YORBA LINDA — This city, birthplace of Richard M. Nixon and the future home of the Nixon presidential library, will celebrate the former President's birthday as a legal holiday Tuesday in what may be the first in honor of the nation's 37th President.
But don't expect a parade down Main Street or Nixon birthday sales in the downtown shops. This quiet town of 38,000 is approaching the holiday without much fuss.
"There's not a lot of talk about his birthday in the city," said Roy Hahner, owner of Yorba Linda Hardware in the heart of the business district. Hahner said Nixon, who will turn 77 on Tuesday, used to shop at his store.
The City Council voted unanimously last November to make Nixon's birthday, Jan. 9, a legal holiday for city employees.
On Tuesday, all city offices will be closed, and about 100 city employees will have the day off, said Arthur C. Simonian, Yorba Linda's city manager.
Most businesses will be open, however, and no special celebrations or public ceremonies are planned.
The new holiday will cost the city $10,000 and becomes the 12th legal holiday celebrated by Yorba Linda, Simonian said.
"It's something that needed to be done in observation of the place where he was born," said Michael Beverage, a retired city councilman and a supporter of the holiday. "He was a President associated with many good things in the country."
There seemed to be general support for the holiday in the city that accepted the Nixon library with open arms at a time when the Ronald Reagan presidential library had trouble finding a home. Simonian said he received no complaints about the holiday, and Councilman Irwin M. Fried said he believes that most Yorba Lindans support the council's action.
There was some controversy in November when 50 residents signed a petition in opposition to redesigning the city's flag and seal with pictures of Nixon's birthplace and the library. Simonian said most of the debate did not center on whether Nixon should be represented but on whether it was really necessary to change the city seal, which already has a picture of the Nixon home.
The highlight of Tuesday's holiday will be a press conference at the site of the Nixon library, which is scheduled to open in July. The site--at Yorba Linda Boulevard and Eureka Avenue--is adjacent to the wood-frame home where Nixon was born, which is also being restored as part of the project.
Some city leaders see a bright future for the holiday once the $25-million, nine-acre library-birthplace project is complete.
"This is our first holiday," Fried said. "Once the library is opened . . . more activities are possible."
This focus on the only President ever to resign from office comes at a time when Nixon's popularity in Yorba Linda is on the rise, Hahner said.
"Most people are pleased with the library. They are a lot less hostile toward him" today than they were in 1974, when Nixon resigned under threat of impeachment, he said. "They see all the garbage that's going on and see it's more a media problem more than anything he did."
And while Fried supports the Nixon holiday, he admits that it may come too late for some of the residents who would enjoy it most: those who personally know the Nixon family.
"When I moved here in 1967, there were many people who know the family and were very loyal (to Nixon)," Fried said. "Some of them are growing old and dying."