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Fred Swegles

A recent column drew lots of responses to its tale about a 1970 San Clemente newspaper ad that suggested tourists might run into President Nixon on our beach.

On Facebook, I asked readers, “Did any of you ever run into President Nixon on our beach?”

I counted more than 60 responses. Here are some edited snippets:

An old, yellowed, glued news clipping shows how San Clemente High School student Bob Bare, who lived in Cyprus Shore near then-President Nixon, got to surf Cotton’s Point by himself when Nixon was in residence. A Daily Sun-Post story about it went viral, 1970s style. Photo: Fred Swegles

My husband saw him a few times when surfing at Cotton’s. Said Nixon would walk on the beach wearing his shoes.

Me and the guys, surfing Cotton’s, mooned him when he was putting on his lawn. He actually waved at us once.

With Secret Service on Cotton’s. We were walking north from barbed wire, him, his wife and five Secret Service agents. It was great. He told the agents to back off, and we chatted with him and wife about waves and water temps!

Used to see him at Shorecliffs Golf Club all the time. Out on the course one day, I asked how he was playing. “Pretty well, except for the 12th hole. That’s a tough one,” he said, shaking those famous basset hound jowls. He looked like Richard Nixon imitating Rich Little’s imitation of Richard Nixon!

I and a neighbor did attempt to sneak up on his property. We got to the gazebo out on the bluff and chickened out!

I met him at Concordia San Clemente in Mrs. Lovmark’s class.

I got to meet him at the Western White House. My dad worked there.

Greenwall and Liebig were the Western White House Plumbers; dealt mostly with the First Lady, but saw the President occasionally while on the property.

I worked at South Coast TV. We fixed his TV.

My sister was Julie Nixon’s nurse while she was in the hospital. Nixon came in Julie’s room a few times while Carol was in the room tending to Julie after giving birth.

I stood with an umbrella in the rain at the Cyprus Shore entrance gate with my brother Fred when Nixon first came to look at the Cotton Estate. Nixon waved from his car.

I did a lot of work for the Nixons and also James Arness.

We were honored to help with his travels and attend a couple functions at the Western White House.

An old, yellowed, glued news clipping shows a local resident identified only as Mrs. White posing while getting then-President Nixon’s autograph one day at Shorecliffs Golf Club. At left is Nixon aide Jack Brennan. Photo: Fred Swegles

He came to our church a couple of times, as one of his Secret Service attended the Palisades Methodist Church. It was really exciting as a kid to be in the same room with him. He was very polite and nice to everyone.

I saw him getting out of a limo to go to church in the Palisades. He had so much foundation on, he looked dead and pasty.

I lived above the ninth hole at Shorecliffs Golf Club. My little dog PJ and I were playing down by the hole. (A) golf ball came rolling across the green. PJ grabbed it and played keep-away from President Nixon on the green. He thought she was so cute. He signed his scorecard and shook my hand. Really nice guy!

I sold him probably 100 golf balls as a kid. He would see me run down to the Shorecliffs Golf Club and would say, “Hey, Dan, what do you have for me today?” He was always kind and gracious, introducing me to his golf mates, celebrities, astronauts and politicians. I just knew he was the President and could care less about the others. Ha!

I met him one time in Tiberi’s on Del Mar. It was Christmastime, and I was shopping for a tie for my dad. Nixon told me, in his iconic voice, “I prefer silk ties.”

Myself along with two friends were locked ’n loaded with eggs and water balloons out on a mission of red-eyed terror one night in town as teens, and we were sitting at the intersection … El Camino Real offramp, when President Nixon’s motorcade was rolling low ’n slow three cars deep … when, all of a sudden, three SC Little League arms went full effect. We nailed every car, then we took off (in) three different directions on bikes and met under the bridge at T-Sreet. We never got caught.

My cousin said he ran out to the sixth green at the Shorecliffs golf course behind his house to get Nixon’s autograph one time, and he was tackled by the Secret Service. My cousin didn’t exactly look like an exemplary citizen at that time. Ended up getting Nixon’s autograph on a matchbook; wonder if he still has it.

There was an early morning fire in a fireplace at Nixon’s home. My stepdad was a firefighter and was there to put it out. Later, Nixon came to the Civic Center on Presidio to honor the firefighters that helped. I was there, but they had the families in a separate area from the event.

You see lots of golf carts on San Clemente streets today. This is one you’d never see. President Nixon used it only to shuttle the short distance from his helicopter to his house in San Clemente. Note the photo caption. He was one busy guy. Photo: Fred Swegles

My husband’s grandparents were his tailors (Carl’s menswear—where South Swell is now) and once made one of his daughters a gown.

We used to see President Nixon all the time on Shorecliffs golf course. You always knew he was coming, because the secret service guys would always come about 5 minutes ahead of him and wait. Many times, they didn’t know we had our BB guns trained on them from above. Innocent kid stuff. You surely couldn’t do that today! He was always really cool and would talk to us boys and throw the football to us. He would say, “Go out for a pass,” and we quickly learned not to go out past 5 yards or you would be diving forward to catch it. Did not want to embarrass the President of the United States.

Playing 3 Flies Up or 1,000 on the 10th fairway at Estrella Country Club (temporary name change from Shorecliffs) with my buddies. Nixon took a moment to ask, “Do you boys mind if I play through?” in his best Dan-Aykroyd-doing-Nixon voice.

Fred Swegles is a longtime San Clemente resident with five decades of reporting experience in the city. Fred can be reached at

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