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Fred Swegles

By Fred Swegles

The first time I shot Fourth of July fireworks on the San Clemente Pier would have been in the early 1970s. For my first fireworks picture on the front page of the Daily Sun-Post, I was really excited.

I walked out underneath Lifeguard Tower Zero on the pier and pointed my camera straight up at the flagpole on top of the lifeguard tower, trying to frame a photo of a firework exploding right around the American flag.

I was really happy how it came out on the Sun-Post’s front page. San Clemente’s fireworks show was obviously much, much smaller, and technologically wasn’t anything remotely close to what we see today.

The fireworks committee invited me out on the pier to picture them shooting off fireworks that evening.

And that afternoon, as they were setting up the pier, I walked out onto the deck, and they invited me to fire off something tiny for fun. I don’t remember doing that, but one of the volunteers I knew borrowed my camera to take a picture of me firing a can.

It’s kind of cool looking at the Pier Bowl in the background of that photo.

Fred Swegles lights fireworks off of the San Clemente Pier.

This collection of pictures was among many old San Clemente pictures I put together maybe 15-16 years ago, when I was assembling a massive bunch of old photos for a historic San Clemente photo exhibit and slideshows that appeared one summer at Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens. A group selected the photos for the exhibit.

My bosses at OC Register were happy to endorse my being able to set up photo exhibits and slideshows at the Casa.

I don’t recall which of these fireworks photos made the photo exhibit. But these may give you something you can enjoy.

To go with that, I’ve also included some photos here that I took for SC Times from July 4, 2019.

I took the fireworks explosion picture from the street at Paseo de Cristobal. Notice people sitting in the street, looking northward toward the T-Street Overpass and the pier’s fireworks displays. And then, off to the right, you can see Dana Point’s fireworks in the distance.

And I also have pictures I took in 2019 from the Condor Squadron’s flyover of San Clemente, which we’ve had for years.

Hope everyone enjoys this year’s spectacular fireworks at the Pier.

Fred Swegles grew up in San Clemente before the freeway. He has 50 years’ reporting experience in the city and can be reached at

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