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

By Herman Sillas

The San Clemente Pier is a great gathering place. I know it has been for me. I remember the feeling as I first walked on the planks. I took my two fishing poles, bait and wagon. It became the place where I went every Saturday and Sunday morning to fish. It also became the place where I met a lot of San Clemente folks. One such person was John Yamada.

When World War II started, John was a young boy. Because his parents were Japanese, John and his brothers and sisters were sent to a camp for the duration of the war. They had one day to pack and were then shipped off. When the war ended, John and his family came back to California.

One day, John’s father took him fishing at the San Clemente Pier. Like me, he instantly fell in love with the place.

Later on in life and after a decade of employment, John started to work at a farm producing fruits and vegetables. His Saturdays though were saved for fishing on the San Clemente Pier where he would bring his poles, wagon, net and bait. He would always arrive early to secure a spot.

When I started going out there in the 1980s, he was already there, and eventually, we met. We compared our catches and told each other fish stories. John would always have two lines out on the Pier, one on each side. Over time, we became fishing buddies. There was even an artist who used to sit by the beach and he painted John and I. We were forever immortalized.

But John began to have trouble walking and it took him a long time to take his equipment out. I suggested that he call me and I would help him bring his supplies from his car. To express his gratitude, he started bringing Cora and I fruit and vegetables from his farm and Cora would cook Mexican food for him in return.

Eventually, he had to quit coming to the Pier because he couldn’t walk. But he still managed (and still does) to come by the house to bring his produce. We talk about sports and remember some of our adventures fishing. John never married, but he tells us of his brothers and sisters. We recall our friends at the Pier. Some have passed on, but the Pier has bonded us forever. Fishing together has allowed us to grow over the years. I know that Pier has done that for many who have walked its planks, not just fishermen. Walking out over the ocean is an experience you will always treasure. That is the view from the Pier.

Herman Sillas is an artist, writer and formerly the United States Attorney of the Eastern District of California. He may be reached at

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