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President Kennedy Attends Ceremonies in Los Banos, California

Aug. 18, 1962 - President Kennedy set off a charge of TNT in Los Banos, Calif., today and formally started the construction of a huge earthwork dam. The ceremony at the site of the dam, which is designed to relieve the perennial water shortage of California’s San Joaquin Valley, was the last official stop on Mr. Kennedy’s “nonpolitical” tour of the West. “It is a pleasure,” Mr. Kennedy quipped, “for me to help blow up this valley in the cause of progress.” He and Gov. Edmund G. Brown of California then pressed identical silver plungers in identical walnut-encased detonators. On the low-lying Los Banos Hills surrounding them, two 10-pound charges of TNT exploded at the ends of what will be the San Luis Dam. The explosions threw dust high into the air, and echoes boomed across the crowd of 15,000 persons standing on a dusty hillside. As the second of the blasts faded, smoke grenades set off by the same detonators exploded in a long stream across the 17,000-foot line where the dam will be built. They released alternate patches of red, green, and purple smoke.

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