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Tidbits From San Clemente’s Oral History

Aug 23, 2018 06:51PM ● Published by Tom Marshall

Divel Mortuary, pictured in 1934, when it was built in 1928 city fathers required that it be located outside of town.

by Tom Marshall
San Clemente Historical Society

The San Clemente Historical Society has launched a project to record on video the oral histories and memories of longtime local residents.  Besides preserving these valuable first-hand accounts of our evolving city, short segments of the interviews will appear on a rotating basis on the Society’s website sanclementehistoricalsociety.org.

Some interesting tidbits have already come to light from these interviews.  Here is a sampling:
•  Ole Hanson’s last name would have been Thorsen if an immigration officer hadn’t accidentally transposed Ole’s fathers’ name when he arrived in America from Norway.

•  When current Matriarch Lois Divel’s father-in-law Roy Divel, Sr opened the Divel Mortuary in 1928, city fathers required that it be located outside of town.

•  The city’s Patriarch, Jack Lashbrook and best friend Norm Haven, as well as most of their male friends back in the day were “known to the police,” as they put it.  Something to do with fireworks.

•  In the early 1940s, gardener Juan Luna wanted to buy a house on Paseo De Cristobal but due to covenants in the deed he was not allowed to because he was of Mexican descent.  One of his customers, a Mrs. Williams, was outraged and bought the house then resold it to Luna.  Many of Luna’s grandchildren still run the family landscaping and gardening business.  At their father’s insistence, they all went to college “We are a family of college-educated gardeners,” they comment.  Maybe they are the only such family in Southern California.

•  After DeNault’s Hardware store opened in the early 1950s, there were three hardware stores in the 100 block of Avenida Del Mar; not to mention two lumberyards in town.  “There was a lot of building going on and we all did well,” said Ruth DeNault.  “When we moved to our present location on El Camino Real people asked why we were moving so far out of town,” she commented.  Why did they?  “Parking,” DeNault replied.  Some things never change.

•  Sam’s Shoes on Avenida Del Mar was founded in 1953 by Sam Tiberi. He made the first pair of baby shoes for Julie Nixon Eisenhower’s baby. One day in the early 1970s Sam was working with his back to the counter.  He turned to find Julie and a crowd of people facing him.  As Sam recalls it, “Julie says ‘Sam do you know my dad?’ There stood the President of the United States and several Secret Service agents, right there in my store.”  When Sam regained his composure he gave President Nixon a tour of his shoe repair operation.  Impressed, the President later sent over more than a dozen custom made shoes for repair.  

•  Perhaps one of San Clemente’s biggest structure fires destroyed most of the Community Center (known then as The Social Club).  According to one of our interview subjects, it was started by the child of the building’s caretaker playing with matches.  The only part of the building that survives today is the Ole Hanson Room.  They used to hold boxing matches there back in the day.  You can still see the clamps in the floor that used to hold up the ring.

The Ole Hanson Room is the same room where the Historical Society holds its quarterly meetings.  The events are free for anyone to attend and usually are held from 6 to 8PM.  However, our next program will be held in the adjacent auditorium, Sunday, September 16, 2018 from 3 to 5 PM.  It is our bienniel “Candidates Forum.”  All of the candidates who filed to run for city council have been invited to discuss the issues of the day in San Clemente, perhaps making history for future generations.  Come one. Come all.  And if you know anyone with an interesting story to relate for our oral history of San Clemente project contact us through our website listed below.

San Clemente Historical Society, P. O. Box 283, San Clemente
CA 92672-0283 • Phone: 949-492-9684
Website: sanclementehistoricalsociety.org

Local History

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