Archive for October, 2011


SAN CLEMENTE -(CA)- Whatever Halloween fans, or fiends, may be looking for in a haunted house, San Clemente has it – a mad scientist, old bones, ghostly pirates, classic horror, even a creepy touch of Latin.

Here are stories behind three of the more elaborate local Halloween haunts. SEE A SLIDE SHOW HERE.

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A Jolly Roger adorns the chimney while pirate skeletons prepare for battle on the second-floor balcony of the Bieber home in San Clemente.

And check out photos of many others around town here.


Paul Heyman, a real estate investor and part-time inventor, moved to 141 W. Cornelio in San Clemente two years ago from Whittier and brought with him his tradition of decorating his home with spooky homemade contraptions designed to scare you even though you know what’s coming.

A fan of old TV shows like “The Addams Family”and movies like “Frankenstein,” Heyman builds campy but elaborate live-action displays, such as a hand that reaches from under the closed lid of a box, a coffin that opens with a dead man’s arms outstretched, “Moe” – a Three Stooges-like head that pops out of a box – and a host of others you’ll have to see for yourself.

But don’t go early – he doesn’t set up until the day of Halloween so it’s all fresh. He operates it all with switches driven by an air compressor hidden in his home.

“It’s always something new and better,” Heyman said. “I give a lot of it away to friends and family so they can start their own haunted houses.”


Retired California park ranger Jim Long also strives for variety at his haunted house at 141 Barcelona. It seems he always brings something back from yearly vacations in the United States or places worldwide to add to his display. Sometimes it’s borrowed from Shakespeare, Latin sayings, classical art or American folklore.

There’s a skeleton at a player piano; a glow-in-the-dark grandfather clock that runs backward with the Latin phrase “Tempus fugit,” or “Time flies”; a lantern-gripping Grim Reaper; a ghostly blue maiden floating within the archway of a stone tomb; a skeleton stretched out in an open crypt along with a Latin inscription that translates to “I once was what you are, and what I am you also will be.”

The Halloween show has become an annual tradition that Long works on throughout the year. Almost everything is handmade. He says he works on setup full time for two weeks leading up to Halloween and has several friends and neighbors help with the final details, such as getting a more than 150-pound carved pumpkin on top of his chimney. This year, for the first time, there will be a life-size skeleton sitting on top.

“The biggest part of this is, by far, the time,” Long said with a sideways smile.

Long calculates by the candy he gave out that about 4,000 people visited his haunted home last Halloween. This year’s edition, he says, is even better.


Just around the corner from Long’s place, the Bieber family has transformed their home at 805 S. Ola Vista into a pirate ship, with all manner of sails, masts, treasure, cannons and mayhem. At this doomed dwelling, every night is dark and stormy – lights flash like lightning and pirate music plays while the voice of a long-dead ship captain urges his crew to repel boarders, take in sail and fire away.

The project lasts all year, Jim Bieber says. Even at the last minute, the family is adding final details they pick up here and there, generally for free. The show is such an attraction that a local senior citizens community conducts field trips to take pictures of it.

Once Halloween has passed to the hereafter for another year, it all packs up into an area less than the size of a single-car garage, Bieber says.

“I think about it all year,” Bieber said. “After work, it’s like therapy.”

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Five days after the beach’s landmark stump bearing an American flag proved too stubborn for about 200 people trying to relocate it away from the threat of high surf, heavy equipment donated this afternoon moves it in 30 minutes.


SAN CLEMENTE – (CA)- Heavy equipment arrived Friday afternoon at Poche Beach and moved a landmark flag-bearing driftwood tree stump to higher, safer ground after hundreds of people had tried unsuccessfully last weekend to move it themselves.

The 6- to 7-ton tree stump across from the Palm Beach Park mobile-home community in San Clemente has flown an American flag since somebody placed one there soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The flag has been replaced periodically through the years by residents of Palm Beach Park and others.

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A bulldozer operated by Tommy Sherman of TS Grading is guided Friday by Mark Meintel of Meintel Construction Management as it moves the 6- to 7-ton flag-bearing tree stump up a berm to a safer place on Poche Beach.
The trunk had become increasingly threatened by high surf that had moved it about 200 feet and sometimes submerged the flag under the waves.

San Clemente resident Joe Wilson organized an effort last Sunday to relocate the stump to higher ground on property owned by Palm Beach Park. More than 200 people tried for three hours to move it by human power and a lot of rope, but the stump was too heavy and too imbedded in the sand. They did manage to tilt it and place plywood boards under it to prepare it for the heavy machinery.

On Friday, it took a bulldozer volunteered by Mark Meintel of Meintel Construction of San Clemente about 30 minutes to relocate the stump and its flag farther from the water’s edge.

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After protesters turned out to a similar event in August in San Clemente, a power-plant ‘open house’ at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center leaves some visitors convinced that ‘nuclear power is fine.’ Others have concerns about their chances in a radioactive emergency


SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO- (CA)- Southern California Edison, operator of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, visited the San Juan Capistrano Community Center on Thursday evening for an “open house” on how the power plant works, along with a primer on emergency planning and security.

About 70 people attended for a dinner buffet, children’s activities and a tabletop tide pool featuring sea creatures found in the tidal zone around the plant.

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Mary Bierce of San Clemente and Norma Lelli of Dana Point try to locate their homes in relation to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on an Interjurisdictional Planning Commitee map illustrating a protective zone used to determine emergency action in case of an accident at the plant. SONGS’ operator, Southern California Edison, held a public “open house” in San Juan Capistrano on Thursday evening to explain how the plant works, as well as its environmental impact, security and emergency planning.

A similar exhibit in San Clemente in Augustattracted protests from San Onofre opponents who want the plant shut down pending improvements in safety and crisis planning. Thursday’s event in San Juan had no such protests.

San Juan is about 10 miles north of the plant; San Clemente about 2½ miles.

San Juan Capistrano architect Gerald Muir, 63, who was born and raised in south Orange County, said he attended to gain more knowledge of nuclear power. He said he was impressed by the intricacy of the plant’s electricity generation.

“I’ve never been adversely concerned about it,” Muir said. “Nuclear power is fine, but I would like to see more solar.”

Mary Bierce of San Clemente and Norma Lelli of Dana Point stood in front of a map illustrating theInterjurisdictional Planning Committee‘s 10-mile protective zone surrounding SONGS. They were trying to locate their homes in the emergency planning and evacuation area outlined by the committee, which consists of many government, industry and volunteer agencies. Bierce and Lelli concluded their chances of getting out of the area would be slim in the event of a radioactive release at SONGS.

“It’s going to get real goofy in San Juan with everyone going north” from San Clemente, Dana Point and north San Diego County, Lelli said.

“We’re going to have to make friends with someone who has a boat,” Bierce said. “I think we should go down to the harbor and get started.”

San Onofre opponents also believe evacuation plans are inadequate and that the emergency planning zone should be extended to a 50-mile radius around the plant.

The city of San Clemente is seeking federal funding assistance for a planned project to extend Avenida La Pata north to San Juan Capistrano to provide another evacuation route besides I-5 and Pacific Coast Highway.

San Clemente resident Clay Gable said he felt comfortable with his knowledge of nuclear power but attended Thursday’s event to learn more. He said he’s glad he did after hearing Edison engineers describe the plant’s triple-redundant cooling system. Now, he’s more convinced than ever of the need more nuclear power, he said.

“Nuclear power is fine,” Gable said. “We need to be more energy-independent from the Middle East.”

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Olde School Candy.

Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop brings its Americana-laced brand of old-time treats and off-the-wall sodas to Orange County with a new store in San Clemente.



SAN CLEMENTE -(CA)- South County residents now have a place to fulfill their midday urge for Swiss crème-filled chocolates, Turkish taffy, bacon-flavored soda, gigantic Japanese jaw breakers – and even lollipops with a real scorpion inside.

Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop, a nostalgic chain of about 20 Americana-loaded franchises in four states, has opened its first Orange County store at 107 Avenida Del Mar in San Clemente.

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Orange County’s first nostalgia-themed Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop is open in San Clemente, offering at least 400 soda flavors and more than 500 types of candy from more than 20 countries. Checking out the taffy are Taj, 4, and Jude Roghair, 6, of San Clemente.

Rocket Fizz features old-fashioned chocolates, lollipops, gum, licorice and taffy as well as hard-to-find sweets you might have become addicted to on your vacation to France, Germany, Japan or almost anywhere else.


Co-owners and cousins Rusty Hadjilou and Tim Teymoorian opened Sunday but this week were still filling shelves with as many as 400 flavors of soda and 500 types of candy from more than 20 countries.

Not sure about bacon, Buffalo wing, corn or pumpkin soda? Hadjilou and Teymoorian say they’re working on offering soda tasting so you can try the latest flavors, like Orange Nuclear Bomb, as well as old favorites Grandpa used to drink.

Hadjilou, whose parents live in San Juan Capistrano, owns a Rocket Fizz with another cousin in Sherman Oaks. He said he and Teymoorian decided on San Clemente for its small-town atmosphere, and they waited several months for the “perfect location” to become available.

Hadjilou says his biggest weakness is Australian blueberry licorice. Teymoorian can’t stay away from the sour kick of War Heads.

“We specialize in hard-to-find items,” Hadjilou said. “The fun part so far has been the input from the community and their suggestions of what we should carry. There’s always a story behind it.”

He said he welcomes anyone to come in with a challenge.

Joy Sacco, who’s originally from New Jersey and now lives in San Clemente, found an old favorite in the store – candy cigarettes.

“As kids, every day after school we’d stop and get candy somewhere, so it’s fun to see some of it here,” Sacco said.

Even if your allowance hasn’t kept up with the times, Rocket Fizz has taffy for 15 cents a piece and many other individual candies for less than 40 cents. Most specialty sodas go for $1.49. And if you just can’t resist the urge to splurge, huge, cartoon-style lollipops sell for $24.95.

If memorabilia is more your thing, the store sells replica stickers, movie posters, ads and signs from decades gone by.

Rocket Fizz is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily, though permanent hours haven’t been decided yet.

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A 21-inch nonpressurized line damaged by a pile-driving contractor for Caltrans is to be fixed in seven or eight days, Caltrans says. Meanwhile, San Juan Capistrano has set up an above-ground temporary replacement to carry the damaged line’s 2 million gallons of waste per day.

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO -(CA)- A section of sewer line in San Juan Capistrano that apparently was damaged by a pile-driving contractor for Caltrans will be repaired in the next seven or eight days, a Caltrans spokeswoman said.

San Juan maintenance workers doing a regularly scheduled sewer-line inspection last Wednesday discovered a large amount of gravel and sand, plus reduced waste flow, at a manhole beside I-5 near theCalifornia Department of Transportation‘s freeway widening project at San Juan Creek Road and Camino Capistrano, according to San Juan Capistrano Utilities Director Keith Van Der Maaten.

Article Tab: A temporary sewer line placed by the San Juan Capistrano Utilities Department empties into a manhole at the Capistrano Home Center near where an underground sewer line was damaged during work on an I-5 widening project at San Juan Creek Road and Camino Capistrano.
A temporary sewer line placed by the San Juan Capistrano Utilities Department empties into a manhole at the Capistrano Home Center near where an underground sewer line was damaged during work on an I-5 widening project at San Juan Creek Road and Camino Capistrano.

Further investigation revealed that a 21-inch nonpressurized sewer line adjacent to the Capistrano Home Center at 31896 Plaza Drive was damaged during pile-driving work by project contractor Beador Construction, according to Tracey Lavelle, spokeswoman for Caltrans District 12.

The sewer line runs beneath I-5 carrying 2 million gallons of San Juan Capistrano’s total 3 million gallons of waste output per day. The exact extent of the damage is unknown, Lavelle said, though she added that no leaks or public exposure to sewage have occurred. No interruption of service to homes and businesses is expected during the repair, she said.

According to Van Der Maaten, all costs associated with the repair are to be paid by Caltrans.

In the meantime, San Juan Capistrano has placed an above-ground temporary sewer line to divert flow around the damaged area. It runs several hundred yards beneath the I-5 overpass and along San Juan Creek, extending to a manhole at the Capistrano Home Center, with the same capacity as the existing line.

Van Der Maaten said the city is monitoring sewage flow around the clock, with two pumper trucks on standby from a local contractor and six more available from San Clemente, the South Coast Water District and the Santa Margarita Water District if they are needed.

Businesses at the Capistrano Home Center – which includes Dunn-Edwards PaintsComfort Gallery MattressLA Carpet and Renaissance Home Furnishings – said the sewer-line damage has not affected business, despite a lingering tell-tale odor.

Renaissance Home Furnishings owner Dennis Penman, who will mark 13 years at the location next month, said he’s more concerned about a sound wall to be built that he said will cut off the view of his business from the freeway.

“The city has been great through all this (freeway project), but then you could ask me about Caltrans and I would have a lot more to say,” Penman said.

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Former Marine Corps mortarman Cole Bent, 20, of San Juan Capistrano has had a lot of help from the community as he battles back from surgery to remove two brain tumors.


SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO -(CA)- Cole Bent has big plans. A book on Egypt sits on his nightstand in San Juan Capistrano to help him prepare for his planned visit there. He plans to go to South America as well, though he doesn’t have a book about it yet.

This might not be unusual for a lot of 20-year-olds, but for Bent and his parents, Brian and Rivka, and his younger sister, Esther, it’s big news.

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Cole Bent receives physical therapy at the Ole Hanson Beach Club in San Clemente, where he gets donated pool time.

It has been about seven months since Bent, an Eagle Scout and former Marine Corps mortarman, was diagnosed with ependymoma, a form of cancer mostly seen in young children. Surgeons at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo removed two golf ball-size tumors from alongside Bent’s brainstem March 14, four days after he blacked out during a tennis game. Doctors told him before the surgery that his chance of survival was 20 percent.

His comeback owes much to his neighbors in the community, who have helped him and his family at every turn.


Having been told by his doctors that physical therapy would be essential to his recovery, Bent’s family decided to move him into Esther’s room and find help for him. Bent was experiencing poor stability, swallowing, coordination, strength, balance and sight, as well as a 30-pound weight loss within three months after the surgery. His mother thought getting him into a swimming pool would be a good place to start therapy.

The Ole Hanson Beach Club in San Clemente was the first stop, and within a short time, Bent was in the pool and working out, courtesy of Vickie Mierau, a retired aquatic therapist, using pool time donated by swim instructors Debra Thurn and Kayne Schroeder.

That was just the beginning of the community effort, Rivka Bent said. As the family began the endless task of copying and faxing medical records, insurance claims and other documents to providers, the Marine Corps and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Bill and Susan Odelson of Paper Annex in San Juan Capistrano ran “Cole’s tab,” which always has a zero balance.

Then there are the good Samaritans all over south Orange County whom the Bents know only by their first name: Greg at Staples, Buddy at Frio Yogurt, Arthur at The Old Barn, to name a few.

Even man’s best friend has made a mark – Galena Creek Kennels Siberian Huskies in Roseburg, Ore., gave a therapy dog, Piper, as a companion for Bent’s therapy.

Bent, a lance corporal in the weapons section of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines based at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, began to experience nausea, dizziness and problems with concentration after his unit was deployed to Afghanistan in June 2010. Three months later, a visiting medical officer noticed his problems and sent Bent home a month ahead of his unit.

Bent was discharged in early February before he knew about his actual condition, his family said. He is still working out the details of his separation from the Marine Corps and currently does not have veteran’s benefits.

Brian Bent, an artist specializing in fashion and design, has been able to cover much of his son’s $1.5 million in medical-treatment costs through his employer’s insurance, Anthem Blue Cross, though the family is still facing a pile of unpaid household and ancillary medical bills.

“I wish I had a spare $50,000 lying around,” Rivka Bent said. “I could sure use it.”

Though he moves slowly and speaking is tiring for him, Cole Bent’s condition is improving by the day – not that he’s giving himself a choice. He has a medal he wants to pass on to someone else who is recovering from a crisis.

The medal was given to him in June by double amputee Harry Snowden of San Juan Capistrano, who received it after completing his first lap around the Saddleback College track on prosthetic legs in 2009. Snowden was given the medal by stroke survivor Fermin Camarena, who is paralyzed on one side of his body and is now a recumbent-bicycle competitor. He received the medal for completing the 2008 Loma Linda University Medical Center Poss-Abilities 5K Walk/Run/Roll triathlon.

Bent met both at Saddleback College while he was taking a physical-therapy class. The medal is engraved with the names of its recipients, along with the year they got it.

“We are focusing on the good things, like the fact that this whole thing happened here and we can help Cole, and how appreciative we are of our community,” Rivka Bent said. “It really takes a village.”

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