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Fred Swegles
Fred Swegles

By Fred Swegles

Everyone loves the good old days, right? So let’s hop into a time machine and roll back 35 years.

Have things really changed? Let’s relive a few 1983 snippets I chronicled in the Sun Post News. Ready?

The town’s population was 28,877 (less than half what it is today).

Former President Richard M. Nixon picked San Clemente’s Marblehead Coastal development site as the location for his presidential library (Yorba Linda, eat your heart out … or, umm, maybe not).

The city opened a pro-life animal shelter on Avenida Pico (first of three locations).

Storm surf toppled the San Clemente Pier (government grants, plus a local “Save Our Pier” campaign, would help rebuild it).

Scary, high-speed Border Patrol pursuits spilling onto San Clemente streets became a sore point and a longstanding political issue (eventually the I-5 checkpoint at San Onofre was remodeled, making it harder to run).

The City Council adopted Plan 2000, envisioning a dramatic revitalization of North Beach (it wasn’t to be).

The city ordered removal of more than 80 business signs, some coming down quietly, others not (a familiar theme).

Potholed streets became a hot topic as the city wrestled with how to find money to rebuild them (it would take 12 years to enact a program but it got it done).

Debates erupted over whether RV owners should be able to park on public streets or in their yards (restrictions resulted).

Debates flared over whether to ban view-blocking trees on private property (it wasn’t to be).

Coyote attacks on pets, two children and an adult elevated anxieties in San Clemente neighborhoods (police sharpshooters fanned out at night, killing 10 coyotes, problem solved).

San Clemente resident Corky Carroll, a former international surfing champion, gained newfound celebrity in Miller Lite TV commercials.

A Subaru agency shut down in a dispute with the city over a sign.

An auto dealer’s center was proposed along I-5 (it wasn’t to be).

The city enacted what were said to be the nation’s most comprehensive fire-prevention laws.

A development plan was approved for the 1,943-acre Rancho San Clemente property.

A woman who lived next door to a 2-year-old attacked by a coyote narrowly averted being bitten by a rattlesnake that tried to enter her home through a sliding glass door.

The San Clemente Jail started accepting paying customers, offering minor offenders an alternative to the county slammer (for a fee).

Ocean temperatures were unseasonably warm (it does happen, as we know this year).

An 82-year-old driver making a last-ditch effort to keep her license didn’t make it out of the DMV driveway when asked to turn right (her car flipped upside down, leaving her and the driving examiner suspended by their seatbelts).

A burglary suspect punched the city’s police dog in the face (learning the hard way you ought not mess with Baron).

Fred Swegles is a longtime San Clemente resident with more than 46 years of journalism experience in the city.

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