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By Fred Swegles
When the San Clemente Beach Club opened on May 27, 1928, just in time for the summer season, it was much more than a swimming pool complex gifted to local residents by town founder Ole Hanson.
It was designed to make a statement.
It was a grand Spanish-style building, perched on a knoll at the entrance to Ole Hanson’s rapidly growing Spanish village founded in 1925.
“It was designed to be a signature building that would greet visitors and prospective buyers,” said Larry Culbertson, president of the San Clemente Historical Society, as he stood outside the 91-year-old facility on Feb. 23, 2019.
Towering above the gleaming-new beach club’s red-tile roof, in 1928, was a weathervane depicting a fair maiden diving into the water.
That distinctive feature of the beach club has been missing for decades, lost to posterity even as the city performed repeated renovations of the weather-worn seaside recreation facility.
No one knows how the weathervane met its demise.
But, suddenly, it’s 1928 again. The diving damsel is back.
Dozens of onlookers attended a “San Clemente Day” ceremony Saturday to dedicate a replica weathervane created through a partnership of the Historical Society and the San Clemente Woman’s Club.
Lisa Spinelli, the historical society’s resident graphic designer, crafted a template of the image from historical photographs. She received applause Saturday. So did Loretta Busam, past president of the woman’s club, who organized a donation that funded much of the project.
Culbertson also saluted machinist Paul Turney, welder Paul Lentz and Rod’s Tree Service, who volunteered to install the weathervane using a crane lent by Randall Boone Sign & Lighting.
Lois Divel, San Clemente’s 90-year-old matriarch, recalled the day she arrived in San Clemente by train in 1938, as her family moved here from Chicago.
“I started swimming here when I was 10 years old,” she said. “When we got off the train, there was somebody on the diving board up there, waving at us.”
Don and Lois Divel would enjoy the pool for decades, raising children who would learn to swim there. In the 1970s, Lois and her son, Fred, would become co-founders of the Historical Society, campaigning for preservation of landmarks including the beach club.
Visible from the lawn, the weathervane on the Community Center has significant damage and could be in need of repair or replacement.