28 Nov

Old School Friendship

In the fall of 1945 Dick Nixon was a junior Navy officer having recently returned stateside from assignment in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. Roy Day was a newspaper ad man working in Pomona. The two met when Nixon, still in his Navy uniform as it was the only suit he owned, returned to Whittier to appear before the “Committee of 100”, a group Day helped to form to locate a viable candidate willing to take on the daunting task of trying to unseat Democrat Congressman Jerry Voorhis, a five term incumbent. As Roy listened to Dick make his presentation before the Committee at the William Penn Hotel in Whittier, Roy’s first thought was “This is salable merchandise,” and so began a lifelong friendship.

The Committee selected Dick as its candidate, and his campaign was born in Roy Day’s modest Pomona home and officially launched in Pomona. Against long odds, Nixon defeated Voorhis and was easily re-elected to the House of Representatives in 1948 (he even won the Democrat primary). Dick returned to Roy’s hometown of Pomona to launch his candidacy for U.S. Senate in 1950, defeating Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas. General Eisenhower recognized Nixon as a rising star and selected him as his running mate in 1952. Again, Dick Nixon returned to Roy’s hometown to launch his Vice Presidential campaign, and Roy’s daughters Linda and Diana even participated in the event. Later, when Roy had another daughter, he named her Patricia in honor of Pat Nixon.

Through the years Roy and Dick maintained their friendship, and Roy always supported Nixon’s campaigns. Even in the depths of Watergate, Roy was unwavering in his commitment to his longtime friend – ultimately suggesting that the White House tapes be taken out and burnt on the front lawn. When President Nixon learned of Roy’s suggestion, he wrote and thanked his old friend. After Nixon’s resignation, Roy and his family visited San Clemente where Dick and his first campaign manager enjoyed reminiscing and spending time with the Day family. The two old friends kept in touch through letters following the Nixons move to New York in 1980, and after Roy died at the age of 86, Nixon corresponded with Roy’s daughter Linda who had helped launch his 1952 Campaign. Through it all, Dick and Roy enjoyed an old school friendship of over forty years.

From top: Dick Nixon in Navy uniform, 1945; Roy Day's Pomona home; Linda and Diana at 1952 Campaign Kick-off; Nixon's 1974 correspondence to Day; Dick and Roy in San Clemente; and Nixon letter to Linda Day


30 Oct

Fall is for College Football

Richard Nixon honed his indomitable fighting spirit playing football all four years at Whittier College. Each fall he and his fellow Whittier Poets took to the gridiron under the direction of Coach Wallace Newman,  a man Nixon admired and learned more from than any man he ever knew except for his father. Chief Newman, who had been a stand-out athlete at USC, “only asked you to do your best.” Teammate John Chapin recalled that Coach Newman “knew more football and the fundamentals than anybody. He had the backing of his players and all of them would do anything for him.” Including taking on a football giant.

After the University of Southern California football team won back to back national championships in 1931 and 1932 under the guidance of legendary coach Howard Jones, Whittier accepted a challenge to play USC on September 23, 1933 in the Trojans’ home opener at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game was the first of a doubleheader with Occidental taking on USC in a second game.

Whittier lost 51-0 before a crowd of 35,000 fans, and Occidental did not fare any better, getting skunked 39-0. Nixon, twenty years old, five-foot-eleven, listed at a generous one-hundred-seventy-six pounds, wore No. 23, and played tackle. He was at least 20 pounds lighter any of his offensive linemen counterparts, which had to have made for some tough slogging on the Coliseum turf. But Nixon never gave up.

Teammate Herman Fink was an All Conference player. He noted that “If I had his guts and my weight, I’d probably become an All-American football player instead of just and All-Conference player.  He certainly had what it took.”

Program roster for the Whittier Poets' season opener against National Champion USC


10 Jul

A “Sock it to ’em” Politician’s Love of Boxing

As a young boy growing up in Yorba Linda and Whittier, Richard Nixon loved all sports, admitting “I have a highly competitive instinct and I found it stimulating to follow the great sports events of our times.” His interests included football, basketball, tennis, baseball and track.

Young Richard’s mother Hannah taught him to read before enrolling him in first grade, and he quickly became a voracious reader, daily consuming all the details in the sports pages, even closely following boxing.

While he never attended a live boxing match, he did savor the details of those early bouts from his youth, and over fifty years later recalled the “mismatch of major proportions” between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier, when Carpentier got to Dempsey in the third round with an uppercut to the jaw before Dempsey knocked him out in the fourth round; the “titanic battle” between Dempsey and Luis Firpo where Firpo knocked Dempsey out of the ring in the first round before Dempsey knocked Ferpo out in the second; and the epic two Dempsey – Tunney battles where Gene Tunney defeated Dempsey in each fight.

Richard Nixon brought his lifelong love of sports to the White House, and as President, he continued his passion for boxing, even meeting with boxing greats Floyd Patterson and Joe Frazier, both undisputed heavyweight champions in their respective careers, and  Sugar Ray Robinson, a welterweight and middleweight champion who was arguably the greatest boxer of all time. Patterson met with the President in the Oval Office, Sugar Ray Robinson visited with the President in his La Casa Pacifica Executive Office, and Frazier attended religious services in the East Room of the White House as the President’s guest.


Top: Floyd Patterson with President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office; Middle: Joe Frazier with the President following religious services in the East Room; Bottom: Sugar Ray Robinson and his wife with the President in the La Casa Pacifica Executive Office

15 Jun

A Father’s Day Surfboard at the White House

Richard Nixon loved the ocean ever since his childhood growing up in Southern California. When he was a young boy, family vacations meant pitching a tent and camping right on the sand in front of the historic Laguna Beach Hotel. During his high school and college years, fun activities included adventures to the beaches in Santa Monica, Long Beach, Newport Beach and Balboa. When he was courting his future bride Patricia, some of their most enjoyable dates were watching the sun set at Huntington and San Clemente beaches, and when he proposed to Pat, he did so on the cliffs overlooking the Dana Point beach.

So it should have been no surprise when, on June 15, 1969, exactly 45 years ago, President Nixon’s daughters Tricia and Julie celebrated his first Father’s Day in the White House with a gift of a miniature surfboard to serve as a reminder of his love of the ocean.

Julie, Tricia and President Nixon on the White House lawn with their Father's Day gift of a miniature surf board.

14 Jun

Richard Nixon’s First Movie – Across from the Spit & Argue Club

Yorba Linda has a current population of nearly 70,000 residents. But when Richard Nixon was born there just over 101 years ago, it was hardly even a town. People from the era described early Yorba Linda as the equivalent to a gas station in the desert – “you went through town and you didn’t even know you went through it.”

The Nixon family lived there for Richard’s first nine years, and  in that time the population of Yorba Linda swelled to 350.  Richard Nixon’s universe was essentially a four block area, the center of which was Main Street, where the town blacksmith and Masonic Hall were located.

The Buckmaster blacksmith shop was affectionately known as the Spit & Argue Club, where the men from town always gathered to discuss issues of the day. Richard’s father Frank Nixon was a charter member of the group, and he always walked his sons Harold, Richard and Don into town with him so they could ride the local delivery wagon while he debated varying topics with his friends.

Across Main Street was the Masonic Hall, which housed a local drug store, and served as a community center. There were no theaters in the area, so movies were a rarity, but those that were shown were at the Masonic Hall, and everyone in town attended. This is where Richard Nixon saw his first motion picture,  The Man Without a Country  a 1917 film based on a short story by the author, historian and Unitarian clergyman Edward E. Hale, about an American Army lieutenant who, having renounced his country during a trial for treason, is sentenced to spend the rest of his life at sea.

Both the Buckmaster building which housed the Spit & Argue Club and the Masonic Hall still stand on Main Street, Yorba Linda. Now and then photographs are below.

Spit & Argue Club

The Buckmaster blacksmith shop on Main Street served as the Spit & Argue Club for the early Yorba Linda townsmen.

The Masonic Hall on Main Street, across from the Buckmaster building, served as a community center and is where Richard Nixon saw his first motion picture.


28 Feb

Space Shuttle Endeavor’s Southern California Nixon Roots

The space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center is truly an amazing exhibit for all to see. Equally amazing is that the space shuttle program has its roots in the Nixon Administration and Southern California.

The California Science Center is located adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where in the fall of 1933 Richard Nixon suited up with the Whittier Poets to take on the defending National Champion USC football team coached by Howard Jones. Whittier lost to USC 51-0. But they fought hard and had a never give up attitude.

These are the same attributes that Nixon demonstrated throughout his life. There is no way Nixon could have foreseen that just beyond the walls of the Coliseum would one day be located a space shuttle that was the result of his foresight. But that is exactly what happened.

On January 5, 1972, while at the San Clemente Western White House, Nixon met with NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher, and made the following announcement: “I have decided today that the United States should proceed at once with the development of an entirely new type of space transportation system designed to help transform the space frontier of the 1970’s into familiar territory, easily accessible for human endeavor in the 1980’s and ’90’s.”

The space shuttle program had its share of difficulties and suffered tremendous losses – namely the Challenger in 1986. But like Nixon, NASA and the space shuttle program fought hard and had a never give up attitude, and the shuttle Endeavour was put into service with flight operations in 1992. And the rest is history.

Richard Nixon and the Space Shuttle

Nixon and John C. Fletcher just before announcing space shuttle program, and Endeavour at the California Science Center

10 Jan

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

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

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

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:


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.


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.


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