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By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

CAMP PENDLETON -(CA)- About 800 Marines from the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion gathered in front of Camp Pendleton’s San Onofre Community Center to take in the smells of an early Thanksgiving dinner provided by San Clemente Presbyterian Church on Friday.

Peter Carissimo, the church’s head volunteer chef for the event, asked a Marine sergeant waiting in line if it smelled good, kiddingly telling the Marine it was all from Pendleton’s mess hall.

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Marine Cpl. Isaac Rivera, with his wife, Nadica, and daughter Isabella Marie, work their way through the Thanksgiving chow line Friday afternoon.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
“Oh, no it isn’t, sir,” the sergeant said. “I work in the mess and it for sure didn’t come out of there.”

San Clemente Presbyterian holds several events every year for its “adopted: Marine unit, but Carissimo said the Thanksgiving meal is by far the most complicated. It brings together about 300 volunteers from all over south Orange County to prepare 100 turkeys, 600 pounds of stuffing and yams and 50 gallons of gravy. Even San Clemente’s Fisherman’s seafood restaurant helped out this year, cooking 28 turkeys in its kitchen.

SEE A SLIDE SHOW HERE.

Volunteers were especially eager to serve this year, knowing that in the coming week, at least one segment of 44 Marines will deploy to Afghanistan.

For Friday’s event, about 40 people served the meal. The youngest volunteer, 5-year-old Abigail Gratteau, helped place tablecloths on long tables set up by Marines earlier in the day.

Maj. Tony Mitchell, executive officer of 1st CEB, spoke to the assembled Marines, counting the things he is most thankful for. But he added some sad news and words of caution – earlier in the morning, a Marine had died in a motorcycle accident on I-5 just outside the Basilone entrance to the base.

“Remember to be thankful for everyone, and especially now with this reminder,” Mitchell said. “There are some pretty sad Marines somewhere on this base right now.”

Event organizer Chuck Herpick, a Navy veteran, thanked the Marines for their service. Then came Carissimo, known by 1st CEB members for his hand in a recent spaghetti dinner.

“We enjoy doing what we do for all of you because we know and won’t forget what you all do for us and protecting our country,” Carissimo said.

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World War II vets in San Clemente spend Veterans Day distributing handmade Buddy Poppies to symbolize their solidarity, brotherhood and sacrifice while recalling experiences of their service.

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN CLEMENTE -(CA)- Army veteran Sam Thorndyke, 85, of San Clemente is on a mission. He’s pretty sure that if he lives to be 105 he’ll be the oldest living veteran of World War II’s Pacific theater.

On Friday, Thorndyke, a member of San Clemente’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7142, sat with fellow Army WWII veteran George Key, great-great-grandson of “Star-Spangled Banner” author Francis Scott Key, in front of the Ralphs supermarket off Camino de los Mares in San Clemente to hand out Buddy Poppies in honor of Veterans Day.  Buddy Poppies are lapel decorations made by vets as a symbol of solidarity and brotherhood and a remembrance of their sacrifice.

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Judy Brown of San Clemente accepts a Buddy Poppy from World War II veterans George Key, right, and Sam Thorndyke on Veterans Day. “We are so proud of our veterans,” Brown said.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

WHERE TO GET A BUDDY POPPY

VFW Post 7142 is handing out Buddy Poppies on Friday and Saturday outside San Clemente’s two Albertsons supermarkets on Avenida Pico and the Ralphs and Stater Bros. stores on Camino de los Mares.

Donations will be accepted to support five veterans-related charities.

For more information, call George Key at 949-498-2489.

“The best part about this is the stories we get to share with people. We hear some great stories,” said Key, who served as an engineer and participated in five campaigns across Europe after landing at Omaha Beach in France.

Capistrano Beach resident Katherine Sgambellone said her grandfather fought as a German soldier in the muddy trenches of Europe during World War I.  She held her hands to her face and covered her mouth, illustrating how her grandfather told her is the best way to light a cigarette on a battlefield without getting shot. Opposing snipers would see the lighted end and shoot for its glow, she said.

The veterans around her nodded in agreement.

Thorndyke was an infantryman from 1944 to 1946 and was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during the campaign to liberate the Philippines  from Japanese control.

Thorndyke recalled being on the Philippine island of Luzon when his captain asked for volunteers as scouts to lead a patrol through the jungle.  A buddy of his put his hand up.

His buddy was shot in the neck during the patrol, though the bullet went through without causing major damage and left just two little scars.

“Don’t ever volunteer,” Thorndyke told the soldier upon his return.

Telling the story Friday, he shared a laugh with Key when someone suggested Thorndyke should have given the advice before his friend volunteered.

Thorndyke held up his hands and smiled. “You just have to accept your fate and hope for the best,” he said.

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Nuclear plant’s website may automate notifications of onsite alerts like the one that occurred with an ammonia leak Tuesday. Emergency procedures don’t require public announcements of low-level, nonradioactive alerts, but some south San Clemente residents who heard the plant’s onsite sirens were left wondering what was going on.

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN CLEMENTE -(CA)- Southern California Edison is considering enhancing its public communication procedure so that information about onsite alerts at the utility’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, like the one that occurred Tuesday, would be made available automatically on the plant’s website.

On Tuesday, information about an ammonia leak did not appear on SONGS’ site until two hours after the alert was declared about 3 p.m. and workers near the leak began being evacuated.

Article Tab: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station containment domes can be seen looking south from near the entrance to San Onofre Surf Beach on Tuesday afternoon while a low-level alert was going on at the plant.
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station containment domes can be seen looking south from near the entrance to San Onofre Surf Beach on Tuesday afternoon while a low-level alert was going on at the plant.
Under existing procedures, Tuesday’s event did not require a public announcement, according to Edison spokesman Gil Alexander, which is why community-alert sirens did not sound in nearby cities and no announcement was made onKWVE/107.9 FM – Orange County’s primary Emergency Alert System station – or KOGO/600 AM in San Diego County.

Alexander said that soon after the leak was discovered he made several calls to media outlets, including The Orange County Register, to say the ammonia leak was nonradioactive and that the alert was confined to the plant.

SONGS personnel noted the leak in a non-nuclear area of the plant’s Unit 3 reactor and declared an “unusual event,” the lowest of four emergency classifications. At that level, there is no leak of radioactive materials, though plant safety is considered reduced.

As required by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, SONGS notified the NRC and the regional Interjurisdictional Planning Committee– consisting of several city, county, state and private agencies – via a special “yellow” phone line within 15 minutes.

But south San Clemente residents Skip and Traci Streets wish more information had been readily available to the public. They heard sirens sounding at the plant some two miles away in their Cypress Cove neighborhood Tuesday afternoon, unsure whether it was a test or an actual emergency. They said they searched the SONGS website but saw no advisory except for a general notice to tune to KWVE for information in case of an emergency. With no announcements on the radio as the sirens persisted, the pair eventually called Southern California Edison and the city of San Clemente.

“The sirens kept going … we called around but no one knew anything,” Traci Streets said. “My mom lives down here, too, but was in Newport for dinner, so we just decided to go up there and eat with her and hope nothing was going on.”

Jen Tucker, San Clemente’s emergency-planning officer, said that when San Clemente is notified of an event via the yellow phone, she follows guidelines that begin with notifying the city manager and initiating the city’s Emergency Planning Center. About 50 municipal employees are activated to emergency-response positions within about 35 minutes, she said. That applies not only to events at SONGS but also to earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural emergencies. The EPC then stands by to implement emergency services according to guidelines set by the IPC. Tucker said the city of San Clemente is responsible for activating the 19 sirens within city limits.

In Tuesday’s case, the response was based on information communicated by SONGS.

At the two highest alert levels, involving radioactive releases, all sirens across Orange County would be activated simultaneously and public announcements would be made on KWVE and KOGO, Tucker said.

On Tuesday, KWVE was notified by the county Emergency Operations Center of the situation at SONGS, but due to the low level of the alert, the station was not required nor asked to make an announcement, according to station engineer Marcos O’Rourke. At 4:27 p.m., the station did broadcast news of the event, he said.

San Clemente closed its EPC about 45 minutes after SONGS ended the alert at 6:07 p.m., Tucker said. She said she was happy with her team’s performance.

“This is reassurance for the residents of San Clemente,” she said.

Tucker said she expected as many as 50 phone calls from local residents about the incident but instead had received six by late Wednesday afternoon, including one from San Juan Capistrano.

Alexander said SONGS community relations received about a dozen calls and Edison customer service received a few.

Alexander said that before Tuesday, the most recent alert declared at SONGS was May 9, 2010, after earth movement was detected at the plant following an earthquake in Baja California.

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Class at San Clemente High School that tried to send a miniature trimaran on a course to Hawaii in April plans to try again in December with two new boats equipped with altered designs, GPS units, digital cameras, navigation lights and a path-tracking Facebook page.

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By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN CLEMENTE -(CA)- A 3-D model-making class that tried to sail a miniature trimaran to Hawaii in April is at it again.

Instructor Malcolm Wilson’s Regional Occupational Program students are meeting twice a week at San Clemente High School with plans to launch two new 6-foot-long foam and fiberglass boats in early December, probably from Capistrano Beach, where the spring attempt began.

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Regional Occupational Program 3-D model-making student Ian Sprenger stands beside the trimaran Wilson in April before its launch at Capistrano Beach for a hoped-for voyage to Hawaii. It was found three weeks later washed up at Laguna Beach.
DAVID BRO, REGISTER FILE PHOTO

SEE A SLIDE SHOW HERE.

In April, 80 students from several south Orange County high schools put together a miniature sail-powered trimaran named Wilson, after Tom Hanks’ volleyball buddy in the movie “Cast Away.” They designed the bright yellow craft to sail on a predesigned course to Hawaii, though it was found three weeks later about 200 yards off Laguna Beach.

The boat, a sort of “message in a bottle,” held a log book in a waterproof compartment so that anyone who found it could write where, when and how it was found.

This semester, 50 different students modernized the concept with onboard GPS units and a Facebook page (Team Wiki Wiki.webloc) that will illustrate the projected path south across the Pacific Ocean. In addition, a pair of digital cameras to take timed photos along the voyage will be mounted on the vessels, as well as battery-powered LED navigation lights.

The boats, already shaped in foam and in the process of having fiberglass applied, are the products of what project leader and San Clemente High School senior Dallas Krick, 17, said were several weeks of class study on what ancient mariners used in their quest to conquer the waves. The students settled on a design that most resembles what Philippine fishermen have traditionally used, with features especially constructed to get through big waves.

This year’s effort is spearheaded by the monohulled Wiki-Wiki (“speedy” in Hawaiian), with a larger and heavier fixed keel and a wing foil instead of a traditional sail. Malcolm Wilson said he’d like to provide space on the vessel for a sponsor logo in exchange for helping with the project’s estimated $1,000 cost.

The other boat, the NeNe, is a sleeker, slightly smaller and faster trimaran than the more stable Wiki-Wiki. The NeNe, named after Hawaii’s state bird, will have a more traditional sloop sail rig, with sail material already donated by sailors with boats at Dana Point Harbor.

San Clemente High junior Daniel Therrien, 17, and senior Matt Cox, 17, worked together this past week on the final shaping of the NeNe in the hallway outside their classroom, with shavings of foam swirling around them.

Before joining the class, Cox had thought of signing up for a restaurant course.

“I’d rather build a boat than a hamburger,” he said.

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By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

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.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

And check out photos of many others around town here.

‘MAD SCIENTIST’

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.”

LITERARY HORROR

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.

A PIRATE’S LIFE (OR DEATH)

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.

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

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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Film Stories Festival presented by student-founded Flashbulb Entertainment rewards top high school and college filmmakers, as judged by a Hollywood writer and director.

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By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN CLEMENTE -(CA)- High school and college filmmakers got their turn in the spotlight Monday evening as Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente hosted the third annual Film Stories Festival, featuring 10 student-made short films.

SEE PHOTOS HERE.

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Film Stories Festival director Zack Roman, 20, left, of San Clemente stands with Brian Ivie, 20, of San Clemente, president of event sponsor Flashbulb Entertainment, at Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente on Monday evening. The third annual Film Stories Festival featured 10 student-made short films with categories for high school and college.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

The festival, organized and sponsored by San Clemente-based production company Flashbulb Entertainment, is meant to help student filmmakers get started in an industry that can be financially challenging, according to Flashbulb founder and president Brian Ivie, 20, a graduate of San Clemente High School.

“Our goal this year is to promote student filmmakers by rewarding creative, lasting stories before aesthetics, where winners receive scholarship prizes to pursue their artistic passions,” Ivie said. “In the end, we hope to help fulfill the dreams of young people who might otherwise be forced to forfeit those dreams for financial reasons.”

Hollywood writer and director Stephen Suscojudged the entries, awarding the $500 high school scholarship award to 2011 Capistrano Valley High School graduate Kevin Clark for his 14-minute film “The Thief and the Liar,” which he wrote, produced and directed. The 2010 film is a 1930s-set avant-garde take on real-life bank robber Willie Sutton.

Clark used social media to fund the $1,000 cost of the project, which took six months of planning and two days to shoot, followed by two weeks of editing. The biggest challenge, Clark said, was maintaining the look and feel of the time, including slang, the set, props and borrowed newsreel footage.

Clark said he would do it differently now, in light of what he learned working on the film and other projects since.

“At first, I just told the actors what I wanted,” Clark said. “Now, I’ll listen and let them relate to the role on their own.”

The Best of Fest prize as well as first place in the college category went to UCLA master’s recipient Erick Oh for his eight-minute animated film “Heart.” His prizes totaled $1,500.

The festival was in conjunction with Casa Romantica’s “Salute to Hollywood” exhibit on the evolution of filmmaking, which includes photos, costumes and other memorabilia through Oct. 23 at 415 Avenida Granada.

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