Meet Your Neighbors: Kingman couple recall commercial fishing adventures

Adventure might be one good word to describe the experiences shared during 57 years of marriage by Claire and Avonelle Stevens.

Commercial fishing was Claire's vocation until retiring in 1980.

He also skippered yachts in the off-season.

The couple owned two fishing vessels at one time or another.

They operated "Buddy," a 34-foot fishing boat, during 1948-63, catching swordfish and albacore in the Pacific Ocean.

"We sold our catch to fish markets and to The Crab Cooker restaurant in Newport Beach for four years," Claire said.

They later owned the "General Rose" during 1971-80, Claire said.

They caught lobster in the Caribbean Sea from the 72-foot converted shrimper, he said.

While living in Newport Beach in 1954 the "Buddy" became the setting for a movie originally entitled "The Big Rainbow" but which was renamed "Underwater," Avonelle said.

The movie was about deep sea divers pursuing sunken treasure in the Caribbean and starred Gilbert Roland, Jane Russell and Richard Egan.

"Jane Russell was absolutely gorgeous and such a nice person," Avonelle said.

Filming of sequences involving the "Buddy" took about two months in Newport Harbor and at Catalina Island, Claire said.

It was shot during the off-season from fishing and they were paid better than what they might have caught at sea, he said.

But how was the "Buddy" selected as the backdrop for the movie?

"I had a friend who called us and often pulled jokes on us," Claire said.

"One day I get a call from a man saying his name is Benton Roberts and he is an executive with RKO studios.

"He said our boat was chosen for their movie, but I just hung up on him.

That afternoon we went by the Balboa Bay Club and saw several RKO vehicles."

"A security guard stopped me and said Benton Roberts was looking for me and that's when I realized the phone call was no joke," he said.

Claire said a RKO studio employee who hung around the docks in his spare time had seen his boat as he brought his catch to market one day and told Roberts it would be ideal for a backdrop in their picture.

His yachting expertise led to a trip to Japan for the Stevenes in 1963, Claire said.

They went to Japan for three months so Claire could teach a Japanese man how to skipper the "Happy Pappy." He said Jules Berman, for whom he had skippered the 54-foot yacht, sold it to actress Shirley MacLaine.

"The yacht was deck-loaded in San Pedro aboard a Greek freighter, which went to San Francisco to take on a cargo of paper and grain," Claire said.

"We sailed non-stop from San Francisco to Yokohama in 19 days, arriving there on New Year's Eve 1963."

Claire was born and raised in Los Angeles.

Avonelle was born in Centerville, Iowa and grew up in Unionville, Mo.

The couple has a home in St.

Petersburg, Fla.

from which they can more readily visit a son living in Orlando.

They have owned a home in Kingman, the community in which they have a daughter, since 1992.

Traveling the country in their motor home is their main interest today, Avonelle said.

Neighbors is a feature appearing each Monday in the Kingman Daily Miner.

If you have an interesting story you'd like to share, contact Terry Organ at 753-6397 ext.