10 Jan
2014

We Celebrated at 323 for President Nixon’s 101st!

It is well known that Richard Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, and raised in Whittier, graduating from Whittier High School and Whittier College. Less well known is the fact that America’s 37th President attended Fullerton High School for his freshman and sophomore years. During those two years, Nixon often stayed during the week at his Aunt Carrie Wildermuth’s house at 323 Jacaranda in Fullerton. In addition, the entire Nixon family often visited in Sundays for afternoon picnics where all the boys gathered to play football in the road out front.

as a result of the hard work of Chris Norby, a former member of both the State Assembly and  the Orange County Board of Supervisors, today we celebrated Richard Nixon’s 101st birthday at the Jacaranda residence. The current owner was kind enough to open the 900 square foot residence, basically still in original (and beautifully restored) condition, to all the attendees for the afternoon ceremony.

Thanks to Chris for including Native Son: Richard Nixon’s Southern California!

Richard Nixon frequently stayed at the 323 Jacaranda home of his Aunt Carrie Wildermuth

31 Dec
2013

Southern California’s Final Whistle Stop Campaign

The greater Los Angeles area, including Orange County, is so densely populated that politicians do not campaign by train through Southern California. “Whistle Stop” campaigns have traditionally been conducted through parts of the country where a candidate wants to reach smaller communities through the countryside connected by rail. The train pulls into a small station, and the candidate can speak to the crowd from the rear of the train. California has seen such campaigns across the state. In 1952 Richard Nixon kicked off his Vice-Presidential campaign on a train platform in Pomona. The train headed north, stopping at small towns along the way through California and Oregon.

Richard Nixon loved trains. He could hear them traveling near his boyhood home in Yorba Linda, where he often daydreamed of the places one could see be train. As a politician, his favorite method of campaigning was the Whistle Stop tour. In fact, each year The Nixon Library has a Christmas Train Exhibit inspired by Nixon’s love of trains.

So it really should not come as any surprise that Richard Nixon brought Southern California its last Whistle Stop campaign in 1962. At the time, Nixon was seeking to defeat incumbent Governor Pat Brown. On October 18th Nixon ran an old fashioned Victory Express Train from Santa Barbara south to Los Angeles, overnighting at the Union Pacific Station. First thing the next morning the train rolled out of Union Station for campaign events at the train stations in Pico Rivera (7607 South Serapis Avenue), Fullerton (120 East Santa Fe Street), Anaheim (708 East Center Street), Orange (185 North Achison Street), Santa Ana (1034 East Fourth Street), San Juan Capistrano (Verdugo and Los Rios Streets) and then on to San Diego. In each city, Nixon’s train would pull up and he held rallies right on the tracks.

We will likely never again see such a campaign through Southern California. The Pico Station has since been moved and is now a museum; the Anaheim Station is now a youth center; and the Santa Ana Station has been demolished. But with a little imagination, you can see Nixon’s Victory Express pulling into each of these stations for Southern California’s final Whistle Stop Campaign.

Stations from the last Southern California Whistle Stop Campaign

Clockwise from top left, the Pico, Fullerton, Anaheim, Orange and Santa Ana Train Stations from Southern California's last Whistle Stop Campaign

 

 

 

11 Nov
2013

Happy Veteran’s Day, Richard Nixon

In honor of Veteran’s Day, here are some terrific pictures of Richard Nixon serving in the South Pacific. Thousands of miles away fighting in a war, it is clear that he never lost his sense of duty, his sense of humor, his Southern California roots or his devotion to Pat. Likewise, Pat sent a beautiful portrait to Richard and also a humorous shot as well.

Richard Nixon serving in the South Pacific, World War Two

Clockwise, from top: Nixon with buddy in Jeep; Nixon working on phone in Quonset hut, Chinatown picture of Pat, Nixon (in hardhat) at Los Angeles encampment, Nixon in jungle stream and in uniform, Pat's portrait she sent to Richard

30 Sep
2013

A Country Boy with a Country Appetite

Richard Nixon was raised a country boy. When he was born in Yorba Linda, there were only about three hundred or so residents. Nine years later when his family moved to East Whittier, the area was so sparsely populated that the residents of nearby Whittier considered it “out in the country.” All the roads were dirt. Homes were several blocks apart. The Nixons ran a little gas station with general store. Richard’s mother Hannah was a terrific cook, and was especially talented in making pies. Meat and potatoes were the staple of the day. And Richard Nixon developed quite a country boy appetite. These were some of his favorite recipes:

COUNTRY OMELET

Saute until just done in hot butter 1 thinly sliced, medium potato. Add, quickly cook golden, 1 sliced, medium yellow onion. Add, quickly cook crisp, about 16 dollar-sized pieces cooked, hard Virginia ham, each 1/8 inch thick. Add all to 10 inch omelet skillet with 4 tbsps. hot butter. Add half of 8 beaten eggs; let eggs set on bottom, holding vegetables and ham; add salt, pepper, rest of eggs. Cook, tilting pan to side, pushing in sides of omelet with spatula to let eggs run under and set on bottom. Set top under hot broiler. Serve warm or cold, in wedges.

BARBECUED CHICKEN

Two small chickens cut into halves

To ½ cup melted butter, add the following:

Juice of two lemons

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Marinate chicken for three to four hours in sauce

Barbecue- basting often with remainder of sauce

Or to bake—oven at 325 – bake 45 minutes—basting often.

CHEEESECAKE

You will need a spring-form pan in addition to the following ingredients:

2 eight-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1 pound creamed cottage cheese

1 ½ cups sugar

4 eggs, slightly beaten

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 table spoons flour

1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup butter, melted

1 pint sour cream

Preheat oven to 325ᵒ. Grease a nine-inch spring-form pan.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with cottage cheese at high speed, until they are well combined. Gradually beat in the sugar and then the eggs. At low speed, beat in the cornstarch, flour, lemon juice and rind, and vanilla. Add the melted butter and sour cream. Beat just until it is smooth. Pour into greased pan. Bake one hour and 10 minutes, or until firm around the edges. Turn off the oven. Let the pan stand in the over for two hours. Then remove and let it cool completely. This takes at least two hours. Refrigerate the cake for three hours, or until it is well chilled.

To remove the cake from the pan, run a spatula around the sides of the cheesecake and then release the clasp of the spring-form pan. Leave the bottom of the pan in place and put it right on a serving plate.

Early Yorba Linda with the Nixon home and barn in the center of picture

Early Yorba Linda with the Nixon home and barn in the center of picture

30 Aug
2013

Richard Nixon Stayed Here

Richard Nixon had a tremendous work ethic. He was a hard worker, and hated to waste time. For example, long before he was President enjoying the perks such as Air Force One, his friends knew that when he was to catch a flight, he would show up at the gate five minutes before take-off. When asked why he cut it so close, he would explain that he hated to waste time sitting in an airport waiting for the flight.

He was the same way when he campaigned. Fifty-one years ago was Nixon’s last campaign dedicated solely to California. He crisscrossed the state non-stop in an effort to unseat Governor Pat Brown (father of current Governor Jerry Brown). It was an uphill battle, and Nixon knew it. Some of his close supporters, such as William Price, did not believe he really had his heart in the campaign. Whether he did or not, once he set his mind to the campaign, his work ethic took over.

Not only was he running for Governor, but Nixon was also writing and promoting his first book Six Crises, and a syndicated column for Times Mirror, plus he was a partner in a busy law firm (Adams, Duque & Hazeltine). So as he traveled the state, and especially Southern California, he made sure that his staff always rented rooms in local hotels so he could rest, work and prepare for his next appearance.

Granted, as the former Vice President, most of his stops were to wonderful hotels such as the Balboa Bay Club or Disneyland Hotel when in Orange County, and the Beverly Hilton, Ambassador and Biltmore hotels when in Los Angeles. But for Nixon, it was more important to get work done than to worry about the accommodations, and he was willing to work and stay in some lesser known motels as well. Places that have long since forgotten that the future President stayed in their modest facilities. Motels such as the Fiesta Motel on Lankershim Boulevard, the Travel Inn on Sepulveda, the Hollywood Palms on Sunset, and the Blue Pacific on Whittier Boulevard in Whittier. These motels, except for the Fiesta (which is now the Mark Taper Foundation Center for Housing and Supportive Services, remain virtually unchanged since the days in 1962 when Nixon was a guest at each.

Nixon was a guest at each of these modest motels during the 1962 governor's race campaign.

28 Jul
2013

Richard Nixon and Bristol Farms

Southern California has a tendency to to demolish old buildings in favor of new and improved structures. But not always. Thankfully every now and again an iconic structure is preserved while it is redesigned for another purpose.

Chasen’s Restaurant,  opened in 1936 at 9039 Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood, was a favorite of many Hollywood celebrities and politicians. And it was one of  Richard Nixon’s favorite eateries as well.  Especially in the period of 1961-1963 during his post Vice-Presidential years when he was practicing law in Los Angeles, living in Brentwood and Beverly Hills, and running for governor. Chasen’s was also a favored by Nixon’s good friend Ronald Reagan. In fact, Ronald proposed to Nancy while sitting at their favorite booth in the restaurant. That booth is now at Reagan’s Presidential Library.

The Plush Horse, opened in 1960, was another famed locale in the South Bay area. During his campaign to unseat Pat Brown, Jack Drown, one of Nixon’s lifelong best friends, arranged for Nixon to campaign at the Plush Horse, an upscale eatery at 1700 Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach. Drown was a successful businessman who lived in Rolling Hills with his wife Helene (Pat Nixon’s best friend). The Plush Horse later became The Strand, a nightclub hosting such greats as Keith Richards and the Winos, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Leon Russell, Chris Isaak, Gregg Allman, Nick Lowe and Pancho Sanchez.

Ultimately, both Chasen’s and The Plush Horse were shuttered. But instead of demolishing these prime pieces of real estate in upscale areas, each was preserved and reborn as a Bristol Farms markets!

The Plush Horse Bristol Farms

The Plush Horse

 

Bristol Farms

Chasen's famed green awning

14 Jun
2013

AMTRAK Surfliner and La Casa Pacifica

From 1969 through 1980 Richard and Pat Nixon’s official private residence was La Casa Pacifica, located steps from the Pacific Ocean in beautiful San Clemente. The La Casa Pacifica residence was built in 1927 by Henry Hamilton Cotton, an early Democrat Party supporter.Only the AMTRAK Surfliner’s tracks separated the estate from the sand and sea. Here is a short video with a: View of La Casa Pacifica from AMTRAK Surfliner. The first struct seen is a small cupola structure. In the 1930′s President Franklin Roosevelt visited the home, arriving by train for an overnight card game in this little building.

24 May
2013

Ease of Research at the Nixon Library

Recently I had the pleasure of briefly participating in a video segment while conducting research at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace. Check out the clip here. The video shows the grounds and some of the galleries at the Library and reflects on the ease of access to historic materials for researchers. The Library is a terrific place to visit  for many reasons. It is a beautiful setting, shows the simplicity of early life in California, and provides a complete frame of reference for the entire life and accomplishments of Richard Nixon.

20 Mar
2013

Discover Hidden Gems – See Richard Nixon’s Residences in Whittier

Recently Keith Durflinger of the Whittier Daily News and I visited some of the residences where Richard and Pat Nixon lived in Whittier and La Habra Heights. Keith created a terrific video of our “virtual tour” as part of his “Hidden Gems” series. Check it out here. Enjoy!

3 Mar
2013

Clara Jane Nixon, RIP

One of the benefits of researching Richard Nixon’s life is meeting and getting to know those that were close to Nixon. One such person was Clara Jane Nixon.

From mid 2010 through the end of 2011 Clara Jane welcomed me to her home numerous times. She was a perfect host and a delightful lady.  She lived by herself in Irvine, California, in a beautifully furnished townhome.  When she passed away on January 18th of this year, she was 93 years old.

Clara Jane explained to me how she met Don Nixon, brother to President Richard “Dick” Nixon. She had been in Alaska on a 7 day cruise with a friend in 1941. Upon her return, on September 7, 1941, she stopped by Murphy Hospital in Whittier to see a friend.  Then she went to see her uncle William Milhous, who had married Clara Jane’s aunt Lena Scott.  “Uncle Bill had wanted to introduce me to a young man, so he asked me to go with him to the local store.  As we drove from his house, we passed the local store and continued on to the Nixon Market, where Uncle Bill introduced me to Don.”  Later that day, Don joined Clara Jane and the Milhouses for dinner, and then drove Clara Jane to her parent’s home in Placentia.

Once Clara Jane and Don began dating, the Nixon family enjoyed her company very much. In fact, Clara Jane explained that when “Dick and Pat had a party at their house, they asked Don to invite me.” Don was especially smitten.

When Clara Jane introduced Don to her parents, they all had a good laugh because her mother had known Don for years from buying meat at the Nixon Store.  After just three weeks of dating, Don proposed to Clara Jane.

Clara Jane and Don Nixon were married at the Capilla de San Antonio Wedding Chapel in Anaheim on August 9, 1942 while Dick was serving in the Navy in the South Pacific. Don and Dick were very close. Clara Jane and Don named their son after “Uncle” Richard Nixon.

For his first congressional campaign Richard Nixon spent a good deal of time at Don & Clara Jane’s house on Whittier Boulevard.  “Dick would come over in the early afternoon, retire to a back bedroom and start writing and rewriting speeches and plotting strategy.  As soon as I could throw out his discarded notes, Dick would make a new pile.”  Clara Jane recounted one of the first times Richard came over during that campaign, where he liked to have an early dinner and prepare for his evening speaking engagements.  “When Dick came over at 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, I met him at the back door.  He walked in right passed me and went to the back bedroom.  I thought to myself ‘Just who does he think he is?’ Then a little while later he called out to me: ‘Hey, Clara Jane, come here.’  He was resting on the bed, in his shorts and undershirt, with a stack of notes a pile high, and said as friendly as ever ‘Now tell me what happened here today.’  I realized then that he has a very focused mind.”

Clara Jane was a great cook, and Richard Nixon especially loved her enchiladas.  In fact, when he was president, he even arranged for Clara Jane to make up a batch of enchiladas and ship them to him so he could enjoy her home cooking at the White House.

When Eisenhower and Nixon were re-elected, the inauguration was on Monday, January 21, 1957.  But on Sunday, January 20th there was a small swearing in ceremony for close family only.  Clara Jane recalled the event: “Once Ike and Dick were sworn in, they came through shaking hands with everyone. I happened to be at the end of the line, and when Ike reached me, he said: ‘Have you had breakfast yet?’  to which I replied ‘No.’  So he said ‘Okay, let’s go’ and he took my hand, and we strode arm in arm into the East Room where there was an incredible buffet set up.”  Overall regarding Ike, Clara Jane summed up her feelings: “I liked him.”

Clara Jane’s fondest memory of Richard Nixon was that when he was Vice-President, after Frank Nixon died in 1956. Richard bought Clara Jane a gold ring with diamonds to thank her taking care of Hannah, and sent it to Clara Jane with a hand written note, on the Vice President’s stationary, that read “Thank you for the loving care of Mother.”  This was significant to Clara Jane because Quakers did not op for or wear jewelry, and still Richard thought to go out and buy her such a gift.

After Hannah died, Richard wanted only one thing – a clock that his parents’ had.  The clock was a wedding gift to Hannah and Frank Nixon from her parents, Almira and Franklin Milhous.  That clock now sits on the mantle of President Nixon’s birthplace in Yorba Linda where his Presidential Library is located.

Clara Jane is credited with collecting and preserving the furnishings for his birthplace. At least one of the important items was saved by coincidence. In the early 1950s, when Don and Richard’s parents were moving into a new house in Whittier, Clara Jane took the old wrought iron bed frame from the bed that Richard was born in, had the legs cut off the headboard, and moved the footboard to the headboard.  She then put the cut down headboard in her garden to grow sweet peas.  Nearly forty years later, when the Richard Nixon Birthplace was being renovated for the opening of the Presidential Library, Clara Jane found the headboard in a Milhous barn and took it to an antique shop where she knew the owner.  Together they located a near match and had the legs welded on.

During our discussions, Clara Jane related funny moments with Richard and Don, such as when her daughter Lawrene was married at the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach. President Nixon, Pat and Tricia attended the wedding and reception at the Newporter Inn. Clara Jane recalled that there was a huge sea food buffet, and the secret service agents were startled when they detained a man with a bulging sports coat only to discover he was attempting to exit the reception with a large crab under his coat. It was an event that Don and Richard got a good laugh out of.

After 1974 when Pat and Richard lived full time in San Clemente, Clara Jane and Don enjoyed the occasional evening when Pat and Richard came by their house in Newport Beach for dinner.  “We would have dinner, and sit out on the patio and watch boats go by in the back bay area.  It was very pleasant.  ”

The last time we visited together, Clara Jane smiled and reflected: “Four times I have sat on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. When I was taking civics in school I never thought that I would meet a President, much less know one and be related to him.  It’s been an interesting run.”

An interesting run, indeed.

OC Register

Clara Jane with Julie and David Eisenhower