Fred Swegles

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After 51 years, San Juan Capistrano’s parade-day pancake breakfast is moving

Hundreds of San Juan Capistrano residents and visitors who arrive early for the 11 a.m. Swallows Day Parade on March 24 will need to be aware the Rotary Club’s traditional pancake breakfast has moved.

Held for 51 years at the Woman’s Club on El Horno Street, the breakfast is moving to what club officials describe as a more convenient location, much closer to downtown – San Juan Elementary School.

Doors will open at 6 a.m. in the school’s multi-purpose room. “A full breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, ham and the trimmings and will be served until 10:30 a.m., 30 minutes before the Swallows Day Parade begins a block away,” the club announced.

San Juan Elementary is at 31642 El Camino Real, directly across from historic Mission San Juan Capistrano. Rotarians will serve breakfasts for a suggested donation of $8 for adults, $4 for children under 10. Proceeds benefit Rotary charities.

“We held the breakfast so long at the Woman’s Club, we are trying to steer 700 somewhat regular breakfast eaters to our new location,” said John Caldwell, Rotary spokesman, via e-mail. “The Woman’s Club is trying to sell its building.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/15/after-51-years-san-juan-capistranos-parade-day-pancake-breakfast-is-moving/

Lots to see during celebrations next week at Mission San Juan Capistrano, maybe some swallows too

The biggest game at Mission San Juan Capistrano on its most celebrated day of the year, Swallows Day, is who will spot a swallow.

You may or may not see one. What you will see is people’s faces craning skyward, hoping to glimpse one or more tiny, speedy birds who often arrive in town on their yearly 6,000-mile migration from Argentina to San Juan Capistrano.

In any case, there’s lots more to see and do at Monday, March 19, St. Joseph’s Day celebration at San Juan’s 242-year-old Spanish mission.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the historic site will offer live music, folkloric dancers, native American stories and dances, ringing of the picturesque mission bells, food vendors and a presentation by swallows expert Dr. Charles Brown.

Fabricated Swallow nests are being used to try to encourage passing swallows to take up residence at Mission San Juan Capistrano, pictured here during a March 19, 2017 celebration of the swallows' legendary return on St. Joseph's Day.(Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)
Fabricated swallows’ nests are being used to try to encourage passing swallows to take up residence at Mission San Juan Capistrano, pictured here during a March 19, 2017 celebration of the swallows’ legendary return on St. Joseph’s Day.<br /> (Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)

Brown, a professor of biological sciences from the University of Tulsa, has headed up a mission program since 2012 to lure swallows back after years of declining numbers because of urbanization.

A strategy of broadcasting bird calls and building a row of simulated nests appears to be having the intended effect, said Mechelle Lawrence Adams, the mission’s executive director.

“We saw a lot of birds last year,” she said.

On Monday, visitors can learn about cliff swallows’ migration, how they build nests and how a 1940 hit song, “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano,” helped turn the Catholic mission into a worldwide tourist attraction. Tour the mission and learn how it was founded in 1776 by Fray Junipero Serra, the father of modern-day California.

Rene Bondi, a local vocalist, will perform “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” together with Mariachi Tapatio.

Duende Flamenco dancers and children from Mission Basilica School and from nearby San Juan School will perform.

Jacque Nunez, Acjachemen tribal descendant and educator, will enlighten audiences about San Juan Capistrano’s first people.

Father Serra’s mission, meanwhile, is introducing a photographic exhibit of about 20 historic images of the site, together with several hundred other photos the mission has digitized from its archives. Many of the digital photos have never before been seen by the public, Lawrence Adams said.

General admission to the mission on St. Joseph’s Day is $12, with discounts offered for seniors, military, veterans, children and groups of 15 or more people. Docent-led tours are $10, self-guided tours $9.

For details, see missionsjc.com or call 949-234-1300.

St. Joseph’s Day this year is on a Monday, leading into a festive San Juan Capistrano week that includes the Fiesta Grande at 6 p.m. on March 21 at the Swallows Inn, a frog-jumping contest at 4 p..m. March 23 at Mission Grill and the Swallows Day Parade at 11 a.m. March 24 through downtown San Juan, together with a Mercado Street Faire in Historic Town Center Park.

For more about those events, see swallowsparade.com.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/13/lots-to-see-on-during-celebrations-next-week-at-mission-san-juan-capistrano-maybe-some-swallows-too/

San Juan Capistrano’s fiesta association reaches out to young families to organize Swallows Day fun

There’s a new vibe in this year’s San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association: Families, families, families.

Organizers want to welcome young families into the fold to help produce the town’s biggest event of the year, the March 24 Swallows Day Parade and Mercado Street Faire.

“We are trying to make things more inclusive for members with young families,” said Jim Taylor, association president.

To that end, the association chose Zoomars Petting Zoo for its fall kickoff, a barbecue, to provide kid appeal.

When the association held its first event of 2018, a social mixer at Trevor’s at the Tracks, there were lots of families with children.

“Trevor’s is more open and bright, and the room in the back does not have a ‘bar’ feel to it,” Taylor said of the choice.

While events such as the Hairiest Man Contest at the Swallows Inn do have a bar-room ambiance, “we are trying to make our other events something our members can bring their kids to,” Taylor said. The association realized its membership was growing older and was declining.

“It’s very important for us to attract younger members,” Taylor said. “We need someone to pass the torch to.”

Learn more at swallowsparade.com.

Q. How is this year different?

A. We wanted to adopt a more family-friendly feeling. To that end, our members volunteered to host family games at the city’s Fourth of July celebration and at four summer concerts, everything from sack races to water balloon tosses.

Q. Why the change?

A. Membership was starting to decline, our events were beginning to feel more like work and we wanted to improve our image in the community. We needed to inject some more fun into the organization, and be seen having fun while still putting on some very successful events.

Q. How has it been received?

A. People have noticed. Some past members have returned. Many new members have joined our ranks. Our total membership now, six weeks into the season, already exceeds what our membership was at the end of last year’s Swallows Day Parade. The direction we have been taking has accelerated our growth.

Q. Will this year’s parade have a different feel?

A. Not the parade. The 60th annual Swallows Day Parade will be bigger and better than the 59th, but still maintain the brand. Lots of horses, bands and participants. The Mercado Street Faire, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on parade day, has a large children’s section as always, but with a few new fun additions.

Q. Is the family-friendly vibe working?

A. Members are telling their friends, and their friends are checking us out. Some past members have rejoined, bringing back their valuable experience. There is a positive vibe in the air and it can be infectious.

Q. What is your message to prospective volunteers?

A. I encourage all of our members and volunteers to take a moment during the parade: Look at the majesty, the elegance, the whole presentation from period re-enactment groups to specialty equestrians, from musical entries to the amazing walking groups. Look at the faces of the tens of thousands of attendees having a great day, and say to yourself, ‘Wow. I was a part of this.’ I do it every time.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/06/san-juan-capistranos-fiesta-association-reaches-out-to-young-families-to-organize-swallows-day-fun/

San Juan Capistrano’s fiesta association reaches out to young families to organize Swallows Day fun

There’s a new vibe in this year’s San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association: Families, families, families.

Organizers want to welcome young families into the fold to help produce the town’s biggest event of the year, the March 24 Swallows Day Parade and Mercado Street Faire.

“We are trying to make things more inclusive for members with young families,” said Jim Taylor, association president.

To that end, the association chose Zoomars Petting Zoo for its fall kickoff, a barbecue, to provide kid appeal.

When the association held its first event of 2018, a social mixer at Trevor’s at the Tracks, there were lots of families with children.

“Trevor’s is more open and bright, and the room in the back does not have a ‘bar’ feel to it,” Taylor said of the choice.

While events such as the Hairiest Man Contest at the Swallows Inn do have a bar-room ambiance, “we are trying to make our other events something our members can bring their kids to,” Taylor said. The association realized its membership was growing older and was declining.

“It’s very important for us to attract younger members,” Taylor said. “We need someone to pass the torch to.”

Learn more at swallowsparade.com.

Q. How is this year different?

A. We wanted to adopt a more family-friendly feeling. To that end, our members volunteered to host family games at the city’s Fourth of July celebration and at four summer concerts, everything from sack races to water balloon tosses.

Q. Why the change?

A. Membership was starting to decline, our events were beginning to feel more like work and we wanted to improve our image in the community. We needed to inject some more fun into the organization, and be seen having fun while still putting on some very successful events.

Q. How has it been received?

A. People have noticed. Some past members have returned. Many new members have joined our ranks. Our total membership now, six weeks into the season, already exceeds what our membership was at the end of last year’s Swallows Day Parade. The direction we have been taking has accelerated our growth.

Q. Will this year’s parade have a different feel?

A. Not the parade. The 60th annual Swallows Day Parade will be bigger and better than the 59th, but still maintain the brand. Lots of horses, bands and participants. The Mercado Street Faire, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on parade day, has a large children’s section as always, but with a few new fun additions.

Q. Is the family-friendly vibe working?

A. Members are telling their friends, and their friends are checking us out. Some past members have rejoined, bringing back their valuable experience. There is a positive vibe in the air and it can be infectious.

Q. What is your message to prospective volunteers?

A. I encourage all of our members and volunteers to take a moment during the parade: Look at the majesty, the elegance, the whole presentation from period re-enactment groups to specialty equestrians, from musical entries to the amazing walking groups. Look at the faces of the tens of thousands of attendees having a great day, and say to yourself, ‘Wow. I was a part of this.’ I do it every time.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/06/san-juan-capistranos-fiesta-association-reaches-out-to-young-families-to-organize-swallows-day-fun/

Too early to weigh impacts of homeless influx, San Clemente says

San Clemente officials say they have been unable to learn how many homeless people were relocated to San Clemente in recent days in the county’s effort to clear a large encampment along the Santa Ana River in Anaheim.

“The county hasn’t specifically answered the question,” City Manager James Makshanoff said via email on Wednesday, Feb. 28. “The county will not tell me what hotels they are at or how many in each hotel.”

A tent city along the riverbed was cleared Monday, Feb. 26, as the last of 732 people were relocated to motels and shelters around Orange County, the county reported.

Makshanoff said he was told that 10 percent of the riverbed population was relocated to south Orange County, but he was given no statistical breakdown.

In anticipation that there may be impacts, the City Council has scheduled a special presentation for its 6 p.m. meeting March 6 at City Hall.

“Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies are monitoring the situation,” Makshanoff said. “I have also been in contact with our nonprofit partners like Family Assistance Ministries to discuss what options we might have.”

Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Peters, chief of police services in San Clemente, said it is hard to weigh how many new homeless are in town because they have hotel rooms and food vouchers.

“Our deputies have maybe contacted 10 or 12 they haven’t recognized in the past,” Peters said. “Facebook is reporting more, but we haven’t seen it. They could be staying in their hotel rooms.”

Deputies will see if there is an uptick in activity this weekend, Peters said, but “we probably will have to wait until the end of the 30 days” for a better assessment.

So far, deputies’ contacts with newly arrived homeless have not been extraordinary compared with past activity, Peters said.

“The county told me that they are using the 30 days to evaluate the people that were placed in hotels to determine the appropriate place to put them once the 30 days have expired,” Makshanoff said.

Mary Gray Perdue, executive director at Family Assistance Ministries, said Wednesday, Feb. 28, that three people from the riverbed have visited FAM to ask for assistance and another dozen people have called the nonprofit.

She said FAM will assess their situations – find out where they were from originally, where they are staying and what their goals are.

“Can we help them get to their permanent location? Do they have family and friends? Can we utilize the home rebound program?” Perdue said.

She said FAM would like to “help them get reconnected with whoever their support team is.”

Neither the city nor FAM was notified that the relocation was coming, Perdue said, and she read about it in a riverbed interview in the Orange County Register.

“I’m a happy camper,” 63-year-old Kevin Belton told the newspaper. “I’m going to San Clemente. Who would want to get a room in Anaheim when they could go to San Clemente?”

Perdue said work is being done behind the scenes to create a countywide plan for permanent housing. “Permanent supportive housing solutions cost less than half of what it costs to provide services for people on the streets,” she said.

Staff writers Theresa Walker and Jordan Graham contributed to this report.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/28/too-early-to-weigh-impacts-of-homeless-influx-san-clemente-says/

Jazz band asks City Council to keep pier concert alive

Members of the San Clemente High School Jazz Band are pleading with the City Council to let them keep alive an 18-year tradition of spring beach concerts at the pier.

City staff has decided that the concert should be held at North Beach instead of the pier, along with the city inviting smaller San Clemente High School ensembles to perform on other dates at North Beach’s midweek farmers markets.

Three band members addressed the City Council at its Feb. 20 meeting, while others applauded from the audience.

Students said that playing at the pier – “the very epicenter of our city,” band member Jack Boatman called it – is the highlight of the jazz band’s year and, for seniors, is a parting thrill that many will never match.

They said playing at the pier is an inspiration for members of the Shorecliffs Middle School Jazz Band, who open for the high school band. Many middle schoolers aspire to enhance their skills and audition for the high school jazz band so they can headline the pier concert, the students said.

Erik Sund, assistant city manager, said the city isn’t canceling the jazz concert, just “looking to direct the energy to North Beach.” He said the farmers market has struggled to get musical acts, and he believes that presenting different types of jazz ensembles there “would work really well.”

Mayor Tim Brown said he hoped city staff’s explanation had provided some clarity. He invited the students to reach out to him.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/28/jazz-band-asks-city-council-to-keep-pier-concert-alive/

San Clemente news briefs: trail safety, lifeguard tryouts, outlet mall signs and more

  • Gary Voborsky, who earned the city of San Clemente’s ‘core values’ award, receives it from Mayor Tim Brown at a Feb. 20 City Council meeting. (Photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Gary Voborsky, who earned the city of San Clemente’s ‘core values’ award, receives it from Mayor Tim Brown at a Feb. 20 City Council meeting. (Photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Glen Goldring, San Clemente’s city employee of the year, with Mayor Tim Brown. (Photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Glen Goldring, San Clemente’s city employee of the year, with Mayor Tim Brown. (Photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cooper’s handlers at the San Clemente/Dana Point Animal Shelter describe the 2-year-old as silly, full of energy and friendly with most other dogs. They say he would make a great jogging buddy. For adoption info, visit Cooper at 221 Avenida Fabricante, San Clemente, or call the shelter at 949-492-1617. (Courtesy of animal shelter)

    Cooper’s handlers at the San Clemente/Dana Point Animal Shelter describe the 2-year-old as silly, full of energy and friendly with most other dogs. They say he would make a great jogging buddy. For adoption info, visit Cooper at 221 Avenida Fabricante, San Clemente, or call the shelter at 949-492-1617. (Courtesy of animal shelter)

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Students want safety on Knob Hill

Members of San Clemente High School’s Problem Solvers Club are out to prevent wildfires and accidents on Knob Hill, a knoll that overlooks the SCHS campus.

Four students presented ideas to the City Council on Feb. 20, recalling that Knob Hill was where a Nov. 25 fire blackened seven acres and threw a scare into homeowners.

Students proposed signs warning of a high fire danger area and asking people not to smoke, while providing a place to safely dispose of a cigarette. They proposed a caution sign at a sharp turn in a trail and a sign offering a telephone number to report any unauthorized vehicles on or off trails.

Cigarette butts were found atop the hill after the fire, and motorcycles – which can spark a fire – are seen there from time to time, the students said.

“These signs will be temporary,” student Nick Petrocelli said, “because as more people become aware of the issue and start calling the number, the problem will eventually subside.”

City Council to consider outlet center’s sign requests

A City Council hearing is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 6 at City Hall to consider a request from the Outlets at San Clemente for permanent business signs facing the I-5 Freeway.

City planning commissioners held a hearing in December and recommended 17 tenant signs facing the freeway, plus four outlet identification signs. More than a dozen residents – most of them people living across I-5 from the center – objected.

The commission also supported outlet I.D. signs and five signs for a 129-room hotel that is approved but not yet built next to the outlets.

Since the Planning Commission hearing, the outlet center has also requested identification signs for a proposed movie theater, officials said.

City invites 10 lifeguard applicants to training

Twenty-eight applicants for seasonal lifeguard jobs endured 56-degree water to compete in tryouts Feb. 23, officials said, and 10 will be invited to train as lifeguards.

Two of the hopefuls didn’t complete the initial ocean swim, Marine Safety Officer Blake Anderson said, but 26 did and 19 of those made the cut-off time.

Eighteen were interviewed, Anderson said. A 92-hour training program will run on select dates between March 31 and May 5.

Blood, marrow drive at San Clemente High

San Clemente High School invites the public to participate in a blood and marrow drive set for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, March 9, on campus at 700 Avenida Pico.

Visit sandiegobloodbank.org to arrange a time in advance, clicking on “donate blood today” to select the event.

City honors two employees

Glen Goldring, facilities maintenance coordinator for the city of San Clemente, is City Employee of the Year. The City Council, at its Feb. 20 meeting, saluted Goldring and honored Assistant Engineer Gary Voborski with the city’s Core Values Award.

Goldring has worked for the city for 15 years and said the best thing is that the award was from the city staff he works with. “I’m lucky enough to live and work in San Clemente and raise a family,” he said. “My dog walks me all through town. I mountain bike in the hills. I feel very, very fortunate.”

Voborsky has worked for the city for 32 years, mainly on improving the roads. “It’s a good team,” he said. “Even though I was recognized for the award, there’s many others who are great … all one big team.”

Panhe native celebration is March 18

The San Onofre Parks Foundation and the United Coalition to Protect Panhe have set March 18 as the date for this year’s celebration of Panhe, a native village inhabited for centuries by San Clemente’s first people.

There will be native dancers, singers, storytellers, speakers, basket weavers and other artisans from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at San Onofre State Beach’s San Mateo Campground, located a mile up Cristianitos Road from I-5, plus vendors, food, museum exhibits, plant demonstrations, flute performances and games and activities for children.

Parking is limited, so attendees are urged to park at Concordia Elementary School, 3120 Avenida del Presidente, San Clemente, and take a free shuttle.

Questions? Call 949-366-8599.

San Onofre trails need volunteers

The San Onofre Parks Foundation is recruiting volunteers to put in four to eight hours per month as hiking or bicycling volunteers on the backcountry trails of San Onofre State Beach.

Hours are flexible, the foundation said. Volunteers will report on any trail safety or maintenance issues they see and will provide maps and directions to trail visitors.

Volunteer training is scheduled for March 22. Learn more or sign up by writing to admin@sanofoundation.org.

Learn about foster care

The San Clemente/Capistrano Bay branch of the American Association of University Women invites the public to a March 15 luncheon to learn about the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County.

Amber Boggs, outreach and recruitment manager for CASA, will describe how she learned of the program at age 16 while under foster care. She has served as a case supervisor, overseeing CASA volunteers and their assigned cases.

Tickets for the 11 a.m. March 15 luncheon at Gemmell’s Restaurant, 34471 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, are $28. Reservations are due March 8. Visit sccb-ca.aauw.net, under “general meeting.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/28/san-clemente-news-briefs-trail-safety-lifeguard-tryouts-outlet-mall-signs-and-more/

Chasm widens in parking lot of hilltop San Clemente church

This is the view from Avenida Pico and San Clemente High School of a collapsed slope atop Calle Frontera in the parking lot of St. Andrews Methodist Church, pictured Feb. 26, 2018. (Photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)
This is the view from Avenida Pico and San Clemente High School of a collapsed slope atop Calle Frontera in the parking lot of St. Andrews Methodist Church, pictured Feb. 26, 2018. (Photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The congregation at a prominent hilltop San Clemente church continues to seek answers about a slump in the church parking lot that began slowly in 2017 and has since dropped off dramatically, deepening a chasm.

“We’ve lost approximately 55 parking spaces,” said Mike Wiechman, chairman of the board of trustees at St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea United Methodist Church.

About 25 percent of the parking lot has been lost, he said. The area is fenced.

St. Andrews is a San Clemente landmark, overlooking Interstate 5 at the Avenida Pico exit, where a $230 million widening of I-5 and Avenida Pico has included excavations into the hill for a retaining wall.

“We are not accusing anyone,” Wiechman said Monday, Feb. 26. “We know that there is an ancient landslide that became active.”

But the church continues to investigate.

Wiechman said the church has been in communication with Caltrans and the Orange County Transportation Authority, who are partners in the freeway widening.

He said OCTA suggested that heavy rains last winter may have been a factor.

“We investigated and determined that the slippage is unrelated to the work OCTA has done in the area,” OCTA spokesman Eric Carpenter said via e-mail. “We are not involved at this point.”

Members of St. Andrews began noticing small cracks in a corner the parking lot in April 2017, Wiechman said. As it worsened in September and October, the church retained LGC Geotechnical of San Clemente to investigate. The church also notified Caltrans.

Wiechman said a report done in 1988 showed a landslide area at the parking lot “but there are old landslides throughout San Clemente,” he said, “and when they become active is anybody’s guess.”

This is how a slope slippage looked in October, 2017, at St. Andrews Methodist Church in San Clemente. It has grown since. (File photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)
This is how a slope slippage looked in October 2017, at St. Andrews Methodist Church in San Clemente. It has grown since. (File photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/28/chasm-widens-in-parking-lot-of-hilltop-san-clemente-church/

Photos, memorabilia, trolley tours evoke the birth of San Clemente

  • People line up for a free trolley giving tours of historical San Clemente sites with a Ford Model A, left, also on display, February 24, 2018, for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

    People line up for a free trolley giving tours of historical San Clemente sites with a Ford Model A, left, also on display, February 24, 2018, for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

  • Cynthia Bisharah of San Clemente holds onto her 7-year-old daughter Soshana Bisharah and her husband Munir Bisharah as they look over historical maps and photographs of San Clemente on display by the San Clemente Historical Society during San Clemente Day at the Ole Hanson Beach Club, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

    Cynthia Bisharah of San Clemente holds onto her 7-year-old daughter Soshana Bisharah and her husband Munir Bisharah as they look over historical maps and photographs of San Clemente on display by the San Clemente Historical Society during San Clemente Day at the Ole Hanson Beach Club, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

  • Katie Kerr, left, and Donna Vidrine play a giant game of chess as 2-year-old Jolie Jocozic has a better idea of how to play the game during San Clemente Day at the Ole Hanson Beach Club, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Jocozic mother, Meg Jocozic, is behind her. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

    Katie Kerr, left, and Donna Vidrine play a giant game of chess as 2-year-old Jolie Jocozic has a better idea of how to play the game during San Clemente Day at the Ole Hanson Beach Club, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Jocozic mother, Meg Jocozic, is behind her. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

  • Mike Gould and his wife Launa Gould look over historical documents and photographs, including that of Richard Nixon, on display at the Ole Hanson Beach Club for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

    Mike Gould and his wife Launa Gould look over historical documents and photographs, including that of Richard Nixon, on display at the Ole Hanson Beach Club for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

  • An inflatable horseracing track was among the attractions for kids during San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation, at the Ole Hanson Beach Club. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

    An inflatable horseracing track was among the attractions for kids during San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation, at the Ole Hanson Beach Club. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

  • Cupcakes were among the treats given out on San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

    Cupcakes were among the treats given out on San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

  • Maureen Ohnstad, playing the part of Nelly Rose Hanson, has her photo taken with Mike Fitzsimmons, playing the part of San Clemente’s founder Ole Hanson, during San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation at the Ole Hanson Beach Club. Both Ohnstad and Fitzsimmons are members of the San Clemente Historical Society. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

    Maureen Ohnstad, playing the part of Nelly Rose Hanson, has her photo taken with Mike Fitzsimmons, playing the part of San Clemente’s founder Ole Hanson, during San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation at the Ole Hanson Beach Club. Both Ohnstad and Fitzsimmons are members of the San Clemente Historical Society. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

  • Three-year-old Clemmie Rubinoff of San Clemente gets ready as her mom, Jessie Creel, blows bubbles as families gather at the Ole Hanson Beach Club for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

    Three-year-old Clemmie Rubinoff of San Clemente gets ready as her mom, Jessie Creel, blows bubbles as families gather at the Ole Hanson Beach Club for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

  • People line up for a free trolley giving tours of historical sites of San Clemente, February 24, 2018, for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

    People line up for a free trolley giving tours of historical sites of San Clemente, February 24, 2018, for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

  • The Meraquas of Irvine, Synchronized Swim Team, performs to the music of Singing in the Rain in the pools at the Ole Hanson Beach Club, February 24, 2018, for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

    The Meraquas of Irvine, Synchronized Swim Team, performs to the music of Singing in the Rain in the pools at the Ole Hanson Beach Club, February 24, 2018, for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

  • The Meraquas of Irvine, Synchronized Swim Team, performs to the music of Singing in the Rain in the pools at the Ole Hanson Beach Club, February 24, 2018, for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

    The Meraquas of Irvine, Synchronized Swim Team, performs to the music of Singing in the Rain in the pools at the Ole Hanson Beach Club, February 24, 2018, for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

  • The Meraquas of Irvine, Synchronized Swim Team, performs to the music of Singing in the Rain in the pools at the Ole Hanson Beach Club, February 24, 2018, for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

    The Meraquas of Irvine, Synchronized Swim Team, performs to the music of Singing in the Rain in the pools at the Ole Hanson Beach Club, February 24, 2018, for San Clemente Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer

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Where San Clemente’s Sit ‘n Sleep store now stands, once there was a restaurant known up and down California Highway 101 as the Sea Shore Café, famed for its chicken, seafood, steaks and jumbo shrimp.

Across the highway was San Clemente’s first building, erected in 1926 at the corner of El Camino Real and Avenida Del Mar, town founder Ole Hanson’s office.

Over time, the building reincarnated as, among other things, the Bank of San Clemente, a liquor store, a travel agency and Baskin-Robbins.

Hundreds who attended San Clemente Day – an event that the city hosted Saturday, Feb. 24 – thumbed through San Clemente Historical Society scrapbooks evoking simpler times.

The city was celebrating its 90th anniversary of incorporation, Feb. 28, 1928. The town is actually 93 years old, dating to 1925 when visionary developer Ole Hanson began grading and selling lots to create what he called “The Spanish Village.”

Guests at San Clemente Day learned that Hanson set up a tent on Dec. 6, 1925, on the then-barren site of today’s Hotel San Clemente. He offered a free chicken lunch to all comers who would hear his sales pitch. By day’s end, he had sold $125,000 worth of lots, and the San Clemente story had begun.

All around the town

San Clemente’s summer trolleys offered free Feb. 24 tours to view historic sites, like San Clemente’s first church – St. Clement’s Episcopal – and the Hanson family’s elegant 15-room home, now Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens.

Guests at the Ole Hanson Beach Club, built by Hanson in 1927 as a municipal pool, viewed a home movie from the early days and exhibits courtesy of the historical society.

A May 6, 1927 picture page from El Heraldo de San Clemente included photos of the downtown business district, Ole Hanson on horseback and a Sunday School class being taught on the beach.

A picture of historic Mission San Juan Capistrano carried the caption, “Six miles north of San Clemente, it’s the favorite stop of many motorists on their way to San Clemente.”

Displays included a 1920s bathing suit, a poster-sized photo of 1950s-60s era Avenida Del Mar and Ole Hanson’s original tract map of a town he predicted would swell to 50,000.

San Clemente today has some 65,000 residents.

End of the Hanson era

The historical society proclaimed that between 1926 and 1946 more than 500 Spanish-motif homes and business sprinkled the landscape, but the Great Depression burst Ole Hanson’s bubble.

Well-to-do Los Angeles residents who had comprised most of the population of 1,000 walked away from their summer San Clemente homes. Foreclosures took over.

The city rescinded Hanson’s decree that all buildings must be Spanish so that cheaper architecture could spur continued building,

Still, the Depression introduced landmark buildings like the Casino San Clemente ballroom, which opened in 1937 to 5,000 dancers and Sterling Young’s Columbia Network Orchestra. The Casino hosted live radio broadcasts and celebrities like singer/actress Judy Garland. Admission was 40 cents.

In 1938, an adjacent landmark opened, the San Clemente Theater, later known as the Hidalgo Theater, eventually as the Miramar Theater.

Guests learned that San Clemente’s first mayor, Thomas Murphine, lost his posh blufftop home to a 1933 earthquake and then, in a political feud, barely survived Ole Hanson’s efforts to recall him from office.

The Nixon years

Horse stables built by Hanson’s financial partner Hamilton Cotton at the south end of town in 1929 would later become the J. J. Elmore Ranch, largest horse-breeding farm in California, the historical society reported.

Then in 1969, President Richard M. Nixon would purchase the Cotton estate and San Clemente would become known worldwide as Home of the Western White House.

A quote from newspaper satirist Art Hoppe described San Clemente during the 1969-80 Nixon years as “15,000 conservative Republicans, 2,000 surfers, five poor people, roughly the same number of liberal Democrats, and a guard at the gate to keep any more out.”

San Clemente Day photos showed the Hanson-era L.M. Bartow mansion on a bluff between the pier and T-Street Beach, then a 45-unit condominium that replaced it in the 1970s.

The Bartow home had been featured in Chamber of Commerce literature, the historical society wrote, but developers wanted to replace it with condominiums.

“Denied a permit to demolish the building in 1972, the property was bulldozed in the middle of the night,” the society wrote. “Enraged, members of the community came forward to found the San Clemente Historical Society.”

Site for a new museum?

On San Clemente  Day, society volunteers staffed a roomful of memorabilia they fetched from storage. The society’s collection has been housed in rented storage since a steep rent hike forced the society to close a 683-square-foot museum that had operated from 1999 to 2007 at the top of Avenida Del Mar.

The society asked San Clemente Day guests to help find donated space or low-cost space for a new museum.

“We could get by with 400 to 500 square feet,” said Larry Culbertson, society president. “Our only income is pictures, books and memberships. We need some help.” Call 949-492-9684.

Mayor Tim Brown declared San Clemente Day a success. “It’s had a really nice effect,” he said. “Everyone has their one thing that they love about this town. Everyone has their history. It’s all unifying. It’s a great day. Why not celebrate what we love about the town?”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/28/photos-memorabilia-trolley-tours-evoke-the-birth-of-san-clemente/

Daytime paving will constrict I-5 in south county, OCTA warns

Motorists heading south on Interstate 5 in south Orange County can expect delays between Camino Las Ramblas and Avenida Pico from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 28 and March 1.

Only two southbound lanes will be open, the Orange County Transportation Authority said. Crews will be paving and striping the roadway. Daytime lane closures are necessary because of temperature requirements for paving, officials said.

“Expect delays,” said an alert issued by OCTA. “Please allow extra travel time.”

Motorists should consider using alternate routes if possible, the agency said.

The road work is part of a $230 million I-5 widening between San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. The project, which has taken four years, is scheduled for completion in March.

For more information about the project, see octa.net/i5pico.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/27/daytime-paving-will-constrict-i-5-in-south-county-octa-warns/

Melodrama pits heroes vs. villain in San Juan Capistrano’s historic vineyards

By day, Gary McCarver is a financial planner.

“I help people,” he says.

By night – or occasionally in the afternoon, if it’s matinee day – McCarver morphs into a nefarious swindler.

“I balance it out,” the San Juan Capistrano resident says with a smile.

  • “Villainy in the Vineyard” cast members Robert Kehiayan, who plays Gran Syrah, Carla Naragon, who plays Agnes Shott and Jake LaRosa, who plays Buck Shott, from left, perform in the original play based on the history of wine making in California. Pictured at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    “Villainy in the Vineyard” cast members Robert Kehiayan, who plays Gran Syrah, Carla Naragon, who plays Agnes Shott and Jake LaRosa, who plays Buck Shott, from left, perform in the original play based on the history of wine making in California. Pictured at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • Gary McCarver is pelted with foam rocks as he plays the villain, Barron Victor von Vineus, in “Villainy in the Vineyard,” an original play about the early wine industry in California, at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    Gary McCarver is pelted with foam rocks as he plays the villain, Barron Victor von Vineus, in “Villainy in the Vineyard,” an original play about the early wine industry in California, at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • Jake LaRosa, left, who plays Buck Shott, and Colin Cadili, who plays Russell Grub, perform in “Villainy in the Vineyard” at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    Jake LaRosa, left, who plays Buck Shott, and Colin Cadili, who plays Russell Grub, perform in “Villainy in the Vineyard” at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • Joe Herrera and Kelly Larson, playing Jean-Claude and Angelica, sip wine in the opening scene of Camino Real Playhouse’s “Villainy in the Vineyard” on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    Joe Herrera and Kelly Larson, playing Jean-Claude and Angelica, sip wine in the opening scene of Camino Real Playhouse’s “Villainy in the Vineyard” on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • “Villainy in the Vineyard” cast members include Heather Jackson, left, who plays Kaye Syrah, and Robert Kehiayan, who plays Gran Syrah, in the original play based on the history of wine making in California, pictured at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday night, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    “Villainy in the Vineyard” cast members include Heather Jackson, left, who plays Kaye Syrah, and Robert Kehiayan, who plays Gran Syrah, in the original play based on the history of wine making in California, pictured at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday night, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • “Villainy in the Vineyard” cast members perform in the original comedic play based on the history of wine making in Californi, pictured on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 at Camino Real Playhouse. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    “Villainy in the Vineyard” cast members perform in the original comedic play based on the history of wine making in Californi, pictured on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 at Camino Real Playhouse. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • Lindsay Mack, Madison Banks and Bridgette Reed play the Syrah sisters Adella, Bella and Stella, in a scene where they crush grapes with their feet in Camino Real Playhouse’s production of the original comedy “Villainy in the Vineyard” on Friday night, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    Lindsay Mack, Madison Banks and Bridgette Reed play the Syrah sisters Adella, Bella and Stella, in a scene where they crush grapes with their feet in Camino Real Playhouse’s production of the original comedy “Villainy in the Vineyard” on Friday night, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • Jake LaRosa, who plays Buck Shott, and Carla Naragon, who plays his wife Agnes, perform in “Villainy in the Vineyard” at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    Jake LaRosa, who plays Buck Shott, and Carla Naragon, who plays his wife Agnes, perform in “Villainy in the Vineyard” at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • “Villainy in the Vineyard” cast members perform in the original comedic play based on the history of wine making in California at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    “Villainy in the Vineyard” cast members perform in the original comedic play based on the history of wine making in California at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • Robyn Gleason, left, who plays Rose Madeira, and Heather Jackson, who plays Kaye Syrah, perform in “Villainy in the Vineyard” at Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    Robyn Gleason, left, who plays Rose Madeira, and Heather Jackson, who plays Kaye Syrah, perform in “Villainy in the Vineyard” at Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • Robert Kehiayan, left, who plays Gran Syrah, and Heather Jackson, who plays Kaye Syrah, perform in “Villainy in the Vineyard” at Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    Robert Kehiayan, left, who plays Gran Syrah, and Heather Jackson, who plays Kaye Syrah, perform in “Villainy in the Vineyard” at Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • Gary McCarver, left, who plays Barron Victor von Vineus, and Mike Fitzsimmons, who plays Fowler Fairweather, Esq., perform in “Villainy in the Vineyard” at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    Gary McCarver, left, who plays Barron Victor von Vineus, and Mike Fitzsimmons, who plays Fowler Fairweather, Esq., perform in “Villainy in the Vineyard” at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • Robert Kehiayan, left, who plays Gran Syrah, and Heather Jackson, who plays Kaye Syrah, perform in “Villainy in the Vineyard” at Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    Robert Kehiayan, left, who plays Gran Syrah, and Heather Jackson, who plays Kaye Syrah, perform in “Villainy in the Vineyard” at Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • Gary McCarver plays the villain, Barron Victor von Vineus, in “Villainy in the Vineyard,” an original play about the 19th Century wine industry in California, at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    Gary McCarver plays the villain, Barron Victor von Vineus, in “Villainy in the Vineyard,” an original play about the 19th Century wine industry in California, at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

  • “Villainy in the Vineyard” cast members perform in the original comedic play based on the history of wine making in California, pictured at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

    “Villainy in the Vineyard” cast members perform in the original comedic play based on the history of wine making in California, pictured at Camino Real Playhouse on Friday, February 23, 2018. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

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Crowds love to boo and hiss him, throw rocks at him.

He revels in it.

McCarver is the creator of a website, heroandvillain.com, about musical melodrama. He also is the writer of 10 locally based melodramas, riddled with cornball behavior, awful puns and silly stereotype.

He builds his plots around the villain, him. He won’t mind if anyone calls him a loser, because that’s what he does in the end.

And so it is with “Villainy in the Vineyard,” the current play at San Juan Capistrano’s Camino Real Playhouse. McCarver portrays Barron Victor von Vineus, who tries to swindle fair maiden Kaye Syrah out of her family winery.

The story – intertwined with choreographed song and dance numbers – is based in San Juan Capistrano in the 1880s. It also is based on San Juan’s wine heritage, which dates back to grapes Father Junipero Serra planted at the Spanish mission he founded in 1776. One of McCarver’s characters is a real person, famed grape horticulturist Thomas Munson.

“I do a lot of research,” McCarver said. “All of my plays are based on real stories about San Juan Capistrano or South Orange County. This one took 400 pages of research. There’s a whole archive in Sacramento about wines and the history of wines in California.”

McCarver weaves his plot around an era when Orange County, he said, had more than 50 wineries.

There are lines like this: “What did the grape say when it got crushed? It just let out a whine.”

McCarver’s other local melodramas range from “San Juan’s Dirty Laundry,” about a San Juan maiden sent to prison for her protest against construction of a railroad slicing through town, to “Chaos at the Cannery,” about a real historical cannery. Other titles include “Dirty Deeds at the Depot” and “Sideshow Shenanigans.”

Tom Scott, president of the Camino Real Playhouse, said “Villainy” may be McCarver’s best yet. “It is such a good story about the agriculture in this area and all the fun history about wines,” Scott said.

“One from several years ago called ‘Trouble Bubbles at the Hot Springs’ was also a real fun one,” Scott said. “That one dealt with the history of someone who allegedly had hidden stolen gold coins out in the area of the hot springs. This one is extremely well received. I think it’s my favorite.”

“Villainy in the Vineyard” is entering its final weekend at Camino Real Playhouse, with shows set for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 2-3 and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 3-4. Tickets are $27 and $37.

Reserve a seat at caminorealplayhouse.org or call 949-489-8082.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/27/melodrama-pits-heroes-vs-villain-in-san-juan-capistranos-historic-vineyards/

San Juan Chamber to host dinner with the mayor

Here’s a chance to dine with the mayor of San Juan Capistrano, chat with him and hear his assessment of how the city is faring.

Mayor Sergio Farias will deliver a 2018 State of the City address at a dinner hosted by the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce at El Adobe Restaurant. Tickets are available to chamber members and to the public. Reservations are required, and the event may sell out.

IF YOU GO

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, March 8

Where: El Adobe de Capistrano, 31891 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano

Cost: $70

Tickets: Available from the chamber at 949-493-4700 or write to info@sanjuanchamber.com.

 

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/27/san-juan-chamber-to-host-dinner-with-the-mayor/

Garden activities, tours and more await at Ecology Center in San Juan

If you have yet to discover San Juan Capistrano’s acclaimed Ecology Center, this weekend would be an opportune time. Or a time to revisit.

The center will offer free “do it yourself” garden activities, garden tours, marmalade tasting and a chance to meet the executive director, Evan Marks.

IF YOU GO

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 3

Where: 32701 Alipaz Street, San Juan Capistrano

Learn more: Visit theecologycenter.org or call 949-443-4223

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/26/garden-activities-tours-and-more-await-at-ecology-center-in-san-juan/

Tony-nominated comedy coming to Cabrillo Playhouse

San Clemente’s Cabrillo Playhouse is serving up a deliciously devilish comedy about what is described as “an evening of hilarious confusion.”

The Tony-nominated play “Don’t Dress for Dinner” is the story of Bernard, who is described as “planning a romantic weekend with his mistress in his charming converted French farmhouse whilst his wife Jacqueline is away.”

What could go wrong? Well, things get complicated. “Suppose everyone’s alibi gets confused with everyone else’s,” the playbill says.

IF YOU GO

When: March 2 through March 25, with shows at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays

Where: Cabrillo Playhouse, 202 Avenida Cabrillo, San Clemente

Tickets: $20

Contact: cabrilloplayhouse.org or 949-492-0465

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/26/tony-nominated-comedy-coming-to-cabrillo-playhouse/

Two die when car strikes power pole, is engulfed in flames

ORANGE Two people died Sunday evening, Feb. 25, when a car struck a power pole, knocked down power lines and became engulfed in flames, authorities said.

The crash was reported at 9:17 p.m. on Santiago Canyon Road at the 241 Toll Road, the California Highway Patrol reported. Authorities shut down both roads due to downed power lines, summoned Southern California Edison and declared a Sigalert until further notice.

Firefighters extinguished the vehicle fire and confirmed the fatalities, the CHP said. No other information was immediately available.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/25/two-die-when-car-strikes-power-pole-is-engulfed-in-flames/

Over a lifetime of challenges, a military hero turns 100

  • Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker shares a scrap book of his missions during WWII with his friend Amber Holcomb during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker shares a scrap book of his missions during WWII with his friend Amber Holcomb during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker uses a remote control to rev the engine on an F-100 model jet during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker uses a remote control to rev the engine on an F-100 model jet during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker uses a remote control to rev the engine on an F-100 model jet during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker uses a remote control to rev the engine on an F-100 model jet during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker shares a laugh with friends Nadia Milner, left, and Amber Holcomb during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker shares a laugh with friends Nadia Milner, left, and Amber Holcomb during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Janie Morrison, left, helps Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker as he walks outside for his friends to sing Happy Birthday to him during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Janie Morrison, left, helps Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker as he walks outside for his friends to sing Happy Birthday to him during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker address his friends after they sang Happy Birthday to him during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker address his friends after they sang Happy Birthday to him during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker’s 100th birthday cake in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker’s 100th birthday cake in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Stephen George, left, chats with Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Stephen George, left, chats with Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker shares a laugh with his adopted son and daughter-in-law, Greg Arnette, left, and Jayme Arnette during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Retired Air Force Col. Robert Thacker shares a laugh with his adopted son and daughter-in-law, Greg Arnette, left, and Jayme Arnette during his 100th birthday party in San Clemente on Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Surviving the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and three wars would seem challenges enough for a man trying to beat the odds to become a centenarian.

For Col. Robert Thacker, being shot at in the skies over Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was, surprisingly, not his closest call.

“I’m sorry to say,” the San Clemente resident said at a party celebrating his 100th birthday Wednesday, Feb. 21, “but Dec. 17 was harder.”

That would be Dec. 17, 2017, when the retired Air Force colonel was struck by a car during one of his walks around San Clemente.

For most 99-year-olds, the medical prognosis from bleeding on the brain, a bruised head and lacerations to the head and body would seem bleak. But “The Colonel,” as he is known around town, is not most people.

He had told many of the people he stops to chat with on his walks to make sure to attend his 100th birthday party on Feb. 21.

“I was going to have a party, period, no matter what shape I was in,” he said. “You’ve got to just pucker up and press on.”

“And I guess,” he said, looking around with a gleam in his eye at guests standing shoulder to shoulder in his house, “a few people showed up!”

Kim Maya, whose chocolate shop has been a regular stop on The Colonel’s walks for 14 years, said Thacker isn’t just a man about town.

“He IS the town,” she said, “his spirit, his knowledge, his upbeat attitude. He can say hello to everybody. He has been attacked by dogs, he’s been hit by a car, he’s fallen over and he just keeps getting up and walking forward.”

Thacker was in the news on Dec. 7, 2017, retelling the story of how he piloted one of 11 unarmed B-17 bombers from California overnight to Hawaii the night of Dec. 6, 1941, transferring them out into the Pacific for the Army.

His 14-hour flight had been uneventful. Then the crew found itself trying to land at Hickam Field at 8 a.m., smack in the middle of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

With limited fuel, the B-17s had to land. Thacker touched down safely despite his aircraft being hit, crippling the landing gear. He warned his crew not to head for the hangars. They hid in a swamp, as Japanese aircraft destroyed the hangars and strafed away, bullets flying everywhere.

Thacker went on to survive three wars. He piloted B-17s in the Pacific and over Europe in World War II, flew the B-29 in Korea and performed high-altitude reconnaissance over Vietnam.

On Feb. 21, party guests wished him well and thumbed through scrapbooks of his achievements, from teenage yo-yo champion in El Centro to war stories and a 1947 world flying record, 14 hours, 33 minutes piloting a twin-engine fighter plane nonstop 5,051 miles from Honolulu to New York City.

The propeller-driven plane “Betty Jo,” named after Thacker’s wife, is on display in the U.S. Air Force Museum. Thacker is honored there.

It was not an easy 14 hours in the air, Thacker recalled at the party. One of his four fuel tanks wouldn’t release fuel. “That threw my whole fuel control all out of kilter,” he said. “The whole thing had to be refigured while I was airborne.  Every place (on the map) I hit, I had to refigure. The longer I flew, the better fuel I had, because I was lighter. My fuel was continually changing. I knew what I was doing. At the end, I knew I could just make New York.”

Guests of all ages and walks of life wandered through The Colonel’s home viewing photos, news clippings, medals, displays and his remote-control airplanes. He fired up a powerful jet fighter just enough to show it off to guests.

He is a member of the Model Aviation Hall of Fame.

Local contractor Dave Norman said he air-conditioned The Colonel’s home for him 12 years ago and they have been friends since. “I ended up loving the guy. You don’t meet men like this, what he did for our country,” Norman said.

“I just love him,” said Jeri Hoffman, a retired waitress from the Beach Garden Cafe, which for nearly 20 years was one of Thacker’s daily stops.

Until about four years ago, The Colonel’ routine was to walk about five miles, Kim Maya said. He would descend the steep street by his home, Avenida San Juan, continue down to the beach, take the beach trail north to the pier, walk up Avenida Del Mar and return south along El Camino Real to ascend Avenida San Juan back to his home.

The last couple of years he’s had to do shorter walks, Maya said, but still holds court with people along the way.

“He had a bit of a setback,” his neighbor, Jim Rutter, said of the Dec. 17 auto vs. pedestrian collision at an intersection. But after three weeks at Mission Hospital, he was cleared to go home and rehab.

“He is amazing,” Rutter said. “He is out walking around the cul-de-sac. He is building back up. He still has his license to drive until he’s 101.”

One guest at the party, Richard Cropley, 98, known in town as “Mr. T-Street” for a hamburger stand he operated for decades at T-Street Beach, showed up just to meet The Colonel. A friend had encouraged him. Cropley was a Marine Corps major and dive bomber pilot in the Pacific in World War II.

Nancy Harman of Huntington Beach, who calls The Colonel “my uncle,” has been friends with him since the 1980s.

“My father was also a B-17 pilot, so they became good friends,” she said. “My father was my hero, and Bob (Thacker) went on to do many, many, many heroic things.”

 

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/23/over-a-lifetime-of-challenges-a-military-hero-turns-100/

San Clemente remembers Fred Divel, who brought President Nixon to town and became a key historic preservationist

  • At a 2010 event at Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, Fred Divel relates the story of bringing President Nixon and Mrs. Nixon, pictured, to San Clemente. (File photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    At a 2010 event at Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, Fred Divel relates the story of bringing President Nixon and Mrs. Nixon, pictured, to San Clemente. (File photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Pillars of the San Clemente Historical Society were seated next to each other at a 2013 party for the organization’s 40th anniversary. From left were Lois Divel, Elberta Ayer, Jack Lashbrook, Fred Divel, Norm Haven, Doris Rinehart and Betty Jo Cates. (File photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Pillars of the San Clemente Historical Society were seated next to each other at a 2013 party for the organization’s 40th anniversary. From left were Lois Divel, Elberta Ayer, Jack Lashbrook, Fred Divel, Norm Haven, Doris Rinehart and Betty Jo Cates. (File photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Fred Divel, who campaigned for more than a decade to revive San Clemente’s Miramar Theatre, sat beside Jim Doody’s painting of the landmark at an event in 2015. On the painting, the marquee says “Help!” (File photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Fred Divel, who campaigned for more than a decade to revive San Clemente’s Miramar Theatre, sat beside Jim Doody’s painting of the landmark at an event in 2015. On the painting, the marquee says “Help!” (File photo by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Fred Divel will be remembered for two distinctions in San Clemente — he was the local resident who attracted former President Richard Nixon to San Clemente, and he co-founded the San Clemente Historical Society.

The two events are related.

Divel, who died of cancer Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 68, liked to say that there were upsides and downsides to the president of the United States putting San Clemente on the world map in 1969.

Divel, then a college student, had volunteered in Nixon’s successful 1968 run for president. Nixon aides asked him to scout locations for a Southern California summer home for Dick and Pat Nixon.

The lifelong San Clemente resident discovered that a palatial early San Clemente home was available on a secluded oceanfront promontory at the south end of town. The Nixons purchased it in 1969.

What Divel didn’t realize was that land developers, seeking to cash in on the Orange County beach town’s newfound fame as “Home of the Western White House,” would start buying up all the best sites for ocean bluff condominiums.

Many of those sites were locations that San Clemente’s first residents had selected in the 1920s to build elegant oceanfront Spanish-motif homes.

By 1972, Fred Divel and his mother Lois – today San Clemente’s matriarch – had seen one too many demolitions of landmark homes.

Creating the San Clemente Historical Society, they set out to awaken the town, preserve its heritage, document legacy buildings and prompt the city to enact preservation programs.

Their campaign succeeded. Although the town has grown from 13,000 residents to 65,000 since the Nixon arrival, the society helped preserve San Clemente’s historic core. Once-threatened landmark buildings survive. Casa Romantica is a cultural center. The Miramar Theatre is city-approved for a renaissance as an events center.

Looking back, Divel said it is likely that demolition of landmarks to build high-density condominiums would have come anyway, even if the president hadn’t moved to town. “I just saw that as the ruination of my hometown,” he said in an interview. “At the time, I was still taking bows for having brought him here.”

Divel, senior class president at San Clemente High School in 1967, grew up a member of a family that had come to town in 1927, two years after visionary developer Ole Hanson had founded what he called his “Spanish Village.” Every San Clemente building, by decree, would be white stucco with a red-tile roof. Streets would curve with the contours of the land.

Divel’s sister Jane Divel Nichols, in a Facebook post announcing her brother’s passing, described aspects of the community preservationist that most San Clemente residents likely didn’t know.

“He worked for Disneyland, Disney World, WED Enterprises and several cruise lines as special event coordinator, which took him around the world many times,” she wrote. “He was an actor and model. He was a kind, patient gentleman. I never heard a swear word from him. I am still truly disbelieving that this handsome, kind, sweet, generous, witty, king of puns, lovable fella is no longer with us.”

He is survived by his 89-year-old mother, Lois Divel of San Clemente; his sister Martha Divel Sanchez of San Clemente; sister Jane Divel Nichols of San Luis Obispo; and brother Tommy of San Clemente. No services are planned, per his wishes.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/23/san-clemente-remembers-fred-divel-who-brought-president-nixon-to-town-and-became-a-key-historic-preservationist/

San Clemente news briefs: ‘San Clemente Day,’ golf pro, world record and more

  • Two year old Grace is a recent mom who raised six puppies and is now finally ready for a home of her own. Her handlers at the San Clemente/Dana Point Animal Shelter describe her as a fun and energetic dog. For adoption info, call the shelter at 949-492-1617 or visit her at 221 Avenida Fabricante, San Clemente. (Courtesy of animal shelter)

    Two year old Grace is a recent mom who raised six puppies and is now finally ready for a home of her own. Her handlers at the San Clemente/Dana Point Animal Shelter describe her as a fun and energetic dog. For adoption info, call the shelter at 949-492-1617 or visit her at 221 Avenida Fabricante, San Clemente. (Courtesy of animal shelter)

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‘San Clemente Day’ is coming Saturday, Feb. 24

If you plan to attend the city’s “San Clemente Day” festivities and take a free trolley tour of historic sites around town, you can park either at the pier or at North Beach and catch the trolleys there.

The tours, from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. Tours will make stops at Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, the top of Avenida Del Mar and St. Clement’s Episcopal Church along the route. The trolleys will drop off and pick up passengers at the stops, the city said in a news release.

The Ole Hanson Beach Club at North Beach will host activities from noon to 6 p.m. including free recreational swimming, deck games, lawn games, synchronized swimming performances and, from 3 p.m., free birthday cake and ice cream. From noon to 3 p.m., the city will offer a $25 chicken lunch upstairs at the beach club featuring an Ole Hanson look-alike re-creating town founder Hanson’s sales pitch to prospective residents. Roaring 20s attire is encouraged.

Prior to all these activities, the city will host an 8 a.m. children’s fishing derby at the end of the pier. Beware that chicken lunch tickets are limited and may sell out.

City Council salutes local golf pro

While world-class professional golfers were drawing polite applause for their shots at the Los Angeles Open golf tournament Feb. 15-18, San Clemente’s underdog golfer Vinnie Poncino had a vigorous cheering section.

Poncino, head pro at the San Clemente Municipal Golf Course, had earned a slot in the L.A. Open by winning a local golf tournament among local pros from Southern California golf courses.

Former San Clemente Mayor Bob Baker was among dozens of San Clemente residents who drove to Riviera Country Club to cheer on Poncino.

“It was quite a sight to see,” Baker said. “Vinnie is playing with two fulltime PGA Tour guys. So they make a putt and there’s a (quiet clapping). Vinnie makes a putt, ‘YAY, ALL RIGHT VINNIE!’

“It was small-town America.”

Baker told the story at a Feb. 20 City Council meeting, where Mayor Tim Brown presented Poncino with a proclamation congratulating him for representing San Clemente. “You really did us proud,” Brown told him.

Poncino reflected on playing in front of tens of thousands of people.

“I had a rough start,” he said, “but I calmed down and played well the second day. There was a ton of San Clemente people out there, and I heard each and every one of you.”

In 2014, San Clemente's Beth Sanden was pictured being honored on the podium at the Rome Marathon in Italy. (Courtesy of Beth Sanden)
In 2014, San Clemente’s Beth Sanden was pictured being honored on the podium at the Rome Marathon in Italy. (Courtesy of Beth Sanden)

Sanden awarded record for handcycle marathons

The website officialworldrecord.com has awarded partly paralyzed athlete Beth Sanden of San Clemente a world record, naming her as the first woman to complete marathons on seven continents plus the North Pole on a handcycle.

Between 2012 and 2017, the 62-year-old athlete, paralyzed below the waist in a cycling accident in 2002, completed marathons in Africa, Tasmania, Peru, Rome, Boston, Antarctica, Vietnam and the North Pole. Her documented finishing times ranged from 2 hours, 22 minutes in Boston to 10 hours, 58 minutes in Antarctica, the website said.

Jazz concert at San Clemente High

Music lovers can tap their feet and sway to two varieties of jazz on March 3 when the San Clemente High School Jazz Band and the school’s Latin Jazz combo perform on campus.

“Jazz on Pico Nightclub” is the title of the concert. Shows will be offered at 5 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s Triton Center, with volunteers offering appetizers, desserts and drinks as a fundraiser for the music program. Admission is a $10 cover charge plus purchase of at least one item.

“The jazzman will present big band music while the Latin jazz combo will play many salsa-inspired pieces,” Band Director Tony Soto said.

The school is at 700 Avenida Pico, San Clemente.

Dance team offers clinic March 6

Middle school and high school students interested in trying out for the San Clemente High School dance team can attend a Teen Skills and Evaluation Clinic from 4 to 6:30 p.m. March 6 in the dance room on campus.

The fee is $50. A registration form is available at schsdanceteam.com, with onsite registration starting a half-hour before the clinic.

It’s a chance for dance hopefuls to practice with the current team and learn some dance combinations.

“Coaches will be observing the dancers and providing a written evaluation in the mail after the clinic, highlighting strengths and offering suggestions for areas to improve before the team’s tryouts scheduled for April 10-13,” the team said in a news release.

Hospital support group offers bingo

Bingo lovers are invited to an 11 a.m. luncheon March 15 at Bella Collina Golf Club, hosted by Los Niños Guild of Children’s Hospital of Orange County.

The event will begin with a social hour, then lunch and bingo at noon plus prize drawings and a silent auction. Admission is a $50 donation. Proceeds will benefit CHOC at Mission Hospital.

Visit losninosguild.com to register online.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/21/san-clemente-news-briefs-san-clemente-day-golf-pro-world-record-and-more/

Transportation planners propose extending I-5 carpool lanes to O.C.’s southern border

A new push for north-south traffic relief could be in store for south Orange County with the latest incarnation of the Orange County Transportation Authority’s Long Range Transportation Plan.

It includes a $237 million proposal to extend carpool lanes on Interstate 5 from Avenida Pico to the San Diego County line, San Clemente City Council members were told at their Feb. 20 meeting.

Councilwoman Lori Donchak, who represents San Clemente on the OCTA board, reported that the updated countywide plan identifies future transportation projects in two categories – proposed or conceptual. The I-5 widening to the county line is on the “proposed” list and, for the first time, has a cost estimate attached to it, Donchak said.

“It is significant that it has been added in,” she said, “because Measure M (a countywide half-cent sales tax for transportation) is voter-approved and the money is committed at the time when the vote is taken.”

She said the project is being put forward as an extension of a $230 million Measure M-assisted I-5 widening that is due for completion in March, having been under construction for four years. That project is adding 5.7 miles of carpool lanes to I-5 between San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. A ribbon-cutting is in the works, Donchak said.

That project began at Camino Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano and is ending just past Avenida Pico in San Clemente. The new project, Donchak said, would carry the carpool lanes south through San Clemente to the Orange County line at the Cristianitos Road exit.

Donchak said she was conveying information presented to OCTA board members Feb. 12.

She also reported that a proposed extension of the 241 Toll Road south from Oso Parkway does not appear in the Long Range Transportation Plan. “The 241 extension appears on neither list,” she said, “which is a difference from prior Long Range Transportation Plans.”

Earlier versions of the Long Range Transportation Plan, she explained, showed a state-approved route for the 241 behind San Clemente to San Onofre that has been abandoned.

Donchak said a proposal to connect the north end of the 241 Toll Road with the 91 Freeway’s express lanes does appear in the plan, with a cost estimate of $180 million.

“Riverside and Orange County have both asked the Transportation Corridor Agencies to take a pause on that project,” she said. “In spirit, it was a pause, not a stop.”

Donchak also reported that OCTA is accepting applications for $12 million in grants to help Orange County cities provide summer trolleys that offer free rides to the public. Grant applications are due March 23, she said, and San Clemente city staff is working up a proposal.

San Clemente launched its first summer trolley in 2017. An OCTA grant funded most of the costs. The city has been discussing enhancements – including a potential connection to Dana Point’s trolley, which in turn connects to trolleys in San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Beach.

Donchak said she believes San Clemente’s trolley is in a good position for an added grant, since the city’s first-year program averaged 46 boardings per service hour, tops among 15 trolley systems across the county. Laguna Beach was second with 34 hourly boardings, Lake Forest third with 21, she reported.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/21/transportation-planners-propose-extending-i-5-carpool-lanes-to-o-c-s-southern-border/

Suggestion for use of “story poles” in San Juan Capistrano to show size of proposed projects didn’t get council interest

Councilwoman Pam Patterson’s bid to have developers in San Juan Capistrano erect tall wooden poles known as “story poles” to show the public the magnitude of proposed buildings failed to catch on with the City Council.

Residents have a right to see the height and breadth of a proposed building and its impact on views and on neighborhoods, Patterson told her fellow council members Feb. 6 in her argument to put in place rules similar to nearby Laguna Beach. The council took no action.

Patterson suggested the city should require the story poles for all development, whether it’s new construction or an addition.

Councilman Brian Maryott said the council already has the power to require story poles on an as-needed basis when developers apply for a zoning change or a change to the city’s general plan. City Manager Ben Siegel confirmed the city can require the visuals be put in place.

In Laguna Beach, story poles are erected 28 days prior to a design review hearing, Siegel said.

Mayor Sergio Farias suggested poles could end up staying much longer if there are issues with a particular project. He wondered how story poles would look if left up for an extended period next to a historic site such as Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Councilwoman Kerry Ferguson said an accurate model, done to scale, is more helpful. “It’s a lot more illustrative,” Ferguson said.

Resident Steve Behmerwohld told the council he has no problem with story poles, just with what critics of a project could do with them, such as changing the perspective of a project by the angle of pictures taken of story poles.

Resident Michael Laux said story poles are a great tool used by neighboring cities. He said developers’ sketches of projects often are not to scale, but surveyor-certified story poles are very accurate, able to show view impediment or preservation.

“I think it’s good for all the projects,” he said. “It’s three-dimensional. You can walk up; you can see exactly what the impact is going to be.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/21/suggestion-for-use-of-story-poles-in-san-juan-capistrano-to-show-size-of-proposed-projects-didnt-get-council-interest/