The Reagan's Visit to Hollister Ranch

When the first phase of 100 acre Hollister Ranch properties went on the market in late 1971, a small number of parcels sold to people who had either been waiting for them to become available or to a few (including some Hollister family members) who cut particularly attractive deals with Dick LaRue, the broker who represented the developer, MGIC Equities.

Dick Larue had conceived the concept (based roughly upon the Sea Ranch development in Northern California) we now know as the Hollister Ranch Owners’ Association following the default of Macco Development Corporation. Macco was a subsidiary of Penn Central Railroad which went bust in 1969 (see “Hollister Ranch – Its History, Preservation and People” by Nancy Ward and the Hollister Ranch Conservancy for a more complete discussion of this event).

Dick had incorporated a true environmental component into the Hollister Ranch development. Way ahead of his time in that respect, Dick can truly be seen as the father of the Hollister Ranch Owners’ Association. Nevertheless, following the initial sale of a few parcels, even very attractive financing options had failed to bring in more buyers.

On the first day of the summer of 1972, Dick called Wendie and me to see if we would be available to take some photographs of a special celebrity who was to arrive for a tour in a couple of days. We had been working to help with sales since the previous year—primarily as the Ranch photographers. The time and place were determined, and we agreed to be there.

On June 24th Wendie and I arrived early in the morning at the Granary (now the HROA office). Dick came out to tell us the client had just come through the gate, and he should be there in about 20 minutes (the drive took more time in those days because Rancho Real had even more “whoop-dee-dos”—Dick’s term for twisting curves in the road, and it was still a one lane road). He asked us to refrain from taking photos until their meeting in Dick’s office was over.

We could see the cars approaching while they were still on the main road. A large black sedan led the way for an even larger limousine. Both vehicles had the American flag mounted on one fender and the California state flag on the other—Mr. Reagan was no longer governor and not yet President. The cars pulled into the Granary parking lot, and the occupants of the sedan emerged. Three large men in black suits and dark glasses proceeded to the limousine to open the doors for those inside. Out stepped Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Dick came down the stairs to greet them cordially and invited them into his office.

While we waited for the meeting to end, the Reagan’s security team chatted amiably with Wendie and me while they cleaned their pistols that they had pulled from holsters beneath their jackets. I mentally recalled how I had met (the eventually to be) President Reagan at the time he was governor of California when, as a group of UCSB political science students, we had visited him in Sacramento five years before.

After about half an hour the Reagans and Dick LaRue emerged, walked across the deck and descended the stairs as we began—as discreetly as possible—to snap a few photos. Following an introduction by Dick, the Reagans paused in front of Wendie and me for a cheerful handshake and some brief small talk. Their graciousness left us with a very warm and positive impression.

Dick then showed the Reagan’s to one of the freshly washed yellow MGIC Jeeps that were used to drive clients through the west end of the Ranch that comprised Phase 1 of the sales program. They drove away smiling and waving as the Jeep meandered out to Rancho Real. The Reagans didn’t buy property at Hollister Ranch. They instead purchased their ranch at the top of Refugio Canyon where they could employ their own personal security measures most effectively. Nevertheless, their visit to the Ranch was an unforgettable experience for Dick, Wendie and me.