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The View from the Pier By Herman Sillas
The View from the Pier By Herman Sillas

By Herman Sillas

When you get older, life changes. I think back to my first years in San Clemente, when I was introduced to its Pier. I enjoyed my early walks out there when the sun had not yet risen. I was alone in searching for the right place to fish.

As other fishermen arrived, they picked their places. We eventually shared notes on what might work as bait. Eventually, the owner of the shack at the end of the Pier came. They made coffee for the walkers who came and shared stories about yesterday. These folks lasted a couple of hours and then headed back to shore. I enjoyed their tales.

Fishermen on the Pier became attractions for the walkers and runners on the boardwalk as they ventured to the end. There were always kids walking on the Pier marveling over the ocean below them. If I was out there pondering a problem from my law practice, by the time I got back to the shore, it had been resolved, in my mind.

Today, my world has changed. Cora and I are living in a place that is reserved for old folks. Everywhere we go, we are met by them. The women outnumber the men 20 to 1.

Each person, or man and wife, are living in an apartment and receive three meals a day in the dining area. The food is good and healthy. But what is impressive are the employees. They treat the dwellers as if they were their own parents. It is a great thing to see how the residents are treated and cared for by the employees.

The days are filled with all kinds of activities for the residents, ranging from exercises, games, speakers, bands, art, movies, walking and volleyball played by players sitting down. But the residents are the real attraction of the place.

See, I’m talking about the people there. They have lived in this world for 60 years or more. A couple of people there are more than 100; imagine what they have seen in their lifetime!

If you can get them to talk, they have stories that make you cry and laugh. The beautiful thing is that they remember these stories as if they happened yesterday. I interviewed a Japanese woman who was pulled out of her home at the start of World War II, after the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter, Japanese-Americans were taken from their homes by the Army and placed in camps for the rest of the war. She lived there during the war and was released after the war ended. Eventually, the American government agreed to pay $20,000 to each Japanese-American who had to live in those areas. This lady got hers, but she let me know her mother didn’t get anything because she had died. You had to be alive to get the money.

The war had affected a lot of the people at this resting house. They lost sons, brothers, fathers, and that impacted families. But the folks I talked to continue to live their lives. What great stories these folks have. They met the challenges with which they were faced. They didn’t quit. They faced the challenges and overcame them.

Now they are in places like this and meet each other every day for meals and events that they enjoy. They have feelings for everyone they meet, because they know that life has had an impact on them, but they are still here. They are still alive and living. They can laugh when they think of their life, because they are still alive. You have to love that courage, and I admire it. I have been authorized by management to interview the persons at this location. The habitants have agreed for me to interview them and tell their stories. It is going to be a ball. That’s the view from the Pier.

Herman Sillas is an author and has been a DMV Director and a former U. S. Attorney . He may be reached at

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