San Clemente Post Office

(December 8, 1926 –         )

The San Clemente Post Office was authorized just one year after the tract went on sale, but was often the case, did not actually open for business until the end of January 1927. “Now it is up to the citizens of San Clemente who have been wanting a post office established here to patronize it. The salary of the postmaster is contingent on cancellation and it is the duty of every citizen to throw every penny they can his way, for there is little in it but grief for some time to come. Mr. [Bert] Latham is going to play the game just as conscientiously as though it was a first-class office and he was getting a stated salary.” (El Heraldo de San Clemente, Jan. 28, 1927) In fact, Latham did not even have a cancellation stamp when the office opened, and had to cancel all the earliest letters by hand. The city incorporated a year later, and in 1929 the post office was raised to 3rd class.

The appointment ledger shows that on December 27, 1968 the San Clemente Post Office was discontinued and the Capistrano Beach Post Office was renamed San Clemente. Other sources state that the San Clemente Post Office was immediately re-established. It is hard to imagine just what was going on here, and to add to the confusion, San Clemente postmaster John Phillips retired the same day. Suffice it to say, come December 28th, San Clemente still had a post office and Capistrano Beach was just a branch. 


Bertram H. (“Bert”) Latham, 1926-1933

Bert Latham opened the San Clemente Sweet Shop just a few days after the post office opened. It is said to have been the first store in town. In 1929 he expanded the post office and installed 400 new lock boxes. Like any small post office his salary was originally based on the number of stamps sold and cancelled. When the post office was raised to 3rd class he went on a regular salary, starting at $1,800 a year. 

Bernice M. Ayer, 1933-1953

When Bert Latham’s term expired, Bernice Ayer got the next appointment and held on to the job for 20 years. Her husband, William Ayer, had previously served as city engineer. In 1998 Bernice Ayer Middle School was named in her honor. 

John E. Hempel, 1953 (Acting Postmaster)

Hempel was a real estate agent who went on serve with the State Real Estate Commissioner’s office for many years. 

John F. Phillips, 1953-1968

(You can find more about Orange County’s post offices and postmasters here)