I was born in a house my father built. My birth on the night of January 9, 1913, coincided with a record-breaking cold snap in our town of Yorba Linda, California. Yorba Linda was a farming community of 200 people about thirty miles from Los Angeles, surrounded by avocado and citrus groves and barley, alfalfa, and bean fields.
For a child the setting was idyllic. In the spirng the air was heavy with the rich scent of orange blossoms. And there was much to excite a child’s imagination: glimpses of the Pacific Ocean to the west, the San Bernadino Mountains to the north, a “haunted house” in the nearby foothills to be viewed with awe and approached with caution — and a railroad line that ran about a mile from our house.
In the daytime I could see the smoke from the steam engines. Sometimes at night I was awakened by the whistle of a train, and then I dreamed of the far-off places I wanted to visit someday. My brothers and I played railroad games, taking the parts of engineers and conductors. I remember the thrill of talking to Everett Barnum, the Santa Fe Railroad engineer who lived in our town. All through grade school my ambition was to become a railroad engineer.
—–The opening of RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (1978).