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By Tom Marshall
Last month, we told you how San Clemente’s first newspaper, the weekly El Heraldo de San Clemente, chronicled the events of our town’s beginning. Here, we continue to explore the history of local publications over the past century.
On May 6, 1927, El Heraldo reported construction was beginning on The San Clemente Riding Academy to provide recreation to local horse lovers including town founder Ole Hanson. It was located on South El Camino Real, where the Ralphs supermarket is today. The article stated the academy “must measure up to the best in the country.”
It apparently didn’t work out, as San Clemente’s first hospital was built on that site just four years later.
An El Heraldo article from Nov. 20, 1931 trumpeted that Dr. Rea Smith would conduct an arthritis clinic, which would bring the hospital “nationwide fame as much as the Mayo Clinic.” Guess that didn’t work out, either.
The need for a local hospital (sound familiar?) was exemplified by an incident in which a workman fell 40 feet from a pole, driving his leg bones through his feet. He was loaded into a private car and rushed to the Oceanside hospital, where he was transferred to an ambulance for a two-hour ride to a bigger hospital in San Diego. Through all that, he did survive.
Three months later, Roy V. Divel opened our first funeral home and ambulance service. Hanson required that it be on the outskirts of town. The ambulance was an immediate success.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1927, the paper reported 13 wrecks in as many miles on El Camino Real, leading to the road being called “Blood Alley” in our area.
El Heraldo went under during the early part of The Great Depression in the 1930s. On June 25, 1937, the San Clemente Sun came into existence. Its motto: “The city that climate built.”
An article from July 1, 1954 explained that former local resident George Richard Jones had invented and built a new 36-inch-tall sports car, the Meteor SR-1. He built two, both fire engine red and then called it a career.
Competition for the Sun arrived with the first edition of the SC Post on April 16, 1953. The Sun published every Thursday, and the Post published each Monday. A July 8, 1957 Post story told of an atomic blast that lit up San Clemente’s morning sky from a test site in Nevada.
The same issue reported that three robbery suspects were arrested following a “wild swinging melee” that terrorized the beach. So, life wasn’t always perfect back in the good ol’ days.
Legendary local journalist Fred Swegles tells us the owners of the Sun finally purchased the Post on January 24, 1955, while continuing to operate them separately. By 1959, the two publications would merge, becoming the Sun-Post. In 1963, the newspaper switched to a daily.
A Sun-Post story from September 1963 exclaimed a record 108-degree day in San Clemente. We were ahead of the global warming curve, I guess.
The paper was eventually purchased by the Orange County Register and closed early last decade after having reverting to a weekly.
On March 23, 2006, Norb Garrett launched the San Clemente Times. Fortunately, he hadn’t gotten the memo that newspapers were a dying business.
We are fortunate to have this paper and the San Clemente Journal magazine covering local events. During the early days of the pandemic, the Journal observed its 25th anniversary. Both publications are going strong, thanks in large measure to you, the readers.
Tom Marshall is a member of the San Clemente Historical Society and a retired journalist.