it rolled about lazily in the glass tank. Every two weeks the water was drained off, and the keeper gave it a bath — scrubbing off the moss and the parasites that gathered on its huge shell. The chelonian knew its keeper and never molested him while feeding it or cleaning out the tank. Professor C. B. Parker is mounting the big fellow.”

April 17, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “C. B. Parker is mounting several of the yellowtail that were landed here during the past week.”

April 25, 1922 [TI/Avalon]: “C. B. Parker has installed a new set of wireless receiving equipment.”

January 16, 1924 [TI/Avalon]: “C. B Parker, Taxidermist. Careful mounting of Catalina fish a specialty.”

July 5, 1924 [SD Evening Tribune]: “Avalon, Santa Catalina Island—Charles B. Parker, said to have been internationally known as a taxidermist, died here yesterday. Parker came to Catalina Island years ago as a representative of the Smithsonian Institute of Washington, D. C., and during his residence here he mounted more than 1000 game fish.”

July 9, 1924 [TI/Avalon]: “Funeral services for the late Charles Browning Parker, aged 57, who died Friday, July 4th, were held Sunday afternoon from the Congregational Church and at the Avalon Cemetery. The local lodge of Elks conducted the ceremony, assisted by Rev. LaRue C. Watson, pastor of the Congregational Church. During the services at the church, State Senator Charles E. Lyons made an impressive address touching upon the influential life of Mr. Parker. So many floral tributes were sent by local friends and friends from the mainland that a special conveyance was necessary to carry the tributes to the cemetery. Mr. Parker leaves a wife, two brothers and one sister to mourn his death. Born in Indianapolis in 1866, Charley Parker came to Los Angeles when he was 19 years of age. He was the youngest of 14 children. At the age of 21 he was married to Miss Emily Linskow [sic] of San Pedro, and two years after his marriage he arrived at Catalina to represent the Smithsonian Institution at Washington. In his work as a taxidermist he has preserved and mounted hundreds of birds, goat heads and Catalina game fish. Specimens he has preserved are to be found in almost every large museum in the United Stated and also in many foreign countries. But it was because of the simple life he lived that his friends respected and loved him. An Island resident for 33 years, he knew every child in Avalon. Philanthropic to a degree that cost him hundreds of dollars, one of his mottos was: ‘We are only children once. Make them happy.’ Mr. and Mrs. Parker were the originators of the Catalina Community Christmas Tree, and Charley was the first Santa Claus. Mr. Parker started the first library on the island, and for several years he was a special peace officer in the employ of the Santa Catalina Island Co. under the Banning Brothers regime. In addition to preserving natural history specimens, in the early days he owned a curio store at the corner of Metropole and Crescent avenues. For many years he was in charge of the decorations for the streets of Avalon on Decoration Day, Independence Day and Labor Day celebrations. That his death should have occurred on July 4th, during the celebration, was spoken of by many of his friends who knew of the quiet pride that he had often taken to dress Avalon in its gala attire. With Mr. Parker at the time of his death were Mrs. Parker, Arthur Sutemeier, Carl W. Carson and the writer [Ernest Windle]. Stricken with paralysis Thursday morning while working in his shop preserving a fish, he never regained consciousness. The end came at 5 o’clock Friday. To write of the outstanding incidents of his busy life for the community in which Mr. Parker has lived for the past 33 years, would fill many columns in this paper. He was a was a familiar character in our office and our helpful neighbor. He would not sanction that we mention the many acts of kindness that he has done in the name of charity, liberty, truth, justice and equality. Into his workshop one day appeared a youngster with a broken wagon wheel. Charley was in the midst of the process of skinning a marlin swordfish. ‘Will you fix my wagon, Uncle Charley?’ asked the youngster. ‘If you don’t cry, I will,’ replied the taxidermist putting down his knife and removing his blood-stained gloves. He found the necessary tools, fixed the wagon and sent the youngster away happy. It took him almost an hour. That swordfish and its millionaire angler owner could wait! Of recent years Charley became very much interested in radio, and his ‘set’ was the first one to be constructed on the island. During the world war period, when crystal sets were in use and strict secrecy was maintained regarding the messages sent out from the different wireless stations of the mainland, it was Charley Parker who first discovered that a boat came frequently to Silver Canyon Bay and used the sheep fence, extending from the canyon to the summit, for the purpose of transmitting messages to boats at sea and to boats located in Mexican waters. Only by a very narrow margin did the crew of the strange black boat at Silver Canyon escape detection. That was in 1918. The same pirating boat was recently seized by officials of our Federal department. Mr Parker knew every foot of Catalina Island. In the early days he used to travel from Avalon to Middle Ranch and the Isthmus on the back of a burro. Then he was in search of specimens for the Smithsonian Institution. It was over his radio set that the writer of this article heard the first broadcasted telephone speech of the late President Warren G. Harding. The speech was turned into the circuit at San Pedro radio telephone. From Mr. Parker’s residence in Parker Court an extension cord had been placed at our desk. The announcement of the death of President Harding was picked up by Mr. Parker when it was broadcasted from San Francisco and Avalon residents knew of the president’s death some thirty minutes before messages were sent out from Los Angeles. Although Charley never knew of much of the philosophy that has appeared for the past six years in the paper under the caption ‘Crawfish Charley,’ was but the thoughts that had been expressed from time to time while we had chatted and discussed various problems on fish and fishing… In his labor as a taxidermist he had worked out many special formulas which he passed on to his wife, who assisted him with the preservation of the specimens. Mrs. Parker said Tuesday that she would carry on the business of preserving the smaller varieties of Catalina fishes. The swordfishes were too large for her to handle alone, she said. In the passing of Charles Browning Parker Avalon has lost one of its historical characters. He was loved by all who knew him.”

January 14, 1925 [TI/Avalon]: “Mrs. C. B. Parker, the taxidermist, is spending a few days in Los Angeles on business.”

September 4, 1927 [ST]: “Mrs. Charles Parker, known as the only woman ‘fishdermist,’ was given the task of preserving this huge fish, which was caught off Catalina Island by George Thomas of Beverly Hills. The fish weighed 573 pounds.”

November 23, 1927 [TI/Avalon]: “Mrs. C. B. Parker, taxidermist, is mounting a large stingray, measuring nearly three feet across, which was caught by a local fisherman while fishing on the bottom of the channel in deep water.”

March 8, 1946 [San Pedro News Pilot]: “50-year Avalon resident dies. Mrs. Emily Parker, who more than 70 years ago came to San Pedro as an infant and who for the past 50 years has lived at Avalon on Catalina island, died yesterday in a Los Angeles hospital following a long illness. She was brought here by her widowed mother, the late Mrs. Mary Ellen Lindskow, from her birthplace at Cape Disappointment in Washington, then a territory, and lived in San Pedro until her marriage. Her husband, Charles Browning Parker, was a taxidermist at Avalon and she continued his work after he died several years ago. Funeral services will be at 1 p. m. tomorrow at the Avalon Community church, and burial will be in Avalon cemetery. Mrs. Parker leaves a brother, George Lindskow, and three sisters, Mrs. Susan Hart, Mrs. Carrie Wack and Mrs. Ellen Sullivan, all of San Pedro.”

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