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Wandering in the President's Lemon Grove

Like a wave crashing on the Southern California shore suburban America spread inland from the western US coast starting in the 1950's.

I was born in that wave, at the crest of another wave in the history of America, call it John Kennedy's Camelot, of the early 1960's. It has been said that as goes California so goes the nation, and our family was much a part of that.

As you know, southern California was once under Spainish rule, and the last remnants of that were the citrus groves of 'Orange' County and surrounding areas, just to the south of LA. This county is the conservative balance point to weat Hollywood and it's global influence. It is where John Wayne died with 50 pounds of 'stuff' in his colon.

My elementary school, in Yorba Linda, was built on the site of Richard Nixon's family Lemon Grove. The trees were gone, but the modest family house remained, housing the school's custodian.

Our family had started off in Los Angeles County. Mom got pregnant with me shortly after being promoted to supervisor with the County Social Worker system. I've joked that as soon as she quit the clients all rioted giving us the Watts. ( I don't actually know the details of the relationship of that department with the rioters)

Our walking route to school took us through groves become construction sites, arroyos, and along the old irrigation ditches. Aside from the occasional dangerous flood and a few cacti the dry country was heaven for young boys to explore. Fresh citrus and an occasional pomegrante, no doubt a wild descendant of spainish stock, only enriched the journey.

Dad was an MIT trained engineer employed with the Northrop corporation, where he remained until retirement. His story was that his field was electronics, working on 'package' delivery logistics, as part of the process of military target aquistion, tracking, and delivery. The exact details of what he did for a living are still not known, and did certainly border on the area of intelligence - I like to think of him as a bit of a 'Q' type from the Bond classics. He retired shortly after the 'pop' of the Reagan Star Wars bubble. By choice he stayed an engineer thoroughout his career, and never a supervisor.

At school in 1972 we had a mock Presidential election, my earliest recalled campaign. Nixon beat McGovern, handily, and I was in the substantial minority, as raised by Mom.

The neighborhood was a successful blue collar area, like Puyallup in the Seattle area or North Eugene, in Oregon, where I'd later graduate from High School. Mom and Dad, not the biggest socialite types, were kind of odd ducks. Mom, as definitely a bleeding edge female professional must well have raised some hackles among the old boys of Eastern Orange County.

1974, the year Nixon finally resigned from office changed our route - the fields where we once flew kites had become developed, the school, and the town of 12k's park all become protest zones - with the school itself becoming the location of a protestor's 'tent city' for several months.

Dad was not a typical Republican, being more of a McNamara defense.moderate type - in fact proudly claiming to have wandered into McNamara's office once, lost in the Pentagon. His advice and warnings would often prove to be correct, if only in hindsight.

It was also in 1974 that my parent's marriage started to fall apart, at first only a seperation. Mom and the kids spent the summer encircling the Country, with I, the 11 year old, as AAA navigator in the passenger seat. Dad would join us, in time to hear the news of Nixon resignation at a street cafe in the Canadian Rockies. We conintued that journey home down the west coast, via the Ivar's seafood restaraunt on Lake Union in Seattle and a truck breakdown in Pleasant Hill, just outside of Eugene, where mom would move us kids in just a few years.

It was that Fall that the nerd left the public school system, making his first stint into an alternative 'school', a pioneering effort sited by the Fullerton School District in the upscale bario of that City, but that is another travel tale.

I was back in Yorba Linda recently, helping Dad move from his long term home, the first time in some 15 years. The place had changed, grown nearly ten fold, to over 100 thousand people. It had become a conservative equivalent to the Pasadena area of LA County.

The feeling of the return was strange - this was, for all intents and purposes, my hometown. Though nearly completely seperated one could feel the forces of change manifested in what was before my eyes .... call it deja vu, if you will, of the forces that grew this new environment.

I had the chance to walk my old route to school, now site of the Nixon Presidential Library. While Dad went to get the car I jumped into the library to do my 'stuff' - the library definitely had it's patrons hanging out, checking out the current exposition on american intelligence history. Here too his advice proved to be correct...And unfortunately, no public restrooms.


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