The bright red William S. Hart youth baseball jacket stood out in the sea of tourists filing off the Princess Cruises ship just before summer tourism picked up at the Port Chilkoot Dock in Haines, Alaska. Former Santa Clarita Valley resident Michael Marks, who now lives in Haines, just had to say hello.
In what he calls an “SCV sighting,” Marks acted fast and darted down the dock from his post at the tourist assistance office to introduce himself.
“I said, ‘I have to talk to this guy right now,’” Marks told The Signal in a phone call from Alaska when relating the story.
Marks, 69 years old and originally from New York, came to the Santa Clarita Valley in 1974 to attend California Institute of the Arts. He got his master’s degree there and made Newhall his home for about the next 30 years, eventually settling into a job with the city of Santa Clarita as the arts and events supervisor, a position he held for 18 years.
Before that, Marks provided artwork for Sesame Street Magazine and other children’s publications. He’d produce his illustrations from his Santa Clarita studio and send them to these magazines in New York City. He did that for about 10 years.
Marks said he loved living here.
“I have extremely fond memories of living in Santa Clarita, going to CalArts, working for the city, helping improve the quality of life in our community,” he added. “It was an extremely positive experience.”
While living in the SCV, though, to beat the heat during the summertime, he said he and his wife, who was a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher with summers off, would often vacation in Alaska. When Marks retired in 2008, he recalled Alaska’s splendor from those trips. In particular, he remembered the small town of Haines. He and his wife had made friends with tour guides there. Those friends pushed for them to make the move to Alaska.
“If you look up Haines, it’s a beautiful little town on the Lynn Canal, which is the largest fjord in America, and it’s surrounded by water, and we have bears and moose and salmon and eagles,” Marks said. “It’s just a beautiful place.”
As such, Marks and his wife jumped at the chance to move there. It was no surprise, he said, that he got involved in the tourism business there because he’d been doing similar work with the city of Santa Clarita working on festivals, tourism and culture.
“So, I started volunteering at the tourism department,” Marks said. “I was the secretary for the tourism board for a couple of years and then I just decided, ‘Oh, the best way I can help my town is to meet the visitors and inform the visitors of what they could do here in Haines.’”
Marks’ job, he said, is to meet people from all over the world and ask them where they’re from.
With this gentleman, he added, he didn’t have to inquire. The bright red Hart jacket let him know this was one of his people. Marks said the jacket with the giant H-A-R-T letters on it was as identifiable as the American flag.
And while Marks was able to introduce himself, get the gentlemen’s first name — his is also Michael — learn that Michael volunteered for Hart youth baseball in some capacity, and even manage to take a picture with him, he did not have the chance to get anything more than that, as Michael had a tour to catch immediately.
“I felt so dumb not getting his last name,” Marks said. “And to tell you the truth, I ran around town afterwards, searching for him, but I couldn’t track him down.”
Marks said he’d even asked his co-workers to get the guy’s last name if they saw him, and he described the Hart jacket as a way to identify him. A representative of William S. Hart Pony Baseball and Softball, reached via email by Marks and The Signal, was unable to identify the man in the photo.
“We never found him again, unfortunately,” Marks told The Signal. “He might’ve taken his jacket off.”
Marks is at least convinced that the world is much smaller than he thought.