MARY FRANTA, San Clemente

The first time I walked on the San Clemente Pier was magical. Seeing the blueness and beauty of the ocean, admiring the surfers ride waves onto the shore, I looked across the water to admire a tall stone structure that had a clock in it. I thought to myself: what a quaint building that is! I was admiring the old analog Clock Tower on the beach. It was built in 1968, 51 years ago.

Artists from all over the place have featured this old Clock Tower, preserving it for generations to come in acrylics, oils and watercolors. It’s a living piece of Americana!

At the time, I didn’t know this building served an important purpose. The Old Clock Tower is the Marine Safety Building of San Clemente, where matters of preserving life and safety are what happens inside those stoic-looking stone walls. It serves approximately two million visitors to our beaches annually.

If you were to take a walk on the ocean side of the Clock Tower, you would notice something ominous going on. Mother Ocean is playing tag with this historic building. She is taking her licks, the waves tearing into the building, bit-by-bit; licking off sections of paint, exposing sections of two-by-fours.

She has removed portions of insulation and other components that maintain the integrity of the building itself. It’s a slow process, but once the ocean gets a hold of something, it’s only a matter of time. But not so fast. Thanks to our city council approving an expensive repair process, the building will be strengthened and reinforced.

We can all hope to see the Old Clock Tower stand for another decade, or two, maybe longer. I can’t imagine a better location for a Marine Safety Building to be. Who knows when Mother Ocean will get into another one of her fierce moods and start slamming our coastline with another one of her powerful winter storms? Will the Old Clock Tower still keep standing tall? Or our pier, for that matter? Enjoy them both—for what time we still have!

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